5 Best Lenses for Street Photography Right Now

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No matter how long you’ve been using a camera for, the one dilemma you probably still find yourself in is the one about lenses.

This is especially true for street photographers. Streets are the heart and soul of any place, and to capture their essence is half the battle won. People, local shops, even shadows…the opportunities streets afford photographers are staggering.

Such dynamism is not easy to freeze and the right equipment goes a long way. For street photography, prime and zoom lenses are usually preferred because of their scope in terms of flexibility and framing. Both have their pros and cons, however, and result in unique images.

The number of excellent lenses peppering the market can send the most experienced photographers into a tizzy. Every model comes with its set of unique specialized properties, and for your photographs, you want nothing but the best. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the best 5 lenses for street photography available in the market right now.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Best Lenses for Street Photography

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IMAGE PRODUCT DETAILS
Our Top PickOur Top Pickhstcstbl-table__imageCanon EF 50 mm f/1.8 STM
  • Focal length: 50 mm; maximum aperture: f/1.8
  • Stepping Motor (STM) for near-silent Move Servo AF
  • 80 mm focal length on APS C cameras
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hstcstbl-table__imageNikon 50 mm f/1.8G
  • Minimum focal distance: 0.45 m
  • Advanced optical system with aspherical lens
  • Silent Wave Motor (SWM)
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hstcstbl-table__imageCanon EF 50 mm f1.2L USM
  • AF with full-time manual focus
  • Ultrasonic Motor (USM)
  • Minimum focusing distance: 0.45 m
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hstcstbl-table__imageCanon EF 135 mm f/2L USM
  • Excellent image quality
  • Faster shutter speeds, low aperture
  • Ultra low dispersion glass with fluorite elements
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hstcstbl-table__imageSigma 35 mm F1.4 ART DG HSM
  • Aperture of f/1.4 perfect for low light
  • Range of mounts available 
  • Full-time manual focusing
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  1. Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 STM

When it comes to lenses for street photography, Canon is hard to beat. For this genre, especially, 50 mm lenses are preferred by the most discerning professionals. Needless to say, when the two come together, what you get is a product that not only offers an unparalleled performance, but is also one you can trust.

Sale
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens
  • 50 millimeter focal length and maximum aperture of...
  • Great for portraits, action, and nighttime...

Why Did We Like It?

Relatively new on the lens market, the Canon EF 50 mm is an upgraded version of its predecessor, the Canon 50 mm f/1.8. However, it packs in a lot more features and is significantly superior to the older model. Also, it is a rather nifty lens!

To begin with, the design is sleek, compact, and lightweight. It is also highly durable and uses less plastic in its construction. This makes it all the more suitable for outdoor photography, especially streets, where chances of abrasion are higher. Clearly, it also doubles up as a stylish accessory.

Great for action, portrait, and nighttime photography, this model has a minimum focal length of 0.35 mm and produces better bokeh thanks to its 7 blade aperture ring. In addition to that, the photos are sharp, framed well, and capture the essence of a scene to its fullest. Last but not the least, for a 50 mm lens, it offers excellent value for money.

What Could Have Been Better?

The clarity and overall look of the images are not at par with market competitors such as Zeiss and Sigma. However, Canon does offer the best price suitable for a wide range of budgets while compromising very little on quality.

Pros
  • Minimum focal distance of 0.35 m
  • 7 blade aperture ring leads to excellent bokeh
  • Good value for money
Cons
  • Image quality not at par with that of Sigma or Zeiss
  1. Nikon 50 mm f/1.8G

Another brand that has morphed into a household name in photography is Nikon. In our view, the ageless debate of Canon vs. Nikon holds little water. The two not only differ in their functions, but also exceed expectations in ways that are unique to each brand. The Nikon 50 mm f1.8G is a prime example of this. Read on to find out why!

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens
  • Fast, upgraded f/1.8, compact FX format prime...
  • Focal length 50 millimeter, minimum focus distance...

Why Did We Like It?

There’s a lot to like about Nikon’s product. Not only is it outstanding in its performance as a lens geared towards street photography, but it also results in clean, sharp images in a superior resolution. With an aperture of f/1.8, this FX-format prime lens is an attractive option to consider for amateurs and professionals alike.

In addition to that, the Nikon 50 mm works especially well in low light; it is, therefore, well suited for nighttime street photography. Also, when used with a large aperture, the lens results in images that feature a blurred background, thus instantly enhancing their aesthetic appeal. Smooth and without grain, with this lens, image-quality is hardly a concern.

Moreover, it is a compact and lightweight attachment that allows for ample mobility and comfort for the user. Last but not the least, although more expensive than the previous model on the list, among its Nikon counterparts, the 50 mm f/1.8 is easy on your pockets!

What Could Have Been Better?

It must be noted that being a prime lens, it is not zoomable. That is to say, the focal length is fixed. However, there is no inherent functional flaw in the product, and try as we might, we couldn’t find a single one!

Pros
  • Excellent image quality
  • Works well in low light
  • Lightweight and sturdy
Cons
  • More expensive than the Canon EF 50 mm
  1. Canon EF 50 mm f1.2L USM

Next up, is another model from Canon, the EF 50 mm f/1.2 USM. A premium-range sibling of the 50 mm f/1.8 STM, this is a lens for the lavish photographer who is looking to splurge. But bear in mind, Canon’s lens is an excellent investment as well, and its performance exceeds expectations more often than not. We’d say, the price tag is justified!

Sale
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras - Fixed
  • Weather-resistant standard lens
  • Focal Length & Maximum Aperture-50mm F/1.2,...

Why Did We Like It?

Right off the bat, the large aperture of this lens impressed us as it delivers an unmatched performance in low light. Combined with the 50 mm focal length, the resultant images are sharp, beautiful, and of a professional look and finish. Needless to say, it is a big favorite with many professional photographers around the world.

In comparison to its counterparts with smaller apertures, the 50 mm USM offers a number of features that render it suitable for various types of photography. Although not the first choice when it comes to the genre of streets, it performs well nonetheless, especially in poor lighting. 

Last but not the least, the construction of this lens is sturdy and durable. For prolonged jaunts around the city, therefore, the model is quite ideal as it resists abrasions. Most importantly, it is weather-proof, a highly desirable characteristic in any photography equipment. In our view, such attractive features justify the hefty price tag without a second thought.

What Could Have Been Better?

The only issue that users face is that its specifications aren’t solely geared towards street photography which may, sometimes and for the inexperienced, lead to undesirable images. Also, it is priced considerably higher on the scale. However, the performance is nearly flawless and in our books, the 50 mm f/1.2L is a worthwhile buy!

Pros
  • Ideal for professional photography
  • Weather-resistant and durable
  • Works well in poor lighting conditions
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Not ideal for street photography
  1. Canon EF 135 mm f/2L USM

If taking portraits on city-streets is more your forte, then this is the lens for you. With a longer focal length, it enables both the amateur and the professional to capture the essence of human faces under a variety of external conditions. This is important as portraits are often an essential component of street photography. 

Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Lens for Canon SLR Cameras - Fixed, Black -...
  • Micro UltraSonic Motor (USM),
  • 135mm focal length, Closest focusing distance: 3...

Why Did We Like It?

Canon’s 135 mm lens offers tremendous potential as one ideal for portrait photography. While on the streets, the longer focal length allows the user to be inconspicuous as close-ups don’t require you to bridge the distance between you and the subject. This is a telephoto lens with excellent image quality, as expected of all models of the L series.

Although the f/2L isn’t as well-suited to low light conditions as, say, the 50 mm lens, it still delivers well and results in sharp images with optimum color saturation and resolution. As a lens with a considerably long focal length, shutter speeds are higher in order to eliminate motion blur, and photographs come out looking crisp and vibrant.

Canon’s 135 mm telephoto lens has an EF mount and is of sturdy construction. Fitted with an inner focusing ring and ultra-low dispersion glass, it takes care of the essentials of a good image and enhances it further. All in all, definitely a product to keep an eye on!

What Could Have Been Better?

The model is slightly heavier in weight as compared to other similar lenses in the market and takes up space in a camera bag. However, given its features and performance, this is a fair bargain and we would recommend the lens without a doubt.

Pros
  • Ideal for street portraits
  • Sharp and well-saturated images
  • Sturdy construction
Cons
  • Heavier than other lenses
  1. Sigma 35 mm F1.4 ART DG HSM

We sometimes reserve the best for the last, and here, that’s precisely what we’ve done. Sigma’s 35 mm F1.4 lens is one of the very best you could get your hands on. Be it in terms of versatility or image quality, something about this particular lens does wonders for your photography. If you’re looking for a product that’s close to perfect, you might just have chanced upon one.

Sale
Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art DG HSM Lens for Nikon, Black, 3.7 x 3.03 x 3.03...
  • 35mm focal length, 52.5mm equivalent focal length...
  • F1.4 maximum aperture; F16 minimum, This model is...

Why Did We Like It?

Sigma’s lenses seldom fail to exceed expectations, if at all ever. The 35 mm F1.4 is no exception to the rule and leaves you wanting very little. Images are clear, and most importantly, beautiful to look at. Sharper than both Canon and Nikon, Sigma’s quality tops the lens charts time and again.

With an aperture of f/1.4, it is ideal for street photography and allows the user to capture photos at low light and during the night. Bokeh, billboards, and bustling streets, all come to life with this one. Also, the shallow depth of field offers great dynamism and versatility under most conditions. 

Lastly, with this nifty attachment, you also have the upper hand when it comes to mounting. Compatible with all Nikon models and a host of other cameras from Canon, Pentax, and Sony, it is a cost-efficient buy, especially given its affordable price tag. In our books, this 35 mm lens from the leading brand is a win-win!

What Could Have Been Better?

We tried our best to be critical with it, but Sigma’s product has no inherent functional flaw at all! The only point one could possibly make is that in comparison to Canon and Nikon, it is slightly higher on the price scale. However, that’s nowhere near being a red flag and the lens truly delivers.

Pros
  • Great for low light; negligible noise
  • Sharp, artistic images
  • Versatile and compatible with a range of cameras
Cons
  • Slightly more expensive than Nikon and Canon

Vector realistic clipart with two camera lenses, photo objectives with zoom isolated on background. Optical system for photographic devices, modern equipment to make professional shots

Lens for Street Photography Buyers’ Guide 

Streets tell us a lot about a place, and photographing them helps us capture the essence forever. All you need is the right equipment for it.

When it comes to street photography, there are two main kinds of lenses to choose from: zoom and prime lenses. However, there are also other influential factors to consider, such as focal length, which play a crucial role in how your images turn out.

Selecting the right lens, therefore, can be an arduous task even for the most experienced of photographers. To this end, we have compiled a few salient points that may guide you in the right direction while making a purchase.

Below, we have discussed both types of lenses in detail and followed it up with some notes on various focal lengths.

Zoom Lenses

The biggest advantage of using a zoom lens is the flexibility in focal lengths without changing the lens itself. They come in a variety of focal lengths, with the most common ones being 18-55 mm and 70-300 mm. Between them, the two cover a lot of ground.

Zoom lenses are greatly preferred by those starting out with photography. Also, they are especially well-suited to street photography as they can capture subjects from varying distances without the photographer having to move around much.

Superzoom or telephoto lenses are also used frequently by street photographers, especially to capture high-speed action or objects extremely far away. Their focal length ranges from 18-300 mm on an average.

Disadvantages of Zoom Lenses

The primary reason why professionals are somewhat dissuaded by zoom lenses in street photography is that they make the task comparatively easier. The essence of street photography is getting out of one’s comfort zone. With a zoom lens, you can stay right within yours, quite literally.

  1. Perspective

Focal length plays a part in altering the perspective of your image. While zooming in on a subject, it is easy to compress the frame excessively thus leaving out essential elements. By extension, leaving out the street.

  1. Lack of Interaction

Like we said, with a zoom lens, you need not move around and throw yourself into the bustle. In other words, zoom lenses afford you a degree of detachment that can easily reflect in the images. We don’t want that, though, do we?

  1. Lack of Constraints

Essentially, zoom lenses are too lenient on the photographer. He can switch focal lengths on a whim, and in doing so, the rigidity of a prime lens is eliminated. However, we can all agree that constraints foster creativity and far more active engagement which is especially crucial in this particular genre.

Prime Lenses

Prime lenses are photographers’ darlings and for good reason. Fitted with the best quality glass, they yield images of excellent quality which score high on aesthetic appeal. Superior optics combined with simplicity of design also play a role in users preferring prime lenses to any other type.

Advantages of a Prime Lens

  1. Aperture

A key element of a prime lens, especially in comparison to that of a zoom lens, is the aperture. Far wider than the latter, the aperture in a prime lens will allow for faster shutter speeds, and therefore, sharper images. This is also a great help for shooting street scenes at night or in low light. Bokeh is another added advantage of a wider aperture.

  1. Shallow Depth-of-Field

Particularly relevant for street photography, the shallow depth-of-field afforded by a prime lens isolates the subject and makes for stunning portraits. 

  1. Shooting Handheld

In poor lighting, it is a blessing to be able to shoot in the absence of a tripod and, especially, without having to increase the ISO level. The latter inevitably increases the noise levels and the result is a grainy, shabby-looking shot. On the other hand, a needlessly low ISO can lead to unwanted motion blur which also mars the image.

Focal Lengths

The next factor that can baffle amateur street photographers is the focal length. However, they’re not to blame as not only do focal lengths vary from model to model, each one is also specialized for certain types of shots. The four primary lengths or ranges to consider are:

  1. Below 35mm

These are wide-angle lenses that result in stunning shots but require a certain level of proficiency to be used well. Portraits are especially difficult to shoot as you’ll need to get truly ‘up close’ to your subject. These lenses are certainly for the more adventurous amongst us, and if used well, can yield wildly interesting results.

  1. 35mm

Often deemed the most popular focal length, 35mm is an excellent choice for street photography. Wide angled and challenging, it brings you out of your comfort zone and allows for immense creativity. 

  1. 50mm or the ‘Nifty Fifty’

Arguably the best lens to use in all of photography, the 50mm comes closest to portraying what the human eye sees. Distortion is minimized, and perspective is far more stable as compared to other focal lengths. Due to this, it is a versatile option to consider especially for shooting streets.

  1. Above 50mm

A longer focal length will allow the user to shoot from a considerable distance, thus resulting in interesting angles. For instance, with this one, you’ll easily be able to take good shots from an elevated area. However, sometimes images are too tightly cropped and may look detached, thus taking away from the feel of a street.

Ultimately, photographs reflect one’s subjective view of life, and photography itself is a highly personal art form. While lenses and focal lengths do play a determining role in getting certain shots right, at the end of the day, creativity precedes all else.

various swappable camera objectives

Verdict

With that, we have reached the end of our guide, and we hope it has cleared a few doubts.

When it comes to lenses, it’s easy to get mystified as not only are there a variety of models available, but each one is specialized for a certain genre of photography. And then, of course, there is lighting to consider.

A number of factors must be kept in mind before buying a lens for street photography. While you make the final selection, we have rounded up some of our personal favorites to bring you one more step closer to the ideal one.

If you don’t mind shelling out a few extra dollars on quality and durability, then Canon’s 50 mm f1.2L is a great choice. However, all things considered, including price to quality ratio, the Sigma 35 mm lens is a clear winner. Excellent image quality and an unrivaled performance also justify the hefty price tag.

We would love to see what you think of our recommendations; let us know in the comments below.

Till next time!

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