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“.
Don’t forget: is always a better idea to buy books, not gear. Need some recommendations for street photography books? Check out a list of 100+ Inspirational Street Photography Books You Gotta Buy.
Updated Sept 10th, 2015
My favorite digital camera for street photography
There is no perfect camera for street photography and everyone’s tastes are different. However my favorite digital camera for street photography is:
#1: Ricoh GR
Disclaimer: Ricoh gave me a GR for free to keep. I am not getting paid to include the camera here.
At the moment, my favorite compact digital camera for street photography is the new Ricoh GR ($500). I think the biggest problem most street photographers have is that they never have their camera with them. The great thing about the Ricoh GR is that you always have it in your pocket, the image quality is amazing (it has an APS-C sensor), and it is small and unobtrusive. The awesome “snap focus” mode also allows you to pre-focus your distance, and take photos of “the decisive moment” without any lag.
You can read my in-depth review of the Ricoh GR.
Film camera recommendation for street photography
#1: 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.
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).
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.
I recommend the Fujifilm 27mm f/2.8 lens (around a ~40mm full-frame equivalent) for any X-series cameras. It is small, cheap, and compact– and very sharp (and a great focal length for street photography).
I recommend the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens, a great pancake lens that has manual-focusing capabilities (and scale focus) directly on the lens.
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.
Check out 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 a Fujifilm X100-series camera, 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.
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.
If you shoot film, I recommend investing in an Epson v700, which scans 35mm, medium format, and even large format. Great sharpness, speed, resolution, and a good “all in one” solution for all your film needs.