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Best Camera for Street Photography? (Film)

Stephen Hipperson , Dec 15, 2011; 12:36 p.m.

I don't do street photography, but I'm thinking of dabbling. I have a canon dslr and some lenses but I want to use something altogether quieter and less intrusive. Budget is almost no existant, but I'm happy to use film for the quantity of images I'm likely to take. Would those experienced in such things like to often some advice, based on practical experience, on what film cameras might be worth considering. I've read that Leicas were the thing, as were TLRs - maybe range finders from other manufacturers, maybe I can bag something off ebay relatively cheap? I guess the focal length to use would be around 35-80mm (I'm not looking to use a zoom).



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Luis G , Dec 15, 2011; 12:54 p.m.

I could tell you to use what I use, but I'll leave that to others. Intrusion is at least 90% about the vibe you are putting out. The camera is of relatively minor importance. Being anxious triggers into alert status the defense perimeter of others. Relax. You can use your present equipment, and any lens between 24 & 50 (equivalent in FF) to start with (though, yes, anything from a fish-eye to a 1200mm can -- and has -- been used).

Film cameras? My vote would go to any M2 or later Leica with a 35/2 lens (pre-focus, pre-meter and you will discover the significance of lag in fluid situations). Something like an Olympus XA is far smaller, has AE, but a lesser lens and about 1/20th of the price. Load either with some ISO 800 film and have at it.

JDM von Weinberg , Dec 15, 2011; 12:55 p.m.

Cheap -- consider a nice Soviet Leica copy (FED or less so, Zorkii) or my personal preference for Soviet cameras, a Zeiss Contax made in the Soviet Union, the Kiev.

Nice lenses (mostly copies of Zeiss with some improvements like better coatings), and they are widely available for very low prices.

Alternatively, there are a huge number of P&S type cameras, both digital and film, that are really more capable than you'd imagine.

In between there are cameras like the Canonet series, or similar 70s to 80s RF cameras from many makers. Ricoh, I have found, are undervalued.

Brad - , Dec 15, 2011; 01:09 p.m.

Olympus Stylus Epic will work great - less than 50 bucks on ebay (or I'll sell you mine). Or any other film cam...

Arthur Plumpton , Dec 15, 2011; 01:40 p.m.

If you pre-focus a 35mm focal length lens and want an unobstrusive and quiet little camera, try the viewfinder scale focus fixed lens collapsible Minox 35 GT or GTE and Tri-X or equivalent color film. It's auto exposure lessens that need of manipulation for most occasions. It can be had for not much more than a hundred dollars It has a very good f2.8 lens. More expensive would be a screw mount Leica with say a VC 35mm f2.5 classic lens, or a Konica Hexar AF with its 35mm f2 lens, each very quiet in operation.

Jean-Yves Mead , Dec 15, 2011; 02:01 p.m.

Whatever camera you're comfortable with, will work just fine.

Bob Atkins , Dec 15, 2011; 02:01 p.m.

I wouldn't use film. If you want to be ignored, digital cameras are smaller, quieter and virtually invisible to most people. Older models are as cheap as old film cameras. In fact the ultimate candid street camera is now probably a cell phone.

If you must shoot film then a Canonet GLIII, or Olympus XA would be interesting choices. P&S AF film cameras are generally too slow and noisy for candid work.

Of course the best street shooters don't bother about being unobtrusive. Having a Leica shoved in your face (sometimes with flash) isn't exactly covert photography.

Starvy Goodfellows , Dec 15, 2011; 02:10 p.m.

A lot of good suggestions above. There is a lot more choice if you don't mind going meterless. Fixed lens rangefinders from Yashica, Olympus, Konica are to name a few. With these just choose something that is fully manual or offers manual exposure.

Allen Friday , Dec 15, 2011; 02:45 p.m.

I use a Leica MP with 35mm lens. It is small, doesn't have the red dot, and is very quiet. A great camera for street work, but it is expensive, make that very expensive. The MP has a built in meter, which is nice, but not critical for street work. The camera also will allow shooting even if the battery runs out--a nice feature if you travel to more exotic locations where batteries are not always available.

I prefer rangefinder cameras in general and especially for street work. Almost any good rangefinder will work. You should be able to pick up used (non-Leica) rangefinders at reasonable prices. You also might consider a Bessa rangefinder. I think they will take Leica lenses.

Which ever camera you decide on, I would try it for a bit before purchasing. Shooting a rangefinder is different from a SLR and not everyone adapts to the differences.

I have used a TLR, MF camera and I never got used to the waist level finder. I found my composition was off when using the WLF. Your milage may vary. If you really want MF, then look at the Mamiya 7II. The lenses aren't as fast as Leica lenses, but it is generally not a problem unless you are in very low light or you want extremely shallow depth of field. The 6x7 negatives from the Mamiya are beautiful.

As for film, it is hard to go wrong with Kodak Tri-X or Ilford HP5+ in D-76. For low light, I like Ilford Delta 3200.

Lilly W , Dec 15, 2011; 02:56 p.m.

Yet another recommendation for one of the Olympus XA models; XA (original), 1, 2 and 3 have 35mm lenses while the 4 has a 28. All are very quiet. See this site for XA info. Can't imagine why the recommendations for a Leica when the budget is 'almost non-existant'.

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