Christmas is over and you might find yourself with online vouchers or some spare money, that you like to invest in a present for yourself. You have worked hard all year and want to spend it on a nice hobby that you recently discovered or want to try out more. Then this Street Photography Camera Guide will show you all the options to capture your dreams.
Street Photography is not all about gear, and there are far more important aspects, nonetheless, having the right gear facilitates the fun and helps you to get closer to your goals much faster. Currently, there are a lot of changes on the camera market. Mirrorless cameras become better, even going up to medium-format, while DSLRs are a dying rarity in Street Photography. Therefore I only mention DSLRs briefly at the end of this street photography camera guide.
Think smart before investing in a new camera for Street Photography and it will last for a long time and become your new companion on the street.
I made the mistake not knowing what I want to photograph and went with a Canon Rebel, which isn’t really suitable for Street Photography. It can work, but personally, I believe it slowed down my personal development a lot.
With this Street Photography Camera Guide, I want to present the current „go-to“ camera models and for whom they are suitable.
Which Camera Should I Buy for Street Photography?
Some prefer small compact models over the raw image quality. Others need the flexibility of changeable lenses. Then there is always the price as a factor.
Luckily, Street Photography isn’t expensive and once you made the right choice, the camera can last you for years. This guide will assist you to find your suitable camera for Street Photography.
Street Photography Cameras & Your Personal Style
Street Photography is a very loose term and even in this genre, there are very different styles. Beginning in the choice of color over monochrome, or the distance that you usually shoot at.
Getting closer to people, for example, is usually easier with a smaller camera because it doesn’t look that intimidating.
But if you are more interested to shoot wider frames from a distance, this isn’t very relevant anymore and you are more likely interested in the image quality.
Also if you are shooting at night, or with a flash can make a difference for your camera choice.
Those might be extreme situations, but with the right gear, you can master those too.
Mirrorless vs DSLR Cameras in this Street Photography Camera Guide
I am a firm believer that DSLRs are dead for Street Photography. I don’t see really suitable applications for them anymore when it comes to Street Photography and only present them briefly at the end of this Street Photography Camera Guide.
They are advantageous when it comes to Documentary Photography situations where you need a very fast working horse and don’t want to change batteries very often. But if you are not shooting in a war zone or crisis areas, mirrorless cameras became very dominant for various reasons.
In general, they are smaller than their DSLR counterparts. A Canon 5D III is still way bigger than any mirrorless, add in the camera grip and gap widens even more. For Street Photography, size does matter to some extent. Candid shots become easier with a smaller camera, not only because it is less visible, but also less intimidating for people on the street. With a big and heavy DSLR you look like a Paparazzi trying to get the next money shot, but with a more compact camera, you have the attire of an innocent tourist.
They are lighter. Weight can make a difference. A few hundred grams don’t sound a lot at first and if you compare it, you may not notice it very strongly. But carrying the camera on your neck all day, or having it on your wrist, it definitely becomes apparent that lighter cameras are an advantage. Your neck will thank you for every weight saved and your posture becomes better. Whenever I am walking with a heavier camera, I can really feel how I hunch forward after a few hours, giving in to the weight oft he camera. Therefore, mirrorless cameras are great if you are shooting for a long time.
The electronic viewfinder has made huge developments. I know that a lot of the DSLR fans don’t like to switch to mirrorless cameras because they aren’t fond of the EVF. That is reasonable, as the first mirrorless cameras with EVFs showed a huge lag and hadn’t the right feeling to it. Current mirrorless cameras are so advanced that you will get used tot he EVF very quickly and will appreciate its advantages. For example that you can see the outcome 1:1 and can customize overlays or help screens in your EVF.
Compact Cameras for Street Photography
Compactness can be a real advantage in Street Photography Cameras. You may feel more secure to go close to people, will be more invisible while shooting and you will have an easier time carrying the camera everywhere with you.
If you are new to Street Photography I definitely would recommend you to such a model. They are also less of an investment and don’t come with great costs if you don’t feel comfortable in Street Photography anymore.
One of my favorite models in this category is the RicohGR II. I already wrote a review about the camera as I use it extensively myself.
The RicohGR works great during the day and I was easily accustomed to the 23mm viewing field, that I don’t need to actually look at the LCD screen anymore to frame the picture. This allows me to get real close and just snap away any picture that I want without having to fear, that I scare away any subject with a big camera.
During the night, the camera also performs well, but you have to have either great artificial light sources or an external flash.
Even with a small inconspicuous camera, you are able to create series, that find their way in the Street Photography world.
A lot of Street Photographers are using this camera for the reasons listed above and you definitely won’t make any mistake buying this camera.
As an alternative, I would say the Olympus Pen-F is like a little more advanced version oft he RicohGRII. Only a small increase in size, but the biggest advantage is the tilt-screen and viewfinder which the RicohGRII lacks. Of course, this comes with a greater price, but if you are willing to invest a little more than the Pen-F might be the best compact camera for Street Photography right now.
In terms of Image Quality both offer professional quality during the day, but can be difficult to handle during the night. There you will have found a lot of noise, which can be alright if it fits your style. If you are going to „fine art“ styles during darker times these cameras might not be your first choice.
Powershot & Cybershot
The Powershot & Cybershot are great alternatives if you also plan to record some video footage with these cameras. For Street Photography, the RicohGR and Pen-F are the best choices, but if you want to have more well-versed all around compact cameras, the Powershot & Cybershot are also worth looking into.
Other than that, they are great Street Photography Cameras to get close and candid shots, without really costing too much.
Buying Mirrorless Cameras
with Interchangeable Lenses
Mirrorless cameras with changeable lenses probably offer the best image quality in combination with a great lens. They are great if you really are seeking for the best quality and aren’t afraid to buy new lenses and research which lenses are the best for you.
They are also good, if you don’t have a favorite focal length yet and want to experiment with different lengths and their unique characteristics. In comparison to DSLRs, they are still relatively small and definitely suitable for Street Photography.
You will look more like a tourist than a professional paparazzi and with a small pancake lens, your gear is still very compact.
The Fujifilm X-E3 is a smaller version of the X-T20 and the newest addition to the Fujifilm family. Although it is smaller, the hardware and image quality is very similar to its bigger counterpart. Therefore I view the X-E3 as more suitable for Street Photography. It is also very easy to use with the touchscreen that the camera offers.
With the 24 Megapixel CMOS sensor of the new Fujifilm generations, people also seem more lifelike and don’t have that “wax look” problem anymore. Giving you even more advantages compared to other manufacturers.
Olympus’ OMD-E-5 is somewhere in the middle of the E-1 and the E-10. Due to its micro-four-thirds sensor, it is the smallest camera with changeable lenses. The main feature is the very easy to use tiltable-screen and that its small size. Although you are able to change lenses, it still could fit in a pocket. The Depth of Field can be lacking because of the small sensor size and at night it might not perform the best. Other than that, it is fast has a silent shutter and great quality.
Sony Alpha 7 II
A third option might the Sony Alpha 7 II be for you. The camera gives you a full-frame sensor with probably the best opportunities in terms of image quality. Do you have still some old lenses at home that you would like to use? Lenses with a special character from the 70s that you or your father already photographed with and that you want to revive? Then the Sony Alpha 7 II is great if you want to use that old glass again. It offers great compatibility with old-fashioned lenses because of its full-frame sensor and there are great adapters available.
The Street Photography Camera Guide With Fixed Lenses
You already know what you need and have a fair share of experience in Photography. In terms of focal length, you have a clear favorite and use your feet to zoom. In this Street Photography Camera Guide, I want to present some mirrorless cameras with fixed lenses that will make their way into the Street Photography world.
Your focus lies in taking pictures instead of running after the newest lenses to keep the illusion that new lenses will improve your Street Photography.
With a one time investment in the following cameras, you are set for many many years and can concentrate fully on developing your Street Photography skills. 35mm are your home and you know how to handle them.
Then the relative compact cameras with absolute stunning image quality should be your next buy.
It is no secret that the Fuji X100F is my absolute favorite Street Photography camera and I wrote already a review about the FujiX100F for Street Photography.
In my opinion, this camera combines everything that you need. 35mm Focal length is excellent in giving a realistic point of view without much distortion, allows you to get close, while also providing some bokeh when taking pictures fully open.
The design, especially of the silver edition, is very retro. People will think you are running with a film camera and you have a more positive impression with that camera. It holds up very well for Street Photography, but you can also shoot some documentary work like a wedding or portraits with it.
With a 24MP sensor, it is also set for the near future and should be the standard for many years. For that price, the camera is definitely recommended to buy.
While the Fuji X100F features an APS-C sensor, the Sony RX-1 comes with a full-frame sensor and a Zeiss lens.
This also comes at a little higher price. The RX-1 is reduced to the minimum and a little smaller than the X100F and fits in your palm.
It is, therefore, more comparable to a really high-premium RicohGR but for that reason could be exactly what you are looking for.
If the price doesn’t scare you and you are looking for some of the highest quality photographs then the RX-1 might be your choice.
If the price of the RX-1 doesn’t scare you and you are ready to invest in the highest quality camera then Leica is still the premium brand that is able to deliver exactly that.
The Leica Q also inhibits a 24MP full-frame sensor and a 28mm Summilux lens.
You don’t only buy a Leica for its quality, but also for the feeling of photographing with it. Seeing the design of the Leica Q probably reminds you already of a more classic rangefinder camera.
Be assured though, that the camera is anything but old-fashioned. The electronic viewfinder is revolutionary in its optic experience. The images that you can review there almost have the impression of being three-dimensional.
If you want to step into the footprints of other legendary Leica Photographers like Bruce Gilden, Rober Capa or Henri-Cartier Bresson then the Leica can give you that feeling. It is not only about the quality build, but also about the mystical image that surrounds every Leica camera.
If none of the cameras before have reached you and you are still unsure what to buy, or if your interest in Street Photography will remain in the long-run, then going for a traditional DSLR might still be a good choice for you.
Although I am not a big fan of them for Street Photography, a DSLR leaves you any option to also go for portraits, landscape or architecture photography.
In case you are also interested to do Documentary Photography in remote places and need a reliable camera then a DSLR is still the best choice.
For example in the World Press Awards 2017, the DSLRs still reigned supreme as the choice for Photojournalists.
Following I want to present two models that have a little different target audience.
The Nikon D750 is one of the newest cameras of Nikon and the successor of the highly popular D700.
It comes with a full-frame sensor and 24Megapixel, which is for that price already a very nice hardware.
When it comes to the auto-focus, the DSLRs are still ahead of mirrorless cameras, so if you plan to shoot documentary stories or sports photography, where a fast auto-focus is needed, then you should take a closer look at the Nikon D750.
Canon 5D IV
As you can see at the chart about the world press awards, the Canon 5D III was the reigning champion.
Now Canon offers the new 5D IV and the improvements are huge and will take over the documentary world. The image processor is faster, which allows you to take even more pictures in a short time frame and you are less likely to miss a perfect moment.
The ISO low-light performance has been also improved, giving you an advantage when you are a fond lover of Night Street Photography.
The Canon 5D IV comes not cheap, but if you have a certain project in mind that you also want to sell to different magazines, or you simply want to deliver high-end quality photographs, then the Canon 5D IV can give you that.
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