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Choosing the best camera for street photography doesn’t have to be difficult, but it can take some time to weigh the options. Fortunately, with all the cameras available today, it’s tough to make a bad choice!
That said, there are some street photography cameras that stand out among their peers – thanks to a unique combination of features.
While street photography can be done with almost any camera, from mobile phones to medium format, there are a few characteristics to look for when choosing your gear. A small size, easy-to-use manual controls, a quiet shutter, and a fast response time are all very much appreciated when capturing slices of life in public spaces.
Other features like a tilting screen, a built-in ND filter, a bright viewfinder, and weather sealing are nice, but not deal-breakers for most photographers. Ultimately, you’ll need to decide what’s important to you and choose accordingly, but if you’re not sure where to start, this list will hopefully be of use.
(Note: In terms of ranking, the top three picks are ranked in order; after that, every camera is about equally good, followed by four honorable mentions that don’t quite make the cut.)
Back in 2010, Fujifilm released the original X100, which featured a groundbreaking set of features including a hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder and an APS-C sensor. It quickly became a runaway hit.
The X100V is the fifth iteration of this camera, and over the years Fujifilm has steadily refined it for street photography. Aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and exposure compensation each have their own control dials, which makes them dead simple to adjust on the fly. The hybrid viewfinder lets you shoot with an old-school rangefinder or an ultra-modern mirrorless, and the flip-out touchscreen makes it easy to compose from low angles.
Other benefits for street photographers include a 23mm fixed lens mated to an APS-C sensor, which results in a 35mm equivalent field of view – perfect for street photography. The lens is sharp and bright with a maximum aperture of f/2, so you can take pictures with ease and never worry about missing a shot due to poor light. The built-in leaf shutter makes photography virtually silent, which is great if you value discretion.
The X100V is small but not exactly pocketable, and it has a full suite of customizable buttons and dials to suit your style. If you want a virtually no-compromises camera designed from the ground up for street shooters, the Fuji X100V is a fantastic option; it is, in my opinion, the best camera for street photography today.
The Ricoh GR line of cameras has been a favorite of street photographers for years, and with good reason. The third iteration of this venerable camera series continues the tradition of being small in size but packing quite a punch, and it offers nearly everything a street photographer could want.
An 18mm lens mated to the APS-C sensor results in a 28mm field of view; this is a bit wider than the Fujifilm X100V, and more like what you might see on a mobile phone. Some people like the wider angle, but I find the 35mm field of view much more pleasing and versatile. Image quality is outstanding, and high-ISO shots look great. Lots of photographers swear by the Ricoh black and white JPEGs, so if you like to shoot in monochrome, this might be a good option.
The Ricoh GR III has plenty of buttons but not as many dedicated controls as the Fujifilm X100V and other cameras on this list. It’s not quite as easy to rapidly change settings, but many custom functions can be mapped to specific buttons to make things easier. The maximum f/2.8 aperture isn’t as bright as the Fuji X100V, but the camera compensates with built-in image stabilization; this makes low-light photography a bit more practical as long as you are shooting still subjects. A non-tilting touchscreen makes composing shots a cinch, but the lack of a dedicated viewfinder is certainly something to consider if you prefer composing your shots by bringing the camera up to your eye.
The Sony RX100 line has been around for many years and has gone through myriad iterations to adapt to the demands of photographers. The most dramatic change in recent years is the lens, which used to have a much smaller focal range but now goes all the way from 24mm to 200mm (in equivalent 35mm measurements). This makes the RX100 VII an outstanding camera for many genres, including street photography.
While the lens isn’t nearly as bright as the Fuji X100V’s or Ricoh GR III’s, its maximum f/2.8 aperture on the wide end is great for daytime street photography. This quickly shrinks to a maximum f/4.5 aperture as you zoom in, but most street photographers typically shoot wide as opposed to telephoto.
The 1″ sensor in the Sony RX100 VII is what enables this camera to have such a versatile lens. And while it’s no match for its APS-C and full-frame siblings’ image quality and high-ISO performance, Sony makes up for it in terms of sheer technological prowess.
The RX100 VII camera is packed to the gills with features normally found on high-end mirrorless cameras costing thousands of dollars. Autofocus is snappy and reliable and includes subject tracking and eye AF, video recording is outstanding, and the pop-up viewfinder is a boon for street photographers. A rear touchscreen, a relatively robust set of manual controls, and several customizable buttons mean you can set the camera to shoot how you want to get the street photos you might otherwise miss. At the end of the day, the reason this camera earns a spot on my list is due to its unique combination of features and size; no other camera offers so much in so small a body.
While the Panasonic Lumix LX100 II isn’t as feature-packed as other cameras on the list, it nonetheless acquits itself nicely in the world of street photography. It’s easy to use and packs fast autofocus and responsive controls, including dedicated dials for shutter speed and exposure compensation. The built-in 24-75mm (35mm equivalent) lens is great for wide-angle shots as well as tighter crops, and the bright f/1.7 aperture is perfect for low-light photography, though it does shrink to f/2.8 when zoomed to 75mm. Street photographers will love the small size of this camera, though the lens does stick out from the body enough to cause problems in a pocket or handbag.
Panasonic packs a lot of technology into its cameras, and the Lumix LX100 II has a range of high-tech features that make it well suited to street photographers. The autofocus points cover nearly the entire frame so you can focus almost anywhere, and built-in crop modes let you frame your shots in a variety of different aspect ratios.
The touchscreen makes focusing a breeze, which can be useful for on-the-spot candids, and the electronic viewfinder is great for thoughtfully composing your photos. Street photographers will also appreciate the aperture ring, which gives you full control over the aperture without requiring a trip to the camera menus.
The Canon G1 X Mark III combines the best of compact cameras and their larger-sensor DSLR/mirrorless brethren; the result is an imaging tool that is quite well suited to many types of street photography.
The G1 X Mark III’s overall appeal is a bit hampered by its size as well as some limitations of the built-in lens, but anyone after a street photography camera would be wise to consider it. The huge APS-C image sensor on the G1 X III makes for superb shots in a variety of lighting conditions, and a long list of impressive technical specifications makes this camera great for street shots.
Composing is simple with the rear LCD, and Canon goes one step further than most by offering a fully articulating touchscreen. Autofocus isn’t particularly noteworthy, especially when tracking moving subjects, but that’s usually not a primary concern for street photographers.
The 24-72mm (35mm equivalent) focal range of the zoom lens means you can get wide shots and street portraits, but the aperture range on the lens is definitely less than ideal. The f/2.8 maximum aperture (when zoomed out) is respectable, but the f/5.6 aperture when zoomed in severely limits this camera’s functionality in low light.
However, high-ISO shots look great, and street photographers will love the abundance of control dials and function buttons to access commonly used settings. The electronic viewfinder is crisp and sharp, and while not as nice as Canon’s high-end cameras, it’s certainly good enough for street photography.
The inclusion of the Nikon Z5 on this list might seem a bit strange, but hear me out. The Nikon Z5 isn’t specifically designed for street photography like the Ricoh GR III or Fuji X100V, and it’s larger and heavier than the Canon G1 X Mark III. You also need to attach a lens because it doesn’t include one like the Panasonic LX100 II and others.
But it has one standout quality for street photography: it is currently the cheapest full-frame mirrorless camera on the market. So for street photographers who value image quality above all else, the Nikon Z5 is definitely worth a look.
In addition to a full-frame sensor, the Nikon Z5 has plenty of other features to make street photographers sit up and take notice. Its flip-out touchscreen lets you shoot from up high and down low, and it has more than enough manual controls and customizable settings. It features a bright viewfinder, fast autofocus, built-in image stabilization, and an (optional) fully electronic shutter for discreet shooting.
The Nikon Z5 can be paired with Nikon’s Z lenses, many of which are outstanding for street photography. Bear in mind that the Z5 is expensive, heavy, and downright cumbersome next to its nimble, pocketable counterparts. But for full-frame street shooters, it’s one of the best options available.
The Olympus PEN series has long been beloved by street photographers, and while not up to the standards of some of its peers, the PEN E-PL10 definitely holds its own in key areas. It sports a Micro Four Thirds sensor, which sits comfortably between the 1″ sensor of the RX100 series and the APS-C sensors offered by cameras such as the G1 X Mark III and Fuji X100V. It strikes a nice balance between size and capability, with features that appeal to many street photographers.
Like the Nikon Z5, the PEN E-PL10 requires a separate lens, but Micro Four Thirds lenses are much smaller than their Nikon/Canon/Sony counterparts. For example, the 14-42mm lens (28-84mm equivalent) shown in the photo above makes the E-PL10 about the same size as the Fuji X100V when the lens is zoomed out to 14mm. And there’s a huge variety of MFT lenses, many of which are great for casual street shooting.
The PEN E-PL10 isn’t as feature-rich as some of its more pro-oriented siblings like the OM-D E-M1 Mark III, but it has a full complement of manual controls so you can get precisely the shot you’re after. Some street photographers might lament the lack of a dedicated viewfinder, but the articulating rear touchscreen makes composing photos easy and enjoyable.
The E-PL10 also stands out thanks to built-in image stabilization and fast, reliable autofocus. And the PEN E-PL10 is much less expensive than other cameras on this list, which makes it a great option for people wanting to get started with street photography.
The cameras listed below are all well-suited to street photography, but I generally consider them outliers in this type of discussion. While they are all worth considering, each is limited by some important factors, and I would generally recommend one of the initial cameras on this list over one of the honorable mentions.
However, if money, size, or access to the latest technology are not your primary concerns, then by all means, look at the models listed below.
The Leica Q2 is a no-compromise street photographer’s dream. Everything about this camera is ideally suited to street photography, from its full-frame sensor to its exquisitely sharp 28mm f/1.8 lens to the brilliant optical viewfinder, durable construction, and weather sealing.
While you could buy several Fujifilm X100Vs and a Ricoh GR III for the same price as a Leica Q2, you would be making some compromises and tradeoffs in the process that you simply don’t have to think about with the Leica. So if money is no object and you don’t mind a massive lens protruding from the camera body, the Leica Q2 is my top recommendation.
If you’re searching for an ideal street photography camera but can’t afford the Leica Q2, then the Sony RX1R II should sit at the top of your list. It’s similar to the Leica in many ways, with specs that surpass almost every camera at the top of this list, even if it doesn’t quite reach the same soaring heights as its German-made counterpart.
If the Q2 sits at the top of the podium, the RX1R is a very close second place. It’s expensive, but not quite as much as the Q2. It has a 35mm f/2 lens that isn’t quite as wide or bright as the Q2. It has a viewfinder, but it pops out like a periscope instead of being elegantly embedded in the camera body. While the rear screen flips out for greater versatility, the camera sacrifices weather sealing as a result.
In short, the Sony RX1R II is an outstanding camera for good reasons, but generally not one I would recommend for most casual street shooters.
The Sony a6100 isn’t designed for street photography, but don’t overlook it. It’s a small, well-rounded, highly capable camera that also happens to serve the needs of street photographers quite well.
The Sony a6100 is a full-featured APS-C camera that accepts all of Sony’s E-mount lenses, and it packs some impressive technology to help you capture the images you’re after. Everything you would expect in a proper camera is here: manual controls, a bright viewfinder, great autofocus, and a flip-out rear screen. It’s small enough to tote around but not as pocketable as the Ricoh GR III or Sony RX100 VII. I would recommend pairing it with the 20mm (30mm equivalent) f/2.8 pancake lens, which essentially transforms this camera into a Fujifilm X100V.
Strictly from a street photography perspective, I prefer the X100V – but some might appreciate the technology and the ability to change lenses offered by the a6100.
It almost doesn’t seem fair to relegate the Fujifilm X-E4 to the bottom of the honorable mentions category. In many ways, it seems like one of the best cameras for street photography you can buy! But while this camera has an extensive list of features that appeal to street photographers, I can’t recommend it over the Fuji X100V.
The X-E4 and the Fujifilm X100V share many common elements, from sensor size to flip-out screen to manual controls and even an integrated viewfinder. But while the X-E4 is newer and less expensive, it doesn’t come with a lens, and by the time you add one that is suited to street photography, the price is almost the same as an X100V.
And the X100V has a wide-aperture lens, better manual controls, and a hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder that will appeal to a lot of street photographers. As a small, capable, interchangeable lens camera, the X-E4 is great. But for street photography, the X100V is the better choice.
Street photography is all about capturing the candid everyday moments that make up the world around us. And almost every camera is capable of getting those shots – mobile phones, pocket cameras, and even DSLRs with big lenses.
There’s no rule that says the camera you already have isn’t going to be well suited to street photography. And your only inherent limitations are the ones you set for yourself. But if you’re looking for the best camera for street photography, I hope this list was helpful and gave you a few things to think about!
Mobile phones are great for street photography, as long as you have plenty of light. When the lights go down, photo quality decreases dramatically, especially if you are shooting moving subjects. (Night Mode on mobile phones almost always requires your subjects to be very still.)
This one is largely a matter of personal taste, but anything between 25mm and 35mm is generally ideal for street photography. Much wider than 25mm and people start to look a bit distorted. Much narrower than 35mm, and you will have trouble fitting everything into the frame.
While traditional DSLRs can certainly be used for street photography, I don’t recommend them when there are so many excellent mirrorless options available. DSLRs are large and conspicuous, and Live View shooting often uses contrast-detection autofocus (which is highly unreliable for dynamic street photography settings).
Unless you are shooting in extreme weather conditions, you probably don’t need weather sealing. It’s nice to have for peace of mind and I wouldn’t recommend against it, but as long as you’re careful not to let your camera get soaked with rain or covered in dust, you’ll probably be fine.
Many street photographers enjoy shooting manually, which is very simple thanks to focus peaking on modern mirrorless cameras. However, autofocus works perfectly fine, and there is nothing wrong with using it for street photography.