Street photography: it’s the act of documenting the world around you as it happens in a public setting. These days, some of the best street photography is done when displaying the current state of humanity or sometimes by simply looking at people as fixtures of urban geometry. The Panasonic S5 II is a positively incredible camera for a host of needs that photographers have — including street photography. With a full-frame sensor that performs impeccably at high ISOs and a secret weapon inside, there’s a lot to love here.
This piece is presented in partnership with Panasonic. We’ve independently and ethically reviewed all the products in this post already without sponsorship. And we worked with them to recommend a few key gems to you.
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The Best Gear for Street Photography with the Panasonic S5 II
Some of our recommendations for the best gear to use with the Panasonic S5 II (buy one here) for street photography are:
- Panasonic 50mm f1.8 Lumix S: Small, weather resistant, and packing fantastic image quality. The 50mm field of view is what so many famous street photographers have chosen over the years. You can put a bit more distance between you and your subject when you use this lens. Check out our full review of this lens.
- Panasonic 35mm f1.8 Lumix S: All the benefits of the 50mm f1.8 but with a wider field of view. We recommend you get a bit closer with this lens. Check out our full review of this lens. Always remember that weather-resistance helps with a bunch of other factors like keeping your camera’s sensor clean and the overall reliability of the product.
- Panasonic 24mm f1.8 Lumix S: Best for when you want to tell a more environmental story with all the benefits of the other lenses we spoke of. Check out our full review of this lens. To make sure that your autofocus is always snappy, make sure to use isopropyl alcohol to clean the lens contacts and camera contacts.
These three focal lengths are some of the most common options for street photography. Lucky for us, the Panasonic S5 II uses the Leica L mount. One of the really awesome things about this mount is the large variety of lens options you’ve got available to you. Not only can you adapt some beautiful vintage lenses, but notable lens manufacturers also make lenses for Leica L mount. This lets you stay versatile and create a whole host of different looks.
If you really must use autofocus though, then know that thanks to the previous firmware updates, the S5 (and now the S5 II) are good for street photography. You can also use other camera tricks like the quick-AF feature and more. We’ve got an entire article on getting more from the Panasonic S5 II’s autofocus right here.
Believe it or not, this is really all you need to get started. So let’s dive deeper into how to use the gear.
All About Zone Focusing
Sure, the Panasonic S5 II has autofocus; and in the continuous focus setting it can do a good job. But one of the fantastic things about the S5 II that so many photographers have asked for is better focus peaking in manual focus mode. The video shooters have known about this for years, and lots of other photographers don’t really pay it any mind. But it’s a legitimate feature. When enabled, focus peaking highlights and puts little lines around whatever is in focus within the scene. One of the reasons we’re highly recommending Panasonic’s lenses is the full lens and camera communication. This means that you’ll get the most accurate focusing possible.
Now all you have to do is use what’s called zone focusing. Zone focusing is the act of stopping a lens down and focusing it away to a certain distance. The laws of physics state that the further out you focus a lens, the more of the scene will be in focus at a given aperture. With zone focusing, it’s often a splendid idea to stop the lens down to around f5.6 to 8 and focus maybe 5 to 6 feet away. The Panasonic S5 II and the lenses we’re using are bound to get something in focus from 8 to 4 feet away because the lens is stopped down.
Here are a few other tips:
- Don’t let the camera go to sleep, otherwise, you could miss the shot
- You don’t need to use the viewfinder for this. This lets you shoot in any way you can creatively think of. Lots of people just understand what the field of view looks like, move to their subject, and just shoot.
- Because you’re focused a certain distance away, your subjects are bound to be in focus with zone focusing
- Shoot in continuous burst mode. You don’t need to shoot at a high burst rate. Just in case, the Panasonic S5 II can shoot up to 30 frames a second. And you can see what it’s capable of doing in our full review of the camera. Our reviews aren’t sponsored, so keep that in mind when you’re reading.
With time, zone focusing will be one of the best things you do.
Make it Look Like Film!
Now here’s the Panasonic S5 II’s secret weapon: Real Time LUT. You can load video and movie Look Up Tables onto the camera to make the image quality look like 35mm and 120 film. Alternatively, you can use Panasonic’s own looks like L Classic Monochrome to get a nice black and white look.
Note that Real Time LUT only applies to the JPEG photo. So we recommend shooting in RAW + JPEG. However, most of the time, we don’t even end up using the RAWs we shot because we’re so happy with the JPEG results. Crazy, right?
As you’re shooting, keep in mind the ideas around zone focusing. Remember how far away the camera is focusing as you’re walking around. When doing that, all you’re going to have to do is focus on the composition of the scene. You won’t even need to autofocus! And with how small, lightweight, and durable the Panasonic S5 II is with any of these lenses, you’ll want to shoot all the time.