The future of photography is software, not hardware.
“Software is eating the world” – Marc Andreessen
It seems like we have hit (somewhat) of an upper-limit with hardware in photography.
For example, there are limits to physics, in terms of how sharp we can make lenses. Innovation and progress in sensor technology is good– but incremental at best.
I’m interested in 10x gains (in the thinking of Peter Thiel).
Obviously, it is difficult to make 10x gains in camera technology. With hardware, there are physical limits, which prevent us from making these revolutionary 10x gains. If we want 10x gains in camera hardware, we need to design a totally brand-new camera concept/category (like when Steve Jobs introduced the iPad– the brand-new category of tablet computing).
When my RICOH GR II broke in Japan earlier this year, I looked at all the brand-new digital cameras at the camera stores. Unfortunately, all the cameras were far more similar than dissimilar.
The only brand I saw that was truly innovative was Lumix-Panasonic. Their “iA” (intelligent auto) mode is pretty amazing (software) — which does a phenomenal job of choosing your ideal technical settings, so you can just “set it and forget it” (camera settings), to focus on what is truly important:
Shooting powerful photos.
Software for film-simulations
I was also blown away by the ability for the Lumix G9 to simulate black and white film-grain (dynamic monochrome JPEG setting). It really really looks good. At least 80% “good enough” to simulate the look of Tri-X 400 grain or so. To be frank at this point, I’m not that interested in shooting black and white film anymore– knowing that you can get such phenomenal film simulations from Lumix.
Color photography is a bit tricky. I still haven’t really discovered anything that looks as good as Kodak Portra 400 35mm film. However– the Pentax 645Z digital-medium-format camera with the JPEG color film preset looks quite phenomenal. So if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of processing color film, shooting with a digital-medium-format camera seems like a good option (for color photography).
Smaller/lighter is better.
My RICOH GR II is broken, yet I can still shoot with it– and I love it!
I also had this random thought while doing deadlifts at the gym the other day:
“Light weight buddy!” – Ronnie Coleman (bodybuilder-powerlifter)
Ultimately– isn’t light-weight more desirable than heavy?
For example if you travel, isn’t it best to be ultralight?
The lighter you are, the further you can walk (with less fatigue). The lighter you are, the higher you can jump! The lighter you are, the easier you can fly!
Even with hyper-cars, the easiest way to add more power/speed to these cars is to simply lighten the cars (carbon fiber).
Computational photography makes us lighter
So anyways I got off-topic, but this is what I mean to say:
Computational photography (software improvements to our phone cameras), allows us to make better pictures with the ultralight phone.
For example, the most innovative smartphone camera at the moment is probably the Google Pixel, with their HDR+ mode, and now their new ‘night vision’ mode.
Ideas for cameras:
1. Simple software
When you buy a new camera, look for which camera companies have the best software. This means,
- Who has the simplest user-interface/menus?
- Generally speaking, the simpler the software, the better.
- Optimize for light-weight cameras, over functions.
2. Don’t upgrade over incremental upgrades
Whenever a new camera comes out, ask yourself:
Is this 10x better than the previous version?
If not, don’t upgrade.
However, if you consider the software upgrades 10x better, it is a good idea to upgrade.
3. Suggestions for camera companies
Some ideas for camera companies/phone camera companies:
- Focus on improvements in software: Try to make the software, menus, user-interface super super simple.
- Build new composition tools for software, to help photographers improve their composition. This is more important than silly megapixels, and other bells and whistles.
- Whenever possible, shed weight from your future cameras. The smaller, lighter, and compact the camera– the better.
If you’re reading this and you’re an innovator, a developer, photographer with a hunger for creating dope shit– ask yourself:
How can I help drive photography forward, by helping improve software?
Software can also be as simple as ideas. Make new ideas, new processes, new techniques, and approaches.
(KISS) Keep it super simple,
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.
If you’re not feeling inspired in your photography, I recommend you to buy books, not gear. Also check out these 75+ Inspirational Photo Books You Gotta Buy. You can also download my free books.
Equipment Articles >
- RICOH MAFIA
- Use and Abuse Your Gear!
- Why RICOH GR II is the Best Street Photography Camera
- The Best Photography/Vlogging Equipment Setup
- My Favorite Travel Street Photography Equipment
- Zen Body-Hand-Mind Connection with the Camera
- Why It Doesn’t Matter What Camera You Shoot With
- 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
Smartphone Photography >
- 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 Photography 101 >
- 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.
If you end up buying the camera, I recommend picking up a 3” LCD screen protector, shooting in RAW, and using my free Lightroom film simulation presets.
- 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
Fujifilm X100F Review // Buy on Amazon for $1300 >
Best digital compact camera
Ricoh GR II Review // Buy on Amazon for $600 >
Best 3-inch screen protector
For Ricoh GR II: Expert Shield 3” LCD protector ($14)
Best designed mirrorless camera
Olympus Pen F (silver): $1200 + Olympus 17mm f/1.8 Lens: $500 //my review
Best value mirrorless camera
Fujifilm XT-2 ($1600) + Fujinon XF23mmF2 WR Lens ($450)
Best digital rangefinder
Leica M10 + Leica 35mm f/2 ASPH Lens
Best digital video camera
Sony A7S II ($2700) + Sony 35mm F2.8 Sonnar ($800)
Best SD card
Transcend 128 GB SD card UHS-3: $73
Best fashion digital camera
Pentax Medium-format digital 645Z ($6500) + Pentax 55mm F2.8 AL ($960) // 7 Lessons I’ve Learned Shooting Fashion Photography For the First Time
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
Kodak Tri-X 400 (pushed to 1600): $5
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
“The Suffering of Light” by Alex Webb
Best photography handbook
Best philosophy book
On the Shortness of Life – Seneca ($8) // 10 Lessons Seneca Has Taught Me.
Best digital tools
Any MacBook Air or Pro
iPad Pro 10.5 inch, 64 gb, space grey
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
Casio Men’s F108WH Illuminator Collection Black Resin Strap Digital Watch: $13
ExOfficio Men Boxer Brief (black): $26
Outlier NYC Merino Wool T-Shirt
Darn Tough Socks Merino Wool
Nike Free Flyknight RN Motion (black/white) // my review
Merino Wool Leggings (black)
Best bank / credit card (USA)
Chase / Chase Sapphire credit card
Best entrepreneurial tools
Best blogging platform
WordPress.org + Genesis theme (I use the ‘Academy Pro’ theme).
Best paid online services
Best cloud storage
Diet & Nutrition
Intermittent fasting — with one big meal a day (only dinner)
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.