In this arti­cle, we’ll walk you through the pros and cons of each type of street cam­era so you can decide which one is right for you!


The best digital SLR cameras for street photography

SLR cam­eras take the lead in the race for image qual­i­ty. In addi­tion, with a DSLR, you have the option to choose from a vari­ety of man­u­al set­tings, allow­ing you to con­trol the final result.

The Nikon D750 with tilt­ing LCD and the decent Canon 5D Mark IV are pre­mi­um DSLRs that are great for street pho­tog­ra­phy as well as oth­er gen­res of pho­tog­ra­phy.

SLR cam­era Nikon D750


- func­tions and set­tings. The biggest ben­e­fit of using dig­i­tal SLR cam­eras is the wide range of cam­era fea­tures and set­tings. You will encounter dif­fer­ent light­ing con­di­tions, objects and peo­ple, so being able to adjust ISO, shut­ter speed, aper­ture, white bal­ance and more will be very use­ful;

- high-speed shoot­ing. DSLRs also allow you to cap­ture mul­ti­ple frames per sec­ond, which is very handy when you want to cap­ture mov­ing sub­jects such as chil­dren in a park or pedes­tri­ans cross­ing the street;

- Inter­change­able lens. For many street pho­tog­ra­phers, this is one of the most impor­tant para­me­ters when choos­ing a cam­era. The abil­i­ty to change lens­es expands the bound­aries of cre­ativ­i­ty.

Canon 5D Mark IV dig­i­tal cam­era


- price. A high-qual­i­ty DSLR can cost around $100,000, so this option is not suit­able for street pho­tog­ra­phers on a bud­get;

- Dif­fi­cul­ty in use. Because of the ful­ly cus­tomiz­able fea­tures and man­u­al set­tings, begin­ners will have to spend a lot of time learn­ing about the cam­era before they can start shoot­ing;

- heavy / bulky. The biggest dis­ad­van­tage of DSLRs for street pho­tog­ra­phy is their weight and size.

The best film camera for street photography

Pop­u­lar cam­era mod­els such as the Mamiya 7 II and the clas­sic Leica M6 — or Leica MA — con­tin­ue to be among the best film cam­eras for street pho­tog­ra­phy thanks to their com­bi­na­tion of ana­log and auto­mat­ic man­u­al set­tings, qui­et oper­a­tion and a pre­mi­um lens.

Film cam­era Mamiya 7 II


- a tan­gi­ble result. At the end of the work, we get a real prod­uct of our activ­i­ty — print­ed pic­tures. This gives joy and the oppor­tu­ni­ty to store mem­o­ries in an unusu­al for­mat for our time;

- trains eye­sight and mind. Film cam­eras make us think before we take a pho­to. This con­tributes to the devel­op­ment of the skills of the pho­tog­ra­ph­er;

- aes­thet­ics. The film com­bines light and col­or in a way that dig­i­tal cam­eras can­not yet. Film also gives a visu­al­ly pleas­ing grainy tex­ture and gives pho­tos a vin­tage feel, some­thing we still try to imi­tate with fil­ters.

Leica M6 film cam­era


- no pre­view. Film cam­eras can be dif­fi­cult to use for a gen­er­a­tion accus­tomed to see­ing results imme­di­ate­ly. Using film does not allow you to instant­ly view or delete pho­tos;

- lim­it­ed num­ber of frames. With a film cam­era, you don’t have much room for tri­al and error;

Print­ing takes time and mon­ey. Devel­op­ing film pho­tographs usu­al­ly takes some time. In addi­tion, you can­not upload a pho­to for pub­li­ca­tion on social net­works with­out scan­ning it. In addi­tion, film, its scan­ning and pho­to print­ing require addi­tion­al costs.

Leica MA film cam­era

The best mirrorless camera for street photography

Mir­ror­less cam­eras are more com­pact and there­fore often cheap­er (but not always). This makes them one of the best options for street pho­tog­ra­phy where a com­bi­na­tion of max­i­mum mobil­i­ty and cer­tain fea­tures is required.

Many ama­teur pho­tog­ra­phers pre­fer mir­ror­less cam­eras because of the qual­i­ty and ease of use. The pow­er­ful Sony Alpha a7 III, the full-fea­tured Fuji­film X‑Pro3 and the Olym­pus PEN‑F are ide­al mir­ror­less cam­eras for street pho­tog­ra­phy due to their porta­bil­i­ty, light­ness and high image qual­i­ty.

Sony Alpha a7 III mir­ror­less cam­era


- com­pact­ness. Small and light­weight, mir­ror­less cam­eras allow the use of a vari­ety of lens­es while pro­vid­ing a range of fea­tures not avail­able with com­pact cam­eras. This also makes them more prac­ti­cal for long out­door shoots;

- Advanced set­tings. This cam­era allows you to adjust aper­ture, shut­ter speed, ISO, white bal­ance and oth­er advanced set­tings sim­i­lar to those of a DSLR cam­era;

— sup­port for social net­works. Today, many mir­ror­less cam­eras have touch screens and Wi-Fi con­nec­tiv­i­ty, mak­ing it easy to instant­ly share images on social media.

Fuji­film X‑Pro3 Mir­ror­less Cam­era


- Slow aut­o­fo­cus. Unlike DSLRs, many mir­ror­less cam­eras use con­trast detec­tion instead of phase detec­tion to focus on sub­jects, slow­ing down aut­o­fo­cus speed;

- bat­tery life. The bat­tery life of mir­ror­less cam­eras is not very long, pri­mar­i­ly because the cam­era uses an elec­tron­ic viewfind­er (rather than an opti­cal one, as in DSLRs). How­ev­er, it should­n’t mat­ter much if you have a spare bat­tery.

Olym­pus PEN‑F mir­ror­less cam­era

Best compact cameras

Com­pact dig­i­tal cam­eras are sim­ple and easy to use.

The Canon Pow­er­shot G1 X Mark III and Pana­son­ic Lumix DMC-LX100 are some of the most pop­u­lar and reli­able com­pact cam­eras around. And the Leica Q2 com­pact dig­i­tal cam­era is a favorite among pro­fes­sion­als.

Canon Pow­er­shot G1 X Mark III Com­pact Cam­era


- small and light. Some com­pact cam­eras can be even small­er and lighter than some smart­phones, and because of their size, they don’t draw atten­tion to them­selves. All this helps to move freely, which is exact­ly what you need in street pho­tog­ra­phy;

- silent oper­a­tion. The zoom and shut­ter on these cam­eras are usu­al­ly very qui­et;

— pro­grammed set­tings. Typ­i­cal­ly, such cam­eras have a set of set­tings for var­i­ous modes: por­trait, mode for dynam­ic events, night pho­tog­ra­phy, and some oth­ers. The con­trol wheel allows you to quick­ly switch between modes.

Pana­son­ic Lumix DMC-LX100 com­pact cam­era


- Fixed lens. In street pho­tog­ra­phy, we don’t have con­trol over the envi­ron­ment like we do in a stu­dio, so it’s a good idea to work with a vari­ety of lens­es that allow you to zoom in and shoot scenes from dif­fer­ent angles. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, these cam­eras come with fixed lens­es;

- lim­it­ed cam­era func­tions. These cam­eras also have lim­it­ed fea­tures, such as lit­tle con­trol over aper­ture and shut­ter speed, com­pared to oth­er cam­eras. They also often per­form poor­ly in low light con­di­tions. This makes it dif­fi­cult to shoot mov­ing sub­jects, shoot at night, or achieve a nar­row­er depth of field;

- medi­um qual­i­ty images. Even though com­pact cam­eras pro­duce high­er res­o­lu­tion images than smart­phone cam­eras, the qual­i­ty is gen­er­al­ly not sat­is­fac­to­ry. Of course, there are some mod­els, such as the Ricoh GR III cam­era, that can pro­duce images close to the qual­i­ty of a DSLR.

The best smartphone for street photography

Every time a new phone is released, it usu­al­ly comes with an upgrad­ed built-in cam­era. For exam­ple, lead­ing smart­phone brands Apple and Sam­sung launched the iPhone 13 and Galaxy S21. They are equipped with high-def­i­n­i­tion cam­eras with impres­sive built-in lens­es.

iPhone 13


- invis­i­bil­i­ty. When you are doing street pho­tog­ra­phy, you want every­thing to look as organ­ic as pos­si­ble. In this regard, smart­phones are great for street pho­tog­ra­phy. Peo­ple who are in the frame will not be intim­i­dat­ed by your pres­ence, because see­ing a per­son with a phone is more famil­iar than a per­son who has a cam­era lens aimed at you;

- con­ve­nience. This is the light­est and sim­plest tool that can be used for street pho­tog­ra­phy;

- mod­ern char­ac­ter­is­tics. The lat­est smart­phone cam­eras are sharp enough that even pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­phers use them to blog on Insta­gram. Some even use smart­phones exclu­sive­ly for their work;

- quick edit­ing. We are easy to under­stand phone set­tings, so under­stand­ing the func­tions of the cam­era and image edit­ing should take less time.

Sam­sung Galaxy S21


- low­er image qual­i­ty. Smart­phones still have a hard time in the pho­to qual­i­ty bat­tle, espe­cial­ly when it comes to shoot­ing mov­ing objects and shoot­ing in low light;

- lim­it­ed set­tings. There is no way to change, for exam­ple, shut­ter speed and aper­ture, because on most smart­phones they are sim­ply not adjustable unless you use a third-par­ty appli­ca­tion.

How to choose a camera for street photography?

When choos­ing a cam­era for street shoot­ing, pay atten­tion to the fol­low­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics:

- Small, light and portable

Unlike oth­er areas of pho­tog­ra­phy, street pho­tog­ra­phy requires a lot of speed and move­ment from the pho­tog­ra­ph­er. So avoid bulky cam­eras that will slow you down and tire you out.

- Incon­spic­u­ous

As men­tioned ear­li­er, the goal of street pho­tog­ra­phy is to cap­ture the streets in their organ­ic state. How­ev­er, when peo­ple notice the cam­era, they imme­di­ate­ly begin to behave unnat­u­ral­ly. Opt for a more dis­creet option and avoid cam­eras with shiny, sil­ver, or col­ored bod­ies.

- Qui­et

For the same rea­son, you’ll also need a cam­era that does­n’t make loud nois­es. The click of the shut­ter is sure to give you away when you try to pho­to­graph some­one unno­ticed. Choose a cam­era with a qui­et shut­ter.

- Fast aut­o­fo­cus

Cap­tur­ing sin­cere and nat­ur­al moments is quite dif­fi­cult. Espe­cial­ly if your cam­era is too slow to focus.

- Shut­ter speed

When you shoot street scenes, every­thing always hap­pens quick­ly. For this rea­son, street pho­tog­ra­phers usu­al­ly use fast shut­ter speeds to cap­ture the moment.

- Durable and weath­er­proof

Street pho­tog­ra­phy involves being out­doors and work­ing in var­i­ous weath­er con­di­tions. On the one hand, you can buy spe­cial acces­sories that will help you pro­tect your cam­era, but it’s always bet­ter to choose a more resis­tant tool right away.

- Built-in image sta­bi­liza­tion

This is not so impor­tant if you plan to use a mono­pod or tri­pod. How­ev­er, cam­era sta­bi­liza­tion tools are sure to make you stand out from the crowd. It is use­ful to have a cam­era (or lens) with built-in image sta­bi­liza­tion to reduce cam­era shake when shoot­ing hand­held.

How to set up a camera for street photography?

The best set­tings for street pho­tog­ra­phy are those that don’t need to be adjust­ed dur­ing the actu­al shoot so you don’t miss the moment.

Many street pho­tog­ra­phers choose to shoot in either aper­ture pri­or­i­ty or shut­ter pri­or­i­ty. Decide what is more impor­tant to you: the type of move­ment (sta­t­ic or blur) or con­trol over the depth of field. To be sure that the image will not be blur­ry, work with shut­ter pri­or­i­ty and set the shut­ter speed to 1/500 or faster. For motion blur, try 1/60.

If depth of field is most impor­tant to you, work in aper­ture pri­or­i­ty and use a wide val­ue for shal­low depth of field or a nar­row val­ue for greater depth of field.

What lenses are best for street photography?

The best lens for street pho­tog­ra­phy is small and dis­creet. Ide­al­ly, you and your cam­era should blend in with the envi­ron­ment.

A fast lens with a wider aper­ture, such as f/1.4 or f/1.8, will come in handy if you’re shoot­ing indoors or at night. Many street pho­tog­ra­phers pre­fer to use prime rather than zoom lens­es: you sim­ply aim the lens and take the pic­ture. Here are some great lens options for street pho­tog­ra­phy:

— Lens Sig­ma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART;

— Lens Sig­ma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART;

— Lens Sony FE 50 mm F/1.8;

- Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens;

- Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S lens.

Bottom line: which camera is best for street photography?

Each cam­era has its pros and cons. Choos­ing the best cam­era for street pho­tog­ra­phy becomes much eas­i­er if you under­stand your needs and pri­or­i­tize them.

If you’re on a bud­get and want to take pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­phy, includ­ing street pho­tog­ra­phy, con­sid­er a dig­i­tal SLR.

If you are an aspir­ing pho­tog­ra­ph­er look­ing to devel­op your skills and become a pro, con­sid­er pur­chas­ing a mir­ror­less cam­era. If you are a begin­ner and just love tak­ing pic­tures, then a com­pact cam­era or a smart­phone with a qual­i­ty cam­era may be a bet­ter and more afford­able option.

If you want to exper­i­ment, a film cam­era can give you unique results.