Dear StreetHunters.net Readers,
Before you continue reading this post, I want to let you know that this post isn’t about a specific camera make or model, it isn’t about a product that exists out there. No, not at all. This blog post is about the perfect camera that I would like to have in my hands when hitting the streets. It is a selection of features (options) I love in cameras but can’t find them all in one specific one. So just to make things clear, I am not going to present a Fujifilm, a Sony or a Ricoh. A DSLR, a MILC (CSC) or a Compact. This is purely a list of features that I would like my perfect everyday Street Photography camera to have.
I invite you to read and share your ideas
So if you work for one of the amazing Camera companies and you are looking for ideas on how to make the perfect camera for the streets, I kindly ask you to take a look. If you are a Street Photographer like me and find that I have missed something, or you don’t agree with everything and you would like to make another suggestion, please do so! Through conversation and brainstorming we can come up together with the most awesome camera concept to date. I will start by sharing my initial thoughts and then you, dear StreetHunter.net Reader can add to these thoughts and make the idea better and better and better. I would really appreciate any participation. A comment with a single idea. A large paragraph of ideas. Anything. Whatever you post in the comments, I will add it to the bottom of the list, together with your name and current camera model (as long as you provide me with that info).
Anyway, I will get to the juicy part of the post now and present you with a list of ideas / features I would love to see in the ideal Street Photography camera.
What are the featured of the perfect camera for Street Photography?
When I shoot in the street I like to move around a lot. I carry my camera in my hand most of the time and when I am not, it is either in my Camslinger camera bag or around my neck, depending on the camera I am using and the time and place. Anyway, no matter what I am using to carry my camera, be it my hand, my bag, or my neck, it is important that it doesn’t tire me down.
The bottom line: My camera must feel like an extension of my self, not like excess baggage. So, anything below 500gr should be ideal for me.
I find that when I shoot with small cameras I seem less “threatening” to my subjects. The reason for this is that small cameras seem and feel unimportant to others. People in the streets tend to believe that bigger cameras go hand in hand with photojournalists, so their natural behaviour is to steer away from DSLRs.
The bottom line: Anything as big as a Fuji XT-1 a Sony A7 or a Fuji X-Pro1 is ideal for me. Anything bigger than that is too conspicuous for me.
All black with no markings
Another thing that I find is most important in Street Photography is to use a camera with as few as possible markings, logos, etc. For that reason I usually tape over my camera’s brighter parts and try to create a black box that can easily vanish in the shadows. Anything shiny, or colourful is not what I would look for in any street camera. So, all those silver versions of awesome Street Shooters for me are as useful as wearing bright white clothes while shooting Street Photography.
The bottom line: The fewer shiny or colourful parts my ideal camera has the better. I hate taping over my gear, but if I have too, I will.
Can be used with one hand
This is another biggie for me! I have found myself in bad situations where I can’t take a photograph because I need two available hands, which I don’t have at the time. Why? Well, I could be using a film camera that is all manual while holding an umbrella. That is very challenging. With manual controls and focus and no image stabilisation two hands are essential in order to get a photograph that is at least ok. Many modern cameras also need two hands to operate. Sometimes the menu system is difficult to handle, or the controls are made in such a way that two hands are required. These things make my life as a Street Hunter harder, they slow me down and a few times have cost me a good shot or more.
The bottom line: The ideal camera should be manageable with one hand. Menus, controls, shooting should all be done single handedly.
Is dead silent
On of the things I came to appreciate in legacy fixed lens film rangefinder cameras is just how silent they are. They are so quiet that most of the times, I can’t hear the shutter release. If I wasn’t the one pressing the button, I wouldn’t know when each photograph was taken. Especially that Canon Canonet QL17, it is so silent it is ridiculous. I can photograph someone while standing in front of them in total silence.
The bottom line: The ideal camera that I would like for Street Photography should be as silent as a heartbeat, if not quieter. That way I can get closer and shoot without being noticed.
Can shoot up to 1/8000th of a second
I enjoy shooting wide open, especially when I am using AF and Digital, because I like getting shallow depth of field results in my snaps. In order for my camera to be able to shoot wide open, at f 2.0 for example in the middle of the day, I have to have a fast shutter speed. The faster the better. So 1/8000th of a second would be ideal.
The bottom line: My ideal camera must have a fast shutter release. At least 1/8000th of a second.
Has lightning fast AF
Until now I have been using a Sony NEX-6 that has an average speed AF system. It isn’t slow by any means, but it isn’t blazing fast either. I have missed a few shots here and there. This is annoying, especially when the shots missed could have been amazing.
The bottom line: I have always needed something faster and more accurate, so if I got a new camera it would have to have really fast AutoFocus.
Can zone focus
If you don’t know what zone focusing is then you should definately read the post I wrote about it called “Learn Zone Focusing and Hyperfocal Distance in Street Photography”. In a few words it is when we adjust our camera to be in focus for a particular zone of distance. For example we set our camera to be in focus from 1m to 3m specifically. That way we know that anything shot within that zone is in focus. Not all cameras can zone focus well, so this is something that is a must for me.
The bottom line: My ideal camera must be able to zone focus easily and fast.
Can fit in my pocket
Ever since I got myself a little Olympus mju II 35mm film camera I am hooked to small compact cameras. The convenience of the small sized camera, packing a “full frame” sensor with a sharp, fast lens really made me rethink what is important to me in a Street Photography camera. I don’t want something that is hard to carry around, or at least inconvenient. I need something that I can carry around with me always.
The bottom line: If my camera can fit in my pocket and be with me at all times, it is awesome!
Can be controlled mostly without digging into complex menus
As mentioned before in the “Can be used with one hand” point I made, the ideal camera’s controls should be intuitive, easy to use and most of all accessible. Digging in to complicated menu items with silly names that only the camera manufacturer understands, makes no sense to me and is a complete waste of time.
The bottom line: My ideal camera’s controls, must be accessible and easy to use.
Has an on camera flash
I think that on camera flash is essential for a Street Photographer that tends to be out and about at any time of day or night, with just his camera in hand and no other gear. Personally I never know when I will need flash to make a photo. You might have a fast prime lens, but it can still not be enough.
The bottom line: If my camera has an on camera flash, I feel much more comfortable to face the dark, or even the sun when confronted with a backlit subject.
Has a flash hotshoe
I know I just said that I would like my ideal camera to have an on camera flash. But hey, that doesn’t mean it can’t have a flash hotshoe as well. I might want to do some off camera flash shots or to just use something else, something more powerful than my little on camera flash.
The bottom line: My ideal camera must have a universally compatible flash hot shoe, just in case I need to be creative with flash photography.
Has lightning fast flash sync
1/50th flash sync, 1/125th,1/160th of a second flash sync. These are speeds that are barely acceptable especially when you want to use flash to fill a backlit subject with light and you need speed.
The bottom line: My ideal camera should have a very fast flash sync, something more than 1/1000th of a second.
Saves DNG RAW files
Don’t you just hate it when you buy a brand new digital camera and you have to wait another 1 or 2 months just for your software to become compatible with your camera’s RAW files? What is the point of buying a brand new camera if you need to wait to take full advantage of it’s RAW files?
The bottom line: My ideal camera should save in the DNG RAW format. That way I can edit my RAW files on my Mac from day one.
Doesn’t lean forward when hung from my neck
One of the most annoying things about a camera is when it leans forward due to the weight of the lens and bad design of the camera body. For example, if I use my 35mm on my Sony NEX-6 I can’t hang it around my neck because if just leans forward and becomes uncomfortable for me. If that lens weighed a little less, or that body was designed in order to avoid leaning forward, things would be so much more enjoyable for me.
The bottom line: My ideal camera must have perfect balance when sitting around my neck. No leaning forward or sticking out.
Good low light performer that shoots well at high ISO
Digital cameras are really changing the way we take photos at night. High sensitivity sensors are giving us eyes where would can normally not see anything. It is like walking around with your own night vision army grade gear! Especially that Sony A7s, man! That gives you sight beyond sight after dark.
The bottom line: It is important for me to shoot up to at least 6400 ISO and get good usable files because I shoot a lot at night.
The best way to focus using manual lenses or just focusing manually is with the help of a visual aid. In older cameras there was rangefinder focusing, when two images overlap each other until they align perfectly, or split image focusing, when an image was cut in half and was in focus when the two halves could hardly be distinguished from each other. Now there are other methods, but my favourite one is focus peaking. Focus peaking lets you focus manually and lightning fast. As soon as your subject is in focus a bright border appears around it. That border is usually red, but there are cameras that have them in green, yellow or even white.
The bottom line: My ideal camera should have focus peaking for fast manual focusing in the streets.
Big sensor (M 4/3 and above)
The bigger the sensor the better the IQ some say. The bigger the sensor the better the light sensitivity. The more light a sensor can absorb the better. Besides photography is all about light, isn’t it? You can find cameras with many sensor sizes, but in my opinion the ideal camera of mine should have a sensor that is at least a micro 4/3 sized one.
The bottom line: My ideal camera should have at least an m4/3 sized sensor to produce photographs with a good dynamic range, low noise and have improved low light performance.
Shoots at least 16MP photos
I think that Street Photography doesn’t need huge megapixel counts. A 16MP photograph will look great on any screen size and it can be reproduced on an A4 print without any loss to detail. I have printed 16MP shots on both A4 and A3 paper and they looked super sharp. So, pixels are not all that important. Ok, I am not saying that you should use a 5MP camera at this day and age, but it will still do it’s job for you.
The bottom line: My ideal camera should shoot at 16MP. Anything above that is a welcome bonus.
When I don’t have a camera with me and it rains, I just pull my hood over my head and I am done. But when it rains, I need something that offers protection for my camera. An umbrella. Unfortunately an umbrella slows me down. Makes me shoot uncomfortably. I can do Street, but I would prefer it if I didn’t have to carry that extra object around with me. So, if my camera was weather sealed I wouldn’t care about the rain. I could just shoot without worrying about ruining my gear.
The bottom line: Weather sealed cameras aren’t the norm for Street Photography, but they sure are ideal as far as I am concerned.
There was a time when cameras were built like tanks. Now only a few makes and models follow that tradition. Most cameras break when they fall or at least get seriously damaged. I keep on dreading the time that I drop my €1000 Sony gear on the ground and see it crack open, dead.
The bottom line: Cameras in the street need to be handled without fear of them braking. The tougher they are the better. My ideal camera should be built like a tank.
Get’s better and better with each firmware update
I love this feature! Just like with an iPhone, each time a new firmware update is released you can just load it into your camera and see huge differences in performance. I remember when I first got the SEL5018 lens for my NEX-6 it was so slow to focus it annoyed me. But one day, Sony released a firmware update for both the camera and the lens and literally transformed the camera’s performance. I felt like I had a brand new camera / lens. I know from friend that Fuji is awesome at firmware updates also. So is Ricoh, that has managed through 4 updates to improve the GR’s performance on lots of levels.
The bottom line: My ideal camera should never stop improving and getting better. We live in the age of technology. This should be mandatory in any Street Camera.
One sharp fixed prime 50mm, 35mm or 28mm lens (full frame equivalent)
I am a firm believer of the One Camera One Lens practise. I have written a post about it explaining all the reasons why someone can get more creative with just a few restrictions. If you haven’t read Why is One Camera & One (prime) Lens good for Street Photography please feel free to do so. But in a nutshell, a fixed prime lens, produces better IQ and helps me compose faster, much faster. Especially the 2nd point is very important to me.
The bottom line: My ideal Street Photography camera doesn’t need interchangeable lenses. I don’t want to hit the streets carrying more gear with me than necessary, so I will never hit the streets with more than one lens or camera. The only time I might do that is if I am in a foreign country and I would rather carry my gear than leave it at the hotel. But when I am on my turf, I use One Camera One Lens 100%.
Fast fixed prime lens at least f2.0
Since the lens is fixed and it is a prime lens as mentioned before, it should also be fast! A fast lens allows you to shoot at night and to create nice shallow depth of field when you need it. If it is a high quality sharp prime lens, even better. Low light performance is connected to how fast a lens is, so if I am to be shooting around the clock and in any light, I will be needing fast glass.
The bottom line: My ideal camera must have a fast lens so it can guarantee me the artistic freedom I need.
I popped this feature in at the last minute. I am a film camera user most of the time these days, so image stabilization isn’t something that is on my mind any more. I tend to stand perfectly still when I capture an image to avoid camera shake and I rarely get a shaken photo. Sometimes I might get 1 blurry image in each roll of 36. But, I understand that with image stabilization new options are given to the Street Photographer. Shooting while in motion, freezing a moment without worrying of the blur, shooting unbalanced shots from funny angles, going handheld at 1/15th of a second, all these things are achieved much easier with image stabilisation so yes, I would like that too.
The bottom line: Image stabilisation makes the Street Photography experience even better, allowing me to capture photos that would normally turn out blurry or messed up. So, I would like my ideal camera to have this feature.
I have always shot with a viewfinder. Always! I have only one camera that doesn’t have one, the Panasonic DMC LX7 and I have to admit that if and whenever I use that very capable compact camera I miss the viewfinder a lot. That is why I don’t use it more often. Well, that and the fact that it now lives in my wife’s handbag. So, I guess I like viewfinders so much because I have always had one. In our days, a viewfinder is something that usually more pricey cameras have.
The bottom line: My ideal Street Photography camera must have a viewfinder. I don’t care if it is an EVF or an OVF, as long as it is there and I can compose with it.
Tilting LCD screen
Since we are building the ideal Street Photography camera, why not ask for a tilting LCD screen while we are at it. Ever since I first got my Sony NEX-6 I have learned to appreciate this feature in cameras. I have heard many that say that they don’t care about this, but believe me, if you finally get to use a tilting LCD to make Rat’s Eye View or Bird’s Eye View compositions, you will see the light and really understand the importance of it.
The bottom line: A tilting LCD screen permits me to make compositions while holding my camera at angles that would otherwise make composing a hard task. It is a definate must for my ideal Street Photography camera.
WiFi / NFC
We do live in the age of technology and we do like sharing our photos with friends, family and social networks. By owning a camera with WiFi / NFC technology, one can easily transfer images to a smartphone and from there share them with anyone, anywhere in the world. For example, I am off to Hamburg for the weekend. I will not take a laptop with me to share photos from my trip with my friends, family and you guys, the StreetHunters.net Readers. I will just transfer them to my iPhone from my NEX-6 and post them. I understand that this feature might not be important to some of you, but if you are using digital, why not use WiFi / NFC technology? I can only see logic in my film cameras being without this tech.
The bottom line: A camera with WiFi / NFC technology makes my life easier when it comes to sharing photographs with others. I would love this in my ideal Street Photography camera.
Great battery life
Something that is very annoying is when your camera runs out of juice. This is one of the reasons why I love film cameras so much. They don’t need so much power to work. If they are mechanical and fully manual, they don’t need any power at all! Of course digital cameras need power. LCD screens, EVFs, Auto Focus, all these things just tend to suck up energy. Without power, your digital camera is dead.
The bottom line: A camera that manages power consumption in a really smart way, can improve the duration of a full charged battery. The better the battery life, the more use one get’s out of a camera with one charge.
External battery charger
This is something that I have been wanting to see SONY implement for ages. I own a Sony DSC-V1, an ancient little digital camera that is very capable and a Sony NEX-6 and both of them don’t have external battery chargers. So, if I need to charge a second battery for example, while shooting, I can’t. I have to have my camera plugged into the wall for the duration of the charging of two batteries! That is why I don’t own two batteries for my NEX-6. It is not practical.
The bottom line: The ideal camera must have an external battery charger that can work without connecting to the camera in any way.
Does not cost more than $1000 / €800 / £650
Ok, I left this for last, because I think that camera manufacturers should really start thinking about where they are going with the price tags they have set for their gear. Really, why would anybody want to pay more that $1000 / €800 / £650 for a Street camera? A camera that has a fixed prime lens, is small and discreet doesn’t have to cost more, does it? I think not. I think that that price can get you all the above if done properly.
The bottom line: My ideal camera should not have to cost a fortune. It is meant to be used in difficult conditions, it is meant to be with me all the time, in my pocket, around my neck, in my bag and mostly in my hand. I can’t afford to have a camera that will cost a bomb. What if I drop it, or if it get’s stolen, or if I lose it.
If a camera with the above features existed, I would buy it in a heartbeat. I truly think that this is something that could happen. All it needs is for someone to build it and sell it at the recommended price and I think that it will rock the world of Street Photographers everywhere.
Fujifilm has got close enough with the Fuji X100T but the price is ridiculously high as far as I am concerned. I mean, I can buy 2 Ricoh GRs for that money! Also, Sony with their Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R are completely insane. Why pay so much money for a camera that isn’t really all that compact and doesn’t even have a viewfinder. For the Zeiss glass? The RX100 III is promising, but I prefer a fixed lens solution. I can say the same thing for the yummy Panasonic LX100. I prefer a prime lens. The glass on a prime lens is sharper and faster.
Come on Sony, Nikon, Fuji, Ricoh, Panasonic, Olympus, Samsung and the rest. Give us the next Pentax K1000, the next Olympus OM series, Nikon FM series or the next Yashica Electro 35, or Canon Canonet, or Olympus Pen E-P1 or Trip. Cameras that are still sought after, still cherished and still used. Cameras that offer an experience. Cameras that are memorable. Perfect for their time. Give us the camera that is perfect for our time!
Stay Sharp & Keep Shooting!