If you shoot a Canon camera and are on a tight budget there is now a range of good quality fixed focal length primes that are not only cheap but will also enable you to capture some awesome photos.
These lenses aren’t built to the same quality as the Canon prime lenses, but then this is a given. Even though these cheap third party prime lenses aren’t as strong and robust as the Canon branded equivalents, the overall build quality really isn’t that bad, and provided you treat them with a little respect they will stand the test of time. If you buy one of these lenses and use it as it should be used you won’t need to replace it after five minutes of use.
When it comes to image quality the image quality of these cheap prime lenses isn’t too shabby at all. If the photos are only going to be used in low resolution online (for blogs, websites and the like) you really don’t need much more. Similarly, if you are printing small and regular sized prints the image quality is spot on. If you want to create large prints you are going to run in to problems I’m afraid.
It is possible to capture photos that are good enough quality to sell commercially using these cheap third party prime lenses, if you aim them at the right market of course. My top selling image on my print on demand store was captured using an old entry level Canon dslr loaded up with a cheap third party prime lens and I have generated quite a bit of income from it. It is actually quite annoying that I make more money (through my online store) with an image taken with a budget camera/lens combination than with my (expensive) top end set up. With the money I have made with my top selling photo I could have my camera/lens set up several times over.
Many photographers rave about prime lenses, however not everyone gets on with them. Splashing out loads of money on a lens that isn’t ‘right’ is costly, and whilst there is a market for used and second hand lenses you will never get your money back and will always lose out. These prime lenses are a great way to see if a prime lens is going to suit your style of photography without spending too much money, and also having the chance to capture awesome photos in the process.
So what are these cheap prime lenses that are worth buying? The cheap prime lenses I recommend are made by Yongnou. Yongnuo are better known for their flash equipment, where the company sells good quality speed lights that are full of technology but sold for a budget price. Yongnuo are pretty new to the lens scene, so they haven’t got a proper foot hold yet but their day is coming and it won’t be long until this company is snapping at the heels of the other major third party camera lens manufacturers.
There are two cheap prime lenses that I think are worth a look, and these include:
YONGNUO 35MM F2
Focal Length – Full frame/APS-C:- 35mm/56mm/ Aperture:- 1.4 - 22 /Min focus:- 9.8”/ Dimensions:- 2.9” X 2.3”/ Weight:- 5.4oz / Image stabilization:- No / Price (approx.) $USD/£ GBP:- $90.00/£85.00
35mm is a popular focal length among photographers, and I have to admit that it is one of my favourite focal lengths. On a crop sensor camera this lens has an effective focal length of 56mm, which is close to the popular 50mm focal length.
The Canon branded equivalent is the 35mm f2 IS, which costs almost five times more than this lens, so to compare the two side by side would be a little unfair. That said, all things considered the Yongnuo 35mm is much better value for money and gives a lot more bang for the buck.
The build quality of this lens isn’t brilliant, and as a comparison I would liken it to the Canon 50mm f1.8. This lens feels more like a toy than a serious bit of photography equipment but then given the cost of this lens it’s not right to expect more. This lens may feel a bit flimsy but it isn’t a five minute wonder lens, and it will last.
The image quality of this lens is very good, and whilst it may be a little soft wide open at f2 if you stop the lens down the sharpness significantly improves. I think shooting wide open is abused and many photographers use it as their ‘go to’ setting when stopping down would yield better results. For the money, the image quality of this lens is superb and better than lenses costing several times more.
There is a learning curve in getting the most out of this lens so don’t go expecting awesome results right out of the box. The other thing is not to get too disheartened and write off the lens without giving it a proper road test.
Overall the Yongnuo 35mm f2 is a great lens and one I highly recommend. The Yongnuo 35mm f2 is available from Adorama, Amazon (US), eBay, Amazon (UK).
YONGNUO 50MM F1.8
Focal Length – Full frame/APS-C:- 50mm/80mm/ Aperture:- 1.8 - 22/Min focus:- 17.7”/ Dimensions:- 3.15” x 3.27”/ Weight:- 4.2oz/ Image stabilization:- No/ Price (approx.) $USD/£ GBP:- $58.00/£40.00
A 50mm prime lens is many photographers first lens upgrade from the kit lens, so it is a popular style of lens that is recommended over and over again. On a crop sensor camera this lens has an effective focal 80mm, which is still a useful focal length for a range of different subjects.
If you remove the Yongnuo branding you could easily mistake this lens for the Canon 50mm f1.8 as the two lenses are identical. These lenses look the same, they feel the same in the hand, they feel the same on the camera and they are built the same, which as you know is not that great.
Whilst the build quality isn’t the best and it does feel like a child’s toy this lens will provide years of service if you look after it and treat it as you should.
Many photographers argue the image quality of the Canon 50mm f1.8 is superior to that of the Yongnuo 50mm f1.8, although I have to disagree. From my experience with both of these lenses, the real world tests I have done and also comparing the photos on my computer there is no clear winner with regards to image quality. Perhaps these photographers are trying to justify the additional cost of the Canon 50mm f1.8?!?
This lens is in direct competition with the Canon 50mm f1.8 lens, and I have to say the Yongnuo 50mm lens comes out the winner and is the best value for money 50mm prime lens.
The Yongnuo 50mm f1.8 is available from Adorama, Amazon (US), eBay, Amazon (UK)
GUIDE NUMBER (ISO 100) – 14M/ ZOOM HEAD – NO/ TTL AUTO EXPOSURE – YES/ HSS – NO/ MANUAL – YES. 1/1 – 1/64/ FLASH EXPOSURE COMPENSATION – YES/ WIRELESS TTL TRANSMITTER - YES/ COVERAGE – 360 DEGREES/ POWER – 4 X AA BATTERIES/ MINIMUM RECYCLING TIME – 0.1 – 3.0 SECONDS/ WEIGHT – 420G
GUIDE NUMBER (ISO 100) – 24M/ ZOOM HEAD – NO/ TTL AUTO EXPOSURE – YES/ HSS – NO/ MANUAL – YES. 1/1 – 1/128/ FLASH EXPOSURE COMPENSATION – YES/ WIRELESS FLASH TRANSMITTER – YES/ VERTICAL TILT – 50 DEGREES UP: 30 DEGREES DOWN: 30 AND 60 DEGREES LEFT: 30 AND 60 DEGREES RIGHT/ POWER – 4 X AA BATTERIES/ MINIMUM RECYCLING TIME – 4 SECONDS/ WEIGHT – 998G
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.