A robotic end effector and operation protocol for a reliable grasp of a target object irrespective of the target's contours is disclosed. A robotic hand includes a plurality of jointed fingers, one of which, like a thumb, is in opposed relation to the other. Each finger is comprised of at least two jointed sections, and provided with reflective proximity sensors, one on the inner surface of each finger section. Each proximity sensor comprises a transmitter of a beam of radiant energy and means for receiving reflections of the transmitted energy when reflected by a target object and for generating electrical signals responsive thereto. On the fingers opposed to the thumb, the proximity sensors on the outermost finger sections are aligned in an outer sensor array and the sensors on the intermediate finger sections and sensors on the innermost finger sections are similarly arranged to form an intermediate sensor array and an inner sensor array, respectively. The invention includes a computer system with software and/or circuitry for a protocol comprising the steps in sequence of: (1) approach axis alignment to maximize the number of outer layer sensors which detect the target; (2) non-contact contour following the target by the robot fingers to minimize target escape potential; and (3) closing to rigidize the target including dynamically re-adjusting the end effector finger alignment to compensate for target motion. A signal conditioning circuit and gain adjustment means are included to maintain the dynamic range of low power reflection signals.