Street photography aims to capture interesting moments in an ordinary human life. It is usually linked to photojournalism but it has some different characteristics. While photojournalists try to capture peak action, reaction and dramatic scenes. Street photographers strive to get close to the scene and capture simple interactions between people and its environment.
By Henri Cartier-Bresson
Some influential street photographers are Henri Cartier-Bresson
, Eugene Atget, Lee Friedlander and so on.
Nowadays, we enjoy so many choice of photography equipments especially in digital SLR age, but there are only few equipments that are optimized for the job.So what is the consideration?
- Ideally, the form factor of the equipments should be as small as possible. Why? Because you don't want to be center of attraction by carrying one or several big cameras mounted with long telephoto lenses around. In addition, carrying oversize bag for extra equipments or accessories could impede your photo taking experience.
- Why not compact cameras? Because image quality of compact camera especially in many areas such as color depth, dynamic range, sensor size and sensitivities are far behind dslr camera. Compact cameras are also not as responsive as digital SLR cameras.
- Second, you will need one or several lenses that are not only small, but also can shoot in low light environment. These lenses are usually called fast lens. These lenses usually have big maximum aperture such as f/2.8 to f/1. The other benefit of fast lens is ability to do selective focus by making background blurry.
- Third, you need a responsive camera that have minimal shutter lag and easy to change various settings when you needed it.
Based on that configuration there are some modern digital equipments that are most suitable for this kind of photography.1. Olympus E-420 + Olympus 25mm f/2.8 pancake lens.
This camera might be the smallest slr right now. The downside side is the limitation of the lens collection. The only prime lens Olympus has is the 25mm f/2.8. The camera body does not have any image stabilization like many of its competitors. However, E-620, a new Olympus camera which is a bit taller, has built-in image stabilization.
Price: $525 with pancake lens.
Suitability rating: 3/52. Pentax km/k2000 + Pentax Limited Pancake lens collection
Pentax km might be a bit bigger than the E-420, but Pentax already has collection of small lenses. Pentax km also has built-in image stabilization that is helpful in low light condition.
Price (with 18-55mm lens and AF200G flash) : $525, Pentax 40mm f/2.8 lens
: add $250
Suitability rating: 3/53. Panasonic Lumix G1 and G1H
These are not DSLR because it uses electronic viewfinder. But because these cameras use the same sensor like most of the dSLR, they deliver roughly the same image quality like others dSLR. The camera has a small form factor, almost like super-zoom cameras. This system is still very young and haven't many lenses yet, especially small and fast lenses. The viewfinder is not as good as dSLR and the camera could be more responsive. In the future, many experts predicted that this system could have a lot of potential.
Price: G1 with basic kit zoom kit lens: $630
Suitability Rating: 2/5Lumix G1 (left) have almost similar size with Pentax km, but it is noticeably thinner.4. Samsung NX
Newly announced in March 2009, Samsung NX have the same concept as Lumix G1, but it use slightly bigger sensor (CMOS) instead of the four third system. As a result, better noise handling in high sensitivities (for low light shooting). Currently there is no information about price and specification.5. Sigma DP1 and DP2
DP1 and DP2 are compact cameras but it uses Foveon sensor. The size of the sensor is like we find in most dSLR cameras. As a result the image is quality is very high, also the Foveon X3 technology bring out amazing colors. The upside of this camera is the size, the downside is you can't change the lens. It has build in prime lens, (equiv. 28mm f4) and DP2 (equiv 41mm f/2.8). The other big downside of DP1 is the small maximum aperture (f4) and also the shutter lag (.5 sec). The price is also not appealing for general consumers. We hope that DP2 which is in production, performs better than DP1.Image on the top left is Sigma SD15 and Sigma DP1
Price: DP1 $650
Suitability Rating for DP1 : 1/56. Olympus Micro Four Thirds Carrot prototype
Judging from the size, this camera is promosing, but the colorful camera might not be the best for street photography. Since there are no specification yet, we don't know how the camera will performs.6. Leica M8
This camera looks like classic rangefinder in film camera era. It is compact and compatible with many Leica legendary lenses. The downside of this camera is the price. It is very high, $5000+ This makes it is more of a luxury item rather than a workhorse. In the street, you won't like to lose this camera to theft. Many Leica lenses does not have Auto focus and also no photo review in its LCD screen.
Price: $5500+ body only
Suitability rating for general consumers: 2/5
For old-school professionals: 4/5
In conclusion, it is nice to see many new hybrid system (DSLR with compact body) emerges. Street photographers will be likely to love these system. Since several decades ago, DSLR cameras are growing bigger and heavier, and it is not good for consumers especially street photographers and photojournalists. Bigger gears strains neck and arms. Super zoom lens make us lazy to move closer to the scene (or be part of the scene) to get the best angle.
Five years later, I want to see these hybrids camera will emerge to the top, and Big regular dSLR might be only used in studio or non-time critical indoor shots. Hopefully!
Labels: camera, compact, dp1, e-420, g1, k2000, km, leica, lenses, lumix, m8, nx, olympus, panasonic, pancake, Pentax, photojournalism, samsung, sigma, street photography