What makes a camera specifically well suited for street photography? Good question. In a genre that appreciates the gritty, the spontaneous, the accidental, the mistake, you can pretty much use whatever works for you. If you are comfortable with a camera and can operate it with acuity, the resolution, ISO sensitivity, dynamic range, and all the relentlessly discussed quantifiable factors are much less important than the way you interact with people, understand the rhythms of the street, and recognize the qualities of light. However, there are a few camera features that do jibe well with street photography and, in general, stealth, speed, and dependability are key elements. Features like the LCD screen, viewfinder, AF speed, continuous shooting speed, lens’s focal length and aperture, and even onboard flash should be considered important. This is not to say that sensor type and ISO capability aren’t factors in street photography, but not necessarily more so than in any other type of photography.
Below is a select group of digital cameras that I think make solid street performers; they’re chosen from the DSLR, mirrorless, and point-and-shoot sub-categories. As I mentioned, almost any camera can be good for capturing the energy, oddities, and compositions of the urban scene, so please use the comment section to let us know what camera you find right for this application.
Leica M Digital Rangefinder Camera
Let’s start with the legend. The Leica M (Typ 240) digital rangefinder is slightly bigger than other M models but has very quiet shutter action, which is a benefit in the street. Its 3.0" LCD screen provides live view capability, and shooting the rangefinder through the optical viewfinder with manual focus is an old-school treat. The M is also compatible with an optional electronic viewfinder, which mounts on the hot shoe. ISO sensitivity runs to 6400 and noise is minimal at ISOs up to 3200. With its 24MP full-frame CMOS sensor, image quality, especially jpeg, is phenomenal, but that you already knew. Use it with almost any M-mount lens but, for street photography, try the Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH lens.
Fujifilm X100T Digital Camera
Would it be fair to call the X100T the poor man’s Leica? If so, call me a poor man. The X100T looks like an older, simple 35mm camera—but don’t be fooled, it is a high-performance digital gem with a 16.3MP APS-C X–Trans CMOS sensor and built-in 23mm f/2 lens for an equivalent focal length of 35mm. The X-Trans sensor is well known for its image quality and color rendition, and its EXR Image Processor II enables effective low-light imaging at high ISOs and fast performance up to 6 fps continuous shooting. An Advanced Hybrid Viewfinder offers an optical and electronic viewfinder in one, with eye sensor, to automatically switch on when needed. A 3.0" LCD monitor is also supported, as well as built-in flash and hot shoe. Shutter action is almost silent and the X100T incorporates an electronic shutter with completely silent action and shutter speeds up to 1/32,000-second. Hybrid AF is fast and accurate and a total boon for street shooting. Built-in Wi-Fi and 1080p video just add to its list of great features. Although it is not yet in stock the new Fujifilm X100F is a very well-regarded update to the X100T.
Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II Digital Camera
I have been shooting with the Canon G series point-and-shoots since the G3, and find them to be ideal street cameras. The G1 X Mark II has the big 1.5" sensor, carried over from the G1 X, and houses a wider and longer 24-120mm f/2-3.9 lens. Its processor was improved, too, so AF and continuous-shooting performance is faster. The camera has a solid rubber grip and is the right size—more compact, but not too small for working in the street. Speed is a plus on the Mark II, but the G1 X had an optical viewfinder, which was replaced on the Mark II by an optional EVF, and my favorite feature, the fully articulating LCD, which made discreet waist-level shooting such a joy, has been replaced by a selfie-friendly tilt-up LCD. However, the LCD is now touchscreen capable and the camera features dual control rings around the lens and an adjustable pop-up flash that extends higher than most, above the body.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 Digital Camera
A lightweight, compact body, fast zoom lens, 11 fps burst shooting with the mechanical shutter, 40 fps with electronic shutter, and high-speed AF in approximately 0.14 seconds will give you every opportunity to capture that fleeting moment in the street. This camera features a 12.8MP Multi-Aspect MOS sensor and Leica DC Vario-Summilux f/1.7-2.8 lens with equivalent focal-length range of 24-75mm. Image quality is exceptional with the LX100. Yes, the camera offers 4K video capture, a high-resolution EVF, built-in Wi-Fi, and includes an external flash, but what might impress street photographers the most is that it provides manual control rings and dials, so no fumbling through a menu with this point-and-shoot to get you to the setting you need.
Nikon D750 DSLR Camera
It was suggested to me to include the Canon 5D Mark III with a 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens, and while the 5D Mk III is still a mainstay of pros and enthusiasts in all fields of photography, the Nikon D750 stands out as the choice for street photography among full-frame DSLRs. Its 24.3MP CMOS sensor and EXPEED 4 image processor are state-of-the-art, and ensure high image quality and performance, but its 51-point autofocus system with AF detection and sensitivity down to -3 EV with 15 cross-type points really stands out for its fast and accurate autofocus. The 91,000-pixel RGB metering sensor and the Scene Recognition System provide accurate and consistent exposure and help to maintain focus when shooting high-speed bursts of images. Physically, it is a bit smaller than most full-framers and has a deep, very comfortable handgrip. Also, a tilt-out LCD, a first for a full-frame DSLR, can help in moments when discretion would prevent you from bringing the camera to your eye. While there are more affordable options, if you’re in it to win it, try the D750 with the AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G lens.
Olympus PEN-F Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera
While the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is Olympus’s camera of the moment, and certainly a great performer, I’m including the PEN F Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera because my experience shooting with this camera was simply wonderful, and its smaller size and weight enable it to be readily available in your everyday bag, or even as a pocket carry. Image quality and performance are notable, with 10-fps continuous shooting speed, a 1/8000-second high-speed mechanical shutter, and 1/16000 electronic shutter. Five-Axis image stabilization minimizes blur and agile composing is possible with the 3.0" vari-angle touchscreen LCD. The Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12mm f/2.0 lens is an ideal choice to shoot with the PEN F with its 24mm equivalent focal length and durable full-metal construction.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX 100 V Digital Camera
While several Sony cameras could easily be on this list, including the full-frame RX1 with fixed 35mm lens, or the a7 II mirrorless, or even an earlier incarnation of the RX100, I’m going to stick with the RX 100 V, for its ultra-compact form factor and high-performance specs, which include a 1/32,000-second electronic shutter and a built-in three-stop neutral density filter. Its new stacked sensor technology and DRAM memory chip work to improve clarity in low light, reduce noise, and improve autofocus. Burst shooting is up to 24 fps in maximum resolution, and customizable buttons will help keep you working fast. A 3.0" high-resolution multi-angle LCD allows odd-angle and discreet shooting, and the camera has a pop-up electronic viewfinder that maintains the camera’s compact form while enabling stable eye-level composition. Its Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* f/1.8-2.8 lens provides 24-70mm focal-length equivalence, and direct 4K video is also supported on this little dynamo.
Ricoh GR II Digital Camera
Sleek and inconspicuous, the new GR II is a point-and-shoot ready to take on the streets with fast settings adjustments, a narrow profile, and 16.2MP APS-C format sensor that omits its optical low pass filter for ultra-sharp and detailed images. A fixed 28mm equivalent lens, with f/2.8 maximum aperture, is ideal for inclusive street photography, and its High-Speed Autofocus system locks on its subject in just 0.2 seconds. Its magnesium-alloy body, with a large, comfortable, handgrip (for such a small body) makes this a very durable, easy-to tote, no nonsense camera.
As always, this list should be considered the start of a conversation, and I look forward to the comments, telling me what worthy cameras were not mentioned. Also, please keep an eye out for our follow-up piece, “5 Recommended Film Cameras for Street Photography.”
Being that I just got my Leica V-Lux stolen whilst walking down the street, I'm wondering if any of these will fit in a deep pocket, so I don't have to hang it from my shoulder.
Look no further than the Ricoh GR iii. Perfect for any pocket and you'll always have it with you. And the iii offers some nice improvements over the ii mentioned above.
I've been using a Nikon p7800 which is a very underrated camera and is ideal for Street photography. I usually shoot from the hip, it has a very quiet shutter and when set to multiple shot it catches virtually everything in Focus it also has the added bonus of being a good general-purpose camera with a long reach. Are usually set up at max aperture low ISO, face recognition and with the VR there is rarely any camera shake or out of focus shots. My other camera is a d5500 so the battery and all other Nikon accessories I have also work on the P7800.
I just started practising photography professionally; it's been a passion since college although i'm currently into photo editing and some other graphic stuff but now i really wish to practice photography professionally and it's gonna be the documentary/street photography and then subsequently go into Youtube video shoots (I write and sing music too, so this stuff would really go a long way to helping my other careers esp. the music).
So my question is: please what do i need including the suitable camera set (Considering my goals above) to start; lets say i have a $1,500 - $5,000 budget?
For your needs, I would recommend the Sony Alpha a7 III Mirrorless Digital Camera with 24-70mm Lens Kit B&H # SOA7324704LK, being that it has a very fast autofocus system, great low light performance and built in stabilization. Also, it includes a standard Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS lens, which can cover most situations, including street photography, quite easily. https://bhpho.to/2tWitWA
The eight cameras listed in this article must be held up to one's face to frame the shot. Cameras with tilt-type LCD screens, such as cameras in the Canon EOS M series, can be held at waist level while framing, focusing, and taking photos. This makes the act of taking a person's picture inconspicuous. You can be sitting in a bus station or riding in a subway with the camera in your lap, and people around you will not be aware that you're taking pictures. To the people passing by or sitting around you, it looks as if you're reviewing pictures you've already taken.
I wouldnt reccomend this kind of practice you really need permission to take someones photo and the implications for being caught doing it without permission are vast.
You don't need permission in a public place.
You don't need any permission to take someone's photo in a public place and if you had any sense you wouldn't mind having your photo taken considering all the surveillance we are under constantly.
Yes, the 'implications are vast' if you live in North Korea. Why do people think it's the law to 'ask permission' to take somebody's photo? That's like asking people permission to eat your lunch in a public place.
I use the Ricoh GR to shoot inconspicuously all the time. With its snap focus and wide FOV, its fairly easy to "shoot from the hip" and get good shots consistently. I've done this walking with friends and even they did not realize I had grabbed a dozen exposures while walking around. I've shot in the style you mention, but with a longer lens. Its less conspicious than shooting at eye level, but I'd never try it in close quarters such as on a bus. I'll use my Ricoh GR in close quarters.
I like my Fuji X30 (although I'll use other Fuji X cameras too). It's lightweight and compact, has a tilting LCD screen for descreet waist level shooting and a 28-112mm equivalent zoom lens. Although it only has a 2/3" sensor it delivers excellent image quality that can give great prints up to 8x10". It also offers all the film simulations and programable custom settings of it's larger sibling the X-T10. It also has a high resolution electronic viewfinder. A little "point and shoot" power house IMHO.
I still like my Canon G16 for street shooting, but I can clearly see there is room for improvement. My problem is that I have a photography addiction, not a gear addiction. I'll use the G16 until it's so far gone, I'll have to upgrade. When that happens, it'll be a Fuji. I'm very impressed with their cameras.
Rick...Thanks for the comment. You sound like me, I shot with my G5 until it fell to parts in my hand. I still use the Canon G1 X in addition to Nikon DSLRs, but have told myself that when I do replace that Canon, I would likely go to the Fujifilm X100T or its successor.
What about the Lumix LX100?
While I'm a big fan on Nikon cameras, I'm a bit surprised to see the D750 made the cut.... I mean, in my opinion, while the D750 is a great camera, it also scrams "Photographer!" If you had to have a DSLR from Nikon, perhaps the D3000-series would have been a better choice... smaller, lighter, and less likely to draw attention. Or better yet, a Nikon 1 would have been even better (despite the fact they are now discontinued). And what about the ones like the Olympus OM E-M10 or the Panasonic m4/3 cameras? They're smaller, lighter as well. I've always gone with the idea that you want a small, compact camera so you don't "interrupt" what happens on the street and draw attention (thus not getting a realistic view of the environment around you). I'm sorry, I would normally vouch for the D750 any day, but for street, not a good diea. Not to mention it's an expensive camera to replace in the event someone dislikes you taking pictures of them and/or their environment (you know what I'm getting at...)
the lumix does; I have the 40 model. it's pocketable, light and takes great images. when I travel or go anywhere I stick it in a pocket so it's always accessable. never had an issue with it. if you buy it, get a couple of extra batteries. you won't be able to stop taking pictures. good luck & have fun
Which one of these have viewfinders? Thanks. Angie
I believe the olympus does, as does the D750. But I think for the Olympus you may have to purcahse the view finder separately,.
And the Sony RX100 III, IV, V have viewfinders.
The Olympus PEN-F does have a view finder but it is interchangable lenses
I love my Fuji XE2S for street photgraphy. I use the 18- 55 kit lens and love it. Really fun to use.
I have to say I found this when searching for alternatives for a Nikon D750 wich I own. I love the camera but I would not call it suitable for street, at least for me. It's too big and heavy to be carried arround all the time (and I mean all the time) and I miss that. Also the mirror slap is too loud. Even in the noisy subway or in a busy restaurant, the slap is a head turner, very audible. Of course it depends on your style of shooting.
OMD-EM-10 MARK II is the way to go!!
Why can't somebody make a Ricoh GR, with evf and 4k video (and fits in one's pocket)?
I wonder who that somebody would be? But good point Daniel,..love the GR and feel your pain, not so much about the 4K but for the viewfinder. Thanks for the comment.
Qudos on including the 35mm lens selection in the cameras for street photography. Henri Cartier-Bresson is famous for his real-life images of everyday life using his Leica and a 35mm lens. I learned photography from a German photographer while in the US Army in Europe. My Pentax Spotmatic II and Takumar 35mm provided the opportunity to record images with great clarity and depth-of-field without appearing to be invasive to peoples' lives. Set at F8 and the appropriate shutter speed, the 35mm or 28mm is great for recording spontaneous moments in time. Your readers should use Bresson as a expert resource for candid, street photography and study his photographs.
Thank you for your comment and insight Gary. I couldn't agree more with your feelings about Henri Cartier-Bresson.
HCB => 50mm
Henrik Cartier Brendon used a 50mm not a 35mm
Wow autocorrect... Henri Cartier-Bresson*
the sigma dp2m is great for street stuff
Love the Sigma dp line!. Thanks for the comment tom.
What about new cameras as Olympus omd em10II and Fujifilm T10. They are from 2015 and suited to bevthe best!
They are great cameras, and I'll mention to our Editors to consider including them in an upcoming review. Thanks for your input and reading our article!
Agreed! I have an X-T10 and it is amazing for streets!
Thank you for the comment Cris!
Should seriously consider adding the Olympus OM-D (any of the three), an excellent choice for snappy qualitystreet photos. I'm using an EM-5 alongside a Fuji X100S and find it to have a slight edge over the X.
Thank you Andreas. Yes, we love the Olympus OM-D line...and in the article there is a brief mention of the E-M5 Mark II within the paragraph on the PEN E-P5.
Don't forget film cameras. The 35 mm ones were the first cameras used for street photography! There are many excellent bargains to be had with used ones, and Leica makes several film cameras today including the M7, MP and the new M-A. Nikon also produces film cameras. But there are hundreds of bargains to be had out there with used gear. Shoot Tri-X for that gritty street look.
Thank you 35mmTony! A "Film Cameras for Street Photography" article is in the works.
agrred my Olympus XA is still one of my all time favorite street cameras that I use very often. some of the best photos I've ever shot have been on that camera. and you can find them cheap at thrift stores. I own a few of the XA 1s and XA 2s and XA 4s macro that I've bought for 5-10$s. if I see them cheap I always grab em.another is the yashica t-2 that can be found cheap at thrift stores both amazing 35mm street photography cameras for your pocket. Happy shooting !!!!
Thank you J. Quest. Great input!
35mm film cameras look cheap up front ... but develop cost/time? film cost per frame? scanner if want digital version? film availability? Film makes alot of sense in medium format, but street ... hard to say. Depends. Are you going to make a print? Share it? Sell it?
Yes, agree the XA1 is indeed an excellent street camera, but on occasions I wish it had come with a viewfinder
Yes, agree the XA1 is indeed an excellent street camera, but on occasions I wish it had come with a viewfinder
Extra Tip: camera maintenance Living in the Philippines brings some problems with cameras. I used Nikon, Canon, Panasonic, Olympus. In so many South East Asian countries the climate is hot en humid. This climate mixture causes problems when It comes to keep your camera in shape. The aluminum body will corrode because of the salinity of the human body. Fingers are wet and salty. Most metal parts slightly painted with nail polish will help solving the problem.. For street Photography I use pocket all weather cameras. Best used in this hot and humid climate.
Thanks for the tips Petrus. Yes, underwater "tough" cameras can be great for street shooting. I have recently been working with the Olympus TG-4 with great success.
Hello John. You have been working with the TG4 recently. My experience with the TG is lens fogging. The Olympus TG series still have the problem of fogging in the lens house and LCD screen.. The lithium battery get hot and causes this fogging. Hot and humid weather conditions increases the problem even more. Vertical panorama shooting is awful. I used the extra Tele-converter with great success. The TG is a nice camera but I hate fogging.
Thanks Petrus. Yes, I have had similar experiences, but still find the TG among the best of this type of camera.