The Best Digital Cameras for Street Photography in 2021
(Updated January 2021)
12 top street photography cameras, which one is right for you?
In less then 10 years time, the options for ideal, compact street photography cameras went from being extremely limited to there now being so many strong options that it can feel overwhelming to choose the right one.
There are a variety of price points, features, designs, and lenses to choose from, and while you can’t go wrong with any of the cameras on the list (I would have killed for any of these 10 years ago), there are probably a few here that will stand out for you above the others.
As a street photography workshop teacher, I have had experience with all of these cameras and have been able to watch and learn how a variety of photographers have enjoyed these cameras (and dealt with their quirks). Here is the list:
My Top Three:
Jump to Brand:
Jump to Camera:
Fuji X100V ($1,399), Fuji XT-4 ($1,699 + lens), Fuji XT-30 ($799 + lens), Ricoh GR III ($899.95), Sony a7 III ($1,798 + lens), Sony a6000 ($459 + lens), Sony RX100 ($1,198), Leica Q2 ($4,995), Leica M10-P ($7,995 + lens), Canon EOS RP ($999 + lens), Nikon Z6 ($1,696.95), Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III ($1,1999)
Fuji / Fujifilm
Fuji entered the mirrorless market in a big way with the introduction of the X100 in 2011, and other camera companies have been playing catchup ever since. I have used a variety of their cameras as my primary street photography / travel camera since the creation of the first Fuji X100 and haven’t looked back since.
Fuji’s cameras make you feel that they were designed by photographers. Sleek, fun to use, and incredible image quality. While they may not be best-in-class in certain features, the balance of features and image quality, the attention to detail, and the restraint they sometimes show, makes them a best-in-class camera company.
For those that think they need a full-frame camera for street photography, looking at the photos that come out of these Fuji cameras will quickly change your mind, and keep in mind that the less depth of field in APS-C versus full-frame is often a big advantage in returning with sharp shots in street photography.
The Fuji X100V is my choice for camera of the previous decade. I use the X100 every day and can’t yet imagine replacing it with any other camera.
The X100V is the perfect size, the vintage style and wonderful design and form factor adds a special feeling to the camera that just makes it fun to use, and the look that comes out of the camera is spectacular.
The quality at high ISOs is fantastic, allowing me to feel very comfortable shooting up to 3200 on a regular basis, and not worrying about shooting at 6400 at night.
The one potential drawback for some will be the fact that it’s a fixed lens camera with a built-in 35mm equivalent lens and only 50mm and 28mm equivalent adapter lenses. 35mm and 50mm are the only focal lengths I use for street, but if you need a wider range of lenses and zooms, consider the Fuji X-T lines.
Pros: Small size, performance at high ISOs, colors (Fuji color profiles), image quality, design and usability, silent shutter, fast autofocus, price-point for quality.
Cons: Limited selection of lenses (2 + built-in 35mm equivalent), battery life (compared to an SLR) – purchase two or three Fuji branded batteries and you will be fine, video.
The Fuji X-T4 is also available! While the camera has a similar design to the X-T3 it has some substantial changes, including a new battery with nearly double the capacity, a quieter, faster, and much more durable shutter, in-body image stabilization, and a new flip screen.
(and for those on a budget, you can now get a great deal on the Fuji X-T3).
Nearly everything stated for the X100 stands for the X-T4, with the exception of a few differences.
The first is that this camera allows you to use a wide range of Fuji’s incredible lenses. You can use a 35mm and 50mm for street, but then also use their zooms or portrait lenses for other purposes. While the X100 is more of a pure street camera, the X-T4 is very versatile.
The size is slightly larger but still exceptional. I find the size of the X100 to be very slightly more ideal for street photography, while the X-T4 holds better in your hands for portrait and family shooting.
And the X-T4 has better video and an articulating screen. For those who like to be very sneaky with articulating screen street photography, this could be a consideration.
Pros: medium size, lens selection, performance at high ISOs, colors (Fuji color profiles), image quality, battery life, silent shutter, fast autofocus, design and usability, video, articulating screen.
Cons: Slightly larger than X100, more expensive, particularly when you include the price of lenses.
For those who want the X-T4 but are on a budget, the Fuji X-T30 is a camera to strongly consider with a $500 reduction in price but very similar innards. However, there are some tradeoffs at that price.
While the design and usability is still worthy of the Fuji name, the X100 and X-T4 surpass it. It is a similar size to the X100, so great for street photography, but it is slightly thinner and taller, making it not feel quite perfect when compared to the other two Fuji’s.
The camera is also slightly less responsive in autofocus and frames-per-second than the X-T4, but they are still exceptional.
Pros: Small size, lens selection, performance at high ISOs, colors (Fuji color profiles), image quality, silent shutter, fast autofocus, video, articulating screen, built-in flash.
Cons: Size, design, and usability can feel a little off, slightly slower than the X-T4
Pretty much all I need to say is that this camera is a favorite of street photographer Daido Moriyama. This camera was designed for street photography, and it has a rabid following with a section of street photographers (definitely not all), but it is unique, quirky, and certainly not for everyone.
The first thing that is noticed about the Ricoh GR III is that it is small, very small in fact, and sleek. The camera can slip into a pocket in a way that none of the other cameras on this list can (with the exception of the RX100), and it can be used extremely discreetly.
The image quality is excellent, particularly for the size, and it works very well at high ISOs up to 3200 or even 6400 (although if you shoot like Daido, you aren’t worried about extreme gain/noise).
The photos and colors that come out of the Ricoh GR have a gorgeous look to them that can feel almost film-like.
The camera does have some trade-offs. It has a fixed 28mm equivalent lens, so you must like the wide-angle view to like this camera. While great for street photography, it can be a little too wide for some. But it’s still a great focal length, particularly for city environments or busy areas.
While the autofocus is updated in the recent version and compares to the X100 during the day, it can struggle more than its counterparts in low light. The camera has a snap focus, which can prefocus the camera to certain distances for zone focusing. And finally, if you’re used to a viewfinder, the camera does not come with one. You can purchase one for the hot shoe, however.
Pros: Perfect pocket size, image quality, colors, performance at high ISOs, design, near-silent shutter.
Cons: Fixed 28mm lens (this will be a pro for some), poor battery life (purchase multiple), autofocus in low-light, no built-in viewfinder.
Lenses: 28mm fixed
Sony burst onto the mirrorless scene in 2013 with their full-frame mirrorless A7 and A7R cameras, and now have a wide range of mirrorless cameras and lenses to choose from. It’s no wonder that they hold the largest market share of the mirrorless market, with an enthusiastic following.
Where Fuji excels in balance and restraint, Sony excels in state-of-the-art cameras. They have large, high-resolution sensors, excellent autofocusing, and fantastic high ISO capabilities. This will create files that you can blow up to massive sizes (although I still blow up photos from my old 6-megapixel Canon 10D from 2003 – just add some film grain and you can get away with a lot). If you are in the market for a full-frame mirrorless and don’t have the budget for Leica, Sony is there for you.
One of the flagships of Sony’s mirrorless system, the Sony a7 III is a camera that is definitely worth considering. I chose the a7 over the a7r because I do not think you need the features of the a7r for street photography, and it is a much better price at $700 cheaper. The 24 megapixels in the a7 is perfect – you will fill up too many memory cards with the 42-megapixel images of the a7r.
This camera will do everything that you need. You can purchase primes for street photography and then a zoom or portrait lens for other purposes. It’s fast and works great at high ISOs. The body size is small and compact for its image quality and features.
But like all cameras there are tradeoffs. I find the design and feel of the Sony cameras to lag significantly behind Fuji. In addition, the buttons and the menus just don’t feel quite as nice or work as well.
The second tradeoff is the lenses. Sony’s big issue is that while the cameras are perfect sizes, the lenses can be huge, negating any of the advantages of why someone would want to go mirrorless. With a lens like the 24-70, the camera can be just as big as a Canon SLR with a 24-70.
In comparison, Fuji lenses are made to be much smaller, and this is a major factor that makes the system work. Sony does make some small lenses, and you will see one small and one medium-sized lens shared below that will work great for street photography, but if you are investing in this camera system, you will be wise to check out the sizes of the primary lenses that you want before going through with the purchase.
Pros: Small camera body size, state-of-the-art image quality and high ISO capability, full-frame, autofocus, silent shutter.
Cons: Most Sony mirrorless lenses are large, design and usability.
Sensor: Full Frame
The first thing to be said about the Sony a6000 is the price. This is the cheapest camera on this list, and if you are looking for a street photography camera on a budget, this is one you should strongly consider. While it’s tough to compare this model directly to cameras that cost 3-5 times the amount, it does hold its own on this list.
The camera is light, small, and unobtrusive. It has a nice feel in the hand and design to it, and it has responsive autofocus and good image quality, which is saying a lot for a camera of this price.
The interchangeable system allows you to use a wide variety of lenses, but as mentioned previously, a majority of Sony lenses are very large, which negates the size of the camera, so you will have to pick out the small lenses that Sony offers and make sure they are right for you before purchasing this camera.
Pros: Price, small size, image quality for price, ISO capability, design and usability, autofocus articulating screen, silent shutter.
Cons: Most Sony mirrorless lenses are large, general specs are good but lag a bit behind more expensive cameras (obviously) – for instance, the viewfinder and back screen quality are not as nice, colors lag behind Fuji cameras, battery life is poor.
The Sony RX100 VII is a unicorn on this list. It has the form factor of one of the old consumer-level digital cameras of old, with the innards of a modern-day workhorse.
This camera is certainly not for everyone, but there are some of you out there who this camera will be calling to.
The first aspect to speak about is the sensor size, which at 1-inch is smaller than micro-4/3rds, let alone APS-C. At 20.1 megapixels, you can still blow up photographs very large, but the depth of field and subtle transitions in the photos will be lacking when compared to larger sensors. But you will have a lot of sharpness throughout your images, which is great for street photography.
The price is expensive for a camera of this size, but it comes with a built-in 24-200mm lens. It has good autofocus, image stabilization, a flip LCD screen, and a strong frames-per-second rate. It also has a built-in viewfinder.
But the size here is what attracts many people to it. This is a great pocket camera, nearly invisible for street photography, and fantastic for traveling light.
Pros: Small size, versatile 24-200mm lens, great autofocus for the price, design, silent shutter.
Cons: Small sensor size and all that comes with that, battery life, but you can charge the camera directly with a USB charger.
Lens: Built-in 24-200mm.
The mystique of Leica – the camera of Cartier-Bresson and many other famous street photographers, but is it right for you?
I’m assuming if you’re reading this section that you’re either curious or price isn’t an issue, which in that case makes Leica a definite consideration. But the large advantages it once held over other brands no longer holds as true these days, and brands such as Fuji and Sony are so close that the price may not make it worth it. In fact, some prefer Fuji and Sony, even when price is no issue.
The Leica Q2 is Leica’s foray into competing with Fuji and Sony, but on their own terms. The camera has the spirit of the Ricoh GR III, with the built-in 28mm fixed lens and form factor, so you will have to love the 28mm focal length, which can be too wide for some. But it is obviously somewhat larger and much more advantaged than the Ricoh due to being five times the price.
The design is minimalist and stunning, particularly the lens, which is in the format of a typical Leica lens. I love when a camera is simple and pared-down, compared to the crazy buttons and menus of many of the other brands.
The sensor is full-frame and a massive 47.3 megapixels, so you will need hard drive space if you are shooting street with it. The photos have incredible image quality and colors, and the high ISO capabilities are great. And it even has auto-focus, so it’s a great camera for those who want a Leica but also want auto-focus (which the M10 does not have).
There are not many downsides except for the price tag and the fixed 28mm lens will not be ideal for all. And without the added grip the handling can feel a little weird.
Pros: Small size (similar to X100 with lens that protrudes more), minimalist design and usability, stunning image quality and colors, ISO, fast and responsive camera, silent shutter.
Cons: Price, fixed 28mm lens, battery life, needs added grip.
Lens: Built-in 28mm (equivalent).
Sensor: Full Frame
The flagship Leica M10-P camera is a marvel in design and technology, which it should be for the price, but it does have its quirks that will turn off some.
I chose the M10-P versus the M10 because of two considerations that make it better for street photography (the cameras are fairly identical). The first is the addition of a silent shutter and the second is the removal of the red Leica dot on the front of the camera. The all-black front makes it much less conspicuous (to anyone who doesn’t know a Leica when they see it). Another difference is that the M10-P includes a touch screen.
First up, when talking about Leicas, we have to talk about the image quality of the camera and the image quality of the lenses. Leica lenses are not only incredible in the images they produce, but they are also incredible in form factor and size.
The design is minimalist and stunning. When other companies add buttons and functions everywhere on the camera, Leica holds back, which leads to this camera feeling more like the vintage cameras of old. Photography feels purer because of these design choices.
While the sizes of most of the lenses are perfect (I prefer the F2 lenses for their smaller size), many will be surprised by the weight of the camera. It is slightly bigger (and definitely thicker) than the Fuji X100, but it is about a half-pound heavier, which can weigh on some people. The weight is actually surprising because of the size of the camera. But this is just a nitpick.
Finally, there is the rangefinder focusing of the M10-P, which is a pro for some and a dealbreaker for others, because the camera does not include autofocus. Rangefinder focusing is an excellent way to focus a camera, but it takes time to master and it can be difficult at first.
Pros: Stunning image quality and colors, ISO, fast and responsive camera, minimalist design and usability, silent shutter, rangefinder focusing.
Cons: Price, a little heavy for the size, no autofocus.
Sensor: Full Frame
Both Canon and Nikon were slow to enter the mirrorless market, and this allowed Fuji and Sony to get a head start. While Canon mirrorless cameras are very capable, if you are starting from scratch, I would consider other companies, but if you have a set of Canon lenses that you would like to use (with the necessary adaptor), Canon mirrorless cameras are much more than capable.
The Canon EOS RP is one of the lightest and least expensive full-frame mirrorless cameras available. If you are interested in the RP, you might also want to check out the more expensive Canon EOS R version as well.
Functionally the design of the camera is excellent and the ergonomics feel great in your hand. The image quality and low-light performance are good as is the autofocus.
While this camera has a lot going for it, there is a significant downside. There are only a few native RF lenses and most are very expensive, although the 35mm is perfect for street photography and has a great price. You can use your Canon EF lenses with an adapter, but the adapter will make the lens larger. This will be fine with small primes, but can be annoying with larger lenses.
Pros: Small size, design and ergonomics, image quality, color, price.
Cons: Limited selection of lenses without needing an adapter.
Both Nikon and Canon were slow to enter the mirrorless market, and this allowed Fuji and Sony to get a head start. While Nikon mirrorless cameras are very capable, if you are starting from scratch, I would consider other companies, but if you have a set of Nikon lenses that you would like to use (with the necessary adaptor), Nikon mirrorless cameras are much more than capable.
Nikon’s first full-frame mirrorless, the Nikon Z6, gives us some of the good and bad that come with creating an entirely new camera system.
The image quality and colors are excellent, the ergonomics work well, high ISOs look great, and the camera is full-frame. This is what you would expect in a Nikon mirrorless and one that is a good amount more expensive than its Canon counterpart.
But the camera does have its issues. Autofocus is far from perfect, particularly in low-light.
Like Canon, the Z6 does have a limited range of dedicated lenses (which should improve). It does have a 50mm and 35mm, (which is all you need as a street photographer, right?), but the issue is that these lenses are large, considerably larger than Fuji’s lenses for instance.
The FTZ adapter will let you use Nikon F-Mount lenses, but it makes the lens larger. And with many older Nikon lenses, the autofocus will not work, turning them into manual focus only lenses.
Pros: Small size, ergonomics, image quality, colors, performance at high ISOs.
Cons: Autofocus speed, limited selection of native lenses without needing adapter, can’t use many old lenses with adapter and autofocus.
Sensor: Full Frame
Last on the list, but certainly not least. Olympus is the heavy-weight of the micro-4/3rds category and their cameras have widespread appeal for all types of photographers, including street. Their design, form, ergonomics, and size are only matched by Fuji. They can work with a variety of lenses and many are small and affordable. The only trade-off is that the sensor is on the smaller size. Street photography has never been obsessed with sensor size and a micro-4/3rds sensor is more than good enough, but it does need to be a consideration that you can get a similarly priced Fuji with an APS-C sensor for a similar price.
The newest upgrade of Olympus’ flagship model, The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III, is a powerhouse. Extremely compact and lightweight and sporting a gorgeous design, this camera is built for travel photography and will be very inconspicuous for street work.
The camera has an articulating screen and in-camera stabilization, which is fantastic for street work at night. The autofocus and shooting speed are excellent as well.
The colors look great and the image quality is excellent for a micro-4/3rds, but that is the issue that will turn off a lot of people. The smaller sensor will make it a little tougher to crop your images and still have decent enough resolution. I know some of you are cropping purists, but when you’re using a prime lens, sometimes you just have to crop.
Pros: Small size, ergonomics, image quality, colors, autofocus speed, lens selection and lens sizes, silent shutter.
Cons: Small sensor, poor battery life.
Sensor: Micro 4/3rds
My Top Three:
Jump to Brand:
Jump to Camera:
Fuji X100F ($1,099), Fuji XT-3 ($1,299 + lens), Fuji XT-30 ($799 + lens), Ricoh GR III ($899.95), Sony a7 III ($1,798 + lens), Sony a6000 ($398 + lens), Sony RX100 ($1,198), Leica Q2 ($4,995), Leica M10-P ($7,995 + lens), Canon EOS RP ($999 + lens), Nikon Z6 ($1,696.95), Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III ($1,1999)