We tend to bang on about the following point all too often, but it remains true. If you’re working with a limited budget and need the most affordable option with the best quality, it’s always good practice to choose a prime lens.
In today’s rundown, we will be checking out the best Nikon prime lenses under $500, with some good lenses to cover the most useful of focal lengths. A prime lens may not have zoom ability, but it does benefit from having all its optical goodness in one focal length. This generally results in sharper images and much wider apertures than found on the zoom variety.
A prime lens under our specific price range can still provide top-quality, without having the cheap associations usually found in this category. Nikon understands there will be photographers out there who still need pinpoint detail without breaking the bank. So, let’s see what’s currently on offer from the Nikon realm and how these lenses stand up in the real world.
1. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G (Overall Winner)
Sharpness, large apertures, and other goodies are all well and good on any prime lens. But there’s also the concern of choosing the right focal length for your particular needs.
There’s no point in buying a 12mm prime lens if your favorite pastime is snapping portraits. Your subjects will simply look too bulbous to be flattering. This means if you’re not entirely decided on a particular area of photography, a 35mm prime will act as a great all-rounder.
This focal length will give you a slightly wider view than the traditional 50mm. While in this case, when used on DX models, this lens will provide a 52.5mm equivalent focal length. The Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G has a nice wide aperture for the price point and comes with extra-low dispersion and aspherical elements, plus a super integrated coating for increasing image quality.
The Silent Wave autofocus motor is generally very quick and quiet. With the lens producing very sharp images even at f/1.8. For the most tack sharp results, the lens will need to be stopped down to f/2.8. But in every other regard, the 35mm f/1.8G acts as a great all-purpose lens, with a great set of optics for the money.
2. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G
An 85mm lens such as the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G is traditionally a good focal length for portrait work. When this lens is strapped to a DX-model camera, it provides a 127.5mm equivalent focal length, which moves it into the telephoto zone for wildlife or the likes of sports events.
The lens itself has a nice wide f/1.8 aperture, with a super integrated coating applied to all lens elements to reduce internal reflections and for increasing image definition. The Silent wave motor locks into focus very efficiently, with full-time manual override for those times when you want to deliberate over ultimate accuracy.
This is the sort of lens that will work very well in scenarios such as wedding photography or family portraits. In essence, the 85mm f/1.8G gives professional results at a very affordable price point.
3. Nikon AF-S DX Micro-NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G
For a slightly out of the norm focal length which also provides macro abilities, the Nikon AF-S DX Micro-NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G slots nicely into our price range. On a DX-format camera, the lens provides a 60mm equivalent focal length, and on the macro side of things, the lens produces a 1:1 magnification with an impressive minimum focusing distance of just 16.3cm.
The 40mm f/2.8G works as a good all-rounder lens and a very cost-effective way to get into macro photography. The lens is sharp where it counts, with images even looking good when blown up as large prints. The smallest of subjects are supplied with plenty of detail and definition.
When the lens is used in the traditional manner, it can provide a slightly wider view than a standard 50mm. The lens is a very lightweight solution, coming in at only 235g, making it a very good travel companion or for those times when you’re simply sick of lugging around a heavyweight lens.
4. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G (Budget Winner)
If you need a good all-rounder lens with a nice wide aperture, then the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G comes in at a very affordable price. This 50mm features a 75mm focal length on the DX-format, wrapped around a very lightweight body of 185g and a common 58mm filter thread for attaching all types of fancy lens filters.
To increase overall image quality, an aspherical element and a super integrated coating has been included, along with a Silent wave autofocus motor, which is very quick and efficient considering its overall price point.
This little nifty-fifty has been a long-term favorite of Nikon fans as it delivers superb images for the money. The f/1.8 aperture is also very respectable in low-light conditions, and it produces great bokeh. In other words, this is a great little prime lens that provides more than its price would suggest.
Which Is the Best Nikon Prime Lens Under $500?
Nailing down the best prime lens for under $500 ultimately comes down to your own particular needs. As originally stated, you can’t go wrong with the rounded versatility of a 35mm or a 50mm prime. A 50mm lens will give a general viewpoint, not dissimilar to what the human eye can see, while a 35mm lens provides a more wide-angle view with a bigger scope of the environment.
However, if you have more exacting needs and just for argument’s sake, this is in the area of portrait work, then the 85mm f/1.8G is another fine option. But there will always be cases where you prefer a slightly different viewpoint.
Maybe a little wider, maybe a little longer, which is where the 40mm f/2.8G comes into play. This lens will provide a slightly wider view of the world than a 50mm, while also having a true macro mode. Considering that this lens can be picked up for just a few hundred dollars, it’s a great way to get into macro photography without breaking the bank, while also acting as a good all-rounder lens.