I have big clumsy hands. My fingers are large with similar dexterity to uncooked sausages on a fork. Try as I may to be careful, completing a delicate task without some kind of calamity is an alien concept to me. If I am completing a DIY task, I need lots of space and big tools. If I am working on a gardening project, I am suited to driving holes into the ground with a jackhammer rather than mincing around with secateurs. Strange then, that I have spent a lifetime using many of photography’s smaller tools, eschewing Manufacturers such as Canon and Nikon and their behemoth product lines.
As excellent at the Leica CL is, it is on the small side for my fingers. It reminds me a lot of the X1, for which I needed the grip and case to allow me to handle it with deftness. My X113 is also smallish, but as I use it exclusively with the case, the extra millimetres of leather add enough to its dimensions to make it a usable size. My CL is naked and case-less, as the blue leather skin is simply too nice to mask. When I use it with the 35mm Summilux, 11-22 and 55-135 zooms, I find the size adequate. But as I have been growing into the L Summicron and Summilux lenses, the little CL is becoming dwarfed and more difficult to handle.
My immediate reaction to address the size disparity when using the 35, 50 and 75mm SL lenses was to take a look at the CL handgrip, as the one I had used on my X1 has been genuinely useful. But it is available only in functional black. While this looks OK with silver bodies, I found that aesthetically it let down the overall good looks of my CL. Enter the thumb grip, an accessory I had read lots about, but never used. The biggest bonus for me is that it is available in silver.
I spend a couple of hours one evening looking at UK stockists and complaining about the excessive price of what amounted to nothing more than an inanimate 4cm long piece of machined metal. Like all Leica accessories the thumb grip is overpriced and offers poor value for money. As I was about to postpone my search, the Internet Gods threw me a lucky roll of the dice. A January Sale gave me the opportunity to purchase one at about 40% the price of other sites. The dealer in question was one I had used before, so was trusted. The stock was brand new, not ex demo or used. In the following minutes I completed one of the fastest internet transactions ever.
Two days later, a small jiffy bag dropped through the letterbox containing my new purchase. I wasted little time mounting it into the CL’s hot shoe. It is a reassuringly snug fit and rests against the camera body by means of a narrow shim of rubber, preventing the grip scratching the body. The colour matches the body perfectly and at a glance, it looks an integral part of the body design.
Although the part that the thumb rest against is small and does not protrude much, I was surprised how much support it added. The big test was when mounting my 50L Summilux lens. There is no getting away from the imbalance caused by its weight, and the thumb grip did provide support, but certainly not as much as what a hand grip would give. Changing lens to my 35L and handling was significantly better than without the grip. Very comfortable and akin to mounting the 55-135 zoom. It does really assist with holding the camera single handed, making it a more comfortable experience.
As it is a new accessory, time will tell if it is as useful as I imagine it to be. But early indications are encouraging.