Best Street Photography Lens
Street photography is more difficult than you might at first imagine.
Capturing a meaningful shot is all about clever composition and to pull that off you’re going to need the right street photography lenses for the job.
Generally, the most commonly used lenses for street photography tend to be 35mm, 50mm, and higher, so in this guide we’re going to present to you a top pick for each type of lens.
Here’s what to expect in this article:
- Reviews of the best street photography lens
- A detailed selection guide
- Your burning questions answered in a FAQ
Without further ado, here are our top picks…
👑 Our Pick for Best Overall
⭐ Our Other Top Picks for Street Photography Lens
- Best of the Best: Canon RF 35mm f/1.8
- Runner Up: Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G
- Best Focal Length Range: Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-70mm
Best Street Photography Lens Reviews
Canon EOS 8OD (👑 Best of the Best)
Our top pick for the best street photography camera lens is the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8, which should come as no surprise since Canon is one of the top camera brands with one of the widest selections of lenses available. It’s the best lens for city photography since you can get close up to the action and still get a striking shot.
A 35mm lens is considered by many to be the best type of lens to use for street photography, since it offers a wide angle and it’s compact enough to pack into your pocket or backpack for a quick urban adventure. This lens from Canon, aside from having the perfect focal length for street photography, is an incredibly well-rated camera accessory that’s been widely praised by past customers and media alike. Just take a look at the product page on Amazon, where you’ll notice that it’s listed as an ‘Amazon’s Choice’ product and has managed to accrue a flawless five star rating from over 400 reviews so far. That’s undeniably impressive, but what exactly is it about the Canon RF 35mm lens that makes it stand out from the competition?
Well, the number one thing street photographers seem to appreciate about this lens is that it’s a small package that delivers a great impact. As a compact lens, the Canon RF 35mm lends itself perfectly well to spontaneous urban exploration which makes it adaptable. If you want to move around unencumbered with awkward, heavy lenses then it’s an excellent lightweight option to consider. The lens fits onto Canon RF-mount cameras with ease, and punches far above its light weight.
In terms of features, the first thing to admire is the clever stepping autofocus system of the lens which works really well for keeping the subject of your photo in crystal clear focus at all times. Then, there’s the unrivaled 5-stop hybrid image stabilizer which does a great job of preventing blur in both close-up situations and at range. As for image quality, it doesn’t get much better than this. You can expect sharp stills and the aperture range is perfect for most of your street photography needs. There’s a maximum magnification ratio of 0.5x, which is perfect for macro photography and street shots.
The control ring on the lens is also worth mentioning since it allows you to scroll between various settings on the fly. Say you want to customize the aperture or change up the shutter speed for your next shot, simple, all you have to do is twist the control ring until you’re happy with the new settings.
- Macro lens
- 0.5x magnification ratio
- Control ring
- 5-stop image stabilizer
- Stepping autofocus
- Compact design
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G (🥈 Runner Up)
Our runner up pick for the best street photography lens is the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm lens.
While 35mm is universally considered the best lens for street photography, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the only lens for street photography. In fact, many would argue that the 50mm is better, or at least provides an excellent alternative for when the situation demands something different. It’s also not the case that Canon has all the best lenses, although it does have arguably the widest selection.
This 50mm lens from Nikon is a fantastic lens for street photography that has won over many street photography enthusiasts. As evidence, this lens also has the ‘Amazon’s Choice’ label on the online retailer, as well as that hard-to-achieve flawless five-star rating from a staggering 4,000+ customers. So, just like the Canon 35mm lens, there are a lot of camera enthusiasts out there that get a kick out of the Nikon 50mm lens, but why?
Well, one of the best features of this Nikon 50mm lens is its stellar low-light performance. The quick f/1.8 aperture of the lens opens up a world of possibilities when it comes to capturing nighttime shots in the city. If you’re adventurous and like to get out when everybody else is winding down for the day, then this could be an excellent lens to consider for your Nikon camera.
This is a lens that provides a shallow depth of field, which means that the subjects you capture in your shots will stand out from the urban background behind them. This really helps you to make your photos pop, and bring your subjects into the limelight. Plus, you can pull off a fantastic Bokeh effect with the wide aperture settings of this lens. In case you were wondering, Bokeh refers to a type of photo that uses blur and out-of-focus elements to create a striking end result. As a result, if you like the idea of playing around with blur to capture the chaos of the city behind your subject then this is a fantastic lens to go with.
While this lens from Nikon doesn’t offer zoom, you do get the brand’s Super Integrated Coating which in their words ‘enhances light transmission efficiency’. In layman’s terms, this means that you will get even light distribution across your shots, less flare, and vivid color. There’s also the Aspherical Lens Element, which reduces coma and other photo aberrations that you will have to contend with during your street photography sessions.
- Prime lens
- Aspherical Lens Element
- Super Integrated Coating
- Compact design
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-70mm (👁️ Best Focal Length Range)
Plenty of people will tell you that 35mm is best for street photography, and many others will tell you it’s 50mm, or something else entirely. As such, it can be hard to know exactly what you need, but this doesn’t have to be a problem when you have a top focal length range camera like this NIKKOR 24-70mm from Nikon.
Yes, that’s right, you don’t have to make a choice that impacts all of the photos you take down the line. Instead, you can opt for a camera lens that has a wide focal length range, and that way you can have the best of both worlds, and adapt to every photo opportunity that arises. Sure, maybe it’s a little more complicated to make adjustments on the fly, but if you can deal with that, you will be afforded a lot of flexibility with your photos. One way of looking at it is it’s like bringing a multi-tool out with you, there will be days when you don’t use one of the tools, but then there will be others when it’s exactly what you need to capture the perfect shot. It allows you to always be prepared, which is a key part of street photography.
This lens from Nikon offers focal lengths in the range of 24-70mm, which includes the two most popular lengths for street photography: 35 and 50mm. But on top of those focal lengths, you’ll also have access to 70mm at the higher end, which can be useful for taking shots at a distance and capturing more of the surroundings along with your subject. Many photographers would even tell you that 24-70mm is the perfect zoom range for most situations, as it facilitates everything from stunning wedding shots to sweeping urban landscape snaps. The f/2.8 constant aperture provides fast shutter speeds so you can render a stunning Brokeh blur shot if you’re looking to get creative with your photography.
The NIKKOR zoom lens provides 4-stop Vibration Reduction image stabilization technology and much more to help you capture the perfect image every time, even in low light conditions. Once paired with a Nikon DSLR, the results you can achieve will be remarkable. One top feature is the new Aspherical Extra-Low-Dispersion element which provides optical precision at a level unseen before. All of your photos and videos should come out sharp and free from flare, coma, chromatic and other aberrations.
- Zoom lens
- 4-stop Vibration Reduction
- Aspherical Extra Low Dispersion element
- 24-70mm focal length range
When it comes to street photography, it’s often said that there are only a few types of lenses that will suffice.
Usually, the experts will tell you that the 35mm is best, and we’re not here to argue that point, but we will say that it isn’t the only good option.
If you’re sat there wondering which lens for street photography, then we’ve got you covered.
To find out what other types of lenses are good for street photography, and to provide information about the most important factors to consider, we present to you our ultimate guide.
Zoom vs Prime lens
One of the first decisions you have to make before you pick out a street photography lens is the type of lens which best suits your preferences.
On the one hand, you have the zoom lens, and on the other hand the prime lens.
Each type of lens is better suited to a different style of photography, so choose wisely.
The zoom lens is a type of lens which will allow you to adjust the focal length, which in layman’s terms means change the amount of zoom.
If you want to be able to play around with distance and close-up photography in the same shooting session without switching out to a different lens then it’s the right lens for you.
It’s a convenient option as it allows you to capture a wide range of shots with a single lens, and generally more affordable than the alternative.
On the downside, this type of lens might compromise the quality of your images and can be fiddly for a beginner photographer.
The prime lens is a type of lens which only has a single focal length.
You won’t be able to zoom in or out with this type of lens, which can be either a blessing or a curse, depending on your photography preferences.
Many people opt for a 35mm prime lens for their street photography sessions, since it’s versatile and works in a lot of situations.
You can expect a higher quality photo with a prime lens in no small part due to the superior aperture, which also makes it a top option for low light conditions. You will also be able to shoot Bokeh style shots with the prime lens which is huge in street photography.
However, you won’t be able to zoom in if you want that facial expression close-up and prime lenses tend to be fairly expensive.
So, while zoom lenses offer up a variable focal length, prime lenses only provide a single focal length.
With that in mind, what is the best focal length for street photography?
Most people will tell you that it’s 35mm, but there are strong arguments for 50mm too.
The 35mm focal length offers up a generous frame size which enables you to take photos of a wide scene without needing to be far away. It’s great for those moments when you’re trying to capture a single subject or a couple of subjects in the middle of a busy urban environment like a city center.
The 50mm is one that might take some time to master, but it has plenty to offer for the keen street photographer. The best way to describe this focal length is as the naked eye experience, since looking through it will be similar to how you see with your eyes.
While it’s universally agreed that 35mm and 50mm are the best focal lengths for street photography, if you have a zoom lens or something higher such as 70 or 80mm then you can still achieve some spectacular results.
For example, a camera that has a zoom lens offering 24-70mm like the Nikon Nikkor lens we reviewed in this article, is versatile and gives you extra flexibility. Wide angle street photography requires a higher focal length, so it’s worth bearing that in mind.centeryou want to capture a shot that features a lot of the urban setting along with a distant subject, something like 70mm would be perfect for that.
But then you enter a coffee shop and find the perfect potential portrait shot of someone sitting looking out of the window, the 24mm focal length has you covered.
You can see where we’re going here, the zoom lenses can offer you the kind of versatility that you won’t get with a prime lens, but it will take some time for you to adjust to using one if you’re just starting out with street photography.
Frequently Asked Questions About Street Photography Lenses
What lens is good for street photography?
Many people will tell you that one of the best camera lenses for street photography is a 35mm lens.
This is because it provides the photographer with an angle that’s wide enough to take all kinds of shots while out and about, including shots with several subjects.
It’s a versatile lens, so it’s a go-to for a lot of street photographers who are looking to capture subjects going about their daily business.
Is 50mm good for street photography?
Yes, the 50mm lens can be a great choice for street photography if you’re looking to take photos at a distance from the subjects.
Rather than the 35mm lens which is good for close-up shots, the 50mm lens is best for taking shots from a stone’s throw away capturing details such as facial expressions and more.
Some photographers claim that the 50mm, unlike the 35mm, is best for urban environments that aren’t as busy such as the city centre when there’s a lot of visual noise such as pedestrians milling about.
Is an 85mm lens good for street photography?
The 85mm lens is highly versatile, and can be used for street photography in certain contexts.
This type of lens will typically have top low light performance, which makes it ideal for taking urban photos after the sun goes down or in poorly-lit areas.
This lens gives you a distant yet unique perspective on your subjects, and is also great for capturing urban landscapes without much visual clutter to spoil the view.
A Final Word From Run Gun Shoot
Picking out the right lens for street photography can be a tough task, since the type of photography you do will be one of the biggest factors involved in the decision-making process.
Do you prefer getting close to your subjects for more intimate shots, or are you someone who prefers to stay back and get more of a zoomed-out shot to provide perspective and scale in your photography?