There was a time when it was really pushing the boat out to find wide-angle prime lenses for Nikon under $300. Nowadays, even the most budget-friendly prime lenses have good optical qualities, as long as you don’t mind a little less on the build quality side and a lack of weather-proofing.
In this budget range, we also have the option between same-brand and third-party versions. Each are equal contenders in this category, depending on your own personal preferences and shooting circumstances. There may be caveats in some cases with fully manual focusing, but this may not be so much of a problem if a wide-angle lens is for the likes of landscapes or architectural shots.
1. Samyang 14mm f/2.8 ED AS IF UMC (Overall Winner)
When it comes to wide-angle lenses, it is preferable to stick with the regular type, rather than fisheye versions. This is simply to provide a more standard looking final image, without having to correct for all the weird perspectives from the unique view of a fisheye lens. However, as usual, this all depends on your own needs and circumstances.
The Samyang 14mm f/2.8 ED AS IF UMC provides very wide-angle viewpoints, along with a very low-light capable f/2.8 aperture. The lens features two aspherical, three high refractive index, and two extra-low dispersion elements, plus an Ultra Multi-Coating that has been applied all the glass to reduce the likes of ghosting and lens flare and increase color and contrast.
The Samyang has a respectable close focusing distance of 28cm, with a fully manual focusing system and manual aperture ring.
Considering that this lens can be picked up at an affordable price, it provides an astounding amount of sharpness and detail for the money. The aperture may need stopping down to f/4 for the sharpest results, but you won’t be disappointed with its wide-angle viewpoints, with a lovely degree of saturated colors and deep contrast.
2. Nikon AF NIKKOR 28mm f/2.8D
A nice, compact wide-angle prime lens is always a worthy addition to any camera kit. In the case of the Nikon AF NIKKOR 28mm f/2.8D, it only weighs 205g, making it small and discreet enough for anything from street photography, to nature and documentary shots.
The lens has a nice wide and bright f/2.8 aperture and while it doesn’t have any of the fancier internal elements of higher-priced versions, it still features a Super Integrated coating. This helps to reduce internal reflections, lens flares, and ghosting while increasing contrast and color.
Like many lens offerings in this category, it’s fully manual focusing, unless you have a model where the camera has its own built-in autofocus motor. Images are relatively sharp when the aperture is stopped down and where this lens excels is as a good walkabout lens with loads of low-light capabilities.
3. Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 HD Fisheye
For the interest of variety and to show the widest possible angle lenses, the Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 HD Fisheye is a nice cost-effective choice. The Rokinon produces a nearly 180-degree view on crop sensor cameras while producing a circular viewpoint on the full-frame versions.
As expected at this price point, the Rokinon offers fully manual focusing with a manual aperture ring. This along with hybrid aspherical elements and super multi-layer coatings for reducing the usual lens anomalies. It also features a respectable minimum focusing distance of 30.48cm which is of great benefit for close-up shots.
As per usual with a fisheye lens, the Rokinon has very distorted lines at the edge of the frame, but where the lens does excel is in providing great working optics for the price point. Even with close-up subject matter, images have great central sharpness. But the aperture will need to be stopped down to f/8 for the overall sharpest results.
In summary, if you like the perspective of a fisheye lens, the Rokinon is a great value offering.
4. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G
The Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G may not be as wide-angle as the other offerings on this list. What it can provide though, is versatility for not only areas like landscape shots but also almost everything else where you need a wider-than-normal perspective.
The lens features a wide and bright f/1.8 aperture, which works great in low light situations, along with providing a shallow depth of field for portrait work. For the usual wide-angle scenarios, the aperture can be stopped down to produce wonderfully sharp images throughout the depth of field. This works great for the likes of environmental shots, providing a good degree of detail.
In this price bracket, you will have to forego things like ultimate build quality, but if you need more of an all-rounder lens that can also cover the wide-angle side of things, the 35mm f/1.8G is a very cost-effective solution.
5. Yongnuo YN 35mm f/2 (Budget Winner)
If you’re really on a tight budget, then you can’t do much better than the Yongnuo YN 35mm f/2. For less than $100, this lens can provide a wide f/2 aperture through the very versatile focal length of 35mm.
At this price point, you will have to make do with a plastic lens barrel, but at least it has a metal lens mount and gold plating on the contacts for transferring data to the camera. The lens miraculously features autofocus, a full-time manual override, and a reasonably reliable distance scale on the lens barrel.
The Yongnuo will need stopping down to f/2.8 for the sharpest results, which provids a surprising amount of detail for the money. You’re not going to achieve the same amount of sumptuous details as higher-priced lenses. However, at this price point and with a little post-processing, the lens produces some very respectable images which go beyond what the price suggests.
Rounding up the Best Wide-Angle Prime Lenses for Nikon Under $300
As originally stated, you don’t have to part with a huge sum of money in exchange for respectable wide-angle optics. If you need the widest possible viewpoint, then a fisheye lens can fit the bill, but in reality, it’s more specialist than anything else. For a more traditional angle of view, the Samyang 14mm f/2.8 provides wonderful optics for the money, if you don’t mind its manual workings.
In total, all the wide-angle prime lenses for Nikon under $300 above will provide you loads of scope for creativity, with quality results at a budget-friendly price point.