Street photography was first made famous by Henri Cartier-Bresson and his focus on movement and the typical Parisian. It spread to America where Robert Frank developed a raw expression outside of mainstream photography, often linked with the Beat Movement. This fresh street style was noted for its spontaneity, intimacy with the subject and interesting perspective.
While street photography is always evolving, one of its enduring key elements is capturing the decisive moment. Everyone has an individual style, but usually you need to be unobtrusive, quick and in a "flow" of shooting.
The gear you use plays a critical role in helping you reach this zone. A large, bulky DSLR is obtrusive and frequently off-putting to people, which can make that decisive moment a bit more difficult to get. Having lightweight gear with advanced technology to give you maximum control over the image is crucial in capturing that moment. Today, camera manufacturers make a variety of cameras that meet the key criteria for street photographers, namely speed, image quality and a low profile.
In addition to these main features, camera makers are responding to advances in smartphones that have camera technology and the connectivity of social media and other apps. Camera makers now include many of these connectivity functions in cameras that have advanced manual control and professional-level image quality.
We’re looking at three categories of cameras that can make excellent street shooters. Each class has different strengths. Finding the right one for you is a matter of matching those strengths with your shooting style.
Traditionally, compact "point-and-shoot" cameras have had small sensors, measured in fractions of an inch. Today, manufacturers such as Fujifilm, Nikon, Samsung, Sigma and Sony are building cameras with APS-C and full-frame sensors into compact housings with fixed lenses. These large sensors capture more light, yielding greater detail and less noise, in addition to increased performance in low-light (high-ISO) situations.
This new generation of large-sensor compact cameras has evolved from having simple autofocus capabilities to having full manual controls for both still and HD video, making them a good option for a professional street shooter.