Street Photography technique and psychology. Post number 2. My street photography kit.

For an explanation of this series and the the conventions used in these posts please see post number 1.

Post number 1. Introduction and Primary and secondary subjects.

Post number 2. My street photography kit.

Post number 3. Clean backgrounds and photographing children.

Post number 4. Looking for interesting light — backlighting and silhouettes.

Warning: If you are sensitive to imagery of abused camera equipment, look away now. Then get a friend to close my website on your computer and delete it from your history.

So after my Street Photography, Psychology and Technique blog post Ive had a few questions about kit and thought it might be useful to disuses some of the stuff I use. I’m not a gear-head. Well, I am insofar as I like what I like and do search it out, but mainly I just want my camera and all my gear to be small, quiet and effective. I dont like anything flashy, I dont care how nice it looks and as you can see I do everything in my power to make it all look as ugly as possible. One reason for this is I don’t want people to think Im a pro, the other is I don’t want people to think my equipment is valuable enough to merit robbing me.

So, there you have the answer to the question most asked of me. ‘Why do you have tape on your camera — is it broken?’ Well, if people think its a piece of junk and moreover do not think Im professional photographer  then that suits me all the better. Similarly, I dont sport a flashy Canon 5dm3 strap but use a more comfy and discreet  20 year old Kodak strap.

 

Why the 5dmk3?

The 5dmk3 is the best all round camera  I have ever owned and is nearly perfect for street photography.

 

The bad stuff :

1/The dynamic range could be better. At 11.5 stops its pretty average. A relatively cheap Nikon d600 is boasting around 14 stops.

2/They removed the focus confirmation red dot in the viewfinder which was on the 5dmk2. On the old 5d2 your focus point lit up brightly letting you know exactly where you are focusing when you depressed the focus button.  For some reason I cannot fathom, this was replaced with a black square, which is very hard to see, especially if you are focusing on something dark. Well, I eventually got used to it and no longer even think about it but I cant help thinking though I might be missing the odd shot by the lack of its presence.

3/The review system of your images, histogram and blinking highlights is not simple and requires a convoluted series of  button pressing unlike Nikon’s system of toggling one button 3 times.

4/In an ideal world it would be a little smaller but hey thats not really a fault of this camera since it is a very typical size for a full frame DSLR.

 

The good stuff:

1/It is a hell of a lot a lot smaller and lighter than my  Nikon D3s!  Thats not really a plus point for anyone who hasn’t migrated from a big camera but to me its benefit since I have.

2/I have the feeling that Canon and a lot of other people do not realise exactly how fantastic ‘silent shutter’ mode is. I don’t think Ive taken more than 100 shots or so not using this mode. I can be pretty much shooting 1 foot from somebodies head and they do not realise I am taking a picture. It is the most discreet camera I have ever used. This one feature alone probably would make me prefer this camera over others. My eyes roll in my head when I hear people talking about what a fantastic shutter ‘clack’ their camera has,  noisily machine gunning it at 10fps and so loving that sound. I so hate that sound and believe it has no place in street photography where the last thing you want to do is draw attention to yourself.

3/Attaining focus in muddy light and backlit conditions is impeccable. It is simply brilliant and Canon have made huge improvements in this area over the 5dmk2.

4/It feels good in your hand. Really good. Its solid and all the buttons are nicely placed. Its a good shape and the front grip is perfectly formed. A brief dalliance with a Nikon d800 made me run back to my 5dmk3 with open arms begging forgiveness.

5/The viewfinder is big and bright as is the review screen.

6/A two card slot, Compact flash and SD has saved my skin on occasions. I write large raws to the CF card and large JPEGs to the SD card as back up. I have not noticed that this slows the camera performance in any way. I never find myself wating for the camera buffer to ‘catch up’ and let me shoot again.

7/Another biggy — ISO performance. Excellent. For a relatively small camera the ISO is brilliant. As good as my Nikon D3S I would say and the quality of the noise is pleasing and not unlike film grain. I want high ISO cameras not because I want to turn night into day, but because I like a little depth of field in my images and do not wish to have to shoot at F2 when I would prefer to shoot at f4.…thats why cameras that perform well at high iso’s are so important.

 

 

Hoodman Loupe

 

So, what else is in the picture.

 

A Hoodman loupe —  essential for reviewing images in strong light. Its a bright day and you cant see if you have focused, cant see your histogram, cant see your blinking highlights? You need one of these babies. The tape shown is mine and  is there  to lock the focus in place — like a diopter on a camera you twist the focus to suit your own vision and Ive locked it down with the tape.

Thinktank Pixel-pocket-rocket memory wallet, most professionals I have worked with use these wallets.  I nice little card wallet which includes a space for your busniness cards and strap to clip it inside your bag somewhere so you dont lose it. When a card is used and full the convention is that you turn it around in the case, white face out.

Loads of memory cards. I dont use cheap memory cards,  I dont trust them enough. I generally use either Sandisk or Lexar 16-32gb.  Ive had cards fail on me in the past. I certainly would never dream of using cheap cards for a wedding — it would keep me awake at night wondering if my skimping had cost me an entire set of images.

2x 1 TB usb3 portable hard drives, these are Verbatim. All these hard drives have a habit of failing in my experience.  Back up your work twice, hide one of them in a different place to most of your stuff. Its also easy to run out of memory on your laptop so extra memory is pretty essential.  When Im away for a long while and Im feeling really anal I back up my best images to 32 gb memory card and stick that in my money wallet. Imagine you lost all your work while you were travelling, that little card in your wallet might save your entire set of best images from your trip.

Lexar USB3 card reader — the best card reader Ive ever owned. Always reliable and lightening fast image transfer.

One of those blower things — Pocket Rocket. Doesn’t get out much.

My 35mm f2. Canon or Nikon these are great. Reasonably good in low light. For everyday street work perfect. Small and light. I personally really don’t see the necessity for big, expensive 35mm 1.4 lenses for this kind of photography. Ill probably end up doing a whole blog post about why I love 35mm so much.

My 50mm 1.4. Only very occasionally used and serves as a back up lens. I might switch to this lens for portraits as it is more flattering to the subject and acheives more background blur than the 35mm.

Spare camera battery.

 

 

Whats not in in picture -

 

My MacBook air 15″ — small, light, powerful and good enough for editing on the move.

Matte Duct tape — Im never with out a roll.

A gang lead — A simple mutli-socket lead allowing you to plug more that one device into so you can charge up everything without worrying about extra adaptors or sockets. Get one with a surge protector.

A Fugi adaptor like this one. The best I have found and works well in India and South East Asia.

 

Other posts in this Street Psychology and Technique series:

Post 1 — Introduction and Primary and secondary subjects.

Post 2 - My street photography kit.

Post 3 — Clean backgrounds and distracted subjects.

 

 

You can of course if you like also find me on Facebook for my latest work.

 

 

Street Photography technique and psychology. Post number 2. My street photography kit. Street Photography technique and psychology. Post number 2. My street photography kit. Street Photography technique and psychology. Post number 2. My street photography kit.

10 Comments

  1. Colin Bate - Hello Mark , i had just been flicking through a copy of Turning Pro when i reread your article, towards the end i always like to see the gear photographers use it mentions your Nikon D3s and the Nikon D700 ,so i go to your blog and read that you are using Canon which is the system i use and i wandered what made you change systems , was it the lens or the camera ,or do you like both. I must say i've always fancied owning a Nikon D700 its had so much good press ,even now it still a brilliant camera for Weddings. I like to say i'm impressed with your images too. Best Regards Colin Bate

    • Mark - Hi Colin, good to hear from you. Yes, I gave up on my D3s. A brilliant camera but for me two main disadvantages. It was heavy and it was noisy. The 5d3 has very good ISO performance, is lighter and the silent shutter makes it perfect for people photography. I miss a few things about the old D3s but outweighed by the things I have come to like about the 5d3.

  2. John Hobson - Hi Mark, Stumbled across your website & blog recently. It's a good read and some excellent images. I think it's great when photographers share their knowledge, exif data etc., and explain how they shot certain images, like you have with the "boys with the kite" post. Your comment on the 5D III and the change Canon have made regarding "the confirmation red dot" in the viewfinder - I have this camera (and a beautiful camera it is) and I a sure there is a setting to have the selected focus point flash in low light situations. I have this enabled and it certainly helps in low light. I certainly agree with your comment though, Canon should have left it well alone! Keep up the good work... Regards, John.

  3. Jürgen - Hi Marc, for an always lighting up red focus point go to Menue AF5 and change from 'Auto' to 'On' Jürgen

    • Mark - Hi Jurgen , cheers but I do not think this works in servo mode which is how I mainly shoot..;(

  4. Cal Trudack - Great post however It's a real cliche to cover the canon logo model etc, it reeks of "photog school" and draws to much attention to the camera - makes you look like you're just starting out, suggest you remove so you don't stand out, after all street photography is about being inconspicuous.

    • Mark - Cal, I cover that branding and tape the camera for reasons I have described and works well for me. I dont really care what other people think about that. Most people, who notice, think I have broken, old camera and sometimes expect it to be film. I 'suggest' you dont really know what you are talking about.

  5. Josh - Hi Marc, thank you for your efforts and sharing so much via this woderful site. I really like to read your essays, in particular your writings about street phot. I think it is tremendously helpful to get some insides regarding how the picture was made. May a ask you tow questions? Is there nay particular reason wyh you normally shoot in AI Servo and whoch foocus areas do you use in ai servo? When talking about gear, I belive you will agree that the bag to carry the staff is also essential. Do you have preferences? I am currently using 5 d miii, 24-105 and 16-35 ii togeher with 50 1.4period. Nevertheless, it kind of heavy to carry everything in a shouder bag and a rucksack is somewhoe unconvenient. Once again, great work. cheers Josh

    • Mark - Thanks Josh, it is heartening to know that some people are enjoying these posts. Many thanks for your comments.

      • Mark - Josh I use which ever servo point I need to track the subject - it can be anywhere in the frame. I use a small low pro rucksack but to be honest I dont treat my gear all that well and I dont think the method of carrying it matters greatly, at least not to me. You are carrying too much gear for street work I would politely suggest ;)

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