If you are purchasing a camera for Street Photography, the terms and choices may appear a little daunting. This guide is here to put you straight. I will run through DSLR’s, Mirrorless, Bridge Cameras, Fixed Focal-length cameras and point and shoots. At the end of this article I have placed some links to some of my blog posts aimed towards the photographer who is starting to explore the world of Street Photography. We start of with the great debate, mirrorless v DSLR’s. Both of these cameras are also termed ILC’s (Interchangeable lens cameras).
DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex camera. These cameras have interchangeable lenses. When you purchase a DSLR, it will most likely come with a Kit Lens. These lenses can be excellent and will suit your purpose well. However, at some stage, you will want to experiment with new glass. When expanding a lens collection, you may wish to purchase a fixed focal length lens, which is a popular choice for many Street Photographers.
These cameras offer a lot of flexibility. As DSLR’s are large, they offer a number of external controls, which are useful when you are learning your craft. When purchasing a camera with interchangeable lenses, you need to think of the glass available. Nikon and Canon, arguably the more popular options for this style of camera, offer a vast number of lens choices.
The negatives of a DSLR relate to its size. They are large and heavy, and the size can also be quite intrusive for Street Photography. Many people in the industry believe that DSLR’s are going to be obsolete in the future. If you want flexibility and a smaller size, then a Mirrorless may be your best option. However, battery life is much better with a DSLR.
DSLR’s have a mirror and a glass prism inside and that is what makes them bulky. Mirrorless cameras do not need the physical parts of their DSLR cousins, and this makes them much smaller. The size of these cameras can mean that many of the controls are hidden in complex menus, although most models can be customised to suit your shooting style. Sony, Olympus, and Fujifilm all have models worth playing with. There are a plethora of lenses available for mirrorless cameras now, you will be spoiled for choice no matter what system you choose.
The view finders on a mirrorless camera are referred to as an EVF (electronic view finder). In the past EVF’s have taken some grief, as they briefly black out after you have taken a photo, but this is almost unnoticeable with recent models. Not all mirrorless cameras have an EVF, instead they just have a screen on the back. If you shoot with a phone, you will be used to using a screen to compose your photos. However, bright sunlight can make framing a photo difficult if you cannot bring the camera to your eye! If you are used to a DSLR and moving to a mirrorless system, be prepared for a shortfall in the life of your batteries!
This style of camera gets its name as it ‘bridges’ the gap between the more ‘professional’ interchangeable lens cameras and ‘point and shoot’. They often come with quite a flexible zoom lens and have many of the features of an DSLR/ Mirrorless camera. The disadvantages is that you only have the one lens, if you want to experiment with a different focal length then you need a different style of camera. However, there are some great options out there, and these cameras are well suited to travel photography.
These cameras do not have a zoom lens, I.e., the lens is ‘fixed’. This makes them small and light, and the lenses are generally of excellent quality. Because of the size, these cameras make a great everyday companion or travel camera. However, the inability to zoom does limit the artistic scope of these cameras. Because of their size, they are also discrete. This style of camera is often a favourite for Street Photographers. Popular models include the Ricoh Grii and the Fujifilm X100 series.
Small, lightweight and go anywhere. The cheap point and shoots are becoming obsolete as phone cameras increase in quality. Manufacturers are responding by making some high-quality point and shoot cameras, with large sensors hidden inside small camera bodies. These cameras are referred to a ‘point and shoot’ because you do just that, so don’t expect to learn photography settings using these cameras (some are better than others). Purchase one of these beauties and you will blow away what your mates are capturing on their phones.
This list is far from conclusive, and new terms and cameras are coming along all the time. As well as this there are a vast number of 35mm film cameras, 360 cameras, action cameras and drones. As ever, lots of choice is a good thing, but can make decision making difficult. If you are new to photography, I have made a list of blog posts I have written than may help you below.
5 Tips for better Street Photography
Thanks all folks, keep clicking, Chris