Let’s assume you’re in the position of needing Nikon prime lens for under $100 that can also deliver respectable images. This type of lens is out there at very affordable prices to meet most people’s budgets but to produce a good quality Nikon prime lenses under $100, well it requires some realistic compromises.
Usually, this means things like a plastic lens barrel and more simple features, but if you don’t mind the more simple workings and you’re careful with the choices, there are some very pocket-friendly prime lenses on the market. To squeeze within the hundred dollar price range, they usually have a manual focusing system and, in some cases, might be discontinued, but are still available as brand-new products.
1. Nikon AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D (Overall Winner)
You can’t beat a 50mm prime lens for versatility as they are topping the charts for having just the right viewpoint for many different types of photography. In this case, it’s the Nikon AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D, which comes in just over the $100 budget but is well worth the inclusion for its wonderful optics.
The lens itself is equally useful on both FX and DX formats, providing a 75mm equivalent focal length for the latter. The lens also sports a wide f/1.8 aperture, with a Super Integrated coating, and seven-blade rounded diaphragm. This lens is extremely lightweight at only 155g, making it a very useful travel companion.
Considering the 50mm f/1.8D costs only $100, it’s ok at f/1.8, but it really hits its stride by f/4, with tack sharpness across the whole frame. This means that if the intended use for this lens is for general purposes, it’s an excellent lens for its price point.
2. Neewer 85mm f/1.8
Neewer has been producing some very good cost-effective lenses of late, with the Neewer 85mm f/1.8 being just under the $100 mark. The 85mm focal length is very useful for portrait shots, but it’s also very handy as a medium telephoto lens.
The Neewer 85mm f/1.8 features fully manual workings, with a ridged aperture ring, wrapped around an optical design of six elements in six groups. The front filter size is 72mm to accommodate a wide aperture and is equally useful on both full-frame and crop sensor camera bodies.
For such a budget-conscious 85mm lens, the Neewer is surprisingly sharp throughout the aperture range, but it does tend to be a bit soft with the aperture wide open. However, when the lens is stopped down, it can produce respectable images that will only fall short for the most discerning.
3. Yongnuo YN 35mm f/2
Yongnuo is another company that offers very cost-effective camera products with plenty of features for the money. The Yongnuo YN 35mm f/2 is another very good general-purpose focal length, with a reasonably wide f/2 aperture and multi-coated glass elements.
The lens barrel has a very simple design, with just an AF/MF switch, but does have autofocus with manual override. The lens has goldplated contacts for better communication between camera and lens.
Although the lens barrel feels quite cheap to the touch, it’s respectably sharp from f/4 and upwards, but maybe a little too soft at f/2 for specific purposes. However, considering the price point and that it also has autofocus, it’s a bargain of a lens at this price.
4. Opteka 500mm f/8
Yes, that’s right Opteka is selling a 500mm lens for just a touch under $100. Plus, the lens also comes with a 2x double, UV filter, lens hood, cleaning pen, dust blower, and a cleaning cloth. To put this into perspective, you can’t even buy a lens hood for a top-end 500mm prime lens for this price.
However, this doesn’t mean you can throw away all thoughts of spending thousands on a high-quality 500mm prime, as there are reasons for why those good lenses cost so much. This means for a company to be able to produce a 500mm lens under $100, there are a few caveats. Well, quite a few caveats when talking about the optical qualities.
The lens itself is wrapped around an optical construction of four elements in four groups, with a respectable overall weight of just 640g. As this lens can only go as wide as f/8, it’s not exactly the best operator in low light. However, if you don’t mind lengthy shutter speeds or most of your shots being mounted on a tripod, then this lens is actually quite fun to use.
Image quality throughout the aperture range is just okay, but if you just want to have fun at long focal lengths, then this lens is a good entry point. Plus, using the doubler means the lens can reach 1000mm, which is almost hysterical for the price point.
5. Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8 (Budget Winner)
It’s no surprise that Yongnuo has the most budget-friendly lens on this list. The highly useful Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8 lens is designed very much like the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM, which may look weird strapped to a Nikon camera, but it’s been a firm favorite of Canon users for years.
This lens works equally well on both FX and DX formats (75mm equivalent focal length), providing a fast and bright maximum f/1.8 aperture along with multi-coated glass elements. The lens barrel itself has been kept simple, with only an AF/MF switch and a narrow manual focusing ring. The lens is extremely lightweight at only 203g, which makes for a good accompaniment to smaller DSLR camera bodies.
Although the lens does display soft edges when the aperture is wide open, when stopped down it’s respectably sharp. Smooth bokeh effects are very easy to achieve and it’s apparent that the lens has quality well above its price point.
Considering that this lens can be picked up for crazy cheap, it represents amazing value for money, along with happy features such as autofocus.
Scoring the Best Nikon Prime Lenses Under $100
Although it’s asking a lot for a third-party lens to offer great optics for under $100, there are options out there. In some cases, you may have to forgo things like autofocus and make do with a plastic lens barrel, but as for optical qualities, these lenses provide a surprising amount of image quality for the money.
For Nikon prime lenses under $100, it’s wise to stick to the obvious choices such as 35mm and 50mm lenses. These focal lengths have been tried and tested over the years and as they are popular choices, lens makers can produce them for a lot less cost than more obscure focal lengths.