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Picking what lens you will be mounting on your camera is one of the most important creative decisions you can make as a photographer. The focal length you choose will significantly affect how the images you are taking will look. We love a fast-aperture prime lens when it comes to street photography. These lenses typically have a more compact build than the kit zoom that might have come with your camera and have a larger aperture range for letting more light hit the sensor. Keep reading for some of our favorite prime lenses currently on the market for mirrorless cameras and DSLRs.
Keep in mind, this list is mostly for those getting started in street photography. If you’re looking to really find the cream of the crop, there’s a world of resources out there regarding classic Leica glass and other high-end optics that excel on the street. But, these lenses will give you a great starting point to build from as you figure out what your style and process look like.
Our picks for the best lenses for street photography in 20232:
- Best overall: Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG DN
- Best 35mm for canon mirrorless: Canon RF35mm F1.8 IS Macro STM Lens
- Best 35mm lens for Nikon mirrorless: NIKON NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S
- Most versatile: Tamron F1.8 VC 45mm USD Lens
- Best budget: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens
- Best manual focus: Voigtlander APO-LANTHAR 35mm f/2
Things to consider when looking for the best lenses for street photography
Although you can certainly use a zoom lens for street photography, most well-known street photographers prefer to shoot with a prime lens when they are working. A prime lens has a fixed focal length and forces the photographer to “zoom with their feet.”
Prime lenses are the go-to because they typically have a more compact build than zoom lenses, and being discreet when shooting candids is important. Plus, it’s less weight to carry while walking around. They also tend to have a larger aperture range for letting more light hit the sensor, which is helpful when photographing in a city where shadows and low light conditions are likely to be frequent.
Picking what camera lens you will be mounting on your camera is one of the most important creative decisions you can make as a photographer. The focal length you choose will significantly affect how the images you are taking will look. 35mm is the most popular focal length for street photographers, in part because it closely matches the field of view seen with the human eye. However, although 35mm might be the most widely used lens for street photography, it isn’t the only option. A 45mm lens or a 50mm are also excellent options for photographing in the streets, especially if you are the kind of photographer who might be interested in making impromptu portraits.
Ultimately choosing the best lenses for street photography has a lot to do with the camera body you are using and your personal aesthetic. We hope the lenses in this buying guide will help you narrow down the options, though.
Best Overall: Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG DN
Why It Made The Cut: Since it was first released, Sigma’s 35mm Art Lens has consistently been one of the sharpest lenses with beautiful bokeh. It’s available in a wide variety of mounts and has proven to be a bit of a cult favorite among photographers.
- Aperture range: f/1.4-f/16
- Optical design: 15 elements in 11 groups
- Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Dimensions: 3 x 4.4 inches
- Produces beautiful distinct bokeh when shooting wide open
- Available in a variety of camera mounts
- Relatively light-weight with a low profile
- Not great for video
The Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG DN is a bit of a modern classic among certain photographers. It’s extremely sharp and has an excellent build quality. Sigma designed this new version to work with L mount and Sony E mount mirrorless cameras and their shorter flange distances. When shot wide open at f/1.4, this lens produces a beautiful bokeh that makes it an excellent option for portraits and street photography.
An unlabeled switch on the lens barrel allows shooters to lock their aperture or swap into auto mode. The magnesium-alloy body of the lens has a durable and rugged feel—a perfect match for shooting in urban areas. It’s also weather-sealed, so if you end up stuck in a rainstorm while you are out shooting, you don’t have to fret about ruining your gear. All of these elements combine to make this our pick for the best overall lens for street photography.
Best 35mm lens for Canon mirrorless: Canon RF35mm F1.8 IS Macro STM Lens
Why It Made The Cut: This compact lens with fast autofocus has a built-in image stabilization system and a minimum focusing distance of 17cm.
- Aperture range: f/1.8-f/22
- Optical design: 11 elements in 9 groups
- Weight: 10.76 ounces
- Dimensions: 2.93 x 2.47 inches
- Versatile lens
- Built-in image stabilization
- Extremely compact
- Noisy autofocus for video shooters
- No weather-sealing
The Canon RF35mm F1.8 IS Macro STM Lens was one of the first lenses introduced when Canon released its line of mirrorless cameras back in 2018 and remains one of our favorites for street photography. This 35mm lens doubles as a macro lens, making it a versatile choice for mirrorless Canon shooters. It’s also significantly more affordable than the other mirrorless Canon lenses. Its compact size makes it a great shooting companion on the streets, and it pairs nicely with the EOS R or the EOS RP. Unfortunately, it lacks weather sealing, so this one is best suited for street photography on sunny days.
Best 35mm lens for Nikon mirrorless: NIKON NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S
Why It Made The Cut: This compact lens, designed to work specifically with Nikon’s mirrorless Z camera bodies, has excellent optics and weather-sealing. It may not be the fastest lens, but its f/1.8 aperture will be plenty for most street photographers.
- Aperture range: f/1.8-f/16
- Optical design: 11 elements in 9 groups
- Weight: 13.05 ounces
- Dimensions: 2.87 x 3.39 inches
- Extremely quiet autofocus
- Very sharp at a variety of apertures
- Fringing at wider apertures
NIKON NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S has a sturdy build and excellent optical quality. If you are a street photographer shooting on a Nikon Z camera, this lens is a classic choice. Although it’s not quite as fast as some of the other lenses in this guide, most street photographers aren’t shooting wide open. While the quality of this lens is excellent, it performs best when it’s stopped down a bit, as there is some fringing at the wider apertures.
The ultra-quiet stepping motor means it’s nearly silent when using autofocus. Plus, it has 5-axis dual detect VR powered by Nikon’s mirrorless cameras. It’s a versatile choice that’s a good lens for street photography, portraits, events, and more.
Most versatile: Tamron F1.8 VC 45mm USD Lens
Why It Made The Cut: The Tamron f/1.8 VC 45mm USD Lens offers a slightly tighter field of view at 45mm and is a great choice for DSLR shooters looking for something a little different from a standard 35mm.
- Aperture range: f/1.8-f/16
- Optical design: 10 elements in 8 groups
- Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Dimensions: 3.17 x 3.6 inches
- Close focusing capabilities
- 4 stops of vibration control
- Quiet autofocus
- Noticeable chromatic aberrations
Designed for DSLRs and APS-C cameras, the Tamron F1.8 VC 45mm USD Lens is a solid option for the street photographer looking for a slightly different field of view. It has a close focusing distance of 11.12 inches, vibration control up to 4 stops, and a floating element inside the lens that helps it maintain sharpness. In addition, it has a rugged all-metal build, and it’s weather-sealed. It’s also a relatively low-cost option for DSLR and APS-C shooters.
Best budget: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens
Why It Made The Cut: The “nifty-fifty,” as it’s commonly known, is an excellent low-cost prime that’s ideal for street photographers looking for a fixed focal length lens that won’t break the bank.
- Aperture range: f/1.8-f/22
- Optical design: 6 elements in 5 groups
- Weight: 5.64 ounces
- Dimensions: 2.72 x 1.54 inches
- Nice bokeh
- No weather-sealing
The “nifty fifty” is often seen as an introductory prime for many photographers because of its fast aperture and low cost. Although this lens might lack some of the high-end features found in other lenses in this guide, it’s a fraction of the price. This model is for use with DSLR cameras. It has a Super Spectre coating to cut down on flare and a seven-blade aperture for attractive bokeh. It also has a silent motor for quick, noise-free focusing. It’s an impressive, compact street photography lens at a very budget-friendly price.
Best manual focus: Voigtlander APO-LANTHAR 35mm f/2
Why it made the cut: While it lacks autofocus, this is a classic focal length with exceptional image performance for a small fraction of the price of its Leica competition.
- Aperture range: f/2-f/16
- Optical design: 11 elements in nine groups
- Weight: 12.4 ounces
- Dimensions: 7.8 x 4.5 x 4.5 inches
- Exceptional image quality
- Perfectly round aperture at certain f-numbers
- Compact and discrete
- No autofocus
If you’ve gotten this far in the article, you’re probably wondering where the heck the Leica lenses are. It’s a fair question. Leica’s M-series rangefinder lenses offer some of the best image quality and performance you can ask for. They also cost absurd sums. This manual-focus Voigtlander prime offers truly wonderful image quality thanks to aspherical lens elements and advanced coatings. The glass nestles into a compact body that’s unassuming when attached to a Sony mirrorless camera. It has a focus distance gauge and the aperture blades form a perfectly circular opening at the most common f-number settings for beautiful bokeh. If you want a truly old school, but high-end street photography experience, then this is the way to go.
Q: What is the best focal length for street photography?
Many famous street photographers’ favorite focal length for shooting is 35mm, as it mimics the field of view of a human eye. Other popular focal lengths for street photography include 45mm or 50mm or even a slightly wider 24mm. Ultimately the best focal length will depend a lot on the personal preference of the photographer.
Q: Is a 35mm lens good for street photography?
35mm lenses are a popular option for many street photographers because they closely resemble the human eye’s field of view. Many of the most well-known street photography images were captured using a 35mm lens.
Q: What is the best aperture for street photography?
The best aperture for street photography has a lot to do with the conditions in which you are shooting and the personal preference of the photographer. Generally speaking, street photographers work quickly and want a lot of elements in the frame in focus, so many tend to shoot with an aperture of f/5.6 – f/8.
Q: Is an 85mm lens good for street photography?
While we love an 85mm lens, this is one focal length that doesn’t make much sense for street photography, where a wider field of view is preferred. An 85mm lens is a great choice for shooting portraits or working in the studio, though.
Q: What is the sharpest 35mm lens?
Most of the modern-day 35mm lenses on the market can produce incredibly sharp images. In particular, Sigma and Canon’s 35mm lenses are known for being very sharp.
Q: How much does a street photography lens cost?
The price for a fixed focal length street photography lens can vary greatly depending on the brand and construction of the lens. Generally speaking, a lens for a mirrorless camera will be more expensive than a lens for a DSLR camera. Expect to pay anywhere between $150 up to $1000 for a lens for making pictures out in the streets.
How we picked the best lenses for street photography
When selecting the lenses that appear in this guide, we considered choices from well-trusted brands for street photographers using both mirrorless cameras and DSLRs. Focal length, aperture range, and size were critical factors. In addition, it was important to include fixed focal length lenses that were suitable for a wide variety of budgets. We selected the lenses through hands-on experience, user feedback, and trusted editorial reviews.
Final thoughts about the best lenses for street photography
Ultimately, selecting the right lens for you is a highly personal choice that will be dependent on the gear you have and what type of conditions you see yourself working in. Although a 35mm lens is one of the most popular choices for street photography, a 45mm, 50mm, or even a 24mm lens are all options to consider.
Of the lenses we looked at, we found the Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art DG DN to be the best option for street photography. It is an excellent choice for getting out there and photographing exciting moments in a city with exceptional sharpness, weather-sealing for adverse conditions, and a fast maximum aperture.