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What’s In My Bag: 3 Prime Lenses & A Camera For Neo-Noir Street Photography

Peter Kalnbach (@street.nomad_) is a visual storyteller who likes to travel and photograph life in big cities like New York, Chicago, or London in a distinctly muted and moody style. “To me these cities look almost everywhere," he says, "like a movie scene which helps to convey my neo-noir inspired style. I primarily shoot in dark and moody conditions like in the rain, snow, or fog. I make very high demands on my gear when it comes to low light capabilities, weather resistance and dynamic range." Because he travels so extensively, Kalnbach needs a combination to performance and small size in his photo gear. "Starting with Olympus I quickly found out I need something more powerful," he explains. "I switched to the Sony system three years ago because the Sony Alpha series gives me what I need in the conditions that I photograph.” Keep reading as Kalnbach gives us a look at what’s in his bag.

Peter Kalnbach's gear for cinematic street photography

See how this visual storyteller travels to big cities with three Sony f/1.8 primes and a full frame Sony Alpha to create his neo-noir-inspired, cinematic style.

Camera

Sony Alpha 7 IV: I switched over from Olympus to the Sony Alpha series three years ago because I wanted the best in the market when it comes to low light performance. I started with the Sony Alpha 7C and then moved on to the Alpha 7 IV. For me the bigger display and EVF along with a third dial to set up ISO manually made me switch to the Alpha 7 IV. This is the perfect body for me with a very accurate autofocus system and perfect dynamic range.

Photo by Peter Kalnbach. Sony Alpha 7 IV. Sony 50mm f/1.8. 1/125-sec., f/2.8, ISO 500

"I took this image in Chicago during very heavy rain and fog with my Sony Alpha 7 IV and a Sony 55mm f/1.8 prime. The conditions were very demanding, but my gear held up against it in the best way." Photo by Peter Kalnbach. Sony Alpha 7 IV. Sony 50mm f/1.8. 1/125-sec., f/2.8, ISO 500

Lenses

Sony 55mm f/1.8: For years this prime was my go-to lens and I used it almost 80% of my time. To me 55mm is a perfect in-between focal length. Wide enough to incorporate the environment and tight enough to get a good subject separation and compression. The auto focus is very reliable, and the weather resistants never let me down.

Photo by Peter Kalnbach. Sony Alpha 7 IV. Sony 55mm f/1.8. 1/125-sec., f/2, ISO 1600

"This shot was taken at Queensboro Plaza. To get a bit more compression, I went with the 55mm." Photo by Peter Kalnbach. Sony Alpha 7 IV. Sony 55mm f/1.8. 1/125-sec., f/2, ISO 1600

Sony 35mm f/1.8: After shooting at 55mm for a long time I felt it was time for something new. I decided to go with 35mm and bought the Sony 35mm f/1.8. Since purchasing this lens, I have barely taken it off my Alpha 7 IV. The focal length is just right to convey filmic scenes and stories. I love the focal length so much I decided to upgrade to the Sony 35mm f/1.4. I’ve only just got it, but I’m excited to take it for a spin. I’m sure I’ll love it even more than the f/1.8.

Photo by Peter Kalnbach. Sony Alpha 7 IV. Sony 35mm f/1.8. 1/125-sec., f/2.8, ISO 100

Photo by Peter Kalnbach. Sony Alpha 7 IV. Sony 35mm f/1.8. 1/125-sec., f/2.8, ISO 100

Sony 85mm f/1.8: Even though the 85mm isn't a focal length I use very often it sometimes becomes handy to capture a scene taking place more far away or giving a bit more separation and compression. That’s why it has a place in my bag. Like with all my lenses, size and weight are important factors. Sony’s 85mm f/1.8 is amazingly small and light weight for an 85mm focal length. Sharpness and auto focus do hold up my expectations too.

Photo by Peter Kalnbach. Sony Alpha 7C. Sony 85mm f/1.8. 1/160-sec., f/2.8, ISO 1600

"I was walking around in my hometown Hamburg when I suddenly saw this scene. The shadow of a woman with an umbrella was reflected on a wall by the cars passing by. I had to shoot straight away without taking care of any settings." Photo by Peter Kalnbach. Sony Alpha 7C. Sony 85mm f/1.8. 1/160-sec., f/2.8, ISO 1600

Accessories

Air Pods: I tend to shoot on my own most of the time, listening to mainly east coast hip hop of the 80s and 90s to get in the right mood.

Gloves & Heat Warmer: Because of the weather conditions I tend to shoot in, gloves and heat warmers are essential pieces in my camera bag too.

Photo by Peter Kalnbach. Sony Alpha 7 IV. Sony 35mm f/1.8. 1/125-sec., f/1.8, ISO 3200

"I took this image on a rainy night on Brooklyn Bridge. The Sony 35mm helps to create a sense of scale and the weather conditions give this scene a mysterious mood without bothering my gear." Photo by Peter Kalnbach. Sony Alpha 7 IV. Sony 35mm f/1.8. 1/125-sec., f/1.8, ISO 3200

Cleaning Devices: Some cleaning devices to clean the lenses and body from rain. 

Spare Battery: When the conditions are right, I often go out shooting for hours. That's why I always have a spare battery in my bag.

See more of Peter Kalnbach’s work on Instagram @street.nomad_.

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