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Author Topic: Best camera / lens combination for street photography?  (Read 8733 times)
OnyimBob
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« on: October 03, 2011, 11:48:29 PM »
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This question is for those practicing street photographers who would care to take the time to respond (with their reasons/ explanations).
I understand that there will likely be a wide range of preferences but that's OK - I have plenty of time bedridden with the flu!
Thanks in advance,
Bob.
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michswiss
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« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2011, 03:26:51 AM »
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The one you have with you...

Now that that's been said, there's liable to be as many answers as there have been camera and lens combinations.  The classic combination is a fast 50mm on a 35mm RF body.  I bounce between a D700/F100 with three primes (20, 50, 85) and an NEX-5 with the 16mm (24mm eq) pancake.  I've taken to using a 17-35/2.8 on the Nikon bodies frequently as well.  Not that these are the best camera/lens combos by any means.  What's probably most important to me is the speed of the camera.  You'll mostly only have the tiniest fraction of a second to complete the shot when it presents itself to you.  I tend to turn off any function that might slow down shutter press to release.  So good control over automation is important as is fast access to at least aperture control without needing menu access or more than one finger.  Autofocus is a mixed bag.  Sometimes it really helps get the shot, other times it might argue with you for the right focal point, especially in dimmer light.

Of course, I'd love to and might be soon adding an RF and/or (heaven forbid) an MF setup. 
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Tim Gray
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« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2011, 07:32:59 AM »
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A micro 4/3 Panasonic GH2 is perfect for me.  In particular the articulated screen is great for keeping things unobtrusive.  AF is actually quite fast and it's much faster (than a traditional slr) to set the specific focus point on the back screen by touch, or just set it to a fairly large zone and work from there.  There are 3 very good fast primes in the relevant fl range 12 F2.0 (Olympus); 25 1.4 (Panasonic) and 45 F1.8 (Olympus) - I have both the Olympus lenses.  (fl 35mm equivalent is x2), and the 14-140, while not fast is certainly versatile.  If you're into manual focus, with the adaptors you can put just about whatever you want on the body.  I have the Voigtlander Nokton 25mm .95 (no adaptor required) and a zeiss 25mm.
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k bennett
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« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2011, 06:21:17 PM »
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I like the micro 4/3, they are compact, light, and discreet. A kit with the 14, 20, and 45 fits in a tiny waist pack or my small courier bag. (Waiting for the 45 to be shipped is agony.) The 20 is a great lens, and one of my favorite focal lengths (40mm equivalent.) I can wander around campus shooting feature photos without standing out, and the final image quality is excellent.

My only wish is that the Panny lenses had a usable manual focus, with a hard stop at infinity and distance scales.
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Equipment: a camera and some lenses.
OnyimBob
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« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2011, 04:51:32 PM »
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Thanks for these replies.
The consensus seems to be that the GH2 is the camera (2/3 for the 4/3)  Smiley.
From my own research the Fuji x100 looks interesting. For the sort of work I'm envisaging a compact, fixed lens viewfinder (evf or other) camera would seem a good solution - I'm talking Leica here aren't I. Shame I can't afford one of them!
Anyone have any thoughts/experience about the Fuji?
Bob.
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RSL
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« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2011, 05:35:14 PM »
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Bob, Jennifer (michswiss) covered the details. If you check her work you'll see she knows what she's doing.

I've been doing street since 1953 in Korea and I've used a Kodak Pony, a Nikon D3 and just about everything in between, including a Rollei. My favorite camera in the sixties was a Leica M4, but from what I've seen and read, the Leica M8 and M9 are too undependable to consider for street work, and my darkroom is gone, so I'm not going back to film.

Jennifer mentioned she uses three primes. I normally use one: a 50mm on full frame, or its equivalent on any camera that's less than full frame. Very occasionally I'll switch to a 35mm or equivalent, or even a long zoom on my D3. It's not easy to do street with a D3 and a 28-300mm zoom, but in a tourist town during tourist season you can get away with it. Without the tourists my favorite is an Olympus Pen E-P1 with a 25mm lens, which gives me a 50mm equivalent. As soon as the new four thirds 25mm Leica Summilux gets out I'll put that on the Pen. I'd hoped Nikon would come out with a really good, small, APS-C mirrorless, but they let me down, so I'll agree with Tim and K that four thirds is the best solution at present. You'll need to try different things to see what focal length works best for you. A 50mm gives you roughly the perspective of the naked eye, but a lot of people like to work in closer and accept the distortions that go with a short focal length. It's a personal thing.

I rigged the Pen with a Leica 50mm bright line auxiliary finder. Of course you can't focus with an auxiliary finder, and trying to focus manually on a LED screen is almost hopeless, so I autofocus on something about 10 feet away, set ISO on auto, set the lens on f/8 or f/11 depending on light conditions, and use zone focus with the aux finder. Now I'm in good focus from about 7 to 14 feet and in fair focus from about 6 feet to many feet. If, as Jennifer pointed out, the time I have available is a fraction of a second, all I have to do is raise the camera, frame the picture and go click.

I'm always delighted to see someone on here interested in something besides landscape, flowers, and other kinds of photography that don't involve the real world of people, but street photography is a very, very personal thing. You need to work out your own approach. Good luck with it and I hope we can see some of your work.
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PhillyPhotographer
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« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2011, 10:54:20 PM »
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You are going to have to figure what's the best for you. I've used just about every camera possible from film to digital, Rangefinders, SLRS, DSLRS, point & shoot, etc, etc. Are you comfortable at 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, or 50mm ? Personally I find anything over 35mm to long for street in major cities and have lived by 28mm for the last couple of years with an exception of the Fuji X100. I'm a firm believer that small point & shoot cameras are the way to go again if in a city like NYC or Tokyo. They're silent, almost undetectable until you're right up on them and the form factor makes you look like a tourist. Some like the micro 4/3 but I never cared for them. My preference is the Ricoh GRD 3 ( just announced GRD 4), the Ricoh GXR with the 28mm module and the Ricoh GR1s when I feel like shooting film. Two out of the three will fit in your pocket, your jeans pocket. The fuji X100 is a fantastic camera with excellent image quality and high iso capabilities that surpasses anything M4/3 has come up with yet but it's a look through the viewfinder type of camera. Best advice I can give you when being a street photographer is buy a camera that doesn't make you look like you're a photographer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXghTaROw9A
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Steve Weldon
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« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2011, 12:26:41 AM »
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As others have said, it depends on your style, your current skill set with different camera types (manual focus skills, framing with different types of viewfinders, etc), and the street you're on.  There is no magic formula, like any other photography genre, you access the scene, and you bring what works.  I've used everything from a compact PNS to a 300mm F2.8L IS on a 1 series body to a video camera.

I must admit though, I'm curious about mounting a GoPro on a hard ball cap or maybe even a knapsack strap (front or rear) and giving that a try.  A GoPro sure looks like a small bundle of fun.

Good luck.
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fotometria gr
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« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2011, 07:34:39 PM »
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This question is for those practicing street photographers who would care to take the time to respond (with their reasons/ explanations).
I understand that there will likely be a wide range of preferences but that's OK - I have plenty of time bedridden with the flu!
Thanks in advance,
Bob.
In my view "street" is all about highlight DR (perhaps all photography is). So I would say film. If that's out of the question, Fuji S5pro is what I found the best digital bet by far, It makes the best B&Ws too... Regards, Theodoros. www.fotometria.gr
 
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fotometria gr
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« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2011, 07:46:38 PM »
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You are going to have to figure what's the best for you. I've used just about every camera possible from film to digital, Rangefinders, SLRS, DSLRS, point & shoot, etc, etc. Are you comfortable at 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, or 50mm ? Personally I find anything over 35mm to long for street in major cities and have lived by 28mm for the last couple of years with an exception of the Fuji X100. I'm a firm believer that small point & shoot cameras are the way to go again if in a city like NYC or Tokyo. They're silent, almost undetectable until you're right up on them and the form factor makes you look like a tourist. Some like the micro 4/3 but I never cared for them. My preference is the Ricoh GRD 3 ( just announced GRD 4), the Ricoh GXR with the 28mm module and the Ricoh GR1s when I feel like shooting film. Two out of the three will fit in your pocket, your jeans pocket. The fuji X100 is a fantastic camera with excellent image quality and high iso capabilities that surpasses anything M4/3 has come up with yet but it's a look through the viewfinder type of camera. Best advice I can give you when being a street photographer is buy a camera that doesn't make you look like you're a photographer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXghTaROw9A
All great street photographers (Bresson, Koudelka, Kertez ...etc) used a "look through the viewfinder" camera. Regards, Theodoros www.fotometria.gr
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PhillyPhotographer
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« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2011, 08:27:40 PM »
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All great street photographers (Bresson, Koudelka, Kertez ...etc) used a "look through the viewfinder" camera. Regards, Theodoros www.fotometria.gr

Who cares what the masters of street photography did. They had no choice but to use a camera with a viewfinder.
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fotometria gr
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« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2011, 02:44:13 AM »
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Who cares what the masters of street photography did. They had no choice but to use a camera with a viewfinder.
Now that they have the choice (the ones that still... run, or the younger ones), they still "look through the viewfinder", please have a look at "magnum photography", to see the results, note that most of it (by far) is film as well and its traditional older equipment. Regards, Theodoros.
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PhillyPhotographer
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« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2011, 10:42:39 PM »
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I'm more than familiar with Magnum and I'm still not getting your point. Do you know how many Magnum photographers have started using digital. If you base your photography on what others have done in the past that's exactly where you will be left, in the past.
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OnyimBob
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« Reply #13 on: October 09, 2011, 12:50:15 AM »
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Points made fellas - can we get back on topic? Undecided
I was learning stuff here.
Bob.
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fotometria gr
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« Reply #14 on: October 09, 2011, 01:45:30 AM »
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Points made fellas - can we get back on topic? Undecided
I was learning stuff here.
Bob.
What is you use/used up to now? Is there a friend to lend you a Fuji S5 for you to try? Regards, Theodoros www.fotometria.gr
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OnyimBob
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« Reply #15 on: October 09, 2011, 10:14:03 PM »
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No S5 in my available arsenal. My main camera is a Pentax K20 backed up by a Ricoh GX100 pocket camera with which I'm very content for the sort of work I've been doing. According to Jennifer and others the "one you have with you" is the right camera for street work and indeed unless unavoidable I'm never without a camera at hand. Although the Ricoh is a great little pocketable, camera for that purpose (being at hand) it's not ideal for the sort of photography Russ Lewis describes in his excellent article posted here (thank you Russ - very timely).
My idea of the camera to use is : small (unobtrusive), fast (ie no shutter lag), ability to zone focus, preferably with a viewfinder (personal preference - I've never really enjoyed the Ricoh's lack of one), 35 to 50mm equivalent fixed lens.
Does this indicate I'm on track?
Bob.
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Steve Weldon
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« Reply #16 on: October 09, 2011, 10:44:57 PM »
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Does this indicate I'm on track?
Bob.

One of the most common questions I get on my site and from my clients is the "what kind of camera should I get" genre. 

If they've never owned a camera this becomes a more valid question.  But most already have a camera.  To those, my response is "what can't you do, that you wish to do, with your current camera?"  And I try to get them to be as specific as possible.   

You see, if you've used your current gear enough to know it's limitations and to develop a list of features/specs that you're missing.. then you're ready for a new camera.  And the answer is easy, or at least narrowing it down to a few like models is easy.  The camera that best addresses the limitations and has the features/specs you feel would help your photography.  And yes, while there will be areas of commonality amongst photographers, these areas shift depending on each photographers experience set and needs.. so what other people use doesn't really apply.

Sometimes I recommend what I use if what I use fits their needs best, but most often I recommend, without bias, the models which best fit their self-described needs.   I think this is the best advice a professional can provide.  Anyone who's standard answer is a certain brand, a certain model, or especially if it's what they shoot.. is not the matured opinion you're looking for.

Many don't like this type of answer.  What they want is a rock solid choice with no chance they're making the wrong choice.. and putting the effort into really thinking about what they need and the self-appraisal that goes along with it often irks them.  Life is rarely easy.. so why should this be?

And it's true.. after a period of time with our new camera we'll have a new set of limitations and new set of specs/features we think we'll need.  It's a natural progression we really shouldn't skip.. because if we do then we're cheating ourselves out of the knowledge and experience it takes to get there.   We wouldn't want to do that right?

Still don't believe me?  Okay, think about your last relationship.  Or your current one.  What limitations did your last spouse/mate have, and what features/specs were missing from them that you wished they had?  Chances are the next spouse/mate addressed these areas precisely.  And a few years later, to your horror, you discovered they're not perfect either.  Sometimes not even as good as the last one.  So a new list of limitations and features/specs starts developing.

Living this natural progression is where all your experience and knowledge comes from.  We call it life.

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OnyimBob
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« Reply #17 on: October 09, 2011, 11:27:20 PM »
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Steve, basically what you're saying is "horses for courses" - right? Of course there's no one answer.
I thought I had described "the course" and hoped for some advice about the "horse".
So far the Michael's GRD3 seems closest to the mark but I haven't been able to find any mention of shutter lag for it.
BTW - my first and only relationship has lasted over 40 blissful years!
Bob.
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michswiss
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« Reply #18 on: October 10, 2011, 12:11:46 AM »
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Another horses for courses answer, but my next purchase in this category is liable to be an NEX-7.  I'd love to get into a red-dot RF system, but I've been quite happy with the NEX-5 so far and the 7 nicely addresses the limitations I'd run into.  And it's ultimately a lot less expensive.  I'd looked into the 4/3 systems when making the decision for the Sony.  They weren't for me but it doesn't mean they aren't for you.
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Steve Weldon
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« Reply #19 on: October 10, 2011, 12:59:28 AM »
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Steve, basically what you're saying is "horses for courses" - right? Of course there's no one answer.
I thought I had described "the course" and hoped for some advice about the "horse".
So far the Michael's GRD3 seems closest to the mark but I haven't been able to find any mention of shutter lag for it.
BTW - my first and only relationship has lasted over 40 blissful years!
Bob.
Not exactly.  I'm saying if you've been riding a horse, and you're not finding it suitable for the course, then you're the best person to know why and it would behoove you to think about it carefully and detail why your current horse isn't satisfying you, and how you would change your horse to better serve your needs.

Your riding skills are not mine, nor is the trail you ride the same which I ride.  I probably don't have your physical characteristics (eyesight, hand size, quickness of foot, etc), and perhaps our confidence levels are different.  Maybe our vision of "street photography" is different. 

I'm NOT saying others can't recommend gear.  But I think it's counterproductive to recommend gear because someone famous uses it, or because they like it, or because it's a best seller.  To best recommend gear I want to know what camera you're using now, what about this camera (exactly and detailed) you're finding unsuitable for street photography, and what you think you'd like to have.  With this information I can be much more effective in recommending a camera that will serve you well.. and not necessarily one I use, or I like, or someone else likes.  In other words, your human factors where it comes to a new camera for you, are far more important than mine.


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