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Why the F11 lenses are important - the new normal
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Why the F11 lenses are important - the new normal

Why the airlines will kill cameras faster than smartphones

I have been thinking about this subject for a while now.  It's actually the reason I'm stubbornly still using the EOS-M's cameras is that there's a new normal that is coming to the world - and that is the world of aviation carry on.

This is the carryon policy of a popular Asian airline effective July 2020.

There are two problems with this policy for camera users;

  • The weight - 7kg for BOTH bags together
  • The size of the carry on bag

While a lens, such as an 800mm F6.3 will certainly squeeze into the size of the carry on luggage, and will also slide under the 7kg weight limit, there's very little else that you could bring as far as to carry on.   If you add a laptop, camera, and absolutely necessary batteries, you are now well over your limit.  Consider that both bags are measured together and must fit under 7kg.

Now I've heard the "I've traveled with so and so airline and they didn't weigh my carry on".  Congratulations you won the carryon lottery, and I'm impressed that you are willing to risk having to check 10,20 or $30,000 worth of camera gear.

When I came to Asia, I had to get rid of my wonderful TravelPro carry on luggage that cost me a small fortune.   Why? because the darned carry on bag alone weighed 3kg!  Even a lightweight carry on backpack and briefcase styled laptop bag will be around 2kg, leaving you around 5kg for your laptop, and whatever lenses you are bringing, not to mention cameras, batteries,etc.

Now there are some tricks but not with super telephotos, for instance - the ultimate camera nerd photography vest;

A vest can help since you don't get weighed - and anything you bring on yourself isn't considered carry on. However, carrying a super-telephoto using this method would be the ultimate "I'm VERY happy to see you" attire and also require some moderately baggy pants.

So what does this mean?

Airlines are the absolute problem for camera makers - not smartphones.  Who wants to invest in tens of thousands for camera gear when you can't travel with it reasonably?  Effectively, bringing a lens such as a super telephoto will be almost limited to local or regional travel.  If it isn't now, it will be in the future.  If you can't travel with the gear you buy, you won't buy any more gear.  And more and more you'll simply travel with what is convenient - your phone or maybe a compact camera.  Where this hurts is perhaps not the seasoned professionals that have other options, for instance, CPS at events, and such - however for those hobbyists that are in the prosumer category, this is a significant problem

While these policies have not yet hit the United States fully - with the rest of the airlines around the world doing this, it's a matter of time where you may get stuck on the way back from a trip with a restrictive airline.  Given that the first airline will decide the policies for the carryon, as most significant carrier rules only apply to check baggage when you have co-share.  You could end up being in Tasmania having to check camera gear.

Canon I think is ahead of the curve - people may scoff at the F11's - but especially for more restrictive carry on for Asian travel, there's really no other way to travel with a full frame camera if you want to have telephoto reach.  I know my site is predominantly North American and Canon is a global company, but they are Japanese company.  Making lenses suitable for the Asia market is important to them.  Does this mean that the supertelephotos as we know of them are replaced by comsumer F11's, of course not, but having a set of more travel ready and cheaper telephotos certainly provide options that did not exist before.

Making lenses that have to stay at home - especially when they cost over $10,000 - isn't the right solution for many markets.  Consider the top image and the just the vast size difference between these two lenses, and also the weight difference - 1.26kg to 4.5kg.  One will be able to travel with you, the other most likely will have to stay home.  I know some (Baconator I'm looking at you) will say, well they suck, they are F/11.  However, they are perhaps the only 800mm lens you can bring with you.   Even the Canon RF 100-500mm will get you close with the reach (700mm at F/10) will weigh in at around 1.595kg - a full 335g more than the 800mm alone.  I know that doesn't sound like much, and airlines will give you a bit of an allowance, but grams add up VERY fast.

So before you look at the F/11's and think - why on earth did Canon do these? Stupid Canon.. There's more at stake here than what meets the eye.

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