Consider Soft Features for Your Next Camera

Consider Soft Features for Your Next Camera

I consider myself a Canon shooter through and through. This article isn’t about one camera manufacturer being objectively better or worse than another.

The basics of photography are the same on any camera: aperture, shutter speed, ISO. Different brands and models offer a variety of features, such as greater image resolution or lighter weight, but what is more difficult to gauge is the "feel" of a camera. How I adjust one setting on a Canon might be very different than how that same setting is adjusted on a Sony. 


This is how a particular camera feels in your hands. Where are the different buttons? Do you work live events like weddings or shows and prefer to constantly adjust your exposure settings? Then, you might need something where these settings are easily accessible (even in the dark). Are you happy to put exposure on auto or have it be in aperture priority? Then, you might need a camera that makes good adjustments to exposure.

Some cameras, such as this particular model of Nikon, are small and angular. As you might be able to imagine, other cameras might be larger or rounder. Which you prefer comes down to personal preference!

Maybe you need an LCD screen that swivels or maybe you don’t. Perhaps you prefer something with a rounder body or more edges; these aren’t things that are wrong or right, but genuine preferences that differ from user to user.


Similar to ergonomics is the weight of the camera. If you are a studio photographer, then it’s well and good to not consider weight. Or perhaps you even prefer something with a bit of heft. I know I do.

If only all cameras were as light as this non-functional wooden model!

But imagine if you have to carry multiple bodies around for a wedding. Every gram will matter at the end of an 8- or 12-hour wedding shoot, so you’ll want something lighter. Additionally, consider whether a particular brand has certain lenses available. I’m personally well and good at working with primes, but someone else might prefer zooms. Having to carry additional lenses might also add to the overall weight of your kit.

Third-party Offerings

For example, I know that Capture One, my preferred post-production program, only offers suites for certain manufacturers and not others.

Third-party programs are programs which aren't offered by the camera manufacturer but another company. These programs, such as Capture One shown here, are not compatible or don't offer profiles for all camera brands and models. It's important to research compatibility for your gear.

Another example is my lighting kit only takes specific connecting cables, which don’t work for one of my film cameras. The point is to think about what else you own or plan to use with your camera and see if it even works with the camera body you have.


This isn’t by any means an exhaustive list; I’m sure many others might factor into which camera or model you prefer. This article is an introduction to some of these things to consider when purchasing a new camera. One practical way to navigate these choices might be to borrow a camera or a body either from a friend or to rent it from a rental place. Often, these features are difficult to write or explain without having personally tried them out.

Ali Choudhry's picture

Ali Choudhry is a photographer in Australia. His photographic practice aims to explore the relationship with the self, between the other, and the world. Through use of minimalist compositions and selective use of color and form he aims to invoke what he calls the "breath". He is currently working towards a BA (Honours) in Photography.

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Tony Northrup's picture

For photographing people (portraits, street photography, weddings) think about how the subject interacts with the camera. I get very different responses from people when shooting with a huge manual film camera (like a Mamayi RB67), a strange-looking camera (like a TLR), a film look-alike camera (like a chrome XT4 or a digital Leica), a smartphone, and a traditional DSLR or mirrorless camera. Sony, Canon, Nikon - most of their modern offerings are indistinguishable to civilians; they just see the same black camera they've been seeing around the necks of tourists since the 1980s. You'd be shocked at how something like a TLR changes people's expressions, poses, and overall willingness to participate.

Ali Choudhry's picture

Absolutely! I suppose that's not quite ergonomics but maybe audience perception of the aesthetics of the camera? But I understand what you mean and totally agree that that is something that may be abstract in how to quantify it.

Patrick Hall's picture

My biggest consideration is the layout of the buttons, mostly Shutter, ISO, and Aperture. It drives me crazy when one requires a secondary push button to change the setting. I think Tony is correct too in noting that the perfect stealth street photography camera is different than one need to shoot sports or a wedding.

That said, I get zero satisfaction from changing the form factor of the camera. My joy of photograph has absolutely everything to do with the actual process of building an image in my mind and executing it. Coaching people, building sets, finding the perfect location, capturing the perfect moment, shooting something knowing how the photoshopping will be done later in post. Never in this process do I care about the history of the camera or how the actual camera makes me feel. It's truly a machine for me; it's not even like a tool where you might want several paint brushes or saws or modes of transportation. As long as it's easy to use and facilitates the end goal, I'm happy.

Oh, and I also hate having to learn and memorize multiple cameras and systems. I want one camera, maybe a few of those same bodies for redundancy and that's it. It's very opposite of say my love for music and guitars. I love the variety of a different instrument but not with a camera. I wonder how many other people feel like I do towards the camera haha?

Ali Choudhry's picture

It's very much about 'can this camera do this thing I need it to do?' and that's the end of it.

The button layout almost doesn't bother me so much as having to work with multiple different bodies and needing that split second to think where a certain button is.

I'm very utilitarian like you as well-- interesting stuff!

Tom Reichner's picture

Positions of the buttons and switches doesn't matter to me at all. My hands and fingers automatically adjust to wherever the various buttons are within a short time, and once they adjust I never even have to think about button placement again because my fingers just automatically do the right thing.

Availability of many different 3rd party accessories is extremely important to me. The more popular and widespread a camera model is, the more types of accessories will be made for it, and these accessories will be easier to find, especially in the classifieds and on Craigslist, ebay, etc.

Ali Choudhry's picture

Great points!