The Best Street Photography Lenses

Today, we’re looking at the best street photography lens for Nikon, Canon DSLRs as well as Sony mirrorless systems.

Let’s get straight to the good stuff. Sticking to our tradition, here’s our shortlist the best street photography lenses.

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Detailed Comparisons of the Best Street Photography Lenses for Canon

1. Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

Agreed, the Canon 17-40mm is an unusual choice for shooting street photography. When most photographers prefer a short fixed focal length for pursuing images out on the street, we are promoting a wide zoom.

Well, not exactly promoting. But more like recommending.

Regardless, the EF 17-40mm f/4L USM has some neat features. So, please bear with me while I sing aloud its praise.

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Ultra Wide Angle Zoom Lens for SLR Cameras
The Canon 17-40mm is a zoom lens which might help if you struggle with getting close to people.

The 17-40mm gives you a zoom range. Although we promote zooming with our feet, sometimes the zoom ring does come in handy.

For example, when you are prevented from getting too close. Or it is physically dangerous to do so. Shooting with a zoom offers you the option to capture a much larger slice of the scene, as well.

The lens features a ring-type USM auto-focusing motor. In fact, most photographers prefer USM auto-focusing because it’s faster than the movie-oriented STM auto-focusing technology.

Plus, you get full-time manual focusing override. Not to mention this is a weather-sealed lens.

Yes, the EF 17-40mm f/4L USM is larger than something like the 50mm f/1.8 STM or the EF 35mm f/2 IS USM. That said the barrel length does not change during auto-focusing or during zooming.

As a street photographer, the slightly larger bulk isn’t feasible at first glance. But the zoom range is certainly handy. Especially when it comes in a non-extruding body like this. So we don’t want to rule it out.

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Ultra Wide Angle Zoom Lens for SLR Cameras
  • 17 40 millimeter ultra wide angle zoom lens with f/4 maximum aperture for Canon SLR Cameras. Diagonal angle of view 104°...
  • 3 aspherical lens elements and super UD glass element create superior optics in all conditions, Closest focusing distance:...
  • Powerful ring type ultrasonic monitor (USM) produces fast and silent autofocusing, Focuses as close as 11 inches, supports...
  • Suitable for Wedding/Nature Photography, Weather resistant construction, Water and Dust Resistant, measures 3.3 inches in...
  • Purchase this product between May 1, 2016 and July 30, 2016 and get 13 months of free damage protection from Canon. The...

RELATED POST: What’s Passive Focusing?

2. Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art (Canon)

Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art DG HSM Lens for Canon, Black, 3.7 x 3.03 x 3.03 (340101)
The Sigma 35mm Art Lens is our top choice. It’s an impressive piece of kit with high optical standards.

Again a weird choice… The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art isn’t a demure piece of optical technology.


Because it’s longer and definitely bulkier than an average 35mm lens. Heck, for that matter it’s bulkier than a 50mm lens. Thus, it’s neither discreet nor easy to wield for long periods of time.

Regardless, you have one of the best pieces of optical technology that you could hope for.

The 35mm is more practical than the 50mm. Yes, the 50mm is probably more popular. Yes, the 50mm is closer to the human eye in terms of angle of view. But, the 35mm captures a wider slice of the street.

Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art DG HSM Lens for Canon, Black, 3.7 x 3.03 x 3.03 (340101)
The 35mm lens means you might have to go a bit out of your comfort zone in terms of closeness but you’ll get great results!

This lens features a number of positives. It has one FLD unit, 4 SLD elements, 2 aspherical elements, plus super multi-layer coating.

Auto-focusing is powered by Sigma’s Hypersonic AF motor with manual focusing override.

This is our preferred choice as the best street photography lens for Canon.

Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art DG HSM Lens for Canon, Black, 3.7 x 3.03 x 3.03 (340101)
  • High speed with large aperture
  • HSM (Hypersonic motor) and inner focusing system
  • Accessories include: Lens Hood (LH730-03), carrying case
  • 35 MM Focal length, Lens not zoomable
  • 67mm filters

3. Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Sigma 50mm F1.4 Art DG HSM Lens for Canon
The longer focal length, 50mm Art lens is a close competitor to the 35mm.

We recently listed the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art on another discussion about the best 50mm for Canon. We listed it as the best option.

Alas, the lens makes it to this list as well as one of the best street photography lenses for Canon full-frame systems.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 Art DG HSM Lens for Canon
  • 50mm focal length
  • 75mm equivalent focal length on APS-C cameras, 80mm equivalent focal length on Canon APS-C cameras
  • F1.4 maximum aperture; F16 minimum
  • Ring-type ultrasonic-type AF motor with full-time manual focusing
  • 77mm filters.Angle of View (35mm):46.8°

4. Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM

Canon Cameras US 6310B002 EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Lens - Fixed Black
This 40mm Canon lens is designed to be super discreet, perfect for street photography.

The EF 40mm f/2.8 STM gets a position on this list because it has the smallest profile of all the Canon EF mount primes.

If you’re using a full-frame like the 6D Mark II this lens will be dwarfed by the sheer presence of the camera, which is a good thing.

It helps you stay discreet!

One thing to note, on APS-C systems the effective focal length will become 64mm.

The one thing that is probably not to my liking and what makes the 40mm lose out to the other lenses on this list is the USM motor. It is too slow for my liking.

So, it’s a kind of balance between discreetness and focus speed. But nevertheless, it’s a great choice for beginner street photographers. Especially photographers who are looking for a budget option to start with.

Canon Cameras US 6310B002 EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Lens - Fixed Black
  • 40mm focal length, Lens not zoom able, 64mm equivalent focal length on Canon APS-C Cameras
  • Minimum focus distance at 0.30m/11.81 inch, F2.8 maximum aperture, F22 minimum
  • Stepper type AF motor with full time manual focusing
  • 52mm Filters, Lens Construction: 15 Elements in 12 Groups
  • Focal Length and Maximum Aperture: 100mm 1:2.8

5. Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM Art for Canon

Sigma 30mm F1.4 Art DC HSM Lens for Canon
The third Art lens in this list, the 30mm is shorter than the other lenses but offers an impressively fast, wide aperture.

The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM is another interesting choice for street photography. It is shorter than all the other lenses that we have discussed here (except for the 17-40mm f/4L). But the fast wide aperture of f/1.4 is irresistible. Especially, because the lens has a focal length that is still in the ‘zone’ and is good enough for street photography.

The lens is designed for Canon’s smaller crop sensor cameras. The effective aperture will be 48mm. So, if you are using a cropped camera like the 7D Mark II or any of the Rebel series cameras you may want to take a look at this lens. This lens gives you an effective focal length closest to the 50mm standard prime.

Sigma 30mm F1.4 Art DC HSM Lens for Canon
Image from Amazon

Auto-focusing is powered by Sigma’s HSM (Hypersonic Motor) technology. The lens has full-time manual focusing override as well.

The lens is reasonably well built.

It comes with thermally stable components (TSC). This promises that the lens will remain stable over wide temperature fluctuations. 🔥❄🤷‍♂️

The 30mm’s effective focal length is 48mm, so you don’t have to get too close to fill the frame. And the fast f/1.4 aperture promises a lot of light capture.

Sigma 30mm F1.4 Art DC HSM Lens for Canon
  • Offering the bright F1.4 aperture and an angle of view extremely close to that of human vision
  • Macro Focus Range : 0.30 m, Focal Length : 30 mm
  • Placed under the Art category, this large-aperture standard lens with an angle of view equivalent to 45mm on a 35mm camera
  • A rear focus system prevents focus-dependent variation in aberration, making high-level image quality possible throughout the...
  • Filter Size 62mm Maximum Magnifications 1:6.8

RELATED POST: Best Canon Full Frame Camera – Our Top 3 Picks

6. Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras - Fixed
The Canon 50mm is an expensive option compared to some of the other lenses on the market. However, it might give you a much-needed boost if you’re a less experienced photographer.

Finally, we add the Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM to round out this list.

The f/1.2 is expensive. More expensive than the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art we discussed above, remember?

An accomplished photographer could shoot similar images with either of the lenses. Even though the Canon is a good 1/3 stop faster than the Sigma. The ‘slower’ aperture of the Sigma will not be a handicap. Especially for street photography.

But to be honest, they both have their utilities.

Regardless, the 50mm f/1.2L deserves a special mention because of the sheer optical quality of the lens. The f/1.2 captures more light than even the fast f/1.4 Sigma 35mm.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras - Fixed
The optical quality of this lens is definitely notable.

The lens features one aspherical element. It also comes with Canon’s Super Spectra Coating technology for suppressing flaring and ghosting. This is something that affects most wide aperture lenses.

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Plus, the 50mm is a weather-sealed lens. Perfectly capable of withstanding the whims of mother nature.

Finally, USM AF motor technology ensures fast and accurate auto-focusing performance. Full-time manual focusing override has also been provided. Even if this is not the best street photography lens for Canon, it’s one that deserves a notable mention.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras - Fixed
  • Weather-resistant standard lens
  • Focal Length & Maximum Aperture-50mm F/1.2, Closest Focusing Distance - 1.48 ft. / 0.45m
  • AF with full-time manual focus, 72mm filter size
  • Ultrasonic Motor (USM), Lens not zoomable
  • Purchase this product between May 1, 2016 and July 30, 2016 and get 13 months of free damage protection from Canon. The...

Detailed Comparisons of the Best Street Photography Lenses for Nikon

7. Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art (for Nikon)

Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art DG HSM Lens for Nikon, Black, 3.7 x 3.03 x 3.03 (340306)
The Sigma Art series 35mm lens makes it as a solid choice for the Nikon body too.

Surprise, surprise!

We pick the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art for the Nikon mount as well. We are very impressed with this lens. It’s a great pick for Nikon shooters as well.

Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art DG HSM Lens for Nikon, Black, 3.7 x 3.03 x 3.03 (340306)
  • 35mm focal length, 52.5mm equivalent focal length on APS-C cameras, 56mm equivalent focal length on Canon APS-C cameras
  • F1.4 maximum aperture; F16 minimum, This model is compatible with all current Nikon cameras (both DX and FX)
  • Ring-type ultrasonic-type AF motor with full-time manual focusing
  • 67mm filters,0.30m/11.81" minimum focus. Maximum Magnifications-1:5.2. Angle of View-63.4º
  • Available in Canon EF, Nikon F (FX), Pentax KAF3, Sony Alpha, Sigma SA mounts. Please refer the User Manual which is in the...

8. Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D

The Nikon 50mm is the least expensive street photography lens on our list today.

This one autofocuses on most Nikon DSLRs, but be sure to check the speciics of your camera first. But, basically, anything in the D7100 series and above and the lens autofocuses fine.

Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D Lens for Nikon DSLR Cameras
A lightweight, low-cost option, the Nikon 50mm could be a good option if you’re on a tight budget.

The lens is light, reasonably quick, and produces sharp images in almost any lighting conditions. There’s no manual focusing override though and that’s what makes this lens an acquired taste for some photographers.

It’s surely the best street photography lens for Nikon systems if you’re on a budget–specifically for full-frame systems.

But the 50mm f/1.8D is very useful for street photography.

Although, when used on a crop sensor camera, the focal length to an effective 75mm. Which, needless to say, produces much tighter compositions. Not exactly suitable for shooting street photography.

Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D Lens for Nikon DSLR Cameras
  • Autofocus system is compatible with select Nikon DSLRs that support D-type lenses and have an autofocus motor.
  • NOTE: THIS LENS WILL NOT AUTOFOCUS with D3000, D3100, D3200, D3300, D3400, D3500, D5000, D5100, D5200, D5300, D5500, D5600,...
  • Focal Length : 50 mm (FX), 75mm (DX)
  • Great for travel and for shooting full-length portraits in available light

9. Nikkor 16-35mm AF-S f/4G ED VR

The Nikon 16-35mm is a great street photography lens at a budget price.

Slightly wider at 16-35mm, the lens is primarily designed as a low-cost alternative to the 14-24mm the 14-24mm.

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
The 16-35mm is a zoom lens option at a relatvely low cost.

Despite labeled as a ‘cheaper’ alternative to the 14-24mm, there’s nothing cheap in the construction of the lens. It has a total of three aspherical elements and two ED elements.

Additionally, the lens has a nano-crystal coating to prevent flares and ghosting from affecting the performance of the lens.

The lens is well built too.

The only thing that we don’t like is the bulk. This is not a demure lens by any stretch of the imagination.

Plus, despite the fixed aperture range across the focal length, the maximum it can open up to is f/4. It struggles in low lighting conditions.

Thus, it loses out in the race for the title of the best street photography lens for Nikon.

Nevertheless, it is a wonderful choice for someone looking for a versatile wide-angle zoom lens.

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
  • Ideal for wide-angle and "normal" shots
  • Maximum aperture: f/4 ; Offers two focus modes, M/A (autofocus with manual override) and M (manual)
  • Lens construction: 17 elements in 12 groups
  • Image stabilization, vibration reduction (VR II) up to 4 stops
  • Nikon F mount for FX and DX DSLRs

10. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G

If you just need one lens to shoot street photography with your full-frame Nikon DSLR, then the Nikon 35mm is that lens.

This is our pick as the best street photography lens for Nikon.

Sure, it’s not cheap. At nearly $1700 this is insanely more expensive than the other 35mm f/1.4 that Nikon sells. However, Nikon delivers the goods.

The f/1.4 captures a lot more light compared to the ‘slower’ f/1.8. 2/3 stops more precisely.

Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G Fixed Focal Length Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
For full-frame bodies, this rather costly 35mm lens is a top choice.

There is a caveat though.

In case you are using one of the crop sensor Nikon cameras, this lens does not make sense. Performance on a crop sensor with a wide-open aperture is almost the same as the cheaper f/1.8 lens.

In other words, crop-sensor shooters should opt the less expensive option.

Full frame shooters, however, well, you can’t go wrong with the image quality on this lens.

The lens is well built and well made. It contains one aspherical element. Plus, it also has a nano-crystal coating to prevent flares and ghosting. Auto-focusing on the lens is powered by Nikon’s silent wave technology.

Along with that you also get full-time manual focusing override.

Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G Fixed Focal Length Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
  • FX-format, ultra-fast classic wide-angle lens
  • Focal Length: 35 mm, Minimum Focus Distance - 1.0 ft
  • Nano Crystal Coat, Optimized for edge to edge sharpness on both FX and DX-format D-SLRs
  • Aspherical Lens Element. Rear Focus (RF)
  • Maximum angle of view (DX-format): 44°, Maximum angle of view (FX-format): 63°

11. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G

We bring a 50mm G lens into the equation.

The lens has accurate autofocusing performance on cameras which has a built-in AF motor.

Plus, the lens has a manual aperture ring. That is very useful for manual film cameras as well as for shooting videos.

This iteration of the Nikon’s Nifty Fifty is improved with the addition of full-time manual focusing. That is exactly why we include this lens on this list.

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
A newer take on the previously mentioned Nikon 50mm, this lens offers full-time autofocusing along with a faster aperture and a focus override option.

With about 1/3 stop faster maximum aperture, the lens is able to capture more light than the f/1.8 version we had discussed above.

Plus, this lens has full-time manual focusing override. Something that the D lens lacked. But this one is more than double the price of the D version.

The other improvement includes superior auto-focusing technology. The lens also has Nikon’s Super Integrated Coating.

Plus there are more diaphragm blades than the older version, which leads to a more round bokeh.

RELATED POST: 35mm vs 50mm – Which Is the Best Prime to Buy?

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
  • F1.4 maximum aperture; F16 minimum
  • Ultrasonic-type AF motor with full-time manual focusing, 58mm filters
  • Minimum focus Distance : 0.45m/17.72 Inches. Lens Hood: HB-47
  • Nikon F mount for FX and DX DSLRs. Unparalleled autofocus performance.Mount Type: Nikon F-Bayonet
  • Lens not zoomable

Best Mirrorless Lenses for Street Photography

We recently listed the best street photography cameras on our website. Some of these are excellent mirrorless systems. Now, when it comes to street photography mirrorless systems have a clear advantage.

To start off, mirrorless systems are less bulky and therefore less likely to attract attention when you click a picture.

Plus, the electronic shutter allows near-silent shooting. This is important when shooting in conservative or even gray neighborhoods. This article takes that other discussion forward and looks to narrow down on the lenses that will work best with your mirrorless system.

Related Post: Best Street Photography Cameras

Sony Options

Sony SEL35F18 35mm f/1.8 Prime Fixed Lens
  • Compact, lightweight fixed F1.8 lens.Angle of View (APS C) 44 °
  • Minimum Focus Distance : 0.99 ft (0.3 m), Maximum Magnification ratio : 0.15x, Focal Length : 1.38 in
  • New optical design for excellent peripheral sharpness and contrast, Built in image stabilization
  • Silent and smooth high speed focusing ideal for shooting movies. Superb focusing operation
  • Lens group or elements is 6/8. If auto focus cant lock on or focuses on the wrong subject, step in and take total control...

The a6000 that we recommended is an E-mount APS-C camera. Specially made e-mount lenses such as the Sony E 35mm f/1.8 OSS and the Sony E 50mm f/1.8 are excellent lenses to use with this camera for shooting street photos.

Both these lenses have OSS (Sony’s acronym for image stabilization) and both have a fast constant aperture of f/1.8. Many times when shooting in dark and damp alleys and in less than perfect lighting conditions, you will badly feel the need for a fast aperture auto-focusing lens. Both these lenses are excellent in that respect.

Sony - E 50mm F1.8 OSS Portrait Lens (SEL50F18/B), Black
  • Built-in Optical SteadyShot image stabilization and 7-blade circular aperture for beautiful defocus effects
  • Minimum Focus Distance : 1.28 ft (0.39 m), Maximum Magnification ratio : 0.16x, Focal-Length : 50 mm and filter diameter (mm)...
  • Large F1.8 maximum aperture enables beautiful defocusing effects. Angle of View (APS-C) : 32°
  • "Compact, lightweight mid-range telephoto prime with elegant aluminum alloy exterior.Diaphragm Blades 7, Rounded"
  • In-the-box: Hood (ALC-SH116), Lens front cap, Lens rear cap

But the one lens that I do recommend, however, is the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM lens.

Sony - FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Wide-Angle Zoom Lens (SEL1635GM), Black
  • Designed to achieve 50 Line pairs/mm resolving power
  • Two XA (extreme aspherical) elements w/ high surface precision. Minimum focus distance - 0.28 m (0.92 ft). Maximum...
  • Constant F2.8 max aperture maintains exposure and Depth of field. Hood Type : Petal shape, bayonet type; APERTURE BLADES: 11
  • Uncompromising G Master design for smooth bokeh and high resolution. Angle of View (35 mm): 107°–63°
  • In-the-box: hood, lens front cap, lens rear cap, case, Mount: Sony E-mount

This lens covers the essential focal length that you need for shooting great street photos.

Although this lens does more than just shoot great street photos, I am going to concentrate only on its street photography abilities.

The maximum constant aperture of the lens is f/2.8. Decent but not as fast as the primes I talked about in the previous paragraph. Still good enough for most situations unless you are shooting at EV 1 or EV 2 kind of ambient light, in which case even an f/1.8 lens will fail and you will need to crank the ISO number to capture something useful.

One thing to note is that this design is optimized for full-frame cameras. That means on the a6000 (and the later a6300) the lens will give a slightly longer (1.5x crop factor) effective focal length.

However, this lens compensates for the lack of speed with what it has is a fantastic focal length range perfect for wide angle photography. Three aspherical and two XA elements make up the lens’ special elements along with Nano AR coating and fluorine coating that ensures little impact from ghosting and flares when shooting wide open. The fluorine coating helps prevent dust and smudges from sticking on to the front element of the lens.

Great build quality, with excellent sealing from the elements of nature, ergonomically well-built with rubberized control rings makes this a great outdoor lens.

Options in Micro Four-Thirds System

The next camera (and lens) system that we are going to talk about is the micro four-thirds system Olympus Pen E-PL8. The micro four-thirds system is dominated by Panasonic and Olympus. Their lenses are inter-usable. However, as I had noted in a previous article, these two manufacturers have different approaches to image stabilization.

Olympus uses a sensor-shift type image stabilization system, which is why their lenses don’t have image stabilization built-in. Panasonic, on the other hand uses a lens based image stabilization system. So, when using a Panasonic image stabilized lens on an Olympus MFT camera, you will need to switch off image stabilization on either the lens or the camera. Otherwise, the system won’t work properly.

The first lens that I would like to write about is the proprietary Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens.

Olympus M Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro Interchangeable Lens - International Version (No Warranty)
  • This version is originally intended for sale outside the US and may contain adapters, manuals, and warranties not compatible...
  • Box Contents: Lens Hood (LH-66), Lens Case (LSC-0918), Lens Cap(LC-62D), Rear Lens Cap(LR-2)
  • Full Retail Packaging
  • Dustproof, Splash proof, and Freeze proof construction
  • Compatible with Olympus and Panasonic m4/3 cameras

The 12-40mm f/2.8, just like the 16-35mm Sony lens I talked about previously, is a great walk around lens for shooting everyday photography including street photos.

The effective focal length of the lens becomes 24 – 80mm on the Olympus E-PL8. Thanks to the crop factor of 2x. The maximum aperture of the lens is f/2.8. Good enough for shooting in most lighting situations except when the ambient light is too less.

The construction of the lens includes 1 aspherical ED element and 2 aspherical elements. It also includes one DSA, two ED, one HD and two HR lens elements for suppressing chromatic and other aberrations. It also assists in producing sharper images with more contrast and increased clarity.

In addition to this, the lens incorporates Olympus’ proprietary ZERO lens coating technology. This technology is designed to tackle situations of harsh lighting where image contrast takes a beating. This technology ensures better contrast.

The next lens I would like to talk about is the Panasonic Lumix GX Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 II ASPH. POWER O.I.S. lens.

Please note this is an image stabilized lens. That means you need to turn image stabilization off when using it with Olympus cameras.

On Panasonic systems, the lens works just fine. The crop factor of 2x makes this lens the equivalent of a 24 – 70mm lens mounted on a 35mm format camera. Add to that the f/2.8 wide open aperture and you have yourself a fine all-purpose lens.

The lens construction includes four aspherical elements, one UED element and one UHR element. This takes care of aberrations and distortions. Additionally, nano surface coating ensures that ghosting and flares are minimized to ensure a better contrast and yield sharper results.

The lens has excellent build quality as well. It is splash proof and dustproof, meaning you can take it anywhere no matter the weather conditions.

Nikon 1 Nikkor Mount Lenses

The next camera system that I would like to talk about is the Nikon 1 J5. This is Nikon’s mirrorless system using a special Nikon 1 mount.

The 1 series cameras use a small 13.2 x 8.8mm sensor and that gives the system a cop factor of 2.7x.

The first lens that I am going to write about is the Nikon 1 Nikkor 6.7 – 13mm f/3.5 – 5.6 VR. When mounted on the J5 the effective focal length becomes 18 – 35mm (35mm equivalent). That makes it ideal for street photography because of the ultra-wide angle to wide-angle perspective that you would get.

Nikon 1 NIKKOR 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 VR (Black)
  • HB-N105 Lens Hood
  • LC-N52 Front Lens Cap
  • LF-N1000 Rear Lens Cap

The maximum aperture range of the camera is f/3.5 to f/5.6. Not the fastest that you could get your hands on but still not utterly bad. But the J5 comes with a BSI sensor architecture, which means you can push the ISO and still expect a cleaner image with the 1 Nikkor 6.7 – 13mm f/3.5 – 5.6 VR. Plus, the integrated VR technology ensures that you can shoot at up to 3 stops slower while handholding the camera.

The other lens that I am going to discuss is the Nikon 1 Nikkor 11-27.50 f/3.5 – 5.6. This lens gives an effective focal length range of 30 – 74mm on a 35mm format. The focal length is just right for both street shots and portrait shots (using the long end).

Nikon 1 NIKKOR 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 (Black)
  • 11-27.5mm focal length
  • 29.7-74.25mm equivalent focal length on CX cameras
  • 40.5mm filters
  • 0.30m/11.81" minimum focus
  • Nikon 1 mount for 1 series interchangeable lens cameras

The maximum aperture range of the lens is the same as the Nikkor 6.7 – 13mm that we discussed above – f/3.5 – 5.6. The only major issue with this lens is the lack of VR. That means you will be forced to use a much faster shutter speed than what you intend to in some situations. For low light situations, you will need to use a tripod to get a steady sharp image or risk using a higher ISO number to compensate.

Despite the issues, the 1 Nikkor 11-27.50 is a good option at a price that is almost throwaway. It gives good image quality, comes with internal focusing technology, a seven-blade rounded aperture diaphragm and decent build quality.

Two more lenses I would like to talk about are the Nikon 1 Nikkor 10mm f/2.8 and the Nikon 1 Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8. Both these lenses have a critical advantage and that advantage being their demure form figure.

Nikon 1 NIKKOR 10mm f/2.8 (White)
  • An elegant and thin wide-angle lens with super portability, perfect for daily casual snapshot and spectacular landscape
  • Two aspherical lens elements. Maximum angle of view: 77°
  • Compatible with Nikon 1 J, V and S series.
  • Filter-attachment size - 40.5mm

First the 10mm f/2.8. The fixed focal length of the lens is 10mm. Which when compared to the 35mm format becomes the equivalent of a 27mm lens. That’s still very wide and is thus ideal for street photos. The 10mm f/2.8 has no VR. But it has a fast wide aperture of f/2.8. It weighs just 77 grams!

You can shoot with it for hours at a stretch and never feel the lactic acid building up in your forearms. The construction of this prime lens is very simple. It has a total of 6 elements arranged in 5 groups. The lens comes with auto-focusing and 7 rounded blades form the aperture diaphragm.

The 10mm qualifies to be called a pancake lens. It is just 22mm in width making it one of the flattest lenses in the business. As a street photographer lenses such as these are a boon. They hardly attract any attention. Though I am not overly pumped at the prospect of using the white version of the 10mm f/2.8 lens. It attracts attention when working on the streets.

Nikon 1 NIKKOR 18.5mm f/1.8 (White)
  • The fastest lens in the 1 NIKKOR lineup with ultra-fast f/1.8 maximum aperture
  • Enhanced low-light performance shoots clear, sharp photos and videos even in fading light
  • Depth of field control keeps the subject in focus while softly blurring the background
  • 18.5mm (50mm equivalent on 35mm format) focal length mimics what we see with our eyes. Get as close as 8.4 inches from your...
  • Compatible Format(s): CX

The Nikon 1 Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8 is a fantastic lens with a focal length range that becomes the equivalent of a 50mm lens mounted on a full-frame system camera. The 18.5mm is thus a standard prime for the 1 mount camera system. The highlight of the lens is the fast wide aperture of f/1.8. This enables you to shoot in most lighting conditions and produce clean images. A set of seven rounded aperture blades form the aperture diaphragm.

The construction of the lens consists of 8 elements arranged in 6 groups. The lens has auto-focusing (rear focusing) motor and a manual focusing ring mounted at the extreme front edge of the barrel to do manual corrections.

Both the 10mm and the 18.5mm don’t have VR. Meaning, you would have to be careful when shooting in low light and that will mean using a shutter speed that is faster than the inverse of the focal length.

Street Photography Lens Buying Guide and Tips

A Quick Word About Shooting with Lenses Wider Than 35mm

Every street photographer has a different notion about the best focal length for street photography. The 50mm and the 35mm both have their admirers.

There are photographers who shoot with a longer focal length. There are also photographers who shoot with a shorter focal length than 35mm.

However, anything shorter than a 35mm creates some problem.

Let’s say you’re shooting with a full-frame camera paired with a 35mm prime lens. You have to be within 6-7′ of the subject to fill the frame. Now, that’s still quite close for beginners who may not be comfortable with getting in close to strangers yet.

With a 28mm lens, you have to be within 4-5′ of the subject in order to fill the frame. Now, that will be a bit too close for comfort for most photographers.

That said there are photographers who shoot street photos with the 28mm. For them, it works.

So, ideally, the best choice will depend on what works for you. Try a few lenses. Once you find one works for you stick with it.

The more you use a specific lens the better you get with it. And, the more you’ll be able to visualize your images before they’re shot.

The Challenges of Street Photography

For the majority of photographers, street photography is an acquired taste.

The reason is street photography is so difficult to get started in has nothing to do with the intricacy. Nor is it to do with a need for advanced equipment.

RELATED POST: Must Know Street Photography Tips

Approaching Strangers Is Unnerving

Street photography is difficult because you’re expected to make images of absolute strangers. People you have never met before. Well, at least for the most part.

Of course, there are other subjects too. As long as they’re something you could shoot on the street. But for the main part, you make images of people.

Some photographers find the whole thing unnerving. At least in the beginning. Nowhere else than in street photography will you have to apply your presence of mind, your people skills, your camera skills, and have nerves of steel.

Up Close and Personal

A wise photographer once very simply stated:

“If your photos aren’t good enough, then you’re not close enough.”

That wise man was the legendary photographer, Robert Capa. And when it comes to street photography, I’m not sure if truer words have ever been spoken.

They perfectly sum up the need to get up close and personal to your subject. One of the basic requirements for shooting street photography.

Yes, you could theoretically shoot with a long lens. But there are two major problems with that approach. First, there will not be any personal connection between you and your subject.

Things like the interesting aspects of the person’s face: hair, tattoos, body jewelry, etc. are much easier to spot and much easier to capture when you are closer to the subject.

Don’t Miss Out on Bokeh

When you zoom in you lose the maximum aperture you can shoot in. That means every time you twist and rotate the zoom ring you are letting in less light. The reason is most zoom lenses will not have a fixed aperture. At least not the cheaper ones.

Moreover, you also lose out on the ability to blur your background.

RELATED POST: How to Capture Bokeh

When you lose background blur, everything in the shot appears flat and on one focal plane. On top of that, things look ‘two-dimensional’ rather than ‘three-dimensional’.

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