Optimising Your Equipment

It has taken me several years to refine my philosophy regarding the best equipment for street photography. I admit to having a strong interest in the gear itself and the ways in which it can help improve creative output. I am not talking about seeing more creatively or influencing creative vision. However, I believe the demanding environment of the street is best navigated with equipment that suits both personal style and creative capture goals.

The following factors are my own criteria for choosing equipment that I believe can make a difference in achieving the best possible shot:

Focal length choices
Maximum lens aperture
Sensor size
Low noise performance
Camera body size & weight
Lens sizes & weights
In-body stabiliation
Focussing agility

Overall lens/body erganomics
Colour profiles
Back screen articulation
Dial vs menu balance
Camera menu navigation ease

You may also find, that one camera set-up does not suit every occasion. You may be embarking on a day-long street project, other times it may be a chance excursion to somewhere with potential. The following is my own set-up covering three distinct street shoot scenarios.

Scenario One: Focussed street shoot, planned objectives, defined locations.

Having recently transitioned to Fujicolour from Canon for my street photography, I have been fortunate in being able to research and carefully select both my cameras and lenses. I have been keen in particular to achieve wide maximum aperture lenses, in-body stabilisation, a small overall footprint, combined with ergonomics and functionality that are highly responsive and easy to program and control. The XT4 and the lenses shown all tick these boxes and are a joy to use.

Lens Choices

I have a strong preference for prime lenses. Let me explain:

Prime lenses are as the name suggests, well prime. They have less glass, superior optics, are lighter and generally offer wider maximum apertures. They also tend to be less expensive than quality primes of equivalent specifications. However, these differences are only part of the story. Prime lenses often force us to be more creative. We make a conscious choice when we put one on the front of our camera bodies. That choice defines many aspects of how we will tell our street stories.

Fuji 16mm XF f1.4 WR: This lens provides the equivalent focal length of a 24mm on a full-frame camera, giving a dramatic wide perspective without significant distortion. On the street it can either take you in really close to your subjects or the action. Alternatively, it is a great focal length to stand back, allowing the geometry of the architecture to dominate and subjugate your subjects to bit-part actors within the frame.

Used at full aperture, f1.4 allows you to be selective with your frames, choosing where and on what to focus. This allows for techniques such as dirtying up the frame (allowing foreground out-of-focus subjects to increase the drama and layering within the shot) to help make the shot more powerful.