I think every photographer can relate to the first time that they fell in love with a camera, but the act of becoming smitten with a piece of gear is perhaps nowhere as important than with street photography. You see, lots of street photographers buy something and stick with it for life if they don’t need anything better. There are photographers that have acquired Leica M cameras and continue to shoot with them over and over again. This mutually exclusive relationship isn’t as big with other types of photography. Of course though, there are very big reasons for this.
First off, you should know that the ideal street photography camera is small, low profile, reliable, can be fast to focus, can deliver images that work well with the photographer’s creative vision, and will be a joy for the photographer to carry. Think of it as a companion. In the same way that you fall in love with your lover, your dog, or anything that you tend to carry with you everywhere, you’ll feel the same way about your camera.
This is essentially what a camera should be.
And trust me, I’ve gone through lots of them before truly understanding what camera is best for photographers. Obviously though, I’m not saying this end-all-be-all statement without having done my research. Hang out amongst various street photography groups and you’ll see the same trends.
For me, DSLRs were too large. Bring them up to your face and someone is bound to really wonder what’s going on and why you’re taking their picture. But bring a point and shoot or a mirrorless camera up to your face and the person probably won’t bat an eye. This goes double for using a phone.
Speak to street photographers and what you’ll find is many of them like to be a fly on the wall, while others really like to let the person know that they’re taking an image. Either one works, but they all reach for essentially the same equipment.
Ricoh, Fujifilm, Olympus, Sony–they’re all making what you like. No one is making a bad camera. But instead it’s all about getting the camera that means something to you and can deliver the image quality that you want.
The more important thing you’ll also realize is that you shouldn’t sit there and get caught up in reviews. They help with guidance for sure. But once you make a purchase, you shouldn’t sit there and berate someone else’s reviews or thoughts on your camera. Instead, you should prove them wrong by simply producing good work with the camera. The whole mentality and culture of being so hurt by what someone says about a piece of gear is frivolous.
Your first camera should also be your best camera. It doesn’t necessarily need to be the first one you purchase, but instead think of it as your primary companion camera.