(Editor's note: This is the third guide in our series on the best street photography cameras you can buy. Our first story chose the top ten vintage street photography cameras, and the second installment selected the ten best street photography cameras from more recent models. In the below guide, we pick the seven best new street photography cameras.)
Street photography, capturing authentic, un-posed pictures of people being themselves, is a genre that dates back to the mid 19th century. It rapidly evolved with the introduction smaller cameras like the 35mm Leica I of 1925, and as faster films and high-speed lenses of superior quality became available.
At its best, street photography conveys not only the state of being of the people in the picture, but also a transcendent sense of their time and place. To see what great street photography looks like, by all means peruse the works of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Alfred Eisenstaedt who mostly used 35mm Leicas; Vivian Meier, who mostly used twin-lens reflexes; and Weegee (Arthur Fellig), who shot many of his best street photographs as a press photographer toting a ponderous 4x5 Speed Graphic. There are, of course, countless others worthy of checking out.
Here are some of the characteristics of a great street camera: compactness and unobtrusiveness, excellent ergonomics and handling, speed and responsiveness, outstanding image quality even in low light and at elevated ISOs, and in this digital age when so many street shooters combine stills and video, high-end video capabilities and output options. As you can see by studying our 7 stellar examples below, today’s digital street photographers have an embarrassment of riches.
It’s also no coincidence that these great street photography cameras also make great travel cameras. Indeed, these popular genres are hardly mutually exclusive, so if you’re inspired to capture some great street images on your next trip you can do both at once!
1. Nikon Z50
A classic example of “less is more” Nikon’s new broad-spectrum entry level mirrorless Z50 is amazingly compact, sleek, and an excellent choice for street shooters. The Nikon Z50 delivers impressive imaging performance thanks to its 20.9MP DX-Format APS-C-size CMOS sensor mated to an advanced EXPEED Image Processor. The Nikon Z50 can capture full res bursts at up to 11 frames per second, incorporates a high-performance 209-point hybrid AF system with eye-detection, provides expandable sensitivity settings up to ISO 204800 for low light work, and can shoot UHD 4K video at up to 30 fps, and Full HD at up to 120 fps for slo-mo effects. Other features: a 2.36 million-dot OLED EVF, a 3.2-inch flip-down rear touchscreen, built in SnapBridge, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connectivity, and a rugged magnesium alloy chassis. To achieve its compact form factor, the built-in sensor shift VR image stabilization system was eliminated. However, the Nikon Z50 does provide effective 4.5-stop shake effect reduction with Nikon VR lenses.
2. Sony A6600
Sony's thoughtfully upgraded magnesium bodied mirrorless compact camera is a superb street shooter with enhanced video capabilities and also makes an elegant travel companion. Sony A6600's 24.2MP APS-C-format Exmor CMOS sensor is coupled to an advanced BIONZ X image processor, a combo that delivers enhanced UHD 4K video capture at up to 30 fps with no recording time limit, a full-res Raw burst rate of up to 11 frames per second with full AF and AE, and expanded ISO settings up to 102400. The Sony A6600's new sensor combines wide-area 425-point phase detection plus 425 contrast-detect points to deliver precise, decisive AF in as little as 0.02 sec, provides superior object identification, faster, more consistent tracking, and 16-bit recording and 14-bit RAW file output for capturing a wider tonal range and color gamut. Viewing options include a 2.36m-dot XVA Tru-Finder OLED EVF and a 3.0-inch 921.6k-dot tilting touchscreen LCD monitor. The Sony A6600 can capture UHD 4K 3840 x 2160p video at 30 fps, 25 fps, and cinematic 24 fps, as well as Full HD 1980 x 1080p at slow-motion 120 fps, all in XAVC S format. It also supports custom color and Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG), S-Log-2, and S-Log3 Gamma profiles, incorporates 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization, and provides Wi-Fi with NFC and Bluetooth connectivity.
3. Fujifilm X-Pro3
Bearing a striking resemblance to an old style Contax rangefinder 35, Fuji’s classic new X-Pro3 mirrorless camera provides a “retro feel” street shooting experience plus impressive imaging performance and speed thanks to a new 26.1 MP APS-C-format X-Trans BSI CMOS sensor coupled to an advanced spec X-Processor 4 image processor. To complement its vintage looks, the X-Pro3 offers Fuji’s signature combination of a Hybrid 0.5x Optical Viewfinder (OVF) plus a 3.69m-Dot EVF. An ultra-cool retro touch is its fold-down 180-degree Tilting Touchscreen, that has a virtual “film-box-end clip” reminder LCD screen on the back that displays a faux film box and/or ISO settings when it’s folded up in closed position. Other key features: Ergonomic traditional ISO and shutter speed dials on top, multi magnification and bright line simulation in OVF mode, 3-inch 1.62 million-dot touchscreen, dual SD card slots, front and rear command dials, a dedicated Focus Lever, integrated Bluetooth 4.2, and DCI/IHD 4K video capture at up to 30 fps.
4. Leica Q2
Leica’s remarkable new mirrorless compact is an instant classic, combining the timeless, round-ended form factor of a downsized Leica M with the image quality prowess of a 47.3MP full-frame CMOS sensor and the speed and performance delivered by Leica’s high-performance Maestro II Image Processor. What makes the Leica Q2 a street shooter’s delight is the superb lens permanently affixed to its svelte body—a 28mm f/1.7 Summilux ASPH prime that focuses down to 6.7 inches. This is the moderately wide-angle focal length favored by many savvy street shooters and its wide f/1.7 aperture enhances its low light street capabilities. Other impressive Leica Q2 specs: DCI 4K24p and UHD 4K30p video capture, Full HD at up to 120p, a 10 fps full-res burst rate, sensitivity settings ISO 50-50000, a hi-res 3.68MP OLED EVF, a 3-inch 1.4 million-dot touchscreen LCD, a mechanical shutter enabling flash sync speeds to 1/500 sec, and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE connectivity. Stills can be recorded as 14-bit DNG files and JPEGs, and the added resolution enables high quality imaging even when using the Q2’s digital zoom capabilities.
5. Sigma fp
Sigma’s audacious new full-frame L-mount mirrorless camera was clearly a big hit at the PhotoPlus Expo show in New York. The groundbreaking Sigma fp provides pro-caliber still and video functionality in an amazingly compact, slim-line, weather-resistant aluminum alloy body, and offers a handy platform for custom configuration by adding Sigma and third party accessories via dedicated mounts. Measuring an ultra-compact 4.43 x 2.75 x 1.78 inches (W x H x D) and weighing in at under 15 ounces (body only, including Li-Ion battery and SDXC memory card) the Sigma fp employs a 24.6MP BSI Bayer CMOS full-frame sensor, provides 14-bit color depth, can capture full-res bursts up to 18 fps, and incorporates a 49-point contrast-detect AF system that provides face detection, eye detection, and focus peaking readouts. The Sigma fp's base sensitivity range of ISO 100-25600 can be expanded to ISO 6-102400, it offers UHD 4K video recording at up to 30p, can record Full HD video at up to 120p, and provides a maximum resolution of 6000 x 4000 pixels for Raw and JPEG files. The Sigma fp has a large 3.15-inch touchscreen LCD, a UHS-II SDXC card slot, a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port, a micro-HDMI port, and provides a “Director’s Viewfinder” function enabling a variety of simulated professional effects based on those made by Arri, Alexa, and Sony cameras, etc. Optional Sigma adapters enable the use of Canon EF, Sigma SA lenses, and much more.
6. Canon EOS M6 Mark II
Canon’s sleek new compact, full-featured interchangeable lens mirrorless camera provides impressive performance parameters aimed at serious photo enthusiasts, including street shooters. The Canon EOS M6 Mark II features a hi-res 32.5MP MP APS-C CMOS sensor coupled to an advanced DIGIC 8 Image Processor that delivers a full-res burst rate up to a sizzling 14 fps with full AF/AE tracking, sensitivity settings to ISO 25600, and UHD 4K30p and full HD 120p video. Dual Pixel CMOS AF integrates two separate photodiodes into each pixel for enhanced phase-detection AF and faster lock-on without hunting. Other key features: a large 3-inch 1.04 million-dot 180-degree tilting touchscreen LCD, Movie Servo AF mode for smooth transitions, tracking sensitivity and AF speed adjustments, Face Tracking, Touch AF, and built-in Wi-Fi with Bluetooth for linking to mobile devices and controlling the camera remotely.
7. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
This significantly upgraded upper-tier OM-D provides many key features of the flagship Micro Four Thirds format Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II in an elegantly compact, high-value package that’s a great choice for street photographers and travelers. The Olympus E-M5 Mark III features an 20.4 MP Live MOS MFT-format sensor that, in combination with the latest TruePic VIII image processor, delivers crisp full-res images at 10 frames per second using its mechanical shutter and up to a blistering 30 frames per second with its electronic shutter, and provides ISO settings to 25600. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III has a built-in 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization system said to deliver an impressive 5.5-stop anti-shake advantage in handheld shooting, and up to an amazing 6.5 stops when paired with select lenses such as the outstanding Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO, our top choice for street shooters. The E-M5 Mark III can capture UHD 4K video at 30 fps, DCI 4K at 24 fps plus Time-Lapse Movie Mode, has a responsive AF system with 121 phase-detection and 121 contrast detection points, a 2.36 million-dot, 0.67x OLED EVF with an impressive 120 fps refresh rate, a hi-res 3-inch 1.04 million-dot vari-angle touchscreen LCD, and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. It’s all built into a rugged splash proof, dust-proof, freeze-proof body with extensive weather sealing.
As an Amazon Associate, Shutterbug earns from qualifying purchases linked in this story.