Last updated on 5 July 2022
While zoom lenses are great, your lens collection isn’t complete without at least a couple of prime lenses, and we have gathered a list of the best prime lenses under £500 just for you. Prime lenses have a fixed focal length, so any zooming has to be done with your feet, but they tend to be sharper, lighter, and are often (although not always!) a lot cheaper than a zoom lens.
Primes are great for portraits, landscapes, food, product, and a lot of other types of photography. They may not suit those looking to capture fast-moving nature or sports where the ability to zoom in and out quickly to catch the action is a big advantage, but they are fabulous for most other uses, and available in focal lengths from ultra-wide angle to long telephoto. We have a selection of decent budget lenses in this list, for both mirrorless and DSLR cameras, and you’re sure to find at least one that ticks all the boxes for you.
Without any further ado, let’s get the lowdown on the best prime lenses under £500.
Everyone should have a 50mm prime in their collection, and for Nikon users the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G AF-S Nikkor lens ticks all the boxes. It’s lightweight, durable, and has lovely smooth bokeh due to the nine rounded diaphragm blades. Although you can see vignetting on the image when shooting at f/1.4, this is easily fixed in your image editing software. Sharpness is excellent, even at the widest aperture, and the AF performs fast and quietly.
The Nikon 50mm f/1.4G AF-S Nikkor can be bought for around £389, so you’ll still have some change left over from your £500.
I don’t want to leave Canon users out of the 50mm party, so here is the Canon to the Nikon 50mm. The Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM features Canon’s USM (Ultrasonic Motor) for almost silent AF focusing, and the Manual/AF switch on the side of the barrel is perfectly placed for switching between modes without looking away from the viewfinder.
Bokeh is superb, due to the eight diaphragm blades, and this lens is very sharp in the centre at f/1.4, although the corners can be a little soft at this aperture, although by f/5.6 sharpness across the whole image is pretty much perfect. The Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM makes it on to our list of the best prime lenses under £500 because it’s lightweight, cheap, and has a wide maximum aperture. This lens costs around £389, just like the Nikon, so you’ll have a little left over from your £500 to spend on more photography gear!
The ultra-wide Samyang 14mm has great optical quality, but it is fully manual which may put some people off as you can’t shoot in your camera’s auto modes. However, the build quality of this lens is excellent, and image sharpness is amazing from f/5.6 onwards. Because it’s an ultra-wide angle lens, there is some barrel distortion visible but this can be fixed in post-processing.
The Samyang 14mm gets a spot on the best budget prime lenses list due to this and the very reasonable price of around £287. It’s available in Canon mount for full-frame and APS-C crop sensor cameras, and also in Nikon and Sony E-mount.
This one is for the macro photography fans, but it doubles up as a fantastic portrait, food, or big landscape lens too. Most telephoto primes are over the £500 mark, but this is a great budget prime lens you can get for around £399. It’s available in Canon and Nikon mount, and has a 30cm minimum focusing distance.
For macro shooting, sharpness is key, and the Tokina 100mm macro provides it, along with good contrast and saturation in images. The wide f/2.8 aperture is a big bonus too, along with Tokina’s One-Touch Focus Clutch Mechanism that provides super-fast switching between AF and manual.
Here’s a Sony addition to the best prime lenses under £500, and it’s a 35mm with a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture that makes it great for portraits, street photography, and for shooting in low light. The focal length also makes this a great lens for landscapes and architecture as well.
Sony’s OSS (Optical Steady Shot) image stabilization system helps to produce sharper results when hand-holding the camera at slower shutter speeds. The Sony 35mm is available for around £389, and is certainly worth the money.
The 50mm Lensbaby Spark makes it to the list of best budget prime lenses because of the quirkiness and fantastically cheap price – around £80! It’s available in Nikon and Canon mounts, but the maximum aperture is f/5.6, so it’s not a fast lens by any means.
The Lensbaby Spark will appeal to adventurous and creative photographers, as it has two lens elements and a flexible tube in between, which allows you to bend and move it to adjust the focus point, and you get to control how much the focus falls off, and where it falls off too.
This lens can take a while to master, but you can get great results with practice.
…And the Winner of the Best Prime Lenses Under £500 is?
I can’t choose an overall winner from these lenses, as they cover a range of different focal lengths and will suit some photographers more than others. However, the Lensbaby Spark offers the best value for money and will give you some unique and adventurous images if that is your thing. You also can’t go wrong with a good 35mm, 50mm, or 100mm prime lens, and as you progress through your photography journey you’ll probably end up owning at least two of these versatile lenses.
I hope that whichever budget prime lens you choose, we’ve helped to make the decision a little easier. If you’re looking for the best budget lenses for Canon, Nikon, and Sony cameras, then you can find some decent zoom lenses as well as primes for a good price. Photography can be an expensive hobby, but it doesn’t have to be – you can capture great photos on a budget-level camera, just as you can get brilliant picture quality with affordable lenses.