Looking for the best lens for street photography? Claire Gillo guides you through the best lens options for street photography, with something to suit every brand.

Welcome to our guide to the best lenses for street photography. Whatever system you use, whatever camera you’re rocking, these are the lenses that will help you capture amazing street images, nailing the shot time and again.

Just like any photographic genre, street shooting is a particular discipline, with particular requirements. Therefore when you’re buying a street photography lens, there are certain things you might want to prioritise, that will be different than if you were buying, say, a landscape lens.

At AP we have tested and reviewed dozens of lenses, including optics for every major camera system that currently exists. Based on this experience, we have picked out a selection of lenses that will excel at street photography. We’ve not just gone for the most expensive, “best-on-paper” lenses, but have picked a range of options for a range of budgets, and also provided alternative suggestions for some of our more expensive selections.

There’s a lot to say about street photography, and you can read our beginner’s guide to street photography and list of the best street photography cameras to learn more. For now, let’s crack straight on and get into what makes for a good street photography lens.

How to choose a lens for street photography

So what are the main criteria for a street photography lens? We reckon the key things to focus on are: focal length, aperture range, aperture blades and physical size/weight. Below we’ve put together some more information on what you might want from a street lens.

Street Photography - Copyright: Claire Gillo

Street photography is all about moments, which may be as fleeting as a few seconds. Photo credit: Claire Gillo

Prime vs zoom

There are two main types of lenses on the market. A prime lens, which comes with a fixed focal length (for example 50mm), and a zoom lens, which has a variable focal range (for example 24-70mm). The advantage with a zoom lens is that you have more versatility, however the disadvantage with this type of lens for the street genre is they are generally heavier, bigger, longer, pricier (for those that come with a fixed wide aperture setting) and less discreet. In our guide we therefore stuck to 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 natural 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 larger lens.

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 as possible, without going so wide that it distorts. For this reason, we recommend a 35mm lens (on full frame – on crop sensor APS-C cameras, a 24mm will equate to the same). Although 35mm is the optimum focal length, there are times where a wider 24mm view or a narrower 50mm view can also be 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 the very minimum you want your lens to open up to at least f/2.8.

If producing beautiful bokeh in shallow depth of field with your street photography is high on your priority list, also look at 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 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 – DSLRs, mirrorless, full frame, crop sensor, all of them have different requirements. Many 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…


Best street photography lens for Nikon Z

1. Nikon NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S – £899 / $846

Best lens for street photography: 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 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. This means 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 sought-after beautiful bokeh for those who enjoy capturing dreamy results.

Pros:

  • Superb image quality
  • Wide max aperture
  • Perfect focal length

Cons:

  • On the heavy side

Best street photography lens for Sony FE-mount

2. Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM – £1,300 / $1,398

Best lens for street photography: 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’s advances in technology, they have made a great lens that offers high quality while being relatively light and compact, making it ideal for the street genre.

Pros:

  • 11-blade aperture
  • Pin-sharp image quality
  • Not too heavy

Cons:

  • Quite pricey

Best street photography lens for Canon RF-mount

3. Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM – £199 / $159

Best lens for street photography: 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, many photographers like to shoot wide. However, a nifty fifty is 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 produce excellent image quality for a lens at this price point, while also adding little weight to our EOS R camera body – it weighs a miniscule 160g! Ideal for street photography.

Pros:

  • Very affordable
  • Naturalistic perspective
  • Incredibly light

Cons:

  • Soft corners at wide apertures

Best street photography lens for APS-C sensors

4. Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC DN – £289 / $264

Best lens for street photography: 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, and around a 45mm equivalent on a Sony E-mount, Fujifilm X-Mount, or 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 stopped down make this lens very appealing, and a useful addition for any street photographer on a budget.

Pros:

  • Very good value for money
  • Sharp even wide open
  • Available for lots of mounts

Cons:

  • A little narrow for street on MFT

Best street photography lens for Fujifilm X-mount

5. Fujifilm XF 27mm f/2.8 R WR – £419 / £399

Best lens for street photography: 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 of mirrorless cameras, the Fujifilm XF 27mm f/2.8 lens has been designed to be small, light and discreet. 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 keeping weight and size to a minimum.

For traditionalists who like the old-school method of adjusting the aperture on the lens, the Fujifilm XF 27mm f/2.8 R WR has a nicely implemented aperture ring. Another handy feature is its weather-resistant construction, which gives 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.

Pros:

  • Lovely aperture ring
  • Weatherproof
  • Amazingly light

Cons:

  • Other X-mount lenses offer better quality

Best street photography lens for Micro Four Thirds

6. Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm F1.2 PRO – £1,199 / $1,399

Best lens for street photography: 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 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; it survived our rigorous testing that included a heavy autumnal rain shower.

It’s worth noting that the focus mechanism isn’t completely silent. However, its noises only really become noticeable in a quiet room, so you should be fine out in the street. The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm F1.2 PRO is fast and accurate to focus under many different shooting conditions.

Where this lens comes into its own, though, is at its widest 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 that.

Pros:

  • Hardily weather-sealed
  • Goes down to f/1.2
  • Fast, accurate focusing

Cons:

  • Focusing not completely silent

Best budget street lens for Sony users

7. Sony Sonnar T* FE 35mm F2.8 ZA – £600 / $598

Best lens for street photography: 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. Also, for those with an E-mount APS-C mirrorless Sony system camera, the lens provides an equivalent 52.5mm view, which is equally as good for many street photographers.

Pros:

  • Great value
  • 120g weight
  • Anti-reflective coatings

Cons:

  • Only 7-blade aperture

Best street photography lens for Nikon F-mount

8. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.4E ED – £1,999 / $1,996

Best lens for street photography: 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 discreet 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 shop around you can pick up one for just over £1000, which, while still not cheap, is far more affordable than the full retail price. You get plenty of good quality glass for your money.

Pros:

  • Gorgeous image quality
  • Excellent at f/1.4

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Expensive

Best street photography lens for DSLRs

9. Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD – £580 / $599

Best lens for street photography: 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 users, 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 pin-sharp results. This lens can be used with full-frame cameras as well as APS-C, providing a 56mm view on the latter.

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.

Pros:

  • Light and versatile
  • High-end fluorine coatings
  • Built-in stabilisation

Cons:

  • Big and hefty

Best street photography lens for L-mount

10. Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG DN Art – £749 / $799

Best lens for street photography: 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 this 645g lens, along with the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.4E ED, is among the heaviest on our list however the outstanding quality it produces far outweighs its weight issue! Shop around second-hand and 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.

Pros:

  • 11-blade aperture
  • Handy f/1.4
  • Attractive-looking bokeh

Cons:

  • Another hefty boy

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 camera brands for JPEGs. For more lenses have a look at the latest lens reviews.

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