Why is the Size of a Camera Grip So important?

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by CWRailman, Jun 30, 2015.

  1. CWRailman

    CWRailman Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jun 2, 2015
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    I am in no way attempting to be confrontational however having used SLR’s for many, many years with no grip or protrusion I have been wondering why so many folks make such a big deal about the “grips” on digital cameras with some going to the extent of adding additional grips. The SLR’s that I used most often were the Pentax MX and ME Super which were about the size of the OM-1 but possibly a bit heavier. My hands are large though not as large or swollen as some who do manual labor for a living such as brick layers or carpenters but I do wear either a large or x-large glove depending on manufacture.

    In shooting a SLR we learned that the camera should be cradled in your left hand with the thumb and index finger somewhat surrounding the lens. This facilitated operating the focus ring, zoom and making adjustments to the aperture while looking through the viewfinder. The left arm was held tight against the body and formed a sort of tripod support which allowed us to shoot down to 1/30 and sometimes 1/15 second ( if it was really calm and necessary) using ASA 25 film. The right hand was NOT used to hold the camera but more or less to steady it and to trip the shutter. As such the “grip”, or lack of, never seemed important. In fact in doing walking tours with photographers around Chicago, most had their neck straps adjusted so they could hold their SLR mid chest level and for some the camera never left their left hand unless they were eating. Except for the strap adjustment, this is a technique I used with all my SLR’s and continued to use when I moved into the digital era.

    In the store, prior to making my purchase, I tested and found that while that technique cannot be used for the Pentax Q or Minox DCC cameras, it does work quite well with the Olympus E-M10 which ultimately followed me home.

    I googled the “Proper way to hold a camera” and the photo’s that came up for the most part seemed to emulate the methods I have used, so I am wondering, what is the big deal about grip size and why is it such a concern for so many shooters? In some of the video’s the testers seem to swing the camera around somewhat loosely in their right hand by the so called grip. I noticed an oriental guy who was doing a video on street shooting waving a Nikon, that was almost as big as his head, around by only his right hand and holding it up high at times between shots. Is this the method that has come in vogue? When you break away from your triangulated shooting position is the camera no longer held in your left hand? When did holding and supporting the camera in your left hand loose it’s popularity and why?

    Here are a few samples I found demonstrating the way we were taught to hold a camera.
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  2. DaveEP

    DaveEP Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 20, 2014
    It became popular with cameras had grips and you 'could' hold them in one hand and wave them around. Once people got used to it they didn't want to go back!

    I like being able to hold a camera in one hand, by the grip, when carrying it, yet I hold it in two hands (exactly like your cradle description) when shooting.

    I don't like the EM5 or EM10 because they are too small for my 'liking' in the way I carry and hold them. When I hold a camera with a grip my right hand is in a given orientation. When I hold a camera without a grip that hand / wrist needs to move and rotate in to what I consider to be a less comfortable position and I also feel I need to have a tighter grasp against the smaller flatter edge than I do with a grip.

    So, in simple terms, I prefer the hand/wrist position afforded by a grip more than the one without the grip. It's just more comfortable that way.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2015
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  3. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    I think it's called ergonomics! Our hands when partly closed make a sort of Upside-down J shape - and a grip fits that just fine. I have both an E-M1 and E-M5 and much prefer the grip on the 1. I have the HLD 5 grip with the 5 too and unless I'm travelling light, I use the horizontal part.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2015
  4. Yohan Pamudji

    Yohan Pamudji Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 21, 2012
    Mississippi, USA
    I'm with DaveEP in that I hold with 2 hands when shooting but like to be able to grip the camera with 1 hand when not.

    However the E-M5 isn't too small for me, and while it was an adjustment to get used to a different hand position (I learn photography with DSLRs) I got there eventually. I still prefer the E-M1's grip but I don't anticipate any issues going back and forth when my E-M5 II gets here. Having said that I had to make a conscious effort not to grip the E-M5 too tightly for long periods of time because even my small hands would cramp up a bit due to the different grip technique.

    tl;dr - Not a deal killer but I prefer a grip like on the E-M1.
  5. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    When I used a neck strap, a grip didn't matter because I always held the camera with both hands while shooting and just let it hang there otherwise. Now that I use a wrist strap, I carry the camera in one hand and shoot with both hands. The grip makes the one-hand carry easier. Obviously I persist with the wrist strap because I find I prefer it.
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  6. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    I shoot like you describe but there are times when the weight of the camera ends up mostly on the right hand. It happens focusing/zooming "big" adapted lenses for example (push-pull Tamron 70-210). Or with small lenses where it is easier to focus or zoom picking the lens from the left side with the thumb on the bottom.
    Probably the grip is more useful when I do NOT shoot and I just hold the camera with the right hand, checking the display or just walking.
  7. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    Not everyone shoots the same that is for sure.

    There are some shots that I needed to get and the only way to do it was to hold the camera one handed up and over a crowd of people. Having a grip made the taking of the picture a lot more stable, and allowed for more precise maneuvering on my part.

    Do I love using my Nikon Df and OMD EM5 Mk II without a grip - sure as they have a smaller foot print. This is definitely not a black or white issue as one's needs are not the same as others.
  8. DigitalD

    DigitalD Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 10, 2014
    Its funny, I shot with a Canon A1 and a Mamyia RB67 for many years and neither had a grip nor did I care much. Then I got the EM1 overa year ago and now I don't like to shoot without a nice grip at all lol. I eventually traded the EM1 for the EM5mkII and I use the grip with it about 50% of the time because it just feels so much better in my hand. I like to be agile when I shoot and holding with 2 hands is limiting sometimes. I guess just depends what serves you the best. ;)
  9. ripgriffith

    ripgriffith Mu-43 Regular

    May 28, 2015
    I'm always a little wary of someone who is "in no way attempting to be confrontational". Usually what they then proceed to say is, if not overtly, at least confrontational by implication and innuendo. I would really like to point out to the OP that many of us have worked out varying ways of holding cameras, not all of them the left-hand-supporting tripod mode. Those of us who shot mainly for magazine did so in so-called portrait mode most of the time because that was the format of the magazine page and, given the limitations of film, we generally wanted the maximum coverage within the frame. The structure of the cameras, whether rangefinder or SLR, mitigated against the comfortable cradling of the lens in the left hand; rather, we either hung the camera from the right hand, supporting the left end with the left hand, or swung the camera around to the right, actuating the shutter release with the right thumb while supporting the camera only by the lens. In the former position, a hand grip was a godsend. Few cameras had them built-in, but over the years, more and more SLRs offered motor-drives with a hand-grip containing a second shutter release and sometimes even a third shutter release on the end of the battery case. All of these innovations led to different ways of holding a camera.

    Skipping ahead a few decades to the era of the point-and-shoot cameras, the ubiquitous phone-camera and even many of the u4/3rds cameras with LCDs and no EVFs, all of which require shooting with the camera at arm's length, not cradling the camera and lens with the left hand. Point being, many different ways of properly holding a camera, not just one, as implied by the OP.

    As for hand-grips, to get back on point, useless on some cameras, invaluable on others. I shoot primarily with two Panasonic u4/3rds cameras: a GF1 and a GX7 I love the GF1; it's built (and looks) like a brick, but it's a pain to carry on a wrist strap because either the camera dangles from the strap or you have pinch the end to hold it. The GX7, also like a brick with a well-designed, well-sized hand grip, obviates the carrying problems of the GF1. It balances the handgrip perfectly for carrying with a few fingers of the right hand, plus provides proper ergonomic space for the dual control wheels which would be difficult to manipulate on gripless camera.

    Horses for courses, as the Brits say.
  10. b_rubenstein

    b_rubenstein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 20, 2012
    Melbourne, FL
    Grips didn't start with digital cameras. My LX, Super Program, Program Plus and Nikon FA all came with screw on grips. When FILM cameras moved on to built in winders molded in grips that held the batteries evolved. Grips provide a secure, one handed grip so the left hand can do something else (Like mounting the camera on a tripod, getting something out of a camera bag, using your left hand as an impromptu lens hood, etc.) with out dropping the camera. Things evolve, it's not 1977 anymore. (This may not be obvious to Pentax users.)
  11. DigitalD

    DigitalD Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 10, 2014
    Yea they were available but they were heavy and clunky and all around PITA. Which is why I never used them back then. Its only now that I see the usefulness of a good grip on a camera. But again, its all relative. :D
  12. Holoholo55

    Holoholo55 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2014
    Honolulu, HI
    It's a personal preference. There is no right or wrong way. I started with 35mm SLR cameras that typically did not have a "grip." I used to use a neck strap and tended to cradle the camera in my left hand when not shooting. Gripping it with the right hand only wasn't very practical because one only had the pressure of your hand to hold the camera. There was nothing to curl your fingers around. I used to wrap the neck strap around my arm to provide security. One used both hands to stabilize the camera when shooting anyway. Would I have used a grip if they had them back then? Probably.

    Circa 21st century: DSLRs come with grips. I don't know when this came about, but by the time I bought my first DSLR, a Canon Rebel XT, cameras had grips. I liked the grip. The cameras and lenses were lighter than the solid metal cameras and lenses of the old days (no, I couldn't afford L lenses anyway), and it was feasible to carry them around with the right hand with one's fingers curled around the grip. I got used to that, and I also started using different kinds of straps. No more neck straps - wrist and sling straps became normal. Still used two hands when shooting.

    I started shooting more with telephoto zoom lenses to capture my son playing soccer. I found that having a grip was even more important with those. I recently bought a Olympus Zuiko 50-200 SWD. It's the biggest lens I've ever used. I carry the big lens and camera cradled in my left hand or arm and use the grip when I bring it up to my eye. It feels more secure.

    Times change, equipment changes, and preferences change. If you don't like cameras with grips, you can find ones without them. If you want a grip, you can buy a camera with it, or buy an accessory that provides it. It's great that we have choices. :)
  13. DigitalD

    DigitalD Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 10, 2014
    I so loved my GX7 when I had it. Even without a strap I could dangle it by my hip with two fingers just under the grip and it balanced perfectly. If they ever make a Gx8 with IBIS in video and stills, and up the Mbs on the video in the same form factor it would be my go to camera every time. Sorry to go OT, please resume :D
  14. Jfrader

    Jfrader Guest


    The extra grip is unimportant to me when I am shooting. For that, I cradle the camera in my left hand just as do many others. I learned that many years ago as "proper hand-holding technique" with my 35mm SLR. The grip comes into play while carrying the camera around. I refuse to hang that weight from my neck and frequently dispense with the neck strap entirely, occasionally replacing it with a little security wrist strap but often without. I carry the camera in my right hand, with my fingers hooked into the grip and bring it up to sit in my left hand when I go to shoot. When traveling, I may attach a strap but use it over one shoulder, not my neck, and still lift the camera with the right hand to sit in the left, while letting the strap slip off my shoulder and down my arm. For both of those, the grip extension makes it much more comfortable and secure. The only time I do it differently is when traveling in sketchy areas. There I extend the strap and cross it over my head and diagonally across my chest so it cannot be "snatch-and-grabbed."

    To each his own. Whatever works.
  15. Jfrader

    Jfrader Guest

    Interesting. With my old Canon F1, I always shot portrait mode in the "left hand under, right hand curled over the top to trigger with the trigger finger" method, lens cradled in the left hand. Auto winders didn't change that, just made things clumsier but more efficient. I still do that. When I got a battery grip for my DSLR that had the extra controls and shutter release for portrait mode, I still usually reverted to simply turning the camera and shooting with the right hand over the top, ignoring the fancy new buttons. Habits are hard to break. ;)
  16. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jun 26, 2013
    Andrew Lossing
    Well, there is deinitely no "proper" way to hold a camera when cameras vary so widely in size and weight. The technique you're describing might work well for heavy DSLRs but it is hardly an ideal handling method. In fact, I would call it an inconvenient method which is by necessity.

    Modern, smaller cameras are held by the right hand because often the LCD is the preferred method for composing. It wouldn't make sense to use that close-to-the-body two handed grip for shooting with an LCD.
  17. Jfrader

    Jfrader Guest

    Which is why I will never own a camera without a viewfinder. To each his own.
  18. PacNWMike

    PacNWMike Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Dec 5, 2014
    Salish Sea
    ....but times change...except for grips which are still big, clunky and an all around PITA. :) Thankfully we have choices.
  19. Drdave944

    Drdave944 Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Feb 2, 2012
    When I got interested in M-43 cameras I did notice a lot of discussion about grips. I never encountered this in full frame discussion groups. Perhaps because of the small size of the cameras the very thing that makes them attractive is also disadvantageous. Sometimes though it seems like a sports car enthusiasts complaining that the trunk won't hold enough suitcases. If that is a priority ,why not get a bigger car ? I have handled many of these cameras and find that you have to adapt to them.Also the lens size is an important factor in addition to the camera itself. It is easier to use an M-43 camera with a small lens one handed than the same camera with a larger lens,which may require more support.
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  20. Mellow

    Mellow Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2010
    Florida or Idaho
    I'm with the majority here: the light weight of m43 cameras allows them to be carried with one hand, which I almost always do with a wriststrap. In that position a grip makes all the difference in the world, between letting the camera "hang" on one's naturally curled fingers, or requiring constant muscle contraction to hold it.

    IMO the absolute best grip I've found is on the old Sony NEX cameras like the NEX-3 and NEX-5, where the grip is beefy and also serves to hold the battery. I can hold one of these cameras all day and hardly even notice I'm carrying it. Compare that to the tinier and lighter GM1, which has no grip at all, and my hand is cramped and tired because I constantly have to pinch it to keep it.

    A grip makes a big difference, at least to me.
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