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Street photography is popular with many photographers who enjoy the spontaneity of taking candid portraits, while exploring their favourite urban landscapes. Great street images document the real moments of everyday people as they go about their lives, which takes practice, tenacity and expertise.
If you’re just starting out, its useful to gain some tips for getting started in street photography, along with a better understanding of the equipment you’ll need for this immersive genre. Choosing the best lens for street photography is one of the most important decisions you can make from the outset, as it influences the types of shots you’ll be able to achieve.
Our top tips will help you to find the perfect lens to capture your own powerful street photos, whether you’re a beginner or more advanced enthusiast.
There are a number of characteristics to look for when choosing your street photography lens. Although it is quite a personal choice, there are some universal features that define most street photography lenses, including:
There are numerous choices available for every camera, from both the original manufacturer and popular third party designers, such as Tamron, Sigma and Voigtlander.
Sample 1 with Leica Q2 Monochrom and Summilux 28mm f/1.7 lens. Camera settings: 1/1000sec. f/4. ISO 800
The two most popular prime focal lengths for street photography are 35mm and 50mm. Choosing between the two comes down to personal preference, with minor differences setting them apart.
A 35mm street lens offers a slightly wider perspective. This allows you to capture a larger number of subjects in the frame, with more of the surrounding environment. A wider lens also renders a larger depth of field, helping to keep everything in focus from front to back.
On the other hand, a 50mm lens for street photography will get you closer to your subject without needing to stand quite as near. You’ll also achieve slightly greater compression, and your subject will fill the frame more, helping you to focus on what’s most important in the scene.
The good news is that there are plenty of options for both focal lengths, as every lens manufacturer makes at least one lens for each. These include anything from flagship models, such as the £5,000.00 Leica Summilux SL 50mm f/1.4 ASPH Lens, to well rounded options like the Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM Prime Lens, which costs £219.00.
Sample 2 with SL2 camera and Leica APO Summicron SL 35mm F/2 ASPH Lens. Camera settings: 1/250sec. f/2. ISO 640
The best lenses for street photography combine several of features listed above, with the most popular being the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 L USM and Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 GM Lens. These two prime mirrorless lenses will help you to embrace low-light photography, thanks to boasting an extremely wide maximum aperture and capturing sharp, natural-looking results.
You can definitely use a fast zoom lens for street photography, with the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM II Lens and Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM Lens being popular options. These cover both 35mm and 50mm focal lengths, allowing you to reframe your shot, without needing to move your feet. Additionally, they each have a bright f/2.8 constant aperture throughout the zoom range and allow you to react quickly to photographic opportunities by simply twisting the zoom ring.
Another advantage of a zoom lens for street photography is that the fewer times you change lenses in the field, the less frequently you’ll need to clean your cameras sensor.
Sample 3 with SL2 camera and Leica APO-Summicron-SL 50mm f/2 ASPH Lens. Camera settings: 1/160sec. f/2.2. ISO 800
Many street photographers hold Sony cameras in high regard, due to their advanced autofocus capabilities. The best E-mount lenses for street photography capitalise on fast AF, which helps to capture sharper images. Sony has a number of brilliant options, including the flagship FE 35mm f/1.4 GM Lens, which could be the ultimate street lens for enthusiast and professional users alike. Its main features include:
The Sony FE 35mm f/1.8 Lens costs £1000 less than the flagship, yet still includes a wide f/1.8 aperture with fast, precise and quiet AF.
No EXIF data
Photographers who shoot with a Canon mirrorless camera often opt for the RF 35mm f/1.8 IS STM Macro Lens, which combines a wide aperture with macro capabilities. This is one of the best Canon lenses for street photography, perfect for beginners through to advanced enthusiasts thanks to the following features:
Advanced and professional Canon users could opt for the RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM Lens for their street photography. This zoom lens takes image quality to the next level, with a versatile focal range and constant bright aperture. At the wide end, you can capture amazing architectural shots, and at the other end of the zoom, you have the popular 35mm focal length.
Sample 5 with Leica Q2 Monochrom and Summilux 28mm f/1.7 lens. Camera settings: 1/500sec. f/3.5. ISO 1600
Leica rangefinders are synonymous with street photography, with plenty of standard focal length M lenses to choose from. This includes the APO-Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH. and Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 II Nokton-Classic MC Lens. Both options feature classic exterior styling and are capable of capturing unique results, for which Leica is renowned, with these useful features:
Fujifilm X cameras have a crop factor of 1.6x due to their APS-C format sensor, which should be taken into account when choosing Fuji lenses for street photography. Two popular options include the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.2 X Lens for Fujifilm X Mount and the recently released XF 30mm F/2.8 R LM WR Macro Lens, which provide a 53mm and 46mm equivalent focal length in full-frame format.
The Voigtlander features an extremely bright aperture, with 12-bladed diaphragm, which renders beautiful bokeh and smoothing out of focus areas, along with the benefits of a manual focus lens.
The alternative is one of the best Fuji lenses for street photography, with the added benefit of 1:1 macro capabilities for shooting versatility.
Street photography can be extremely rewarding, providing the opportunity to document life around us, across towns and cities in the UK or beyond. Whether you choose a prime or zoom lens, finding the right one will help steer your creative journey and the shots you can achieve.
Browse our huge range of lenses today to find the perfect one and head out to your nearest town to capture the most impactful street photos.
By Park Cameras on 14/11/2022
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