3 of Our Favorite Manual Focus Lenses for Street Photography

Street photography is sometimes much easier and faster if you use manual focus lenses.

When is the last time you truly felt like you were being romanced by a lens? For many street photographers, that only comes with manual focus lenses. As a play on words, street photographers like to zone focus. Colloquially, that means that you’re focusing on a specific zone away from you. But one could also interpret it to say that you’re in the zone when you’re shooting. With manual focus lenses, you’re always going to get what you need and want as long as you’re careful. That’s not always the case with autofocus. So we looked at our Reviews Index to find some of the best manual focus lenses for street photography.

The Phoblographer’s various product round-up features are done in-house by the staff. Our philosophy is simple: you wouldn’t get a Wagyu beef steak review from a lifelong vegetarian. And you wouldn’t get photography advice from someone who doesn’t touch the product. We only ever recommend gear that we’ve done full, thorough reviews with. If you’re wondering why your favorite product didn’t make the cut, there’s a chance that it’s on another list. If we haven’t reviewed it, we won’t recommend it at all. This method keeps our lists packed with industry-leading knowledge.

7Artisans 35mm f2: The Affordable, Essential, Gem Among 35mm Manual Focus Lenses

In our review, we state:

Pros

  • Full-aperture stops only
  • Sharp images
  • Beautiful bokeh
  • Small and lightweight
  • Metal body

Cons

  • Nothing really, except that it’s not Leica’s quality, Zeiss’s quality, or Voigtlander’s quality. But it’s still excellent.

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Pro Tip: Reach for smaller manual focus lenses like the ones we’re recommending here. They’re the ones that you’ll want to shoot with because they’re so small. Larger manual focus lenses can be unbalanced on your camera. And honestly, what’s the point of owning a lens you never shoot with?

Tokina 20mm f2 FiRIN: A Fantastic Lens for Travel

In our review, we state:

Pros

  • Small
  • Lightweight
  • Very smooth focusing
  • Superb image quality that I’ve always expected from Tokina

Cons

  • Some may complain about the manual focus-only operation, but at an angle this wide, I can’t be bothered too much by it.

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Pro Tip: Most people sit there and crank away at the focusing tab when they shoot street photography. But that’s kind of useless. You’re much better off stopping the lens down, focusing a distance away, and then just walking up to your subjects. That’s how many of the great masters of photography did it. The method is called zone focusing. And it’s much harder to do it with autofocus lenses. Autofocus lenses have a shorter focus distance throw. This helps them focus a whole lot faster. Manual focus lenses require you to really turn the focusing ring to get from point A to B. This helps more with precision. It’s a trade-off often because many folks say that they hate the focus by wire method autofocus lenses use. 

Leica 28mm f2 Summicron ASPH: Arguably the Grail for Manual Focus Lenses

In our review, we state:

Pros

  • Sharp, but I’ve seen much better
  • Beautiful, subtle colors
  • Nice bokeh
  • A joy to use partially because of the size and the zone focusing scale
  • So incredibly small

Cons

  • I guess this can go without saying, but I like their Summilux f1.4 lens so much more.

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.