Sony A6000 is such a fine small mirrorless camera and it is perfect for portraits and street photography. But sometimes, you may find that it is not easy to get the best street photography lenses for your A6000. There are some aspects that need to be considered when you buy a new lens, such as focal length, aperture, and so on. The problem is that not all lenses are created equal! Read more to find out what’s the right lens for your street photography needs.
Best Street Photography Lenses for Sony A6000:
1. Sigma 30mm F/1.4 Contemporary DC DN
The Sigma 30mm F/1.4 Contemporary DC DN is a high-performance lens that offers an equivalent focal length of 45mm (in 35mm format). It’s an ideal lens for travel photography and street photography, where you want to keep your camera compact and inconspicuous. This lens is compatible with APS-C models like the Sony A6000.
This fantastic lens is our top pick because it is great for beginner and intermediate street photographers. Its focal length is suitable for capturing candid moments in public settings and its fast aperture is great for low-light situations. This lens is also very affordable, which makes it a great option for those on a budget.
Now let’s talk about its image quality. The Sigma 30 F/1.4 is one of the sharpest lenses for the Sony A6000 family. The lens has an excellent image quality, its contrasty and the colors are vivid which is good for shooting black and white street photos. And its bokeh is smooth and creamy which is ideal for portraits. You can achieve a beautiful shallow depth of field with this lens.
The colors are vivid and it produces creamy skin tones. It can help you achieve a unique look if you’re shooting portraits of strangers on the streets.
The autofocus is quick and snappy and this lens can focus accurately even in low light conditions. The only drawback is that the Sigma 30 F/1.4 doesn’t have image stabilization, which can be a problem if you’re shooting handheld at low shutter speeds. My simple advice – use a tripod or a monopod.
This lens acts like a 50mm on a full-frame camera, which means that it’s good for shooting street portraits and geometry. There are many street photographers who used a 50mm focal length in the past like the great Henri Cartier-Bresson. In fact, he almost exclusively used a 50mm throughout his career.
The lens is compact but not pocketable. It’s a good choice if you’re looking for an affordable lens that will help you get better at street photography. The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 is an affordable prime lens with excellent image quality, fast autofocus, and solid build quality.
- Tack sharp even wide open
- Has a good price/performance ratio
- Excellent image quality
- No image stabilization
2. Sony SEL35 F/1.8 – Compact & Lightweight Lens
Sony SEL35 F/1.8 is one of the most popular lenses for Sony A6000. It’s lightweight, small, affordable and very good for street photography. It’s also good for portraits and travel. The lens provides a 50mm (equivalent in 35mm format) focal length which is great for everyday use as well.
It is lightweight and compact, making it very easy to carry around. It is made of plastic but still feels solid in your hand and on the camera.
Another great benefit of using the Sony SEL35 F/1.8 is that it can flatten the background more, which can make your compositions far simpler.
Now, this lens has a silent focusing system which means that it’s almost completely silent when focusing. This is great for street photographers who like to be discreet and without drawing attention to themselves. It’s also very sharp and produces beautiful bokeh. The lens has a metal mount, which makes it more durable than plastic ones (like the original kit lens).
This lens is great for beginners because with its equivalent focal length of 50mm, you have more distance to your subject allowing you to be more unnoticeable.
If you like to include geometry and simple compositions for your street shots, the Sony SEL35 F/1.8 might suit your needs.
- Fast and silent AF system
- Superb sharpness and accurate colors
- Chromatic aberration can be a problem
3. Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens
If you think that the Sigma 30mm f1.4 which is our top pick kinda limiting, you might go for its wider brother, the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN. This is a wide-angle lens that’s really popular among most street photographers. It has a focal length of 24mm (in 35mm format).
Now, this lens is not beginner-friendly and may not suit you if you’re still not confident with your shooting skills. This lens is really wide and if you want your subjects to fill the frame, you have to be closer to them. But the beauty of this lens is that it allows you to capture the environment around your subjects. You can also get a good amount of bokeh with this lens, which makes it perfect if you want to shoot portraits with a blurred background.
It’s also great for shooting street scenes and landscapes. You can get to capture a lot of background elements and details. This is perfect for street photography as it will give you a different perspective. It’s also great for landscape photography because of its wide-angle capability.
There are a lot of renowned street photographers who love to shoot with 24mm lenses like Josef Koudelka and Sebastião Salgado. Study their works if you’re interested in getting a wide-angle lens.
The Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN really shines when you’re shooting multi-layered storytelling, capturing your subject’s environment to give more context and it’s also fantastic for intimate portraits.
Its image quality is also excellent. Like its smaller brother which is the Sigma 30mm f/1.4, the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 is pretty sharp and gives amazing color. The Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN is definitely a lens that you can use for everything, whether you’re shooting street photography or landscapes. It’s really versatile and fast which makes it great for low-light situations where you still want to get a shallow depth of field.
The build quality is superb and it feels really solid in hand. Now, because it is a wide-angle lens with a fast f/1.4 aperture, it has lots of glass inside which makes this lens a bit larger than most prime lenses. Luckily, it is still light and compact enough for everyday use.
- Superb build quality
- Outstanding performance even in low light
- You need to be more creative when composing your shots
4. Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS
Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS is an affordable and compact zoom lens for the Sony A6000. It gives you a 16-50 mm focal range that allows you to shoot wide or tight. This lens has an f/3.5-5.6 aperture and is equivalent to 24-75 mm on full-frame cameras, making it ideal for street photography since you can get shots from far away or close enough to capture details of your subject’s face or clothing.
This lens is perfect for streets and travel, its 24-75mm equivalent will give you tremendous flexibility on the streets. The lens is small, lightweight, and unobtrusive so it’s easy to carry around all day long. It also has a nice build quality that feels solid in your hands.
The Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS has a decent sharpness but its corner-to-corner sharpness is not that good even when you close its aperture. It may not be as sharp or as punchy as the Sigma lenses above but street photography is all about the stories and capturing them on the fly, so sharpness is not that much important.
Its autofocus is surprisingly fast and really silent. And pairing it with a small APS-C camera like the Sony A6000, you’re almost invisible to the crowd. Lastly, the Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS is a great choice if you’re still on the fence about getting what you really want. Its advantage against prime lenses like the Sony 35 f/1.8 and Sigma 30 f/1.4 is its flexibility. You can pretty much take a quick snap without moving your feet to get closer or farther to your subject.
- Flexible zoom lens
- Decent image quality throughout its zoom range
- Lacks corner sharpness
5. Sony SEL20F28 20mm f/2.8 Wide-Angle Lens
If you really want to be unobtrusive on the streets, you might opt to get the Sony 20mm f/2.8. Its pancake design is really useful when you’re trying to take candid shots. It’s small and it’s definitely more compact than most APS-C prime lenses. You can also use it as a portrait lens if you don’t mind getting really close to your subject.
Its image quality is great, it’s sharp and the colors are nice. Edge-to-edge sharpness is actually decent wide-open. Stop it down and you will get even better results.
Sony 20mm f/2.8’s autofocus is fast enough for most cases but I feel that it is still behind compared to other Sony prime lenses in this category. Also, it is a little louder than the Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS.
The 20mm f/2.8 is also a bit on the expensive side, especially if you compare it with other APS-C prime lenses in this list. But if you value quality and compact size, you should consider this lens. Lastly, don’t get fooled by its small and lightweight size, the Sony 20mm f/2.8 has a great build quality that can stand up to heavy use.
- Small and unobtrusive
- Great build quality
- Slower autofocus than its competitors
6. Sony FE 50mm F/1.8 Standard Lens
Perhaps you are shy and prefer taking photos from a distance, you want to remain unnoticed while taking your subject’s photos, or shooting wide is not your thing, then the Sony FE 50mm F1.8 is perfect for your needs. This is actually a full-frame lens but it is also compatible with APS-C mirrorless cameras like Sony A6000.
There is no shame in using a telephoto lens like the Sony FE 50 f/1.8 when shooting street scenes. As a matter of fact, Saul Leiter used to shoot with a variety of telephoto lenses up to 150mm and he is one of the greats. This lens can turn into an effective focal length of 75mm which can compress your images thus giving them a unique geometric look.
Of course, we’re not trying to look like Paparazzi and a bit sneaky when taking photos of strangers on the street, we’re using a telephoto lens to compress our images and be more selective on what to include in our frame.
Now back to the Sony FE 50mm F/1.8 Lens, its build quality is really good but it feels plasticky on our hands. But I am sure that the plastic construction on it is high quality and they will last a while. Just like any other prime lens on this list, the Sony FE 50mm F/1.8 Lens can give you tack-sharp images with good contrast and punchy colors.
Its large f/1.8 aperture allows you to shoot in low-light situations and create beautiful portraits with gorgeous bokeh.
The lens autofocus is accurate, quiet, and fast enough, which is good for street photography. It is actually the most affordable 50mm Sony native lens, so we can expect that Sony made some compromises to keep its cost down. The only issue I have with this lens is its autofocus can’t keep up when shooting fast-moving subjects. So you have to prepare in advance if you’re shooting in a really busy location.
- Sharpness is good
- Works well in low light
- Autofocus is not great for fast moving subjects
Prime or Zoom?
In case you’re still wondering what kind of lens to choose for street photography, here’s a quick tip: start with what you have. If you already have a zoom lens, try it out first. Zoom lenses are easier to use because you can frame your shot from afar or get closer to your subject without having to move around much.
You can also change the focal length quickly with a zoom lens and capture different perspectives by zooming in or out.
Next, you have to take note of which focal length you use the most, then get a prime lens with that focal length.
I prefer to shoot with prime lenses since they are usually lighter and more compact than zoom lenses. Of course, the Sony 16-50mm OSS is an exception, but it is much slower and has lesser build quality.
Wide or Telephoto?
For me, I generally prefer wider focal length lenses like 28mm and 35mm. They are wide enough to capture a scene and close enough to shoot portraits of people without being creepy.
However, using a wide-angle lens can be tricky, you really need to compose creatively so your images will not come out as “flat”. Wide-angle lenses are great for scenes that have a lot of actions going on and interesting details.
While a telephoto lens can compress your images which can make them more aesthetically pleasing. It also allows you to shoot candids from afar thus capturing your subject’s raw emotions and making you more unnoticeable as well. The work of Saul Leiter is a great example of how to use a telephoto lens creatively.
Keep Learning Street Photography
This is the most important part! Regardless of what type of camera and lenses you have, you need to keep learning the craft.
Keep experimenting with different focal lengths, lighting, and angles to improve your work.
I highly recommend joining a community of like-minded photographers and learning from them. You can also attend workshops, take classes or just join a local street photography group.
Emma Lucy is the Founder & CEO of Emma Lucy Photography. She has over a decade of experience shooting weddings and other intimate events. She also tests the latest digital camera bodies, lenses, analog cameras and other gear from Canon, Nikon, Sony and other camera brands. She currently lives in London where she spends most of her time being a self-employed professional photographer and writer.