What makes a camera specifically well suited for street photography? Good question. We have an up to date cheat sheet on what we think are the best cameras for street this year.
Every time a friend or family member asks me which camera they should buy I find myself giving recommendations that are somewhat stock. For me though when it really comes down to the nitty gritty it depends on a myriad of variables and the answer is very subjective. It's something i have spent years experimenting with, conclusions I have come to with trial and error. Some focus on brand names that they have stuck with throughout the years, some geek out on bleeding edge technology, but for some it's something much more visceral.
I have selected a few my favorite cameras, digital and film for street and reportage photography. These are cameras that I have had in my personal arsenal at some point in my career. My hopes are that this list can serve as a starting point to test out and find your favorite camera, one you can't leave home without and that becomes an extension of your own eyes.
Ricoh GR II
The Ricoh GR II has been a camera bag must have with many photographers for a long time. Based in part off of the classic Ricoh GR point and shoot film cameras that have forever been popular with street photographers, the Ricoh GR II brings much needed updates to the previous camera. In more ways than one, this camera seems to simply boast quality. Much of it is an aesthetics based allure you won’t see with many other point and shoots out there and its small as can be. This camera truly feels like a film compact and holds up to the likes of the Sony RX1R II, Fujifilm X100F and the Leica Q.
Back in the day, the Contax T3 was considered to be the creme de la creme of compact 35mm cameras. It has a tack sharp fixed Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 38mm lens with a f/2.8 aperture. Analogue aficionados will argue that emulsion film has an ethereal quality that can’t be reproduced by the modern digital cameras of today. Perhaps thats because they are not that easy to focus, finicky and a lot of the time fully manual, this makes them prone to happy accidents, eliciting an element surprise and delight when developing the roll weeks later.
The T3’s body is made of titanium, making it incredibly light and durable. While it is a small camera, the T3 still manages to feel substantial in the hands. Controls are relatively easy to find although they may be a bit finicky to adjust given the size of the buttons. This compact rangefinder is easy to focus and bright enough to accurately compose your image. The leaf shutter is stealth quiet, ideal for stealing untampered candid shots.
BEST DIGITAL MIRROR LESS AND FILM SLR:
The Sony Alpha 7R III is Sony’s latest high-resolution, full-frame mirrorless camera. It offers impressive all-round specifications, with a 42.4MP sensor, 10fps continuous shooting, a hybrid AF system that employs 399 phase-detection points covering approximately 68% of the frame, and 4K video recording. This camera is very helpful when you want to take photos of moving subjects or you are running and gunning on the streets. Mount a sharp 35mm lens like the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM A and join the ranks of other reportage photographers around the world.
The Nikon F3 is a popular film SLR camera that was released in March 1980. It was the first film camera to feature electronic aperture priority and a motor drive capturing images at 6 frames per second. This means you set the aperture and the camera will meter and calculate the shutter speed for you. Probably one of the most distinctive features of the Nikon F3 is the fact that it’s a modular camera where you can remove it’s prism. Nikon has created 4 types of different viewfinders for the F3. The eye level, high powered, action finder and waist level finder. When you remove the viewfinder, you get to see the whole image through the prism. Making this camera an awesome option for those sly hip shots. learn more about taking the perfect hip shot with these street photography tips.
Best Mirrorless / Rangefinder:
The Leica MP-10 is a digital rangefinder system. It brings back many of the nostalgic features of manual film cameras, making it one of the most filmic digital cameras on the market today. Buying a Leica camera is a unique experience. It’s not only about it’s technical specifications but it’s handling and unmatched build quality. This camera is specially made for photographers who understand manual film cameras. With fewer buttons and controls on the back, you can set the aperture, ISO and shutter speed without having to look at a screen. Leica cameras were always popular for journalists, reportage and travel photographers because of their compact size, simplicity, image and build quality. The MP-10 is good in low light and has better dynamic range than it’s predecessor. If you’re a camera snob and you want a camera with a legendary brand name with un-compromised quality, look no further.
The M3 is the first M-series camera Leica has ever made. It has everything you need including the world’s best rangefinder and viewfinder combined. This camera was first introduced at Photokina in 1954. It uses interchangeable lenses and it is considered to be the best 35mm film camera ever made. Back in the day, the M3 was used for street photography, journalism, and sports. It is not the best camera to use for action and fast-moving objects, but it is great for street and travel photography. The Leica M3’s viewfinder is still legendary, and rightly so. It was, after all, the first to combine viewfinder and rangefinder into one. Exceptionally bright and with a high magnification factor of 0.92x, many would argue (and have argued) that it’s been unequalled by any Leica since. Holding one up to the eye is an experience every photographer should have on his or her bucket list. The lenses are state-of-the-art and can’t even compare to other camera brands like Nikon or Canon. The Leica M 35mm f/2 Summicron is one of the best lenses for street photography and you can mount it on any Leica M mount camera including the Leica MP-10.
When it comes to choosing a camera for street photography you have two options. You can either buy a digital camera and enjoy the newest technology and get the most out of your Megapixels or shoot film and learn from your mistakes and make happy accidents along the way. Always remember though, the camera is just a tool.
Great camera straps to go along with your street camera set-up