Your favorite cheap-o lens

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by ptkeam, Dec 29, 2008.

  1. So I was interested in getting a constant 2.8-apeture "standard" zoom lens for my D70 bodies. I kind of liked the 24/28-70mm range -- a normal to short tele lens. The Nikon version is out-of-sight expensive @ $1400. So I checked out the Sigma version since I've generally been happy with Sigma lenses. Their version was over $450. Both of these were pretty heavy & bulky.
    I really just wanted something for somewhat low light "walk-around" use & really didn't want to break the bank. In browsing the KEH inventory I came upon a Sigma 28-70mm 2.8-4DG zoom for $75 bucks. I thought what the heck and got it. It has turned out to be a great little lens -- not only cheap, but lightweight and optically a pretty good performer. The only compromise is the decrease to f/4 at the 70mm focal length. This hasn't proven to be a big deal.
    This got me to thinking about great, little bargains out there among the "non-sexy" lenses that people have found to use for specific purposes -- ie. travel, telephoto, macro etc. -- that have worked out well for them. What have you found that has hit the nail on the head while not breaking the bank????
  2. The venerable Nikon 50/1.8, to be sure. I've had sushi and beer tabs that cost more than that little workhorse, which I've used regularly for 20 years.
  3. I love my old MF 55mm f2.8 Micro. Battered and scratched-up, but it only cost me $115 and takes great pics :)
  4. definitely my 50mm f1.8D, if you can ignore my ugly mug shot I was experimenting...detail, much detail, even better on the full version
  5. if not the 50 1.8 the 18-55 kit lens that came with my D50.
  6. The 50 1.8 has to best deal out there. Mine was $50 mint used. Like all primes, works on Fx too.
  7. I have an older AIS 50mm f1.4 and 35mm f2 which work very well. The AIS 105mm f2.5 is another great lens available at not to dear a price.
  8. Sean: yup, that little lens will show you every nostril hair, won't it? Speaking of noses, a little powder will help with that glare, man.

    :) I jest! Someone could be blinded, the way my skin reflects.
  9. there are a lot of really nice optics out there you can pick up for very little money... even though i'm about to spring for the $1,400 monster the OP mentioned, i'm really very fond of the little nikkor 28-70/3.5-4.5 i use as a walk-around zoom. also, a lens i bought by mistake turns out to be incredibly sharp: nikkor 100/2.8 E AI-S.
  10. 50/1.8, no doubt about it!
  11. SCL


    Two favorites actually, one was a $16 Spiratone 400/6.3 telephoto which has a t-mount and I can use it on any of my film SLRs as well as my Nikon D100....delivers good central area around f8-11, softer edges. My 2nd was a Tamron Adaptamatic SP zoom 35-80/2.8 which cost around $23 and I used a couple of years on my F100 and D100...delivered good contrast and sharp results, particularly at the long end.
  12. 18-35/3.5-4.5, you can find them cheap these days since its focal length is a sub-set of a lowly but fairly good 18-55 kit lens and not AF-S. IMHO, the 18-35 is, as it is designed to be, a 17-35 on the cheap. At arround $200, it is a great bargain.
  13. there's no better bargain in all of nikonia than the 50/1.8.
  14. A few...
    50/2 AI Nikkor. Pretty much a see-through body cap. Lovely softness wide open, sharpens up smartly stopped down to f/4. Just slightly better than the 50/1.8D AF Nikkor for that versatility.
    100/4 Spiratone Portragon, fixed aperture T-mount. Way ahead of its time and didn't sell well. The LensBaby is the latest incarnation of a dedicated soft focus lens and was marketed far better. But the Spiratone cost me only around $15 in a pawn shop.
    135/3.5 Lentar preset T-mount. Another pawn shop puppy. It's been with me through Minolta, Canon FD and Olympus OM systems. Good resolution but with only moderate contrast so it offers a different flavor from my 85/2 AI-S and 105/2.5 AI Nikkors.
  15. A 100mm f/3.5 AF Macro Phoenix lens (but it's appeared under other labels) in Nikon mount. Goes to 1:2 by itself, and 1:1 with included diopter. Very good optics, which I expect to continue to function unless I accidentally hit it against something. A wonderful bargain. Rattles when focusing, but it feels cheap too.
  16. I'm really enjoying reading all these posts -- especially the mention of a Spiratone lens -- YIKES!! I haven't heard of Spiratone in years. Talk about a blast from the past.
  17. I vote for the 50 mm 1.8 as well. On manual focus lenses, the 50 mm E series, which can be found in mint conditions for a little more than the price of two new caps. I paid mine 25$ in 2006. Moving to zoom lenses, the one I can't live without on an AF body is the 35-70 2.8. It is a bit long on the wide side, but it was Nikon flagship of the old days, accepts cheaper 62 mm filters and can be found used for a reasonable price. I still have mine from the mid 90's and won't part with this reliable workhorse.
  18. Lex, my 50/2 has nasty bokeh. But I agree with Carl: my 105/2.5 - can be had for <200$ - ooohhh, so sharp and contrasty.
  19. While I too love the 50 f1.8, my favorite cheap-o has to be the Nikkor 28-80 G lens (3.3-4.5, I believe). Super light, fast focusing, nice color rendition, sharp enough. Got it as a kit lens with an N75, a few years back.
  20. An old-timer still gives me very sharp and contrasty photos. That old-timer is the Super Takumar 55/1.8. Good for portraits, and excellent for sharp walking around as well as landscapes. Going price is $30-$50.
  21. Still like my 28-105 ED. As a single walk-around lens with a 1/2 "macro" setting, it still finds time on my camera.
  22. Nikon 80-200 ais f/4.5
  23. Tokina 19-35mm it's around $149.00 new very solid and sharp!
  24. There are three I guess. A 35/2 mf in nearly mint shape was $35. I found an old 80-200/4.5 that had been AI'd that I couldn't leave behind for fifty bucks. It lives in the small bag I don't leave home without. Last is a Phoenix 19-35 I got when I needed a body cap for my first Nikon digital. It's been dropped twice on a tennis court, has a look all its own and didn't cost a dime. Rick H.
  25. Canon EF 50mm 1.8 II is my current cheap love.
  26. Jonathan Jones beat me to it, my Tokina 19-35 went with my Rebel G on a sale years ago, but that was a great little lens, and only about $170 when it had the "new & shiny" premium on it
  27. the tamron 18-50mm is awesome!
  28. Gotta be my 80-200mm Tokina AT-X. Works like a charm even though it's manual focus. Does very well on my N90s. Couldn't go wrong for $85.57 delivered. Nobody seems to want the old lenses :)
  29. My "cheap" favourite is the Nikon 50/1.4 AIS.
    Many people wouldn't dare put an AI or AIs lens on their high end DSLRS, but I do. In this sense I have lots of bargain lenses. The best bargain is probably the Nikon 400/2.8 AIS that I got for about the same price as a new Nikon 70-200/2.8 AFS. I prefer twice the reach!
  30. The 50mm f/1.8 is my best and cheapest lens, and I use it a lot. It was marvellous on D70, and still is on D300.
  31. Also, nikon 24-85 afs (not afd)
  32. I have not found a good cheap lens for my Nikon yet. My best cheap lens to date has been a 135mm f/2.8 k mount for my Pentax. My neighbor gave to me free. He bought it at Salvation Army for $10 only to realize later that it didn't fit his Minolta. It takes nice contrasty pictures. The brand name on that one is Sears believe it or not. :) I have been considering a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 and I also found a Vivitar 35-70mm f/2.8-3.5 manual focus macro lens for Nikon on KEH for $33. For that price it might be worth a shot. My dad used some Vivitar lenses on his Mamiya/Sekor when I was a kid.
  33. bms


    Old Nikkor 105/2.5...$75
  34. My current second- favorite cheapo lens is a pre-AI 85/1.8 recently purchased for about 60 bucks, not beautiful looking, but it has very good manners. Third, more for cheapness than anything else, is a 35/2.8 that I got for $10 in clean condition. Not a stellar performer, but how much cheaper can a working Nikkor lens get?
    My all time favorite cheapo lens, however, remains a 50/f2 AI bought a few years ago from KEH for $35. It was listed as "bargain" condition, but they must have had a surplus and decided to toss a few better ones into the bargain bin. Its only apparent concession to bargain-hood is a little scuffing of the filter threads and a tiny hint of age in the focusing smoothness. If this lens has any vices, I'm too dumb to notice them. If you know of any, don't tell me.
  35. The Nikkor 600mm F4G ... a bargain at $9500 ... Donald Trump.
  36. jbm


    Two entries:
    1. When I was a Canon man, my 50/1.8. Not just for the sharpness and insanely good color rendition, but because it looked like a piece of s---. It really did. Mounted on my then Digital Rebel XT it was tiny light, unobtrusive, and perfect.
    2. I just got a Nikkor 135/2.8 E series for less than a hundred bucks, basically nver used. On my crop camera, it is good for portraits from a distance with studio strobes, tack sharp, and incredible tonality...all of the photos have this look to them that is at once lo-fi and, when perused for a second, also tack sharp. I am on my second laptop but will post a few shots from it in a little bit.
  37. The 50 f/1.8 is the best "cheapo" hands down. Though by certain standards it's not exactly a cheapo lens, unlike those G type non AF-S lenses, it does have an aperture ring, it also features a distance scale, a real MF ring, and a nice and tight metal mount.
    The $200 55-200 VR would be my 2nd choice.
  38. Canon EF 35mm f/2. Besides EF 50mm f/1,8.
  39. My 55mm f2.8 micro-Nikkor, one of the sharpest lenses ever produced by any camera company, cost me $10 at a garage sale about 20 years ago.
  40. The cheapo lens in my bag is a old 28mm F2.5 AIS dateing back to the early 80's works great with total man on a D40 got it to use with a old EM
  41. LEARNNNNNNN.......get the 50/1.8 and discover framing, capturing the scene, awesome in low light, blinding fast focus in the AF version. A dream on an old manual FM2. Zooms are for journos not artists.
  42. My favorite cheapo lens is my 24-70 f/2.8L :D :)
  43. 200mm f/4 Ai. Almost as sharp as 70-200 at 200mm at 1/10 the cost and maybe 1/5 the size. Thank you, Bjorn, for this recommendation.
  44. Two lenses, one has to be the 50 f1.8, but I also use the 28-200 G which is another of those nikon sleepers very sharp with low distortion. I might add a third lens into the pot. \the 75-150 E
  45. Sigma 70-300mm APO DG macro brilliant lens got it low expectations but produces some great results
  46. I put a second vote in for the Nikon 28-200mm G lens. OK, OK it DOES have a plastic mount, but we ARE talking cheap-o here, right??
    The optical performance is really, really good and it has great close-up capability. It's also very compact & light weight. This was the very first lens I bought when I moved into the digital slr era. Sold it to get something "better" and have regretted it ever since.
  47. Some favourites:
    • Nikon 50mm f/1.8
    • Tamron 90mm macro
    • Tamron 28-75 f/2.8
    • Tokina 12-24 f/4
  48. I picked up a 35-70 2.8 d macro on a whim as a fill in lens. It's now my go to piece. Great as a normal Dx zoom and absolutely tack sharp as a macro. Nice size, very versititle, fast and sharp.
  49. The relatively new kit lens sold with the Canon XSi, the 18-55 IS, is a sleeper. Cheap looking, plastic construction and mount. It rivals my 17-40 f4L in many respects and is superior in a couple. I've gotten some superb nighttime images at a shutter speed of 1/6th of a second so the IS works extremely well.
    As I noted elsewhere, I recently shot some images with it at Zion National Park with heavy snow on red rock compared against the Zeiss F2.8 24-70 on a SONY A900. The 13x19 prints were virtually indistinguishable. Cost of a lens isn't always a guarantee of IQ.
  50. The relatively new kit lens sold with the Canon XSi, the 18-55 IS, is a sleeper. Cheap looking, plastic construction and mount. It rivals my 17-40 f4L in many respects and is superior in a couple. I've gotten some superb nighttime images at a shutter speed of 1/6th of a second so the IS works extremely well.
    As I noted elsewhere, I recently shot some images with it at Zion National Park with heavy snow on red rock compared against the Zeiss F2.8 24-70 on a SONY A900. The 13x19 prints were virtually indistinguishable. Cost of a lens isn't always a guarantee of IQ.
  51. bms


    ditto on the 35-70, great lense, but "cheapo"?.... paid ~$350 for mine...
  52. Without a doubt, the Canon 50mm f1.8 and the Vivitar/Soligor 100mm f3.5 macro. Two of the best optics out there, at ANY price!
  53. Well, if you enjoy hearing about oddball lenses, my 7.5mm f/8 Spiratone circular fisheye is pretty good. But for an all-around bargain, you cannot beat the Nikon 28-105mm AF-D (I think it's "D")...I could actually live with that as my only lens.
  54. Benjamin. The 35-70 2.8 was Nikon flagship lens for standard zooms in the 90's, before the 28-70 came out. Considering the price it can be found today and the performance it delivers, IMHO it is a cheap lens for what you get for a little more than the price of a plastic consumer zoom. It has a very little distortion and a superb sharpness. The only drawback is its tendency to flare when shooting into the sun.
  55. Entirely agree with all the Nikkor 50/1.8D folks. No better lens for the money IMO. :)
  56. 24mm F2.8 AIS in beautiful condition for $135; bought off the local online want ads last week. One of the great lenses of all time.
    105mm F2.5 non-AI, first optical (Sonnar) design, in excellent condition, for $70; got a new factory AI ring for it for $20. Another great lens of all time.
    75-150mm F3.5 series E lens for $75, with a loose zoom ring; I got the ring action tightened, and rabbit ears added for the benefit of my non-AI cameras, for another $70. Some say it was actually made by Kiron, which qualifies it for third-party status.
    70-210mm F4 AF two-ring zoom for $160, in excellent condition; works in all generations of Nikons: meterless F's and F2's, non-AI and AI cameras; works with my D40, though without autofocus, not that I care about autofocus. Some people don't like this lens; mine is very nice, optically. One stop slower and a lot less money than those F2.8 zooms.
  57. I got mine used for $350 too. For the performance it's cheap. Especially when stacked up next to the 17-55 2.8 for almost $900 and it's not as sharp and not a macro. I love mine. Next is my old-ish 20-35 2.8.
  58. Canon 50/1.8. Great.
    I am looking to try out a 28/2.8 soon though..
  59. I see here that amongst different platforms the fast 50 is still king. For me it's the Pentax FA 50mm f/1.4. Still a current lens, it's an AF prime that predates digital and was produced using Pentax optical formulas from the 1970's. This sweet little baby is still considered one of the best 50mm lenses on the planet. Recently Dpreview stacked it up against the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM and, the Nikon AF-Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 D. Here's the dpreview article
    Soon to be replaced by the much more expensive DA* 55mm f/1.4 SDM the the FA 50mm is only $199 CDN / US. And yes, Canon shooters can buy and adaptor to use this K-mount prime (and others) with their gear too.
  60. 75-150 E lens.
  61. Third vote for the Nikon 28-200G. Compact, lightweight (i.e. "plastic-y"), good optics. After selling off my D300 and beloved 18-200VR for a D700, the 28-200 is about as close to the 18-200 as you can get for an FX camera. Bought it off ebay used for a bargain. Maybe it was yours, Peter ;-). If so, thanks!
  62. bms


    Jerry, Luca,
    no doubt the 35-70 is superb and worth every dollar and more (it does flare though).
    Can yo explain to my wife that $350 is a steal compared to $1500 for a 24-70? The term "Cheapo" is relative :)
  63. Years ago I got a beaten up old manual Nikkor 85mm f/1.8. This lens is the predecessor of the familiar AIS 85mm f/2.0. It's the lens used for the crucial picture in the movie "Blow up". I paid next to nothing. The lens is mechanically very robust, has excellent image quality and a very creamy bokeh. It is the only one of manual nikkors that I still use regularly on digital.
    When I got my (first) digital SLR a year ago, I got a used Nikon 18-70mm zoom. The lens is a bit wobbly and could be faster, but I am very pleased with the image quality. It is sharp, light, small and has an excellent rendition of out-of-focus areas. Something the newer 18-200 and 16-85 wonder zooms fail badly at. In fact, I find the oof rendition of these lenses so horrific and distracting that I would never change the 18-70 for one of these lenses.
  64. I got the Canon FD 50mm 1.8 for FREE. It came with the Canon AE1 Program that my half sister gave me. She never learned how to use it. The camera body had to have a CLA and it's working great now.
  65. Benjamin, I bought my 35-70 2.8 in 1996. Twelve years later I am still using it. Basically I have two sets of lenses, the fixed (E series) ones: 28 mm, 50 mm 1.8 and 135 mm, which travel with my FM2 and the 20 mm, 35-70 mm 2.8 and 70-300 mm that travel with the F100. Apart from the F100 body (which replaced a worn out F90X) and the 70-300 (which replaced my still regretted 75-300 mm), those sets of lenses follow me since at least ten years (some even 20). I have learnt a lesson in photography: unless money is a real issue, on the long term it is far better to buy something and use it until it wears out, than to buy something just to regret it and upgrade to something better one year later. This is a message I passed to my wife, let me buy the right tool for the pictures I want to take from the very beginning and then I will keep using it until it dies. I have friends who spent huge amounts of money starting with a Tamron 28-200 and ending three years later with a 28-70 2.8 mm and a 70-200 2.8. In between they kept "upgrading" from lens to lens and at the end they spend 2-3 times the money they would had spent if they bought the right lens from the very beginning.
  66. Another vote for the Nikon 28-200 G. Razor sharp, very light weight. Don't let the plastic construction put you off, this lens is the best walkabout lens I've ever owned. It ain't particularly fast, but you knew that already, right. Really wide range and small. Put a 50 f/1.8 in your pocket for indoors.
  67. Plenty of old Nikkors come to mind as they sell cheap now but for modern lenses I have a list of three plastic cheapies. The 18-55 afs vr, 55-200 afs vr and the 50 1.8. All perform far above their price point and weigh near nothing to boot.
  68. my vote goes to nikkor AF 28-80G 1:3.5-4.5 for range & flexibility, OK sharpness, small and lightweight in one package.
    Second vote for AF 50/1.4D.
  69. my vote goes to nikkor AF 28-80G 1:3.5-4.5 for range & flexibility, OK sharpness, small and lightweight in one package.
    Second vote for AF 50/1.4D.
  70. Kiron 105mm f/2.8 macro mint cond. $120 odd Australian Dollars - best bang for bucks in my lens bag.
  71. I would have to say Nikkor 50mm f/1.8. About as sharp and useful as any $100 lens could possibly be.
  72. Nikkor 55mm f3.5 micro. recommended by Dan Fromm and Joseph Wisniewski. An excellent lens. See attachment with it reversed. Thanks Dan and Joseph..
  73. sorry here it is
  74. My 55/3.5 AI'd Micro-Nikkor and M2 extension tube set was one of the best purchases I've made, but at around $100 used I'm not sure it's a "cheap-o lens", per the title of this thread. Affordable, sure, and an excellent value. But not necessarily cheap. To me, cheap is a choice between buying beer and buying a camera doodad from a pawn shop or thrift store. If it costs much more than a weekend's supply of domestic beer, it's not cheap.
  75. I tend to agree with Lex in a way. I think it would best to call the thread the best bargain lens purchased. My 55mm lens was a bargain but although a bargain I think that even by today's standards it is still up there in terms of quality results.
  76. If we're talking new then I would say my Sigma 24-70 f3.5-5.6 AF zoom for Maxxum. About 100 USD new. Decent performer, though there is some barrel distortion at wide end. At the time it was the cheapest way to get 24mm in a new lens. Best bargain on NOS would be either my Sigma 90mm f2.8 macro MD for 60 USD or my Kiron 24mm MD mount for the same price. Both were close-outs. Best used bargain was my 50mm Rokkor QF preset macro that I picked up for 10 USD.
  77. Phoenix 100mm f3.5 AF macro. Cost me $75 on eBay and works beautifully.
  78. I like my 6 3/8" Kodak Anastigmat, which covers 4x5 and cost $35 mounted on a lensboard.
    I've had good luck with one of <a href=>Galen Rowell's</a> favorites, a 28–80mm ƒ3.5–5.6 AF-D.
    My 105mm Kodak Ektar is a real sharpie, it cost me $125, including a nice 2x3 Crown Graphic.
    The 35mm/f2.5 UW Nikkor is almost free, and produces great images.
  79. another vote for the Nikon 50mm f1.8! cb :)
  80. They 've all been mentioned here already!
    50/1.8, 55/3.5, 24/2.8
    Love 'm all dearly.
  81. Another vote for the 55mm f/3.5 macro as "classy glass for not much cash".
    Recently couldn't resist buying a minty Nikon Series "E" 75~150mm f/3.5 for the equivalent of around US$60. Wow! What a bargain it turned out to be. Sharp into the corners from wide open; contrasty and flare-free; constant f/3.5 aperture; zoom ring stays where you put it; focuses down to 1 metre; takes common 52mm filters. What more could you want in a short tele zoom? It even performs well on the front of a TC-200 converter, making a 150~300mm at a push.
    I've definitely made a permanent home in my gadget bag for this one. It's just a pity they stopped making them over 20 years ago.
  82. I'm using the kit lens that comes with the D90, 18-105mm, worth about $300. Works great for me! And for telephoto, Nikon's new 70-300mm VR is pretty good for only $450.
  83. the 24 ais 2.8 mentioned is really nice on the smaller sensors. The 50 1.8 or almost all of the 50's are good, but, for a bit more of a walk-around lens that I really enjoyed until I destroyed it, is the 18-70 Kit lens. It's a sleeper for its price, and does well in reviews, though not discussed as much these days and is an excellent, light, sharp lens. I was not afraid to use it most any situation. Some distortion wide open, but I learned to live with it. Bout $300 or so new? something like that. A good lens.
  84. 55mm/3.5 Macro Ai'd...$75...surprisingly great performer. 28mm/2.8 AIS Nikkor $60. Everybody else was buying the glamour glass and no one would touch these. I didnt have much money so I bought theses two stellar performers.
  85. Hands down it would have to be my Tamron 90mm Di f/2.8 1:1 Macro (model 272EN). My favorite FUN lens that I use quite often, takes great portraits, has excellent bokeh, sharp 1:1 macros, great low light images and I love the large manual focus ring & quick manual push-pull shift focus system, all for under $350 after the $90 rebate I got on it. I've recommended this lens to many of my colleges and not one of them was disappointed!
  86. 28-105 AF, 180 2.8 AF, and Vivitar 70-150 mf, all purchased used.
  87. Nikon 75-150 Series E.
  88. Here's my yet additional response - Nice shopping! It must feel good to hold out and end up with a lens that matched what you were seeking at a low price.
  89. Sigma 70-210mm f3.5-4.5 APO MACRO
    If you can find this lens on eBay in mint condition, I would suggest paying as much as $200.00 for it. It is one of the sharpest zoom lenses I have ever used, at any price. I purchased it to shoot sailboat races as a, "disposable lens" because of the inevitable saltwater splashes one encounters while shooting on a sailboat platform, during rough seas. I was soo impressed with it that I still have it today, and use it frequently. This lens is a sleeper, meaning that it was under-appreciated for some unknown reason, at the time of it's inception, and had such a short production life that it never achieved the notoriety it deserved.
  90. Mine has to be a early version Tamron Adaptall 80-200 f/2.8. My Canon 70-200mmL is sitting in a closet.... I like it that much. I payed $100 for an Olympus OM-1 it was attached to. Great find!
  91. Mine has to be a early version Tamron Adaptall 80-200 f/2.8. My Canon 70-200mmL is sitting in a closet.... I like it that much. I paid $100 for an Olympus OM-1 it was attached to. Great find!
  92. 55mm f3.5
    best $110 I ever spent...
  93. rdm


    My favorit lens is a Sologor 35mm-135mm zoom lens. It is an all metal and solid feeling lens and has a nice twist zoom ring insted of the push pul type, and a macro dial. Cost me 1 dollar plus 8 dollars shipping.

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