Best camera for street photography - DSLR vs CSC vs Compact

What's best for photographing a bustling market?

We used the Olympus PEN E-P3 with the standard 14-42mm kit lens attached for the shootout. Many will see compact system cameras as the "compromise", allowing you to have full manual control and creative options at a fraction of the size and bulk of a DSLR. Using something that has a touchscreen with touch-focus or touch-shutter is great for quick shooting environments such as a market.

Compact system cameras, especially newer models such as the Olympus PEN and Panasonic Lumix GX1 also boast exceptionally quick autofocusing (in good light), meaning you can grab pictures and go.

While not as big as the DSLR, using a CSC is also not the most discreet of options, and you may find you take up more space as you extend your arms to compose a shot using the screen. Most CSCs don't come with a viewfinder as standard, but several have the option to add one as an added extra purchase.


  • (Some have) touch screen/touch shutter/touch focus
  • Small and portable
  • (Some have) an articulated screen
  • Can change lens if necessary
  • Super quick autofocus system in good light
  • Control over depth of field
  • Art filters (on some models)
  • Can shoot in raw format


  • Higher noise output at night
  • No viewfinder or EVF (on most models)
  • Shadows/highlights tend to be poorer than DSLRs
  • Unable to quickly change to manual focus

We found shooting with a compact system camera allowed us to be the most creative and focus on the composition of images, rather than worrying about a myriad of different settings. That said, those options were quickly and easily available should we need them. As we were using the Olympus PEN E-P3, we had the option of a range of creative filters which were great in this situation.

Street photography csc

Street photography csc

Street photography csc

Street photography csc

Street photography csc


News Reporter

Amy (Twitter, Google+, blog) is a freelance journalist and photographer. She worked full-time as the News Reporter / Technical Writer (cameras) across Future Publishing's photography brands and TechRadar between 2009 and 2014 having become obsessed with photography at an early age. Since graduating from Cardiff Journalism School, she's also won awards for her blogging skills and photographic prowess, and once snatched exhibition space from a Magnum photographer.