Most images in this story are by Japan Camera Hunter. Used with permission.
Though street photographers love to talk about the cameras that they own, they also love geeking out even more about the older cameras that those before them used. While the best camera is the one that you have on you, certain snappers are the ones that discerning street photographers dream of. These cameras are also all film–and it only makes sense. For years, street photographers swore an allegiance to Kodak Tri-X, Ilford Delta 400, and many others that gave them the look that they knew and loved.
For photographers looking for a really affordable Leica camera, your best compromise between feature set and affordability is the Leica M6. The camera has all the beautiful Leica ergonomics, you want along with metering, a solid build and most of the frame lines that you really want when using a rangefinder camera.
They’re very highly sought after and when a photographer has one, it’s tough to get them to part with one. This M mount classic takes many Zeiss, Leica and Voigtlander lenses–the latter which are very affordable and high quality.
One of the best point and shoot cameras ever made, the Hexar AF’s influence can very much be seen in the Fujifilm X100 series of cameras. Its lens is a 35mm f2 that is said to be a copy of Leica’s. The camera is also very quiet, has rangefinder like ergonomics, is fairly small, and most of all has autofocus–which means that sometimes you don’t need to manually focus when shooting street.
These cameras still go for lots of money simply because of the fact that they are indeed that legendary.
But don’t just take our word for it. See how Digital Rev compared the camera to a Leica.
The Contax series of cameras and lenses were made by Zeiss and then later on by Cosina. But amongst many of the famous cameras for street photographers is the Contax G2. This camera was known to be the best autofocus rangefinder available on the market and with it came a plethora of lenses by one of the best lens makers in the world.
While the G1 had a number of problems, the G2 improved on the issues and put autofocusing capabilities into a rangefinder body–essentially giving it full advantages over SLR cameras when it came to size. However, the viewfinder was still just a simulation and nothing through the lens.
Photographers love the Contax for not only its lovely looks, but also its full manual controls and portability.
Ricoh GR series
No, we’re not talking about the amazing digital point and shoot camera from a couple of years back–instead we’re taking you back into the film days. The GR series was very popular with photographers for its ease of use, small size, and most importantly a wide fixed lens. While some sported a 28mm f2.8 equivalent, others had a 21mm f3.5 lens–both great focal lengths for street photography shooters. Combine this with its compact size and you’ve got yourself a real winner.
Bellamy Hunt has a much more in-depth guide to these cameras.
Mamiya 6/7 Series
What would this list be without one of the arguable kings of medium format film cameras. The Mamiya 6/7 series of cameras are what modern digital photographers are clamouring for right now: a medium format rangefinder. Though the 6 and 7 had a couple of weird issues, they are still highly sought after. The Mamiya 7 II is the creme-de-la-creme of the series. The camera uses some of the most beautiful lenses ever made and also has a leaf shutter for faster flash sync. Many professional photographers used them and some do even up to today.
The camera takes 120 film, is ruggedized, has a large selection of lenses, and is pretty lightweight.
Though you may not want to tote it around with you everywhere, what more could you ask for?