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When it comes to street photography, you can’t do better than a portable mirrorless camera (or even a compact). In this guide, we’re sharing some of the best MPB used cameras for stealthy photographers on the go. Shop MPB’s full range of cameras, lenses, accessories, and more here.
Over the course of nearly a decade of interviewing street photographers, I’ve learned two things. First, they bring their cameras everywhere, and second, they walk—a lot. Steve Reeves, for example, has wandered for hours through the stalls of Chapel Street Market in London, stopping to create portraits of interesting faces along the way. Gustavo Minas has explored every nook and cranny of Brasília’s bustling Central Station. Markus Andersen has spent countless summer days under the hot sun in Cabramatta, Australia, inhaling the scent of fresh fruit as he walks past open-air vendors.
To be able to do this kind of work, the perimeters are clear: you need a small, lightweight, discreet, and durable camera that won’t strain your neck if you wear it all day, every day. While creating this guide to MPB used cameras and MPB lenses for street photography, I reached out to some of the best in the genre to see what tools they use for their urban adventures. Whether they’re navigating rough cobblestone streets or climbing up hills searching for the perfect vantage point, this is the gear they rely on to get the job done.
Please note: Prices are as of this writing.
Weighing in at just 383 grams, this camera is a go-to for the fine art street photographer Moises Levy. Aside from the size itself, Levy also appreciates how this cropped sensor camera handles highlights, even in trickly backlit scenarios.
“I also like that all the controls are physical, so I don’t need to enter any menu to adjust the setup for shooting,” Levy says. He takes a unique approach to this camera, pairing it with manual focus-only lenses, such as the Zeiss 21mm and the Voigtlander 15mm, using an adapter.
Neil Kramer uses this mirrorless camera with a classic 35mm lens. “Sony mirrorless cameras are superfast, and they pretty much revolutionized the industry with their face-detection focusing,” he reflects. “This means I can lift my camera and be confident that a face will be sharp.
“On the other hand, Sony also allows me to turn off all these fancy gizmos if I want to be more creative. The camera is small, and I can carry it around in a small camera bag or in my winter coat pocket. I usually shoot in manual, but Sony’s Auto ISO gives me the freedom to go in and out of shadows without missing the shot.”
Nicola Fioravanti, a street photographer who recently embarked on an extraordinary journey through the bustling cities and tucked-away villages of Morocco, almost always uses this camera with a 35mm lens.
“Canon’s R line offers access to RF optics, which are truly sensational,” he says. “Although it is not one of the newest cameras, the Canon EOS R is still a very good option. It is a lightweight camera with accurate autofocus and excellent image quality with outstanding color rendering.”
This compact camera is a favorite of the award-winning, Seoul-based artist Argus Paul Estabrook. While he loves the wide-angle lens (28mm equivalent, f2.8) and spectacular sensor, the real selling point is its size. “It’s a little powerhouse that I can slip into my pocket, take anywhere, and never worry about missing a shot,” the photographer says. “People don’t take notice of it when it’s in hand, which makes getting candid shots so much easier. It is also super quiet, which is another reason it doesn’t draw attention.”
Vincenzo Barone, an Italian artist based in France, considers this one of his essential street photography cameras for a few reasons. “The XT-4 feels great in the hand because of its old-school design, metal body, and dedicated single-purpose dials,” he tells me. “The IBIS (in-body image stabilization) is also a huge help in situations where you need to shoot with a slow shutter speed.” When hitting the streets, he prefers a wide-angle lens, such as a 23mm.
This is just one of several Fuji X-Series cameras to make our roundup, but it’s worth singling out because of its fixed prime lens and rangefinder-like feel. “My favorite of all of the X-Series cameras is this one,” Steve Reeves explains. “It’s so small that I take it everywhere with me. At the same time, just because it’s small doesn’t mean it’s not powerful. It has a fast lens and a brilliant sensor. Some of my recent shots were used on posters and blown up big. Even close-up, the detail is there.”
Gustavo Minas likes a tilt-screen for street shooting, so he opts for this cropped sensor workhorse from Fujifilm, pairing it with this 27mm pancake lens. “It’s small and light, and if I use the electronic shutter, it makes no noise at all,” he says.
When switching from his old DSLR system (a Nikon D850) to a lightweight mirrorless setup, Benny Bulke opted for this Nikon camera. Known for his graphic, high-contrast scenes, he credits the camera’s dynamic range with preserving the details in both the highlights and shadows of his images. Plus, the high resolution (45.7 MP) empowers him to notice fine details he might have missed otherwise.
“After using this camera, I would never want to go back to a camera without a tilting screen,” Bulke explains. “This screen is very fast to use with the touch/shutter command, so it makes a great cam for stealthy belly shots!”
Three years ago, Daniel Featherstone traded his old gear on MPB and upgraded to a Leica SL. He’s used it ever since. “It’s the first digital camera I’ve really connected with,” he admits. “Being very minimalist in its design, there are no complicated menu systems, and it has a very premium feel. The shutter sound is very quiet for stealthy situations, and the EVF (electronic viewfinder) is bright and feels lifelike.”
This stunning Leica camera features a 47.3 megapixel full frame sensor, electronic viewfinder, and 28mm f/1.7 lens. “This camera is small yet extremely solidly made,” Markus Andersen explains. “It allows me to strip the technology back to pure simplicity: only aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, without extraneous and distracting features. In addition, I find the manual focus on this camera to far exceed other mirrorless cameras I have used in terms of sensitivity and speed.”
The black and white version of the Q2 was made for purists of the genre, offering the same low-light capabilities as its color counterpart. “The fixed 28mm focal length allows me to know what my frame covers (most of the time), and since I have to work quickly to get the shot, I can pretty much count on getting the subject in the frame,” Claude R. Beller tells us. “The electronic viewfinder and quick auto focus function are also invaluable in getting the shot off.”
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