Cameras for Urban Street Photography


2017 Update

After over five years using the MFT system I've sold my entire Olympus Micro Four Thirds Kit and now only use the full frame mirrorless Sony A7RII.

This decision came, since writing this article, after using both systems for a year and a half on client commissions.

Curious as to why? Read this:

Full Frame or Micro Four Thirds?


What camera for street photography & urban photography? Do I go for a professional but heavy DLSR or opt for a lighter, cheaper and more versatile mirrorless?

It’s no secret I am a big fan of mirrorless cameras. I have used MFT (micro four thirds) cameras for urban photography for a while now, first the E-PL2, then the E-M5, the E-M1, and now the Pen-F and the EM5 Mark 2.

When I first got into photography mirrorless cameras were in their infancy and I didn’t know much about cameras. So, like many, I thought that if I wanted to take great shots I needed a big DSLR from either Canon or Nikon. So I went for Canon.

The love story lasted 2 years and yes of course it did the job very well. But there was a problem.

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First of all it was a hobby, I was skint most of the time and I soon realised that upgrading to a high end DSLR, without even considering the lenses, just wasn’t possible or reasonable.

Then yes there were the lenses, these things cost a lot and they do matter when you decide the bog standard out of the box lens is just…well…ok.

When I go out shooting, I’m not in a comfy studio. No, the streets are my studio and I walk a lot. So much so that even if I wasn’t carrying any gear I’d be tired at the end of the day. So add a heavy DSLR, a couple of lenses and a tripod (as I often shot urban landscapes in low light) and it can be back breaking.

Enter mirrorless cameras, tadaaaa!

I admit, the problem with mirrorless cameras is that they can be confusing as it seems each manufacturer has it’s own format.

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Sony has the A7 which is mirrorless but full frame, Olympus and Panasonic offer MFT (Micro Four Thirds) which is a cropped sensor, Fuji has the X-T1, etc… There are many of them so where do you start?

Avoid impulse buys and simply research online for comparative reviews as I’m not going to go into details here.

But to keep it simple mirrorless cameras are smaller than DSLRs, the lenses are smaller too and generally the cost of both is also a lot more attractive yet often allowing to produce professional results.

There’s still a big debate on image quality with many people so very obsessed with counting and masturbating over pixels.

All I know is that I use Micro Four Thirds and never receive complaints from my clients on commercial work I carry out or from people who buy prints from me. I’ve exhibited some as large as 3 feet wide with very impressive image quality.

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Mirrorless cameras have gone a long way and the gamble Olympus, Panasonic, Fuji and the rest have taken has really paid off. I'm not even saying one should necessarily go for Olympus, hell if I could I would love to play around with Sony's and Fuji's! 

I still get asked by many during shoots if this smaller camera can rival big DSLRs, seems we have an obsession with size. I just let the results speak for themselves.

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The performance of the OMDs is fantastic, they're lighter, the lenses are lighter too and the choice of glass is now really appealing (read my Best Micro Four Thirds Lenses review).

I can be out all day with my gear without really thinking about it and even better: People don’t really notice me shooting (Oh…and it looks good too).

Maybe you managed to see the results at my last exhibiton, "The Great Londoners", which took place from 15th October 2014 to 31st January 2015 at the Hoxton Hotel in Holborn.

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Nico