My optical cost principle

I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating:

The Optical Cost Principle:
The cost and weight of optics goes as the cube of the linear dimension of the sensor (or film format).

There is probably already technical term for it. If there isn’t, you can call it ”Terry’s optical cost principle.” 🙂

[Discussion after the jump]


The principle is common sense. Basically the cost and weight (which is what you care about) goes as the size of the optics which goes as volume which is dimensionally length3. The only significant linear dimension is the sensor size (delta some small factor differences depending on if you are wide aspect or not).

What this means is that as your sensor gets bigger, the optics to support it gets more expensive, heavier and less practical.

The only exception to this is when comparing lenses that are stop gaps for lenses that exist in the 35mm world, For instance the 12-24mm f/4G which replaces the 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5D at wide-angle or the 18-55mm f/2.8G which replaces the 28-70mm f/2.8D as a ”wedding lens”. These are unusually wide angles designed for a ”stop gap” in which the principle breaks down because of the need to have retrofocal optics to bend the light at an extreme angle, clear the mirror, and then collimate it for the digital sensor.

Instead, look at the 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G VR which has no Nikon equivalent in the 35mm world, but if we take Canon’s 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS as an example we can see reasonably, that the former costs $750 and weighs .6kg, and the latter costs $2500 and weighs 1.6kg, thus proving the optical cost principle.

When talking about APS-C, size is an important factor as any.

5 thoughts on “My optical cost principle

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.