The best street photography cameras (& why)

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

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-1

/// 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.

 

bhprice

 

My favorite: Ricoh GRD IV

 

fisherman

///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

 

fuji-x100s

 

 

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-Portrait-1

///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.

The versatility of the X100 comes when you get the 28 mm adapter or the 50mm adapter.

 

bhprice

 

 

Best all around: Panasonic LX100

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.

 

criticism-6b

///Panasonic LX100

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.

 

bhprice

 

Best all around & pocketable: Sony RX100 mkIV

sony-rx100

 

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

///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!

bhprice

 

If you already have a mirrorless camera: Voigtlander 15mm

voigtlander 155mm

 

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.

 

haiti-fisherman-1

///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.

 

bhprice

 

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.

 

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.

 

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54 thoughts on “The best street photography cameras (& why)”

      1. I use a Leica 111 made in 1935, with a 3.5cm f3.5 Summaron lens and a home made wrist strap made out of thick cord. Film is Ilford XP2 Chromogenic, rated at 400 iso. Focus is set to 10 feet using the Hyperfocal Distance method. In use, I keep the camera in my pocket, wound on. I saunter along, looking for my shot. When I see it, camera comes out, up to my eye, click and back in my pocket. And I carry on walking. No trouble with police, security guards, nosy old bags etc.

        1. Your method is similar to the master’s, Cartier Bresson, the king of street photography. Same type camera. How do you frame your shots (with the tiny viewfinder?) and do you process and print yourself? If not, who does it?

  1. Nice article. loving my GR. dog photo got to me as I have the twin found on the street. Still wondering the breed. Ha, I have a street camera and street dog 😉

  2. Glad you included the Panasonic LX100 (or its Leica counterpart). This one is often overlooked by many street devotees. Ideal classical street range 24-75. A zoom that is as fast as a prime. A zoom that starts at 24. For less than price of a comparable zoom in terms of range and speed, you also get the camera in a discreet (always important on the street), compact package. And it is a zoom, not a fixed lens. And Leica glass at that. A Cartier-Bresson wet dream. EVS can show you the image in black and white. And you can specify rectangle ratio.

    1. I think it’s a STEAL for what it offers in terms of versatility, getting a lens like this on another camera is probably worth more than the LX100! Dunno if it’s Leica Leica glass, I’m not too much into gear, I THINK it’s Leica designed glass and Panasonic does the rest. Again I might be wrong on this, doesn’t detract the fact that it’s an awesome lens!

      1. I think it’s designed by Panasonic, verified by Leica. The only Panasonic compact with a lens designed by Leica themselves, as far as I know, was the Digilux 2 (Panasonic equivalent LC5, if I’m not mistaken).

    1. Sir Madam
      I have had dust issues with the GR digital 3, It is really not a problem, the dust is only visible when the apeture is stoped down. Post processing can remove it if your a perfectionist. I find smacking the bottom of the camera on a hard surface a few times drops any dust off the sensor. And no it doesnt break the camera. I have also got the LX100 but always take the Rico. I will be buying the GR2 in the near future.

  3. A really useful, nuanced article. Thank you. Of all these, I am most tempted by the Ricoh GR (but would like to hear you say more about the “small sensor look” on the GR IV). I have a Fuji X100S, but by the time you add a converter lens, it’s not small, and I prefer to work with my Leica X Vario – not small either, but lovely to set up in advance. It doesn’t have a tiltable viewfider either, which both my NEX cameras have and which I regard as a must for discreet shooting in many circumstances.
    To Vidal Centeno: What is the “recurring sensor dust issue” with the GR? i’ve not seen that mentioned elsewhere.

    1. To John Nicholson, if you just look up “Ricoh GR sensor dust issue” on your search engine the topic will show up. Having said that I’m speaking from experience. My GR had to be serviced twice in less than my first year of ownership. I’m not hard on my cameras, yet this problem occurred twice. I received a refund from Amazon and then purchased the Fuji X100s and I couldn’t be happier. Fixed lens cameras that feature motorized retractable lenses run a greater risk of taking in dust. Then there’s the question of faulty seals. There’s even a video on YouTube of a photographer who step by step took apart his Ricoh GR to clean the sensor. I’m not by any means recommending this course of action but it’s revealing, no pun intended. I think it has more to do with quality control or the lack there of. If this problem could be addressed and resolved, the Ricoh GR could be a great street camera, especially if you prefer shooting monochrome.

    2. Hehe I added a note about the dreaded dust issue, forgot about that. Another way to clean it besides ripping it apart (crazy!) is the Vacuum cleaner method. Simply clean the vacuum cleaner head real well and turn it on, put the lens of the GR (turned on) inside it and slowly make circle movements with the camera, that should take care of it.
      Co Inspired Eye creator Don showed me this and it worked for me and might for you!
      There is a HUGE difference in my opinion between portable camera and pocketable camera. The latter pretty much is always with you so you shoot more

  4. I am not able to say which is the best (probably the perfect camera does not exist) I am satisfied with my X100 and X30 small.
    I own this and try to exploit them as best I can.
    I’d like to try those you listed, especially the Ricoh, it has to be very practical.
    Best regards
    Fabio

  5. how do i preset focus in the focusing scale of the fuji x100s? one of my biggest frustrations with that camera is the slow focusing. sounds like i just have some new things to learn about how to use it properly.

    1. Shoot x100 in manual focus mode between f4 and f8. Set focus to about 7 feet (2m) and shoot away. It might be better to prefocus on an object rather rely on the scale which isn’t always accurate.

      Rob

  6. Nice Article. Are you talking about the Voigtlander 15 mm Asph Mark III (III) ?
    The other lenses Mark I and Mark II are in suspect of corner smearing and
    strong vignetting on the Fuji XE1 or Fuji X Series.

      1. coolpix A può mettere a fuoco in manuale impostando la distanza su scala metrica. In questo modo può essere anche più preciso di snap shot. Finchè la macchina è accesa rimane fissato il valore impostato manualmente sulla scala metrica

  7. Well, it’s your fault, Oliver. That I went out a while ago and bought a Ricoh GRD IV. And it is wonderful… perfect, I think, for street photography. Thanks for your Inspired Eye… I look forward to getting your e-mails! Have fun in Korea, I’ve heard it is a nice country.

  8. Ricoh gr is great but mine died after 2 years with a stuck shutter+ dust – IMHO they are not cameras built to last- though I loved it. I wouldn’t risk getting another.
    Love the x100t but I really wish they had made manually focusing easier- I use it with a 3d printed focus tab thing and it works well, but they should implement a permanent one next time and a physical scale on the lens (or snap feature) and it would be near perfect for street. The buttons are too easily touched though, and the Q button is badly implemented compared to the ricoh for switching quickly between custom settings.

  9. Pingback: The best Street Photography Cameras (&why) | Olivier Duong

    1. Achilles Petrides

      I’m no expert by any means but I’m very happy with my Olympus EP-5. Any experience with it Olivier, or any one?

  10. The Nikon V1 should be in here. 1″ sensor, superfast autofocus. I shot mine with either the native 10mm pancake (28mm equiv.), or 50mm C-Sonnar ZM on an adapter (135mm equiv.). Really nice, organic looking images. The J1 and J2 lack the EVF but have the same sensor — with the 10mm they make for compact 28mm shooter, with interesting video features as a bonus.

    I would skip the later ones, which all have different sensors and batteries (with shorter and shorter battery life with each iteration). Makes staying in the series a pain. The latest J5 is also particularly well-reviewed, by those who have used it.

  11. Pingback: Panasonic LX100 long term review: Probably one of the best camera packages ever - INSPIRED EYE

  12. I totally agree with your first two criteria for the ideal street camera although with the focal length issue I tend to subscribe to the Henri Cartier Bresson school of thought, so I prefer a 50mm equivalent focal length. My “fav” choice: the Fuji X-T10 with the Fujinon XF 35mm f1.4 lens. I also like to use a Fuji X-A1 with the Fujinon XF 27mm f2.8 pancake lens ’cause it’s so tiny and discreet.

  13. I just had to ask about the Sony mirrorless cameras for street shooting….particularly if you’re using a prime lens…how would you compare it to the others you recommend? (Especially against the Fuji). If you have already covered this somewhere I would love to see the link. Thank you! Speaking of Sony A7RII or A7SII, etc.

    1. Quite frankly, any camera would do, I think I said that above. Sonys are really great, the A7 is amazing, the only downside I would see is maybe the size. The grip is great so would allow for some odd angles I think 🙂

  14. I have two Voigtlander lenses, 40mm f2 (with focal reducer,) and 21mm f3.5, that I use with an A6500. I find them superb in every way. I’ll keep my eyes open for a 15mm f4.5. For AF, I’m enjoying the Sigma DN 19mm, 30mm and 60mm. Thanks for article!

  15. I looked at the Ricoh GR but ended up going for the the Fujifilm X70 – the lightest X-series camera with an APS-C sized sensor. It is a fraction bigger than the Ricoh because it has an articulating screen that enables extra-stealthy shooting (and – if you like – even selfies).

    The X70 offers different ways to focus, including tapping on the screen, which in my mind also made it better than the Ricoh.

  16. Hello ppl,
    I love street photography and I’m looking for a small camera that I can keep it in my suit pocket, so I can use it when I’m on my way to work. It must be a slim camera, otherwise I can take it with me all the time. Any ideas? Thankx

  17. Thanks for an amazing article. You have peaked my interest on so many levels but the one I’m really rattling around in my head is the idea of shooting on smaller sensors. This goes so counter to everything written and yet you make so much sense. I love gritty high contrast black and white and today’s modern cameras try their best to remove all the grit that makes those photos so great. I love the work of the great Japanese street shooters and even the 35mm black and white work of celebrity shooter and director Anton Corbin and unless I reinvest in film, I can get that anywhere. I saw a Ricoh GRD iv on ebay for a meager $200 that I’m thinking of purchasing. Why not!?

    I dig your contrarian thinking!!

    1. Thanks man! The job of most modern cameras is to give you the straightest image as possible. Great for studio, landscapes and a lot of other genres, but for me and a bunch of others it’s all about the grit. 200 is a steal, these things aren’t made anymore and are going up in price!

  18. I got excited to know that i needn’t go for the almighty Sony a7riii and could spend less on a camera that was specifically designed for street photography.
    That was until I found out that it was a 35mm equivalent. Still looking for a portable, quality, 28mm equivalent, telatively afforadle (no Leica Q) alternative…

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