Fancy a new optic but on a tight budget? Here are 12 brilliant prime lenses for less than £200.
1. Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM lens
This pancake lens has a stepper motor for extremely quiet autofocus, which makes it ideal for video recording. Its effective focal length equates to around 64mm on an APS-C-sensor camera (in 35mm-equivalent terms), which makes it suitable for a variety of subjects including street and documentary photography. Furthermore, with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 you can use it to blur backgrounds beautifully, which means that it can also be successfully used for portrait photography.
Combine this lens with a small DSLR, such as the Canon EOS 100D, and you have the ultimate walkaround kit that doesn’t take up too much room in your bag. Click here to buy the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM lens.
2. Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 lens
This compact optic is exclusively designed for Canon cameras with APS-C-sized sensors, such as the EOS 760D, EOS 80D and EOS 7D Mark II. With its maximum aperture of f/2.8 it’s a great lens for shooting in low light and also allows you to get shallow depth of field, while the close-focusing distance of just 16cm allows you to get up close to your subject.
The effective focal length of around 40mm (in 35mm-equivalent terms) means that it’s an ideal everyday lens to place on your camera for street and documentary work, but it can also be successfully used for landscape and architecture.
When combined with a small DSLR, the lens offers something light and compact to shoot with every day. Click here to buy the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 pancake lens.
3. Nikon 35mm f/1.8 G AF-S DX lens
Designed for DX-format Nikon DSLRs, this would be an ideal second lens after your camera’s kit lens. With an effective focal length equivalent to around 52mm on such cameras, the combination approximates the angle of view of the human eye.
The wide maximum aperture of f/1.8 means that it’s great for low-light shooting, while the rear-focusing system is said to enable faster focusing than would be otherwise possible (something that’s also helped by the Silent Wave Motor). The M/A switch on the barrel, meanwhile, allows you to override autofocus simply and quickly should you feel the need to. Click here to buy the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX.
4. Pentax 35mm f/2.4 SMC DA AL lens
This budget 35mm lens is designed for Pentax’s APS-C-format cameras, which results in a 35mm-equivalent focal length of around 50mm. A fantastic second lens when you want to complement your kit optic, this effective focal length suits a wide range of subjects including street photography, environmental portraits, food and architecture.
It also has a minimum focusing distance of 30cm, which means that you can get reasonably close to your subject to fill the frame, while the Super Protect coating on the front element promises easier cleaning of any oily or water-based marks.
The lens boasts a wide maximum aperture of f/2.4, which makes it useful in low-light conditions, and also means you can blur backgrounds for beautiful shallow depth-of-field effects. Click here to buy the Pentax 35mm f/2.4 SMC DA AL.
5. Sony 85mm f/2.8 SAM lens
Designed for Sony’s full-frame SLT cameras, this lens offers the classic focal length for portrait photographs, while the wide f/2.8 aperture also helps to throw the background out of focus for pleasing results. The wide aperture also makes it useful for low-light shooting, as an alternative to raising the camera’s sensitivity.
You can also use the lens with Sony’s APS-C-format SLT cameras such as the A68 and A77 II, on which it will provide a focal length equivalent to around 128mm in 35mm terms, making it useful for portraits as well as for other subjects such as nature and sports.
A Smooth Autofocus Motor (SAM) is included for smooth and quiet autofocusing, while the aperture is said to be almost perfectly circular from its maximum aperture to two f/stops smaller. Click here to buy the Sony 85mm f/2.8 SAM.
6. Sony DT 30mm f/2.8 SAM macro lens
This macro lens boasts a 1:1 reproduction ratio, with a close-focusing distance of just 13cm to allow you to get right up to your subject.
Suitable subjects include flowers, wildlife and food, with an effective focal length of 45mm in 35mm terms when mounted on the Sony APS-C-format cameras for which it is designed. This also means you can use it successfully for portraits, as well as for street and documentary work.
With a weight of just 150g and a compact design, it’s a good addition to your camera bag without being too much of a burden. Its maximum aperture of f/2.8 makes it suitable for shooting in low light, and Sony also promises that the optic’s Smooth Autofocus Motor makes it focus more smoothly than conventional lenses. Click here to buy the Sony DT 30mm f/2.8 SAM Macro.
7. Olympus 9mm f/8 Fisheye Body Cap lens
Weighing just 30g and measuring only 12.8mm deep, you almost don’t notice this lens when mounted on your camera. Additionally, it keeps the sensor protected when not in use, in the same way a standard body cap would.
This simple, manual-focus-only lens has a fixed aperture of f/8, although this makes it suitable for street work where you want to have everything in focus. This, together with an effective focal length of 18mm on Olympus and Panasonic Micro Four Thirds bodies (in 35mm-equivalent terms) means that it can also be used successfully for landscape photography.
It boasts a minimum focusing distance of just 20cm, while the manual-focus lever lets you easily switch between distant and close-up focus. Click here to buy the Olympus 9mm f/8 Fisheye Body Cap.
8. Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 Asph lens
Available in black and Silver finishes, this affordable lens has been designed to function as a 50mm lens on a Micro Four Thirds body, with its wide aperture allowing for blurred backgrounds to be easily created.
The barrel sports a deep and tactile focusing ring while the optics inside include one Ultra-High Refractive Index and two aspherical elements to counter aberrations. There’s also seven-bladed, rounded diaphragm for circular bokeh, so it’s bound to appeal to portrait shooters. Click here to buy the Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 Asph.
9. Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN lens
Sitting in Sigma’s ‘Art’ lens range, the 60mm f/2.8 DN features a smart, minimal design. Available for both the Sony E and Micro Four Thirds mounts, it combines with these bodies to provide an effective focal length of 90mm and 120mm respectively (in 35mm-equivalent terms), making it ideal for a range of different subjects including portraits, music and food photography.
On the inside, Special Low Dispersion glass helps to reduce chromatic aberrations, while Multi-Layer Coating allows flare and ghosting to be minimised. The lens’s inner focusing system is said to maintain image quality regardless of focus position, while attractive bokeh effects are promised from the rounded, seven-bladed diaphragm. Click here to buy the Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN.
10. Sony E16mm f/2.8 lens
This simple, low-profile lens is ideal for keeping the overall system size of your camera down when you want to travel light.
It features a seven-bladed diaphragm and an f/2.8 maximum aperture, and is a good choice for shooting in low light or whenever shallow depth-of-field is required.
Designed for APS-C format, E-mount cameras, the combination providing a 35mm-equivalent focal length of around 24mm, the lens can be used for a wide range of subjects including landscapes, street photography, food and still life. Click here to buy the Sony E16mm f/2.8.
11. Nikon 18.5mm f/1.8 1 lens
Available in silver, black and white finishes, this is the perfect second lens for the Nikon 1 system user who wants an alternative to their kit lens.
With a 35mm-equivalent focal length of around 50mm on a 1-system body, and a minimum focusing distance of just 20cm, it suits a raft of different subjects such as portraits, street photography and food.
It weighs just 70g and boasts a single aspherical element within its optical construction to keep image quality high, while its lightweight AF system delivers ‘amazingly-fast’ autofocus. Click here to buy the Nikon 18.5mm f/1.8 1.
12. Nikon 10mm f/2.8 1 lens
With a compact and lightweight design, this pancake lens is ideal when you want to travel small and light with your Nikon 1 camera.
It works with 1-system bodies to provide the photographer with a focal length equivalent to around 27mm in 35mm terms, making it ideal for a range of different subjects including landscape, travel and street work. Thanks to its maximum f/2.8 aperture, you can also use it in low light, such as for night-time photography.
The lens’s super-quiet autofocusing motor is also great for discreet shooting, as well as being handy when recording videos, while two aspherical elements within the optical construction help to keep image quality high. Click here to buy the Nikon 10mm f/2.8 1.
About the Author
Amy Davies is a technical journalist and photographer who has been reviewing cameras and other photographic equipment for the past five years. Her work has appeared in Digital Camera and N-Photo magazines as well as on Techradar. You can find out more about Amy and her work on her website.