Best lenses for street photography

By Kevin Carter - Friday January 10 2014

Lens Recommendations
Introduction | Street Photography with Compacts | Street Photography with Micro Four Thirds | Street Photography with Sony NEX | Street Photography with Canon | Street Photography with Nikon

Although the EOS Rebels are small and compact the lack of suitable EF-S prime lenses is a limiting factor. However while a full-frame 24mm f2.8 is the equivalent to a 38mm on something like the tiny EOS Rebel SL1 (EOS 100D), which would make a good choice, we’ve instead selected two traditional full-frame models, the new EF 35mm f2.0 IS USM and the film-era EF 100mm f1.8 USM on the full-frame Canon EOS 6D.

Although the original list was only $50 cheaper than the vaunted Sigma 35mm f1.4 HSM A, it’s retailing now at a more realistic $599.

It’s still not cheap exactly but the more modest Canon is significantly lighter and smaller and complements the Canon EOS 6D rather well. It’s stabilized as well, which extends versatility (and is also useful for video though that’s somewhat out of the scope of this particular feature).

It doesn’t have the corner-to-corner sharpness of the Sigma at the initial aperture but uniformity improves on stopping down. Peak sharpness is very high, measured at 18P-Mpix. Vignetting while not exactly low isn’t high either and chromatic aberration and distortion are both well controlled.

The Canon EF 100mm f2.0 USM is another fine performer, especially given its age and modest price - it’s extremely well corrected at all apertures. The only give away is that peak sharpness (measured at 15P-Mpix) is a little on the low side compared with the company’s latest models.

While optimal performance is at f8, it’s sharp from corner-to-corner even at maximum aperture so you really only have to consider depth of field – there won’t be any nasty surprises. Vignetting is low with smooth transitions at the maximum aperture, which has all but gone save for a little at the extreme corners at f2.8, and chromatic aberration is also similarly low. Transmission isn’t as impressive as the newer designs, but at $499 this is an attractively priced model with a competitive price.