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Which lens for street photography?

I would prefer to go out with a camera and just one lens. And for a while I did that to my complete satisfaction. The Fuji X100T has a fixed 23mm lens (35mm for full frame) and is a very nice compact camera. Despite the all-round focal length of this lens, a number of photography subjects are difficult or not accessible at all. Think of genres where you cannot avoid working with the more extreme focal lengths. This makes photographing birds without a telephoto zoom lens almost impossible and every interior photographer will have an ultra-wide-angle lens in his bag.

After a number of years I started to miss a certain degree of flexibility and that was exactly the reason why I bought the Fuji X-T4 at the time. The three lenses I own are the Fuji 10-24mm, 16-80mm and 100-400mm zoom lenses. So multiply these focal lengths by 1.5 as above and you get the zoom range for a full frame sensor.

With these lenses, no subject is too crazy or I can capture it in a good way. And in principle that is true, but now that I have taken my camera with me on a number of trips and have walked around quite a bit with that all-round 16-80mm, I have discovered that that lens is not really suitable for street photography. There are a number of reasons for this:

1. This lens weighs 440 grams. This doesn't seem like much, but together with the X-T4 the scales indicate a good kilo. And when you walk down the street with it for a few hours, you really start to feel it.

2. In street photography you want to stand out as little as possible. So the smaller the camera and lens the better. Not only is a large lens more likely to be noticed, but people are also more likely to be intimidated when they see a relatively large lens pointed at them, which is exactly what you don't want as a street photographer.

3. Street photography with a zoom lens is of course very possible. But this does give you an extra variable to take into account, while you actually need all your attention to capture the right action at the right time.

4. Perhaps the biggest advantage of the extra flexibility of a zoom lens is also the biggest disadvantage. Some swear by 35mm as the ideal lens for street photography while others prefer 23mm or 50mm. This is of course a purely personal preference. But whatever you choose, that means that you always photograph with that certain focal length. This teaches you to look with that particular focal length, so to speak. And so you will be able to find the right composition more quickly. This may all seem a bit exaggerated, but believe me, in street photography it often happens that every (fraction of a) second counts.

During my stay in Kuala Lumpur I realized that I actually needed a different lens specifically for street photography. But which one? Actually, I didn't have to think about it for long. In the past I had sometimes had the feeling that the 23mm of my X100T was just too short. And because I had read here that a focal length of 43mm best corresponds to the natural vision of our eyes, I quickly settled on the super compact 27mm pancake lens (40.5mm full frame) that Fuji has in its range.

But as quickly as the choice for this lens was made, my search for its availability took so long. No webshop, Dutch or international, had this lens in stock. Apparently a chip shortage is also causing major delays in the production of certain products at Fujifilm. However, my search did turn up one available used copy in, you guessed it...Kuala Lumpur. The next day I went to the store as quickly as possible and the timing was perfect, because while I was trying out that lens, another customer called with interest. I didn't have to think for long. The lens looked like new, works fine and the price was also about €145 lower than that of a new one.

So I walked out with a big smile. After an initial introduction during my remaining stay in Kuala Lumpur, I want to use this lens as much as possible in the near future. Of course I will report here about my experiences with this lens in a while. Expectations are high!


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