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It feels really good to live in a period where photography has become fully democratized – virtually everybody has a decent camera in their pocket in the form of a smartphone, and a lot of the elitism and exclusionary attitudes that “traditional” photographers used to have has gone away. Instead, both pro and hobbyist photographers have embraced newer forms of the art that allow people to express themselves creatively without fear of judgment. One of the styles of photography that has really benefited from this democratization is street photography.
Before the advent of the smartphone and Instagram, street photography was an arduous task – setting up a heavy camera, waiting for the right light and so forth in the middle of a busy urban area made true street photography a difficult proposition for anyone who wasn’t a professional. Nowadays, thanks to smartphones, pretty much anybody can participate – which in turn means that more people are interested in street photography than ever before.
However, if you want to take your street photography to the next level, you might want to think about owning a proper camera (as opposed to just using your smartphone). Photography with a smartphone is fundamentally different from using a camera, and there will always be an upper limit on the kind of shots you can get using just a smartphone.
Picking the right camera is a difficult but crucial decision that every aspiring photographer has to make, regardless of whether you’re a hobbyist or a pro. The truth is, not every camera is the right fit for street photography. There are a few specs that your camera should have if you really want to get the most of it in a dynamic, urban environment. We put together this list of the 8 best cameras for street photography to help you choose a camera that will fit your specific needs and allow you to capture the dynamism and excitement of urban life to its fullest.
The 8 Best Cameras for Street Photography
The Fuji X100F is a powerful addition to Fuji’s X100 series. This camera comes with a fixed lens and offers photographers the adaptability of expressing endless creativity. With its incredibly fast shutter speed and autofocus, as well as its excellence in handling low-light conditions thanks to the auto ISO settings, the Fuji X100F is without a doubt one of the best cameras out there for street photography. Its super light weight as well, which means you can be nimble and adaptable to get the shots you want when you’re roaming the urban landscape.
Why we love the Fuji X100F
- It is super light (you can walk with it around your neck all day and you wouldn’t feel a thing
- It has an insanely fast shutter speed – you can shoot at up to 1/32000 of a second
- It’s auto ISO settings makes it very durable when shooting in low light. It allows you to shoot comfortably in evenings and nights
- The image quality of the Fuji X100F is extremely good
Downsides of the Fuji X100F
- It doesn’t have a flip screen. Street photography sometimes requires that shots are taken from different viewpoints or angles; a flip screen would definitely come in handy in such situations
- Doesn’t exactly have long battery life. To be safe, get extra batteries
Ricoh GR II
Ricoh’s GR II camera is an amazing compact camera that comes with a fixed lens. This camera is super easy to use and relatively affordable – as such, it’s a good choice for someone just getting into street photography. The sensor is fantastic on the GR II, the autofocus works incredibly quickly, and the continuous shooting feature allows you to capture great images of objects in motion.
Why pick the Ricoh GR II
- Don’t mind using a camera with a fixed lens.
- Want a light camera that you can be carried about easily.
- Want a camera with an amazing sensor and good image quality.
- Relatively affordable and great value for what it gives you
- The battery life isn’t bad at all; with a fully charged battery, you can take up to 350 – 400 shots.
- Image quality is pretty good – produces decent JPEGs.
- Very fast autofocus and with a low shutter lag.
Downsides of the Ricoh II
- Doesn’t have an integrated viewfinder
- Really poor video quality
- No image stabilization
- Autofocus not as good in low light
The Leica Q2 is an amazing compact camera with a shocking 47.3-megapixel sensor. This camera comes with a fixed lens that is optically stabilized. With an incredible OLED viewfinder that has a resolution of 3.68 megapixels, this camera allows users to have an excellent view and a live preview of subjects nonstop. The Leica Q2 has a beautiful build and is comfortable to use and shoot with, and the autofocus is excellent all around. The Q2 is basically a fantastic all-around camera, with the only drawback being its high price tag.
Why pick the Leica Q2?
- The Leica Q2 has a really nice build that makes it good to hold and comfortable to use
- It has nice autofocus that isn’t just fast but accurate
- This camera is weatherproof; it is built to withstand dust and water spray
- Good image quality
- Amazing sensor with a superb dynamic range
- Possesses a responsive touch screen that gives access to touch controls
- Video quality is really good; can shoot in 4k at 24 or 30 fps
Downsides of the Leica Q2
- Poor autofocus in low light
- Fixed LCD panel
Sony Alpha 7 III
Sony’s Alpha 7 III camera is an amazing mirrorless camera that gives a lot of freedom, power and flexibility to its users. It has a sleek and compact body, but doesn’t sacrifice quality. The Alpha 7 III allows you to switch lenses (despite its small size), has an excellent viewfinder and 5 axis stabilization. The Alpha 7 III also handles well and has pretty good battery life.
Why is the Sony Alpha 7 III a good fit?
- Pretty light and compact, and you still get to switch between lenses.
- It has an amazing electronic viewfinder that allows you to preview images.
- Incredible 5-axis stabilization.
- Nice handling (it feels very comfortable to hold).
- Fast, reliable and excellent autofocus.
- Battery life is pretty decent
Drawbacks of the Sony Alpha 7 III
- Very annoying shutter lag.
- Poor autofocus in low light.
- Lenses are a little bit expensive. Not recommended if you are on a low budget
- Only one high-speed SD card slot.
Canon Powershot G1 X Mark III
Canon’s Powershot G1 X Mark III is an interesting compact camera that brings to the table features that are typically found in cameras with changeable lenses. This high-end camera comes with a 24MP CMOS sensor and a 24 – 72mm zoom lens. What makes the Powershot G1 X Mark III special is the fact that it has a DSLR-sized sensor – making it an ideal companion for street photographers who don’t mind it’s slightly larger size.
You should get the Canon Powershot G1 X Mark III if you love to have;
- A DSLR-sized sensor within a compact body.
- Flip screen with touch controls.
- Remote control using your smartphone.
- Weatherproof sealing
- Good image stabilization
- Inbuilt ND filter
Downsides of the Canon Powershot G1 X Mark III
- Relatively weak battery life,
- Slow lens. Lens has limitations in terms of creativity.
- Lacks a microphone port; not exactly built for video production,
- Poor zoom ability.
Nikon D750 is a DSLR camera that works both in the context of street photography and in the context that DSLRs are traditionally used (more “formal” photography). Although DSLRs aren’t the preference of most street photographers, the Nikon D750 is an exception. The Nikon D750 stands out because it’s relatively light compared to other DSLRs, making it a good compromise camera for those who want a full featured DSLR but don’t want the burden of lugging a heavier camera everywhere.
Why pick the Nikon D750?
- Built-in optical viewfinder
- Tilting screen (quite useful for shooting in various angles and positions)
- Large sensor (makes it pretty handy in low light conditions)
- Live view option if you don’t feel like using the viewfinder
- Weatherproofed body
- You have the option of changing the lens as desired
- Very good battery life
- Smartphone remote control
- Very fast shutter speed – 6.5fps for burst mode.
Cons of the Nikon D750
- Heavy body; might not be easy to carry around all day.
- Due to its size, it draws a lot of attention when used on the street.
- No image stabilization.
Sony RX100 VII
This camera is quite small and very light. If you are searching for a camera that can make you feel like you’re not carrying around anything, or a camera that’s unintrusive to others when you’re shooting, then Sony’s RX100 VII is a good choice for you. This camera is packed with a number of nifty features and has the ability to deliver top notch images. With super-fast autofocus and a 24 – 200mm zoom lens, the Sony RX100 VII is a really good camera for street photography.
Pros of the Sony RX100 VII
- High-speed shooting
- Fast and reliable autofocus
- Can fit comfortably into pockets
- An incredible zoom range for such a compact camera
- Tilting screen with touch controls
- Has a built-in electronic viewfinder
- Supports 4k video shooting
Cons of the Sony RX100 VII
- No shoe for external flash
- Poor battery life
- Touch controls are limited
- It can be very slippery in to hold
- Quite expensive when compared to cameras in the same class.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 a is an advanced point-and-shoot camera that offers interesting manual controls despite its fixed lens. This sleek compact camera comes with a 24mm Leica lens that is super-fast. With a large image sensor, quick autofocus and a wide aperture range, the Lumix LX100 solidifies itself as a pretty good choice when it comes to the best cameras for street photography.
Why get the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100?
- Very fast autofocus
- Really good ISO performance
- A sharp and reliable electronic viewfinder
- Easy to use with a nice layout of controls
- Wide aperture range and a large image sensor
Drawbacks of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100
- Quite expensive
- Can feel a little bulky when held
- No built-in flash
- Fixed LCD screen
What kind of features should the best camera for street photography have?
- Lightweight – for comfortability reasons, an ideal camera for street photography has to be light.
- Compact size – A compact camera will not draw undue attention, which will allow you to get more candid shots (and avoid bothering others)
- Fast shutter speed and autofocus – These are neccesary if you want to be able to capture moving subjects
- A large sensor with high ISO performance – This feature will allow you to shoot well even in low light conditions, which can happen in city streets and urban environments.
- Image stabilization – This will help you avoid blurry pictures if you’re camera is moving while you’re trying to get a shot of something specific.
Bottom Line; while it is true that high-end cameras can help you produce high quality images, you don’t need a top of the line camera (and the associated gear) to practice street photography. In the vast majority of cases, a skilled photographer armed with a decent compact camera will end up with better photographs than an amateur with the highest end DSLR.