It’s generally a good rule of practice that when dealing with a limited budget to always lean on the side of prime lenses. It may seem counter-intuitive to have only one focal length to play with, but it means all the optical qualities are not spread out over a focal range. Instead, they’re concentrated on a more simple construction. Today, we bring you the best Nikon prime lenses under $250.
A Nikon lens under $250 can still bring great quality optics that are not just affordable, but also provide a reasonably wide aperture. So, without further ado, let’s dig into some of the prime choices in this area and how they can apply in the real world.
1. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G (Overall Winner)
One rule of thumb that’s worth following for good lenses in a limited budget range is to stick to the tried and tested focal lengths. One of these being the 35mm type as shown by the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G.
This lens is extraordinarily good value with an equally useful focal length on DX cameras, providing a 52.5mm viewpoint. The lens features a nice wide and bright f/1.8 aperture. This may not go as wide as some of its more expensive counterparts, but it can still provide great low-light capabilities, while also having a shallow enough depth of field for portrait shots.
Optically, the lens includes one aspherical element along with a super integrated coating for reducing lens flare and ghosting. The Silent wave autofocus motor is quick enough to lock onto moving subjects, while also having full-time manual focus override.
There may be more expensive 35mm lenses on the market with larger apertures, but considering these cost three times the amount as the 35mm f/1.8G, it shows that this lens packs a lot of value. It’s sharp in the center of the frame at f/1.8 and tack sharp across the whole frame from f/2.
Essentially, if you are happy with the 35mm focal length, then read no further.
If you need a more standard viewpoint of the world and the 35mm focal length is a little too wide-angle, then the Nikon AF-S FX Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G is a top choice. Although the lens comes in at a cheap price point, it’s one of the best value all-rounders. On the DX-format, it provides a 75mm viewpoint which is verging on the short telephoto side of things.
Just like the lens above, the aperture comes in at f/1.8, which is great for portrait work and reasonable low-light conditions. The lens arrangement consists of one aspherical element and super integrated coatings for increased clarity and for minimizing lens anomalies.
There’s really nothing much to complain about this lens. It’s extremely lightweight, very good value, and sharp throughout the aperture range. The f/1.8 aperture also produces very good bokeh renditions where it counts, making it one of the best all-rounders for the money.
Normally at this point, we would be recommending Nikon’s own 85mm offering. But as we have a budget in mind, the Yongnuo YN 85mm f/1.8 has a surprising amount of optical qualities.
The lens provides a 127.5mm viewpoint on DX-cameras, with the usual aperture width at this price point of f/1.8. The lens even has goldplated electronic contacts for more efficient data transfer, which I guess can be eventually melted down for small jewelry items if you don’t exactly take to this lens in the long run.
The 85mm focal length is generally a favorite of portrait shooters, and this is exactly where this lens slots into the grand scheme of things. It has reasonably good quality, but not to the level of Nikon’s own version. Considering the price point, the Yongnuo provides respectable optics for the money.
The Nikon AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D is another well-respected, excellent value prime lens with a standard viewpoint. Just like the 50mm f/1.8G, the 50mm f/1.8D has a respectably wide f/1.8 aperture plus a manual aperture ring. This is all contained within an extremely light 155g lens barrel.
A super integrated coating has been applied to all lens elements to increase image definition, and the 45cm close focusing distance is reasonable enough for most types of subject matter.
This lens is a little soft in the center at f/1.8, but if you don’t mind working from f/4 and above, the 50mm f/1.8D is extremely sharp in this range with a good degree of color and contrast rendition. Essentially, if you’re okay with its smaller working zone, this lens is very good value for money.
5. Yongnuo 35mm f/2 (Budget Winner)
Normally at this point we would simply recommend sticking with the options above. However, Yongnuo is back again with a 35mm lens. The aperture of f/2 may not go as wide as some of the examples above, but it’s still respectable for general purposes.
This lens has been treated to multicoated glass elements to increase image definition, plus the lens has built-in autofocus with a standard AF/MF switch that can be used to engage manual override.
As with most of the feedback about this lens, it’s great value for money. The lens provides respectable image quality and reasonable sharpness levels after f/4. This means if you’re on the tightest of budgets, the Yongnuo 35mm f/2 will fill the gap as a good all-rounder. But in reality, you’ll always be wishing you just spent a few dollars more for the slightly better options.
The Best Candidates for Nikon Prime Lenses Under $250
In general, in our chosen budget range, you will always be looking at compromises. But when you check out examples such as the Nikon 35mm and 50mm contenders above, they are surprisingly good quality for the money.
The 35mm f/1.8G and 50mm f/1.8G aren’t just budget choices which will fill a gap until you have saved up enough for more expensive versions. Rather, these lenses are worthwhile options that can last you for years.
As originally stated, these two focal lengths have been tried and tested and can work in a great many scenarios. The f/1.8 aperture will work great in low-light conditions and also provide a good shallow depth of field. From this point on, it’s then up to you to stretch your photography muscles, as the Nikon prime lenses under $250 are very capable of producing professional quality.