Snapshot Voyager is about my own personal photography journey. I am always looking to try something new, inquisitive as to how it works, and to the end results I might achieve.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Looking for a Night Street Shooter - Part 1 - The Need

I really like street photography.   It captures the mood of a place, and what people are doing in their day to day lives.  My wife and I often walk streets together – her looking at interesting shops, me taking photos.

For quite some time I’ve been on the look out for a small pocketable digital camera that was versatile and delivered great image quality.  Such a camera is perfect for street photography, easy to whip out when you need to, and very discreet.

Several cameras have come out that have satisfied some of my criteria, but I dismissed all of them:

Point n’ shoot digitals – very poor high ISO performance, controls too basic, limited depth of field adjustment, shutter lag; but they are small and very pocketable

Sigma DP1 – Too expensive, non-interchangeable lens; but the large APS-C size sensor was interesting.  The same type as most D-SLRs, with good low light / high ISO performance.

Leica X1 – A slightly nicer Sigma DP-1 that is stupidly expensive.

Olympus EP-1 / Panasonic GF-1 – I loved the idea of interchangeable lenses on a compact camera, and being able to use adapter to fit many other brands of lenses, specifically for me, Leica and Nikon.  I also liked the available wide angles – 17mm Olympus, and fast 20mm Panasonic f1.7.  Both very compact, but they have huge distortion when not self-corrected by camera software – not a good sign for a lens purist like me.  The four-thirds sensor is also too small, creating too much high ISO noise.  No good for night street photography where low light / high ISO performance is critical.  It also doubles the focal length of all my Full Frame lenses – again no good for street photography where a wide lens is much better suited.  I also like shallow depth of field effect, and even the four thirds sensor adds 2-3 stops of depth of field compared to a full frame sensor.

Nothing really seemed to work, so lugging a D-SLR around was going to continue.


The photos in this post and the rest of the upcoming posts in this little series are taken at the 2010 Toronto Nuit Blanche (Night time Arts Festival) with my Nikon D700 and a Nikon 50mm f1.2 – an awesome low light combination; and my benchmark for night time street photography. However the size makes it unsubtle, and a little worrysome when you remember the value of the camera that’s very visible in a slightly sketchy area; which is in a large part why this adventure for a smaller camera is taking place.

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