When living from photography, you get always questions related to gear. And I want to answer one particular gear related question with this article. What is the perfect gear for street photography?
For me, there is not quite a perfect gear for street photography yet, but there are a lot of offers out there that are very close to that enclosure. Let's divide my suggestions into 3 particular branches: cameras, lenses and accessories. Before starting talking about gear, I'll like to be clear about a particular prerequisite for getting comfortable at working on the streets, and it is to be as inconspicuous as you can. On my early years working on the streets, I used only my big DSLR. Then, I got to own a film camera from 1979, a Pentax ME Super. I got in love with it because of its small size and feeling. Sometime after that charm, I got to know a great social documentary photographer of my country, Francisco Campos. I was stunned with his intimate documentary photography, and I asked him the question, "what camera do you use" and he laughed and told me "I only use this, always" and he showed me a very compact, yet powerful Point and Shoot camera. Since that moment in time, my whole paradigm of huge gear changed dramatically. I went after my own small and powerful Point and Shoot, and I bought it. This little fella allowed me to shoot on Manual mode, and of course, it shoots RAW, which is just great for developing your digital negative files.
The great benefit of working with inconspicuous gear, is that you don't attract attention, and you seem to be a regular tourist, amateur of new photography enthusiast. When you don't appear to be a great figure in the photography field, people tend to get really comfortable when they see you around their context taking pictures.
Let's talk about cameras. There is nothing wrong with working with DSLRs, but it's good to match them with lenses that get you at achieving the prime goal of being inconspicuous. Nowadays we have a great range of very good mirror less cameras and Point and Shoots. I had the opportunity to work once with a range finder camera, and there is a priceless feeling you get, when shooting, and still being able to look at what is going on. DSLRs have a great disadvantage here because the mirror flaps upwards once you press the shutter. I'll mention one particular camera I recommend from 5 brands, and my premise for recommending this, is because they help you getting pretty unnoticed:
- Canon: EOS-M3
- Fujifilm: X100T
- Nikon: Nikon 1
- Olympus: E-M5
- Sony: A6000
One great thing to have in mind when thinking about gear for street photography, is that any thing you'll like to buy, must have a flippable screen. This is great for shooting stealth mode from the hip.
About lenses, I can state that the best gear for working on the street are prime and fast, wide and small lenses. Anything from 24mm to 50mm will work wonderfully. The thing here is to get a lens that is small to carry around and that will not intimidate people when aiming it to them. I have recently bought two new lenses that are wonderful for working on the streets, a 24mm pancake lens and a 40mm pancake lens. I still work a lot with my chunky DLSR, especially when traveling, and my favorite lens for this is a 28mm f/1.8.
There are two miraculous accessories for working on the streets. The first one, is a strap. Get rid of that brandy strap the camera comes with, since it makes you somehow noticed. Also a great tip that goes in hand with straps, don't hang the camera like a medal, wrap the strap around your wrist and walk with your camera in your hand. Another great accessory are leather cases that comes in two pieces.
Blend with the crowd with clothes that doesn't get you so noticed.