The 7 Best Prime Lenses for Under $500

Prime lenses, unlike zooms, provide only a single fixed focal length. Despite that limitation prime lenses can be versatile, proficient picture takers that are smaller and lighter than comparable zooms and often deliver superior image quality along with wider apertures.

Indeed, many savvy shooters claim that shooting with prime lenses and learning to “zoom with your feet,” imposes a kind of discipline that ultimately yields more compelling and dynamically composed images. Another excellent reason all serious shooters should consider including at least one prime lens in their optical arsenals is value.

We've picked what we think are the seven best prime lenses for under $500. We've also included links to Amazon where you can buy them.

All seven great prime lenses described below deliver an incredible amount of sheer picture taking power per dollar—and that can really put a smile on your face when you’re behind the camera.

(Editor's Note: You should also check out our picks for the five best DSLRs under $750 and the seven best mirrorless cameras under $1000.)


#1 Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM

This unique high speed full-frame wide-angle for Canon mirrorless cameras employs a stepping motor (STM) that delivers fast, quiet and precise AF that’s ideal for still or video capture. The Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM also focuses down to 1:2 magnification (6.7 inches) for compelling close-ups. This is a great all-around lens for street shooting. Its wide f/1.8 maximum aperture facilitates depth of field control and shooting in low light and its advanced optical design benefits from Super Spectra coating that minimizes flare and ghosting even when shooting in backlit conditions. State-of-the-art image stabilization (IS) provides up to a 5-stop anti-shake-effect advantage in handheld shooting, a configurable control ring provides easy access to aperture, exposure, compensation and ISO settings, and a rounded 9-bladed diaphragm enhances its pleasing bokeh.

Price: $499
Buy it on Amazon here.


#2 Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD

This advanced new full-frame lens combines a semi-wide normal focal length and a wide f/1.8 aperture to provide versatility along with high image quality. It incorporates one low dispersion (LD) element and 2 aspheric elements to achieve impressive optical correction, low distortion, and evenness of illumination, and employs eBand and BBAR coatings so suppress flare and ghosting. Other features: built-in VC image stabilization to minimize shake effects in handheld shooting, a ring-type USD motor for quick, quiet, precise AF, a Floating System optical design that enables focusing down to 11.4 inches (1:3,4), weather sealed construction, and a fluorine-coated front element that resists smudging and facilitates cleaning.

Price: $399 in Canon EF, Nikon F, and Sony A mount
Buy it on Amazon here


#3 Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary

This exceptional ultra-high-speed portrait telephoto specifically newly designed for APS-C and MFT-format mirrorless cameras excels in facilitating the use of selective focus techniques and working in difficult lighting conditions. The Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary's state-of-the-art optical design employs two aspheric elements and one super-low dispersion (SLD) element to dramatically reduce both spherical and chromatic aberrations, yielding images of outstanding sharpness and clarity. A stepping AF motor provides quick, precise, nearly silent AF for shooting video and stills, and Super Multi Layer Coating on all elements effectively reduces flare and ghosting to extremely low levels. Other features: a rounded 9-bladed diaphragm that enhances its inherently beautiful bokeh, comprehensively weather sealed construction, and a robust, durable solid brass bayonet lens mount.

Price: $429 in Sony E and Micro Four Thirds mount; $479.00 in Canon EF-M mount
Buy it on Amazon here.


#4 Olympus M Zuiko Digital 25mm f/1.8

This compact, lightweight, fast normal lens (50mmm equivalent) for Micro Four Thirds (MFT format) cameras incorporates two aspheric elements that help control spherical aberration and distortion, yielding outstanding image quality even wide open. The Olympus M Zuiko Digital 25mm's wide f/1.8 aperture facilitates shallow depth of field and selective focus techniques and enhances its low light capability. A Movie & Still Compatible (MSC) AF system provides fast, smooth, quiet autofocus that benefits all applications, a rounded 7-bladed diaphragm enhances its pleasing bokeh, and perhaps best of all it’s an excellent value.

Price: $249.99
Buy it on Amazon here


#5 Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 AS IF UMC

Ideal for portraiture, theater photography, and general low light work, the Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 AS IF UMC's full-frame manual focus manual aperture lens also provides a 127.5mm-equivalend focal length on APS-C-format cameras. It excels at depth of field control and shallow depth of field effects thanks to its f/1.4 maximum aperture and it focuses down to one meter (3.3 feet) for frame-filling headshots. One aspheric element helps reduce aberrations, and UMC multilayer coating minimizes ghosting and flare, contributing to crisp imaging. It also comes with an effective bayonet mount lens hood to facilitate shooting in high-glare lighting conditions.

Price: $259 in Sony E and Fujifilm-X mounts, $239.00 in Canon EF mount
Buy it on Amazon here.


#6 Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EC DG OS HSM Macro

This superior quality full-frame portrait telephoto is also a superb general purpose macro lens that focuses down to 1 foot (1:1), achieving life-size magnification on sensor. The Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EC DG OS HSM Macro's advanced optical formula incorporates two super-low dispersion (SLD) elements to virtually eliminate chromatic aberrations and color fringing, thus achieving outstanding clarity and color accuracy. A floating optical design helps maintain consistently high image quality over the entire focusing range, Super Multi-Layer Coating applied to all elements greatly enhances clarity and color fidelity, and a Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) coupled to an internal focusing system achieves quick, quiet, precise AF and provides fulltime manual focus (MF) override. An effective built-in optical stabilizer (OS) minimizes the effects of handheld camera shake, resulting in crisp images, and a rounded 9-bladed diaphragm enhances its inherently pleasing bokeh.

Price: $340.41 in Canon EF, Nikon F, and Sigma SA mount
Buy it on Amazon here


#7 Lensbaby Velvet 85mm f/1.8

The Lensbaby Velvet 85mm f/1.8 is an ingenuous high speed, manual focus, full frame medium telephoto prime. It employs a classically simple optical formula to achieve soft, glowing, impressionistic effects at its widest apertures and can be adjusted to yield sharper, higher contrast images by stopping down. A 12-bladed diaphragm contributes to Lensbaby Velvet 85mm's smooth, artistic bokeh and its wide maximum aperture facilitates depth of field control, selective focus techniques, and low light work. The lens focuses down to 9.5 inches (1:2) to capture compelling close-ups, has comprehensive focusing scales and a well-damped focusing action. And provides a 127.5mm-equivalent focal length with APS-C-format cameras.

Price: $499.95 in Canon EF Nikon F, Pentax K, Sony E, Canon RF, Nikon Z, and Fujifilm X mount.
Buy it on Amazon here