Photographic art and style are both subjective topics about which many of us get passionate. The camera is a tool to make photographic art, but we all know that, as a tool—a machine—it can be a beautiful object unto itself. I talk about some of today’s stylistic photographic tools in my Recommended Stylish Cameras article, but let’s pass the microphone around the Internet to see what people think is the best-looking camera ever made.
To find the answer, or just get a bunch of opinions, I polled my fellow B&H employees, as well as our B&H Creative partners and affiliates to come up with this list of beautiful picture-taking machines.
Allan Weitz, B&H — @allanweitz
“The Hasselblad 500C/M with a Zeiss 50mm f/4 Distagon T* Lens.
“When it comes to well executed design—industrial design in particular, the Hasselblad 500C/M has always been one of the most gorgeous cameras I’ve had the occasion to work with and own.
“People always praise Hasselblad for their construction and image quality. For me, the balanced look of the camera was what drew me to the system in the first place. The design is so elegantly simple it’s easy to overlook how integral the design is to the functionality of the camera.
“What pleases my eye the most is the way Victor Hasselblad’s team designed a camera system around a well-disciplined arrangement of circles, squares, rectangles, and, in the case of the earlier 50mm and 60mm Zeiss Distagon wide-angle lenses, cone shapes.
“The fact the camera sits comfortably and intuitively in the user’s hand is ice cream on the cake. I’ve used many cameras that have earned my respect, but the Hasselblad 500C/M will always get the nod when it comes to good looks.”
Ange Fitzgerald, B&H — @angelinashoots
“The Kine Exakta was the first 35mm single-lens reflex still camera in regular production. It's a beauty, albeit quirky with some known issues, like the finder hood blocking the shutter release when fully collapsed, among others.”
Chuck Capriola, B&H — @chuckxpics
“My vote for the best-looking camera is a tie between the two remaining cameras on my bucket list (I’ve never owned them); a 35mm Widelux F7 and the Brooks Veriwide 100.
“The Widelux is such a cool-looking camera, pushing 1960’s materials and manufacturing to a futuristic-looking design. It reminds me of the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair (which I attended with my parents) with its cars and machines of tomorrow. The Widelux has a mechanical swing-lens design where in place of a shutter, the camera has a moving slit that exposes the film as the lens pivots on a horizontal arc. This pivot has 3 speeds: 1/15, 1/125, and 1/250, and can create some distortion similar to those of extreme wide-angle lenses that bend straight lines. The camera has a rich history, including being onboard the Gemini V mission with astronaut Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr. orbiting the Earth 120 times and spending over a week in space, where it was said to have performed flawlessly.”
“My other bucket camera is the Brooks Veriwide 100. Many know the Brooks Veriwide as the camera of choice for photographing ghosts in the hit movie Ghostbusters, but my eye is on the earlier 100 model. This camera is as simple as it gets, utilizing a fixed 47mm f/8 Schneider Super Angulon lens, yielding seven 56 x 92mm images on a roll of common 120 film. It gives about the same angle of view as an 18mm lens on a 35mm/full-frame camera. You estimate your subject’s distance and then set it on a scale calibrated from 2.3 feet to infinity, just like the Hasselblad SWC. There is no rangefinder or ground glass. Composition was done with a special viewfinder made by Leitz marked "Veriwide 100." This finder provides the correct 1.64: 1 aspect ratio of the camera. There also is a folding wire frame for composition built onto the body.”
Chris Goldin, B&H
“The James Webb Space Telescope.”
David Brommer, B&H — @suspectphotography
“The Nikon SP is certainly the best film rangefinder ever made and might just be the best camera ever. Why? It represented the best of Leica and Contax melded into a fine Japanese-designed mechanical camera with a complete system. The SP would be the stepping stone Nikon made to the legendary F system. This particular camera is the 2005 Anniversary reissue, limited to 2,500 cameras based upon the 1957 SP, but updated with higher tolerances and materials. Please don’t drool on the Nikon camera, thank you.”
David Wilder, B&H Creative — @davidwilderphoto
“I’ve always loved cameras and their design. I have a small collection of vintage 35mm and medium format cameras of my own. There is one camera in particular that I have always wanted to add to my collection, the Hasselblad 500C/M. I love the top-down viewfinder of medium format, but this camera also has such a beautiful black-and-silver combination. The mechanics of medium format is something I love, as well; the sounds they make when you press the shutter and advance the film. Music to my ears! I am such a fan of this camera that I even have one tattooed on my arm. The other camera I am a huge fan of is the large format style. I once saw this beautiful brass and black one in an article somewhere. It was stunning! I would love to own one someday, like how some people have fancy telescopes in the corner of a room. I envision it on some large brass legs in the corner of a study; I would need the study first, though!”
Dennis Livesey, B&H — @liveseyimages
“I have a list! The Panavison Panaflex, Bolex 16, Kodak Medalist, Kodak Bantam Special (both the Bantam and the Medialist were designed by Walter Dorwin Teague), Nikon F, Leica M3, Hasselblad 500C, Rolleiflex, and Polaroid SX-70.”
Ido Jacoby, B&H - @idojacoby
“I have two…
“The Alfa. This space-aged, metal constructed machine comes from Poland.
"As manual as it gets, with beautiful knobs. It came out in multiple colors, with a cream-colored finish. This camera is perfect for a stylish adventure.
“And, the Lomography La Sardina — Belle Starr Edition. I believe that no one will go to such lengths to create such a camera today. The look and the craftsmanship are on the highest grade. The flash is super flashy, I don’t see an A-lister who would refuse a shot from this beautifully engraved machine.”
Jill Waterman, B&H — @nightpix
“With a nod to the famous design principal "Form Follows Function," my vote for the best-looking camera ever made stretches back thousands of years to embrace the fundamental beauty of the camera obscura. While this choice lacks the bells and whistles of automatic controls, the tactile appeal of ergonomic handling, or the allure of a sleek silhouette, nothing can beat the pure elegance of a physical object or scene being inverted and reversed inside the magic box, as illustrated in diagrams of its functioning.
“Employed through the ages by such famous artists as Leonardo Da Vinci and Johannes Vermeer, the camera obscura remains a powerful creative tool in the hands of contemporary photographers such as Abelardo Morell. Ever adaptable, these vestiges of the past can be found in all shapes and sizes today, from room-sized devices to the diminutive pinhole cameras available at B&H.”
John Faison, B&H - @jphazon
“I will have to say the Contax G2 with the 28mm 2.8 and mounted Tla200 flash is the best-looking camera of all time. It is sleek, minimal, and the perfect everyday carry camera. The rangefinder is like no other and the form and ergonomics make it feel as good as it is beautiful. With two choices of silver or black, you have the option to flex your personal minimal style how you see fit.”
Levi Tenenbaum, B&H — @ibelevi
“Suspect Photography’s Hasselblad 503C!
“Plus, the FUJIFILM X-Pro Line—great and nostalgic look. Very reminiscent and fashionable systems, speaks to shooters and fashionistas alike. And the Hasselblad 907x Anniversary edition—this is where Hasselblad should have started and ended the medium format design. Beautiful, speaks to the history and nostalgia of the Hasselblad of old!”
Matthew Emond, B&H — @emondphoto
“It’s hard to give just one choice, so I’ll give four!
“For ones we can easily use the photos of, you don’t have to look further than our own site to find two of the most beautiful cameras on the market today, a Wista Rosewood Field Camera and the classic Polaroid SX-70. The aesthetics and design are impeccable on both, despite being made to take photos at opposite ends of the quality spectrum. They are two of the most compact cameras within their respective formats, as well, so taking them to show off to your friends couldn’t be easier.
“If you’re talking of all time, and want to emphasize ‘cool,’ there’s nothing more awesome than these vintage military/law enforcement designs, which are incredibly rare and unique, like the Konica Rohuoh-Sha Type 89 and DORYU 2-16.”
Michael Hollender, B&H — @mrhollender
“All cameras have their own charm and beauty, but it’s the variations between them all that allow for one or two to stick out from the bunch. I, too, am a camera collector with a shelf of retired and vintage gear collecting dust, but one recent addition sits in front of the rest and usually tags along on my adventures: the Nikon 28Ti. I grew up with SLR film-camera hand-me-downs and, as fun as they are to tinker with, I rarely packed them for a trip when seeking a lightweight pack. So, when I started researching used film point-and-shoot cameras, I quickly fell in love with the Nikon 28Ti for its wide(r) than most focal length, tough build quality, and unique design features.
“Anyone else think there is a connection between people obsessed with cameras and watches? Phew, I’m not the only one. The Nikon 28Ti features an insanely beautiful top analog readout that was designed by Seiko, the watch brand. It displays the focus distance, exposure compensation, f-stop, and has a little light to light up the display just like a watch face! C'mon, how cool is that?”
Nicholas McGuire - @driftwoodnick
“I narrowed it down to three, including two Polaroids!
“The 95a is just a cool-looking vintage camera. I have one sitting on top of my console table under my TV. I don’t feel bad about this because the film for it is long gone. The SX-70 is the Polaroid I wish I had bought before it had a resurgence. I mean, it folds and looks good doing it! Finally, I mean it’s more awesome than beautiful… the FUJIFILM GX617.”
Thomas Simms – B&H
“I have two picks…
“The streamlined art-deco design of the Kodak Bantam Special makes this camera my pick. Produced from 1936 to 1948, a time when the country was recovering from the Great Depression and then engaged in World War II, this camera still embodied a stylized, Roaring Twenties aesthetic of optimism through its artistic design. Models can be dated by their Compur shutter until 1940 or a Supermatic shutter thereafter. B&H sells several films spooled as 828 for use in these beautiful cameras from the era of our ‘Greatest Generation.’
“And the Minox DD 1. Minox, well known for its Cold War spy cameras, created this unique, pendant-like, digital camera in 2003, complete with eight synthetic diamonds but minus a screen. With just an optical viewfinder, a shutter button, and an LCD frame counter, the DD 1 is one of the most minimalist-in-function yet maximalist-in-design cameras ever. With built-in memory equivalent to a roll of film, it runs on a single CR2 battery and takes decidedly low-fi images, but makes a hi-fi statement. Pay attention, 007, the chrome bezel around the lens works as a mirror for framing selfies!
“When are we doing “ugliest” camera? I vote for the Linhof Technika Press 2x3 Large Format camera!”
Todd Vorenkamp, B&H— @trvphoto
“There is not a debate, in my mind, on what is the best-looking camera ever made: it is the Nikon F4. I wax poetic about the F4 and its Italian design heritage—designed in the same Italdesign shop that did the BMW M1, time-travel-capable DeLorean DMC-12, and amphibious Lotus Esprit S1. It isn’t dramatically sleek. It isn’t overly chunky. It has perfect curves. A perfect shape. To me, it just looks like the ideal photographic melding of form and function. It is a tool, but it is oh so nice to look at on my bookshelf…and take out shooting.”
Share Your Thoughts
Now it’s your turn! What do you think is the best-looking camera ever made? Please let us know in the Comments section, below!