Old and New: These Are My 7 Favorite Camera Designs

There have been some innovative camera designs throughout the years: here are my favorites.

I’m inclined to say that most cameras look very similar. That’s not a criticism; there’s only so much you can do when putting the ergonomics together. But, although the look of the camera isn’t the most important factor, it is appreciated when manufacturers go a step further than the traditional design. Our community often gets lost in spec sheets, obsessing over megapixels and autofocus points — I want to us to step away from that for a moment. Let’s instead focus purely on design, and see which cameras, old and new, have been the most eye-catching over the years.

1. Nikon 35ti

Photo from the eBay listing by robertscamera

Released in 1993, the Nikon 35ti cost around $1,000. That’s not cheap, even by today’s standards. The design offers class and sophistication, especially at the top, where you feel like it’s a more premium system. It wasn’t always the easiest to use. For example, some functions could only be set when the camera was turned off, which is problematic. But when it comes to image quality, and especially lens performance, few could argue this wasn’t one of the best compact cameras of its time.

Buy Now: eBay

2. Rolleiflex 2.8

Image is a screenshot.

It felt almost cliche to include the Rolleiflex 2.8, but even today I admire its design, and I felt I wouldn’t be doing the piece the justice it deserves by omitting it. I mean look at it: if that’s not a head-turner of a camera, then I’m unsure what is. Although beautifully designed, it wasn’t light by any means. It weighed 38 ounces which, by today’s mirrorless and even DSLR standards, make it seem more fitting for a strong person contest! But it’s a beautiful camera that still sells well today, even if it’s just for a place on the mantle.

Buy Now: eBay

3. Fujifilm X-T Series

Paul Ip/The Phoblographer

Whether it’s my Fujifilm X-T2 or the recently released X-T4, for me, the X-T line offers the best camera design of any system on the planet. Could I call it groundbreaking? No, but it doesn’t need to be. The X-T line balances practicality and design perfectly, as well as offers stellar performance. The ergonomics are perfect, and the feeling when adjusting the dials is weirdly comforting. It’s durable too. I’ve taken my X-T2 all over the world (admittedly, I’m not the most cautious camera owner), and it’s still as robust as the day I bought it.

Buy Now: eBay / Amazon

4. Rollei 35

Brett Day/The Phoblographer

Okay, at first glance, the Rollei 35 looks like a toy camera. But let’s be clear here, the Rollei 35 is a solid option and it’s certainly not cheap — one model was being sold for $2,300! German camera designer, Heinz Waaske designed the camera, and many believe it was the finest moment of his long career. The camera has an aura about it, a presence very few cameras have. Two million units have been manufactured since its release in 1966. And over 50 years later, people still talk about its eye-catching design.

Buy Now: eBay

5. Leica M10-D

Chris Gampat/The Phoblographer

I’ve dreamt of owning the Leica M10-D since its release in 2018. Although Leica’s are not for everyone, many would agree the German brand has a rich history of designing quality cameras. I am, of course, put off by the cost. Nobody needs to spend $9,000 on a camera in my opinion. But, the lack of an LCD screen, the black chic design, and the premium feel make it a dream for me. The Phoblographer’s EIC Chris Gampat wrote that he “gasped with utter and pure excitement” when he first handled the M10-D. I totally understand why.

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6. Hasselblad X1D 50-C

Chris Gampat/The Phoblographer

The X1D was Hasselblad’s first attempt at a medium format mirrorless camera. When it was released in 2016, I found myself salivating over its beautifully elegant design. You’ve got to hand it to the Swedes: they know how to design products to an exceptionally high standard. If I’m honest, this camera isn’t for me. I do not need a medium format system when shooting travel and street photography. But one can enjoy it from afar, and I certainly do!

Buy Now: eBay

7. Zeiss ZX1

Image is a screenshot

It’s been two years since Zeiss first announced the ZX1, and there’s one key problem: we still can’t buy it. But let’s ignore that it’s an unattainable camera right now and admire the design. It looks like something from the year 2060, where photographers fly on their hoverboards shooting the world with the stealth-like ZX1. It comes with a slightly curved LCD screen, which is unique in itself. Small touches like yellow numbering (instead of the traditional white) make this camera feel very futuristic.

Share You Favorite Camera Designs

Opinions are diverse, and we want to read yours. Do you agree with the selections above, or do you have cameras you would have liked to have seen included? Let us know your favorite camera designs in the comment below.

Dan Ginn

Dan Ginn is a content writer and journalist. He brings with him five years' experience writing in the photographic niche. During that time he has worked with a range of leading brands, as well as a host of professional photographers within the industry.