Having the right camera and focal length that suits your style of street photography is very important. However don’t fall into GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and thinking that buying a nice camera/lens will make you a better street photographer. Also read this article on “What to Consider When Buying a Camera for Street Photography.” Another related article: “8 Ways How Money Can Buy Happiness in Street Photography“.
I think it is a better idea to buy books, not gear. Need some recommendations for street photography books? Check out 75+ Inspirational Street Photography Books You Gotta Buy.
I’ve also written a guide on how to use your camera for street photography: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide for Cameras in Street Photography.
Got a question regarding equipment? Ask your question on the “Streettogs Equipment Group” on Facebook.
Updated June 27th, 2014
Digital camera recommendations for street photography
One of the questions I get asked most is what camera I recommend for street photography.
Like I mentioned, there is no perfect camera for street photography and everyone’s tastes are different. However these are my top recommendations at the moment:
#1: Fujifilm x100s
Disclaimer: Fujifilm x100s gave me a free x100s to keep and use, but I personally really like the camera.
My current favorite bang-for-the-buck digital camera for street photography is the Fujifilm x100s. I love how light, compact, and easy it is to carry around everywhere I go. I generally wear it around my neck, and can walk around all day without feeling any weight. The colors are the best I have seen out of a digital camera, ISO looks clean up to 3200, and
Also I feel the 35mm focal length is the “ideal” focal length for street photography. It is wide enough for most situations, and close enough that you don’t have to be closer than a meter away.
I’d recommend it in black– because it is a lot sexier (and takes better photos– haha I joke).
The autofocus isn’t the fastest in the world, but I like having the option of having an optical and an electronic viewfinder. If you want ultimate fast autofocus, opt instead for the Olympus OM-D EM-1.
If very fast Autofocus and accuracy is important to you, I’d recommend the Olympus OM-D EM-1 (which is much quicker than the x100s). Image quality isn’t as good as the Fuji x100s, but plenty good enough for street photography.
For the lens, I’d recommend the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens — which is a 35mm “full frame” equivalent. It has superb manual focusing abilities for zone-focusing, and is small and compact.
Film camera recommendations for street photography
Film: Leica M6 and 35mm f/2.5 Voightlander lens
The Leica M6 is definitely the best bang-for-the-buck film Leica you can get. It is has a meter, all the frame lines you need, and is quite compact and light. I loved my first Leica M6 (thanks to Todd Hatakeyama for giving it to me as a gift) but I ended up upgrading to the Leica MP after I sold my M9. The MP and the M6 are pretty much the same camera, except the MP is newer and thus more reliable (which helps when I travel).
In terms of the lens, the Voigtlander 35mm f/2.5 lens is the best bang-for-the-buck lens you can get. It only costs a few hundred bucks, is one of the smallest lenses I’ve used, and is very sharp as well.
For buying any film cameras, I highly recommend Bellamy Hunt (Japan Camera Hunter). I get all my stuff from him, and I love the peace-of-mind he gives me (he personally makes sure all the cameras work properly and are in good condition).
I am a big fan of compact cameras for street photography. Why? Because you can carry them with you everywhere you go (which will make you more likely to take photos). Not only that, but they tend to be the least threatening and conspicuous cameras to use on the streets.
Digital: Ricoh GRD 5
Disclaimer: Ricoh gave me a GRD V for free to keep. I am not getting paid to include the camera here.
For digital, I recommend the Ricoh GRD V. It has a very sharp 28mm lens, one of the most comfortable grips I have used, and easy functions to pre-focus on the street. And an ASPC-sized Sensor.
You can also see my in-depth review of the Ricoh GRD-V on the blog here.
Film: Contax T2
For film, I recommend the Contax T2. It has a sharp Zeiss 38mm f/2.8 lens, zone-focusing abilities, and is built like a tank. It is a superb bang-for-the-buck camera. The Contax T3 is quite similar, except it has a 35mm lens, is a bit more compact, but has worse handling (it is like holding a bar of soap).
Lens Recommendations for Street Photography
I generally recommend around a 35mm full-frame equivalent in terms of focal length for street photography. I also don’t advocate for zoom or telephoto lenses. Depending on your camera, I would recommend getting the smallest and most compact (close to) 35mm full-frame equivalent.
If you have a full-frame Canon DSLR, I highly recommend the Canon 40mm f/2.8 Pancake Lens.
If you have a crop-sensor Canon DSLR, I recommend the Canon 24mm f/2.8 Lens (roughly a ~38mm full-frame equivalent).
If you have a full-frame Nikon DSLR, I highly recommend the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 Lens.
If you have a crop-sensor Nikon DSLR, I recommend the Nikon 24mm f/2.8 Lens (roughly a ~38mm full-frame equivalent).
When shooting street photography, it is important to have a small and light bag that isn’t very conspicuous. This is why I recommend the thinkTANK Retrospective 5, as it is small and discrete–while being able to carry all of your street photography gear. It is perfect for those who shoot with Leica’s, micro 4/3rds, or even those with small DSLR’s. If you have an iPad, I recommend the thinkTANK Retrospective 7.
- thinkTANK Retrospective 5 (best all-around size, super small and compact
- thinkTANK Retrospective 7 (if you want to carry an iPad or 11” Macbook air)
One of my good friends, Todd Hatakeyama, makes the “Street Strap” — one of my favorite straps for my Leica. It also works well for Fujifilms, Micro 4/3rds, and other smaller cameras.
If you own a DSLR, I recommend the Custom SLR Glidestrap.
If you own a point-and-shoot (or prefer a hand-strap), I recommend the Gordy Handstrap.
Flashes for Street Photography
If you are interested in using a flash for street photography, here are some options:
If you shoot with a Leica, I recommend the Leica SF 20 (if you shoot film) or the Leica SF 24D (if you shoot digital). The difference between the both is that the Leica SF 24D allows TTL mode on digital Leicas. You can still use the Leica SF 20 on a digital Leica, but you won’t have TTL mode.
The Leica SF-series flash is great because it is compact, powerful, and recharges extremely quickly. They also run on CR 123A batteries which last a long time.
If you shoot with an Fujifilm x100s, I’d just recommend using the integrated flash. For most cases, it is strong enough.
If you want a stronger flash, Fuji makes an external flash (EF-X20) which is small and compact, and allows you to use either TTL or manual. I tried using it and it worked quite well. The TTL mode is accurate and there are nice dials to control it manually. I found one small annoyance is that it only accepts AAA batteries. Not only that, but the recharge time was a bit slow and the batteries die relatively quickly. But still the best bang-for-the-buck flash for a Fuji.
If you shoot street photography with a DSLR, I just recommend using the pop-up integrated flash in “P” mode. Why? It is generally powerful enough, and gives good “pop” to your subjects.
If you want an affordable flash, I recommend the YN 560– which I used to use on my old Canon 5D.
Film for Street Photography
You don’t need a specific film to shoot street photography. But I generally do recommend shooting at least an ISO of 400 — so your shutter speed is quick enough.
For color, I personally shoot Kodak Portra 400, which has great saturation, contrast, and skin tones. I use a flash, so I just shoot it at 400. If you don’t use a flash, I recommend pushing the film to ISO 800.
If you want more green/blue colors to pop in your shots, I recommend Fujifilm Pro 400H.
Black and White Film
For black and white film, I shoot Kodak Tri-X 400. It is the tested classic, and used for decades. The grain, contrast, and sharpness is unparalleled. I personally recommend pushing the film to ISO 800 or even 1600 if you’re shooting without a flash.
Another great alternative is ILFORD HP-5. I recommend just experimenting with both, and seeing which look you prefer.
If you shoot film, below are the two scanners I recommend:
- Epson V700 – Best bang-for-the-buck scanner for 35mm film, slide film, or medium-format film. Very versatile, fast, and great image quality.
- Plustek 7600 – Hands-down the best dedicated 35mm film/slide film scanner out there. It is a bit slower to use than the V700 (as you have to manually feed the photos individually) but the overall image quality is superior.