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I am a sucker for design. Style is subjective. Design is art and, therefore, subjective. Does form follow function, or does function dictate form? In the world of photography, just like in many product lines, the camera has run the gamut, from utilitarian tool to work of art. Some of those utilitarian cameras were unintentionally beautiful and some cameras had attractive designs that got in the way of function. Regardless of success or failure, almost every major camera manufacturer has pushed products with radical designs.
Sometimes, a change of color takes a camera from everyday to something eye-catching. To me, the new skin has to fit over a design already worthy of my eye. Design beauty is more than skin deep to me. Black is the new black, and if the camera looks great in black, it probably looks good in other colors, too. Conversely, slapping a pastel skin on an ugly camera probably makes it worse, in my opinion.
Is what you are about to read a comprehensive list of “chic cameras?” Absolutely not. In fact, I encourage you to add your own thoughts to the Comments section, below. But, before you share your ideas, let’s kick off the conversation with this list of a dozen.
The basic shape of the Leica 35mm rangefinder camera is one of those designs that will never go out of style, even without the film advance/shutter cocking lever. It has been mimicked and copied, but never rendered obsolete. It is either a Leica rangefinder, or it’s an attempt to be one. The M is plain stylish in black, but special editions like the Leica 60 give it some extra panache. If you want to go the extra mile, the limited-edition Typ 240 Null Series might be the most stylish version of the digital rangefinders.
Regardless of your real feelings about the origins of these cameras, there is no denying that the gorgeous variety of wood handgrips and the Hasselblad “H” make these point-and-shoot cameras ooze with style. Now, you just have to decide which one you like best—keep in mind the interior colors of your luxury automobile, penthouse apartment, or yacht; Carbon, Mahogany, Olive, Padouk, Walnut, Wenge, or Zebra.
It is too early to tell if the new DxO One digital camera shakes up the photographic market, but there is no denying the beautiful design that is not only clean, but decidedly functional, as well. The DxO One is designed to be a better camera for your iDevice and, once attached to your iPhone or iPad, tells those around you that you are serious about your mobile photography and not willing to accept the default images from your phone’s camera.
There are many point-and-shoot cameras on the market, and many of them try to push design boundaries, while others seem to come from the same cookie-cutter molds that other point-and-shoot cameras embrace. Occasionally, some cross the line from standard to eye-catching. The Canon PowerShot G9 X digital camera looks stunning in silver with its brown, textured grips. Compared to the black model, the silver version is most likely the camera with which you’ll want to accessorize.
Retro does not always translate to “stylish,” but sometimes it definitely works. When the Fujifilm X-Pro1 was released, its design gave a definite nod to the rangefinders of the past with a touch of modern curves. The point-and-shoot X100T echoes this design goal and does so with a stellar reputation as a photographic tool. Accompanying you on your photographic expeditions is a camera that might make those “in the know” take a second, admiring, glance over their shoulder at your stylish picture-making tool.
Subtly breaking with the aforementioned point-and-shoot, cookie-cutter mold, I really enjoy the circle-on-a-squared-off-rectangle symmetry of the Canon PowerShot N2 digital camera. An ultra-clean design, slip it into your tuxedo pocket for a black tie or white tie affair and blend in, stylishly, with the crowd.
Sometimes, in the world of design, small equals stylish. Minox has been making tiny “spy” cameras for years, and its Minox DCC 14.0 digital camera is the latest edition of the company’s digital camera with a 14MP sensor, packed into a tiny classic-looking rangefinder. Available in black or silver, this diminutive camera will definitely not weigh down your bag.
Color can play a big part in style. The design of the Nikon 1 J5 mirrorless digital camera is striking, but I find the silver edition to be more attention-grabbing than the black version. The white version is a close second, with a subtle contrast between the metal and white portions, but it is the contrast between the brushed metal and dark black that looks sharpest here.
Another take on the iconic rangefinder, there is no denying that the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 digital camera gives a nod to the form. But its lack of viewports and other front-facing windows show it to be a totally different animal. The silver version is particularly attractive, with its contrasting handgrip. Built for the same Micro Four Thirds mount, the silver Olympus PEN E-P5 deserves mention in this paragraph.
Introduced with game-changing light field technology, the Lytro brought something radically different to the world of photography—the ability to change focus after the image was captured. With a form that disguises its capabilities, the original Lytro looks like the kind of camera you would see mounted in the corner of a convenience store; pointed at the cash register. The new Lytro Illum is barely more traditional in the photographic sense (there is a designated place to hold the camera), yet appears as a stunning design.
Another definite nod to “retro,” the Nikon Df looks like the Nikon F series of years past, with all the digital bells and whistles of the modern digital camera integrated into control dials and buttons. In black or silver, the classic design of the Df, including the older, non-italicized “Nikon” logo, brings classic looks to full-frame digital. Passersby might think you are out on a retro walk with your Nikon FM2 or another classic Nikon film SLR.
Leica’s entire line probably appears on different lists of stylish cameras from its new Leica SL (Typ 601) to the chiseled-from-an-aluminum-block Leica T mirrorless camera, but when it comes to a modern Leica that I simply enjoy looking at, the Leica X (Typ 113) looks absolutely fantastic in silver. If you want more style points and color, you can grab the “Edition Moncler” version that looks like it would be at home on the Riviera.
Now it is your turn to share your ideas and examples of what makes a stylish camera, in the Comments section, below. Thanks for reading.