A lot of people new to street photography ask the questions “what camera should I use for street photography”, So much so that there are entire sites to the topic of gear for street photography. With that in mind, here is my quick and simple guide for what camera you should use for street photography as a beginner.
Without a doubt the best camera to start with, is whatever camera you have right now, for the vast majority of people that means their smartphone, maybe you have an old film camera or big DSLR, that’s fine, just get started.
Recently I spoke to Yuri Rasin about the importance of gear in street photography. It was a great chat and it impacted my thinking a lot but one point we both agreed on is that it is dangerous to get side tracked by gear. There is always new gear and a hundred manufactures who are vying for your attention. If you really wanted to work out the best, you’d never finish because something new will come out later and besides, even the best has downsides.
For a long time I lusted after a Leica, then I finally got to shoot with one and I realised that as great as it was, I didn’t like the size and weight compared to my Fuji. All that attention had been wasted.
So If you are starting out in Street then just go with what you’ve got. It will probably have some downsides but so would anything you shoot with. More importantly, you’ll work out if you like shooting street AND the things that bug you will help you know what you should get next. For me, I realised I really liked having a viewfinder and a fixed lens so that I didn’t have to think what focal length I should use or whatever, for you. Maybe you’ll discover that you 28mm (or whatever a smartphone is roughly) is too wide for you, or it’s too grainy/not grainy enough. Maybe you’ll find that holding it for a long time causes you discomfort in your hand.
The truth is that you can only learn these sort of things once you get started taking pictures so you should just use whatever you have got at the moment. With that being said, there are some common typical things people look for in street photography cameras.
What is a good beginners street camera?
If you look at the types of cameras that most street photographers shoot with, you’ll notice that they usually have or are
- wide focal length
- digital (so you can “shoot for free”)
- discreet (so you aren’t noticed)
- quick autofocus
All of which fit a smartphone well. If you really don’t want to take pictures with a smartphone (personally I’m not the biggest fan of mobile street photography) then I’d say a mirrorless camera could be a good choice. I have tried a couple of Olympus cameras and a Fuji x100t. Personally, I love the Fuji (click here for why) and would recommend it but I know the Ricoh GR is good (and wider) and there is the new Fuji x70 which is cheaper and has a wider focal length too (no viewfinder which is why I’m out).
So if you have a smartphone, start shooting and work out what you like/don’t like about using a phone for street photography. If you don’t have a smartphone, then maybe try a Fuji x100t or x70.
(Just to be clear, Fuji doesn’t pay me for reviews, though they clearly should, but I do think it is a great camera…with a few faults. Of course if someone for Fuji is reading this and wants to send me cameras and money, I’d sell out for you. That’s how much I love you Fuji.)
P.s. This is the second in a series of post on street photography for Dummies. Click here to check out the first post, or sign up below to get your free beginners guide to street photography (and lots of fun other things)