There’s no question in my mind that a camera can be an instrument of beauty.
But what this means can vary, depending on the camera.
Broadly speaking, I’ve realised I’ve found cameras fall into one of two categories of “instruments of beauty” (or of course they’re not interesting or enjoyable enough to be in either).
1. Cameras which are themselves beautiful instruments.
There are many many vintage film cameras that fall into this category, that either look stunning, and are a masterpiece of design and engineering, and/or are an utter delight to hold and use.
Something like the Pentax S1a I had (well, I had two, one black, one silver) was good looking enough to adorn any shelf as an object of great aesthetic appeal, the epitome of handsome elegance in camera form.
Plus, they’re quite wonderful to hold and use, a combination of compact size, shape, and the class and build quality that seeped through every time you adjusted the shutter speed dial, or wound on the film.
In a similar vein, a camera like my Pentax K100D DSLR might not obviously be as pretty as its S1a ancestor, but to hold and use it feels fantastic, everything just where you need it, and fitting my hand like a glove.
2. Cameras which are instruments capable of making beautiful images.
A glowing example of this I’ve been reminded of recently is the Panasonic Lumix GF1.
The GF1 is highly able to consistently deliver lovely images with the minimum of fuss, even with a fairly cheap and far from high end lens like the 7Artisans 25/1.8.
But it fails to meet either criteria for the first instrument of beauty category above.
A black slab of plastic, with disappointing ergonomics (including a pathetic front grip), and some plasticky awkward feeling buttons (especially the rear dial), actually making photos with the GF1 is at best disappointing bland, and at worst a downright frustrating experience.
After my most recent outing with it, wondering once again if it might be a much better fit for me than I’ve previously found, I liked it less than ever, and will be looking to sell it soon.
Of course some cameras fall into both of these categories – they’re both a delight to use, and deliver beautiful images.
Like the K100D.
And it’s these select few machines where these two definitions of “instrument of beauty” intersect, that I enjoy most.
They’re the ones that form the heart of my current arsenal, and will strongly dictate any potential new arrivals in the future.
How about you? Which of your cameras do you consider the greatest instruments of beauty?
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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