What is the best camera for street photography?
– It is a much-debated topic, one that will, no doubt, continue to divide opinion for many years to come.
To capture a great ‘street’ photograph one often must be quick, discreet, and perceptive. We’ve therefore taken a number of factors into account such as size, portability, speed, and, where applicable, sensor size, and selected what we believe are the top 10 cameras, (both digital and analog) for street photography.
It’s also important to note that lenses are a key element in any type of photography, and for the purpose of this article, we have focused solely on the camera body itself (though in some cases this includes a built-in lens).
1. Leica M6
No other camera brand is as synonymous with street photography as Leica. The German company was the inventor of the 35mm camera, and their early creations helped shape the very foundations of the genre, utilized by everyone from Henri Cartier Bresson to Ernst Haas. Originally released in the mid-1980s, the M6 is one of its most iconic creations, a hand-constructed, fully mechanical rangefinder with a built-in lightmeter and shutter speeds of 1/1000 of a second to one second. Furthermore, it is compatible with almost every one of Leica’s excellent M-range lenses, giving the user a wide range of great options. An iconic combination of function and form, that remains a favorite of some of the greatest street photographers of our time including, Bruce Gilden, and will likely stay that way for some time.
– Learn more via the Leica website.
2. Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II
An excellent, compact all-rounder from Canon that packs a proverbial punch that belies its diminutive size. The fast 5X zoom lens features a focal range of 24-120mm, and even at full zoom the f/1.8 aperture only drops to f/2.8, making capturing dynamic ‘street’ imagery a breeze. What’s more, the control ring is customizable, so you can set it to your preferred function, and the 1-inch sensor offers far superior image quality compared with most point-and-shoot cameras.
– Learn more via the Canon website.
3. Fujifilm X100V
A modern mirrorless camera that pays tribute to the street photography cameras of old, the X100V from Fujifilm, features dial-based controls that offer the intuitive feel of 35mm cameras, whilst the hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder rivals the best iterations on any mirrorless camera on the market. If you’re looking for a variety of range control, then this isn’t for you, but the fixed focal lens of 23mm (equivalent) f/2, boasts incredible sharpness, and combined with the high-quality sensor, allows for the capturing of super-quality images (plus the minimal, vintage-inspired look isn’t too bad either!)
– Learn more via the Fujifilm website.
4. Olympus OM1
It might be 5 decades old, but the Olympus OM1 remains a cult favorite among analog street photographers thanks to its simplicity, compact size, and relative affordability. It features a built-in light meter, and a large, bright viewfinder, plus is compatible with a wide variety of Zuiko lenses, encompassing some excellent options and a range of focal lengths.
– Learn more via the Olympus website.
5. Leica M11
Arguably the finest street photography camera on the market, Leica’s M11 delivers in all areas with aplomb! It features a 60MP full-frame sensor (which is actually a ‘triple-resolution’ sensor, that allows you to reduce pixels when not required and thus save both on card space and processing power), and a burst rate of 4.5fps. In trademark Leica style it is lightweight, small, and beautifully designed, plus it’s the first M-range camera to feature a built-in USB port, allowing users to charge it with a power bank when they’re on the move. Inevitably, it’s expensive, and the rangefinder focusing might take some time to get used to for those not accustomed to it, but if you have the money, there are few, if any, better options available.
– Learn more via the Leica website.
6. Ricoh GR21
The GR21 from Ricoh is a cult favorite amongst street photographers( including one of the genre’s most iconic proponents, Daido Moriyama), and for good reason. Though similar in appearance to the also-excellent, previous GR 35mm incarnations, what sets it apart is the 21 mm f/3.5 lens, (which makes it the only 35mm compact camera with an ultra wide-angle 21mm lens in existence) that opens up a world of compositional possibilities.
However, for those who prefer to shoot digital, the Ricoh GR III is a great option, its compact size, effective shake reduction system, super-fast operation, and excellent 28mm equivalent F2.8 lens, make it perfect for capturing dynamic street snaps.
– Learn more via the Ricoh website.
7. Panasonic Lumix LX100 II
An excellent compact camera with a multi-aspect four-thirds sensor that allows users to switch between different aspect ratios, and thus experiment with different compositions. The Lumix LX100 II from Panasonic boasts a considerably larger sensor than most rival compact cameras and, combined with the 24-75mm (a perfect focal range for street photography of all styles) Leica lens, which has a maximum aperture of f/1.7, makes capturing sharp imagery with shallow depth of field, a piece of cake.
– Learn more via the Panasonic website.
8. Sony A7 iii
It might not be as compact as some of the others on the list, but the Sony A7 iii, is a versatile mirrorless camera that is great for a variety of situations, including capturing ‘street’ shots. It’s light and small when compared with DSLRs, and the full-frame sensor allows for excellent image quality even in low light. The autofocus is highly sophisticated, whilst the tilting LCD screen is a handy feature for when you need to use creative angles (such as shooting from waist level). It’s also compatible with a wide range of lenses, both from Sony and Sigma.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for something a little more compact, try the Sony RX100 VII i, a super small and lightweight point and shoot with a 24-200mm equivalent Zeiss-engineered lens, and quick and sophisticated AF, that allows for super-dynamic shooting.
– Learn more via the Sony website.
9. Nikon Z fc
Vintage-style meets modernity with this compact mirrorless camera from Nikon. The handy size, solid specifications which include a 20.9MP APS-C CMOS sensor, and an 11fps burst rate, as well as the stylish design, make this a great all-rounder, and though Nikon’s Z-range of lenses is relatively new, and thus limited, it won’t stay that way for too long!
– Learn more via the Nikon website.
10. Leica M10 Monochrom
For lovers of monochrome, analog street photography, the Leica 10 is the ultimate tool, a truly unique camera that only allows the user to shoot in black and white. The benefits of this are significant. Instead of capturing images using a color filter array (CFA) over the sensor, the Monochrom cameras record black & white images directly, leading to improved tonality, and detail, higher sensitivity, and minimal noise. What’s more, the M10 Monochrom features a newly-developed sensor with an ISO range of 160 to 100,000, affording incredible detail and quality, plus in typical Leica fashion, the design is truly stunning!
– Learn more via the Leica website.
NB: The 2022 Street Photography Award is open for entries until September 31. Submit your work here.
There is, of course, no right answer to the question we posed at the beginning of this article. Each photographer will have their own preferences: they may prefer analog to digital; autofocus to manual; rangefinder to SLR. Furthermore, keeping the list to just 10 was no easy task, there were numerous other models that could easily have been included.
However, based on our experience, knowledge, and considerable research, we believe that each of the 10 cameras we selected ticks the key boxes when it comes to street photography.