There can be many reasons for needing Canon prime lenses under $100. Maybe you’re just starting off your photography journey or you simply need the most budget-friendly lens available. No matter the reasons, there are options out there in the prime lens camp under $100, they’re just a bit thin on the ground with examples.
Squeezing quality optics into a $100 package is a task unto itself, which would leave you with only one or two options from same-brand versions. But with the proliferation of third-party lenses, there are a few good prime lenses which just about squeeze into this category. They may not have some of the fancy optics of higher end lenses or features, but if you don’t mind the more basic workings, they can still provide heaps of quality.
1. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM (Overall Winner)
The inclusion of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM won’t be a surprise to some, as the lens has for many years supplied great quality at a great price. Depending on where you shop, this lens can be picked up for just under $100, supplying a surprising amount of quality for the money.
The EF 50mm f/1.8 STM works just as effectively on APS-C models, providing an equivalent focal length of 80mm, stepping more into the medium telephoto zone. Standout features include its super light weight of 160g, which makes it a good accompaniment to small DSLRs, plus the very wide and fast f/1.8 aperture.
There may not be any fancy optical elements in this lens, but it does have a Super Spectra coating to reduce ghosting and flaring. Then there is the STM autofocus motor, which is respectably quick to lock into focus. This also has manual focus override via the slim focus ring, which doesn’t have any hard stops hitting infinity, but is smooth to turn and accurate if you have the patience.
Optical quality is very respectable for the price, with one of the main assets of the Canon EF 50mm being the ability to get such a shallow depth of field which is great for portrait work. Although this lens may not have the ultimate resolving power of much higher-priced prime lenses, detail and sharpness is very respectable for the price. The only real downside to this lens is the very plasticky feeling lens barrel, but you can’t ask for too much at this affordable price.
If nothing else, these are the main takeaways with the EF 50mm f/1.8 STM. Review after review always state this Canon prime lens under $100 provides loads of optical quality, making it a common sight in both amateur and professional kit bags.
Ok, the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM may be just out of the $100 price range at the time of writing, but it’s worth the inclusion for its solid image quality and reputation. As you can see from the accompanying image, this is a pancake lens which can only be beaten out at 125g for sheer light weight by a bunch of feathers.
The lens itself has a f/2.8 aperture, which works great in low-light conditions and also works equally well on crop sensor cameras providing a roughly standard 38.4mm focal length. A lens this thin may not seem like it contains much, but there are still six elements arranged in five groups, with one aspherical element and a Super Spectra coating.
Somehow Canon has also included an STM autofocus motor, which is respectably quick with manual focus override. The focus ring itself is extremely narrow, but that can be forgiven on such a thin lens. Plus, this type of lens is aimed more at the autofocus way of doing things.
On a full-frame camera body, the EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM produces respectable wide-angle images with a good degree of color and contrast without being overbearing. On a crop sensor camera body, the focal length is more like a standard 35mm lens, which means it acts more like a general-purpose lens suitable for the likes of street photography or travel.
Essentially, this lens provides wonderful image quality for the money and it is so lightweight and compact, you won’t even know you have a lens attached to your camera.
This prime lens offering from Neewer shows that good value optics are also available for the mirrorless format. In this case it’s a 35mm prime for Canon EF-M, EOS-M mount mirrorless cameras, with manual focusing and an old school design.
On crop sensor camera bodies the focal length works out to be 56mm, which is a very standard focal length for almost any type of photography. The optics are arranged with six elements in five groups, along with an anti-reflective coating to reduce lens anomalies, all wrapped around a solid metal lens barrel.
The f/1.7 can produce very shallow depth of field images, great for separating a subject from the background, but for the ultimate sharpness f/2.8 is the ideal start point. At this price point, you’re forgoing some of the niceties of higher-priced lenses, such as with the build quality. But in every other respect, the Neewer 35mm f/1.7 is a good quality accompaniment to lightweight EOS-M cameras.
4. Yongnuo YN50mm f/1.8S DA DSM (Budget Winner)
It’s pretty clear where Yongnuo got the inspiration for this very cost-effective 50mm lens. With just a passing glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM, just with Yongnuo branding instead of Canon. So, is this just a plain copy lens or does it bring more to the party?
For just under $60, a lens maker can only cram so much optical quality into a lens barrel, but Yongnuo has definitely given it a shot with a f/1.8 maximum aperture and multi-coated lens elements. Auto focus has also been included, with a standard AF/MF switch on the lens barrel and surprisingly, gold-plated contacts for more efficient transfer of lens information.
When evaluating a lens at this price there aren’t many expectations, which means when the lens does deliver it’s an added bonus. Although the maximum aperture is f/1.8 and the lens can deliver respectable bokeh, backgrounds are better left very simple to avoid any jerky transitions of color. When the aperture is stopped down to f/4, the lens produces its sharpest results across the frame with a good degree of detail.
Ultimately, Canon’s own version is slightly more adept in all departments, but if you want the most cost-effective prime lens, which will also serve as an all-rounder, the Yongnuo is a very good lens.
Getting Results with the Best Canon Prime Lenses Under $100
Many photographers would wince at the thought of spending under $100 on any type of lens. This is mainly due to us always wanting the most refined optics which squeezes out that extra level of goodness. As with any product, the top lenses always follow the laws of diminishing returns, which sometimes can stop us looking at the more affordable versions.
These days more affordable lenses are providing ever higher levels of quality and, if you dive into cheap zoom lenses, can even offer facilities such as image stabilization. But on the best budget prime lens front, you can’t go wrong with the likes of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM which delivers excellent images at a price point anybody can reach.