How to buy a perfect camera for street photography
This is an open letter to Vuyo, who emailed me recently. Vuyo wanted advice on how to buy a camera for street photography. Instead of writing directly to him, I thought it best to publish a blog post on this topic. This way, more people who need the answer to the same question will also benefit. In future I can just refer them to this post and save myself a lot of time.
That’s a good question, Vuyo.
I will give you a few tips on how to buy the right gear for street photography. But I can’t tell you which device or brand you should buy.
The Right Camera For Street Photography
For me the right camera for street photography is the Canon EOS M10.
There are several factors that influence my decision when buying a camera for street photography.
The Cost Factor
First I decide how much I want to spend or invest on it. Then I check whether that device is available in the country.
Next, I check the specs against my needs. Does it give me what I need in a camera?
At the time of writing this I’m convinced that the right camera for me is the Canon EOS M10. It’s not the latest iteration in this lineup. It has since been replaced by the M100.
Buying the right camera for street photography is not about the latest and greatest. For me it’s about affordability and availability.
Size And Colour
The second criteria for me is the size and colour of the device. It must be small and black. As an example, I won’t buy a white canon eos M10.
I recommend you buy a small, light and black camera that you can afford, regardless of the brand.
Some of my readers will remember that I wrote favourably about the X70 before. The Fujifilm X70 remains my favourite camera for street photography. But it’s beyond my means. I just can’t afford it. If you’re willing to spend R11 000 on a camera for street photography, get the X70. But again, it may not tick all the boxes for you.
It’s all about what you want in a camera. For example, the M10 has one serious drawback that I can live with. Its slow auto focus.
Street photographers need a camera with fast auto focus. So the M10 is not necessarily the best street photography camera on the market. But it’s OK for me. If I had to choose between the M10 and Fuji’s X70, I would go for the latter.
Fixed Or Interchangeable Lens
I prefer a fixed focal length lens. The X70 comes with such a lens. But the M10 is an interchangeable lens camera.
Consider buying the M10 body without the kit lens. And then getting yourself the 22mm pancake. This way you’ll have a fixed focal length prime lens that works very well with the M10. And it makes the camera even smaller and pocketable.
With the pancake lens on, the M10 becomes the perfect camera for street photography.
I guess the real question then is:
‘What are you looking for in a camera, Vuyo?’
Your answer to this question will guide you towards identifying the camera that suits your needs.
No one can or should tell you what camera is right or perfect for you. Whether you shoot street photography or any other genre of photography the choice of camera is a personal matter.
Your question makes me think you don’t own any camera at the moment. I might be wrong, I’m guessing here.
Try shooting street photography with your smart phone and see how it goes. You might be surprised to learn how easy it is to shoot candidly with a phone.
Your phone is less intimidating. People don’t assume you’re taking pictures when they see you fiddling with your smart phone. They think you’re reading messages or making a call. This allows you to get as close as possible without being noticed. The closer you can get to your subject, the better.
Switch the flash off. And avoid shooting horizontally. Mute the volume and shoot in burst mode if your phone allows it.
I shot all the photos on this blog post with my smart phone.
Of course the image quality will always be inferior. But image quality in this genre doesn’t matter as much as it does in Wedding or Landscape photography.
Quality And Resolution
If image quality is more important to you perhaps you should consider buying a Digital Single Lens Reflex. I know, DSLRs are huge and heavy. And I wouldn’t advice you to get a DSLR for street photography. But as far as image quality goes, they are the best. Again, this is my own subjective opinion.
Personally I think image quality and resolution are important. I’d rather shoot with a 24-MP Nikon 3200 than with an 8-MP smart phone. On the other hand, I would gladly pick the 16-megapixel Fujifilm X70 over the 18-MP Canon M10 if I could afford it. Quality is relative.
I’m looking forward to see you in January, Vuyo. Remember, you can bring any device you have. Whether it’s a mirrorless, DSLR or your smart phone. Don’t buy a new camera specifically for the workshop. Bring your tried and tested gear and enjoy shooting street photography in my neck of the wood with other streettogs.
This is by no means a comprehensive guide to buying a camera. But I hope it points you into the right direction.