Using A DSLR For Street Photography
Since I began photography in January I have owned two cameras. My first purchase was a Canon SX240 compact camera and then, in July, I purchased a Nikon D7000 with the 18-105mm kit lens along with the 35mm and 50mm 1.8G prime lenses. So, why did I choose a DSLR?
I don’t have any first hand experience with any other types of camera so I would like to talk about why I chose the equipment I did. I will also talk about the positives and negatives I have found so far.
Why I Chose The Equipment I Use
I was on a very strict budget and I wanted to buy, what I considered to be, the best equipment I could with the money available. I know a few people who use the Nikon D7000 and I was always impressed with their image quality. I wanted a camera that I could grow into and learn over time. The D7000 is quite an advanced Prosumer camera with many functions and capabilities that I am yet to explore.
I also wanted the versatility that a DSLR brings. Although 95% of what I do is street/urban photography, sometimes I like to go off and do something completely different. I find it a good way to relax and also to learn and practice some of the different functions of the camera. It’s also a way of trying out new techniques without the fast pace of the street.
Having a DSLR enables me to (lens, tripod, filters etc permitting) shoot anything and any genre I choose. This flexibility was an important factor for me when making my choice of equipment.
Benefits Of The DSLR Over My Compact
If I had to choose the one benefit I have noticed above all others it would be the viewfinder, particularly on the D7000 as it has 100% field of view. Living in a country where most days are very sunny I was finding it very difficult, and in some situations impossible, to compose a shot with the compact as it only has an LCD screen.
Having a viewfinder has, without doubt, made a huge difference to me and my photography!
Fast Auto Focus
If you use auto focus on the street, which I do most of the time, then you know how critical a fast focusing system is. The DSLR focuses very fast and accurate, particularly when using the prime lenses. This has certainly enabled me to capture shots I would have missed with the compact.
As I mentioned in the introduction, I was impressed with the quality of the images I was seeing from other people with the same camera and I have not been disappointed. Also the ability to shoot RAW has given me a lot more versatility and options when it comes to post processing.
Shooting At Night Or In Low Light
I love to walk the streets at night looking for images. There is a different ambience and feel to streets lit by streetlights and shop windows.
Having a camera with good high ISO capabilities, particularly when coupled with a prime lens has enabled me to do a lot more shooting in low light situations. I can now push the ISO up to 2000 and beyond when it gets dark and still be confident of getting usable images that aren’t too noisy and grainy.
With the compact I couldn’t really use it past ISO800. This made shooting in low light extremely difficult and frustrating.
Continuous Shooting Mode
Although not the fastest at six shots per second, I personally find that is plenty for street photography. In fact, if I am panning I rarely fire off more than three or four shots. It’s great to be able to experiment with different types of motion and it’s something I am using more and more.
There are plenty of other advantages but the ones I have spoken about are the main ones for me personally.
Disadvantages Of The DSLR Over The Compact
A DSLR is obviously quite a bit heavier than my compact. I invested in a Black Rapid sling strap which makes a big difference compared to using a normal neck strap. It’s very comfortable and you barely notice the weight of the camera at all. The only time the weight becomes a minor issue is if I am doing a lot of shooting for a long period of time with the camera in my hand but this doesn’t happen very often.
One definite disadvantage is size. The compact definitely has the edge when it comes to squeezing into small spaces, gaps in fences etc. There are some places the DSLR just can’t go. This is a good reason to carry both cameras while I’m out on the street.
Another thing that is often said about using a DSLR for street photography is that you are more conspicuous because of the size of the camera. I have no doubt this is true in some instances. As i mentioned earlier, I use a sling strap so the camera is hanging at my side most of the time with my hand over it. This helps to keep it concealed compared to having it hanging around your neck. I only raise it to my eye when composing or taking a shot.
My personal opinion is that, in many cases, if you are going to be seen you will be seen no matter how big the camera is that you are using because the people that are aware of what is going on around them will notice the movement of your hand and arm upwards to your face (unless you are shooting from the hip or using the “live view screen”) no matter what is in your hand.
There are a lot of people using DSLR’s, particularly in tourist areas, so it’s not as if you are the only person walking around with one.There is also the bridge camera, or super zoom. Some of these are quite large and can be mistaken for a DSLR from a distance. So maybe a DSLR is not as conspicuous as we might think?
My theory is that if you think you have a big camera in your hand and are going to be spotted by everyone then you will become self conscious, slower and more awkward with your movements and shooting. This will make you stand out and get noticed more than any camera you happen to be holding.
Obviously the views I have expressed above are my own personal views and findings so far. I have only been using a DSLR for a couple of months so can only report on my findings and theories so far.
I am very happy with the equipment I am using but it ALWAYS comes down to personal choice and preference.
We are all individuals with different requirements, preferences, budgets etc. Therefore the choice of camera you use should be made by you and you only.
Thanks and I agree. Street shooters can be so worried about staying hidden, but the super zooms and others are just as big. The dslrs are super light compared to film cams. I have been trying to decide if I want the nikon d 3300 or the 7000. I had to give up the hope for the fuji x100s. Hard to justify twice the price for a fixed lense and slow af.
Hello Jillian and thank you for commenting. Rob is not longer on the StreetHunters.net team so I will be replying 🙂
In my opinion, Street Photography can be done with any kind of camera. The most useful and best of all cameras, is the one we each feel comfortable with. So, if you feel comfortable with a DSLR, then that is the perfect camera for you and you should stick to your choice. That is the way I see it.
Thank you very much for commenting by the way!
Stay Sharp & Keep Shooting!
I have tried the Olympus OM em10II and the Fuji xt10 in a Photoshop and I am not sure about the af for streetphoto. Perhaps I am wrong after ony a fel shorts with each of the cameras. What camera would you prefer?