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Tuesday, 01 May 2012


Oh my gosh - how could I have failed to mention the Hasselblad 500C

Current cameras? Depends on which side you are looking at. The Oly E-Ps' faces are fantastic, but the back, hmmm... I will shut up for the new Pentax K-01,and wait for another hundred years (if I can) for a better opinion.

The black plastic blobs festooned with knobs, buttons and dials really don't do it for me. I also dislike how they feel. I like a minimalist looking camera, something that says it is purposeful and efficient. My LX5 fits that description nicely and it has a tactile quality that makes me want to hold it. The modern medium format cameras such as the hasselblads and the pentax look good to me. I'm smitten by the looks of the OMD EM5 , but I've yet to see one in the flesh so that might change. My all time favourite cameras to look at and use were mey OM4 and XA.

As a Pentax user, I am all too familiar with the controversy over the styling of the K-01. As for myself, I rather like it, in part, because it breaks so many of the conventions of camera design, but also because I like clunky modern design. I give Pentax credit for their willingness to experiment. What so many detractors forget is that this odd looking camera can use any K mount lens ever produced without an adaptor. That's a lot of lenses. I have yet to handle a K-01, so I cannot comment on its functionality, but from what I have seen on the interwebs, it can deliver very high IQ. Match it with any of the superb Pentax Limited pancake lenses, and you have a very neat little package. Not the littlest in the world, perhaps, but still quite easy to carry.

I can understand why everyone dislikes the Pentax Playskool Special, what I can't understand is how they're so enamored of a Sony camera that looks like a 4x5 film holder with a lens glued on.

The Canon S100, Panasonic GX1, Olympus OM-D (black), and Pentax K-r. I prefer them small, solid and plain.

The D800 may be the ugliest DSLR yet. Why does every high-end DSLR have to look like an H.R. Giger nightmare? Or a video game console. It would be nice if manufacturers moved on from the late '80s–early '90s melted blob of black plastic. And Nikon really needs to lose the trashy red, yellow and gold bling on their products. But I doubt they will. It is strong branding, after all.

The problem with retro is that it's never done well and ends up looking pretentious. The new, fake VW Beetle, new, fake Mini, and my Fuji X100 all provoke the same reaction: 'I see what you were trying to do there, but it doesn't quite work.'

Pentax and Fujifilm, at least, seem to be the only camera makers interested in trying something different. I think camera aesthetics peaked in the 1950s (and I was born in the '70s).

My Leica M6 Panda

absolutely, surely,

the loveliest of cameras.

The M6 Panda,

an eloquent companion,

proud to be seen,

never to embarrass me.

Minox B


What's not to like?

DSLR's all leave me cold. They're all the same dull, uninspiring rounded black plastic blobs.

The Leica MP or M7 are beautiful, and even more so when you hold one. One day I wish I'll be able to own one.

The K-01 is surprisingly agreeable to me when I hold it. It balances well, and I appreciate the styling. It's still a toss-up but I suspect it may grow into becoming a classic design. The one usability black mark is the lack of any viewfinder. Had there been one this would have become my next camera.

The Pentax Q is beautiful. It's like a small, perfect jewel of a camera. No idea how it handles but it's almost designed to be worn more than used.

okay, here are my thoughts on the whole thing. I own a Pentax K20D, it is a functional design in the modern DSLR idiom, not particularly handsome but better than most. I also own an Olympus E-P2 which (with the 17mm f2.8 lens and the VF-1 optical viewfinder) is absolutely stunning as cameras go. The Olympus looks so "right" to my (admittedly) dated sensibilities.

As for the Fujis, I like the X100 better than the Xpro1. I find that the huge expanse of black metal between the viewfinder and the focus assit lamp looks empty and out of place. The slight angle of the control side of the top plate also seems awkward to me. I may be alone in these thoughts but that is how I see it.

The Nikon V1 is just too featureless and the small box for the EVF really makes it look odd.

The Sony NEX-7 is interesting but not really there for me.

I also have not seen a Pentax K-01 yet, it is novel and may look dated in the near future but at least it is an attempt to do a modern design rather than the rather strained retro styling of the Olympus OM-D (did they really have to make the EVF look like a prism? A little over the top I thought).

I may long for hints of the past (my E-P2 has that) but I still see a need to move forward. Overtly retro automotive styling resulted in the PT Cruiser and the Chevy HHR (sad), toned down homages to the past gave us the modern pony cars (much better though still not there) but modern styling with an eye to tradition design values gave us the Aston Martin DB9 (a high water mark in aytomotive beauty). Perhaps designers need to approach cameras in this manner.

I'm a big fan of how my Olympus E-M5 looks (then again, I had better, since I plan to use it for the next 3+ years). It's not the most photogenic of cameras (rather ironic, no?), but in person, it looks great. It's not an elegant camera like my E-P1, but it's purposeful and sinewy. The black color really makes it. In silver, it's good looking, but seems a bit retro fetish-tastic. In black, it's more becoming.

Another camera I like that I think looks good, which no one else does I'm sure, is the Canon D10. In person, it looks like a high tech rubber ducky. It's just short of adorable, and wears its bulbous kid-firendly shape proudly.

One more camera that looks great: the new Black Magic Cinema Camera. Pure purpose and nothing extraneous (even the E-M5 has a little styled extraneousness, with the semi prismatic look to the EVF housing/hot shoe mount/accessory port hump). Very well done.

On my dislike list, pretty much all DSLR's (though that K-5 looks decent). They mostly just have the same generic melted blob of ice cream look. Ugh.

Pentax MX
Leica M7
Nikon F3

Leica S2. The Germans built one hell of a handsome camera. It's distinctive, and from what I've heard, incredibly easy to use. I'll never know because it costs as much as a good college education.

"the new Soldier Field" and "treasured city landmark" in the same sentence. Only in Wisconsin where folks wear cheddar slices on their heads. ;-)

The best looking camera is the one you have with you. Conversely, the ugliest camera is the one you left at home.

Sinar Norma
Hasselblad 500
Nikon F

Best looking because I worked with them for a long period of time.

Looking at them today reminds me of photography 40 years ago.

I agree with your view of the K-5's looks. But I also think it looks different depending on what sort of lens is on it:

With an old manual lens (this one's the "K" 28mm f/3.5), it looks quite classic:

K-5 with manual lens

With one of the pancake primes such as the 21mm here, it looks sleek, more modern:

K-5 with 21mm Limited

And with one of those butt-ugly early film-era AF lenses, it looks... Wunderplastik.

K-5 with F series lens

A Contax IIa with a 3.5/50 mm Zeiss Tessar lens. Beauty beyond compare. Curse you thief, who stole my copy in 1979 in New York City.



I like the look of the K-01 in yellow, but I would like it more if the viewfinder like hump on the top held a viewfinder. Form follows function.

The K-01 is not the worse culprit for this by far, but it's at the top of your post, so...

I do like the look of, and the function of, the K5.

Leica MP
Nikon F
Leica IIIf RD ST

The Nikon FA is in my eyes the most beautiful camera-design. classic, analog, not too overweight, not a toy, not bragging about all the technology indside.
preferably in silver/black with an ais 35/1.4 mounted. oh, add a worn leatherstrap and a pack of player´s navy cut.

I'll probably buy a OM-D, it is beautiful but it is the negation of "design", just a copy of an old beautiful camera. At least in this techno business the "form follows function" principle has its validity, and in this respect the NEX-7 body is at the moment in the top of my list.
The design of the K-01 is ok, has personality, but suffers from the flaws in the specifications of the camera: a mirrorless which does not profit from the reduced flange-sensor distance. So is is bulky, and it bulky-ness reminds me why I don't like the camera. Like the yellow though.

Good looks without functionality?
Not for me.
I think they stopped making cameras after they made Pentax ME super and Olympus OM2.
The camera makers are trying to con us into spending our money on thrash.
Look at the PAMS dial of any camera!
What are we going to do with all the modes like underwater and night scene? Why could they not put shutter speeds there?
What ever happened to the F: number ring on the lens barrel?
No sir, there is not even one good looking camera in the market!!
Ranjit Grover India

I always feel odd when I butt into "pretty camera" conversations, but honestly, I have never seen an attractive camera. Never. Not a Canon, not a Nikon, not a Pentax, not a Leica, not a Deardorff, not a Hasselblad, not a Kodak. I've seen some interesting looking cameras and some ugly cameras, but I've never seen a pretty one.

As far as aesthetics go, the way a camera feels in the hand is all I care about. Some cameras feel good in the hand (5D/D700 style prosumer DSLR bodies feel _right_ to me) and some don't (gripless retrobodies want to fall out of my hands and entry level DSLRs feel so small and flimsy that I can barely bring myself to push the shutter).

In terms of design, currently DSLRs have nothing to do with other segments less scared of innovation, like mirrorless.

OM-D is really appealing, but as a pentaxian I will propose Pentax Q as the best current camera design.

IMO, camera design is always a fusion in design and how it feels in your hands. I am trying the K-01 for the rest of 2012. What i can say is that the K-01 is a camera you need to see live! It feels rock solid and the ergonomics of this brick are so simple that you want it to take in your hands more and more. Also i am saying that i've not the yellow one but have seen the yellow also live. Ähm...the yellow one smells like a rubber boat, the other colors not, really...

Hi Mike,

My take would be:

Outstanding design : Pentax K7/K5 (yes, I have the K7)

Excellent design: Sony A80/900

Best design: Leica M9 'Titanium" by Walter De Silva

Yes, I do agree that cameras ought to offer a bit more pizaza so that we can sit around a table admiring the lines and form like a well designed car under suitable lighting.

So that's why my vote is to the Leica that had the ex-chief of Audi Design Team penned the lines. A more stylish and modern form compared to the regular M9, to my eye. Design wise its head and shoulder above every other current camera in production, price not withstanding.

Thanks for this article.

Warmest regards

p.s. Nikon and Canon are too far gone to allow that kind of collaboration, but there's hope still,.

I actually quite like the red stripe on a Nikon. Like the chrome shutter knob, it breaks up the black body - unlike that other brand. :-)

Here's my choices for current cameras:

Olympus E-M5 - the silver one, with the nice, compact silver 14-42 zoom lens. Looks like a billion dollars. I would buy one on looks alone, let alone performance. Olympus pays homage to the old OM's, without copying them directly, much like VW paid homage to the old Beatles with the New Beatle.

Lumix GX1 - A far better design in my book than the classic GF1, as simple and straightforward of a camera as you could want, but with excellent ergonomics, and great style. Another camera I would by on looks alone.

Leica M9 - again, the silver one. Just beautiful, simple and robust. The evolutionary lines are very evident.

Pentax K-5 - To me, it's the epitome of what a tough, rugged DSLR should look like. Looks like it will either take your photo, or beat the crap out of you.

Hasselblad H4D-50 - Best looking camera of them all, by far. Looks like it wants to fly off you tripod and go into low Earth orbit. Super sexy in a way only the Swedish could pull off.

And my choices for past digital cameras:

Olympus E-1 - The first, and still best looking Olympus DSLR, before they wanted to clone what Canon was doing. Also the best looking DSLR ever, and to actually pickup and use one gives you a chill up your spine, no kidding. Not only does it have the looks, the connection it makes with the photographer is simply incredible.

Olympus E-P2 - in black, of course. Looks far better in person than it does in photos. One of those cameras you would buy for looks alone. The E-P3, with that useful, but ugly removable grip, destroyed the elegant lines of this classic design. Fortunately, there are still a few new-in-the-box E-P2's out there for those who missed out.


I understand about minor aesthetic foibles ruining one's relationship with a lens. I have a Nikon D80 with a perm-attached 50 1.8. Supposedly the 35 1.8 is supposed to be the dream budget lens for DX Nikons, but the way it's bulbous body tapered to it's lens flange turned me off and now it's gone. Also, the obscure (long discontinued) Pentax MZ-S gets my vote as an original and functional design that's also pleasing to the eye.

I love my K-5, it feels so very natural in my hands. I find the yellow of the K-01 uncomfortable and garish (and I like a viewfinder), but I have yet to show it to a teenage male (I have teenage sons, and their friends come over) who doesn't think it looks cool. So if that's their demographic, it should do well.

I'd rather have a Q than a K-01, but the K-5 is already perfect for me.

My all time timeless camera designs ...
Leica M4-2
Nikon F
Olympus E-1
Leica M9

Modern runner up ...
Ricoh GXR

Yeah, I'm biased too. These are my current cameras. :-)

Honorable mention to the Panasonic DMC-L1 too.

Helped by their compact form, the K-7 and K-5 are definitely the best looking digital SLRs of recent times, although the K-01 is definitely a Marmite design. Americans unfamiliar with yeast extracts may need to look that one up.

I don't think Nikon or Canon have produced a decent looking SLR since the heady days of the F3 (especially in battered P guise) and (New) F-1.

Everyone here has already covered SLRs and rangefinders, but my vote for a modern camera design goes to Canon S90/S95/S100. It took years of incremental refinement through the ixus range to arrive at this point.

Hopefully, one day all cameras will be this small, this quiet, this convenient.


Canons are all descendants of the Original Luigi Colani design but they're more and more denatured.
The first half-dozen concepts were all beautiful and great departures from the classic camera look.

I agree that the different abilities and requirements of digital design (compared to mechanical film cameras) should lead to design experimentation, and quite probably to more effective new designs. There has been some of this -- the twisting Nikon P&S for example, and some early Sony models were quite different from anything made for film.

As a left-eyed shooter, the question of position of viewfinder is of interest to me. But people seem to be arguing for putting it at the LEFT of the body, which is the worst possible place for me, so that's not going to help me any. Huh, I wonder if anybody will ever put TWO accessory ports for EVF on a camera, one on each side? The flash or something could go on the other one.

The X100 looks a little too much like a Leica? Really. That's exactly why I bought it because it is the closest I will ever get to a Leica. The more I use the X100 the more convinced I am that it does just about everything well. It is smaller than I expected but it has the features I wanted in a compact camera - large sensor, short lens, manual controls and an optical viewfinder.

I like the K-5, but it would be better with a red slash ;)

Oops, I should have known another post would have me adding an extra one. I forgot about the Sigma DP twins, which are beautifully designed and build compacts--both sleek and purposeful.

I think it's a Freudian oversight on my part, as I own one but it spends a lot of time in a drawer due to its infuriating ways. Camera beauty should be at least somewhat echoed by its user-friendliness.

My Olympus E-PL1 (black): small, square, simple, functional, and none of that retro nonsense.

I really like the clean lines of the Olympus OM-D E-M5. Although Pentax has made many attractive cameras, the K-01 is certainly the Pontiac Aztek of cameras.

Naw, I can't see that K-01 as being handsome in any way. The body covering reminds me of a Zorki-4: http://www.thecamerasite.net/02_Rangefinders/Pages/zorki.htm

I have to say I love the D3/x/s design. Since I've had one none of the others look anywhere near as purposeful.

Previously I liked the dainty Olympus stuff, and I do miss the lightweight.

But the D3/x/s bullies me into getting out the door and shooting. Then there's the ergonomics. The newer Nikons look just that little too round for my current tastes apparently.


I don't like the Leicas Fujis etc because they are pure retro, and the retro designs they imitate were progressive and functional. So it is rather an insult.

The Sony NEX series is very nicely done, UNTIL YOU PUT ON A LENS.

Pentax Q is the best looking camera, also tiny and functional...

most people cannot get over the sensor size though, but it is not at all that bad... going a few years back to the past, D2H has a worse sensor score @DxO, and the venerable D50 just slightly higher...

poor sensor scores didn't stop the people who owned those DSLR's from taking good photos either, all the rest that you want from a photo device perspective, is there with the Q too, and it looks just great to boot.


It may be neither politic nor polite to mention that some people are so ugly that you have a physical start when you first see them. I feel I can say this because I have, on numerous occasions, been subject to said response when the eyes of others have fallen upon my less than pleasant visage.

Thus I suspect that if a certain K-01 in a certain large Tokyo camera store could talk (and indeed had the company of someone or something capable of listening), then it might have had occasion recently to remark "...and then this huge foreigner, no prize himself by any means, looked and me, shuddered and went 'urgh.' The cheek of him!"

I better up-shut now.

Zeiss Ikon, silver and blk

I can't tell you how ugly the Leicas are! They have neither form nor function.

I do agree about the Canon D10 - what a cutie!

As for the Pentax K-01: it gets a very firm tick!

The Pentax designs are funny for me -- while the K-7/K-5 definitely feels better in my hand than the previous K-20/K-10, the "look" is going backward. I'm not a fan of the boxy, square-shoulder haunch of the K-5, now showcased front and center with that K-01.

Personally, I like the look of Leicas, though I haven't shot enough with them to know how they feel day in and day out. The Nikon D700 is a handsome camera; but something happened to its look on the way to becoming a D800, and again, I think the new design is going in the wrong direction.

Similarly, the new OM-D isn't OM enough OR new enough. Certain kinds of blends of old and new end up neither fish nor fowl.

Canon's 5D mk III is fine. The swoops seem smooth and inviting, rather than gratuitous. However, its design now is just up to the point of having /way/ too many buttons -- there's still an equilibrium, but I can see how adding just one or two more would send it over the edge, into say car-stereo-from-the-80s land.

Best looking cameras ever? Pentax Spotmatic followed closely by the Leica M2 or M3. Sadly, I've never owned any of them.

Okay, I know this is a beauty contest for CURRENT cameras, but it would be interesting to see what the forum says about "the best looking camera" from any year.

Every bad opinion I've read about the K-01 has been proven wrong over my weeks of actual use - and it produces the best images I've ever seen from an APSc camera.

I brought my X100 with me to a photography project, and a lot of the people I was photographing commented how attractive they felt the X100 is.

Considering the high-quality materials used for the K-01, its tonka toy appearance that screams "My first Sony" with unbearable volume, is the archetypical epic fail.

Worse, it fails ergonomically. A camera, such as the K-5, looks good if you can imagine it in your hands, reaching all controls naturally. The K-01 is painful to look at because it is obvious that "pretty" and "style" were prioritised over functionality.

The K-01 was the first camera design by Marc Newson. Let's hope it was his last as well.

Few of Canon IXUS models from the past had this perfect brick like design that looked great in silver. Really sharp and pointy edges. Those were great as a brick also.

K-01 looks like a waterproof Diana camera marketed to teens.

It will only be seen around the necks of New York gallery owners, fashion stylists, and supermodels.

The yellow K-01 certainly stands out. I have the white one, and I think it looks great with the little black DA Limited primes. It's a unique look for sure, and I can see why some people don't like it.

Also, the E-P1 Pen is a really neat looking camera for me. I enjoy it for the looks almost as much as for using it.

Canon T-90. Compared to any camera that I could pretend to afford, maybe any camera of it's time, the best looking DSLR hands down.

I agree, the K-5 Pentax is my fav. (and the K20D before that.. Back in the film days, I liked my X-700 bodies..

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