Today I received a question from a reader and instead of sitting down and typing a long answer when I basically had no real answer I decided to post his question here and let you guys give him a suggestion or two. Here is the question:
Firstly, I’d like to say how superb your site is, indeed I’ve hardly been getting any sleep this week because I’ve been busy reading your posts until the early hours! It really is among the best on the web! Secondly, I’d like to apologise. You must get a lot of email, and I know I’m only adding to your pile, but my question’s probably not one you’ve had before.
The reason I’m writing is that I’ve been a keen photographer for about five years now. I use a Nikon D50, some fast primes and the Nikon 18-200 which have served me pretty well. Anyway, I was serving with the British Army in Afghanistan last year and had all these great plans to upgrade my equipment, indeed I even managed to persuade a colleague to buy a D90 as his starter camera, and he loves it. Unfortunately my plans were spoiled by a Taliban sharpshooter who shot me through the right wrist, nearly causing me to have my hand amputated.
Just over a year on, the strength and dexterity in my right hand is still very much reduced, I have regained enough sensation and movement to operate the shutter release reasonably well, but I find selecting focus points with the four way controller pretty difficult, and locking focus impossible. Operating the command wheel is also really tricky. Manual focus on that camera is hopeless, so I find myself rather frustrated. In short, my camera is usable, but not ideal ergonomically as trying to do anything with my right thumb while shooting is not easy to say the least.
I was considering a Leica M8 even before my injury, my main photographic interests are my family and friends, and my priorities previously were IQ followed by ergonomics and speed. My priorities have now shifted with the ergonomic aspects of a camera being crucial but IQ still very important to me. I love the creative options an SLR gives me, but am equally intrigued by RF photography.
I’ve looked at your reviews of cameras such as the PEN series, x100, and nex-5, but it seems to me that there would still be far too much input from the right thumb, if not during operating the shutter release, then immediately prior to setting up a shot. I’ve also looked at the Leica X1 and was concerned by the slow AF as I don’t think it would keep up with my kids! I suspect these problems would annoy me, and that I’d be better off with the predominantly left handed operation and deliberate shooting style of a Leica M.
What are your thoughts on this? Are there any alternatives that I’ve missed?
I own an M8, and I’m not sure I would outright trade it for an M9 if I had to. For what I shoot, the crop factor works for me for my main lens (ZM 50/1.5 Sonnar).
I frequently use my right pointer finger to adjust the shutter speed on the fly, which is the fastest way while shooting, and as far as shooting goes I find it’s the only thing I manipulate with my right hand other than the shutter release. Obviously that doesn’t apply to menus, which unfortunately includes ISO settings.
I agree that a soft release will help you out a lot.
I’d say the M8 is a really good candidate for you to try, as well as the EP3 seems promising (though I’ve never tried one myself). God bless you, good luck!
Small and ligt and EVERY button can programmed or turned off. Handy for me as my hands always mashed buttons I did not want to use.
With on of the Ricoh OVF it is one hell of an ergonomic image making setup.
Also, if range finders interest you, the Hexar RF has a motor wind, so no winding on issues there. Contax G2 is much the same, but auto-focus, not a “true” range finder.
CD6, If film interests you, a Rollei 35 is cheap, and winds on with the left hand. They are scale focus and maybe a little fiddly, but only requires your right hand for shutter release, and holding onto the camera, which is very light.
It’s probably not ideal for your only camera, but perhaps worth considering as a pocket backup or something.
Otherwise Micro Four Thirds or NEX is worth a look, maybe the ones with a touch screen, which you don’t need much dexterity to use.
Inspiring story – keen to know how you get on. Thought the upside down left handed option was ingenious. good luck.
I would recommend Olympus OM.
If your left hand is ok, you can control shutter speed, aperture and focus. Right hand is there to hold the camera and release shutter. Using exposure compensation will need pinching a scroll wheen between thumb and index finger.
OM Zuiko glass is really cheap for the quality, and the bodies are about the size of an Leica. OM is maybe the most compact SLR system ever made.
I use 2 OM-2n bodies, but OM-2S and OM-4 have more features, like spot metering and programmed exposure.
OM system is film, but there’s plenty of positives sides on shooting film. Many of Steve’s readers can proove that.
Since you’re intrigued by RF photography, this is a GREAT opportunity to give M8 a trial 🙂
Even if you decide it can’t work for you after a week or month, you can sell the M8 knowing you’ve explored a style of camera & shooting that you’re really curious about.
A good HAND STRAP might make help take a lot of the strain away.
I’d then learn to get fast at tweaking the top dials with your left hand, at least until your right hand gets strong enough (I really hope that happens eventually).
It’s inspiring to hear your story, and your passion for photography. I hope you find enjoyment with any decision you make.
Thinking about how I’ve been shooting with various cameras, I’d concur that a Leica M system would be a good bet.
* Once my settings are just so, I don’t use my right thumb for anything on the M9 except thumbing the shutter speed dial – which you can leave on A – in fact lots of the time I don’t even use the display.
— Caveat: Setting ISO requires you to hold the ISO button and turn the thumb wheel simultaneously, but that’s do-able with your index finger. Or just pick an ISO and stick with it (320 looks nice…)
* On a film M, the right thumb is used to cock the shutter *unless* you find yourself a nice M with a Leicavit, where your left hand then does the cocking. Added bonus: with a little practice you’re as fast as the continuous shooting mode on the M8/M9;
— or a motor drive. *Very* 1980s PJ chic…
* Leica glass is just stunning; the IQ even from my old beater Summitar cannot be matched by anything I have from Nikon;
* Leica glass is a good investment, and will adapt handily to an EVIL system if you decide to cross grade;
* The camera as a whole just gets out of your way and lets you shoot.
I’ll add my voice to the chorus of those thanking you for your sacrifice and your service.
Just a simple comment:
who says you have to hold a camera up-right? Landscape and Portrait don’t have an up and down when we have a rotate-button in Lightroom. why not hold any camera you feel comfortable with upside-down and use your left thumb?
P.S. – David Babsky’s idea re: OM-2 is also a very good & cheap one too if you wanted to go the film route. Very easy & light camera to handle and some of that Zuiko glass even today is still stunning! So cheap too.
Recently I have paid the following on eBay:- OM-2n black “Exc+” – £22, 50mm f/1.8 Zuiko “Mint” – £6.25, OM Winder 2 “Mint-” £7.50. You’d just about get a Leica M strap for that money and if I were to put pictures taken with that gear alongside those taken with an M6 & 50mm Summicron even I struggle to remember which were taken with which.
You’ve made good investment in Nikkor Glass by the sounds of it & also DX glass so wouldn’t staying with Nikon be the logical choice? As recommended above on a post a D7000 seems the logical choice bearing in mind the above, I suffer with grip problems myself with lack of feeling & pain in my hands/fingers due to arthritis (Nowhere near the issues you have to contend with obviously!) and would suggest maybe using such a camera with a corded release so you could then use your left hand to release the shutter/focus etc.
But it sounds like you want a complete change, obviously depends on how much money you want to spend and I guess the choice is between an M8/M9. Settings? Focus points? Control wheels? Forget all that and shoot, combine that with an Abrahamson softie or even using a corded shutter release so you can use it left handed if/when needed all you would have to do is shoot in Aperture Priority, adjust the aperture/focus.
I’ve owned 2 M8’s myself and you won’t regret it if that’s what you really want and if you were to buy a PEN or an X100 or whatever you will always be wondering what the Leica would have been like and YOU KNOW that will be true don’t you? 🙂 MORE than enough resolution so don’t worry about that, IR/Cut filters are no real hassle either and I still shoot mine most days even though I mainly use film cameras these days. I wish you all the best with your endeavours!
If you’re really thinking about manual focus (that’s how rangefinders work) and possibly film, then a used Olympus OM2 with a motorised winder could be just perfect: extremely bright viewfinder (the brightest of all), very compact camera, excellent lenses, and you wouldn’t have to cock the shutter because the winder will do that for you: just use your right finger to squeeze the shutter button.
If you wanted to use it in Manual mode (instead of Auto exposure) the shutter speeds are changed with the LEFT hand, not the right (using a ring around the lens throat).
The (no-longer-made) Konica Hexar is a film rangefinder, but doesn’t need a right thumb: the film’s wound on automatically by a built-in motor ..your right hand just presses the shutter button. The Hexar takes Leica lenses, too, if you want to use those.
Of course, there are no zooms for rangefinders, so there’s all that swapping (and dropping!) of separate ‘prime’ lenses, and having to buy and carry an assortment, so that you have the right lens on the camera for what you want to shoot.
As for digital: the M8 and M9 both need a right thumb to (a) press the Menu button, (2) turn the dial which moves through menus; the dial’s also for zooming in – when viewing pictures – and (optionally) sets the over / under-exposure. The right thumb’s also needed for moving forward and backward through photos. There are very few digital cameras which DON’T need a right thumb to make selections and to view pics: the ones which don’t are point-&-shoots, and they don’t seem to be what you want.
If you think that the autofocus on the Leica X1 and Fuji X100 are too slow to catch kids (agreed), then you’ll find that manual focus anyway (on an OM2, Leica, Konica, etc) is far slower still ..so maybe manual focus would be just too frustratingly slow. So you want a high quality, AUTO-focus, non-right-thumb camera?
A motor-wound EOS film camera then, as previously suggested? No need for a right thumb, has autofocus, takes zoom lenses (instead of having to keep swapping ‘primes’), with the high quality of full-frame 35mm film. But no instant gratification; you can’t see the pics until they’ve been developed, printed and copied to CD. And using 36-shots-only film cassettes means less “indiscriminate” shooting, and possibly more rewarding, “considered” shooting, with every shot having a bit more thought going into it.
I hope your heal as quickly as possible and I want to thank you for everything you did.
Camera suggestions: I have an Epson R-D1 – it is light weight but it would not be a good fit; you have to recock the shutter spring after every shot.
I also have the Olympus E-5 that uses the same sensor as the E-PL3 or the E-P3.
I can comment on the sensor a little:
– 12mp, I think that is ok for normal print sizes, but that is just my biased opinion. 🙂
– The smaller sensor size will give it about 1 stop more depth of field than the crop sensor DSLR’s you are used to. This is a penalty for very shallow DOF, but it helps if you need a little more DOF. For portraits I prefer f4-f5.6 (on a full frame) that would be F2.8-F4 on your Nikon and F2 to F2.8 on the E-P3. The new 45mm 1.8 looks like a sweet lens.
-The high iso above 1600 is not great (same applies for the M9). However it has a selection of fast primes; F1.4, f1.7, f1.8 and f2 that are all image stabilized. I have the original Panasonic ‘Leica branded’ 25mm f1.4 lens, shooting it image stabilized really helps (with stationary subjects – of course),
-Olympus does a good JPG file, especially with skin color. I shoot JPG + RAW and most of the time the JPG is good enough for me, with only minor adjustments. The samples pictures in the link above were shot in worst case settings: low light, aperture wide open, hand held, JPG mode with the noise filter turned off, straight out of camera. They still look OK to me. Your standards may be different. 🙂
Best of luck whatever you choose.
We are over thinking this way too much. First what do those among us that are left handed do? And second, it is never about the geer – so my thought is to hold the bulk of the rig – what ever you use – with your right hand/arm and twiddle all the controls with the left hand as you shoot in portrate format. I used to work in adaptive tech and the simple elegant solutions were always the best. The big challenge as I understand it my be rigging a hand strap to help hold the camera. And the holds may be a bit awkward but such is rejiggering.
All the best as you find the solution that works for you
Firstly, I’d like to pay my respects to you for your brave military service and I hope that your arm will be able to recover and do so swiftly.
I’m going to say the E-P3 too. Its IQ is pretty good and it’s well built too.
But more importantly, ergonomics wise the E-P3 is light and so are the lenses available for it. It’s grips are interchangeable, so you can select the normal or large grip, whichever is better for you. As others have mentioned you can hold the camera in your right hand and let your left hand do most of the work with it’s touch screen triggered shutter. The AF is blazingly fast and the camera is small and discreet, so perfect for candid and street.
Bonus is that the E-P3 looks beautiful and ‘old school’, vintage like Leicas 🙂
If you think even x100 or even ep-3 might be hard, I suggest the GXR. I felt that the way it builds really give me some extra grip. The presets allows you to focus on just shooting and the way it’s built let you distribute weight onto your other fingers.
There are a lot of amazing photos on the review here as well.
And if through time you slowly regain your strength, you can start investing money on m mount and leica lens.
If GXR still too hard, I will go for GRDIII. It totally easy one hand with lovely IQ, also reviewed on this site with great photos.
Another ex soldier here, Fusiliers. The EP3 would be great for you, blindingly fast autofocus, compose either by using the touch sensitive view screen and select your focus point literally by pointing at it or use the EVF, which shows a very high quality image, with AF on centre point which you can lock by half pressing the shutter release and then decompose and fully press it to take the picture. The EPs are quick and easy to operate, I have the EP2 and the only thing I’d not like about it is the slow AF which is fixed with the EP3.
Yes the image quality isn’t as good as the M8, there is no such thing as the perfect digital camera yet, I know as I have both of them. However the EP image quality is no slouch at all and I’ve produced some pretty good images even with the kit lens. My best advice is to try the EP3 in a camera shop and if you’re in and around London get in touch with me via Steve, he has my email address and you can try my M8 to see if you would prefer that. All the best.
Not sure if this will help but it is a low cost option. I know you have Nikon gear and probably want to shoot digital but if you are at all interested in film some of the old Canon pro and semi pro film cameras (EOS 3 for example which you can get mint for $300) used an autofocus technology which allowed you to control the autofocus points with your eye. The camera actually notices where you are looking and locks focus based on it. I have an EOS 3 you can find many reviews on this and I find it works very well. It is perhaps something you can explore in addition to other good ideas here.
I also think a nex-5 (or 5n) would work well. And since you can find it at many big retailers you can be sure that you get a truly hands on feel before buying. Furthermore, if you want even more left hand control, you can get a manual focus lens which will have aperture control on the lens.
P mode…let’s you choose some characteristics but pretty much an auto mode. Leicas are great but manual focus might get you frustrated at times. You mentioned the NEx, good one, you can add a zoom like the 18-55 or the Swiss 24 prime. The Nex 7 uses dials instead of buttons so it can be easier to handle. The x100 has the aperture control onnthe lens I think so this is a big help. Oh leica with fast primes get heavy since there is no handle, it is flat and can get tiring.
I love the NEX for you, I would go the Ne 7 way stick to central AF point an compose, P mode.
Later on you CAN use all sort of lenses in manual with that camera with adaptors
A video of Tom demonstrating the use of a Rapidwinder and his soft-release.
BTW, Tom’s Rapidwinder is built like a tank, very reliable and over time it becomes as smooth as silk. IMO, a much better product than Leica’s Leicavit winder (old or new). Tom is a great guy and will repair any Rapidwinder for free as long as he can.
I’ll suggest an M6 with a Rapidwinder from Tom Abrahamsson. One would be able to control everything with the left hand save for pressing the shutter release. A softie from Tom may also help with tripping the shutter.
Get a Mamiya Press lefthand grip and let someone make a tripod connection on it to let you use the camera with your left hand. Choose a camera with a cable release thread in the shutter button, like the X100 or a Mseries camera.
My input is biased by my 50 years of loving manual film cameras, but if you can adapt to manual focus lenses, I think a film OR digital M would fit your needs well. With an M the left hand is the major support (directly under the lens mount, like a tripod), the left fingers handle focus and aperture, and the right just helps steady and trips the shutter. (and winds film if applicable). If you hold it in rangefinder style, you can let go with your right hand and still be amazingly stable.
I use both film and M9 for action pictures (now of grandkids) when a 21 to 90 lens will do. You can try a film M (M2,3,4,5,6 etc) for a lot less than an M8 or 9, find out how you like a rangefiner, and later sell it at no loss if it isn’t for you. If you like it, sell it (probably for more than you paid the way prices are going) to help fund an M9 (or M10).
Ok, E-P3 sounds tempting! I feel a trip to the camera shop coming on!
Thanks so much for your replies to my question, I really appreciate the time you’ve taken to share your thoughts.
By way of clarification, I have no problems supporting the weight of my D50 when shooting two handed, and find operating the shutter release isn’t as easy as it used to be, but it’s improving all the time albeit slowly. What I find really difficult if not impossible is changing focus points and locking focus with my right thumb while I’m shooting. Perhaps with more focus points and a better AF system I wouldn’t need to lock focus and recompose as much if at all. I’d welcome any comments on that. If I stick with dSLRs then perhaps something like a D700 or 7000 is the way to go. I would feel very conspicuous with a D3; having been photographed a few times by our Army photographers and having a go on theirs I realised that those cameras are just too big for my purposes. Also, these days I would struggle carrying one in my right hand.
I have to say though that the M system intrigues me. So far my thoughts are that film has a lower price of entry, but from an ergonomic point of view I’d have to recock the shutter with my left hand after every shot. I’m also in love with the immediacy of digital and think that the practicalities outweigh the nostalgia and physicality of film, tempting though that is. While money’s not a huge issue and I could afford an M9, my wife may be less easily convinced, especially as I’ve never shot with a rangefinder before! So if I go for an RF it’ll be an M8 at least for a while.
The smaller alternatives do look tempting, but I think I’ve been put off by the slow AF and laggy performance of digi-compacts that I’ve used in the past, I found them frustrating to use. These cameras seem to be delivering really good IQ, I just wonder if I’d find them limiting as my main camera.
Once again, thanks for your thoughts so far. I’m not sure I want to spark off a typical SLR vs RF debate, but some discussion of the ergonomic benefits of each would be really interesting. My mind’s still open!
Panasonic G1 has front multifunctional dial below the shutter release. (G2 and G3 got back dial.) While having almost all settings for the right hand, it has light weight and totally Panasonic ergonomics. Just check it out if you can find it in a store.
I join the opinions of E-P3 and using mainly the touchscreen to fire shutter,
Perhaps trying those new Panasonic X lens with motorized zoom – you could operate with left hand and focus&fire with right hand,
Hope it helps, and have a speedy recovery!
Thank you for your service and sacrifice. We all owe you a massive debt.
An EP-3 might be the best option for you. The touch-focus and touch-to-shoot functions may be perfect for you: all your right hand would be used for is holding the camera. The AF is reportedly really quick, too.
One thing I do occasionally with my E-P1 when trying to get a photo at a non-standard angle is cradle the camera and lens with my left hand and just use my right hand to steady the camera and trigger the exposure. You might want to try that technique, as well.
Good luck with the decision!
I second the vote for an E-P3. I was a full-time Nikon shooter but I haven’t put my E-P3 down since it came. It’s my first time playing with a non-SLR camera.
The touch screen on the back is as simple as touching what you want to photograph. It can be set to focus and meter what you touch and trip the shutter. I can’t imagine anything being more ergonomically friendly than that.
If you have big enough hands and enough dexterity in your other hand, you can even hold it with one hand and click to shoot (it’s awkward but doable).
The D50 was my first camera. I can say, for certain, that the image quality improvement one gets going from a D50 to an E-P3 is huge. I would also bet the E-P3 focusses faster than your D50. It’s fast enough to keep up with my dogs.
I really recommend you look into it.
Big fan and loved my X100 (IQ is unparalleled) but it is really too slow around children
If shooting around children DSLR like Nikon D7000 is a GREAT choice. (if you do not mind the weight and size). I borrowed them for about 2 weeks shoot about 3000 frames, returned to my friend. GREAT Camera especially using prime lens. But it is just too bulky and heavy for me. Took the fun out of me when I travel.
as compromise…. you may consider Olympus PEN E-P3…. fast enough but yet small enough…. but IQ is nothing close to X100 or D7000.
It is necessary to have X100 + D7000. for different situation if you can afford both…. I shot with X100 80% of time. Only when I am shooting my sister’s baby, portraid shot or something required zoom lens, I will need to pull out my DSLR. Otherwise X100’s 23mm(35mm) is perfect for day to day photography.
Select any one of the current mirrorless (NEX, Samsung, Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic) cameras that use their main LCD as a picture composition screen. Hold the camera upside down – – – you’ll now find the right-handed controls conveniently reversed. Now compose the picture in the normal way – – – just adapt to manipulating the camera controls with your left hand.
This is a good idea.. also.. the touchscreen controls would mitigate a lot of button pushing right hand up.. but I like the shoot it like Hendrix idea.
Good luck to you and thanks for your service.
i came across and occasionally check-in on this gentlemans photostream. he’s primarily a 5D guy, but he does some really amazing things with the X1, too. here’s one of his, keeping up pretty well with little ones, i’d say:
goodluck and god bless
I´d say a X100 will be good. Oh, perhaps the new NEX5n is the best option, fast AF, great IQ, and it is touch, to it it very easy to use, meaning no force is requiered, to turning dials but just sliding a finger. And you can buy the EVF, the best I know of. Yes, get a NEX5n!!
If you want to photograph moving kids, I think the X100 AF would be too slow. At least when I try to take photos of a couple of cats moving around in my garden, it feels like years before the X100 responds and triggers, however, IQ is really good compared to the size.
The D700 which I would recommend, is like a rocket compared to the X100 regarding fast and precise AF. IQ is among the best I have seen in FX/DX and with high ISO capability that still outperforms most cameras today.
You could consider using the D700 with the 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.8 D and the 35mm f/2.0 D to reduce weight and size. These old but nice lenses are pretty cheap these day.
first of all, my respect to you. i cannot imagine the pain you’ve suffered. eternally thankful to you and all who served. don’t have much experience with dslrs. but i can tell you that i you that i find myself using the thumb wheel more on the X100 than the X1, even though i don’t use half the shooting functions and menus in the camera. but there is the slow autofocus of the X1 which for me wasn’t such an issue, but i know that kids are like fast moving sports. so consider that. i think something like an M8 would the ticket for you. basically a camera that can take some of the load from the right hand. you focus and set aperture with your left hand and only press the shutter with your right one and you can even work Aperture priority and not worry about setting shutter speeds. i mention the M8 not because it’s the only solution but becase im familiar with leica, but a camera that you can get to flow like that would help, be it PEN, NEX or any other. also, rangefinder type of camera i usually lighter and more compact and not so front heavy, unless using long lenses, you don’t feel the weight of the lens pulling from your hand on a leica. also, write to other companies with this story. just, about a week ago i started wondering about the ergonomics in cameras. no manufacturer make a variant model for left hand people. most every other products have the option. you are familiar with guns, most of them have models for left handed people, music instruments. but camera makers seem to have forgotten that sometimes everybody’s hands are not like the designer of the camera. i really enjoyed your story. thank you and Steve for putting our feet back on the ground every now and then.
i broke my hand a few weeks back and couldn’t even grip a dslr. i used a combination of film p&s and rangefinders to shoot while it was healing. with that being said, i think a m4/3 camera or the something from the NEX series or even a x100 would be ok. if you don’t want to fiddle around too much, just use aperture priority or even program if you really have to.
I used to own the Leica M8, loved it and think it would be a great choice for you. However, since I purchased the M9 I feel that this would be an even better choice as the image quality blows pretty much everything else out of the water. Besides the image quality, which is important to you, the ease of use with both of these cameras is a delight, and since using them I hardly ever use any other camera outside of my studio. I recently purchased the Fuji X100, and while I like this too, the menu system defies all logic and is rather frustrating to use, to say the least—but as a walk around ‘street’ camera it is really nice. You can use the manual focus/hyper-focal gauge in the viewfinder, select the appropriate aperture and fire away. It’s almost silent and you very often don’t even know you’ve released the shutter. But considering your needs, the ease of use and the image quality of the M9 should place this camera at the very top of your list.
Something to consider (and perhap you have) is the weight of the camera. Something like the d700 is pretty heavy; I’m not sure how comfortably that would sit in the hand.
I’d probably rule the x100 out, unless you’re comfortable using the same focal point all the time: to change which focal point is being used, you have to hold down one button with your left hand while operating different buttons with your left.
Something in the m4/3 family might be a good fit. They’re lightweight. Many of the functions are obviously designed to be used with the right hand, but you could probably take the camera away from your eye and use your left thumb instead, while supporting the weight of the camera on your right hand. It’d be a bit slower to use, for sure.
Perhaps pair a slower-to-use m4/3 camera for more deliberate photography and get a small, automated camera like an LX5, s95, etc for snapshots?
It hurts to tell you that I think the answer lies in an expensive autofocus module capable of locking focus even in the worst sceneries. This way you’ll be able to use your right hand for aligning and composing, while leaving the focus for the camera. Buy a used Nikon D3 or a D3S and you will see experience the same that I did when I bought mine in early 2008: In my opinion, it’s the first autofocus system that delivers to its name. It took 25 years for autofocus to mature as a technology, and a D3/D3S with Nikkor AF-S glass will lock focus even in situations where your eyesight can’t distinguish the contrast.
Not sure that this will help, but you can definitely use an M with limited dexterity. This guy is a quadriplegic and rigged his to work for him. Pretty inspiring!
I was a soldier in Afghanistan when I first got into photography, in 2007. I dabbled a little in Iraq in 2003, but 2007-2008 was where I got my chops.
I too started with a consumer-grade DSLR, and took the endless upgrade path to a full-frame Nikon and the three kings of glass zooms. I started to feel like a professional but it dawned on me that I wasn’t doing it for money and the equipment was starting to weigh me down. I was making decisions about what and where to shoot just based on if I could carry my huge bag or not. One day in 2009, I sold it all and bought an M9. I will never regret it.
I do not recommend a rangefinder, or at least a Leica M if you have no dexterity in your right hand. I say this because of the blessing and curse of full manual control. There is a lot of twiddling and so forth going on, and both hands are occupied fully.
If you are undeterred by this, consider employing a leather crafter to make a harness to attach your M to your right (military left!) hand, so that your hand isn’t straining just trying to hold the camera. You can concentrate on just using your index finger to press the shutter, and get used to doing all the twiddly bits with your left hand. Consider getting a soft release as well.
i’d suggest a upgrading to a d700, since you are already invested in nikon glass – keep a fast wide angle lens, and a tripod with a cable release. hope that helps. also a speedy recovery and God bless.
The main issue here is not the money, but the ergonomics. He needs a small, usable and very ergonomic camera with good IQ. D700 is a very god camera, but it needs input from the right hand.