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.”
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.
Got a question regarding equipment? Ask your question on the “Streettogs Equipment Group” on Facebook.
Updated April, 2013
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:
Digital: Fujifilm x100s
I remember when the original Fujifilm x100 came out, it was a superb camera in every regard (except for the slow autofocus). Now with the new Fujifilm x100s, the autofocus is insanely fast (Fuji claims it to be the fastest in the world). Based on my experiences playing with the x100s for a day, I can attest it is as fast (if not faster) than the Olympus OMD (which is also an amazing camera).
I also think that for the majority of street photographers, 35mm is an ideal focal length. 50mm tends to be a tight when shooting on the streets, and 28mm is too wide for most people.
Not only that, but it is extremely light, has superb image quality (and high-ISO performance in the ASPC-sensor), and an optical finder. In terms of price, it is also probably the best bang-for-the-buck camera for street photography at the moment.
To be quite honest, I don’t see any flaws with the camera. Sure it would be nice if there was a real manual focusing tab on the camera (maybe the next generation of the x100 will have it) but I assume most street photographers would use autofocus on it anyways.
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 Voightlander 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
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.
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).
When shooting street photography, it is important to have a small and light bag that isn’t very conspicious. 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
If you want a comfortable shoulder strap that helps you capture the decisive moment without looking like a tourist, check out the Custom SLR Glidestrap (one of my sponsors!). It makes shooting with my DSLR for street photography far better. I can’t stand shooting with my DSLR around my neck (way too heavy and hurts my neck–and it looks amateurish). However with the Custom SLR Glidestrap you can carry your DSLR by your hip, and simply raise it up when you want to take the image. Oh yeah, the Camera Split Strap it comes with it is comfortable as hell as well.
* I am sponsored by CSLR
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.