Even though street photographers like Martin U. Waltz emphasize that "good street photography has little to do with the equipment used," the question of the best camera for this particular hobby is important. Choosing your own camera is, of course, a lot about taste and the particular use you make of your camera. In street photography, handy, lightweight models that don't weigh more than a kilo with lens are popular. They should also be easy to use and familiar to the photographer. Many photographers attach great importance to a camera that can be turned on quickly or leave it running for the entire time they are in the city. Therefore, when choosing a camera, it is advisable to pay attention to a good battery life.
Discretion is part of the trade
Not only to avoid unpleasant questions or even conflicts and possibly having to show or even delete one's own photos, but also to achieve authentic shots, discretion is the be-all and end-all in street photography. However, instead of not approaching the subjects now and only working with the telephoto lens and thus accepting distortions and a lack of image depth, the street photographer should rather opt for a small and discreet camera. In this context, it can be useful to have a camera with a silent or preferably noiseless shutter release and shutter. A classic design and moderate size can also contribute to discretion. It is therefore advisable not to opt for heavy and particularly conspicuous SLR cameras. Those who shoot quickly also tend to remain undetected and do not risk distorting the scene with their own presence, so cameras with a short shutter release delay are particularly popular.
At Oberwerth you will find suitable camera bags that do not attract too much attention in public due to their simple, elegant design.
SLR, compact or system camera?
Even though SLR cameras take great photos, they are not always the best choice for street photography, as they are not only not very discreet, but often also quite heavy. Many street photographers rather advise a small system camera without mirror or use compact cameras. Above all, it is important that the camera has a good image stabilizer to be able to expose a little longer in low light without blurring the photo. At the same time, such a camera takes low-noise pictures even at high exposures. Even though some street photographers swear by manual focus, a fast autofocus can be worth its weight in gold when taking the right snapshot. Also, a foldable live view screen on the camera is a great tool for experimenting with unusual perspectives.
Important for the best camera in street photography is a waterproof, sturdy housing. And even if we don't like to think about it at all, there is of course a risk of theft with a camera that you carry with you on buses and trains and everywhere on the street. That's why many street photographers prefer mid-priced cameras to the very best, but also very expensive ones. Used cameras can also be a good solution in this regard. A good camera strap and the right bag can further protect against theft.
Digital or analog?
More and more amateur street photographers can be seen roaming the streets again with analog cameras that can be found at flea markets or in grandma's junk room. Analog cameras are not least an expression of an attitude to life and a style that reflects the photographer's preferences. And of course they have their technical advantages. Some prefer to shoot manually, and the old analog cameras often offer the best option for this. Analog cameras can be a great training tool for learning the craft of photography, but many photographers prefer lightweight digital cameras in the long run because they can take several shots in quick succession and then easily edit them on the computer. It is important to be able to save photos in RAW format first, so that they can be rescued in Lightroom afterwards even if the exposure is incorrect.
Ideally inconspicuous and always with you: the smartphone
Opinions are divided on the question of the smartphone in street photography. Some think it's not a good idea to take pictures with a smartphone because it's often not ready to use quickly enough and criticize the lack of creative scope due to the few options for settings. The image quality also does not come close to compact or system cameras, especially when taking pictures in low-light conditions or at night. Others, on the other hand, argue that even in art galleries and exhibitions, more and more pictures taken with a cell phone camera can be found. Besides, the smartphone is guaranteed to be with you at all times, and since people in the city are so used to its presence, it can even be used to take photos in the subway without being noticed. Last but not least, the proponents of the smartphone in street photography see it as a good exercise especially for beginners, because they do not have to invest in an expensive camera, but can start right away. Better cell phone street photography than none at all!
While each camera brings its own style and challenges, it is important that the photographer not only knows his or her camera very well, but above all enjoys using it. With an SLR, for example, a foray into the city can have a ritual feel. Like a uniform or a costume, photographers thus also put on their cameras and slip into the role of observer, ceasing to be part of the street scene themselves. This can be harder to do with the everyday smartphone, but everyone has to try that out for themselves.
The camera determines the lens
Since the possible lenses depend on the camera, the right lens for street photography should be considered when buying the camera. In street photography, high-speed lenses with fixed focal lengths between 28 mm and 50 mm are mainly used. You can find out more about this here Find. Finally, it should be emphasized that practice and experience make a good street photographer. If you already have a camera, it can be good to go with it. Over time, you will find out how heavy or light you want your camera to be.
Images: Phil Penman