If you’re looking for the best camera for street photography, then here are the top choices from street photographer Damien Demolder and the AP team.
Picking the best camera for street photography can seem like a daunting task, but if you start on the basis that you’re going to need something small, light and responsive, you’re not going to go far wrong.
It’s somewhat true that you can use any camera at all for street photography, in the same sense that you can technically play football in flip-flops, or travel from London to Edinburgh on a donkey. In reality, a good camera is going to help you nail the shot more often than not, and make your pursuit of street photography, above all else, a lot more enjoyable.
Why choosing the right camera is crucial
I’ve shot street pictures with smartphones, digital compacts, vintage film cameras, DSLRs and more. Like many of the AP team, pretty much every camera I’ve tested has at some point been used to engage in a little street photography – which was a big part of how we were able to put this list together. The cameras in this guide are a mix of ones I’ve tested, and models vouched for by other members of the team.
So what’s the trick for a good street camera? Well, there isn’t a rule that encompasses everything, as evidenced by the thousands of terrific street pictures taken on cameras that these days would be considered impossibly slow and unwieldy. But all the same, a good modern camera will increase your reaction speed, your versatility and the sharpness of your shots.
Key factors to consider when choosing
A good street camera should be comfortable to hold, easy to use, and not so large that it’s a drag to spend a day shooting with. A big and heavy camera won’t only put you off the idea of lugging it about town, it’ll also attract the attention of your potential subjects, which is not something you want when shooting the street. Small cameras help you blend in, which is a big plus.
Nailing the shot requires a fast and accurate autofocus system, and having a camera that’s quick to power up and shoot will be no bad thing either. Many mirrorless and compact cameras – which we’ve concentrated on in this list – also have silent shooting modes, which can be helpful in being discreet.
Also, having good JPEG output can be helpful if you don’t want to spend too much time editing. See our guide to the best camera brands for JPEGs if you need more suggestions.
So, keep reading for our best suggestions for a range of cameras that fit the bill and which will help you to reach your street photography goals…
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX9
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX9 – at a glance
- Sensor: 20.3MP MOS Sensor
- Viewfinder: flip-up Live View EVF, 2,760k dot, 0.7x (equiv.), 100%
- Screen: 3-inch, 1,240k dot, tiltable TFT LCD
- ISO range: 100-25,600 (extended)
- Weight: 450g
- Price: £599 with 12-32mm / $797 with 12-60mm lens
Launched at the beginning of 2018, the Panasonic Lumix GX9 may well be the oldest camera in this group, but it still holds its own with a number of special features. The rangefinder style reduces the number of sticking-out bits, so it remains compact and easy to fit in a coat pocket or a small bag, and, despite a nice solid build that withstands drops and scrapes, it weighs only 450g.
Although not fitted with the same 20MP sensor as is used in the top-of-the-line Lumix G9, the Lumix GX9 produces excellent image quality, plenty of dynamic range, nice colour and it is capable of recording a great deal of fine detail. RAW files are excellent, and JPEG users will enjoy masses of control.
The collapsible kit lens is handy and surprisingly sharp, but designed to a price that doesn’t make the most of the camera’s AF system. Street photographers might consider the Leica DG 25mm f/1.4 or the Leica DG 15mm f/1.7 as alternatives that will bring out the best in the camera and still keep it very small.
Built-in stabilisation helps in street photography not so much for compensating for the wobble of long lenses as much as for holding off camera-shake in low light conditions without having to crank the ISO too far. The stabilisation is very effective (though the four stops of compensation is a little short of the very latest models) and when combined with a fast aperture lens, it’s surprising how good results can be achieved in very dim conditions.
The rear screen flips up and down, which is less useful for uprights than for horizontal compositions, but it is bright, clear and almost always easy to see. The EVF is housed in a hinged chimney affair that also flips up so we can look down into it while shooting at right angles – like a waist-level finder. The viewfinder experience though is only average, and I almost never use it.
Standout feature: Touch Shutter
The highlight of this camera for street photographers is the quality of the touch screen and touch functions. Users can very quickly adjust the size and position of the AF area, and by touching the screen can focus and trigger the shutter at the same moment.
This feature is becoming more common in other cameras, but few I’ve used can compete for the speed of reaction that this little camera manages when fitted with a good lens. The quality of this feature is one of the main reasons I still use the GX9 as my principle street camera – it allows me to get pictures that would otherwise be impossible.
Read our Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9 Review
Ricoh GR III
Ricoh GR III – at a glance
- Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C Sensor
- Viewfinder: optional GV-1 (£149), GV-2 (£199) available
- Screen: 3-inch, 1,037k-dot fixed LCD touchscreen
- ISO range: 100-102,400
- Weight: 257g
- Price: £899 / $896
I’m not the only person who has been a big fan of the Ricoh GR series since the original GR1 film camera, which I still have. The series has been legendary in the street and travel photography communities for a few very good reasons: compact dimensions, rugged build and outstanding lens quality. For me the series went a little off the boil in the early digital days, but the GR III certainly recovers that lost ground, and is an excellent performer.
The key attraction has been the combination of a truly compact camera and first rate images, and the latest version offers both of these qualities. The wide-angle lens (28mm equivalent) might seem a little tricky for street work, but the size of the camera allows us to use it in really close proximity to people in the street without them paying much attention – ideal for crowded places. This model has an updated AF system that is very quick and accurate, and the combined efforts of the sensor and the optics means we get very sharp and detailed images.
It’s worth noting that you don’t get a viewfinder at all with this camera, and that the rear screen, that we have to use for live view, is fixed in position. This rather limits the range of angles we can shoot from easily, but the screen is of good quality and offers a clear view even when not directly in front of your face. A couple of accessory viewfinders are available, including one that matches a wide-angle converter, but while they look cool they make the kit bigger and are frankly unnecessary.
Also, don’t forget that in 2021 Ricoh added the GR IIIx, which has a 40mm equivalent f/2.8 lens, but that model is perhaps better than suited for macro and portraits than the wide angle GR III.
Standout feature: Snap Focus
I don’t usually encourage people to take snaps, and I’m sure you twitch when anyone refers to your pictures using that word, but Snap Focus in the Ricoh GR series is a different kettle of fish. It is a very basic idea that allows us to set a focus distance manually for the camera to work to so that we can reduce the delay between pressing the shutter and the camera taking the picture.
A neat depth-of-field scale on-screen shows how the aperture we are using combines with the Snap Focus distance to show to range of distances that will appear sharp in the final image. With these parameters set we can shoot anything that falls within that range and know it will be focused. This makes off-centre subjects much easier to shoot as the camera’s AF system doesn’t need to find them and then focus – it just shoots.
Leica Q2 – at a glance
- Sensor: 47.3MP full-frame CMOS sensor
- Viewfinder: 3.68m-dot OLED viewfinder
- Screen: 3in, 1.04m-dot touchscreen
- ISO range: 50-50,000
- Weight: 718g
- Price:£4,750 / $5,795
If you’re on a budget, feel free to scroll on by, but we couldn’t put together a street photography cameras guide without talking about Leica. Producing premium cameras with exemplary build quality, stripped back to the point where all you have are the essentials of getting the shot, Leica has an enviable reputation among the photographic community. This Leica Q2 is a compact camera, the second in its series (as the name implies). It costs a hell of a chunk of change for a camera with a fixed prime lens. Is it worth it? Only you can answer that.
What’s pretty much fact though is that the Leica Q2 is a well-specced imaging machine. Under the all-metal chassis is a full-frame 47.3MP, with a native minimum ISO of 50 and maximum of 50,000. The image quality this camera is capable of producing is nothing short of sublime, and the inclusion of the faster Maestro II image processor means it’s capable of keeping up with itself. The maximum burst speed with the mechanical shutter is 10fps, and this rises to 20fps when using the electronic, with a maximum shutter speed of 1/40,000sec. Is this overkill? Sure, but it’s damn impressive.
Like pretty much any Leica camera, the Q2 feels superb to use. Its metal-shelled body has rounded ends that make it comfortable to hold, and manual focusing is a satisfying, tactile experience. Leica has done an exemplary job of balancing out the control system, giving you just enough physical buttons and dials to put every function you need at your fingertips. Battery life is also better than previous Leica cameras, and the Q2 accepts fast SD UHS-II cards to cope with all that high-volume data transfer.
Also, while the lens on the Q2 is fixed (and more on that in a moment), the high-resolution sensor does give the user access to some useful crop modes to expand versatility a bit. You get a 35mm crop mode equivalent crop at 30MP resolution, a 50mm equivalent at 15MP, and a 75mm equivalent at 7MP, and even that last one is enough to make a decent print at A4 size.
Standout feature: stabilised, pin-sharp 28mm f/1.7 lens
On the front of the camera is the other key component of its proposition – the Leica Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH lens. The quality achieved by this lens is absolutely first class, and its unashamedly old school design, with an aperture ring and perfectly damped manual focusing ring, is a winner. While street photography is a discipline that benefits greatly from autofocus, you may well find yourself preferring the manual focusing experience.
The lens is also optically stabilised, which combines well with the generous f/1.7 aperture to provide you with a seriously capable low-light setup. A handy Auto OIS option is included, which instructs the stabilisation to only kick in if the shutter speed is in danger of dipping below 1/60sec, so as to compromise sharpness as little as possible. Really, there’s no reason not to have this on all the time.
If you like the sound of the Leica Q2 but are concerned it’s not quite hardcore enough for your tastes, consider also the Leica Q2 Monochrom, a camera that’s essentially the same proposition, but shoots only in black and white.
- Leica Q2 Monochrom
- Any Leica rangefinder
Fujifilm X100V – at a glance
- Sensor: 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor
- Hybrid viewfinder – Optical 0.52x magnification, 95% coverage; Electronic, 0.5-inch, 3.69m-dot OLED EVF
- Screen: 3-inch, 1.62-million-dot tilting touchscreen
- ISO range: 160-12,800 (extendable to 80-51,200)
- Weight: 478g (including battery and memory card)
- Price: £1349 / $1399
The whole Fujifilm X100 series has been a favourite with street photographers looking for a properly advanced compact camera. What you get in essence is a lot of the controls of the X-Pro and X-T cameras in a smallish body that has a fixed lens. It’s not just any lens either, but a highly regarded lens with a nice wide aperture. While the focal length of this lens is the same 35mm equivalent as that in the X100F it is definitely sharper across the frame and offers quite a lot more contrast – which makes it an even better choice than the, already very good, previous model.
Of course many people are attracted to the way this camera looks, and as we aren’t all robots that might be a good enough reason to buy on its own. But looks are nothing without practical handling and good performance – and this model has both. Physical dials and buttons give the camera an air of simple operation, which it indeed has, but diving into the menu you’ll see a host of controls, features and functions, as well as Fujifilm’s extensive collection of film simulation presets for JPEG shooters. Fuji is famous for its colour and monochrome looks, and consequently plenty of Fuji users don’t bother to shoot in RAW.
Standout feature: Hybrid viewfinder
One of the highlights of the X100 series is the hybrid viewfinder that the cameras share with the X-Pro series. This comprises what looks like a regular optical viewfinder, which can be turned into a full digital electronic viewfinder at the flick of a switch. I say ‘looks like a regular optical viewfinder’ because it actually isn’t – the optical viewfinder has an information display overlaid on the scene, so we can see all the settings we’d see with an EVF but dropped onto a real-life view. This means you can combine the digital level with an optical view, which is important in the street as we want to get those buildings straight.
The optical viewfinder is great, but when you want to preview your exposure, white balance, depth-of-field and film simulation the lever on the front of the camera switches the finder to EVF mode and displays exactly all of those things. It’s not a new genius idea, but it is still thrilling – and no one else has thought to copy it. As someone who generally doesn’t use a viewfinder unless I have to, I am surprised by how enthused I am by this one.
If you can’t find the Fujifilm X100V, make sure you check out some of the X100V alternatives.
Read our Fujifilm X100V Review
Canon EOS M50 Mark II
Canon EOS M50 Mark II – at a glance
- Sensor: 24.1MP APS-C Dual Pixel CMOS sensor
- Viewfinder: 2.36m-dot OLED EVF
- Screen: 3-in fully articulated touchscreen
- ISO range: 100-25,600 (ISO 51,200 extended)
- Weight: 387g
- Price: £589 / $599
The Canon EOS M cameras may not be as stylish as a lot of the other models on this list – or, for that matter, as photographically capable. But the series remains enduringly popular for the simple reason that these APS-C mirrorless cameras get the job done well at an affordable price point, and are easy to carry everywhere with you thanks to their lightweight construction. The Canon EOS M50 II is the best one that’s ever been made – possibly the best one that ever will be made, considering how aggressively Canon is pushing the EOS R series as its mirrorless one-stop shop. Still, for now, the EOS M50 II is available, and cheap, and a solid choice for street photographers.
A relatively cheap camera that’s designed to be good at a bit of everything, the EOS M50 Mark II manages to pack a lot into a body weighing just 387g. It handles nicely, with a generously sized EVF and a fully articulating touchscreen that can be set to any angle. And while EF-M lenses aren’t exactly numerous, they are at least compact, and you can build yourself a relatively slim setup that won’t attract attention on the street.
Image quality is generally very good, making the most of the APS-C sensor, and the snappy 7.4fps burst rate should stand you in good stead to capture fleeting moments. You can up that to 10fps with fixed focus if you’re feeling brave or have set up a shot. ISO-wise, the camera can manage up to 51,200, though you’re probably going to want to stick to 12,800 or so to make sure you get useable results.
Standout feature: Dual Pixel autofocus
Tried and tested, Canon’s Dual Pixel autofocus really is excellent. Using a combination of phase detection pixels on the sensor and a contrast-detect system, the EOS M50 II is set up to give you the best of both worlds. It also pairs will with the touch AF function on the LCD screen. Tot up the total number of AF points available, and you’ve got a whopping 3975 positions at your literal fingertips. That’s… yeah, it’s a lot.
It’s not going to match the AF systems on professional cameras, but for something at this price point, the EOS M50 II’s Dual Pixel autofocus excels. Any burgeoning street photographer will almost certainly be very happy with its performance.
As we mentioned the future of the EOS M series is uncertain, and we may not see much more from the series as the EOS R cameras eat up more and more of the limelight. But, while still available, this is an excellent, great-value camera for anyone in the early stages of their street photography journey.
Read our Canon EOS M50 Mark II review
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV – at a glance
- Sensor: 20.3MP Four Thirds sensor
- Viewfinder: 2.36m-dot, 0.62x magnification
- Screen: 3-inch, flip up/down, tilting touchscreen
- ISO range: 200-6400, ISO 80-25,600 (extended)
- Weight: 383g
- Price: £699 / $699 body only
The E-M10 series is officially the beginner’s entry into the Olympus OM-D camera system, but as this model is now on its fourth incarnation, and has improved each time, there isn’t too much it doesn’t do. The build is perhaps not as rugged as the OM System OM-1 / OM-5 series bodies, but with the care most enthusiasts take of their kit I don’t suppose that will matter too much.
For the street photographer, the E-M10 IV provides a nice flip-up screen that slides away from the body when in the waist-level position, so there’s a very good angle of view without the viewfinder housing obscuring the display. The screen also flips down and below the camera so you can do selfies – though you might prefer to use this to take pictures over your shoulder.
The screen provides responsive touch-shutter, and a silent mode with electronic shutter gives us shutter speeds as short as 1/16,000sec. In-body image stabilisation steadies current as well as vintage and third party lenses, and high-drive settings make shooting at 15 frames a seconds possible for action sequences. The camera’s AF system is snappy for still and slower moving subjects where tracking isn’t a priority, and image quality is very nice indeed – it delivers sharp pictures, good colour and plenty of dynamic range.
Aside from the quality of the body-build and the absolute sophistication of the AF system, the E-M10 IV doesn’t differ from the E-M5 and E-M1 series bodies in many ways of significant importance when it comes to street photography, so using this body instead of one higher up the range shouldn’t disadvantage you very much at all.
Standout feature: DSLR styling
Many photographers brought up on SLRs find it hard to shift away from that familiar body shape, and struggle to get to grips with compact cameras and smaller mirrorless models. The E-M10 IV offers something of a compromise, with its small and lightweight body, but at the same time it provides a traditional right-hand grip and a viewfinder in the ‘right’ place. With your eye to the finder, which is electronic rather than optical (you can’t have everything the old way), all the main controls can be accessed with the fingers and thumbs of the shooting hand.
The gripped body makes working with longer lenses more comfortable if you are the sniping sort of street photographer, and the viewfinder makes seeing what is going on clearer for those who can’t get on with shooting via the rear screen. Even if you aren’t going to hold it to your eye, you will appreciate the new deeper grip that will make you feel more secure in your grasp of the camera.
Read our Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV Review
Text by Damien Demolder, with contributions from Jon Stapley.
Discover other options…
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