You can find a lot of articles on street photography both out there on the Internet, and in real-world published materials such as books, and many of those who write those articles seem to insist that you must to get in close to your subject, usually a few feet away and practically sticking your lens up their nose. And unless you use a wide angle lens, usually between 24 and 35 mm, you are not a true street photographer. Even the use of the standard 50 mm lens is often frowned upon. A telephoto or zoom lens is just not the done thing.
Now, I’m not against the idea of getting in close with a wide angle lens, there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I do the same myself on occasion. But you are restricting yourself to what is going on immediately around you. Anything further away is out of your reach, both in your ability to get there before the moment has passed and also beyond the reach of your short lens. This is where a zoom lens comes in.
I see no problem using a zoom lens to capture the action or the scene. Some say it is a bit sneaky and should be frowned upon. But then again sticking a wide angle lens in someones face could also be frowned upon. Not using a zoom lens greatly reduces your ability to capture scenes on the street. Personally, I use a Panasonic G Series 45-150 mm lens on my Panasonic G6 most of the time. This equates to 90-300 mm in 35 mm terms and allows me to record images as close as a few feet away, essentially using the traditional “portrait” size of lens at 90 mm, as well as allowing me to record scenes on the other side of the street in perfect detail. Not to mention everything in-between as well.
Another benefit of a zoom lens is that it allows you to keep your distance from the subject, reducing the chance that the subject with alter their behavior because someone is pointing a camera at them. Okay, some people don’t take any notice anyway but many will react and that initial wholly natural scene will have gone.
In the past, weight was often an issue with zoom lenses but the lens above is lightweight and compact yet performs well in street photography. Of course, you don’t have to use a “long” zoom lens and I sometimes use a shorter 14-42 mm so-called standard zoom lens at times. This is used for closer work, usually when in crowds.
Most of the images on Bad Photography were taken with the zoom lens mentioned above and on some days my other lenses never leave the camera bag. I do keep promising myself that one day I will leave the two zooms behind and take one standard, my recently purchased Panasonic 25mm f1.4 Leica DG fixed lens ( equivalent to the 35mm standard 50 mm lens of ye-olde-days) I’ll just have to pluck up the courage to do so. Perhaps tomorrow?
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