Take your photography to the next level and beyond...

  • NEWS

Why not join for free today?

Join for Free

Your total photography experience starts here

Exclusive 25% off Affinity Photo: Professional photo editing with no subscription!

Metal or plastic bodied camera

User_Removed 11 17 5 United Kingdom
22 May 2012 11:44AM
When reading reviews for enthusiast and pro level cameras metal magnesium bodied cameras are assumed to be better than plastic polycarbinate bodies.

Polycarbinate is an immensely strong plastic. I once took a hard hat from a building site and hit it very hard with a long handled, heavy sledge hammer. The hat was sitting on concrete so the was no give in the ground and after being hit by the hammer the hat was not dented.

I have dropped a plastic bodied camera and although the body remained in tact the shock of the fall damaged the internal workings.

So why is there so much said in favour of metal bodies rather than plastic?

Join ePHOTOzine for free and remove these adverts.

Carabosse 15 41.1k 270 England
22 May 2012 12:02PM

Quote:So why is there so much said in favour of metal bodies rather than plastic?

Plastic has always been, and will probably always will be, linked with "cheap and nasty". No other reason! Wink
mikehit 8 8.0k 13 United Kingdom
22 May 2012 12:04PM
No real reason. The only places that I see magnesium being at all beneficial is on the baseplate and the lens mount where the leverage of a lens or tripod can damage the plastic if the camera is dropped. For the rest of hte body, it does nto really make any difference at all.
MattB1987 6 458 England
22 May 2012 12:10PM
I'm guessing because to some degree polycarbonate flexes allowing the collision to encrouch on the area occupied by the fragile internals therefore breaking them, whereas with a metal body, will be more rigid and flex less during a typical camera drop impact therefore not encrouching on the internals space.

But on the other hand I would imagine that polycarbonate offers better protection against the shock of the impact, so I supposed youre screwed either way.

Overread 9 4.1k 19 England
22 May 2012 12:10PM
A lot of it is marketing - metal sounds stronger than plastic. Also remember many old (and "tough and nails") cameras were all metal bodies. It was something many aspired to owning was the all metal body of a pro series camera. So it still holds true today to keep that marketing line open on newer bodies.
NEWDIGIT 7 401 United Kingdom
22 May 2012 2:26PM
plastic body-magnesium alloy body
CF tripod-Aluminium tripod


As mikehit has said apart from lens and base mounts there is no advantage, as for dropping the camera plastic will absorb and dissipate shock better than magnesium that actually transmits the shock which is why modern cars have plastic bumpers not metal.
And before you say CF tripods are lighter take a close look some are actually heavier than the Ali versions, anyway tripods need to be rigid and solid so lightness could be a disadvantage in this respect.
MattB1987 6 458 England
22 May 2012 2:47PM

Quote:as for dropping the camera plastic will absorb and dissipate shock better than magnesium that actually transmits the shock which is why modern cars have plastic bumpers not metal.

This is true in the camera application as I said earlier, in terms of use on modern cars, not so much. The bumpers are made out of plastic mainly due to the cost saving and for pedestrian safety so it deforms around the pedestrian to soften the blow (i.e. flexing) another reason is its easier to make more complicated body assemblies out on injection moulded plastics. The main 'shock proofing' for the passenger is gained with metal and engineered weak spots called crumple zones using largely metal crash structures.

Theres my bit of knowledge shared should anyone be interested.

As for the CF tripods I totally agree i was really shocked when I looked into it how much a lot of them weigh, definitely snob appeal, people do tend to fall for the sexy carbon fibre material on all sorts, crazy! Though saying that I got my friend who works for a CF company to make me a pen lol Smile its sexy as hell lol!

collywobles 14 4.0k 10 United Kingdom
22 May 2012 4:18PM
Its unlikely that any modern DSLR has a metel body. It may well have a metal chassis with either plastic or polycarbonate body. Most high level or if you like professional cameras have metal chassis. Lens mounts on these cameras are generally metal for its accuaracy and long life.
22 May 2012 4:21PM
It's marketing. Magnesium is metal so it must be better....right?

I agree about CF tripods. Lets get people to buy the latest thing, trying to make think them they need to have it, basically so we can make some more money so the chairman can buy a new yacht/ mansion/ Ferrari etc.

You should really do a lot of research first than just buying something based on marketing blurb.
Carabosse 15 41.1k 270 England
22 May 2012 4:31PM
The whole point about a tripod for outdoor use is it needs to be rock-steady and wind-resistant. So it needs to have weight.

A lightweight tripod, however expensive the material it is made from, cannot defy the laws of physics! Wink
ChrisV Plus
11 2.2k 26 United Kingdom
22 May 2012 4:43PM
I've got a low-weight aluminium portable tripod and it does the job. But I wouldn't want to give it a heavy knock because it would be likely to bend and stay bent. Graphite composite models tend to be lighter for the same thickness of material and whilst rigid, will flex and retain their shape - it's a similar story with racquets - all pro level ones are graphite composite [sometimes with a certain amount of metallic elements in them] offering the best in terms of weight/flex.

Cheaper aluminium racquets are becoming more scarce - they tend to quickly deform. As for camera bodies - the outer shells are generally composite anyway. As others have noted you would want a milled metal lens mount [at least] for precision and durability.
photofrenzy 11 424 2 United Kingdom
22 May 2012 5:48PM
Pro photographers dont realy care about the cosmetics of thier camera gear theyre far too busy taking the images that the editor has asked for , That thier gear gets knocked around from pillar to post,not surprising as most of the equipment is supplied to them by the newspapers and agencies.

Plasik when dropped absorbs some of the impact but the weakest part of plastik cameras is where there are metal screws holding metal parts to the plasik Like a metal lens mount that is fixed to a plastic body with a lens attatched this can shear off the camera as it did with me several years ago with my eos 5, Also remember plastic deteriorates more rapidly than metal over a period of time.

However canon did make its first 3 PRO cameras out of plastic the EOS -1/ EOS1n/ 1nRS but reinforced it with fibreglass , It wasnt until the release of the CANON EOS 1v that they started making them out of metal and so on after that with thier digital bodies

Even the strongest plastic HARDHATS have a shelf life on them, and shouldnt be used beyond the safe date that is stamped on them for the very reason that over a period of time plasic deteriorates and loses its integrity in being able to protect a person head.

Metal can withstand knocks and scuffs a lot better than plasic can and if you ever see a well used pro photographers camera then you will see what i mean . The photograper knows that if its metal it can be put down on hard surfaces and over time the protective coating wears down to reveal the magnesium alloy underneath and metal will withstand scrapes once that coating has gone.

However plastic doesnt have any protective coating so if it is treated in the same way as a pro camera the plasic will start wearing down and possibly cracking ,Thus letting in water/moisture and dirt and over time with the ageing of the plastic will weaken. Also remember that majority of enthusiast photographers do not treat thier equipment like pro photographers do so they can be made lighter using plastics and cheaper so there isnt realy a need to make all cameras PRO proof Wink
chuckdee 6 14
22 May 2012 6:11PM
There's always going to be a weak link so to speak with plastic or metal cameras, internal/external.
I treat my cameras rough. Not on purpose but it's just how I work. The first week I had my 5DMii, the LCD looked like like a horror show.
Doesn't bother me really, just need it to preform.

Sign In

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join For Free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.