Cameras most suitable for street photography: My top 5 picks

Cameras most suitable for street photography: My top 5 picks

The best camera is the one that’s with you and this should put the iPhone or android device on top of this list.
Let’s ignore the phones for a moment and take a look at the latest digital cameras particularly suitable for street shooting. The term street photography these days lacks clear definition.
More after the break

Traditionally, street photography is the type of candid photography as defined by the the pioneers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Gary Winogrand, to mention a few.   Ideally, it represents  the relation ship between photographer, his environment and subjects, observed from an emotional and subjective point of view, recorded without staging, interfering, or disrupting the scenery or flow of events. The final photograph can be cropped to emphasize and clarify the photographers point of view with no further digital alteration to the image (no cloning or removing of unwanted objects in the picture).

Street photographers and social documentary photographers are closely related, the main difference being the very subjective point of view and lack of commercial value in the street photographer’s work. Traditionally street photography falls in the fine art category.

I strongly favor cameras mimicking the rangefinder design from the film era.
This preference defines what I am looking for:

1 silent shutter
2 unobtrusive, relatively small
3 zero shutter lag
4 option for hyper focal distance settings or snap shot settings, instantaneous AF speed
5 lots of depth of field as opposed to shallow depth of field
6 high frame rate large raw buffer
7 smallish high quality lenses to cover the most popular focal length for street photography
from 24 to 50mm (full frame or equivalent)
8 excellent OVF and LCD, preferably articulated and easy to view in bright daylight
9 low light performance
10 good to very good image quality, raw a must
Note that low light performance and image quality are at the end of the list. I consider point 1-4 much more important for street photography.

#1: Fuji X100T, Fuji X100s
The good: Silent shutter, unobtrusive, classic 35mm f2 pancake lens, fast to very fast af, hybrid finder, option to add 28mm and 50mm conversion lens, option to work with hyper focal distance settings, high frame rate, large buffer, good low light performance, good image quality
The not so good: hyperfocal distance setting cannot be locked, accidental turn of the focus ring can mess up your distance settings and ruin your images, minor shutter lag even in mf mode
LCD not articulated
Amazing Fuji X100s deals here on ebay
Fuji X100t here on ebay

#2: Ricoh GH
The good: Very small and unobtrusive, silent shutter, snap shot mode, zero shutter lag in snap mode, option to change focal length to 35mm equiv crop mode, option to attach high quality 21mm attachment, excellent image quality, extremely sharp lens
The not so good: useless af for street shooting (too slow) , optional OVF not great, lacks articulated LCD
good deals on Ricoh GR here on ebay

#3: Sony A7s
The good: Silent shutter, relatively small and unobtrusive, hyper focal distance settings with mf vintage lenses, zero shutter lag in mf mode, fast af speed (just) with the Zeiss Fe 35mm, great EFV, very good articulated LCD, incredible low light performance, excellent image quality
The not so good: af speed could be faster, DSLR like hump for EVF
excellent deals on the Sony A7s here on ebay

#4: Panasonic gH4
The good: silent shutter, beyond class leading, incredibly fast af speed, no need for hyper focal distance settings due to af performance, very small high quality lenses, good EVF and articulated LCD
the not so good: not as small and unobtrusive as the rest
The Panasonic GH4 here on Ebay

#5 Panasonic LX100
The good: small and unobtrusive, silent shutter, beyond class leading, incredibly fast af speed, no need for hyper focal distance settings due to af performance, good EVF, great lens covering everything one needs for street shooting and slightly beyond
The not so good: LCD not articulated, lens “erection” when “turned on”

I have used all these cameras over an extended period of time, except the LX100, which I borrowed for a weekend snapping approx 400 images. I love them all, each camera has its strength and weaknesses. I settled for the Sony A7s, not because it’s the best street camera but because I use it for everything, except when I need high mp files. Having one system to shoot assignments of all sorts, be it stills or video AND personal work is quite liberating.
Happy Holidays!
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32 thoughts on “Cameras most suitable for street photography: My top 5 picks

  1. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Jordi, in ideal situations you won’t see a difference, print or screen, doesn’t really matter, as soon as you approach the limits of the sensor, pushing iso or dynamic range, you’ll see it and exposure corrections in post and edits become more difficult and less effective.

  2. JORDI

    Hello Mike

    If I only see the pictures that I take in my PC and my 50 inches TV, do i need full frame sensor? or with APS-C or 4/3 rds I will not see any quality difference from Full Frame?

  3. mike.kobal Post author

    Vielen Dank George! You guessed it, AF speed on the rx1/x is terrible but more importantly, there is no reliable way to set it on MF. Too easy to accidentally change the distance unintenionally and ruin the shot. Excellent IQ is nice to have but it isn’t high up on my list for street photography
    You can find great deals on the used rx1’s the difference BTW three rx1 and x isn’t that big since it has a weak as filter. I would get the one I could find at the lowest price

  4. George K

    Hi Mike,
    I wonder why you did not mention the Sony RX1 (or RX1R)
    Why that?
    As far as I have seen outstanding IQ, incredible small size/big image, a silent shutter and a very discrete look.

    Don´t you recommend it for street fotography (maybe due to relatively slow AF speed)?
    And would you recommend the RX1R over the RX1.

    Anyway, if Fuji100T or the Sony RX1/R only had LCD articulated, they would be it, RX1 is what I intend to buy, but quite an investment for an non-pro.
    P.S. 2 Great pictures, especially NY2014! My compliments from Munich!

  5. Chris Szumigala

    Very helpful list Mike. Out of curiosity where would you see the Sony A6000 slotting in on the list? I’m tempted to pick up an LX100, but I’ve also got an Oly OMD-EM10 and the Sony A6000 in the lineup right now.

  6. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Hank!I would place it at #4, equal to the gh4, depending on working style/habits slightly above or below the gh4. Great camera the om1.

  7. Hank R

    Hi Mike:

    Thank you for providing these concise reviews and all the best for a happy, healthy, prosperous 2015!

    Where would you place the Olympus OMD EM-1 with an Oly 17/1.8 (or Panasonic/Leica 25/1.4) on this list?

    Thank you!!


  8. mike.kobal Post author

    You are probably right, they will increase in size judging by the 7ii. IBIS isn’t that important for me and the main Zeiss and G zooms have very effective IS. I would go with the a7s, no question.

  9. Mark Lewis

    Sony A7s or A7II — which would you go with as your first foray into the Sony system as a longtime Nikon system owner? Factors I value: compact size and lightweight, video, and looks like IBIS is great. Ergos on A7II look better, but Sony will never make an A7 series camera as small and light as the original. Thoughts, Dr. Kobal?

  10. mike.kobal Post author

    You might have a defective X100s, have it checked out. I used to shoot with the LX3, of course af is snappy because it doesn’t need to be accurate, tiny sensor, lots of DOF. With the 35mm f2, totally different story.

  11. Jordi

    So you are saying that the bigger the sensor the better in low light. So why my Panasonic LX3 was better in low light than the X100S ? By better I mean that the LX3 will focus faster in low light and without flash than the x100s without flash and also with flash.

  12. Jordi

    I understand by what you say that the high sensor is = to better in low light. But I had more problems focusing and needing the flash earlier in low light with the x100s than a LX3. how can this be possible ?

  13. mike.kobal Post author

    Low light:
    1 rx1, 2 gr, 3 lx100, 4 rx100iii
    1 rx1, 2,gr, 3 lx100, 4 rx100iii
    The gr has the sharpest lens/sensor combo of ANY apsc sized camera
    1 lx100,2 rx100, 3 rx1, 4 gr, however, the gr has a mf snapmode

  14. Jordi

    My last question. So how would you rank this 4 cameras on:

    fast AF
    Picture Quality


  15. Jordi

    Why you say LX100 is disappointing in low light? It has a 1.7 lens and Panasonic has been so sure of good performance in low light that they don’t even put a build in flash?

  16. mike.kobal Post author

    Thanks Jordi! We can’t have it all-yet. I agree, low light performance w the 100s can be a hit and miss. If you weren’t satisfied with Fiji’s AF, you certainly won’t be happy with AF performance in the rx1. Killer sensor, disappointing AF. Lx100 awesome AF, disappointing low light perf.

  17. Jordi

    Hello Mike.
    Great job you are doing.
    My question is. I don’t now what to buy either a new Panasonic LX100 or a used Sony RX1? what do you recommend?
    My last camera that I just sold was the x100s that you appreciate so much but I didn’t like the autofocus in low light. Need it flash quite early and even with it not so easy to keep focus. I was disappointed. I try it the shop the LX100 and as you say the AF is super fast. But I’m worry about the sensor that’s why I’m thinking about the RX1.


  18. mike.kobal Post author

    Don’t tempt me, I know…
    I am quite happy w the small Zeiss, AF is def a plus when shooting models don’t want to give that up and don’t wasn’t two 35mm lenses

  19. Andrew Howe

    I have 3 of those (2 LUMIX & the Sony) and I agree with your pros and cons. I have just been playing with the Loxia 35f2. I think you’d like it. No AF, but you do get lovely manual focus and DoF markings. You can declick it for video with a switch too.

  20. mike.kobal Post author

    Agree. The reason I didn’t add the V1 was price. Lots of dof is definitely a plus for street and documentary work and straight photography in general.

  21. Ironymous

    I’d add the Nikon V1 (1″ sensor). It has a big battery that lasts for a day, insane auto focus speeds, beautiful JPEGs. I find small sensor cameras like my now-dead Ricoh GR (original version) and Leica Digilux 2 (2/3″ sensor) are particularly suited for street shooting because they produce images with a different look than larger sensors from m4/3 upwards.

    Not to mention the depth of field is so deep, you needn’t even bother focusing. I was watching a historical documentary from the 70s the other day and it struck me that images with deep DOF were vastly more interesting than those with shallow DOF — when shot well, they tell a bigger story.

  22. Dan

    Hi Mike, I gotta second the GX7. I own the GH4 too, but prefer its little brother for its unobtrusiveness (plus IBIS for when I have to slow the shutter speed). I haven’t noticed an autofocus issue. Do you reckon you got a bum one?

  23. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Hendrik! Dir auch! Alles gute für 2015! The form factor is of course much better on the gx7, shot with it for two months along side the gh4, however, AF speed just isn’t there, missed to many shots and sold it eventually

  24. Hendrik

    How about substituting the GX7 for the GH4 and do away with the “the not so good”, as it is small and unobtrusive and sports no hump?

    Ein gutes neues Jahr! Keep us posted!

  25. Laurence Zankowski


    Really am enjoying your straight forward reviews. I can see myself with 3 of your cameras, with the A7s and GH4 working together in a video shoot. For my behind the scenes work the Fuji X100t and A7s would be just a killer combo when it is just stills needed, and as requested, pull off some video.

    A belted Merry Christmas, and here’s to a great 2015!

    Be well,


  26. mike.kobal Post author

    Hallo Leon! Dir auch und viel Erfolg im neuen jahr!
    I was in the same boat as you are for the longest time. Different systems for different applications. This all changed when I started shooting with the a7s and realized how well it works for the type of assignments I work on, I never expected to give up my beloved Fiji’s and the gh4. But I was blown away by the high iso and video performance and I tried it as a street camera and loved it. I had to change my approach a little but certainly didn’t feel like I was giving up anything. Incedibly librrating to have one camera for everything, gone are the days carrying lenses covering the same focal length and specific bodies for specific tasks. Esp when traveling.makes such a difference!

  27. Leon

    Great! I would love to take an A7S for a spin sometime. I’ve never shot anything fullframe (or APS-C for that matter, except perhaps a borrowed EOS 600D). The A7S has a nice compact body for all that it offers and the lowlight is just crazy and to me a good video mode is key too. Thing I’m not sure about with the A7S is lenses… I ain’t got none that will work with it… and the lenses that do cover that fullframe sensor will be quite sizeable I bet.

    I’ve already spoiled rotten myself enough though, I’m generally a hybrid shooter but I just approach it as such to get different cameras for different uses. If I go somewhere to shoot, I take the GH4, BMPCC (and/or GH2) with me for video. The OM-D E-M1 for stills. If I’m going on a holiday, the camera of choice will be the FZ1000. For everyday use, I love to carry around my LX100 (coming from the LX-7). I’m not quite ready to commit to a single focal length compact though. But I have to give it to Fuji, they do make some sweet cameras.

    Servús aus Wien! Schöne Feiertagen!

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