As a word of encouragement: it doesn’t matter what camera you shoot with. Why? No matter how “good” or “bad” your camera is, you will get used to it (what psychologists call ‘hedonic adaptation’).
My personal story
For example, when I started photography when I was 18 years old, my first “real” camera was a digital point and shoot camera, I think it was a 1.3 megapixel Canon SD 600 powershot digital point and shoot camera. I remember how amazed and positively overwhelmed I was having the camera — just imagine the initial enthusiasm we all had when we first switched from having the disposable film cameras (which took you days of waiting before you saw your photos). When I got my first digital camera with an LCD screen where you could instantly see and review your photos, I was so amazed!
Now, we take digital technology and photography for granted. I still remember the days of dial up Internet (my 28.8k modem on AOL 3.0), and how it was such a privilege to access and use the internet. I still fondly remember the days my mom would yell at me for “hogging up the phone line” so much, in order for me to play Starcraft or download something really big online (I remember it took me literally two straight days to download 1/30 RAR files for the original pirated version of Grand Theft Auto on my first PC, an Acer Aspire with Pentium I processor (with MMX technology, whatever that meant).
Anyways nowadays with instant and ubiquitous WiFi and 4g Internet, we are spoiled. Whenever something on YouTube takes longer than 3 seconds to buffer, I get annoyed. Or when Google maps takes longer than 2 seconds to identify my position on my personal GPS coordinates.
Digital photography is the same: we are spoiled with cheap full-frame cameras, with a bajillion megapixels, and enough bells and whistles to confuse and distract us for the rest of our lives.
At this point, there are no longer any bad digital cameras. They are all good. This includes all iPhones, and most Android devices as well.
I’ve pretty much shot with all the high-end, expensive, and fancy cameras out there, and to be honest, all cameras are more similar than dissimilar. At this point, the only “meaningful differentiation” that cameras and certain camera systems have are aesthetics (how the camera looks), ergonomics (how big the camera is, and how it fits in your hands), and the user interface (simplicity of menus, buttons, and logic of the layout of shutter, exposure dials, ISO, focusing, etc.)
This means, no matter what camera you own, no matter how many times you upgrade the camera— the experience will be more similar than dissimilar.
Ask yourself the question, “What is a camera, and what does a camera do?” Fundamentally, a digital camera is a metal box with a lens and a sensor, and you click a button, and it captures light and records a photograph onto a memory card.
- Hedonism: pleasure
- Adaptation: getting used to something
- Treadmill: you keep running faster, just to keep up
‘Hedonic adaptation’ is an important psychological and philosophical principle: no matter how good (or bad) something is, sooner or later, we will get “used to it” or adapt/become accustomed to it.
For example, let’s say I buy a new $7,000 digital Leica. The first month is awesome, but after that first month, I get “used to it”, and no longer feel the initial thrill/pleasure I did when I first bought it.
Or when I first upgraded my iPad Air to an iPad Pro. I can first note the differences (brighter screen, faster with less lag), but I soon “get used to it” and no longer appreciate the upgrade.
The same goes with phones, laptops, cars, homes, lifestyle, food, clothes, and almost everything in life.
The “hedonic treadmill” means that in order to keep “feeling good/pleasure” is to keep on upgrading whatever you have/own. That means you’re on a never-ending treadmill, that keeps going faster and faster. You just always have the newest newest iPhone, car, camera, and whatever trendy something in order to “keep up with the Joneses”.
What’s the consequence of all this?
- Because you will adapt no matter how good or bad your camera is, it almost makes sense to opt for the cheaper camera, pre-anticipating your “hedonic adaptation”. By spending less money on the camera, you will have more cash to do more fun/meaningful things with your money, like experiences (traveling, meeting friends for dinner/food/coffee, attending educational photography classes/conferences/workshops) or buying photography books that will inspire and motivate you to make more and better photos.
- When you do eventually upgrade your digital camera or device, you’re realistic that the upgrade won’t be that dramatic. That means, buying a new camera or upgrading won’t suddenly re-inspire or transform your photography for the better.
- Not making your camera the excuse of your lack of motivation to take photos.
It isn’t your fault that you feel dissatisfied with your camera gear
To be honest, if you’ve ever felt “gear acquisition syndrome” (GAS) it’s not your fault. Blame it on instagram (people making you feel envious because of their #cameraporn), blame it on the camera companies/blogs/industry (who want to brainwash you to perpetually be dissatisfied with your camera equipment, in order for you to keep buying new gear), and blame modern-day capitalist/consumerist society. If we as consumers stopped buying new stuff and cameras, the whole photography and capitalist economy would fall apart.
Know that it is hard to eradicate the urge or desire to buy new shit you probably don’t need. The only way I’ve been able to “reformat my mental hard drive” is by fasting from the Internet (I haven’t used/read Reddit since 2010, not reading modern-day news, deleting my Instagram, installing adblockers on all my browsers for all my devices, no longer checking my Facebook, getting rid of my phone, and no longer checking my email). I’ve become a digital monk/recluse of some sorts, in order to refresh my brain, which I felt was being hijacked by modern technology, social media (what Jaron Lanier calls ‘behavior altering empires’), and modern advertising/marketing.
Now, the upshot of all of this is that I’m now more productive (productive as producing more blog posts, articles, books, videos, photos, etc— not productive as answering emails), I shoot more photos, I walk around more (and thus have an improved mood), I feel less unnecessary stress and anxiety on a daily basis, I eat and sleep better, have deeper and less interrupted conversations with friends/family/Cindy, and overall am a lot happier and more fulfilled in life.
True happiness in photography is to shoot more!
For example, recently my RICOH GR II broke (the aperture blades are now stuck when I turn on the camera), so I’m just using the Lumix LX100 that my friend Dav gave to Cindy. It’s not the “best” camera out there, but good enough for me — small, compact, light, wide-angle 24mm lens, quick to autofocus and shoot, close macro functions, and fun to shoot. The high iso or image quality isn’t the best, but good enough.
Now that I don’t care to have the “best” camera, I make fewer excuses for myself, and therefore end up shooting more photos. And the more I shoot, the happier I am!
JUST SHOOT IT.
There is no “perfect” camera. Don’t fall into GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and falsely believe that buying a new camera will make you a better photographer.
- What is the Best Camera and Lenses for Street Photography?
- The Best Travel Street Photography Equipment 2018
- 6 Lessons I’ve Learned After Shooting All the Expensive Cameras
- How to Make Good Photos on a Shitty Camera
- Why I Shoot With One Camera and One Lens
- My Travel Equipment, Winter 2017
- What is the Perfect Camera For You?
- What to Consider When Buying a Camera
- The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Smartphone Photography
- Benefits of Shooting Street Photography With a Smartphone
- In Street Photography, The Smaller the Camera, the Better
- Film Street Photography Manual
- What I Learned Shooting 100 Rolls of Black and White Film
- What I Learned Processing 164 Rolls of Film
My favorite camera for street photography
There is no perfect camera for street photography and everyone’s tastes are different. My favorite camera for street photography is the Ricoh GR II.
The Ricoh GR II is the best bang-for-the-buck camera for street photography on the market. It has an APS-C sensor (DSLR-sized sensor), a super-sharp 28mm lens (no anti-aliasing filter), and literally fits into your front pocket.
The Ricoh GR II is pretty much the same as the prior Ricoh GR, except it has Wi-Fi built in.
Why do I recommend the Ricoh GR II?
First of all, for street photography you want the smallest, most compact, and inconspicuous camera (that you can always carry with you). I find that with other digital cameras, you end up never carrying them with you 24/7, simply because they are too big. The Fujifilm X100F and digital Leica’s are fantastic tools, but honestly even those cameras are too big to fit in your front pocket.
In street photography, the size of the sensor is also not very important. In-fact, having a non-full frame camera is generally preferable, because you have more depth-of-field in street photography, which is beneficial to “zone-focusing.”
When I shoot with the Ricoh GR II, I generally keep the camera on “P” mode, ISO 1600, and center-point autofocus. I treat it like a point-and-shoot: I simply point and click. This makes me have to think less when shooting, and spend more energy focusing on the composition, framing, and capturing emotion in the photos.
Many photographers bemoan the fact that the Ricoh GR II doesn’t have a viewfinder. Honestly, I feel that viewfinders are a bit overrated — the LCD screen helps you be more creative with your compositions (shooting super-low angle, or a super-high angle), and also helps you photograph your subjects closer (putting a small compact camera close to someone’s face is less intimidating than putting a big DSLR lens into someone’s face).
Also if you want, the Ricoh GR II has a fantastic “snap mode” which allows you to pre-focus to a certain distance (1 meter, 1.5 meters, 5 meters, infinity), which is like zone-focusing on a rangefinder camera. This means when you’re shooting on the streets on a sunny day, you can set your pre-focus to 1.5 meters, ISO 1600, aperture-priority mode in f/8, and take photos that are all sharp and in-focus.
In addition, the Ricoh GR II has the simplest yet comprehensive menu out of any digital camera I’ve used. You can change the function buttons, you can change whether the power lamp is on or off, and everything in the menu is easily searchable. I believe the Ricoh GR II was designed by photographers, not simply by engineers.
The camera is extremely affordable, which means you can save all your hard-earned cash on buying experiences, not stuff. Use that money to travel to a country you’ve always wanted to travel, to buy photography books, and to invest in photography-education (workshops, classes, seminars).
Furthermore, you can charge the camera via USB, which means you don’t need to travel with a bulky battery-charger. As long as you keep the camera off while you’re not shooting on the streets, one battery should last you a full day.
- Read my review of the Ricoh GR II
Best Equipment by ERIC KIM
This is a list of my personal favorite equipment in photography, computers, and life:
Of course, this list probably won’t apply to you — but this is advice I would give myself (if I needed to buy stuff):
My favorite cameras:
Best value digital camera for street photography
Best digital compact camera
Best 3-inch screen protector
For Ricoh GR II: Expert Shield 3” LCD protector ($14)
Best designed mirrorless camera
Best value mirrorless camera
Best digital rangefinder
Best digital video camera
Best SD card
Best fashion digital camera
If you’re new to shooting film, pick up a copy of FILM NOTES.
Best film rangefinder
Leica MP + Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron Lens
Best affordable film rangefinder
Leica M6 + Voigtlander 35mm f/2.5 Lens
Best compact film camera
Best medium-format film camera
Fujifilm GF670 (discontinued, find on eBay)
Best black and white film
Best color film
Best film scanner
For medium-format/35mm: Epson v800: $800
For 35mm: Plustek OpticFilm 8100: $270
Best camera shoulder bag
Best camera backpack
Fits 13” Laptop and Camera: Thinktank Perception 15 (black): $120
Best photography neck strap
Best photography wrist strap
Best photography inspiration website
Best photography news blog
Best photography software
Best video editing software
iMovie (free) or Final Cut Pro X ($300)
Best educational photography book
Best black-and-white photography art book
Best color photography art book
Best photography handbook
Best philosophy book
Best digital tools
Any MacBook Air or Pro
Best value phone
iPhone SE (cheapest model): $400
Best android phone
Best value android phone
Best Mac Apps
Best writing app
IA Writer (for writing) + Ulysses (for note-taking)
Best screen recorder
Best image resizer
Best noise-cancelling headphones
Apple Beats X
Darn Tough Socks Merino Wool
Merino Wool Leggings (black)
Best bank / credit card (USA)
Chase / Chase Sapphire credit card
Best entrepreneurial tools
Best blogging platform
Best paid online services
Best cloud storage
Diet & Nutrition
Deadlifts (one rep max) + squats + dumbbell press + chin-ups + pushups
Of course this is just a list of stuff that work for me. It probably won’t work for you.
But I got inspired to make this list– because it took me about 10 years to figure out the best equipment for me. And this works for me, and I hope it can help simplify your purchasing decisions (at least in photography and some other details).
I’ll continue to do articles and videos related to equipment– because I do believe (up to a certain degree) having the ‘right’ equipment in life makes life easier. But the problem is falling victim to GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) where we are buying stuff for the sake of it (has happened to me).
If you already have a bunch of equipment that works for you– stick with it. But if you need some help, I hope this list helped you.