The original shape of a film camera was dictated by the physical constraints of film and lenses.
However, digital cameras have maintained the same unwieldy and awkward layout of film cameras, even though there is no longer a reason for a camera to be shaped in such a way.
In fact, the asymmetrical “grip the camera on the right side, and awkwardly push the shutter on the top of the camera” must lead to thousands of dropped and lost cameras every year.
Let’s look at the basic design of a camera:
Fig 1: A simplified camera. BLUE: “active” elements (controls on left, a focusing ring on right). RED: shutter button.
There is another well-known “point-and-shoot” object that has a much more ergonomic grip than a camera:
Fig 2: A simplified handgun. BLUE: hammer. RED: trigger.
Let’s compare the way in which a hand holds a camera vs. a handgun.
Fig 3: Grip comparison. In the handgun example (left), note that at least three fingers grip the gun at all times. Additionally, the hand is held in a roughly neutral position, which makes it easy to point at the intended target. In the camera example (right), a one-handed grip results in three fingers awkwardly gripping against the thumb (in blue). Assuming that the camera is held in the right hand (which is where the shutter button is on virtually all cameras), the camera’s center of gravity means that it wants to fall down and to the left.
Cameras should be designed for one-handed operation with a pistol-style grip. Although it is possible to buy aftermarket pistol-grip adapters for professional cameras, they are large and either 1) do not have a shutter trigger or 2) need to be specially interfaced to the shutter button, which makes them incompatible with consumer-grade cameras.
Fig 4: Proposed camera design, allowing a secure grip and easy one-handed aiming and operation. As an additional benefit, the grip could be placed slightly forward of the camera body, thus allowing the center of gravity of the entire camera + lens assembly to be directly over the grip (rather than forward from the grip, as you would get with an aftermarket pistol grip).
PROS: Reduces the chance of dropping a camera. Makes aiming much easier.
CONS: Admittedly, the grip would significantly increase the size of the current crop of extremely thin point-and-shoot cameras. But it would be perfect for the “prosumer” market.