What is the best street photography camera is a question I get a lot around here at Inspired Eye. While I firmly believe that the BEST camera is the one you love, some cameras are simply better suited for street photography than others. Instead of replying to these questions over and over by email, here are the best 5 street photography cameras of 2019 and why.
- What Makes a Street Photography Camera the best?
- The best street photography cameras of 2019
- 1. Your best bet: Ricoh GR III
- 2. The best alternative: Fuji XF10
- 3. Less Wide: Fuji X100f
- 4. Best all around: Panasonic LX100 II
- 5. Best interchangeable lens: Pen F
- Older street photography cameras:
What Makes a Street Photography Camera the best?
Hear ye: Any camera can be a street photography camera. Some people use their large DLSR for street photography and do fine with it. But like I said above, some cameras are better suited for the task. It's like a swiss-army knife: If you needed to cut something, yes you could use the scissors it has, or you could get a dedicated scissors that make the task easier. And if you have ever used a swiss-army knife's scissors…you know what I mean.
So, before getting into the best street photography cameras, let's look first at what makes a camera great for street photography?
Portability: Portability is paramount for street photography for two reasons. First people react to you differently if you have a large DSLR in your hands, or a harmless looking camera. People are extremely aware of the camera, and if your camera screams “photographer” then you will stick out from the crowd. That's neither a good thing nor a bad thing.
The second reason for portability is weight. If your camera is too heavy you can seriously damage your neck. It happened to my Inspired Eye co-conspirator Don Springer. He had a large mirrorless and a monster lens on and it almost screwed up his neck really bad. Even if you don't lug your camera around your neck…you still want a portable one. Why? Because when you start spending hours in the streets, your hands will get tired. That's the reason for smaller cameras: More stealthy, and lighter load.
Speed: A street camera should be quick, because things happen fast in the streets and one second is all the difference between a ruined shot and the one you wanted to make. That doesn't necessarily mean it has huge frames per second, but it does mean that the camera allows you to shoot quickly because you can twist and turn it easily, and more importantly change settings easily.
Wide angle: Most street photographers including me like their shots made at wide angle, 28mm to be precise. So a street photography camera has to be able to go wide if it's a fixed lens.
The best street photography cameras of 2019
Now that we have seen what makes a camera great for street photography, let's see what the BEST street photography cameras are for this year:
1. Your best bet: Ricoh GR III
There is only ONE camera that is 100%, unashamedly, no compromise street photography camera: The Ricoh GR.
If there is one camera designed ONLY with the street photographer in mind, it's the Ricoh GR. It's now on it's third revision, so the best street photography camera is the Ricoh GR III. It has a fixed fast 28mm f2.8, is one of the smallest APSC sensor cameras, and has a feature that you will not be able to live without as a street photographer: Full press snap. The Ricoh GR can focus like any other camera by half pressing the shutter but if you set up full press snap, if you squeeze the shutter release (without half pressing it) it will set the focus at 1m (or 1.5m, 2m) and make the shot. This feature is not available in any other camera
One of the questions in our street photography magazine asks about gear. And the name that keeps popping over and over is the Ricoh GR. The handling of this camera is one of the best, it will allow you to change settings on the fly, and you can twsit and turn your hand to get the shot without worrying if will slip from your hands.The only thing to know about this camera is…it's for dedicated street photographers only, or at least if you are used with the 28mm. So it's for street photography, but what it does, it does VERY well.
Here's articles about the Ricoh GR:
2. The best alternative: Fuji XF10
In the beginning was the Ricoh GR, but then Fuji came along and made the XF10 designed to compete directly with it. It is a bit larger than the GR, has a large APSC sensor and street photographer-minded digital zoom (read: it crops). Basically this has a 28mm, and when you twist the front, it will give you a 28mm, 35mm and 50mm focal length. All of these 3 are the focal lengths of choice of street photographers and this is the best (because it's the ONLY direct alternative) to the Ricoh GR. It's less portable but offers a bit more options if you chose not to focus on street photography 100%.
3. Less Wide: Fuji X100f
It's quite the looker and has a less wide, middle-of-the-road focal lenght of 35mm at f2. It's better suited for street portraiture in that sense. There is a focusing scale in camera so you can preset your focus and simply go on shooting. The versatility of the X100 comes when you get the 28 mm adapter or the 50mm adapter.
The X100 is the original model, it's been followed by newer and better models like the x100s and x100t.
Here's articles on the Fuji X100:
4. Best all around: Panasonic LX100 II
If street photography is only one side of your photography, the Panasonic LX100 is in my opinion the best deal in cameras. It has about a 4/3 sensor, has a viewfinder integrated and killer 24mm-75mm f1.7 to 2.8. Amazing lens for such a package. This camera is great for landscapes, portraits, events, street, etc thanks to that versatile lens. It evens does amazing videos in 4k, has wifi and does timelapse, etc.
That versatility unfortunately comes at a price, it does not have a focusing scale, meaning you don't know if you are focused at 1m or whatever distance. This is important to many street photographers who like to pr-focus. It does have focus peaking, so you can eyeball how much of the world is in focus as it becomes more and more highlighted. The transition from a Fuji is painless at it handles pretty much the same way with a dial on top and even has click stop aperture ring.
It is a great compact camera, and is perfect for those who do NOT want to deal with lenses. The focal length offered is simply pretty awesome if you do not want to do street photography all the time. The lx100 has been refreshed into the LX100 II
Available LX100 articles:
5. Best interchangeable lens: Pen F
If you want an interchangeable lens camera for street photography, this is it. The camera body itself is of a great size. If you put in a small lens with it, it's a perfect street kit. It is an absolute joy to use and to hold, the viewfinder is large and bright. I've never used a better interchangeable lens camera in years.
Available PEN F articles:
Older street photography cameras:
Above are the best up-to-date best street photography cameras, but others have stood the test of time.
Ricoh GRD IV
Before the Ricoh GR came along, there was the Ricoh GRD IV. I still have it and still shoot it and it's been years. I just prefer the small sensor look, the Ricoh GR has an APSC and that's too big for my style. If you are looking for a small sensor camera for street photography, the GRD IV is the one to get. But it's discontinued and can only be found on ebay here and then.
Best Street Photography Camera Conclusion
Any camera can be a street camera, but lugging a huge DSLR around your neck around for a few hours will teach you the hard way, some cameras are better for certain task than others. THE street camera to get because it's porbably the ONLY one designed with the street photographer in mind is the Ricoh GR and therefore is my highest recommendation.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments! Be yourself, stay focused and keep on shooting.
Your camera is only as good as you are
If you are reading this, you are probably interested in getting a street photography camera, awesome! But what's next after you get it? Your camera is only as good as you are, so if you want to make the best use of your gear, check out this street photography course. It reveals step-by-step how to craft stunning images.