In an increasingly fragmented world where it’s difficult to maintain focus and attention for more than a nanosecond, it can pay to simplify. In the average pro’s camera bag, you’ll find a DSLR, a smaller backup DSLR, four to six lenses, a few strobes, spare batteries, a couple of lighting modifiers and a range of other ready-for-anything accessories. That’s a lot of gear. You might be ready for a lot of different scenarios, but with so much stuff on hand, it can be impossible to keep your focus, and you end up with a variation of paralysis by analysis. On the other hand, if you limit yourself to a single focal length and minimize the other components, you can see photographic possibilities open up everywhere you look.
The leading visionaries among today’s new breed of street photographers have been setting aside their DSLRs in favor of compact fixed- and interchangeable-lens models. These cameras are reminiscent of a generation of film-based models that were favored by photojournalists for their simplicity, reliability and high-quality optics. The mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras have been gaining in popularity for a few years, and more recently, a cadre of high-end fixed-lens, fixed-focal-length cameras with excellent optics and large image sensors have come along. The latter group of "large-sensor compacts" are impressive, to say the least. Built with APS-C and full-frame sensors and coupled with fast lenses, these cameras have excellent low-light performance. They’re versatile and small, and you can use high-end lighting tools with them.
Fujifilm FinePix X100S
The FinePix X100S features a versatile hybrid optical/2360K-dot electronic eye-level viewfinder to handle just about any viewing need, with rich information display in both modes. The 16.3-megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor uses a highly random RGB pattern that eliminates the need for the sharpness-reducing optical low-pass filter found in most digital cameras, and is complemented by the EXR Processing II with Lens Modulation Optimizer for added sharpness. The sturdy, 5.0×2.9×2.1-inch, 14.3-ounce body incorporates a fast 23mm (35mm-camera equivalent) ƒ/2 lens and a 2.8-inch, 460K-dot LCD monitor. ISO range is 200-6400, expandable to 25,600. Other features of special note include quick Intelligent hybrid phase-detection/contrast AF, RAW recording, up to 29 frames at 6 fps, a built-in three-stop ND filter, and 1080 full HD video at 60 and 30 fps. Estimated Street Price: $1,299. Contact: Fujifilm, www.fujifilm.com
Featuring the classic Leica rangefinder "look" (without the rangefinder), the X2’s 4.9×2.7×2.0-inch, 11.2-ounce German-made body contains a 16.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, a 35mm (35mm-camera equivalent) ƒ/2.8 Leica Elmarit lens and a 2.7-inch, 230K-dot LCD monitor. The X2 can shoot up to eight frames at 5 fps, record in RAW (DNG) as well as JPEG, and get up to 450 shots per charge with the rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Autofocusing is quick and nearly silent. ISOs run from 100-12,500, and there’s a built-in pop-up flash unit (as well as a hot-shoe for external units). There’s no built-in eye-level viewfinder, but electronic and mirror external finders are available. Estimated Street Price: $1,995. Contact: Leica, us.leica-camera.com.
Nikon Coolpix A
The Nikon Coolpix A features a 16.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor without a low-pass filter and a 28mm (equivalent) ƒ/2.8 lens. It can shoot still images at 4 fps, as well as 1080p full HD video at 30, 25 and 24 fps and 720p HD at 30 and 24 fps. Normal ISO range is 100-3200 (expandable to 25600), with 14-bit RAW (NEF) as well as JPEG recording. Contrast-based TTL AF goes from 1.7 feet to infinity (down to four inches in macro mode). The 4.4×2.6×1.6-inch, 10.6-ounce body incorporates a big, 3.0-inch, 921K-dot LCD and an optional optical eye-level finder can be attached to the accessory shoe (which also accepts external flash units if the built-in one doesn’t provide sufficient power). You can even transfer photos to any WiFi-enabled device using the optional WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter. Estimated Street Price: $1,099. Contact: Nikon, www.nikonusa.com