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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 (Top 8 Picks)

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...
  • 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.

  • Moisture and dust sealed metal body and mount, 1-Year Limited Warranty
  • Ultra ED (UED) chromatic aberration reduction glass
  • 4 Aspherical lens elements
  • POWER O.I.S with near silent drive optimized for video and still capture
  • Premium extra-low refractive index Nano Surface Coating (NSC).

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 7 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.


  • Rajib is an avid travel photographer and an overall shutterbug. He loves to test and review new photography gear. He has been writing about cameras and lenses for over 10 years now. You can consider him as your "master guide" here at PhotoWorkout.

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