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Author Topic: Digital Cameras for Street Photography  (Read 5116 times)
Robert Roaldi
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« on: February 21, 2003, 11:43:34 AM »
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This may not help you much but I mention it because it often slips my mind.

With small digicams you can use the high DOF to your benefit to mitigate against the slow auto-focus. You could set to manual focus at some convenient distance and shoot that way. This may speed up your picture taking, especially if you're mostly at the wide end.

But, that may be compromised by the usual power saving feature that shuts these digicams down every 5 minutes or so. So you will need one that can be quickly and easily reset to the configuration you desire. LCD menus are NOT the way to do that.

This shooting mode won't affect shot-to-shot buffer bottlenecks but we can only hope that faster processing power will soon be built into the newer digicams, since they seem to settling into a maximum of 5 mpix or so and so the pixel race may be coming to an end. If that's true they'll have to start improving other things.

The pre-announcements coming out of PMA don't seem to include any 6 mpix digicams, that's what makes me think we may be topping out at 5 or so.
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MatthewCromer
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« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2003, 12:50:34 PM »
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I can't see where a dSLR is a good street shooting camera at all.  It's large, obvious, and can't be used without holding it to your eyes.

I'd recommend a G3 or a 717 in MF mode.  You can get loads of DOF even at F2 and with the camera AF off these cameras fire quickly.  Better yet, you can frame with the LCD viewpanel which is tiltable / pivotable with these cameras and doesn't have to be held to the eye.

The downside is they are both are about 35-38mm at the wide end, which may not be enough.  I have a very nice 26mm WA adaptor for my 717, but it is HUGE and would draw more attention when street-shooting.
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MatthewCromer
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« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2003, 03:33:38 PM »
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The Sony Zeiss lens is truly excellent and the WA adaptor (HGD-0758) is a very high quality adaptor.

Keep in mind that the camera weighs 1.5 pounds, and the WA adaptor weighs almost 2 pounds!
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Robert Roaldi
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« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2003, 06:32:33 AM »
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Alan,

One more thing I remembered that may be of concern to you. It is something that annoyed me when I owned a 2 mpix digicam. The non-SLR digicams are basically P&S-like in their handling. That means, more often than not, that when you turn them on the flash setting is set to "auto flash", and that may be a nuisance to you if you're trying to be inconspicuous on the street. I hated having the flash go off for no reason that I could determine, not to mention the battery drainage.

You have to remember to change the flash mode nearly every time you use it, and that can be often if you are shooting infrequently enough that the power saver feature takes effect. Toggling that flash button is a pain when you're in a hurry. I have noticed that some newer digicams have a "my settings" feature whereby you can store your favourite settings in a special mode switch. It is not always obvious from the spec sheets which ones allow this and so you have to dig thru the reviews.

As I have read on this forum, and others, it's time for a small non-P&S high quality digicam, that makes no assumptions about what the photographer wants.
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Aaron Britton
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« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2003, 06:12:18 PM »
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This posting has lead me to ask a question/ponder a thought?  Why have there not been any digital cameras that act like a rangefinder come out.  I don't see why this would be problemmatic.  If anything and think this would lend beautifully to the digital camera.  With the LCD on the back you would have a rangefinder that could act like a psuedo slr.  And you could have interchangeable lenses along with a small camera.

You would think one of the camera companies out there would have thought of this.  Maybe Voigtlander will come out with one.  Wouldn't that be something a digital rangefinder with a leica screw mount.  Cheesy
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John Brownlow
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« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2003, 07:13:07 PM »
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This topic has been discussed (seemingly) endlessly on the streetphoto list. There are some in-depth analyses of different cameras and their streetphoto capabilities on the web. Go to

http://www.topica.com/lists/streetphoto

and do a search for 'digicam' and you will soon see the threads.

JB

(personally I use a Nikon 5000 and a Canon 1Ds)
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« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2003, 10:05:59 AM »
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I'm sure this topic comes up often (though it didn't show up when I searched -- maybe I missed a step). Apologies in advance if I'm covering old ground. Am also aware that you're primarily a landscape crowd, but am hopeful you'll tolerate an urban person...

I've been a film-based street photographer and I'm looking to switch to digital. Am wondering what digital equipment other street shooters are using, and how they're approaching the work.

I've shot most recently with a Leica M6, and I've enjoyed it, but I'm not a Leica zealot. Have also worked with a Contax G2, and a while ago used SLRs (not recently).

Like most street shooters, I'm trying to reconcile features that may not go together in digital -- small camera, easy handling, unobtrusive, quick shutter and quick shot to shot times. I've learned enough to understand that I'm going to have to trade off some of these to get at some others.

One more complication -- I shoot a lot with a 28mm lens (I like 35 but sometimes it seems a little tame and confining).

Cameras I've looked at so far...

Canon G3 (and a couple other "prosumer" digicams -- Minolta 7hi, Leica Digilux, Nikon Coolpix 5000). Some of them get to 28mm equivalence, others don't. Image quality is variable -- sometimes good (I like grain and I'm not a last detail fanatic). Unobtrusive, yes. You blend in with the tourists. But fast?\

Nikon D100 -- big box by comparison, but like I said I've been away from SLRs. With a zoom it screams "camera!" Not sure if that's entirely a bad thing. I like provoking a reaction where people look into the lens, and I've never bought into the idea that the Leica didn't look like a camera (maybe in 1925 it didn't, but now it does).

Fujifilm S2 Pro -- beautiful, emotional color/tonality. But bigger box. Fast enough shutter? Are weird batteries a problem?

Canons -- haven't looked at them in detail. The guy I study printing with hates them. But fast, I hear. And smaller zooms than Nikon.

Final question -- zooms or primes? Yes, I know the optical issues and the convenience issues. Am thinking here about the digital context. How terrified should I be of dust on the sensor? I've heard everything from "you should keep one lens on the camera most of the time" (that argues for zooms) to "no problem, you just clean the sensor." Primes would certainly make a DSLR easier to handle...

Thanks for any help you can give to someone who's on the first block of this particular street...


Alan
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« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2003, 12:06:11 PM »
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Thanks, that's really helpful. No one had mentioned the power-saver feature to me and I woudn't have thought of it on my own (though I'm frustrated all the time by the one on the printer at the office). A new worry...

I've never trusted autofocus. I didn't like the one on the Contax and when I started with the Leica I got used to pre-focusing. I'd do that with a digicam and probably even with a DSLR. I do a lot of shooting off the eye (to me that's the best way to be unobtrusive, no matter what the size of the camera) so the advanced eye-tracking or selectable zone autofocus features on the DSLRs won't be helpful.

Your observations about the way digicam features are beginning to settle out reminds me of a thought of mine -- that it's a mistake to think of these cameras only as cameras. There's a huge extent to which they're portable computers with optics stuck in them. To me that means that there are limits to the performance you can cram into a small box. There are performance compromises in very small laptops and the same ought to apply to very small electronic cameras. Small film cameras (like the Leica) are mechanical devices and while there are design considerations that go into them, they're not as compromised as an electronic camera of similar dimensions.

All of which makes me think that a DSLR may be a better way to go -- not ideal in all respects but there are fundamental reasons why the much-hoped-for digital Leica M won't be achievable any time soon. Bigger may be better, at least to some extent.
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« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2003, 01:27:08 PM »
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Points taken -- that's basically where the other half of me is going.

One point of difference -- using the Leica and the Contax, I don't look through the viewfinder at all. I hip-shoot. I know there are a lot of people who think/thought that's a bad idea (Winogrand was one of them) but I like the idea of not knowing exactly what you're getting. A sort of interplay between things you can control and things you can't. Plus, I've found that the surest sign that you're taking pictures is putting the camera to your eye. If you don't do that, no one pays attention to you, at least in New York. You could be out there with a Speed Graphic and people would just walk by you. So I'd probably do that with a DSLR, too.

Speaking of New York, though, there's that other matter -- carrying around a big branded thing like a DSLR that says, "steal me." A "tourist" digicam would be better in that regard.

I've seen the wide-angle adapters and agree they're big and attention-getting. But that might be addressible by going totally off the eye as noted. Do you find that yours degrades the performance of the lens? My understanding of the Sonys is that they have particularly good lenses (my printing mentor is getting really good 8 x 10 prints off one of their 2mp pocket cameras). If they can stand up to the adapter, that might be something else to experiment with.
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« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2003, 04:05:44 PM »
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Ouch -- that almost sounds like a DSLR with a different shape. But looks different... Will try to handle one and see how it feels.
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BJL
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« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2003, 08:56:12 AM »
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Quote
One more thing I remembered that may be of concern to you. It is something that annoyed me when I owned a 2 mpix digicam. The non-SLR digicams are basically P&S-like in their handling. That means, more often than not, that when you turn them on the flash setting is set to "auto flash" ... You have to remember to change the flash mode nearly every time you use it ....
Auto-flash behavior depends on the camera model; all the Olympus C-x0x0 cameras (latest being the C-5050) have extensive custom settings for how the camera behaves when turned on. For example, mine turns on with flash disabled, and -1 stop of flash compensation if I do activate the flash.

I chose the Olympus C-series for my first dabbling in digital because it offered the most complete range of user control in the lower price range, even in the cheapest (then 2MP) model --- and a fairly good and very fast lens too.

To put it another way, the "one-piece" digital cameras range from true point-and-shoot "no choices possible, no decisions needed" models to fully flexible, customizable models, so I would not lump them all under the name "P&S" as is often done.

[Auto-flash that has to be disabled each time the camera is turned on, or even for each photo as with some P&S cameras, should be banned! Such cameras whose owners cannot reliably prevent from using flash in museums is why my cameras, with flash disabled, are also unnecessarily banned from many museums.]
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Robert Roaldi
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« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2003, 02:53:09 PM »
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Thanks BJL.

It had slipped my mind that some cameras can be set up to "boot" in a specified mode. That's one of those features that don't jump out of me on the spec sheets and that the reviewers can sometimes gloss over if they didn't play with the camera much.

Unfortunately, in my experience the store clerks aren't always helpful with non-obvious features such as these. I don't blame them what with models being introduced weekly.

A good source of that kind of info is the user manuals if you can get at them.
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Paul Sumi
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« Reply #12 on: February 27, 2003, 10:28:53 PM »
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Alan, I've also been looking for a small digital that I can use for street photography.  Although I've never owned one, I've liked Canon's digital Elphs.  They just announced a 4 megapixel Powershot S400: http://www.dpreview.com/news/0302/03022708canons400.asp

Might be worth considering.
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