Camera for Arthritic Hands

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In my opinion the Fujifilm X cameras have the best controls and the best image quality and the best lenses for the money.  My current X-E1 satisfies my needs better than any others I have owned; but I am now wondering about the future.

Lately I have had multiple problems that are putting a damper on my photography.  The arthritis in my hands has been particularly bad, I had a touch of the flu, and the weather has prevented me from walking, so I have used my time to concentrate on the arthritis issue since it is the only one affected by the camera and the others will resolve themselves in time.

At one time I owned a Pentax K-5 and multiple large lenses; but I sold it and went in search of a lighter camera due to the difficulties I was having holding it.  After a few trials of other cameras, I finally arrived at the Fujifilm X-E1 as being the best compromise in quality vs. ergonomics vs. cost … with the image quality and cost being the decisive factors.  It weighted a lot less than the K-5 and my hands quit getting any worse.

Now that my hands are bothering me a lot more, I am realizing that I’m on a one-way trip and that they may continue to get worse in a non-linear fashion.  I decided that I should look for something lighter with better ergonomics.  I have over the years tried lots of smaller, lighter micro 4/3 cameras.  They were easier to hold due to their size and the much reduced weight of their lenses, but I did not like their low light image qualities.

One obvious realization was that most of the weight and handling issues with current cameras are the lenses.  That is what makes micro 4/3 such a good camera if you are not photographing in low light.  When I started looking for a camera with better low light capabilities, I found that I needed to stay with APS size, or larger, sensors; but they all need larger, heavier weight lenses.  One solution is to adapt your photography to shorter focal lengths; i.e. give up the longer, heavier zoom lenses and switch to a few prime lenses.  I have tried that.  In addition, at one time I had a zoom lens with an effective 600 mm focal length capability.  I am now down to an effective 300 mm and am using it less and less.  My current most used lenses are prime lenses with effective focal lengths of 40.5 and 52.5 mm … my 27 mm pancake lens and my 35 mm lens for my X-E1.  I use them due to their smaller size and lower weight and partially compensate for their shorter focal length range by zoom-cropping a lot of my images.

My current problem is that I have already exploited the above solutions.  What is next?  I could also give up some low-light capability but I am reluctant to go very far in this direction since most of my photography is in low light situations.  I could also switch to using a tripod with longer shutter times but that is not very feasible because of my conditions and shooting style.

I decided to take another look at several camera systems.  Seeing that the lower cost DSLRs had nice hand-grips and cost a lot less, I have tried the Pentax K-50 and the Canon T3i.  I liked their hand grips, especially since the cameras also cost less than the X-E1, but I returned them since I wasn’t sure either of them was the one for me.  What I did decide was that I could handle a heavier camera with greater ease if it had a good hand-grip.

When Nikon announced the new lightweight D3300, I decided to order one and try it.  My objective in trying it is to be able to pair it with the very good lightweight 35 mm prime lens and then increase my ability to crop zoom with the 24 MP sensor.  If it works well enough for me, I could keep it along with the X-E1 and primarily use the X-E1 in the low-light indoor situations and during the times when I need to hang it from around my neck under a jacket … at least that is my current plan.  I probably won’t get the D3300 for another 3 or 4 weeks, but I at least have something to think about while I’m waiting for warmer weather.  Below is a table that shows the differences in the factors that can be quantified.  The weight and price include the camera and kit lens and the camera weights include batteries and cards.

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I also need to point out that these cameras have different strengths and weaknesses, but the benefits are hard to quantify.  If you go to this web site, camerasize.com, you can pick various cameras and not only compare their weights and size but also different views.  You can see how the hand-grip and location of controls, etc. might affect your own needs.

After I have tried them all, I’ll let you know how, and hopefully why, my selection works for me … and maybe you.  I will be making my decision on how easily I can hold them, their image qualities, and their cost.  But, I have two strong conditions to overcome that probably don’t apply to your case.  I already have an X-E1 and thus the cheapest solution is to just continue to use it.  Second, I have a strong preference to use just one make of camera due to the advantages of not having to learn two different systems and then switching back and forth.  If I obtain and keep any of the others it has to overcome these issues.

3 comments

  1. Andrei

    “What is next?” is also my primary question regarding photography gear right now. I use mainly the D60 with the 18-55 and 55-200 kit zooms and from time to time the D90 with the 16-85 zoom. My opinion is that mirrorless represents the future. I’ve studied the tree main options: Olympus E-M1, Fuji X-E2 and Sony A7. The first is a great package but fails in IQ at every ISO setting (noise visible even at ISO 100-200). The third promises a lot but is only part an infant system…few lenses, some annoying glitches that Sony won’t correct via firmware (firmware updates is not a strong point of Sony) and a bad JPG engine compared to its peers (I shoot RAW for 500px, blogging and serious work but when on vacation when taking hundreds of pictures I prefer JPG). The X-E2 seems to be a better camera for me and part of a nice system with great lenses. The only drawback into spending my money on Fuji is the bad quality control of the brand. I’ve read a lot of posts and many of X-E2’s are shipped with dust on the sensors (internally so it can’t be dry or wet cleaned). Plus some lenses are not centered…At the begining of April I shall make the decision and I really hope I won’t regret it later 🙂

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    • John

      I love my X-E1 and the 27 mm, 35 mm, 18 – 55 mm, and 55 – 200 mm lenses. My only problem is the lack of a grip. I am thinking about getting the new add-on grip. I haven’t seen anything on the bad quality control you mentioned and I read a lot of web sites.

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