Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The best Cheapest Nikon lenses (on a budget)

Ok in this article I am going to give you the advice for having the best lenses on your camera (Nikon). Where you really get the most for your money and also the best optical quality/brightness for the cheapest amount of money.

So after you have had your kit lens, usually the 18-55 f/3.5-5.6  you want to get some better lenses (also referred to as "glass")

First stipulation is that if you are looking for the cheapest you are most likely to have a cropped sensor camera (ie not a pro version like the D700 D3 or D3s or D3x )

Second stipulation you may need to check that the lenses i recommend will work for your camera, the very lowest end dslrs do not have a focus motor screw in the body and require the lens to be a (AF-s or (sigma) HSM) However I shall point this out at each review.

more after the break

A standard lens to start off with:

Nikon 35mm f1.8
this is the more expensive of the list of lenses, it is brand new and is an afs version so will work with all nikon dslrs and it will have quite and fast autofocus, its f1.8 makes it a very bright lens and will give a nice bokeh to the background of close up objects.
its small light, fast and bright.

Sigma 28 f/1.8
If you want to go a little wider and yet still have a super bright lens then sigma gives a bargain with its 28mm f1.8 (it has wider but they get a lot more expensive)   these are also not HSM so will not work on the cheapest dslrs.
it is surprisingly big, will work of full frame cameras as well and would be good for video.

The nikon 50mm f/1.8
What a bargain for an amazing lens!  again it is much much brighter than your kit lens would be at this distance. (giving you a shutterspeed of 1/200 in comparison to the kit lens only giving you a 1/25th of a second photo to have the same level of exposure!!!) the great shallow depth of field will give you milky soft back grounds and super sharp in focus eyes to attract the viewers attention.
Now this does not have af-s so will not auto focus on the really cheap bodies, for that you will need to go with the 50mm f1/4 afs but that is a lot more expensive.
super cheap, super light, great optically and bright,

Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8-4.5

OK, ok so it is not a constant aperture but if you are shooting say a night club, you are almost always going to be shooting at the widest, especially if you are just at the side of the stage, so being at 18mm you will always be at f2.8 making it nice and wide and bright!  (f2.8 would be equivelent 1/100th of a second photo compared to f/4.5 being a 1/40th of a second photo)
cheap and f2.8 

now the competitor to the lens above is the Tamron 17-50mm 
A little wider and it is f2.8 throughout the whole range.  but it is a little bit more expensive so judge your budget before deciding.  Optically it may not be the best (like the lens above) but if your in club situations you're not really needing top optical quality.
not so cheap but f2.8 through the range.

Tamron 28-75mm f2.8

Now this is the one I use all the time. I got it second hand for under £250, it has some dust in it but it works perfectly, it is cheap and light and compact so that taking it to clubs such as Confusion is Sex or Torture garden I never am that worried about it, and it doesnt break my arm.
The newer ones have some form of hsm in them so double check that when you are getting it, best try it in the shop first if your camera does not have a focus motor screw.
it also has a very close focusing distance so you can get really creative macro shots with it.

Very cheap for what it is, and very versitile and works on full frame as well, good for video and is a bit macro as well

now for macro here is the cheapest option
get a reversing ring. put your 18-55 kit lens on this backwards and bingo you have an amazing macro lense!  

Tamron 70-200
this is by far the most expensive in the list yet in comparison to the on lable brands it is around £1000 cheaper than their equivelents

It is f2.8 all the way through the range and has fantastic optical quality. It is not an afs or hsm so it will not work on the cheapest bodies

and at the total oposite end of the spectrum  the super wide angle

The sigma 10-20 hsm 
ok so there is not an f2.8 in sight but it is the cheapest and it does the job.
If your expecting your photos to be gracing the walls of the Tate Modern art museum you will want something a bit better but then again you probably wouldn't be reading this article
it will work with all dslr as it has HSM


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  1. demonode's Moe6 April 2011 at 13:57

    Excellent Dom!!

  2. Hey Dom, I know the Nikon 17-55 2.8 is not in the same price range as these lenses, but I am wondering have you ever compared the optical performance between the Nikon and the Tamron 17-50 2.8 (either vc or non-vc)?

    I think I currently have a bad copy of the Tamron 17-50 and is thinking about getting the Nikon. Mine seems to backfocus.

  3. HI Dom

    Any experience with the sigma 18-50 2.8 DX Macro HSM thinking of replacing my kit lens (18-105mm). Cheers

  4. Hi Dom,

    Nice article with some good lense suggestions, thanks for posting. I have the Nikon 50mm 1.8D AF and it is everything you say it is. I have been wondering what lenses to get next, I want to build up a low light collection and can't afford all the Nikon trinity.

    I have the Sigma 18-200mm 3.5-6.3 HSM that I bought for a walk about lens and I don't really it, terrible creep and not the sharpest lense arround I am not sure if I just got a bad copy or if it is a bad lens but it is my first Sigma and does not really encourage me to buy another Sigma lens.

    I am surprised you didn't include the Tokina 11-16mm I know you have had focus issues with it but I thought you loved it.

  5. i do love it but it is a lot more expensive, and the sigma 10-20 is fine for keeping to a tight budget, the tokina is around double the price of the sigma at the moment

  6. I would always recommend the first purchase after the kit lens to be a prime. It does wonders for your sense of composition.

  7. @Wesley

    I have used the Sigma 18-50 2.8 DC Macro HSM for 3 years now (pretty much replaced kit lens immediately) and love it and still use it for most shoots. Incredably quick, virtually silent and good optical quality, can hightly recommend

  8. Personally from reading reviews even though the Sigma 70-200 is a little more expensive it crushes the Tamron 70-200. I suppose it all depends on budget but I shoot with the Sigma 70-200 all the time and love it.

  9. @Alex, I think you'll find that the Sigma 70-200mm does beat the Tameron 70-200mm quite a bit on focusing speed, not sure about picture quality. I have read good reviews on the sigma for sharpness and according to the guy on art of the image, the sigma OS version is even sharper then the none OS version. My only experience with a sigma lens is my 18-200 and it is terrible, bad creep and focus ring is really jerky!! I guess their EX range would be better quality?

  10. I've got an old manual-focus Nikkor 105mm f2.5 (made in 1973, pre-AI, converted) that still *destroys* my 24-70 f2.8 for sharpness, colour and can buy them for under £100, compared to £1300 for the zoom!

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