My favourite cameras have a few things in common, but possibly the most important is when you pick them up it feels like coming home.
Put another way, these cameras fit so well in my hands, the edges between me and them blur, we become as one.
Now this isn’t purely about the physical size and shape.
Other factors include how intuitive the camera is to use, creating the minimum amount of obstacles between yourself and having the most enjoyable and rewarding experience.
You can have a camera that feels amazing in your hand, but is awkward and clumsy to use, and seems to always deliver poor images.
But that physical shape – how well it fits your hands, and how comfortable and natural it feels – is a huge factor for me.
Conversely, cameras that don’t handle well, despite their other considerable charms, can be non-starters.
The Panasonic Lumix LX3 was a case in point for me.
On paper, the LX3’s spec is excellent for my needs, and the combination of lens, sensor and especially the high contrast monochrome mode, had my mouth watering from the first few shots.
What was frustrating to the point where I almost relisted the LX3 as soon as I’d unpacked it, was the poor handling.
The camera is just too thin, and the overall deepest part of the camera is the lens, which even when fully collapsed still protrudes significantly further forward than the pathetic couple of millimetres grip they did bother to include in the design.
Plus the “grip” that is there (calling it a grip feels like feels like false advertising), is coated only with a thin strip of faux-leather that provides no adhesion whatsoever, meaning the camera is not only uncomfortable to hold, but easy to drop.
The rear is no better, with a tiny grid of nine dots where your thumb rests, again offer no grip or adhesion.
How could a camera that is so wonderful in virtually every other way, be so poorly designed in this area?
Fortunately, before I wrote off the LX3, I came across another photographer who said they nearly always add tape – and sometimes putty or similar – to their cameras to shape them to their own personal handling requirements.
So, with a combination of foam tape and the kind of sandpaper-like grip tape usually found on skateboards, I fashioned a more substantial and, well, grippy, grip at the front, and additional grip tape on the thumb rest helped there too.
It may not be pretty, but it transformed the handling, and elevated the little Lumix to one of my all time favourite cameras, and one I’ve now owned longer than nearly all others.
Other cameras, like the Ricoh GRD III or Pentax K100D or Pentax Q have such fantastic ergonomics for my hands out of the box (and proper, you know, grippy, rubber coated grips), there’s no need for further modification, and it’s no wonder these cameras also remain high in my all time favourites.
How about you? How important is the grip and shape and handling of a camera to you? Can poor handling be a complete deal breaker for you?
As always, 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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