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 Hasselblad X1D II 50C is a stunning machine. It features a unique and distinctive look with an ultra-clean and highly functional body. 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.
7. Olympus OM-D E-M10
When we talk about stylish cameras, there's no denying that a handsome silver body can make you feel like a million bucks. Olympus's OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is a great example of this, with a bold body that prominently features eye-catching silver. There is something about its proportions, especially the pronounced, angular grip, that lends the E-M10 Mark IV a certain seriousness when you pull it out. Of course, it also provides great ergonomics while shooting. Overall, this little guy is sure to draw some attention, so be prepared for all kinds of questions including, "will you take my picture?"
8. Sony a7C
While sleekness is in vogue, it is always refreshing to see a compact camera with a touch of uniqueness. Sony's a7C is such a camera, with a rangefinder-inspired layout and understated, retro-adjacent detailing that is attractive to those who appreciate subtlety. While a black option is also available, I gravitate toward the silver model because it is so good looking. The color contrast at play manages to accentuate the a7C's silhouette and high-quality construction tastefully without being overbearing.
9. FUJIFILM X-T5
FUJIFILM's latest "retro" designs make it a great brand if you're looking for a cool camera. The stylish X-T5 blends a classic, dial-based layout with updated ergonomics and compactness, resulting in an overall great camera. The flashy silver version is also available if you want to dial up the retro look.
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. The GR IIIx is notably available in an Urban edition, while the GR III is available in Diary and Street editions, as well.
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 Q2
Leica's entire line probably appears on different lists of stylish cameras, from its Leica SL2 to the gorgeous M11. When it comes to a modern Leica that I simply enjoy looking at, the Leica Q2 is a sleek point-and-shoot that manages to retain character. As is custom with Leica, the Q2 boasts its own limited-edition iterations, including these eye-catching Ghost and Dawn models.
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.
Sigma sd Quattro
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.