Love At First Grip?

Some cameras just feel right the moment you lay your hands on them. 

Others, despite their impressive spec and apparent near perfect compatibility with you on paper – as well as being capable of stunning images – just never feel like they belong in your embrace.

This reminds me of a novel I read some years back where the author suggested that after years of numerous physical partners, the acid test as to whether there was any chemistry  (and longer term relationship potential) was the moment their bare bellies met.

With some people, I just felt right, like home.

With others there was an almost physical repulsion, like those early science experiments in primary school, where magnets with the same poles forced together would just as quickly spring apart again.

Anyway, back to cameras, and this compatibility is not just about the actual part of the camera you grip.

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This chemistry also encompasses the buttons, dials, and levers, how intuitively placed they are, how they feel to use, how effectively they work, and more.

For me, there are only two cameras where I can say it was instantly “love at first grip”. 

The Pentax K10D, which felt like returning to a long lost lover the moment I closed my fingers around the rubber grip and raised the camera to my eye.

And the Ricoh GRD III, which whilst having a much smaller grip, and being a mere fraction of the size and weight of the hefty K10D, felt equally “right” in my hand.

How about you? Which cameras have you fallen in love with the moment you’ve laid your fingers on them?

Looking from the opposite angle, how awkward does a camera have to be for you to conclude you’ll never connect with it and sell it on?

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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14 thoughts on “Love At First Grip?”

  1. Again, we discussed this before, for me this question reflects the difference between a tool-oriented and a photo-oriented photographer. Cameras are – well, for me – hardly more special than “home appliances”; just tools to get a certain kind of photo (the reason that I have a gear list on my website is a kind of “statement” that I took pictures with literally anything at hand). As I mentioned earlier, I have taken my most favorite photos with Holgas and phones – two types of cameras that are quite awkward and uncomfortable in terms of handling. But I just look at the results, does the camera make the images I am aiming for? That has always been my starting point.

    1. Robert I both agree and disagree. I love the challenge of getting a decent image out of a camera that is awful to use, poorly spec’d, or both. In some ways it’s more satisfying than making good images with a camera that you know is very capable.

      I completely understand with more unusual cameras like a Holga 120 why the end image is the main aim, because they are so different to most cameras in this aspect. But for something more general like a digital compact or DSLR, there are so many that give very similar results, then other factors come into play, like ergonomics, user interface etc.

      And most of the time I just want the tools I use to feel great to use. Even with something simple like a screwdriver, it’s so much better using something that’s well contoured and comfortable to hold, and doesn’t slip or hurt your hands! Or shoes. I’m not into brands for the sake of brands, but I have bought Skechers trainers multiple times because they’re just so light and comfortable.

      1. I know that for many photographers (a majority?) the choice for a tool is a technical choice. ‘Which camera do I want to “play” with today?’ I am more focused on the desired results, and the choice for a certain camera is therefore primarily creative.
        To use your shoes analogy: when I have a first date in a fancy restaurant, I choose my fashionable leather shoes – even though it is extra work (polishing) and they are still a little painful to wear. I don’t think: I definitely want to wear my comfortable sneakers tonight, so what can I do next?

        1. Yes I see the shoes analogy. You want to impress, so the comfy trainers are out!

          This has given me an idea I want to explore further in a future post. Thanks!

  2. The Fuji X10 tops my list – loved it when it came out, still bring it out now and again, and will never sell it on. Technically it’s exquisite, and it has character in spades… Carrying it in a half case, in hand it feels like the whole thing was just made for you alone.

    Out of all my film cameras, the ones that I keep reloading (despite a growing list of cameras still to try lol), are the Konica C35 AF2, and the Minolta AF-S. The Konica looks right/Feels right in the hand, you can add lens filters, the manual film advance is a welcome old school touch. There’s no pre-focus with the AF, which makes you work for a result – Again, like all sustainable relationships, when you compromise you are rewarded. The photos are dreamy – detailed yet slightly lo-fi, perfect for people shots.

    The Minolta is a surprise – smaller than the Konica, it’s fully automatic apart from the pop-up flash. The body is shiny smooth plastic, it has one of those odd full height lens caps that also clips over the focus and exposure sensors. So what’s so special about it? It’s like a good friend, that’s what – You’re happy to take it with you Everywhere, it’s drama free, effortless to hang out with, always reliable, and you end up smiling at the (sharp, popping, beautifully exposed) results.

    1. Interesting about the X10, I was just reading a review yesterday…

      Yeh, again I loved the little Minolta AF-S. Pretty much my favourite film compact from that era, and the only one I would say I preferred from any era is the Olympus Mju-1 and LT-1, but they’re a different generation.

  3. I miss my Exactas with their trapazoid bodies; excellent for large hands. Just hold your hands in front of you as though you’re going to grip something with both and see the shape they form before you close the thumbs on the fingers. Also great for gently squeezing the front-mounted shutter release to reduce shake.

  4. I find a bigger issue than comfort is being able to hold the camera steady. And I suspect that’s as much a matter of familiarity as the particular design. Having used the same Leica IIIf for decades it’s not surprising that no other film camera feels as good to me.

    Of the digital cameras that I occasionally use, the Fuji X-100 is by far my favorite. It feels and works a lot like an old Leica. The absolute worst is also a Fuji – the X-T20 I use to digitize my negatives. It’s too small to grip comfortably, I could find absolutely no way to support it against either my cheekbone or my brow and the menus that replace the X-100’s proper dials are a horror. (None of this matters at all with the camera on the BEOON copy stand where it does a fine job.)

    1. Yeh the steadiness does have a number of factors, though the grip is one of those. I find that some cameras are actually almost too light to be able to hold steady, and the extra ballast of a larger body helps it settle better in your hands.

      One day I’ll try an X-100, I’ve heard too many enthusiastic comments to ignore!

    1. Could you get another X-700? I’ve had one and I would say the viewfinder was quite possibly the best I have used on any camera. Quite magnificent, especially with a 50/1.4 Rokkor on the front! Alas it came in that camp (like my Lumix GF1) of looking a fantastic match for me on paper, but somehow I never fully gelled with it. I preferred the simpler X-300, but went through three in about a month that all packed up, so I just lost faith in Minolta electronics. Fabulous lenses though – the old manual ones and the AF series.

      The Rollei, from what I’ve read, is very much a “Marmite” camera. People love them or hate them! I came close to buying one once, at a camera fair. But the seller was so baffled trying to figure out how to make it work, I thought what hope would i have if you’re a professional in these things! He couldn’t even get the lens to pop out (I think I’m right in saying they collapse in a little when not in use?)

  5. Nikon D750…… the deep grip was a slice of heaven for this reader’s long, bony fingers. Found I could wrap the neck strap around my forearm and comfortably tromp about with the body levered in my hand. Put very high miles, dents and dings on it. These days it’s not my walkaround but it was an important evolution for me to lighter tool. With my bad arthritis, the significance of the camera I’m using is far deeper than home appliance. Yet I profoundly appreciate Robert’s sensibilities, above. And your own, Dan. Find myself coming down the middle hence enjoyed the volley of wisdom….

    1. I do love the deep grip of DSLRs. You really can’t beat it.

      Finding a camera than can combine this comfort with a reasonably light weight is something I’m still interested in, having sold my wonderful yet ultimately too heavy and bulky Pentax K10D a while back.

      Glad you’ve enjoyed the thread here, and thank you for reading and joining in.

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