The Best Modern Lenses Under $500 for Street Photography

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm Xt10 review photos (19 of 27)ISO 16001-40 sec at f - 2.8

I’m going to preface this list by saying that anything that any manufacturer makes these days as far as lenses are concerned are all very good. Any lens in the hands of a skilled photographer can deliver jaw dropping results, but some lenses are still better than others.

Street Photographers need lenses that allow them to get close to the scenes on the streets while delivering vibrant colors, good sharpness, and overall autofocus reliability if they’re not using the zone focusing system.

The Phoblographer has reviewed lots of lenses, and after going through the reviews index and looking for great options under the $500 price point, the following lenses were chosen amongst others for the fact that their performance simply just stands out above the rest.

Canon 50mm f1.8 STM

Canon 50mm f1.8 III

In our review, we state:

“Canon’s 50mm f1.8 STM is a great lens for the beginner, hobbyist, enthusiast or even the professional who likes to rough and tumble their equipment. But overall, it’s scoring mediocre to good results when you attach. The image quality is much better than before and Canon has proven once again that they can keep ahead of the curve.”

Buy Now $125: Amazon | B&H Photo | Adorama

Sony 28mm f2

Sony 28mm f2

In our review, we state:

“We were quite pleased with how sharp the Sony 28mm f2 lens fairs. This has to be one of Sony’s sharper lenses and the company’s primes are what impress us the most. It’s about on par with the 35mm f2.8 if not a tad better, but both the 55mm f1.8 and 35mm f1.4 are sharper. This lens also seems sharper than the Zeiss 35mm f2, though not at all sharper than the Zeiss 50mm f2 Loxia lens.”

 Buy Now $448: Amazon | B&H Photo | Adorama

Pro Tip: Though it's frowned upon by some photographers, try shooting from the hip. No one cares about how you got the image, they only care about the end result in street photography.

Pro Tip: Though it’s frowned upon by some photographers, try shooting from the hip. No one cares about how you got the image, they only care about the end result in street photography.

Canon 40mm f2.8

Canon 40mm f2.8

Canon’s first pancake lens is truly one of our favorite lenses for the system–and we actually believe that it should be a kit lens for many of their cameras. Considering the fact that it is only a couple of years old now, you’ll know for sure that it is also on the higher end of the sharpness scale. Check out our review.

Buy Now $149: Amazon | B&H Photo | Adorama

Sigma 30mm f1.4 Art

Sigma 30mm f1.4 Art

APS-C DSLR users looking for an option to give them around a 50mm field of view won’t have much of a problem with the 30mm f1.4 from Sigma. And when you move on up to a full frame camera, you’ll be glad to know that it works well with that too. Mind the corner sharpness on full frame cams though… Check out our review.

Buy Now $449: Amazon | B&H Photo | Adorama

Canon 28mm f2.8 IS USM

Pro Tip: Image stabilized lenses can really help you out when you're contorting your body into unnatural shooting positions that don't make you the most stable photographer.

Pro Tip: Image stabilized lenses can really help you out when you’re contorting your body into unnatural shooting positions that don’t make you the most stable photographer.

In our review, we state:

“Something that we really want to praise this lens on is its sharpness. Though we feel that its 35mm f2 IS cousin is a tad sharper, we really can’t complain about what this lens can do. The only way that one can take an unsharp photo with this lens is by either misfocusing or not turning on the IS–unless you’re shooting at a super slow shutter speed.”

Buy Now $449: Amazon | B&H Photo

Sigma 19mm f2.8 DN

Sigma 19mm f2.8

When Sigma refreshed their 19mm f2.8 for Sony E mount and Micro Four Thirds, we were a bit surprised. The new lenses come with a sleek body and great image quality–though we still prefer the older version of the 19mm f2.8 due it being more affordable in our eyes, but it won’t focus as fast as this new one does. As far as image quality goes though, the two versions are about on par with one another.

Overall though, you still can’t go wrong with Sigma’s image quality and the steps that they’ve been taking to improving their brand in the recent years. Today, we can arguably call them the greatest lens maker of our time.

Here’s a quote from our review:

“So, should you buy them? Well, let me offer up some advice…

  • If you are new to the MFT format or you are thinking about pickup up a MFT kit and you are on a tight budget, these lenses are a solid option.
  • If you already have a MFT kit, including a few primes, I really don’t think there’s a reason to pick these up unless you are looking for backup lenses.
  • If you already have a MFT kit and mostly shoot zooms but you are looking to get into primes, these are a good option as the performance is very good and they are reasonably priced.”

Buy Now $199: Amazon

Fujifilm 35mm f2 R WR

XF35mmF2_black_flat

In our first impressions, we state:

Of any lens that I’ve tested (from Fujifilm, Sony, Olympus or Panasonic) the autofocusing on this lens is the most quiet that I’ve ever encountered. In fact, it’s so quiet that unless you’ve got the visual confirmation and an AF confirmation beep, you probably wouldn’t know that it was in focus at all.

Beyond this, the lens also focuses quickly–very quickly. I’ve been using it for a couple of hours now and it’s maybe even Fujifilm’s fastest focusing lens–and that’s on the X Pro 1. I have to test it on the XT-1 still, but I’m positive that it’s going to be incredibly speedy.

Buy Now $399.05: Amazon | B&H Photo | Adorama

Pro Tip: If you're using an autofocus lens, have a focusing are pre-selected and move around the world with the intention of framing that scene centering around that point that you've selected.

Pro Tip: If you’re using an autofocus lens, have a focusing are pre-selected and move around the world with the intention of framing that scene centering around that point that you’ve selected.

Olympus 25mm f1.8

Olympus 25mm f1.8

Looking for a nifty fifty for the Micro Four Thirds world? Here it is. With fairly low distortion, lots of sharpness, and a small size you’ll have very little to complain about with this lens. Check out our review.

Buy Now $349: Amazon | B&H Photo | Adorama

Panasonic 20mm f1.7 II

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic 20mm f1.7 Version II lens (9 of 9)

The follow up to the cult classic has a refresh with an all metal body. It isn’t as sharp as its predecessor, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t create beautiful images with it. Check out our review.

Buy Now $297.99: Amazon | B&H Photo | Adorama

Sony 20mm f2.8

Sony 20mm f2.8

The Sony 20mm f2.8 is the company’s answer to their previous 16mm f2.8–which they weren’t too much a fan of but that we liked for its imperfections. This new 20mm f2.8 focuses faster though and delivers image quality that we really can get on board with. In our review we state:

“The 20mm f2.8 lens is a beautiful lens in that it will beg to stay on your camera with its small size and excellent color rendition. But if you’re looking for pure sharpness, you should look elsewhere. We have to say though that the 20mm f2.8 makes shooting fun again and almost like using a point and shoot with lots of power. Though we recommend it, we believe that people that aren’t all about performance numbers are the ones that will enjoy it the most.”

Read the review.

Buy Now $348: Amazon

Sigma 17-70mm f2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM

Pro Tip: It's usually encouraged that you get as close to the action as you possibly can in street photography.

Pro Tip: It’s usually encouraged that you get as close to the action as you possibly can in street photography.

In our review, we state:

“When I received this lens in for review, I had quite a number of dispositions. First off, I personally hate zoom lenses and think that their quality is far inferior to primes. While I still believe that, I was humbled by this lens. Not only was the quality good, but it is from a third party that has traditionally been known to not have their act together when it comes to quality control.

Granted, this has been long gone now with the company’s rebranding and new strategies, but we didn’t think it would apply this much to their new lenses not meant for the professional. There isn’t much bad to say about the Sigma 17-70mm f2.8-4 DG OC HSM. It’s a wonderful lens and if I didn’t own all full frame DSLRs, I’d even consider purchasing it.”

Buy Now $399: Amazon | B&H Photo

Samsung 16mm f2.4

Samsung 16mm f2.4

Our favorite wide angle lens for the Samsung NX system will help you when shooting and sharing images of beautiful scenic views on your next vacation. Check out our review.

Buy Now $269: Amazon | B&H Photo | Adorama