Camera guys love to "modify" their cameras. I am no exception. Just added....

The unmodified Leica CL.

The Leica CL with an added grip and base extension. (Today's add-on). 

The "must have" thumb grip for the Leica CL. 

It is rare to meet a photographer of the male gender who does not openly or secretly enjoy adding things to, and otherwise modifying his cameras. The understood goal is usually that the adaptation modifies and improves the handling of the camera in such a way as to make it easier to hold correctly, easier to control and use with only one hand, and because it adds to one's image of professional panache. The idea being that the user spends so much time with his tools (cameras) that he finds things through experience that hamper his performance, diminish his ability to respond to a scene in front of his camera with the utmost finesse, which can only be remedied by taking his choice of camera and personalizing it. "Tweaking" the operational characteristics. "Fixing" some sort of ergonomics that got "overlooked" by the camera maker. 

And I totally get it. We all have different sized hands and our fingers fall onto the camera's surfaces in different ways. If a few bits of apparatus can make using the camera more comfortable and efficient then why not give them a try?

Some people are strap-sensitive and like to find different camera straps that better serve them. While I am a traditional strapist and strongly dislike several of the recent and popular straps I'm certainly not against other people using them if they find more enjoyment of photography as a result. For the record though, the straps I strongly dislike are the Peak straps because some design fool put the sticky, please don't slide off my shoulder stuff on the wrong side of the strap. If you use the friction-y side then the buckles face in towards your torso. A complete design failure. I understand that the whole idea of the Peak straps is to wear them across the chest and let them slip-slide around but as a traditionalist I always want the more discreet "over the shoulder" carry instead. And really, $50 for a slippery strap with some little red disks held on with strings? No thanks. 

And don't even get me started about the camera-killer strap-crap from Black Rapid. Yuck. Bad-gineering

But finding and using a great strap (for you) is an important part of camera modding. Especially for the camera that is your every day carry camera. 

Another add-on is the soft touch augmentation of any shutter button that is center-threaded. People love to put little metal mushrooms onto the shutter buttons hoping it will make the whole process of half presses and full presses more tactile and controllable. Some of the button plugs are made in colors out of anodized aluminium. I think those look pretty cool --- on the right camera. I have a black one right here on my desk but currently have no cameras that have threaded shutter buttons; the kind that were made to accept cable releases.... But I do have one. 

I have become a sucker for using thumb grips on smaller cameras because then my right thumb has somewhere to rest. I never appreciated the thumb grip concept until I bought and began using a Fuji X100V. That was a really good camera which was made remarkably easier to handle and shoot with once I added a thumb grip to the hot shoe. After I installed them on both of my Fujis they never came off again. I just gave up shooting with flash on that camera altogether because the thumb grips seemed the more valuable extension to the camera. 

When I got around to buying a Leica CL I realized that it was the same size, generally, as the Fuji X100V and would probably benefit equally from a thumb grip. I checked on the Leica grip but was aghast at the idea of spending something like $175 for a simple curve of metal. Not when I could get one from a different maker for something like $50. I tried an inexpensive one on the CL, loved it and when the second CL landed it was fitted with a thumb grip as well. 

The thumb grip improved the handling of the Leica but there was one other thing that was sub-optimal. The camera is short. from top to bottom it's just...short. When I use it in it's naked form I have to put one of my fingers under the camera body. It's okay and I can handle it just fine but I always wondered if one of the grips made for the CL would improve the handling noticeably. 

Yesterday, after I billed my two big portrait/composite projects for the month I was feeling the swagger of impending cash flow and I was emboldened to splash out for a Chinese version of the CL grip. I didn't bother to check on the Leica branded version because I knew I wouldn't want to spend crazy money on it. And the Hoage model (yes, from China)  got lots of praise in reviews on two different camera retail sites. 

The grip arrived today and it's actually well finished and almost pretty. If you can call a hunk of camera metal "pretty." 

I'm not sure if it's going to work for me or not because it's hot outside, it's late in the day and I haven't spent any time with it. But the bottom plate and front grip is my latest modification. If it's great I'll get a second one for the other body. And I will have mindlessly modified yet another tool in the camera bag. It's only a matter of time before I convince myself about the value of leather half cases....

I like to make modifications that aren't permanent and can quickly and easily be reversed. Other people are more daring. I had a student in one of my classes at UT that decided to paint his then brand new Olympus OM-1 bright red. He taped over every port and control and sprayed the camera's metal body with red spray paint. I had to admit it looked pretty good. I saw a Hugh Brownstone video in which he interviewed an English filmmaker whose gear was stolen. One piece of gear was a Leica SL but instead of a black anodized finish his was left in a bright metal finish. A special edition? "We deliver less and charge you more?"

I'd love to have a metallic finish SL. But I'm not willing to scrape off the current black finish to get there.

Recently I watched a video on YouTube about the photographer, Steve McCurry, using a Leica SL2 in Italy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nThspSqTzBA I was baffled to see that he has a grip or handle screwed into the bottom of his camera (tripod mount) and holds the grip with one hand and stabilizes the camera with his other hand. Rollei used to make grips like that for the square format TLRs but I can't see how Steve McCurry is at all comfortable turning that camera sideways for verticals. His elbow sticking out to the side in a perilous fashion... But he's famous. And that's one of his mods. And not the first time I've seen video of him working that way. Eccentric but most modding probably is.

A recent and somewhat odd trend for photographers is the adaptation of video camera cages for their specific cameras. Sure, there are mounting points galore on cages for stuff like external monitors, huge batteries and audio equipment, and I understand that this is great for videography but it makes little to no sense for people who just want to do still photographs. I guess you could make the argument that the cage protects the camera but in my mind any protection is offset by the huge reduction in handling comfort conveyed by a cage that should either be sitting on a tripod or a gimbal. Right? I think these people are just trying to announce to the world that they are really --- film makers.

Have you modified or augmented your camera? Are you willing to tell us with what? 

Just trying to stay cool and keep the trees on the property alive. We have fourteen live oaks that are between thirty and fifty feet and I'd hate to lose one to the drought and the heat...  I've stopped bathing so I can give them my ration of water (just kidding, kind of) but the grass will probably be sacrificed sooner or later. 

We're in stage one water rationing. If the city catches you washing your car in your driveway they send out a team to slash your tires. It's all very fraught. 

My workaround is to swim every day and then shower at the pool. Seems to work. Ready for the cold front.....any time.....is any body listening.....?