In the past few years that I have been into street photography, I have tried many cameras in order to find the best one that will work for me. It’s easy for any beginner to think that the camera with the best specs will deliver the best results. And for some time, I believed that principle as I tried every type of camera—from DSLR, to mirrorless, to action camera, to smartphone. Name it, I’ve either bought, rented, or borrowed it just to try it.
I eventually realized how true it is that the “perfect” camera is relative to one’s needs. Going through this process of discovery did help improve my street photography skills and taught me how to work with various types of cameras. Here are just two of the most important things I’ve learned along the way.
No Camera Has it All
Ideally, a camera made for street photography should be compact enough to bring anywhere and have a large sensor that can produce quality images. It should also be able to take clear and sharp photos, but also take them silently so you don’t attract attention.
However, I realized how impossible it was to find all these features in one device. I had to make do with the features of the camera I currently had on hand, even if it lacked some features that would have made the practice a lot more convenient.
Using a DSLR provided me with the most control over my images, but it was too bulky to lug around. My smartphone camera, on the other hand, was extremely handy but doesn’t give me enough controls to work with. Then there’s the action camera, which has the ultra-wide scope that I liked but didn’t produce high quality of photos.
Of course, there was also the mirrorless camera, which is popular among street photographers for its highly advanced DSLR-like features in a more compact and lightweight body. The only real drawback I experienced with this crowd favorite is that it couldn’t capture moving subjects as excellently as DSLRs can, but perhaps it was mainly because my camera didn’t have the option to use phase detection for faster autofocusing. Adding to that, of course, was the shorter battery life, which disrupted my momentum a couple of times and required me to bring a spare to every shoot.
In a perfect world, I would have one camera of every type and decide which was best for a particular assignment or photowalk. I ultimately learned the pros and cons of each camera and how to make do with each, but I have to say I had a much more enjoyable time shooting in the streets with the handy camera of my iPhone 7 Plus—more on that below.
The Ideal Street Photography Camera Depends On You
In the end, I realized that the best camera ultimately depends on one’s personal preference. For instance, the Fujifilm X100T is well loved for its exceptional quality images and advanced hybrid viewfinder, which allows you to use it for live exposure checks as well as image previews after taking them. This premium compact digital camera packs advanced technologies into its tiny body and after a few test runs, I finally understood why many consider it as one of the best cameras for street photography.
While I did enjoy the X100T, I still found myself reaching for my iPhone 7 Plus more for taking photos of graffiti, street art, and random human subjects out on the street. Perhaps this was due to the fact that I literally didn’t have to bring a camera bag and was able to blend in with an unassuming device. While it didn’t have much control over exposure settings, as long as I was shooting with ample lighting, its 12-megapixel camera did a great job at producing quality images that I was instantly able to retouch and show off to my friends and family online.
Come to think of it, the quality of one’s street photos isn’t just dependent on the device but also on the skills of the photographer. With the amount of time and effort that I continue to invest in improving my craft and composing my images, I’m able to utilize whatever I had and capture great photos no matter the camera.
So far, I am enjoying every bit of taking street photos mainly with my smartphone and would, only switch cameras for assignments that needed hi-res print outs. Maybe it’s not about getting the best gadget after all, but getting one that will give you the best experience—and by best, I mean not according to any expert review or opinions of any other photographer but your own.