Take your street photography to new heights with these game-changing lenses. From 50mm primes to all-purpose zooms, find your perfect match.
Are you looking to hit the streets and capture the vibrant essence of urban life? If you want to up your street photography game, you’ll need the perfect lens by your side. Whether you’re drawn to wider perspectives that embrace the bustling chaos or prefer to focus on individual subjects, having the right lens can make all the difference.
In this article, I share the 12 best street photography lenses available in 2023, including options for all budgets and shooting styles, including top contenders from renowned camera brands. So whether you’re a die-hard Canon shooter, a Nikon aficionado, or a Sony mirrorless convert, there’s something here for everyone. I’ll also explain how you can pick the perfect street lens for your needs by taking into account important factors such as focal length, sharpness, and low-light performance.
Ready to choose a lens and start capturing stunning street photos? Then let’s dive in, starting with my top pick:
1. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
The Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM is a classic street photography lens, and for good reason. The large aperture lets you photograph in low-light conditions without needing to boost the ISO, the optics are great, and the build is wonderfully compact (so you can shoot discreetly and won’t have to worry about alerting your subjects). The 50mm f/1.8 works well for both candid street photography and street portraits (i.e., posed portraits with people on the streets), and the standard focal length offers enough reach for intimate compositions. Plus, the lens is unbelievably cheap, especially for the quality!
- Low-light performance: Pretty good, thanks to a relatively large maximum aperture
- Quality: A little plasticky
- Price: You can pick up this lens for just over $100 USD – it’s just about the cheapest lens you can buy
- Weight: The size and weight of this lens make it easy to carry around
2. Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4 R
The Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 is a great lens for any Fujifilm camera user, whether you’re interested in street photography, portraits, or simply creating abstract bokeh. The lens is sharp, has decent focus speeds, and offers an f/1.4 for nice blurred-out backgrounds and nighttime photography. The bokeh effect is especially good (and can produce very nice street photography backgrounds).
- Low-light performance: With a 35mm focal length and a maximum aperture of f/1.4, this lens is ideal for low-light shooting.
- Quality: A solid, dependable lens; will keep up with the fast pace of street photography
- Price: Midrange ($599 USD), thanks to the wide maximum aperture
- Weight: Decent to carry around for a day on the street
3. Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS
If you’re just getting into street photography, you’re a Sony APS-C user, and you want an affordable option, then the Sony 50mm f/1.8 could be the lens for you. The sleek, compact design makes it ideal for the street photographer, and its fast focusing is important for nailing the perfect shot. You get a 75mm effective focal length, which is a bit tight for some photographers – but if you like the narrower field of view, then the 50mm f/1.8 is a perfect choice.
- Low-light performance: The larger maximum aperture is good for most low-light situations
- Quality: Well built; ideal for both beginners and more experienced photographers
- Price: Offers great value (around $350 USD)
- Weight: Standard primes aren’t usually heavy, and this lens weighs just over 7 oz (200 g)
4. Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM
If you’re a beginner street photographer using Canon RF-mount cameras, the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 STM is a lens you definitely want to consider. With its slightly wider perspective, this lens is perfect for capturing expansive street scenes that include multiple subjects or a solitary figure against a stunning backdrop. One of the standout features of this lens is its exceptional optics, ensuring sharp and clear images without any loss of detail due to lens errors. It even offers a 1:2 magnification ratio, allowing you to effortlessly capture small subjects like interesting paint patterns on the road.
Low-light situations are no problem for the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8. Its maximum aperture of f/1.8 lets in ample light, making it an ideal choice for night photography on the streets. Additionally, the built-in image stabilization feature comes in handy when shooting handheld in dimly lit environments. Not only does this lens perform exceptionally well, but it also comes at an outstanding price point. So if you’re looking for a versatile lens that delivers stunning results for street photography, the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 is a fantastic option to consider.
- Low-light performance: Reasonably good thanks to the f/1.8 maximum aperture and image stabilization
- Quality: The build isn’t the strongest, but the optics are outstanding
- Price: Extremely reasonable
- Weight: Very compact; perfect for casual street shooting
5. Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G
Nikon users looking for an affordable street photography lens should consider the 50mm f/1.8G. It offers good quality with an aperture that’s large enough for most situations, plus the 50mm focal length is a street photography classic. Nice build, weight, and size make it a great option for any Nikon street photographer.
- Low-light performance: Good for most situations
- Quality: Well built
- Price: The most affordable lens for Nikon street photographers (that offers a decent maximum aperture)
- Weight: The slightly smaller aperture means less lens glass, which means it’s easy to carry
6. Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8
While many street photographers tend to gravitate towards more common focal lengths, such as 35mm or 50mm, opting for a wider lens can give your photographs an unusually expansive viewpoint – and that’s where the Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 comes in.
This little 28mm lens is an outstanding option for a whole host of reasons; it’s sharp, it focuses quickly, and the f/2.8 maximum aperture allows you to work in low light without issue. The 28mm f/2.8 is also both lightweight and highly compact, so you can carry it everywhere you go for those spontaneous shots, plus you can shoot without being noticed. While the build quality of the Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 may not be the most robust, it still holds up well if treated with care. Considering its price, it offers a fantastic value, making it an affordable option for both experienced street photographers and those who are just starting to explore this genre.
- Low-light performance: Decent, though not as good as f/1.8 options
- Quality: The build is plasticky, but the optics are very sharp
- Price: A great budget pick
- Weight: Ultra-light for on-the-go street shooting
7. Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM
Those looking for a longer street photography lens could do a lot worse than the Canon 135mm f/2L. At 135mm, you’ll be able to photograph your street scenes from a distance, though the size of the 135mm f/2 makes discreet shooting difficult. It’s a great lens for separating your main subject from a busy background – you can use that extra focal length to compress the scene, and the f/2 aperture helps achieve outstanding background bokeh. And while the 135mm f/2 isn’t as forgiving as a 50mm lens, you can use it in low light, especially at f/2.
- Low-light performance: Good for the longer 135mm focal length
- Quality: A great build that’s usable in all weather conditions
- Price: Reasonable ($999 USD) for a high-level lens
- Weight: Relatively heavy, but much lighter than a 70-200mm f/2.8
8. Nikon AF 24-85mm f/2.8-4D
Thanks to its zoom range, the Nikon AF 24-85mm f/2.8-4D offers a little more flexibility than other options on this list – and it can double as a general-purpose lens, too. It’s a step up from a kit lens and offers you an aperture of f/2.8 on the wide end. This lens covers the 50mm focal distance that many consider optimal for street photography, and you’ll be able to zoom in and out, a major advantage if you want to frame a photo quickly without needing to move. The major downside is the 24-85mm’s low-light capabilities; the f/2.8 to f/4 maximum aperture just won’t be enough for some situations.
- Low-light performance: Decent, but not what you get with a prime lens
- Quality: Good overall quality for street photography
- Price: In the midrange price bracket (around $750 USD). You’re paying for a zoom lens with a large maximum aperture.
- Weight: The lens is heavier than a prime lens (a compromise for more focal length flexibility)
9. Sony 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar T FE ZA
While 35mm is on the wider side for street photography, theis great for those with an APS-C sensor who want to photograph with a 50mm field of view. Build quality is good, so you can shoot in most conditions. And while the f/2.8 aperture isn’t ideal for nighttime outings, it’s more than enough for daytime and twilight street photography.
- Low-light performance: It’s going to be more of a challenge to use this lens in dim light, though the wide focal length means you can handhold at a slightly slower shutter speed.
- Quality: It’s a nice lens, and its compact size is a definite plus for street photography
- Price: In the midrange price bracket ($799 USD)
- Weight: Coming in at just 4.2 oz (119g), this lens isn’t heavy
10. Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R
The Fujinon 56mm f/1.2 offers a wide maximum aperture, one that’s perfect for low-light street photography, plus it can generate beautiful backgrounds. The focal length is on the long side – on Fujifilm APS-C cameras, it’s an effective 84mm – but you can use it for close-ups, tighter scenics, and intimate street portraits. And for an f/1.2 lens, the price is pretty reasonable!
- Low-light performance: You’re not going to get a better lens than this for low-light scenes
- Quality: This is a great piece of glass that produces excellent images
- Price: Quality lenses cost a lot; this lens will set you back around $1000 USD
- Weight: It’s heavier than most of the primes on this list, but that’s one of the tradeoffs for such a wide maximum aperture
11. Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART DG HSM
Sigma has been making excellent lenses with its ART series, and theis no exception. The lens comes in mounts for all the major camera manufacturers, including Nikon, Canon, and Sony, and while it’s a third-party lens, it does well against the other glass on this list. The large aperture and medium-wide focal length make this an ideal lens for any street photographer, whether shooting during the day or at night. It really is one of the best lenses for street photography available today, and it’s cheaper than the high-end lenses offered by other major manufacturers.
- Low-light performance: Strong. This is a fast lens that allows for great images in tricky lighting
- Quality: Very nice; Sigma is one of the best third-party manufacturers, and the ART series is top-notch
- Price: For around $700 USD, you’re picking up excellent glass at a midrange price.
- Weight: The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 is on the heavier end of the scale
12. Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2
Looking for a versatile street photography lens? The Tamron 24-70mm offers a similar focal range to a kit lens but with a fast f/2.8 aperture. You get significant flexibility thanks to the wide-to-telephoto zoom capabilities, so you can easily capture street photos that require rapid changes in composition. The downside is this lens’s size and weight (f/2.8 zoom lenses are always on the heavier side). For a zoom lens, the f/2.8 aperture is impressive and will let you blur out backgrounds, though you might prefer a larger-apertured prime lens in low light. Bottom line: The 24-70mm is a good daytime street photography lens, and it’s also perfect for other types of photography, such as travel.
- Low-light performance: Not the best; you’ll primarily use this lens in the daytime
- Quality: Good quality, with image stabilization compensating for the smaller aperture
- Price: On the pricier side ($1200 USD), though it is multifunctional thanks to its range of focal lengths
- Weight: Pretty heavy, but the zoom range lets you carry one lens rather than several
Factors to consider before buying a street photography lens
All the lenses on this list are great, but the final decision is up to you – and should depend on your shooting style and preferred type of street photography.
So here are the key items to consider when looking for the perfect street photography lens:
Many photographers say the best focal length for street photography is 50mm, and 50mm lenses do offer a great perspective (plus, this field of view has been popularized by many famous street photographers). Those who like the 50mm focal length but use crop sensors should go for a 35mm lens.
That said, you don’t need to feel constrained by what has come before, and wider focal lengths are becoming more popular among street photographers.
For moody and dramatic street photos, you’ll often need to shoot in low light. You might find yourself doing street photography in a dingy indoor market, at twilight, or at night – and in all of those situations, a lens with a large aperture provides a major advantage. Yes, modern cameras perform well at high ISOs, which negates the need for a high aperture to some extent. However, a large aperture is still required if you want beautiful bokeh lights in the background of your low-light photos.
Size and weight
To get great street photos, you’ll need to be out walking for much of the day. This means a smaller, lighter setup is a big help. Try to pick just one lens and keep it as light as possible.
Street photography is often done in fast-paced and dynamic environments, so if your lens is too slow to focus, you’ll miss a lot of shots. You need a lens that focuses almost instantly, especially if you hope to capture action-oriented street images.
Pretty much all forms of photography require sharpness, and street photography is no exception. Look for a lens that gives you crisp, clear, detailed photos. Some street photographers do like a softer, grainier look, but you can add this in post-processing. Generally speaking, the sharper the lens, the better.
The best lens for street photography: final words
So there you have it: The ultimate rundown on the best street photography lenses! We’ve explored some fantastic options that are capable of producing breathtaking shots (and most of them won’t break the bank, either!).
Remember, when it comes to street photography, it’s all about finding the right focal length that speaks to your artistic preferences. Whether you’re a fan of the natural perspective of a 50mm lens or you crave the wide-angle excitement of a 35mm lens, there’s something for everyone out there. And hey, if you’re feeling daring, why not give the 28mm lens a whirl and capture the world from a whole new perspective?
Now over to you:
Which of these lenses is your favorite? Is there one in particular that appeals to you for street shooting? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Street photography lens FAQ
For a natural perspective, go with a 50mm lens. If you want to capture the energy and chaos of urban life or need a wider field of view, opt for a 35mm lens. And if you’re feeling adventurous, try a 28mm lens for a unique and expansive perspective.
Primes are the go-to choice for street photography. They are compact, allowing you to carry them easily, and they push you to become intimately familiar with a single focal length, enabling you to shoot without hesitation.
While 50mm lenses are highly popular among street photographers for their versatility, the use of an 85mm lens is less common in this genre. It can be challenging to capture wider scenes with an 85mm lens, but if you prefer the telephoto field of view, don’t hesitate to give it a try!
Both focal lengths have their merits, and the choice ultimately depends on personal preference. A 50mm lens allows you to get slightly closer to your subject, isolating them from complex surroundings. On the other hand, a 35mm lens captures a broader view, allowing you to encompass more action in a single shot.