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Best lens for Street Photography in 2022

July 25, 2022

Best lens for street photography – Claire Gillo guides us through the best lens options for street photography, with something to suit every brand.

In this buyers guide we’ve rounded up our top ten lenses for street photography. They range across the brands and from DSLR to mirrorless so there is something in there for everyone.

When it comes to photographing the streets there are certain criteria your lens needs to tick. Ideally the smaller and lighter the better, but you also want your lens to be fast, accurate, and as quiet as possible. Generally with the street genre you are reacting to what is happening in front of your eyes, or you’re trying to snap a shot of a stranger walking by.

How to choose a lens for Street Photography

When it comes to buying a lens for street photography here is what you need to look for:

  • Focal length
  • Aperture range
  • Aperture blades
  • Lens construction
  • Size and weight
Street Photography - Copyright: Claire Gillo

Street Photography – Copyright: Claire Gillo

Prime vs zoom

There are two main types of lenses on the market. A prime lens – that comes with a fixed focal length (for example 50mm), and a zoom lens has a variable focal range (for example 24-70mm). The advantage with a zoom lens is you can adjust the focal length, however the disadvantage with this type of lens for the street genre is they are generally heavier, bigger, longer, pricer (for those that come with a fixed wide aperture setting) less discrete, therefore making them a less desirable choice for street photographers. In our guide we have just stuck to only prime lenses as these are generally lighter, smaller, and are able to open to much wider aperture settings (without having to break the bank) – making them a more obvious choice for this genre of photography.

Pancake lenses

If having a small lightweight lens is at the top of your list then you may want to consider a pancake lens. If you’re unfamiliar with the term pancake lens essentially it just means a lens that is almost flat! The advantage with using them is for their size and weight, the disadvantage is they often don’t go as wide as a prime lens (for example to f/2.8 rather than f/1.8 or f/1.4) and often the image quality is not as good compared with a prime or zoom lens either – they prioritise shape and weight over every other aspect.

Focal length

The next aspect you want to consider is the focal length of your lens. We measure focal length in mm. Ideally in street photography you want your lens to capture much of the scene without going too wide that it distorts. For this reason we recommend a 35mm lens (on full frame – or on crop sensor camera a 24mm which will equate to the same). Although 35mm is the optimum focal length there are times where a wider 24mm view and a narrower 50mm view are also desirable depending on what type of shot you are after so we’ve included these too.

Aperture

The aperture range of your lens is also key for street photography. As the lighting can greatly vary, having a large aperture range is best – ideally the wider your lens can go the better and as very minimum you want your lens to open up to at least f/2.8.

If producing beautiful bokeh and dreamy results with your street photography is high on your property list, also look for the aperture blade construction. The more blades it has the better the bokeh circle.

DSLR or Mirrorless

Many photographers have switched to a mirrorless camera system now, but it’s useful to note that many of the DSLR lenses can be used on a mirrorless system with the right adapter. However it doesn’t work the other way round – i.e. you can’t use a mirrorless lens on a DSLR.

Does it fit?

Finally you need to make sure the lens you are buying has the correct mount for your camera. There are now many different types of cameras out there not only in brand but also types from DSLR, mirrorless, full frame, crop sensor that all have different requirements. Many of the full frame lenses can also be used on the crop sensor cameras but check before you buy. Also remember the third party lens companies produce lenses for cameras across the industry so make sure you double, then triple check that it fits your camera before you buy!

Top tip! Save some money by buying second hand. If you buy second hand from a trusted dealer the lenses have been checked and often come with a warranty.

Couple on the tube. Photo: Joshua Waller

Couple on the tube, edited, and converted to monochrome. Photo: Joshua Waller

Here are our top ten choices for the best lens for street photography in no particular order…

1. Nikon NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S – £899

Nikon NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S

Nikon NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S

At a glance:

  • Lens mount: Nikon Z
  • Aperture blades 9
  • Filter thread 62mm
  • Minimum aperture f/16
  • Maximum aperture f/1.8
  • Size 73 x 86mm
  • Weight 370g

For mirrorless Nikon shooters the Nikon NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S is an excellent choice. Despite having a semi wide angle 35mm view this lens provides excellent sharpness across the whole frame. The AF motor is also worth a mention as not only is it smooth and fast to focus it’s also practically silent meaning you can shoot discreetly, which for street photography is an absolute bonus!

The knurled control ring is also useful. In the AF mode you can assign it to adjust the exposure compensation setting, or in the manual mode it becomes a focusing ring as standard. The focus also shifts according to how fast or slow you turn the ring.

Finally the f/1.8 wide aperture setting teamed with a 9 rounded blade aperture ring will deliver that sort after beautiful bokeh for those who enjoy capturing dreamy results.

Best for: Nikon Z Mirrorless shooters


2. Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM – £1,300

Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM

Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM

At a glance:

  • Lens mount: Sony FE
  • Aperture blades 11
  • Focal length 24mm
  • Filter thread 67mm
  • Minimum aperture f/16
  • Maximum aperture f/1.4
  • Size 75.4 x 92.4mm
  • Weight 445g

When your lens can go as wide as f/1.4 you know you’re going to have great flexibility in all types of shooting conditions! The Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM is by no means a budget lens however for £1,300 you get a lovely lump of glass that delivers spectacular results.

The 11 blade circular aperture ring is also worthy of a mention and with a minimum focusing distance of 0.24m you can have a play around producing wide angle bokeh shots.

The Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM features two XA (extreme aspherical) elements that produce pin sharp results and three ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass elements that help suppress chromatic aberration. Thanks to Sony advances in technology they have made a great lens that is of high quality yet relatively light and compact making it ideal for the street genre.

Best for: Sony FE mirrorless shooters


3. Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM – £220

Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM

Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM

At a glance

  • Lens Mount: Canon RF-mount
  • Filter diameter : 43mm
  • Aperture blades: 7
  • Maximum aperture : f/1.8
  • Minimum aperture: f/22
  • Minimum focus distance: 30cm
  • Dimensions: 69.2×40.5
  • Weight: 160g

When it comes to street photography, although many photographers like to shoot wide, a nifty fifty is also a great choice for those who like to stand back from the action yet not appear too far away from their subject. The Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM lens is an affordable, reliable choice for Canon mirrorless shooters, and in our review we found this particular lens to be super compact, produce excellent image quality for a lens at this price point and to add little weight to our EOS R camera body – the lens weighs a miniscule 160g! Ideal for street photography.

Best for: Canon mirrorless shooters


4. Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC DN – £289

Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC DN

Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC DN

At a glance:

  • Lens Mount: E-mount, EF-M, Leica L-Mount, X-Mount (APS-C), Micro Four Thirds
  • Filter diameter: 52mm
  • Lens elements: 9
  • Aperture: f/1.4 – f/16
  • Minimum focus: 30mm
  • Size: 73 x 64.8mm
  • Weight: 265g

The Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC DN is a worthy contender for street photographers who use APS-C mirrorless and Micro Four Thirds cameras and are on a budget. In our review we found it to be of reasonable size and weight, produce excellent image quality (going as wide as f/1.4), have superior build quality and all at an affordable price point.

Used on an MFT camera, it has a 60mm equivalent field of view, around 45mm equivalent on a Sony E-mount, Fujifilm X-Mount, L-Mount camera with an APS-C-sized sensor, and 48mm on Canon’s EF-M cameras.

With a retail price of around £300, it is hard to really fault this lens. Sharp images at f/1.4 and edge-to-edge sharpness when the lens is stopped down make this lens very appealing and a useful addition to your collection to any street photographer on a budget.

Best for: APS-C mirrorless and Micro Four Thirds users


5. Fujifilm XF 27mm f/2.8 R WR – £419

Fujifilm XF 27mm f/2.8 R WR

Fujifilm XF 27mm f/2.8 R WR

At a glance:

  • Lens Mount: Fujifilm X
  • Filter diameter: 39mm
  • Aperture blades: 7
  • Aperture range: f/2.8 – f/16
  • Size: 62mm x 23mm
  • Weight: 84g

Made for the Fujifilm X series mirrorless cameras the Fujifilm XF 27mm f/2.8 lens has been designed to be small, light and discrete. Weighing in at a mere 84g this lens is by far the lightest in our round up making it a strong contender for those who prioritise weight and size.

For traditionalists who like the old school method of adjusting the aperture on the lens the Fujifilm XF 27mm f/2.8 R WR does just this, and another nice feature is its weather resistant structure giving you peace of mind when out on the streets whatever the weather.

This lens is equivalent to a 40mm view on a full frame camera.

Best for: Fujifilm X series shooters


6. Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm F1.2 PRO – £1,199

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm F1.2 PRO

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm F1.2 PRO

At a glance:

  • Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Filter diameter: 62mm
  • Aperture blades: 9
  • Aperture: f/1.2 – f/16
  • Minimum focus: 30cm
  • Length: 97mm
  • Diameter: 70mm
  • Weight: 410g

We couldn’t possibly not have a top ten street lens list without mentioning the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm F1.2 PRO! In our 5 star review we found the top end 25mm lens to be built to the highest standard of quality and survived our rigorous testing that included a heavy autumnal rain shower.

It’s worth noting that the focus mechanism isn’t completely quiet however, it only becomes noticeable in a quiet room. The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm F1.2 PRO is fast and accurate to focus under many different shooting scenarios.

Where this lens comes into its own though is at its wide aperture settings. Out of all our lenses on our list this one goes the widest to f/1.2. Although MFT might not seem like the obvious choice for producing beautiful bokeh and background blur this lens does just this.

Best for: Micro Four Thirds shooters


7. Sony Sonnar T* FE 35mm F2.8 ZA – £600

Sony Sonnar T* FE 35mm F2.8 ZA

Sony Sonnar T* FE 35mm F2.8 ZA

At a glance:

  • Mount: Sony E (FE)
  • Diaphragm blades: 7
  • Aperture range: f/2.8 – f/22
  • Minimum focusing distance: 0.35m
  • Filter size: 49mm
  • Dimensions: 62 x 37mm
  • Weight: 120g

The Sony Sonnar T* FE 35mm F2.8 ZA lens has been made with the street photographer in mind, and comes with many appealing features such as its 120g lightweight design and anti-reflective coating that minimises unwanted lens flare. It almost qualifies as a pancake lens as it is so small and flat!

The lens is fast to react and accurate to focus, which is ideal when shooting any type of street scene. Although comparatively to others on the list the 7 blade aperture construction is slightly disappointing this is to be expected as you don’t get a lens this small and light without some compromise.

The 35mm view on a full frame camera will appeal to traditional street photographers and for those with an E mount APS-C mirrorless Sony system the lens still works as a 52.5mm view which is equally as good for many.

Best for: Sony Shooters


8. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.4E ED – £1,999

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.4E ED

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.4E ED

At a glance:

  • Lens mount: Nikon FX, DX
  • Aperture blades: 9
  • Aperture range f/1.4 – f/16
  • Filter thread 77mm
  • Weight 645g

The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.4E ED is a wonderful lens that produces incredible results and even has pinpoint accuracy at f/1.4. We admit this lens is not as discrete compared with others on our list and is rather heavy (645g is not lightweight) however it’s still worth considering if you value image quality above size and weight.

With the move of many photographers to mirrorless cameras, lenses like this are coming up more and more on the second hand market. If you have a shop around you can pick up one for just over £1000 which although still isn’t cheap is far more affordable than the full retail price and you get plenty of good quality glass for your money.

Best for: Nikon DSLR shooters


9. Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD – £580

Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD

Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD

At a glance:

  • Lens mount: Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony Alpha/A
  • Filter thread: 67mm
  • Aperture blades: 9
  • Max aperture: f/1.8
  • Min aperture: f/16
  • Minimum focus distance: 20cm
  • Size: 78.3 x 80.4mm
  • Weight: 450g

For DSLR or mirrorless shooters with the correct adapter the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD is an excellent and flexible choice for the street genre and produces pinsharp results. This lens can be used with full frame cameras as well as APS-C (becoming a 56mm view).

In our review we found thanks to the eBAND (Extended Bandwidth and Angular-Dependency) and BBAR (Broad-Band Anti-Reflection) the lens reduces flare and the fluorine coatings on the front element help to repel water and fingerprints so it can be kept clean. Also of note is the weather proofing of this lens, with seals around the mount and the joins that allow users to carry on shooting in the rain. This is ideal for any street photographer wanting to go out in all weather conditions.

Best for: DSLR and mirrorless shooters (with an adapter)


10. Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG DN Art – £749

Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG DN Art

Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG DN Art

At a glance:

  • Lens mount: L-Mount, E-Mount
  • Filter diameter: 67mm
  • Aperture blades: 11
  • Maximum aperture: 1.4
  • Minimum aperture: 16
  • Minimum focus distance: 30cm
  • Weight: 645g (L-Mount) 640g (E-Mount)

And finally the Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG DN Art lens makes it onto our list. This lens is comfortably a 5 star product (you really can’t go wrong with a Sigma Art lens) and produces amazing bokeh thanks to its smooth 11 aperture blade ring.

We found in our review that although it’s a wide angle lens, the large aperture settings enable subjects to be easily separated from the background by selective focusing which is great for street photography. The out of focus areas look nice and smooth and there are no obvious aberrations.

We are aware that weighing in at 645g this lens, along with the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.4E ED are the heaviest on our list however the outstanding quality it produces far outweighs its weight issue! Shop around second hand you can get this lens for under £500, which is a great deal.

For DSLR shooters the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM Art is the best equivalent.

Best for: L-Mount and Sony E-Mount cameras


Now you’ve found the perfect lens for you, have a look at the complete beginners guide to street photography. Or if you need help finding the right camera for you, have a look at our guide to the best cameras for street photography. For more lenses have a look at the latest lens reviews.

Lead image: Copyright Claire Gillo.


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