While I firmly believe that the BEST camera is the one you love, some cameras are designed with street photography in mind and simply make the task easier. Instead of replying to the same emails, here's what I believe are the best street photography cameras & why.
What Makes a Street Photography Camera?
Any camera can be a street photography camera, but like I said above some are better than others at this task. Let me get into what to look for before diving into specific recommendations.
Portability: A good street camera should be portable. You do not want to lug around a few pounds not only because it can hurt your wrist and or neck, it can also make people too aware of you. Usually you want to be unnoticeable and bringing a large camera is the sure way to have people turn around and look at you.
Speed: A street camera should be quick, that means either it is able to let you set hyperfocal distance easely (Basically preocusing manually so that you don't have to do so anymore) or to be lightning quick. Because things happen fast in the streets and one second is all the difference between a ruined shot and the one you had in mind.
Wide angle: Doesn't have to be that way, but usually street photographers like their shots made at wide angle, 28mm to be precise.
Best Street Photography cameras: My recommendations
Your best bet: Ricoh GR
If there is one camera designed ONLY with the street photographer in mind, it's the Ricoh GR. 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: 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.
/// Ricoh GR
It allows you to have access to either normal autofocus or hyperfocal depending on how you press the shutter release. This feature is NOT available on any other camera. Sure you can preset your focus on other cameras but that Full press snap is Ricoh only and the handling is quite excellent. The biggest drawback of this camera is that it's prone to dust entering the camera.
My favorite: Ricoh GRD IV
///Ricoh GRD IV
My personal favorite though is the Ricoh GRD IV, simply because i like the small sensor and it looks better. The Ricoh GR has an APSC and that's too big for my style. Alternatively the Ricoh GRD IV has a 21mm attachment, the GR has yet to have this. Note: Discontinued camera.
Less wide, more versatility in a classic design: Fuji X100
If 28mm is not your fancy and is too wide, the Fuji X100 might fit your bill. The camera looks and operates like one of those old rangefinders, crazy cool Optical viewfinder / Electronic viewfinder included.
///Fuji X100 by Neil Soden
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.
Best all around: Panasonic LX100
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. 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.
I personally sold everything (save my Ricoh GRD!) for this camera as I wanted to simplify my gear and not have to deal with lenses.
Best all around & pocketable: Sony RX100 mkIV
Most of my recommendations above are best reserved for a small bag (save the Ricoh GRs). If pocketability is a MUST, look no further than the Sony RX100, great for right about anything you throw at it with a 24-70mm f1.8-2.8, also has 4k video and a viewfinder!
///Sony RX100 mkI by my Dad
I's amazing how much they crammed into this thing. The drawbacks are a smaller sensor then the LX100 (it has a 1inch sensor but much more portable) and also lacks any manual focusing scale but has focus peaking. All I can say, to everyone I recommend this, they somehow ended up selling their old cameras, my Dad got rid of his Olympus PEN and an uncle gladly sold his DSLR.
Just a heads up, some users are experiencing some issues about it, it's not been my experience or those that I know, so please do your research on it!
If you already have a mirrorless camera: Voigtlander 15mm
If you already have a mirrorless camera like a Fuji, NEX, etc I cannot recommend the Voigtlander 15mm with an M mount enough, it's my favorite lens. It's probably best on an APSC sensor camera because it's going to give you an effective focal lenght of 22.5mm, not too far off a 21mm.
///Fuji XE1 + Voigtlander 15mm
It's beautiful, and once you set it up you probably will never focus again! I made some of my favorite images with this lens, the only downside is for the MkII and MkI, you'll probably have to do your research on if you camera model plays nice with it. It has a mangenta cast on a few models, you can always fx it afterwards with a tool like Cornerfix, but it's an extra added step to your workflow. The MkIII seems to be free of these issues but I never used it so do your research.
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.
Out of my enthusiasm for the camera, many brought it and email me saying thanks because I made them buy it. But if its not your fancy, many email me and thank me too for the Fuji recommendations! My advice is, rent or borrow the gear for a week and see if you like it and if you do, buy it!
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments! Be yourself, stay focused and keep on shooting.