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street photography


  • street photography has been with us for over a century, but became popularised by 35mm range finder (especially Leica) bearing photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and his “decisive moment”, Daido Moriyama, and more recently with the discovery of previously the unknown street photography of Vivian Maier who used her TLR camera in the 1950's and 1960's
  • there are many ways of tackling this genre:
    • most prefer a relatively wide angle lens such as 35mm focal length on full frame cameras and getting in close to the subject
    • some introverts may take a more voyeuristic approach and use a telephoto from a distance
    • many stay in one scene and wait for the public to walk into the scene (the fishing technique), while others take a more aggressive hunter approach, looking for interesting people and moments
    • others will take a more leisurely approach and just enjoy the walk and if they are inspired and it works out, they can capture a nice image as a memento of the day (the amateur golfer who is happy to get in a great drive off the tee on one of the holes)
    • part of the art and challenge for many is to reduce the clutter of reality and to simplify the image
    • as an exposition of your self - the images tend to reflect your own personality and mood - your soul
  • an advantage of this genre is that it teaches one to observe people, observe light, look for compositions, learn to predict moments, and for those who are willing, to interact with unknown people and learn not only about them, but more importantly learning about yourself, overcoming fears of strangers, learning the art of small talk, and the benefits of not judging a book by its cover - some of the scariest looking people may be the nicest people!
  • don't have too high an expectation - if you get one good image a month or a really good one in a year then you are doing well - and don't judge them until several months or years have passed
  • when you are struggling, go to the art galleries and be inspired by the compositions of renaissance art or look to minimalistic art
  • capturing emotion is often key to the success of a photo - shoot with your heart - even if the light or composition is not technically perfect

what camera gear?

  • the best camera kit is one that is small enough that you will take it with you and yet provide high enough image quality for your needs
  • avoid the temptation of zoom lenses - shooting a prime lens with fixed focal length forces your brain to be re-wired to see compositions in that field of view which in the end will make you far more efficient at seeing vignettes to capture
  • Micro Four Thirds system is ideal as they can fit in a jacket pocket if you use a small lens such as a Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens, but you would probably be better off with a faster focusing slightly larger lens, and if you have the money, perhaps even a Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.2 PRO lens which has a manual focus, although many would prefer a wider angle lens - perhaps a Olympus mZD 17mm f/1.8 lens which is not too wide that it will cause facial distortions and allow you to shoot at around 4-6' from the subject for best impact
    • a preferred option for some is to shoot at 35mm f/8 in full frame terms and manually set focus to 1.2m and ISO to 1600
      • on Micro Four Thirds system, you would need a 15-21mm lens set at f/4 at ISO 400 and have a MF clutch so you can set the focus distance easily
        • this could be easily achieved with the Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro weatherproof lens - just don't use it as a zoom lens!
        • alternatively, you could shoot with a legacy Olympus OM 21mm f/3.5 lens where you can see the focus setting and the aperture
  • a bigger camera such as a full frame dSLR will potentially allow shallower depth of field (DOF) but it won't guarantee better photographs - in fact, it may mean you miss out on the better photographs altogether, and many street photos rely upon sharp graphical compositional elements and so shallow DOF can work against you - the old school photographers shot at f/8 to ensure nearly everything was sharp enough.

shooting with the classic 35mm street lens


the Olympus mZD 17mm f/1.8 lens or Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 ASPH lens are reasonable choices

  • compact (36mm long), light (120g), relatively inexpensive but not weathersealed
  • the Olympus has the MF clutch which is almost essential for zone focus techniques
  • the Panasonic is sharper with less CA but more distortion

on Sony a7 full frame

shooting with a "standard" 50mm lens


is the Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.2 PRO lens one of the best?

  • weathersealed and expensive
  • compact, light, pro build but still only 410g and 86mm long
  • beautiful bokeh and adequate shallow depth of field (DOF) when shooting wide open with fast accurate AF
  • 5EV 5 axis image stabilisation when used with OM-D cameras
  • accurate closest eye AF available for static subjects anywhere in the frame
  • can focus TWICE as close as any 50mm full frame lens if this is needed!
  • minimal distortion, nice MF clutch, and sharp edge to edge at f/4 when shooting “f/8 zone focus” technique and this allows 2 stops lower ISO
  • alternatively, the Olympus m.ZD 25mm f/1.8 standard lens is much smaller, lighter, cheaper and optically excellent but no MF clutch or weathersealing

alternatively, the Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro weatherproof lens?

  • similar length (84mm), weight (382g), build, weathersealing, MF clutch, close focus, IS, eye AF as the 25mm f/1.2 lens
  • at 25mm has similar optical qualities as the 25mm at f/2.8-4 although the 25mm f/1.2 lens has a little better central sharpness at f/2.8 but more CA
  • instead of the extra 2.5EV of shallow depth of field (DOF) and low light capabilities of the f/1.2 lens, you get the option of being able to zoom in and out as needed
  • on a full frame camera, an equivalent zoom lens would be much bigger, heavier and close focus twice as far:
    • 24-70mm f/2.8 lens weigh over 800g and are about 115mm long
    • 24-105mm f/4 IS lens weighs 670g and are about 107mm long, although there is a Sony 24-70mm F4 Carl Zeiss OSS which is compact and light but is soft away from centre with complex distortion

alternatives on Sony a7 mirrorless

  • Sony FE CZ 50mm f/1.4 ZA
    • big, heavy, very expensive at 780g and 108mm long
    • lots of vignetting and soft wide open half way to edges
  • Sony FE CZ 55mm f/1.8 ZA
    • expensive, but compact and light at 281g, 64mm long but not weathersealed
    • lots of long. CA, and busy onion ring bokeh, considerable lens to lens variation
  • Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART
    • way too big and heavy - over 820g and 120mm with MC-11 adapter
    • not weathersealed
    • bokeh not as good but more shallow DOF than the 25mm f/1.2
  • Canon EF lenses:
    • Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L
      • expensive, weathersealed, relatively compact at 66mm but still quite heavy at 592g
      • AF slowish
      • image quality wide open gives the shallowest DOF and nice bokeh but images are soft with ghosting and subject needs to be static to have a reasonable chance of accurate AF
      • no Eye detection AF
    • Canon EF 50mm f/1.4:
      • moderately cheap, light and compact at 290g, 51mm long but not weathersealed and image quality including bokeh is poor wide open
      • no Eye detection AF
    • Canon EF 50mm f/1.8II
      • does not work well on Sigma or Metabones adapters - not recommended, plus bokeh is very busy, very poor manual focus control
  • legacy manual focus lenses but these are really only good for zone focus technique at f/8:
    • a multitude are available but you lose AF, wide open image quality and weathersealing


photo/street.txt · Last modified: 2019/11/04 08:51 by gary1

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