When Oskar Barnack and Ernst Leitz invented the Leica 35mm camera in 1924, many street photographers happily put aside their large format cameras for its compact, unobtrusive body and fast captures.
But now, almost 100 years later, the array of equipment that’s viable on the street has grown exponentially, both technically and creatively. If you’re looking to change up your current gear, or are just getting started on the street, here are some things to consider to pinpoint the equipment that’s best for you and your unique vision:
- Start with aesthetics. What camera produces the pictures you desire? Think about the palette, the dimensions of the image, the resolution, grain vs. pixels, etc.
- Film or digital: Make the almighty decision between the slow, deliberate process of film, and the immediate, instructive process of digital. Which methodology of making pictures do you enjoy more? And/or which do you require for time, money or other reasons?
- Think about the impact a camera has on the street. Some cameras call attention to themselves, like digital SLRs, with massive lenses or “old fashioned” twin lens reflex cameras; others have a more discreet presence, like Leicas and Fujifilm mirrorless cameras. Which is best for what you are trying to provoke in your subjects?
- Forget about the latest camera fad. Try it out if you want, of course, but why not set yourself apart by choosing a camera based solely on your unique personal vision?
- Rent a variety of cameras. Until you test them out on the street, it’s kind of impossible to know what gear is the best fit. Check out a wide array so you’re really clear on your options.
- Allow the camera you choose to have imperfections. So long as those imperfections don’t hold you back in a major way, expect that no camera is perfect.
- Stay focused on what matters: You. If there is something that is keeping you from getting the camera you really want, save up or do whatever you need to do, but don’t let it keep you from photographing today. Use the camera you have for now, and get on board with its advantages until you get the camera you really want.