Let me share some thoughts. For most of the year, my city has plenty of light. And good light, too. This is fortunate for a number of reasons but, in particular, it allows me to use lower ISO film for street photography. Good resolution and plenty of flexibility.

ADOX Silvermax is a fantastic film for shooting in my everyday conditions and is quite easily available in Europe. It has a high silver content which supposedly will give a high tonal range and great sharpness. I find that it works best with lots of light and high tonal range, but in darker settings and with larger appertures it holds quite well. Please check the images to see what I mean.

The frames in this post were shot with my usual Leica M7 but using a less known lens, the Nikkor-P.C 10.5 cm f/2.5 in Leica thread mount with an adequate adapter. Since the Leica does not have 105 mm frame lines, the 135 mm ones were selected. I just considered the frame to be a little larger and it was OK. The lens is beautiful, very solid, really responsive, easy to focus but a little heavy. This is not a cheap lens but much less expensive than similar Leica.

Although some might consider it a collector’s item, I use it on the street in great results. From time to time, you can find a good one on eBay. I am not at all a lens expert. I only care for the results and the pleasure given by shooting a fantastic piece of photo gear.

There is a lot of debate on what is the best lens focal distance for street photography. Some claim for 35mm, there are 50mm radicals, 28mm is also an option. In my opinion, every focal distance is useful depending on what you are trying to get.

You may want to include in the picture more or less of the surrounding, you may want to isolate the subject, you may need or want to shoot more close or from afar. A lens should offer you the possibility to do what you want and if you want different things you may need to use different lenses.

That is what I do. I use several focal distances in street photography. Just a comment, don’t like zooms for this kind of work. All this argument is driven by what I want you to appreciate. Please look at these pictures shot with a less known film and with an unusual but fantastic lens. Enjoy.

~ José

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About the author

Avatar - José Mendes de Almeida

José Mendes de Almeida

Graduate of the “Instituto Português de Fotografia”. Semi-professional activity. Published 4 Photo-books and had 15 individual exhibits. More interested in conceptual photography.

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  1. Very nice street pics . I am not a lens expert either but do understand them in many ways. I feel seeing what and how you’d like to frame something in the moment is the best lens to use for street photography. So I guess that means it’s a very personal choice of how people visualize their surroundings.
    I myself like to choose a lens focal length on a particular day of maybe how I feel or want to capture something that day . Then let that focal length guide me . If it’s not working I’ll change .
    Thanks for the great article

  2. The 105/2.5 Nikkor (or the “ten-five, two-five,” as many pros called it) was a famous portrait lens back in the 1950s. It was known for good sharpness even at maximum aperture, and very crisp contrast that made features such as eyelashes look beautifully defined. Nikon’s final S-series rangefinder cameras, such as the SP and S3, included a viewfinder frame for it, making it more convenient to use on them than on a Leica camera. I used mine on Canon rangefinder cameras, which worked happily with the screw-mount version and included a 100mm finder frame that was close enough to 105mm to work well.

    The early version of this lens had a built-in tripod socket, which helped bsalance the lens’ very front-heavy weight when mounted on a tripod, One thing to keep in mind about this socket, though, was that unlike the tripod sockets on modern tele zooms, it did not rotate… so if you suddenly decided you wanted to make vertical pictures, you would have to reorient it!

    The 105/2.5 had such a prized reputation that Nikon carried the design over to the mount of their SLR camera, the Nikon F.

  3. Hello Jose,

    A wonderful posting. Your city remains unnamed, but the quality of light creates beautiful tones of light and dark. My favorite pic is the person walking past the flat images of people. I’m always a fan of quiet humor and quirky scenes. Well done.

    You’re working with an unusual kit, but your work shows an ease with the equipment. As a matter of fact, I read your article it as I’m contemplating adding a 75mm lens to my Leica kit. You demonstrate longer than normal focal lengths are quite capable of making images without being in someone’s face. For years, I worked with a Nikon F2 fitted with an 85mm lens before transitioning to the Leica M (film) system. I think I’m ready to move back in that direction.

    On point I’d like to ‘float,’ that has been rumbling around my mind for months now concerns the current trend of ‘street photography.’ We’ve all seen the images of people rushing by the photographer, giving sideways glances, or semi-blurred bodies at dusk. With covid-19 not showing any evidence that it is abating, I’m wondering if that style of photography has passed. Most people are trying to keep safe distances, they wear masks and they are showing stress. Here in the US, tempers are erupting (even before the awaking of racial injustice), covid-19 has become a political issue and battle lines are being drawn. Perhaps the answer to working in our changed times is longer lenses. The will get the job done, keep us safe and avoid tense situations.

    Stay safe, and wishing you continued good photography.