The best digital camera for street photography

Introduction

Welcome to article “the best digital camera for street photography”.  If you look on any forum or group you will see this question asked so frequently.  Everyone wants to know what camera is suitable for street photography.

Have you ever thought and researched what is important for a street camera?

Does size matter?

What features are important?

How much will it cost?

 

There are tens of questions you may ask, but think what is important and work from there.  In this article we will discuss which camera suits all you pavement chasers.  The work will include imagery and screenshots from my camera and equipment.  So let’s get started on the best digital camera for street photography.

 

The best camera

It is a bold statement to say “the best camera”.  Each of you may have different requirements.  You may also know brands of cameras from previous experience, but some of you may not.  A camera is always a superficial part of your photography anyway, it is you who is important.

So let us explain why we believe the Olympus om-d em10 is the best camera for street photography.

 

Size & Weight

When shooting street photography the most sensible approach is to use something lightweight.  This will keep you on your feet and not slow you down.  Having a small camera can allow you to be more discreet.

the best digital camera for street photography

OM-D EM10 side view with kit lens closed

Combine the camera with a pancake lens and you have a match made in heaven.  Being this compact will allow you to carry the smallest amount of equipment with you.  This setup pictured above fits in most of jacket pockets.

 

Versatility

If you like to be versatile then a small zoom lens is perfect.  Allowing you to zoom with a lens instead of your feet can be very useful.

 

The modern features on this camera and similar can be game changing.  This can help a beginner and an expert.  Using a flip out LCD can provide you with the ability to capture without the other party aware.  This is the perfect way to combine technology with your gift of photography.

best digital camera for street photography

Om-d EM10 with screen flipped up

The EM10 allows you to use zoom and focus peaking to help you in difficult lighting scenarios.  Having wi-fi will allow you to shoot and place your camera somewhere suitable.  Use the ability of a mobile and you can be discreet too.

Lenses

With so many great lenses being made over the past decades why not embrace the old.  There are lots of low-cost adaptors available on Ebay. These allow you to use brands like Nikon, Olympus and also m42 mount lenses.

This can be a great way for the budget conscious or amateur to get started with a mirrorless system.

The cost of these lenses does not compare to anything you can buy in the last 5 years.  There are some fantastic f1.8 and f.14 lenses in several different amounts available for under £200.

 

Sensor

Because the camera uses a micro 4/3 system, it effectively doubles the focal distance.  This works really well for portraiture and anything requiring distance.  A lovely old 50mm f.17 or f1.8 effectivately becomes 100mm!  Imagine the fun you can with that.

Just remember the micro 4/3 is smaller than a crop sensor.

 

Image quality

Because the sensor is great, the picture quality is really good too. You can look through any of the street images on the Instagram feed for evidence.

the best digital camera for street photography

Portrait of Andy (Bronica owner) – SOC

The phlogger is not interested in technical or scientific testing performed by others. Real world experience is what we focus on in this article.

The camera is certainly capable of shooting up to iso 1600 and works really well in low light.

 

Autofocus (AF)

Technically this could have been added to the sensor section but bear with us.  The ability of the AF is truly stunning either through the viewfinder or using the touch screen.  Going from a low range DSLR (Canon 550d + Nikon d7000) you really notice the ability of the camera.  It was a massive step forwards in terms of quality and options.

A great way of testing any autofocus is low light, as experience has seen even full frame struggle here.  No such problems with this camera, it works amazing in low light and focuses quickly.

With modern cameras you have features like face recognition. These can be useful for street work, but can get in the way (in my experience). Luckily, they are all optional and easy to turn off.

WiFi

The ability to use wi-fi can open other ways of shooting street photography.  This entirely depends on your style of shooting and confidence.

Imagine finding a great element or person, but it’s too obvious what you are doing.  Why not try a more subtle approach and enable wi-fi, get out your mobile phone. The app allows you to use live view or work as a remote shutter.  You will be far less likely to be spotted if you are looking at a phone than holding a camera up.

best digital camera for street photography

Olympus smart phone app

You could also but your camera on the floor or a wall and fire remotely to get a different angle.

It may not be used all the time, but its an opinion for you.

 

Features

With the advent of small mirrorless cameras, you have ability to use functions like HDR via a menu system.  This feature can be really useful for landscape photographers. Selecting how many exposures you want and then click the shutter once!

Buried deep in the cameras menu system you can get to the most useful setting – the super menu.  This allows access to all settings at once. You can control exposure,white balance, shutter, aperture, metering, and focus point etc. All their in easy easy place.

the best digital camera for street photography

OM-D EM10 super menu

On this model you can use the screen to flip out and face upwards, but not tilt or completely around.  Even this level of movement can add something new to your street photography. Flip out the screen you could treat it like a waist level viewfinder – like medium format cameras.

 

Price

The best part of this camera is the price is as low as £200 (used) on Gumtree and similar sites.  Brand new the em10’s (mark ii) tend to be at approx £529 with kit lens and £649 for mark 3.

The downsides

You have to realistic and know there are always negatives with equipment.  So let’s go through a quick summary.

 

Build Quality

The particle camera as used by the Phlogger has very questionable build quality.  These have been broken down in to 3 elements:

  • wi-fi
  • image quality
  • hotshoe

The first occasion the quality and exposure on the images suddenly became poor.  No-one could diagnose what happened and the shop assumed it was the photographer at fault.  Luckily this seemed to sort itself (could have been down to battery choice!)

On the second visit, this was because the wi-fi has completely stopped working. Therefore, it had to be sent off to Olympus for a few weeks.

It developed a further issue after the shop warranty had expired too.  The camera hot shoe stopped functioning, which now means it cannot be used for any studio work.

Please be very careful if you looking at adding a further battery to your collection.  The after market versions can cause you problems.  Don’t let the battery ever die on you as you more than likely lose all your shots.

Size

Because the camera is so small it can be difficult hand holding for a period of time.  If you have large hands you may struggle with a bottom of the range camera like this, due to the limited buttons.

When walking around for hours it is just not comfy, so you need to consider an aftermarket grip or strap.

best digital camera for street photography

Top view of the Olympus OM-D EM10

Another issue with the size, are the lack of access to immediate controls.  On a larger DSLR a lot of the core functions are accessed by dials within reach of your fingers.  The Olympus has 2 function buttons which can be assigned to useful shortcuts like focus peaking/zoom.  But it just feels like too many controls are buried in menus, again probably due to the size of the body.

 

A/V

If any of you out there are videographers, there is one massive issue – there is no MIC socket.  You have purchase an expensive adaptor that fits to the hotshoe.  This must have been one of the cost cutting corners of this model.

Another problem is you cannot shoot and tether to your computer/tv at the same point.  This again affects any studio photographers or videographers.

Focal length

Because the sensor doubles the focal length, this means it is a lot harder to shoot wide angles.  The kit lens supplied is a 14-42mm version, which means it covers 28-84mm.  This is really great to get you started, but if you want to consider other areas you may struggle.

If you are a landscape photographer you would have to look at a 7.5mm lens just to get 15mm wide!  They are obtainable but you are approaching the size where you could see distortion.

 

The conclusion

The little Olympus is reminiscent of their old film camera range from the 1970’s.  After purchasing and using the camera over 2 years, it is clear its a great choice.  Having something so small is really useful to fit in your pocket.

It is not a perfect camera by any means and has now been superseded by mark 2 + 3 versions now (see here for links). But the main thing point is that it is affordable and great entry in to the mirrorless world.

The camera has stabilisation which will help videographers.  Whether this helps low-speed hand-held still shots is unknown, as it works automatically.

In summary here are the reasons why its the best camera for street photography.

 

The good:

Weight

Fast autofocus

Low price

Versatile

Wifi

Image quality

Touch screen

 

The bad

Crop factor

Build quality

Size

AV

 

Remember, these words are the opinion of the phlogger and not at all sponsored by anyone.  They reflect my experiences through time using a second-hand Olympus om-d em10.

Interested in street photography then check out these:

Phlogger Instagram feed

8 reasons to shoot street article

Street photography e-book by Phlogger

 

Thanks for reading and see you next time.

 

 

 

Phlogger

One comment on “The best digital camera for street photography”

  1. Marjorie says:

    0 for the flagship Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, Version 3. 0 for the Olympus PEN-F, and Version 4. 0 for the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II.

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