How to Shoot Beautiful Street Photography With a Leica 28mm Lens

The 28mm lens is a classic focal length for many photographers. It’s true that 35mm and 50mm lenses tend to see more of the spotlight and are romanticized more often. But the 28mm lens embodies the truth that if your photos aren’t good enough, then you’re not close enough. If you’re shooting street photography, one of the best lenses you can grab is a Leica 28mm lens. In this guide, we’ll go through how to get the most from them!

This blog post is presented by Leica.

Why Zone Focusing Is Perfect for Street Photography

So, why is the Leica 28mm lens perfect for street photography? Well, that’s because it lets you zone focus. Zone focusing is awesome, and it makes street photography much easier. All you do is set the focusing on your Leica 28mm lens to a certain distance away, stop the lens down to get a workable area in focus, and shoot! That’s it. This means you can do things like work a scene! See some nice light? Cool! Focus into that area, wait for something photogenic to happen, and then shoot. 

Otherwise, you can casually walk around and photograph too. Pay attention to anyone and anything happening in that preset distance away. Then just photograph it as it happens. 

With a 28mm lens, you’re getting more of a scene in focus at a given aperture than you would a 35mm or 50mm lens. Be warned, this means you might have to get over your fears of getting close to subjects. You could crop in using the resolution of a camera like the Leica M10R, of course. Otherwise, you can aim to frame your scenes a bit wider. If you do that, just be careful of distracting elements. 

The Leica 28mm Lens: Which One to Get?

PS We’ve got an entire guide to Leica 28mm lenses right here. But here are some critical questions to ask yourself:

  • Describe yourself and how you shoot. Do you get close up?
  • Do you shoot in low light often and need more of a shallow aperture? If so, you might want the Leica 28mm f1.4 Summilux!
  • Do you want something lighter and more balanced or bigger with more potential? Smaller lenses include the Leica 28mm f2.8.
  • Do you have a fear of getting up close and personal to people? Maybe the 28mm lens isn’t right for you. But a lot of us like getting up close.
  • Do you prefer to be connected to the shot and manually focus a lot, or is prioritizing getting the shot more important?
  • What’s your budget?

These are just a few questions you’ll need to answer.

Tips for Zone Focusing

Here are a few more tips for zone focusing with a Leica 28mm lens that you probably haven’t heard before:

  • The really sweet and balanced spot is around five feet away. At this distance you’ve got a workable scene. You can also stop the lens down to get subjects in focus while getting a lot of light to hit the sensor.
  • Start off by metering the scene off your hand. This will give you a great idea as to what the exposure needs to be. Shoot in aperture priority. Then figure out the minumum shutter speeds you can get and set the ISO to a stop faster than that. It isn’t uncommon to shoot street photography these days at ISO 1600 or ISO 800. This is what’s needed for when you stop the lens down. You want the shutter to minimize camera shake and motion blur, unless that’s part of your creative vision.
  • A lot of photographers use the Leica Visioflex to get their images. If you just want to stick with the rangefinder, just take notice of what’s on the same focusing plane as your subject.
  • If you’re taking the time to focus and recompose, don’t pivot the camera. Instead, focus on the subject using the center rangefinder patch, and slide it. This way, all the work you did you get the subject in focus won’t be undone. Pivoting throws off the plane of focus.
  • Get an idea of what the world looks like when you shoot from the hip. This is often similar to a child’s point of view. (Children can create some of the most remarkable photos.)
  • Sometimes it’s a good idea to stop and take a scene in. Look around at the light. Maybe set the camera down and do a long exposure of people moving about.
  • Using a flash? Set the camera to the flash sync speed and then just zone focus. Set the flash to match the ISO and aperture, or let it do TTL. Flashes are sometimes frowned upon, but they can achieve a totally unique look. If you’re shooting events, they’re also much less annoying than shining an LED in someone’s face.
  • Walk slower than you normally do. It’s easy to walk at a fast pace in a fast city like NYC. But if you slow down a bit, you’ll minimize camera shake and take in more of a scene.
  • Leica’s more popular lenses are their smaller and slower aperture offerings. They feel more balanced on a lot of Leica camera bodies. They also make the entire package more portable and balanced.

Chris Gampat

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