Street Photography and the Sony A7s
Recently I took a trip to NYC and I wanted practice street photography on the same streets as Gary Winogrand and Robert Frank. I chose the Sony A7s to take with me because I’m spoiled on a full frame sensor and the option to change lenses. The Sony A7s is easily in my top 3 favorite cameras, and I’ve previously used it and loved it for sports, landscapes, portraits, and video. I enjoy the responsive and silent shutter, the intuitive AF tracking, and the great low light performance. Most of all I love how small and lightweight it is.
In one of our previous articles from 2009 we outline what makes a good camera and lens combination for Street Shooting. Though it is a bit outdated the core advice is still the same.
Use a camera that is light enough to carry all day, and small enough to be inconspicuous.
Many times, the goal of street photography is to capture what is happening around you without interrupting or being intrusive. The size of the A7s helps with this and the silence of the shutter could leave a shooter almost unnoticed.
This advice is also for the comfort of the photographer. If you are most comfortable with your D4s and carry it everywhere you go, then by all means use that.
Speed is Important
Because of the spontaneous nature of street photography, it’s important to choose a camera that turns on and is ready to shoot very quickly. In addition, it’s best to avoid cameras with a long shutter lag or poor autofocus. Missing shots is inevitable but how many you miss can depend on the speed of your gear. In fact, it’s best to have a camera that performs well in auto mode. If your manual settings aren’t prepared for the situation it’s good to trust that you can just switch the dial to auto and have fair chances of a decent exposure.
Speaking of exposure, its important to be prepared for low light situations. For shooting indoors or just walking around at night, you must consider the maximum aperture of the lens and the ISO capabilities of the camera. I always suggest at least f/2.8, but the joy of prime lenses is the benefit of an even wider aperture.
I paired my A7s with a traditional documentary style focal length, FE 35mm f/2.8, which is so tiny I barely knew it was there and opens up enough for most low light situations. You can see in this previous post how impressive the image quality is as well. I also threw in the FE 55mm f/1.8 lens for times when a bit more reach might be in order or I want to snag a portrait of one of my travel buddies.
OVF vs EVF
There is some debate between the need of an optical viewfinder vs. an electronic viewfinder. My advice is to first, just make sure you have a viewfinder period. Live view alone is not ideal, though it is a very useful feature. When shooting in bright sunlight it is impossible to see the screen to compose images.
When using an OVF you see the actual action happening in real time with the exception of when the shutter fires and the view momentarily obstructs itself.
An EFV gives an uninterrupted view of the action, but on some cameras can lag, distort color or not show an accurate frame. I am happy with the EFV on the Sony A7s as it has never given me any of those problems and it has a 100% view. I particularly enjoy the automatic zoom in for manual focusing and ability to review images.
The A7s is overall a great performer for street shooting. This translates into any vacation or travel situation as well. It’s small enough to fit in a purse or large pocket, and large enough to feel comfortable in hands big or small. The external dials make it user-friendly for shooters of all levels and the automatic settings are very adequate.
Author: Sarah McAlexander
I’m Sarah. I have a BFA in Photography from the University of Memphis. I’ve been shooting professionally for over 6 years. When I’m not working here or freelancing, I enjoy yoga and traveling.