The Best Digital Camera for Street Photography – One Man’s Opinion

Fuji X100 - A rare combination of beauty and Function.  On the street - hard to beat.

Fuji X100 – A rare combination of beauty and function. On the street – Hard to beat.


I’m really not into writing “gear reviews”, and I certainly don’t want the main focus of this BLOG to be about camera hardware, but I have been emailed by a bunch of people recently – asking about what kind of camera I prefer for street photography.

I don’t think you NEED any particular camera for capturing great images.  But, in my opinion, the best digital camera available today for this discipline has to be the Fujifilm X100.

I always wanted a “carry with me everywhere” camera.  I tried a number of compact models, mostly the Canon G line with the G10 being the last one I purchased.

I hate dragging a DSLR with me everywhere.  I’ve tried it – I hate it – I usually just end up leaving it.

By “carry with me everywhere” I mean exactly that. I, like many of you, ended up shooting a lot of photos with my cell phone as a result.

The last time I headed out on vacation I packed a 5d MkII with me and took about five pictures with it because I left it in the room most of the time. I was simply tired of carrying that beast around. It’s fine on a job. It stinks on a stroll down the street.

I’ve had a X100 for over a year now and I have not left my house once without it. I’m just waiting for my friends and family to get used to it so they’ll stop making fun of me.  I seriously love this camera and it is always on my side.

The Fujifilm X100 is a high-end, compact camera with a large sensor. The 12mp APS sensor, fixed 35mm (equivalent) f/2 lens, coupled with the rangefinder-retro design make the X100 one of the more unique models in the carry-everywhere camera segment.

The X100 lens is sharp as a tack and gorgeous.  There are no other lenses for the X100 as it is non-interchangeable. I’m completely fine with that. I love that range of lens for day-to-day shooting. This lens is specifically designed for the APS sensor living in the camera. The two are matched and they are beautiful.

Reminiscent of many of the old rangefinder cameras, the X100 features an old-fashioned shutter speed dial, exposure compensation dial, and aperture ring at the base of the lens. The top/bottom plates are in chrome, the main body in leatherette wrapping is also a retro cue. If you look at the camera from the front and/or top you’d be hard-pressed to see the X100 as the digital camera it is: you fully expect to flip it around, open the back, and stick some film in. I like that.









The real beauty of this camera, though, is the viewfinder. It has a fixed optical viewfinder, but it uses LCD overlays to present the frame lines and additional shooting information. Technically speaking, that’s already far better than any of the film rangefinders were able to achieve, as the frame lines can be moved based upon focus and that extra information is incredibly rich (aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation, ISO as a base, but you can add focus distance, level, histogram, frames remaining, and more). Very nice piece of work at that. But wait, if you act now, there’s more! A lever on the front of the camera closes a shutter at the front of the optical viewfinder and the LCD overlay becomes a 1.44 megapixel EVF (electronic viewfinder). Now you have 100% pixel accurate framing and depth of preview (sort of). This is best of both worlds framing capability.

This camera produces images of outstanding quality. It records absolutely noise-free JPEG images at ISO 100 all the way up to 3200, with a little noise at ISO 6400 and more visible noise and slight color desaturation at the fastest setting of ISO 12800, an amazing performance for a camera with an APS-C sensor.

Although this little gem is a beautiful and intuitive camera that’s well suited to its principal use of unobtrusive, candid street photography  There are a few weak points in terms of its overall ease-of-use, most notably the slightly sluggish auto-focusing (compared to a DSLR), and manual focus control is poor.  The lack of focus-peaking is disappointing and the camera is VERY expensive, but the build and image quality – coupled with the controls available more than make up for these short-comings.

Wait..  Did I say “short-comings”?

Well, forget them.  Fuji just recently announced the successor to the X100 – the X100s.  It addresses the few faults I have with the X100.  Manual focus control has been greatly improved, and focus-peaking has been added.  They even added a split-image type focus screen that emulates the film-based rangefinder camera I still love to use.  Also added are actual phase-detect auto-focus sensors (as opposed to the contrast-detect only technology in the original).  This supposedly gives the unit DSLR like focus speed.

As a result, my X100 has been already been sold to a friend, and a pre-order for the X100s has been placed.

Below is a video from Fuji, showing in detail all the improvements made…

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