I am a fool 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 every day to something eye-catching. To me, the new skin must 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 sweet list of 16 products.
1. Hasselblad X1D II 50C
The first in the new world of medium format mirrorless cameras was the Hasselblad X1D, and the most current version is the Hasselblad X1D II 50C. It is a stunning machine. Its body is ultra clean, yet obviously functional. Here is a camera that has a unique and distinctive look. It ushered in a new genre of digital medium format photography and camera design. With “Hasselblad” engraved on the front and “HANDMADE IN SWEDEN” etched into the top plate, you can be assured that the knowledgeable passerby will recognize that the photographer cradling this camera in his or her hands is making art with a work of art.
2. Leica M10-R
The basic shape of the Leica 35mm rangefinder camera is one that will never go out of style, and you can still pick up a Leica M-A (Typ 127) or Leica MP 0.72 camera at B&H and hit the streets with your rolls of 35mm film. The forever design has been mimicked and copied, but never rendered obsolete. It is either a Leica rangefinder, or it's an attempt to be one. The Leica M10-R is digital, but the only indication of this is the absence of a film door or cocking lever. With the Leica brand, be sure to keep an eye out for even more stylish limited-edition versions of film and digital rangefinders like this discontinued model.
3. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VA
Simplicity has an elegance all its own, and the front view of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VA has a beautiful sparseness. The rear of the camera is decidedly busier, but the large size of the LCD screen dominates that view; echoing the clean lines of the front. Unlike many of its siblings in the Cyber-shot lineup, the RX100 family does not have a grip to hold—opting, instead, for clean lines and a minimalist look. I also really enjoy the way that the circular lenses live beneath the rectangular front opening. In the product photos, this catches my eye.
4. Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II
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 Mark II digital camera looks stunning. The PowerShot SX740 HS also echoes some great G9 X design traits.
5. FUJIFILM X100V
Retro does not always translate to “stylish,” but sometimes it 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 X100V echoes this design goal in a point-and-shoot 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.
6. Kandao QooCam EGO
Reminiscent of the iconic View-Master stereoscopic viewer, the Kandao QooCam EGO is a unique 3D camera that's equal parts charming and stylish. But don't let its similarity to Mattel's classic toy fool you—the QuoCam EGO is a beautifully designed camera with a distinct retro vibe that will turn heads wherever it goes. The EGO is available in two color options: "Aurora White" and "Midnight Black." Both palettes look fantastic and perfectly complement the EGO's clean lines and minimalist design. With a design this gorgeous, it's easy to forget that the QooCam EGO is also a one-of-a-kind instrument. Billed as the world's first and only headset-free 3D camera, the EGO is literally in a league of its own. Whether that league continues to grow remains to be seen, but you can be sure that even if the category of headset-free 3D cameras explodes in popularity, the QooCam EGO will remain the best-looking camera of the bunch.
7. Sigma sd Quattro
The design team at Sigma appears to be working overtime with its new sleek Art lenses and the Quattro family of cameras. The Art lenses and the dp Quattro camera line, like the dp3 Quattro, emphasize a clean design aesthetic, but the new sd Quattro mirrorless digital camera takes Sigma design in a different direction. Can clunky be graceful? With the sd Quattro, I think, “Yes.” The camera is unique and it stands out on that merit alone. You can tell that a lot of thought went into the design, from its deep handgrip with the scalloped finger rest area to the oh-so-slight downward angle of the front command dial.
8. ZEISS ZX1
A camera from ZEISS? Yep, it looks like the company is back in the camera business and, not only that, this manufacturer made a gorgeous piece of photographic kit with the ZEISS ZX1. The camera offers a super-clean, super-functional design with a great combination of sensual curves and hard edges, and I love the way the textured grip melds seamlessly into the camera body. This is really a gorgeous piece!
9. FUJIFILM Dura Silver X-Pro3 and X-T4
I gave a nod to the FUJIFILM’s latest “retro” designs in a paragraph above, but permit me to share this anecdote: I was helping a dear friend make the move from her clunky DSLR to a FUJIFILM X-series camera. She was enamored with the X-T4 in black, but when I showed her the silver version, her reflex reaction was, “Oooohhh. I want that one!” even though the price gets bumped up. If that isn’t an endorsement on style, I don’t know what is. You can also get the X-Pro3 in a champagne-tinted titanium “Dura Silver” covering, as well.
10. Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100
Another take on the iconic rangefinder, there is no denying that the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 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 dual tones and angular red stripe accent.
11. Ricoh GR IIIx
I seem to be drawn mostly to minimalist and elegant cameras, and the Ricoh GR IIIx certainly fits that mold. The front and top of the camera are all business. In fact, the front is totally devoid of any kind of controls at all and decorated with a textured grip and simple “GR” logo. The top is similarly bare with the shutter release, command dial, and mode dial. The back remains minimalist, but not to the same degree as the rest of the camera. Adding to the camera’s style points are interchangeable colored rings to give the tool a personal touch or the ability to use it as an accessory to your wardrobe.
12. Pentax Silver K-70
One thing that I like about the complete lineup of Pentax DSLR cameras is their consistent use of sharp lines. The cameras have a purposeful look to them. The full-frame Pentax K-1 Mark II has a beautiful pointed prism housing, and the Pentax 645Z medium format DSLR announces its presence with the bold metal Pentax name plate on the front. But, when it comes to everyday style and personality, the sweet silver color option of the K-70 camera creates a stylish photographic companion. It even came with racing stripes in a limited-edition K-S2 for a time, but it looks like this discontinued “limited” model was truly “limited.”
13. Nikon Z fc
Another definite nod to “retro,” the Nikon Z fc looks like the Nikon F (or the discontinued retro digital Nikon Df) series of years past, with all the digital bells and whistles of the modern digital camera integrated into control dials and buttons. Only available in silver, the classic design of the Z fc, including the older, non-italicized “Nikon” logo, brings classic looks to APS-C digital. Passersby might think you are out on a retro walk with your Nikon FM2 or another classic Nikon film SLR.
14. Leica CL
Leica's entire line probably appears on different lists of stylish cameras, from its Leica SL2 to the chiseled-from-an-aluminum-block Leica TL2 mirrorless camera to the gorgeous Leica Q2 to the angles and curves of the C-Lux, in midnight blue or light gold, but when it comes to a modern Leica that I simply enjoy looking at, the Leica CL looks like a sensual blend of new and old with its basic rangefinder shape, top dials, elegant top LCD panel, and chunky humped viewfinder—especially in the Silver Anodized version.
15. Instant Cameras
The instant film market has been hot for years and shows no signs of cooling off. I was going to write about the design features of one brand and model of instant camera, but when I started looking at the competition, I realized that, to my critical design eye, without exception, every instant camera that we sell here at B&H is doggone stylish. Some take the shape of their classic Polaroid ancestors, and others are decidedly more modern (FUJIFILM INSTAX SQUARE SQ1), but they all ooze good style in one way or another
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!
The following cameras were once honored in this piece, but they have since been discontinued and are no longer available at B&H Photo. However, you may find images of them at an Internet site near you.
Leica M (Typ 240)
Hasselblad Stellar Special Edition Digital Camera
Canon PowerShot N2
Minox DCC 14.0
Nikon 1 J5
Leica M-D (Typ 262)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX90V
And, discontinued long before this article was born, here are some honorable mentions from days past:
1. A classic medium format with a twist, the Mamiya RB67 Pro S Gold, 11th Anniversary Edition, with lizard-skin covering and gold accents, is rare and eye-catching.
2. Looking more like some sort of laboratory research optical device than a camera, the Olympus O-Product 35mm camera simply looks like no other camera every made before or since.
3. Recently, at an after-work function at the B&H SuperStore, a former Hasselblad employee told me the Hasselblad Superwide viewfinder camera was, “The best camera ever made.” Not only that, its combination Hasselblad looks and rangefinder panache make it a pleasure to admire.
4. The Minox 35 range had a cool fold-down lens cover. It is also known as the world’s smallest 35mm camera, because it looks like a 35mm film canister would take up a good portion of the left side of the body. Besides the unfolding door, the camera came in different color combinations, including silver gray and green.
5. One of Kodak's contributions to the Art Deco genre is the Kodak Bullet, from 1936. Made from Bakelite, and designed by the same artist who penned the Art Deco-inspired Kodak Baby Brownie, the Bullet would look great in anyone's hands today, or as a conversation starter on a prized display shelf.
6. Sometimes it is one element of a whole design that pegs the style meter. With the black Nikon 28Ti and silver Nikon 35Ti, the analog display at the top of the camera made an otherwise normal point-and-shoot camera something worthy of a second or third glance. The interface brings an analog Swiss wristwatch feel to the camera for a true styling experience.
7. The transformer before the Transformers, the Polaroid SX-70 was an SLR camera that folded down into a gorgeous form for travel and carriage between uses. Opened, its complex angles and utilitarian design made you wonder how it collapsed into such a beautiful piece of industrial art.
8. Retro has been hot for a while, but a little-known Minolta camera was known for being one of the first retro designs brought forward to the modern electronic era. The Minolta PROD 20 came out in 1990 and still looks sharp today. Minolta was one of the technology leaders of the film industry during much of the 1980s, and this design departure from its modern cameras is noteworthy.
9. The classic Hasselblad 503CX came in a special 50th anniversary edition, with gold plating and blue leather trim. Like the Mamiya above, it might be less of a tool for creating images and more of a collection centerpiece. Regardless, it looks fantastic with the anniversary trim.
10. Reinforcing my ideas on size, another contender for the smallest 35mm camera, is the Rollei 35 scale focus camera. The camera had some intriguing design elements to complement and maintain its small form. The hot shoe and some controls are on the bottom and two control dials are on the front, yet the design stays clean, due to its fantastic execution.
11. Sometimes, a simple design goes a long way in the point-and-shoot world. With several color combinations, including champagne, gold, and black, the Contax T2 featured a clean design that puts it on the style list of film shooters. It is a fact that this article was published before Kendall Jenner started carrying hers around. You are welcome.
12. Unsuccessful as a camera, but well-executed as a design study, the Nikon Pronea S was built for smaller-than-35mm APS film and sported a plastic Nikon F-mount that accepts almost every Nikon lens ever made, including some of those made today.
13. If you ever saw a camera that you would expect to see levitate and fly around on its own, the digital Minox DD1 might be it. The camera came in a circular tin box and, being circular, looks like no camera you have ever seen before. Pick your favorite sci-fi movie, and the DD1 might easily make a cameo and not look out of place.
14. Zeiss Ikon AG, formerly the largest camera maker in the world, produced a funky-looking camera, the Contarex Bullseye, and its close relative, the Cyclops, in the late 1950s. The names are derived from the central over-lens exposure meter that gives the cameras their distinctive look.
Todd, I really enjoyed your article and agree the cameras shown/discussed are "good looking" cameras. I own and enjoy shooting one of the cameras mentioned, a Nikon Zfc. I would like to point out this camera is AP-C, not Full Frame, as mentioned in the article.
I look forward to your "Best Looking Camera Ever" article.
Thanks for the kind words on the article!
Yikes on the full-frame vs. APS-C error. I will have that corrected immediately. Thanks for catching my sloppiness!
In case you didn't see the link, here is the "Best Looking Camera Ever" article: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/features/what-is-the-b…
Feel free to chime in there and thanks for reading!
I would think that "awesome camera" is very much in the eye of the beholder. What you believe to be awesome I may consider pedestrian and vice-versa.
If we consider the camera to be the tool to create the image, then we would be really considering "awesome image", but even then, your view of an "awesome image" may well not be mine and so on.
Thank you for your comments. You are correct and as much as photographs are subjective, so is camera design.
Thanks for reading!
You left out one the I love: the Horseman VH-1. I lusted after this camera but could never afford one. My palms still get sweaty when I look at pictures of it online or in the old Calumet catalogs.
Sorry we left the Horseman off the list! I have seen a few different Horseman’s at the Used Department at B&H. Gorgeous machines! Having said that, most large format cameras like the VH’s are beautiful to look at.
Thanks for reading!
I currently own the X-Pro3 and am happy that's included in the list. I had to look up some of the more obscure cameras in the Past Mentions section. One camera I would include is the Canon Canonet Rangefinder.
I am also glad that your X-Pro3 made the list! I shoot an X-T3, myself.
Thanks for pointing out the Canonet! Good looking camera, indeed!
And, thanks for reading!
Ha, ha, at first I thought really, is this silly. But, I found I have to admit I love the visual style of most of the cameras listed. Even worse, I had the revelation that the "style" of a camera does influence my purchase decisions (yes I own a Fujifilm XPro3). In the end it is not "form over function" for me. I want "form and function"! Thanks for the great article. Wish I could afford a Leica ;)
I am glad that you didn’t judge this book by its “silly” cover and that you enjoyed the article! :) I agree…you need form and function. Without a balance of both, you likely won’t have a tool that you enjoy using.
Thanks for reading!
Rollei 35 mentioned in 10 is not rangefinder camera. It is scale focus camera.
Thanks for correcting us! We appreciate it.
And, even as important, thanks for reading Explora!
As a current user of Fujifilm X-t2, It's probably no surprise that my sexiest camera ever is the old Nikon F with a 50mm, f1.4 lens. I preferred the all black, but I'd take the silver and black anytime... And the only film I shot with that camera was Fujifilm, of course! Cheers! Great article.
Thanks for stopping by, Michael!
The F is certainly a looker...and we like talking about it here on Explora:
Thank you, very much, for the kind words! I appreciate it!
Great list. The Nikon DF is my current stylish shooter. Just picked up the Leica Sofort as my eyecandy instax shooter.
That is high-style, indeed, Style Cruise!
How do you like the Sofort?
Thanks for reading!
Last month, my wife and I were in Florida for the nearly week-long National Beagle Club Specialty and one of the official photographers was shooting with a chrome-top Nikon. That could only be the Nikon Df. I asked and he confirmed that it was his favorite camera.
But I still stand by my nomination of the Canon New F-1. Classic black is always in style; plus the controls are easy.
I've been wanting to pen a controversial article called, "The Best Looking Camera Ever Made." Would the F-1 be your nominee?
Thanks for reading!
Bring it on! The F-1 is my nominee for Best Looking Camera.
Your vote has been counted! Thanks, Ralph!
Out of all cameras, Pentax is the only one with no product image. Pentax rasist? :-)
Nope...it was an honest mistake that we are remedying as I type this. We love Pentax and apologize for the oversight!
Thanks for keeping us on our toes!
My vote goes to the Olympus Pen F - can't believe it didn't make the cut.
The PEN-F came out after I wrote this article...and I am literally re-writing it now and including the PEN-F. The timing of your comment is uncanny and a bit creepy...are you reading over my shoulder as I type the article? The PEN-F was on my second screen when your comment came in.
Stay tuned for a re-fresh of this article sometime in November!
Thanks for reading!
Haha! I didn't even look at the date - just saw it on my Twitter feed. Great article - looking forward to the re-write!
No worries! Always keep us on our toes!
Saving my pennies for a Nikon DF and 1 J5! Stunning specs and timeless bodies! Shooting in style and manually...
Good luck, Shawn! You will need a lot of pennies!
is good camera thank you dear nice day
Thank you, for reading, dear!
I've been eyeing the x100t for quite some time. Was hoping to see it go on sale during your Black Friday specials. Any chance it will go on sale before Christmas? That way I can beging taking pics with it for my website.
Sorry, sales and specials aren't my department and I am not privy to upcoming price adjustments.
Good luck and thanks for reading!
Hi Todd, thanks for this great article. I really enjoyed reading it and seeing the images of all of the new retro cameras out there. Does Canon make any retro cameras, or any retro looking DSLRs that take lenses?
Thanks for the note! Nope, I can't think of any retro-designed Canon DSLR's off the top of my head. I do know a great many photographers who would love a digital version of the venerable AE-1!
I am sure the higher-ups at Canon are reading this (why wouldn't they be?) ...so start getting all of your friends to leave comments!
Thanks for reading!
No Lumix GM1??
No GM1 until you mentioned it! Sorry!
But, since you brought it up, let us talk about it!
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 is definitely a stylish number, especially when you see its size. The standard package is a sharp silver/black version, but I have enjoyed the warm tones of the orange model as well. If you prefer cool to warm, try it in blue!
Thanks for adding to the conversation and thanks for reading, Richard!
My favorite camera, style-wise is the film-based Olympus OM-1. This capable item was tiny by slr standards of the 1970s, but its main set of controls could be easily grasped by even the largest hands, making for quick shooting for an all-manual camers.
I agree. Great camera and great looks! I like its angular surfaces and purposeful design. Thanks for reading and sharing!
Fujifilm XT1 should be near the top. Fujifilm makes some pretty cameras.
Its in the article, but not near the top. Sorry!
If I were to pen the X-T1, I might have changed the "mirror" box a bit..maybe make it a bit deeper instead of flat-fronted. But, that is just me!
Thanks for reading and writing in!
i would have expected to see the Olympus PEN E-P5 on this list. Just got one and can't express how much I appreciate the stylish retro aesthetic. I always thought I didn't care to much about looks. My E-M1 is the essence of function-first style but I can't believe how retro cool and classic the PEN E-P5 looks.
The PEN E-P5 is on the list, but not shown in a photograph. It gets mentioned in the paragraph with the Panasonic.
I agree that it is a great looking camera! Sorry we didn't share an image of it!
Thanks for reading!
The camera that i considire stylus isn't new. It was made from 1981 to 1991, the Canon F-1N; plus it comes in classic black.
Good choice! In the original draft, I had a list of classics. Unfortunately, that list made it to the cutting room floor, but may surface in a future article!
I'll add the F-1N to the list! By the way, I think the Dassault F-1 aircraft (of the same era) is one of the best looking jets ever to take to the skies! Are the two F-1's related? You never know!
Thanks for reading!
I'm looking forward to a future article about classic cameras.
Thanks, Ralph! Me too!