Best Lens For Street Photography

After twenty years of shooting street photography I’ve had the opportunity to test dozens of lenses. And one of the quickest ways I was able to improve the quality of my photography was by shooting with a top quality lens designed for street photography. In this article you will get my years of experience boiled down to the top lens options on the market today.

Check the quick list below for links to customer reviews and prices for my top picks or read on for the full review for the details

  1. Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 STM
  2. Nikon 50 mm f/1.8 G
  3. Sony FE 35 mm f/2.8
  4. Fujifilm XF 35 mm f/1.4
  5. Sigma 35 mm F1.4 ART DG HSM
  6. Nikon 24-85 mm f/2.8-4 IF AF-D Nikkor Lens
  7. Tamron 24-70 mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens

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Prime or Zoom Camera Lens?

People often want to know whether they should use a prime lens or a zoom lens for street photography. It is important to explore both types of lenses and how they differ from each other.

First of all, prime lenses have a fixed focal length. This means that they are unable to magnify views of your subject when you are taking photographs. The difference with a zoom lens is that they can zoom and will cover a range of focal lengths.

Both types of lenses are important for shooting different types of photography, and professional photographers will have a number of lenses, including a selection of prime lenses and a selection of zoom lenses.

There are a number of different lenses in each category available, and it can be difficult to narrow your choice down to one lens.

It is best to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each, and choose the best starting lens.

As you grow more involved in photography, you can add lenses to your collection so that you can specialize in particular types of photography.

Take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of using each type of lens for street photography.

Pros and Cons of Using Zoom Lenses

You can use a zoom lens for street photography, and many photographers do. Take a look at some of the pros and cons:

Pros:

1. You Can Shoot in Crowded Places

If you are shooting street photography in a crowded area, crowds can make it impossible to get to the location where you would need to shoot if you use a prime lens. You can step back and use your zoom lens to get around the crowd.

2. You Can Take Detail Shots Without Being Noticed

When you use a zoom lens, you can get close-ups of subjects from further away, so people will interact naturally in their environment.

3. You Can Be Anonymous

When people shoot street photography, they want to get photos that show the scenes in their natural state. Using a zoom lens allows you to shoot from a distance without being noticed by your subjects.

4. You Can Shoot From a Compressed Perspective

When you zoom in on a subject from a distance, you can change the perspective on your subject. A zoom lens will draw the background closer to the subject, which can add creativity to your photos.

Cons:

1. Size

Zoom lenses are bigger and heavier than prime lenses, which can make it cumbersome to carry around. It can also be harder to hold your camera steady with all of the extra weight.

2. It Needs a Faster Shutter Speed

If you use a longer focal length, you will need a faster shutter speed. Otherwise, you could have camera shake, you need image stabilization or a monopod to keep it steady.

3. You Can’t Engage with Your Subject

If you are trying to take shots of people naturally interacting with their environments, a zoom lens is fine. However, if you want to engage with your subject, you will have trouble.

Pros and Cons of Using Prime Lenses

Now take a look at the pros and cons of using a prime lens for street photography:

Pros:

1. They Create Sharp Images

Prime lenses create incredibly sharp images and are less prone to distortion than zoom lenses.

2. They Are Lighter and Smaller

Prime lenses have less glass elements, and they weigh less than zoom lenses. They are much easier to travel with, and you will not have as much trouble holding the camera steady.

3. They Take Better Photos in Low Light

Prime lenses that have maximum apertures are able to let more light into the camera sensor, so they take better photos in low light.

Cons:

1. You Must Be Close to Subject

You don’t have the ability to change the focal length, so you need to be closer to your subject with a prime lens.

2. They Are Less Versatile

Prime lenses are designed for specific types of photographs, and you will need to change lenses if you want to take a different kind of shot.

The Best Focal Length for Street Photography

Most photographers agree that the focal length of the 50 mm prime lens is the best for street photography. It is often called the “nifty fifty,” and it is a versatile option. There is very little distortion, and you are the right distance from your subjects to get the best and sharpest photos.

Best Lens for Street Photography

Take a look at the following lenses that are great options for street photography. They include prime and zoom lenses, and they offer you a variety of options.

Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 STM

This is one of the most popular Canon lenses, and it offers a wide aperture and a stepping motor for focus. It offers quiet operation, and it is small and light. The lens has a single control switch to toggle between automatic and manual focus. It provides a sharp image, although it has a slow autofocus mirror. It offers quality at an affordable price.

This lens is an updated version of the 50 mm lens Canon has had for years. They added the STM autofocus system for fast yet quiet operation and smooth autofocus transitions. It also has a metal mounting plate that replaces the plastic one, and a rounded aperture with seven diaphragm blades, which produces better bokeh. It provides sharpness without distortion, and it is well priced. This lens is the best value for the money in a 50 mm lens.

Check current price and customer reviews

Pros:

  • This camera is very Light (160g).
  • Images are sharp at f/1.8.
  • This is a very affordable lens.
  • It has quiet operation.
  • This lens is better quality than previous models with a sturdier build.
  • It is the best value in a 50 mm lens.

Cons:

  • The camera has slower focus.
  • There is no image stabilization.
  • The hood is not included with this lens.

Nikon 50 mm f/1.8 G

This lens is a new version of the classic 50 mm f/1.8 lens by Nikon. It adds new optics and updates the traditional focus system, using an AF-S system. You get an instant manual-focus override when you grab the focus ring. This is the first aspherical 50 mm lens, and it provides autofocus for all of Nikon’s DSLR cameras, including the inexpensive models.

This lens is great for hobbyists and professionals alike, and it works well for low light photography. It isolates subjects from the background and has great bokeh. The lens is durable and it is easy to incorporate different filters. It has a seven-blade diaphragm. This is a great lens and one that most photographers will want in their camera bag.

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Pros:

  • This is a lightweight and compact lens that is easy to take along on photoshoots.
  • The lens will produce sharp photos.
  • It is inexpensive and offers value for a quality Nikon lens.
  • You can produce an attractive blurred background when you use a large aperture.
  • It has a fast aperture and works great in low light settings.

Cons:

  • There is no aperture ring or vibration reduction.
  • It’s not made with high-quality materials.
  • It’s considered a notch above entry-level.

Sony FE 35 mm f/2.8

This lens by Sony is a 35 mm lens with a minimum aperture of 22 and a minimum focus distance of 1.15 feet. This is a small and ultralight lens that offers great performance. The 35 mm lens offers a wide angle that makes the viewer feel present in the image, and it is a popular choice for wedding photos and other photos where you want a sharp image of the subject.

This lens does not offer optic stabilization, but it has steady shot or in-body image stabilization to make up for it. It performs well when it is wide-open. It does a great job of controlling distortion and has a quiet autofocus motor. It is weather sealed, which is great when you are shooting outdoors. The price may be high compared to other lenses, but it is relatively inexpensive for Sony lenses.

Check current price and customer reviews

Pros:

  • This lens is very small and light.
  • It has a great lens hood design.
  • This lens has great build quality.
  • It produces excellent bokeh.
  • It is weather sealed.
  • It has great autofocus performance.
  • This lens has excellent optics.

Cons:

  • The aperture may be too slow for some photographers.
  • The lens does not have optical stabilization.
  • The hood comes apart in two pieces.

Fujifilm XF 35 mm f/1.4

This 35 mm lens by Fujifilm is a high performance standard lens that provides incredible definition, even when you are shooting wide open. You will be able to create images that have clarity, and it has minimal aberration changes. The build quality is excellent. It is made of metal throughout, and it is small and light with half the glass of a full-frame lens.

You can capture images that have a shallow depth of field with the wide aperture, and it performs well. It is a little slow to focus, and it is less sharp near the edges. It is a good lens for low light, and most of the image is sharp, free of distortion, and evenly lit. It is a versatile lens that works well for street photography, as well as landscapes, travel, and product photography. It has good bokeh, and it produces crisp images.

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Pros:

  • Images turn out sharp in the center with this lens.
  • The lens has excellent illumination throughout.
  • It has a wide aperture.
  • It has good bokeh.
  • This is a versatile lens that you can use for more than street photography.
  • There is very little distortion.

Cons:

  • The lens is slow to focus.
  • It omits optical stabilization.
  • The hood protrudes and is square shaped.
  • The edges in the image are less sharp.

Sigma 35 mm F1.4 ART DG HSM

The Sigma 35 mm camera lens is designed for full-frame cameras, but it can be used with APS-C sensors as well. It has a Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM), a floating internal focusing system, and SLD and FLD glass elements. It allows for quiet operation and accurate autofocusing, and the floating focusing system allows you to shoot subjects at a closer range. It has a large 1.4 aperture so that you can use it in low light settings.

This lens is a great third-party option. It is the first full-frame prime lens from Sigma, and it has great performance and value in its class. It includes a reversible lens hood, and it weighs about 1.5 pounds. You can use it with a Canon EF, Nikon F, Pentax K, Sigma SA, and Sony A. There is also a mirrorless version for mirrorless cameras. This is a great option for street photography.

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Pros:

  • The images are very sharp.
  • It has a wide aperture.
  • It is well priced.
  • It is available for several different camera systems.
  • It has a solid build quality.

Cons:

  • It has a heavy vignette effect.
  • It omits image stabilization.
  • It is not the best choice if you have an ultra-high resolution camera.

Nikon 24-85 mm f/2.8-4 IF AF-D Nikkor Lens

This is a wide to telephoto 3.5x zoom lens that is ideal for landscape, full-length portraits, street photography, and travel photography. It has a filter attachment that does not rotate when you focus or zoom, and it has a fast f.2.8 maximum aperture setting at 24 meters that is ideal for shooting in available light.

Nikon uses plastic in the build of this lens, but the quality is good for a consumer grade zoom lens. It has a smooth focus ring operation, and it comes with a petal shaped hood. It doesn’t have an internal AF motor, and it relies on a slotted drive screw that is run by the camera. It has a macro mode that lets you focus down to 0.21 m, which is quite impressive. It has two focusing modes: standard and macro. This is a good lens for Nikon users.

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Pros:

  • This lens has a solid build.
  • It has excellent Macro capability.
  • It comes with a petal shaped hood.
  • It is fast at a wide angle and has fast and sharp focusing.

Cons:

  • It is soft when you have it wide open.
  • It has a short focus range.
  • It doesn’t have an internal AF motor.
  • It is made with more plastic than metal.

Tamron 24-70 mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens

This is a zoom lens made by Tamron, and it comes in models for the Canon, the Nikon, and other brands. This lens includes image stabilization, which is not present in the Canon version. It is a solid value lens that gives you a zoom option when you are shooting street photography. It weighs two pounds and is a solid build.

It offers both an f/2.8 aperture and image stabilization, and it can cover wide angles to short telephoto angles of view. It is an ideal lens for street photography because you can get isolated parts of a scene and it allows objects in the distance to appear closer. The wide aperture allows more light in, and it has shallow depth of field at the widest aperture.

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Pros:

  • The lens has strong image stabilization.
  • It comes with dust and splash protection.
  • It is inexpensive.
  • It produces sharp results.

Cons:

  • Images have dim corners.
  • There is visible distortion.
  • The lens produces some chromatic aberration.

Conclusion

  1. Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 STM
  2. Nikon 50 mm f/1.8 G
  3. Sony FE 35 mm f/2.8
  4. Fujifilm XF 35 mm f/1.4
  5. Sigma 35 mm F1.4 ART DG HSM
  6. Nikon 24-85 mm f/2.8-4 IF AF-D Nikkor Lens
  7. Tamron 24-70 mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens

If you are shooting street photography, you have different lens options available. Many people go with the 50 mm prime lens, but if you want more flexibility, the Tamron zoom lens is a great choice. Each of the lenses above gives you the opportunity to take crisp photos. They are lightweight and easy to carry along in your camera bag or as your primary street photography lens.

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