Alot of it is personal preference. 50mm allows you to isolate your subject a little more, but you don't have a wide-berth on the scale focus. A 35mm and 28mm allow you to show your subject in their environment and allow for a greater DOF when scale focusing. Anything Wider than a 28mm forces you to get really close which can make for some really interesting shots,. I like a 21mm in crowds where I'm close by default. So currently, I use a 21mm, 28mm, and 35mm, and a 50mm. I use them for different applications in the street.
It's like buying a pair of shoes, it has to fit you and what you want to do with it.
You should use the lens you think works best for whatever situation you happen to be in. There is no reason to decide what lens to use based on predetermined absolutes. All focal lengths from 17mm to 300mm have provided me with what I would call successful street photos. The lenses I use most for street photography are the same lenses I use most for any photography: 28, 35, 50, 135, and 24 and 200 every now and then. Occasionally 17 or 300 in the past, though I have now sold or traded both of these lenses. I would say that I use the 28, 35, and 50 equally most. I usually use the 35 instead of the 28 and 50. I use the 135 about half as much as either of these shorter lengths. I will use the 200 mostly only if I also have a 28 or 50 on another camera ready to shoot. I generally will have 35/135 or 28/50 on two cameras.
100mm on 6x9 has a wider angle of view than a 50mm lens on 24x36mm format. It is almost identical to the AOV of a 40mm lens on the smaller format, so is actually closer to a 35mm-focal-length-like AOV than to a 50mm-focal-length-like AOV. A 127mm lens on 6x9 will be closest to a 50mm lens on small format. A 65 on 6x9 is a little wider than a 28 on small format.
I don't understand this thread at all....are you sure we are all street photogs here.
You use everything and the close up mfd of wides is ...????
28 or 35mm are regarded as the classic or golden age FLs and away from these wider or longer is up to the photographer and the requirements of the scene.
Street comprises; portraits in environment or isolated, buildings and architecture, groups or individuals, human or animal ...vegetable or mineral.
Are we catching on?
I shoot in 21, 28, 35, 50 & 100 but could easily incorporate wider and longer
I'm not the biggest fan of 50mm but for some shots I couldn't have done without it. My fav is 21mm...its so general purpose
I set myself a limit of 100mm but the decision had nothing to do with the subjects or scenes
I used to have a 50mm as my standard lens (on 35mm film), but I haven't used it much ever since I got a 35mm. I like the natural perspective: looking through the viewfinder is almost the same as normally viewing a scene. What you see is what you get = easy framing.
Regarding speed: since I can handhold a 35mm one stop slower than a 50mm, they're about equal. The greater depth of field makes it easier to focus in low light, too.
At least on some other forums I frequent, Bruce Gilden became the reference answer for 'what is street photography'. This tends to build a bit of machisimo - 'get within a few feet, hit them with a flash, if you aren't in peoples faces it isn't street photography'. This often goes along with 'everything most be totally in focus so you have to stop down., etc.
These shots have a place, but the they are just niche within street photography. Most of HCBs worth was with 50s as I recall, often with faster glass in case he was in a lower light situation. I'm sure many would attack his work as too far away, too blurry, too cropped and so forth.
I am not arguing that this is what people are saying here. In general though, I've found those with the strongest opinions tend to prefer more aggressive, invasive styles. Big surprise, right? :)
Instead of asking about focal length, I'd suggest looking at a lot of street photographs. Figure out which you like the most and see what focal length they were shot at. If there is a lot of consistency it may be worth giving that a shot yourself.
I have a problem with absolutes in creative pursuits. There are answers that are more common, but everyone has to answer this sort of question for themselves. That takes time and lots of effort.
My answer is 35mm, but I can understand how a 50 would do it - just enough to isolate a subject, not too much to lose the environment. I like having a touch more of the surrounding area in, so a 35 feels right for me.
Dogma is bad for your karma.