by Alex Wrigley
In most areas of photography, the best camera for the job will be interchangeable with other genres. For example, the best camera for landscape photography may very well be a contender for the best astrophotography camera.
Street photography is a little different though.
The best street photography cameras have quite specific selling points that perfectly suit the job at hand. That’s not to say you can’t get great images with any camera, just that certain styles of cameras are well suited to the fast-paced nature of street photography.
In this article, we’ll break down what to look for in a street photography camera and round up some of the best options on the market.
While specific, the things to look for in a street photography camera are actually quite simple.
As a street photographer you want to be discrete and quiet to capture those natural, candid moments. You want to be able to shoot at a moment’s notice and to be able to move around easily.
With that in mind, here’s a few questions to ask yourself when buying a street photography camera:
The above questions pretty much rule out the vast majority of DSLR cameras due to their inherently bulky nature.
Of course, plenty of photographers managed to capture stunning street images before the days of top-quality mirrorless options, but now the mirrorless scene has caught up there really is little need to choose a DSLR when it comes to street photography.
That leaves two options: Interchangeable lens cameras or high-end compact cameras. We’ve rounded up a selection of both below.
With their gorgeous retro design and controls that are a throwback to analogue times, it’s no surprise that many a street photographer plants their flag on the Fujifilm side of the fence.
The Fujifilm X-T4 isn’t a huge upgrade on the X-T3, but it’s an upgrade nonetheless.. It still has that retro aesthetic and feel and the famous film simulation modes, but now it adds in-body stabilization up to 6.5 stops and an improved autofocus system. It’s also much improved if you want to shoot vlogs or video footage, so that’s worth considering when making your choice.
As you would expect from one of the leading mirrorless manufacturers, the Fujifilm X-T4 offers excellent build quality, a bright and high-res EVF and full weather sealing.
As with all the Fujifilm X-series cameras, one of the major benefits is the excellent lens selection. Fujifilm love a fast prime lens, and that makes it a perfect fit for street photography. Strap one of their top prime lenses onto the X-T4 and you have a street photography beast!
Sony are well known for their class-leading full-frame mirrorless cameras, but their APS-C options shouldn’t be ignored and, in the case of street photography, that extra portability can make a big difference.
The A6600 is slightly smaller and lighter than the Fujifilm X-T4 but still offers the impeccable image quality we’ve come to expect from Sony technology. It also features 5-axis in-body stabilization and a class-leading autofocus system.
This autofocus system comes into it’s own when tracking subjects, making it a great choice for street photographers who like to focus (no pun intended) on the hustle and bustle of city life.
Excellent low light performance adds to the appeal, with a monumental ISO range of 100 to 102,400 available, although clearly image quality suffers at the top end.
Admittedly the LCD screen is rather low-res with just 921k dots, but the bright and vibrant EVF makes up for that. The menu system is also a complete mess, but once you’ve got the initial set up on point it’s fairly intuitive to use.
It took a while for the DSLR behemoths to finally leap into the mirrorless world, but they’ve done so in style.
The Canon EOS M6 II packs an impressive 32.5 megapixel sensor into a camera weighing just over 400 grams, making it the smallest and lightest APS-C camera on this list. Autofocus performance and continuous shooting (up to 14fps) are both excellent as well.
There are a few drawbacks, though. The detachable EVF is a love it or hate it sort of feature but does help keep the size and weight down, while the lack of in-body stabilization is disappointing too. The Canon EOS-M lens selection is still somewhat limited as well, although that will grow in time.
Like the Canon EOS M6 II, the Nikon Z50 is the smaller, lighter and cheaper version of Nikon’s flagship full-frame mirrorless cameras, but it doesn’t skimp on the features.
It boasts excellent performance in autofocus, dynamic range and low light shooting and the kit lens, a 16-50mm pancake lens, is perfect for discrete street shooting. Sure, it’s not the best lens for the occasion, but it’s rare that a kit lens offers this level of portability and not instantly needing to buy a new lens makes this a great entry point to street photography.
The affordable price makes this a fantastic option, and really the only major downsides are the below-average battery life and slightly lower 20.9 MP resolution, although the latter point is unlikely to make much of a difference in the real world.
Micro Four Thirds cameras don’t get half the appreciation they should do, with most photographers opting for the bigger sensors of APS-C or full-frame options. While understandable, it is a mistake to overlook some of these smaller sensor options.
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk III is one of those that shouldn’t be overlooked. It has class-leading in-body stabilization and fantastic image quality. As long as you aren’t printing big or cropping heavily you’re unlikely to be able to tell the difference between this and an equivalent APS-C image.
The retro design is just gorgeous as well, enhanced by sturdy build quality and full weather-sealing.
As you might expect it’s also very portable, although given that it’s slightly bigger and heavier than the Canon EOS M6 II we can’t really shout about that too much.
What we can shout about is the lens selection. The Micro Four Thirds lens range is huge and offers something for everyone, whether it’s Olympus, Panasonic or a third-party manufacturer. There’s also the added advantage of these lenses often being much smaller and lighter than the APS-C or full-frame equivalents.
Fujifilm’s classic retro-styling doesn’t hold back when it comes to compact cameras either, and the X100V is up there with the best of them.
The 26.1 megapixel sensor is fantastic and, bundled with the 23mm f/2 lens, it makes for a gorgeous street photography package, especially with Fujifilm’s film simulation modes to play with.
One of my favourite features is the innovative hybrid viewfinder which provide you with three great options. You can use the 3.69 million dot EVF or flick a switch and use the 0.52x magnification optical viewfinder, letting you see outside the shot while also providing framing lines for composition. Or you can use the electronic rangefinder to bring the EVF into the optical viewfinder.
Of course, the limitation of a fixed focal length will be a dealbreaker for some and the lack of in-body stabilization is disappointing, but overall this is a fantastic little compact camera.
The Sony RX100 range has long sat on the throne at the head of the compact camera table and, while expensive, the RX100 VII packs a real punch.
The Zeiss 24-200mm f/2.8 – 4.5 offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to framing and, as you would expect from Zeiss gear, is excellent quality. The camera itself is absolutely tiny and weighs in at just over 300g as well, making it one of the lightest options on this list.
Excellent autofocus, image stabilization and blazingly fast continuous shooting add to the package, although the infamous Sony menus are still a pain to navigate and can be quite fiddly on such a small piece of kit.
Designed to challenge the Sony RX100 range, the Canon Powershot G5X Mk II improves on the original in many ways but unfortunately still falls short of the RX100 VII in other areas.
The 24-120mm f/1.8 – 2.8 lens is bright and flexible, but the sensor doesn’t quite resolve the same level of sharpness as the Sony and that can be an issue.
On the other hand, the handling of the camera is great. The inclusion of a mode dial and the customisable lens control ring makes shooting with it much more intuitive than most compact cameras while also keeping the size and weight at manageable levels.
It’s good, but it’s not perfect by any stretch.
If you want maximum performance with minimum footprint, the Ricoh GR III is your best street photography camera. It’s the smallest and lightest option on our list but still manages to jam in a 24MP APS-C sensor delivering beautiful image quality.
Like the Fujifilm X100V, the 28mm f/2.8 lens will be a dealbreaker to some, but others will find it a rewarding challenge to be limited to a single focal length and the lens itself performs very well.
There are some drawbacks though. You’ll have to pay extra for a viewfinder and the LCD screen is fixed rather than articulating, while the approximate 200-shot battery life is pretty poor by today’s standards.
However, if you want something tiny that you can carry everywhere but don’t want to skimp on image quality, there isn’t a better camera out there.
About Alex Wrigley
Alex is the owner and lead writer for Click and Learn Photography. An avid landscape, equine, and pet photographer living and working in the beautiful Lake District, UK, Alex has had his work featured in a number of high profile publications, including the Take a View Landscape Photographer of the Year, Outdoor Photographer of the Year, and Amateur Photographer Magazine.