Street Photography: What camera should you use?

One of the most frequently asked questions I get when it comes to street photography is “What camera should I use?“. And to be honest, there really isn’t any easy answer to this, but these are my thoughts about it.

Personally I use three different cameras and they all do fill their purpose so I can’t really say that this particular camera is the best there are for street photography. I am certain that what suits me doesn’t necessarily suit you. So, what am I using then?

A big DSLR

My trusty old DSLR is still being used quite often out on the streets, that’s for sure. Thing is that when you’re out there with my kinda setup it’s hard being stealthy and blend in. At least when it comes to walking around in areas not crowded by tourists.

I live in Stockholm (Sweden) where there are approximately 2 million people living in the greater area of the city, so walking around in the city with a Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 50 EF/1,4 USM attached to it does give a way of blending in, at least in the most crowded areas in the city and Old Town. But when I’m out in the suburbs or in lesser crowded areas people do notice me miles away with that camera.

Street Photography Stockholm

Street Photography Stockholm

But then again, I live in a country where there is darkness what seems like 9 months a year with a very long winter. If we’re lucky we’ll get a day or two of summer as well. So I do use my Canon DSLR way more in the winter months than during the summer just because it is by far the best camera I have when it comes to handling higher ISO.

What if you want to travel more light and stealthy you might ask?

Shooting street photography with a compact camera

During my trip to New York a few months ago I had my eyes on the Ricoh GR Digital that I’ve been using quite heavily ever since. While being a lot smaller than a DSLR in doesn’t handle higher ISO as good which makes the images a bit more grainy. But hey, I usually convert all my street photography to black and white so I actually like a little grain in them.

This little camera with snap focus functionality has become the camera I tend to use the most recently. And there are two primary reasons to it actually:

  1. It’s small, meaning it doesn’t weight so much and makes it easy to carry around.
  2. It’s small, meaning I can become more stealthy and get closer to my subjects without them noticing it.

Street Photography New York: 34th Street Subway

Street Photography New York: Chinatown

The fun part of using this particular camera is that is’t equipped with a fixed 28 mm lens so I really need to push my self into going closer in order to get the shots I want.

I did mention three camera in the beginning, so what’s the third camera then?

The iPhone 5

Chase Jarvis once said that the best camera is the one you got with you and I couldn’t agree more. I shoot quite a lot with my iPhone actually but not that many shots actually go all the way into being published online. Using the iPhone is a great practise to learn how to work with the available light and to get better at composition.

Even though I’ve got a ton of photo apps on my phone, it all boils down to 3 apps that I really use in the end.

Street Photography with an iPhone

So, what should you shoot street photography with?

You can by all means shoot street photography with any kind of camera and I’d say that it’s really up to you. Usually people say that don’t care about the gear, because it’s only a tool of the trade. But in this case I’d like to go in the opposite direction and actually say; Care about the gear.

If you have the possibility, try out shooting the streets with a DSLR one day and go with a compact camera the other day. Experiment with different cameras and sizes until you actually find the camera or system that suits you the best for shooting the streets.

Learn from others, but be unique in your own photography.