Here, we show that a good lens doesn’t have to cost the earth. We also show that there are a range of budget macro, bright portrait, and creative lenses available that you can afford, as well as super zoom and telephoto lenses that can get you closer to your subject. So if you’re looking for your first lens, or second lens (after the kit lens) for your interchangeable lens camera, mirrorless or Digital SLR, then this list is for you. All the lenses featured here have 4 stars or above and are priced from £79/$118 to £179/$268.
1. Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX – (for APS-C, Nikon mount)
For around £150/$225, this compact wide aperture lens weighs only 200g. It sports excellent optical quality, and a good build quality. It’s a superb value prime lens that delivers excellent quality images.
2. Pentax 35mm f/2.4 – (for Pentax)
If you’re a Pentax user, you can pick this lens up for around £120/$180. It features high-quality optics, and is a very compact model. It doesn’t have weather sealing or a lens hood, but will make a great prime edition to your kit.
3. Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN A – (Micro Four Thirds, Sony E-Mount)
This 60mm prime for Micro Four Thirds lenses is available for about £150/$225 and has an unusual smooth focusing ring and produces a pleasing out of focus blur. Its bright f/2.8 aperture allows for some nice bokeh, too. It’s in Sigma’s Art range of lenses and is great for macro images. It offers outstanding sharpness even at maximum aperture and has a quick autofocus to boot.
4. Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN A – (Micro Four Thirds, Sony E Mount)
The Sigma 30mm f/2.8 EX DN A has a bright f/2.8 aperture and features a newly developed linear focus motor. It’s available for around £170/$255 and provides a moderate wide angle view equivalent to 45mm on a 35mm camera. This compact and lightweight lens is ideal for MFT/Sony mount photographers and has excellent sharpness for maximum aperture.
5. Sigma 19mm f/2.8 DN A – (Micro Four Thirds, Sony E Mount)
The Sigma 19mm is a wide-angle lens with a bright f/2.8 aperture and a newly developed linear focus motor. With a metal mount and high-quality plastic body, the lens is lightweight without compromise. This wide prime sports a quick autofocus and excellent sharpness from maximum aperture. It’s also resistant to flare which is good for shooting in bright situations. It’s available for around £170/$255.
6. Lensbaby Spark – (Nikon or Canon)
The Lensbaby Spark is a bargain at £79/$118 for Canon and Nikon DSLR users. It’s an experimental lens that features a tube enabling you to bend it around and distort the focus points of the photo, creating unique results. Great for those that love experimenting, the lens allows you to change the focus point easily. It features circular bokeh and has a threaded front to allow you to use filters, extenders and other accessories.
7. Panasonic Lumix 25mm f/1.7 – (Micro Four Thirds)
The Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 weighs just 125g, and has an equally light price, at around £149/$223. It has a 47 degree angle of view and is the equivalent of a 50mm lens on a 35mm camera, meaning it will see the world similarly to how the eye sees it. The lens features low distortion, low CA, close focusing ability and is well made.
8. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM – (Canon FF and APS-C)
This Canon optic is available for a meagre £101/$151 and promises smoother, quieter autofocus than its predecessor, making it good for shooting video too. Made from high-quality plastics and featuring a metal bayonet, the lens is still lightweight at 160g. It offers excellent sharpness when stopped down and very good sharpness in the centre at maximum aperture.
9. Kelda 6.5mm f/3.5 Fisheye – (Canon and Nikon)
Kelda may not be a brand you’ve heard of before but if you want a good quality fisheye lens that won’t break the bank, their 6.5mm is available for £133/$199. For the price it has good build quality and outstanding sharpness in the centre when stopped down. The lens also features stereographic projection, which means images look more natural that a standard fisheye lens.
10. Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM Pancake – (for APS-C, Canon)
This Pancake lens is available for £139/208 and gives you an ultra-compact wide-angle view. It weighs only 125g and offers fast focusing and good value for money. It’s suited for a wide range of subjects and is really versatile.
11. Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM – (APS-C, Canon)
This telephoto zoom has Canon’s new stepping motor technology – giving quieter, smoother autofocus performance. This makes the lens great for video applications as well as photography. It’s available for around £150/$225 and offers fast focusing, an effective stabiliser, as well as great sharpness in the centre throughout the zoom range. It’s also lightweight.
12. Sony DT 30mm f/2.8 SAM Macro – – (Sony A mount)
This 30mm Macro lens for Sony SLRs with APS-C sized sensors will be great for anyone looking to dip into macro imagery without breaking the bank. It’s lightweight, compact and is capable of very good results as well as being compact and great value for money.
13. Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC – (Canon and Nikon (APS-C))
The Tamron 18-200mm is a classic lens offering quality Tamron features including Vibration Compensation for both Canon and Nikon users. A DC motor is used, offering fast and silent operation. The lens offers good flare resistance, very low central CA and has impressive central sharpness, all for an excellent price of around £170/$255.
14. Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8 – (Pentax)
This lens is now available for £99/$148. It’s a lightweight lens with a wide maximum aperture of f/1.8. If offers extremely low CA and distortion levels and will be ideal as a standard prime lens. It’s also lightweight and has fast focusing.
15. Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DI LD Macro – (Full-frame/APS-C, Nikon, Canon)
This Tamron lens is now over 7 years old, but it represents great value for a zoom lens. It’s available for around £90/$135. This lightweight lens offers a macro function and it isn’t the fastest lens around but will be a great starter option for those that don’t have a lot of money to spend on a zoom.
16. Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM – (Sony Alpha A-Mount (DSLR/SLT))
SAM stands for Smooth Autofocus Motor and that’s something that this lens incorporates. Made from lightweight yet rigid plastics, this lens offers value for money as well as being lightweight. It’s available for around £100/$150 and gives quality images when stopped down.
17. Olympus 9mm f/8 Fisheye Body Cap Lens – (Micro Four Thirds)
This fixed aperture fisheye lens for MFT cameras has a wide angle of view – 140 degrees, and a barrel distortion effect similar to full sized fisheye optics. The lens is manual focus and is available for around £90/$135. If you want fuss-free operation and size is an issue for you, then this lens will be ideal.