In my seemingly never ending quest for smaller and lighter gear for my street photography, I recently acquired a slightly used Nikon Coolpix A compact camera. I had previously been shooting with M4/3 gear, specifically Panasonic cameras.
The A was introduced in June 2013. It features an APS-C DX 16.2 megapixel sensor in a very small, compact package. It comes with a fixed 28mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.8 lens. The camera has a shutter speed range of 30 seconds to 1/2000 and the ISO can be set from 100 to 6400, with two extensions available- 12,800 and 25,600. While I rarely shoot anything beyond 3200, I have tried the 12,800 setting and the results were really astonishing- very clean and usable images. My settings for the camera are the same ones I have used on all film and digital cameras I have used in the past- I shoot in aperture priority with center-weighted metering. I set the lens to autofocus about 50% of the time. The rest of the time I switch the lens to manual focus, set the lens to f/11, and zone focus by manually focusing the lens on an object about 6 feet away- anything from about 4 feet away and beyond is in focus.
The biggest adjustment I had to make when I first got the camera was learning to use a screen to compose the shots with instead of some sort of viewfinder. In the past I had always used some type of viewfinder, whether it be optical or electronic. Plus, in very bright sunlight, the screen on the back of the camera can be difficult to use, so I promptly purchased an Xpro Viewfinder III for the camera. This is an extremely well-made optical bright-line viewfinder with markings for 28, 35, and 45mm lenses. This viewfinder is a real bargain compared to the Nikon viewfinder, which can cost as much as $300.00. The XPro viewfinder is approximately $75.00. I also added a Nikon lens hood which snaps into a ring that surrounds the lens.
Using the camera on the streets has truly been a liberating experience. The fixed 28mm lens is just about perfect for street photography. I tend to compose the shots a bit differently than I had previously and the small, compact size of the camera means that I virtually take it with me everywhere I go. A lot of times, I do not carry any type of bag or pouch for the camera- I simply hang the camera around my neck (something I never did previously), stuff an extra battery and memory card in my pocket, and then I am off to explore and see what I can find.
In the next few weeks I will be publishing an article about another type of camera I will be experimenting with- street photography using a large format 8x10 pinhole film camera. I will be scanning the 8x10 black-and-white contact prints using an Epson flat-bed scanner. I do not know what the results are going to be using such a large and slow camera for street photography, but I do know one thing- it should be a lot of fun. Stay tuned for the results.
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