You’ve heard it a million times: “The best camera is the one you have in your hand.”
Well, kind of. The reality is different cameras suit different genres, and deciding which camera to put in your hand certainly has an impact on the pictures you can take. When it comes to street photography, you’re going to need something lightweight and compact that doesn’t compromise on quality. That’s why we picked the, with its flawless images and old-school ergonomics. It’s a popular choice in the street photography community (along with its older sibling, the Fujifilm X-Pro2), but it’s far from the only option.
Here are the cameras from leading brands that are more than capable of helping you produce candid frames for street photography, from multi-thousand-dollar professional tools to, yes, a smartphone.
Since the creation of the X-T1, Fujifilm has become one of the market leaders as far as mirrorless systems go. The X series has now evolved to the flagship camera that is the Fujifilm X-T3. In comparison to its predecessors, the X-T3 has vastly improved autofocus (AF), perfect for the fast pace of street photography. Its 26-megapixel APS-C sensor produces excellent images with exceptional color reproduction like we haven’t seen with its competitors.
It’s important to note how the camera feels when using it. It has the durability of a workhorse that can shoot in all conditions, yet keeps the elegance of a high-end premium camera that has become the expectation of Fujifilm. The manual controls give new shooters an old-school experience, and seasoned photographers a taste of nostalgia. It’s not about looks, however; those physical controls mean you know where your ISO, shutter speed, and exposure compensation are set even before you turn the camera on, which helps you prepare for a shot at a moment’s notice.
But for all it’s old-school charm, the X-T3 still performs up to the standards of the best modern machines. If you’re photographing a moving subject, it can capture 11 frames per second (fps) with continuous autofocus (or an even more impressive 20fps when using the electronic shutter). It also has a gorgeous 3.69-million-dot OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF) that can refresh at 100 fps, giving you an accurate and detailed preview of your shots.
Perhaps most important of all, however, is that Fujifilm has put a strong emphasis on building quality prime lenses that are both high quality and compact. While other manufacturers have focused on zooms or producing ever larger lenses in the chase for ultra-high-resolution optics, Fujifilm has largely kept the X series down to earth. For street photography, it offers just about anything you could ask for, and you can expect to get quality photographs every time.
Read our Fujifilm X-T3 review.
It would be a list of street photography cameras without a Leica, the company that practically invented the genre. However, some may be surprised to see the Leica CL on this list, especially given the success of fixed-lens Lecia Q2. But honestly, if you’re a street photographer, the CL is going to be your best bet.
Unlike the Q2, the CL allows you to use interchangeable lenses which will give you more options and fit more shooting styles. Sure, you could get a Leica M series camera, but the CL’s smaller APS-C sensor means it maintains a slimmer profile and costs thousands less. Like Fujifilm, Leica is also known for its prime lenses, and there are plenty available for the CL.
Promising tack-sharp photographs, the CL boasts a 49-point contrast-detection AF system, but it’s probably not as fast as what you’ll see in other modern mirrorless cameras. For the more methodical photographer, however, this won’t be a problem.
The CL’s minimalist design makes it easy on the eye and simple to use. The electronic viewfinder is crisp and clear, giving you clear eye-level viewing. If you prefer to shoot through the LCD screen, then you can enjoy a highly responsive touchscreen experience. For image quality, the Leica CL’s 24-megapixel APS-C sensor and Maestro II image processor certainly don’t disappoint.
Ricoh GR III
The Ricoh GR III is definitely a niche camera, and somewhat of a controversial one. It lacks a lot of the traditional features we would expect from the best street photography cameras. There’s no viewfinder, it comes with a 28mm f/2.8 fixed lens, and the battery life isn’t suited to a long day of shooting. And yet it remains a popular choice with street photographers — and with good reason.
First and foremost, the GR III has exceptional image quality thanks to an incredibly sharp lens. The 28mm focal length doesn’t work for all types of photography, but it is a great choice for street shooting. Paired with a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, it produces detailed, rich images. It also yields sharp results in low light thanks to the sensor-shift stabilization system, and if you ever want to shoot long exposures, there’s even a built-in neutral density filter.
You just don’t expect a camera this small to have so much packed into it. Measuring just 4.4 x 2.4 x 1.3 inches, it’s remarkable how well this camera performs considering you can easily stash it in a jacket pocket. It’s because of this compact, almost stealth-like design that the Ricoh GR III firmly belongs on this list. But if you like the sound of it, we do highly recommend picking up a spare battery or two.
Read our Ricoh GR III review.
Google Pixel 3
That’s right, a smartphone made it on this list of best cameras for street photography. Part of the success of being a good street photographer is always being ready. If you find regularly carrying your DSLR or mirrorless camera is too tasking, then you need something that fits in your pocket and that you’re liking going to be carrying, anyway. That something is a phone, and the best phone for street photography is the Google Pixel 3.
We won’t pretend the image quality stands up to other cameras on this list, but it’s certainly no chump and can produce quality shots that, quite simply, are astounding that they come from a phone. The Pixel 3 comes into its own when used in low-light situations thanks to a technology Google calls Night Sight. The camera is capable of 4-second exposures and can turn the dimmest scenes into well-lit, vibrant frames.
Smartphone street photography has become a popular sub-category within the community. Because of its versatility and low-light performance, you won’t go wrong with the Google Pixel 3.
Read our Google Pixel 3 review.
The Sony A6400 is a quality midrange contribution from the company that largely spearheaded the mirrorless revolution. Although compact, it has some of the same qualities as Sony’s larger full-frame cameras. For example, it has a tremendously accurate and fast focusing system that uses artificial intelligence to recognize and track subjects, even locking on to a subject’s eyes. Simply put, it is unrivaled in the camera world. And while seasoned street photographers might argue that manual focus is the only way to go, having the confidence in your camera’s autofocus frees your mind to concentrate on what is happening around you. So while the 24-megapixel sensor is no better than the competition, the focusing system means you’ll have a better chance of getting quality, sharp images more of the time.
Those of you passionate about good glass will have 48 lens offerings to choose from to combine with the A6400. On top of that, there are quality third-party lenses from the likes of Zeiss and Sigma to spice things up, especially if you’re looking for a sharp compact prime, of which Sony doesn’t make too many itself.
Overall, the A6400 is simply a stunning camera for the money. Is it the best camera Sony makes? Definitely not, but for a compact, affordable model flexible enough to handle everything from street photography to sports, it is very hard to beat.
Read our Sony A6400 review.
Yes, another Fujifilm camera, but it’s not just to make up the numbers. For its size and price, the X-T30 may be an even better option than the flagship X-T3 for novice photographers. It weighs just 13.5 ounces (without a lens), making it easier to carry with you — and that’s a very important consideration for street photography.
But it isn’t just its size that makes this camera so intriguing. It comes with the same sensor, processor, and autofocus system as its bigger sibling, the X-T3. You lose features such as weather sealing and the higher-resolution viewfinder, but these are things you can likely make do without. It does also lack some of the physical control dials of the X-T3, which is a deal-breaker for some, but will hardly be noticed by others.
The best part of the X-T30 is that you’re getting professional-level image quality and performance for under a grand. Even if you can afford a more expensive camera, don’t forget the importance of a good lens — opting for the X-T30 means you can save more of your budget for the glass.
Read our Fujifilm X-T30 review.