Street photographers.... what lenses?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by VirtualRain, Jan 11, 2015.

  1. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    Vancouver, BC
    #1
    Hey there, I'm wondering if anyone who likes to do street photography can comment on lens choices?

    I've been interested in doing more street photography in general, and have an opportunity to pickup a pre-owned 135L for a good deal, so I'm wondering if anyone uses that lens on the street?

    I've used my 85L on the street before but it's a bit heavy and slow to focus... I gather the 135L won't be a light-weight either, but I understand it focuses very quickly.

    I also use my 50L a bit on the street, but you have to get pretty close which can eliminate the candid aspect.
     
  2. brentmore macrumors 6502

    brentmore

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    #2
    I love my 50mm 1.4 on my DSLRs, but many times I'll use the M and the 22mm because I don't stand out as much. I just ordered a 10-18mm and I'm looking forward to see how it does on the street.
     
  3. VirtualRain thread starter macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #3
    So pretty wide then. You wouldn't use a focal length like 85 or 135mm then?
     
  4. TheReef macrumors 68000

    TheReef

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    #4
    I tend to think of discrete rangefinder-like cameras with small prime lenses ranging from 15mm to 35mm when it comes to street photography.

    For the money you could get a small Sony RX-100 / Canon G7X or similar and capture the in-the-moment shots that'd otherwise be too awkward with larger gear.

    This said the 135L is indeed beautiful and fast focusing, I haven't used it on the street but is many photographers lens of choice for portraiture (I find the 200L works great too)... and won't depreciate like purchasing another camera would.
     
  5. Ish macrumors 68000

    Ish

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    #5
    Hi VR!
    I'm a relative newcomer to street photography so take what I say as being my own view only! Conventional wisdom says there's an advantage in using a 35mm or 50mm equiv. on the street as the 'normal' view gives the viewer a sense of immediacy.

    I've used an X100 (35mm equiv lens) or an X-E1 (50mm equiv lens) so far but intend to go out with the 18-55 and try it at the long end. The small size of camera and lens puts me more in the 'tourist class' to passers by, despite them giving results equally as good as the DSLR's I used to have, and I don't think people take as much notice. Having said that, there are street photographers who use short telephoto lenses like the 135 and are producing good work (to my eye anyway!). Obviously, with a DSLR and long lens you don't have to get as close but you don't look as though you're just taking snapshots either and you become more visible. It depends where you are. In places where there are lots of tourists no one will take much notice anyway. There's an interesting article you might like to read:

    http://petapixel.com/2012/11/11/in-defense-of-telephoto-lenses-for-street-photography/

    Have a search on the web, there are some really good articles, also videos on YouTube. I can pass on some favourites if you like, or you might prefer to find them for yourself.

    Have fun!
     
  6. Meister Suspended

    Meister

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    Oct 10, 2013
    #6
    You can use any focal length.
    The 85mm gives you some zoom for inconspicousy without giving the complete distant paparazzo look that a >100mm would give you.
    The 50mm has excellent optical quality, is light, cheap and versatille.

    If I'd have to choose one lens it would be the nikkor 50mm 1.8g.
     
  7. Attonine, Jan 12, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2015

    Attonine macrumors 6502a

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    #7
    21mm -35mm on FF.

    Please remember a photograph in the street is not necessarily street photography.

    Check out some Street photographers and the equipment they use.

    Some names for you:
    Bruce Gilden
    Garry Winograd
    Joel Meyerowitz
    Jeff Marmelstein
    David Solomons
    Raghu Rai
    Marc Cohen
    Daido Moriyama
    Jun Abe
    Siege Kurata

    Check out the In-Public group, also Erik Kim blog has lots of useful ino for beginners.
     
  8. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #8
    For now, I tend to use 35mm, though I have also used 50mm.

    I have a 90mm but have found myself using it rarely.

     
  9. brentmore macrumors 6502

    brentmore

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    #9
    I personally wouldn't use something that long for a couple of reasons, including preference. I know that many like to shoot with an 85 and the results are great. Also the 10-18mm will not be as wide on the M, since it's a crop sensor.
     
  10. apphotography macrumors regular

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    Nov 19, 2014
    #10
    It depends whether you want a landscape type photography or intimate image. I take a 50mm and a 70-300mm. If you only shoot wide or up to 50mm you will miss many beautiful details and far off moments that the naked human eye rarely if ever notices.
     
  11. tcphoto macrumors 6502a

    tcphoto

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    #11
    Although the 50L is my favorite lens, I believe the 35L is more appropriate for street photography. Even when I carry my G12 around I find that I keep it at the widest focal length.
     
  12. AlexH macrumors 68000

    AlexH

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    #12
    Primarily a 35mm (or 35mm equivalent). Sometimes I'll go 50mm (though 50mm is one of my least favorite focal lengths), sometimes I'll go 85/90mm.
     
  13. ocabj macrumors 6502a

    ocabj

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    #13
    35mm effective is probably the most common. 24mm is also an option, as long as you have a good prime with minimal barrel distortion.
     
  14. 7enderbender macrumors 6502a

    7enderbender

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    #14
    Is this for full-frame? Otherwise the 135L will be too tight (~200mm equivalent). On full frame it's a great lens and it's actually pretty light and compact comparatively speaking. I do the vast majority of my photography with my 50L and my 135L (on a 5D2).
     
  15. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

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    #15
    Things have changed quite a bit. I used to do street photography for personal enjoyment and at the time, it was a very common practice to use slightly wide to wide lenses (film days). Though I see today everyone getting a cow about bokeh, often street photography included using trying to stick to the range of f/5.6 to f/11. Rendering out a background was done in the darkroom if needed. The reason some depth of field was engaged was two-fold: one can't always be perfect with manual focus and the depth of field was helpful in simply setting up the lens to shoot from (example) 3ft to 11ft and keep most items in close enough focus. The second item was for allowing aggressive crop choices.

    For me, 35 was a good focal length and also 90mm in certain instances. I have also used 24mm with great care and found it had some great ability under the right conditions. Naturally, 24mm shots required a bit more work in the dark room to help counter items such as convergence. Today, photographers don't have to worry about that as it can be correct if wanted via post processing on a computer.

    I'll still consider the 30-35mm ff to be a great go to focal length for typical street shooting and the 24 for some interior and "in the mix of what is happening" shooting.
     
  16. Attonine macrumors 6502a

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    #16
    Zone focusing is faster, even when compared to the fastest modern AF cameras and lenses. As I'm sure you know, using this technique, the camera is always in focus, between your chosen distances. All you have to do is learn your distances, in your example 3ft to 11ft.

    Regarding bokeh, and I'm sure this is going to be controversial, anyway.... I'm not sure it has any place in street photography. I've never seen a neon street light that is a weird circular blur. For me, a greater depth of field is important because part of the challenge of getting a great street shot is capturing "action" throughout the depth of field, so the image is not flat. In a single image I want interest in the foreground, middle ground, and background. It should be difficult to get a good shot, it should be a real challenge, and using this depth of field is part of it. Of course, I'm talking about layered shots here. Yes, there are fantastic single point of focus shots such as Cartier Bresson's jumping man, I get it, really. My point is just about Bokeh and depth of field.

    Oh, and I'd be grateful if someone could point me in the direction of great, and I mean great Street photography or street photographers using telephoto lenses. Other than William Klein's fashion work, I'm at a loss. I have never heard of or seen any great street work with telephoto lenses.
     
  17. Razeus macrumors 601

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    #17
    X100S.

    Going out with a D800 and Sigm 35 was way too much in terms of weight and being seen.
     
  18. Apple fanboy macrumors P6

    Apple fanboy

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    #18
    I don't shoot a lot of people (that sounds wrong), but I like to use my 70-200mm to keep my distance. Yes it's not a discrete camera, but you can be far away enough that you don't get noticed. Even with a small camera, if your close by, people can see what you are doing.
     
  19. Razeus macrumors 601

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    #19
    ...you'd be surprised at how many don't.
     
  20. Attonine macrumors 6502a

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    #20
    A couple of points. So what if people see what your doing. Are you doing anything wrong? Is it illegal? No, so who cares if people notice you or not. Learn how to deal with people who may approach you.

    In the field of street photography it's generally considered bad form to shoot people from a distance, long lenses etc. This is snooping, akin to the dirty old man in a raincoat. If you are going to photograph people, be up front about it. Do it in a manner so that people know what you are doing.

    Now, there are some photographers who like to be invisible, to not influence the scene. Some just have this natural ability, they are like ghosts, it doesn't matter where they are, no-one ever notices them. David Gibson from In Public is like this, and he is open about the fact that he wants no interaction at all. There are other photographers like Brice Gilden who are much more in your face and in Gilden's case uses flash at close range so is intentionally influencing the scene. Of course there are photographers who fit into every level between Gibson and Gilden.

    There is also the aesthetic reason for using 21,24,28,35mm lenses for street. With these lenses the viewer can feel like they are in the shot, it's more intimate. As Gilden says "It's street photography if you can smell the street."
     
  21. Meister Suspended

    Meister

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    #21
    Street photography is not legal everywhere.
    Ever tried finding street photographers from germany?
    Couldn't find any? Wonder why?
     
  22. Attonine macrumors 6502a

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    #22
    http://www.seconds2real.org

    http://www.street-photography-hamburg.siegfried-hansen.de

    Here you go.

    I'm not a lawyer, and certainly not a German lawyer, but I think Germany has arrived at that weird junction where the taking of the photos is not illegal, but the publishing is.
     
  23. kingalexthe1st macrumors 6502

    kingalexthe1st

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    #23
    I second this. Some excellent points in here. To the OP, there is a phrase that goes something like 'creepiness is proportional to focal length'. Photographing people from afar is a bit of the dirty old man in the raincoat, as Attonine put it.

    I shoot using my X100s and most of the time I actually want people to notice me. It makes a very powerful image when the subject locks eyes with the viewer. But saying that, Razeus also put

    You really can get very close to people and they either won't notice, or will ignore you. Take the photo, look at your camera and move on. This might sound strange, but making eye contact with the person I've just photo'd is a bit weird for me. I prefer to just move on as though nothing has happened. If you pretend it's normal, then you'll be surprised how many people will also buy in to that.

    Anyway, I use a 35mm FOV. It isn't just wider, it gives a level of depth to the photo that longer focal lengths tend to lose. But if you find that too intimidating then feel free to start at 85mm and after a while you might naturally find yourself wanting to include more of the scenery in your photos, so then you can move down to 50mm and so on. The most important thing is to make a decision and SHOOT :)

    Alex
     
  24. Meister Suspended

    Meister

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    #24
    Those are the two links that come up in google search.

    Hansens photos usually don't contain any people and if they do, their faces are rarely recognizeable.
    Same goes for the other link.

    The german legal situation regarding street photography is in a grey zone.
    In reality you should be ready to frequently get the police called on you, if you don't get assaulted right away. I remember having a guy swear and scream at me because I took a photo of a massive apartment complex and he claimed that on of the apartments is his. :confused:

    Long lenses could come in handy ;)
     
  25. Attonine macrumors 6502a

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    #25


    I don't know much about them but Seconds2reel are quite a respected group I think.

    As far as working yourself, maybe you just need to hot up on the law. There was a time a few years ago in the UK where the Police and private security companies were hammering photographers based on "security". The photographers grouped together, learnt their rights, made some videos of real confrontations, and hey presto, now everyone knows their rights and can take photos in peace! (more or less).

    France has a similar situation to Germany. You as an individual own the rights to your image. So street photography in France can be difficult too. Kind of a strange situation as it's the spiritual home of Street Photography and Cartier Bresson photos are sold on every street corner. You will notice photographers working in Paris tend to use more traditional framing. The recent fashion for Bruce Gilden style street wasn't able to transfer to France.

    There are some other countries where Street is difficult. It's a shame. In 100 years there will be a gap in the visual records of these countries. You also find that when there is an incident such as the one in Paris recently, the first thing the authorities do is ask everyone to submit cell phone photos and videos!
     

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