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RF lens for street photography in the city?

gazzo
Apprentice

I have a Canon R6 II and im looking for a lens to use for street photography (specifically portraits).

Have seen various videos of people using the 35, 50 and 85mm. These seem to be the lightest of Canons RF lineup thus far.

Has anyone here got suggestions, or owns one that they specifically use and can reccomend for street portraits? Looking for something lightweight and fast that I would rent for a week. Thanks!

12 REPLIES 12

Waddizzle
Legend
Legend

Portraits.  That covers a pretty wide range of creativity.

--------------------------------------------------------
"The right mouse button is your friend."

p4pictures
Rising Star
Rising Star

I used the RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM lens on my EOS R6 and it was great for portraits in all sorts of situations including on the street. The lens is also compact and that can be a significant advantage compared to the huge RF 85mm F1.2L. 

Actually the RF 24-105mm F4L is a good choice with a broad range of focal lengths, and not too large to be obtrusive or scary to your portrait subjects. All that said, I use the RF 28-70mm F2, it's size does not make it inconspicuous, but it's a "bag of primes" in one lens 😁


Brian - Canon specialist trainer, author and photographer
https://www.p4pictures.com

Tronhard
Elite
Elite

When you say that you take portraits - are they likely to be head and shoulders, or full figure, or both?  That can have a significant impact on lens choice.


cheers, TREVOR

"All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow", Leo Tolstoy;
"Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase" Percy W. Harris

ebiggs1
Legend
Legend

90% of the time you are going to want and use one of the 24-70mm or 24-105mm zooms. And this goes for all photograph in general not just "street" "portrait" photography.

"Notice on your old FD lenses, as you zoom the lens the rear element moves closer to the focusing screen,..."

Primes are way more restricting vs zooms. Only buy a prime after you get a good zoom like the 24-70mm f2.8L

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!

justadude
Enthusiast

I have both the RF 35mm and RF 50mm.  Both are great for street photography.  However for mostly portraits, I would not use the 35mm.  My 50mm is my favorite walk around lens when I am downtown doing street shots on my R6 Mk ll... lightweight, wide enough to grab architecture if I am not close, and great for candid people shots.  

If you want closeup portraits that block out most of the street background, then you might want to consider an 85mm.,


Gary

Digital: Canon EOS R6 Mk ll, EOS R8, EOS RP, EOS 60D, many RF, EF, and Rokinon lenses
Film: Pentax Spotmatic, Pentax K2 DMD, Miranda DR, Zenit 12XP, Kodak Retina Automatic II, Kodak Duaflex III, and various lenses

ebiggs1
Legend
Legend

I think people fall for the "lure" of a prime. There is this mystic that a prime lens is far better. And in fact there was a time when that was true. However today in 2024 it is not. Zooms have advanced so far that primes, except for the name "prime", are not any, or any appreciatively bit better. Even the usually faster aperture is vanishing. When you consider how much you give up with a prime lens they really don't make much sense especially if it is your only lens. If you must, buy a good zoom first and then buy a prime.

 

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!

justadude
Enthusiast

Great advice to what EB and Brian said about zooms!

I agree about the lure of primes, and agree that in general the image quality is going to be the same these days.  I hear the opposite so often, and just shake my head.  New zoom lenses have excellent optical quality.

The appeal of a prime to many (and myself) is that you can often get a wider aperture at a lower cost than on a zoom (the RF 35 & 50 are good examples).  You can still find very fast apertures on zooms, but you pay more for that.  That is totally dependent on YOUR budget. Another nice benefit to small primes is if you are going to be walking around all day, sometimes lighter and smaller is better.  I'll take my camera on 8 hour hikes around the city, or in the woods.  I want the lightest lens I own, one camera body, a spare battery, and nothing else.

Personally, I love carrying only a single prime to locations I have shot many times with a zoom - but want to force myself to look at things differently.  You have to learn to be creative when you can't zoom in or out on a subject.

All that being said, I agree with the rest of the group here that at least one (or more) good zoom lens would be in my kit first.  Many times, (like for event photography) I'd be lost with only a prime.  

However, I respectfully disagree with just a small part of EB's comment "90% of the time you are going to want and use one of the 24-70mm or 24-105mm zooms. And this goes for all photograph in general not just "street" "portrait" photography".  That is very true for most photographers, but it is just the opposite for many as well.   While I would never only own a prime lens, most of the time I only bring one lens with me, and it's usually a prime.   You have to decide which is best for your style (after you buy at least one zoom - lol).


Gary

Digital: Canon EOS R6 Mk ll, EOS R8, EOS RP, EOS 60D, many RF, EF, and Rokinon lenses
Film: Pentax Spotmatic, Pentax K2 DMD, Miranda DR, Zenit 12XP, Kodak Retina Automatic II, Kodak Duaflex III, and various lenses

ebiggs1
Legend
Legend

Gary I symptomize with the size and weight of photographic gear as well as the brutal hits taken by football players.

But my main come back is if you don't like being hit and slammed to the ground you need to choose another sport. The same is basically true in photography. The gear is what the gear is. If you find it too big and too heavy perhaps you need to choose another hobby. Now of course that is not to say you can't or shouldn't minimize the size and weight just like utilizing football pads and helmet.  And of course my background is probably way different than yours so I see it differently I suspect. I was in a position that if you don't get the shot, you don't get paid. For most of you folks its just an "Oh well, missed that one!"

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!

"If you find it too big and too heavy perhaps you need to choose another hobby."  While sometimes this is a hobby, it has also been a job for me.  After five decades of shooting, I prefer not to switch because I enjoy the hobby aspect of it as well as the job aspect - but I understand you telling me I should do something else IF this was only a hobby.  It's not.  

I should have elaborated on the lens being too heavy part.  When I'm hired to do jobs that require carrying two heavy cameras, and multiple heavy lenses, I'll do exactly what is required.  When I'm hired to do some backcountry nature photos that require miles and hours of hiking, I'll go as light as I can... and I enjoy that better.  As long as I can get the shots my client wants with a light lens, why should I haul something heavy all day?  I always do as the job requires, and for those jobs that I can, I go light (or when I am simply pursuing the hobby aspect for myself).

"And of course my background is probably way different than yours so I see it differently I suspect. I was in a position that if you don't get the shot, you don't get paid. For most of you folks its just an "Oh well, missed that one!"  My clients don't like when I come back with "Oh well, I missed that one!" I don't like it either because if I do that a few times, not only do I not get paid, they will also look for another photographer.

Overall, the reason for my comments on this thread is because the OP was asking about lightweight primes, and two of the three they asked about, I currently own, so I gave my opinions.  

Personally, I love carrying a lightweight lens around when I can as opposed to a heavier lens.  I don't think because of this I should find another job (or hobby). I personally know quite a few other photographers who prefer lightweight primes for various occasions.  Like me, they also use zooms when a job would be better served with one, but not all jobs do.  For any jobs that are sports related, it would be crazy to just bring a prime - so I agree with you completely there.  When I'm asked to do street photography, or infrared landscapes, or night sky photography, it seems crazy to me to bring a heavier zoom when I know the lens will be at the widest focal length anyway.  Most of my work falls into this second category.  With sports, it's just a few times each year, so I prefer primes.  I think these last few sentences show exactly why our backgrounds are way different (as you stated) because (correct me if I am wrong) your photography leans more towards sports, mine leans more towards landscapes and fine art.

I sure hope this doesn't come off as me being a jerk (reading text can come off that way when you don't hear a person's tone of voice).  I honestly respect your professional style of photography, your thoughts on gear and equipment, etc.  I'm simply asking you to view my style as a different professional style than yours, and that we are both right in our opinions for the types of shooting each of us does.


Gary

Digital: Canon EOS R6 Mk ll, EOS R8, EOS RP, EOS 60D, many RF, EF, and Rokinon lenses
Film: Pentax Spotmatic, Pentax K2 DMD, Miranda DR, Zenit 12XP, Kodak Retina Automatic II, Kodak Duaflex III, and various lenses
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