Street photography requires a great eye for detail, quick reactions, and creativity. There is nothing more exciting than exploring new locations and walking among the people of a city or town. You can get real feel for their culture and daily lives.
If you have a Nikon DSLR, to make the most of your adventures, using lenses made specifically for Nikon cameras is essential. Some lenses are better suited to street photography than others as well.
Ideally, you want a wide focal range of 35mm of 50mm – anything wider, and you may not be able to capture enough detail. Alternatively, anything narrower and you risk being too “zoomed-in” on your subjects.
In addition, a large maximum aperture of f/2 or greater is preferable. A large aperture like this enables you to create beautiful street photography with bokeh effects and blurred backgrounds. In this guide, we look at various types of Nikon lenses for street photography so you can find one to suit your style and budget.
1. Nikon AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D (Overall Winner)
The Nikon AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D is one of the best Nikon lenses for street photography due to its affordable price and great quality. It is relatively cheap compared to some of the other lenses, but it still produces fantastic images.
The 50mm focal distance and f/1.8 aperture are perfect for capturing those spontaneous moments whilst you wander through the streets. Moreover, the autofocus feature is virtually silent, and the focusing speed is fast.
This is a well-rounded lens and perfect for those just starting out in the world of street photography.
This is the only zoom lens we have featured in our list of Nikon lenses for street photography. The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR is a versatile lens that provides excellent quality for this type of photography.
The focal range of 16mm to 35mm provides extra flexibility. You can use the lens at 35mm for detail shots or pan back to 16mm for ultra-wide-angle street shots.
In addition, the vibration reduction provides additional stability which helps improve image quality. The lens also has a nano crystal coating to reduce ghosting and lighting flares.
Although it only has an aperture of f/4, you can still create some great effects and compositions.
For the ultimate in quality and aperture, the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G is the best option available. It is a high-quality prime lens that is perfect for street photography.
Firstly, the maximum aperture of f/1.4 provides ultimate control. You can focus on small details and experiment with bokeh effects when exploring the streets.
In addition, this prime lens has a top build quality. The ultrasonic AF motor offers quick and accurate focusing. Furthermore, this lens also offers great low-light photography capabilities.
Finally, the patented SIC coating improves light transmission and keeps colors consistent. It also reduces lens flare and distortion.
If you can’t quite afford the above lens, why not consider the slightly cheaper Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G? This lens offers practically the same quality – the main difference is the aperture.
Using this lens, you still have a respectable aperture of f/1.8 – this is still perfect for street photography and offers great creativity.
The lens itself is extremely small and lightweight. Regardless, it still provides great quality. It uses advanced Silent Wave Motor (SWM) technology for focusing which means the lens focuses quickly and accurately.
It also performs well in low-light situations. This makes it one of the best Nikon lenses for street photography at night. Finally, the lens also has special SIC coating which helps maintain color consistency and reduce flare.
5. Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S (Best for Mirrorless)
The best choice for a Z-mount Nikon camera is the Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S. This is easily the top choice as it provides amazing quality and functionality. The 50mm focal distance and f/1.8 aperture allow you to produce spectacular street photography.
In addition, the basic quality of the lens is superb. Its lens glass has a special coating that reduces ghosting but also keeps images sharp and free from distortion.
Not only that but the Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S features an ultra-quiet motor for silent focusing. These features combine together to create a high-quality, but relatively affordable mirrorless lens. Of all the Nikon lenses for street photography, this is the best for the Z-mount camera range.
Next we have the Nikon NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S – another amazing lens for Nikon’s mirrorless series of cameras.
This lens looks fantastic – it has a sleek and stylish design and is well-built. In addition, it has an ultra-quiet stepping motor which offers virtually silent focusing. Similarly, the lens is lightweight and will not add much weight to your Z-mount camera at all.
The best feature of this lens has to be the aperture. At f/1.8, you can create exceptional photos with dreamy backgrounds. This makes it one of the best Nikon lenses for street photography as you can focus on small details and create professional images with ease.
7. Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD (Budget Winner)
Tamron also has an excellent range of affordable lenses and the Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD is a top budget choice for street photography for Nikon cameras.
This 45mm lens has a brilliant maximum aperture of f/1.8 which offers great creativity when exploring deep into the streets.
In addition, it benefits from Tamron’s vibration control feature which adds additional stability and virtually silent autofocus. Furthermore, the glass has a special fluoride coating to prevent damage and fingerprints.
Equip Yourself with the Best Nikon Lenses for Street Photography
You may wonder why we haven’t suggested any standard Nikon kit lenses with a great zoom range. Whilst these can be used for street photography, a dedicated prime lens is a better choice.
In most instances, these Nikon lenses for street photography have much larger maximum apertures which are a must. For example, the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR, although a suitable lens, only has a max aperture of f/3.5-f/4.5 which limits your creative options.
If you want to improve your street photography we advise purchasing one of the above lenses. Aside from street photography, the 35mm and 50mm lenses are also great for portraits and macro photography.