I recently took the straps off my cameras because they get in my way more than they help. It’s also easier to get a camera in and out of a bag without the strap catching on things or preventing me from grabbing the camera quickly. So now I am one of those people who make other photographers cringe slightly when they see a camera with nothing between it and the pavement except fingers. When I walk around the streets taking pictures casually I use either the Zeiss Ikon M (film) or the FujiFilm X-Pro 1 (digital). Both cameras are very good and both are rangefinder¹ cameras but because of the different body designs they fit my hand differently.
Both cameras are about the same size but the Fuji is slightly taller than the Zeiss Ikon (if you don’t count the round ‘feet’ on the bottom of the Zeiss) and a bit thicker. The Zeiss Ikon is very slightly longer. When I hold the cameras in my right hand I put my index finger on the shutter release button, the middle two fingers on the front of the camera, and my pinky finger on the camera base as support. The extra height of the Fuji makes it slightly less comfortable to hold in my right hand because my pinky gets stretched a little farther. The Fuji camera feels heavier than the Zeiss Ikon but I weighed both cameras today and the Zeiss turned out to be a bit heavier. Both of the cameras are light enough to carry in one hand but heavy enough to feel good when shooting.
I grip the cameras in different ways because of their design. The Zeiss Ikon has no protruding grips and the back has no screens or buttons except an auto exposure lock in the top centre. My pinky goes comfortably under the camera, my middle two fingers grip the fake leather covering (I’m sure there is a better name for it than that) on the front, my index finger sits on the shutter release button, and my thumb has a very solid grip near the top middle of the back. The top part of the camera is metal and my thumb doesn’t slip at all. From that position I can easily flick my thumb to advance the film and my palm has a good hold on the end of the camera body. The Fuji is a digital camera and has lots of buttons and dials. If I hold it like I hold the Zeiss I accidentally press buttons and turn dials. The Fuji has grips on the front and back and to hold it properly my thumb needs to be vertical and in that position my middle two fingers curl up a bit too much for comfort. The lenses for the Fuji are bigger than those for the Zeiss Ikon so there is less room to straighten out my fingers. My pinky finger won’t go underneath the camera without stretching but the bottom right of the camera sits well in the flesh at the base of the thumb. It’s a solid enough grip on the camera but because my fingers and thumb are bunched up so far to the right of the camera I feel the weight more. This is no problem when shooting, of course, because my left hand is supporting the other side of the camera. The problem, or, rather, slight inconvenience, comes when I am walking with my camera down by my side. The Zeiss hangs comfortably with my hand and arm in a natural position. This is a precarious way to hold the X-Pro 1 while walking because the grip is shallower and plastic on the back of the camera is a little slippery. To make sure the Fuji doesn’t fall to the pavement I have to hold my hand raised a little with the palm turned upward so the camera is resting securely on it. This is slightly more tiring.
Sometimes I walk about with the Contax 645 medium format camera. It’s much bigger and heavier than the other two cameras but the grip fills my hand and it can be carried one-handed with no problem. But I usually don’t because of the weight. Actually, I rarely bring this one out for walks because medium format film is too expensive for snapshots. This camera is usually carried in a bag to a location and then attached securely to a tripod.
I prefer to use the Zeiss Ikon when I can afford film but both the Fuji and the Zeiss are excellent cameras. This article wasn’t mean to be an equipment review but simply came about after spending some time figuring out the best way to hold my cameras to improve my technique. When a good photo opportunity arrives I want to be ready and not fumbling about.
Here are some photos from each of the cameras mentioned in the article.
¹ The X-Pro 1 isn’t exactly a rangefinder camera but functions like one.