Budgets will always be a hindrance and stumbling block when it comes to accessing the most sumptuous of optics. However, budgets are a fact of life, which is why all lens makers produce lenses in certain price brackets. For instance, wide-angle prime lenses for Canon under $300 are a good starting point for those who want to progress from a standard kit lens, with options available at many different focal lengths.
Prime lenses are a little easier to justify under the $300 mark than zoom lenses, as simply zoom lenses need more fancy optics to move through the focal range. Fancier workings generally mean higher price points, which means it’s much harder to crowbar all those facilities into a cost-effective package.
Prime lenses on the other hand have a more simple light flow and thus can achieve better image quality for the money. The benefits to this are wider apertures and in some cases, sharper images.
1. Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM (Overall Winner)
Pancake lenses always look like they’ve been under some sort of compactor machine, but they provide surprisingly good optics for the price. The Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM is built specifically for APS-C type cameras and weighs in at only 125g, with a width of 22.8mm and a diameter of 68.2mm.
The lens has six elements arranged in five groups, with a wide and bright f/2.8 aperture, autofocus stepping motor (STM), and a rounded seven-blade diaphragm. There’s not much that can be crammed into such a thin lens, but there is at least an AF/MF switch and a manual focusing ring.
The close focusing distance is very respectable at 16cm, with sharpness levels being very acceptable from f/2.8 and upwards. Another advantage is when the lens is mounted on a APS-C camera, the focal length comes in at an equivalent 38.4mm, which makes for a good standard focal length.
Altogether, the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM represents excellent value for money, while also providing quality optics in a very versatile lens.
As soon as prime lenses start to drop under the 20mm zone, they can become quite costly. But in the case of the Samyang 14mm f/2.8 ED AS IF UMC, the lens packs in loads of quality for under the $300 price range.
This is a fully manual focusing lens, with a manual aperture ring and a very useful f/2.8 aperture. Two aspherical, two extra-low dispersion, and three high refractive index elements have been included to reduce lens aberrations and improve sharpness and clarity.
In addition, an Ultra Multi-Coating has been added to reduce the likes of ghosting and lens flare. The lens is provided with a petal-shaped lens hood to protect the rather bulbous front element.
Considering the overall sharpness of this wide-angle prime, it’s an absolute steal for the price. The lens may not be as tack sharp as higher-priced lenses with the aperture wide open, but with a little stopping down, this lens would be a great solution for the likes of night-time photography or wide landscape shots.
If you need a lens to go as wide as possible, this usually means venturing into fisheye lens territory. The Samyang 8mm f/3.5 UMC Fish-Eye CS II delivers a circular, fisheye view on full-frame sensors and a 167-degree viewpoint on APS-C cameras.
Focusing on this lens is fully manual, with an included aperture ring and a full metal lens barrel. The lens barrel feels higher quality than the price would suggest. There are also hybrid aspherical lens elements and super multi-layer coatings on all elements to keep light rays in check.
Although the lens only has a maximum aperture of f/3.5, like all fisheye lenses, depth of field is never a problem. For the sharpest results, the aperture needs to be stopped down to at least f/5.6, preferably f/8.
Considering this lens can be picked up for under $200, it provides all the fisheye fun you could ever need, with obviously quality image rendition in a very usable package.
Just when you thought a lens couldn’t go wider than 8mm, the Lensbaby 5.8mm f/3.5 Circular Fisheye comes along. Useful on both full-frame and crop sensor camera bodies, the Lensbaby provides a maximum aperture of f/3.5, with a 185-degree angle of view and a ridiculously close focusing distance of 0.64 cm.
As you would expect with this type of lens, it’s fully manual focusing and provides a unique circular viewpoint in the frame. The lens has to be stopped down to f/8 for the sharpest images.
The fully manual workings may not be to everybody’s taste and the very circular viewpoint is very specialized. But for a cheap and cost-effective fisheye lens, the Lensbaby provides a unique viewpoint, that’s if you prefer its individual circular fisheye look.
If you’re lucky enough to own one of the EOS M cameras, the Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM packs in a lot of quality to its diminutive size. This includes a wide and bright f/2 aperture and an aspheric lens element for increasing contrast and ultimate resolution.
Just like the Canon 24mm lens above, the 22mm is extremely lightweight at 105g, with dimensions of 6.1 x 2.29 cm, making for a perfect accompaniment to the EOS M platform. Optically, the lens comprises of seven elements in six groups, with a close focusing distance of 15cm and a viewing angle of 63 degrees.
As this lens will be used on crop sensor bodies, a 35mm equivalent focal length is achieved, which is great for general use. Useful for anything from portrait shots to wide landscapes.
6. Yongnuo YN 35mm f/2 (Budget Winner)
The Yongnuo YN 35mm f/2 may not be the widest angle lens on this list, but it’s definitely the cheapest, while still retaining good optical qualities. The lens provides a maximum aperture of f/2, along with multi-coated glass elements and a very usable close focusing distance of 25cm.
Traditionally, a 35mm prime lens provides a more standard viewpoint, rather than a true wide-angle. But considering this lens costs just under $100, it’s a remarkably good all-rounder, useful for all types of photography, unless you’re into really wide-angle landscape shots.
Scoring the Best Wide-Angle Prime Lenses for Canon Under $300
As you can see from the list above, you don’t have to spend vast amounts to buy quality wide-angle optics. If you want the widest possible angles, then a fisheye lens maybe up your street. But a fisheye lens also has distorted lines as a feature, which can be straightened in post processing, but for a more traditional viewpoint, you will have to go slightly wider.
For the most budget option, you can’t go wrong with the Yongnuo, which also doubles up as a great generalist lens. But if that is not wide angle enough for you, the Samyang 14mm is probably as wide as you can go in this budget range without going into fisheye lens territory.