September 30, 2017

Thrifty Nifty Fifties: 5 of the Best 50mm Lenses You Can Buy for Under $100

You don't have to spend your entire paycheck to get a good lens.

If you're a new filmmaker who doesn't know much about lenses, you might be under the impression that the more a lens costs the better it is. This—is kind of true. I mean, advanced features and higher quality components demand more of your dollars, but that doesn't mean that you can't find a quality lens that can produce great images for a fraction of the price. 

This is especially important to remember when purchasing your first lens, which most industry professionals would suggest should be a good ol' nifty fifty, including photographer Kai Wong. He names five 50mm lenses that he considers to be the best in terms of sharpness, bokeh, and build quality in the video below—and video that basically becomes a budget filmmaker's shopping list. 

Here is the list of lenses Kai mentions in the video:

  • YongNuo 50mm f/1.8
  • Jupiter 8
  • Helios 44
  • Fujinon 50mm f/1.4 EBC
  • Takumar 50mm f/1.4

Of all the lenses on the list, the Helios 44, as well as the 44-2 and 44M, is one of the most beloved among budget filmmakers and photographers and considered to be one of the greatest low-cost lenses around. Kai also shares another money-saving tip that you should really consider. Go for lenses with an aperture of f/1.8 rather than f/1.4, because not only can it save you some dough, f/1.8 is still a damn big aperture and, according to Kai, tend to perform better as a whole.

What are some other sub-$100 (or close to) lenses that budget filmmakers should take a look at? Let us know down in the comments.     

Your Comment

9 Comments

They tend to run around $60 - $80 on ebay but, the older Nikkor 50mm 1.8 is pretty sweet.

September 30, 2017 at 4:19PM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
1654

+1. For day to day shooting the Nikkor F/1.8 the best option on this list, but for cool imagery, the Helios 44 is my favorite of the bunch. It's great on FF or on cropped sensor as portrait lens.

October 2, 2017 at 10:15AM

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Marc B
Shooter & Editor
457

For M42 lenses like the Helios 44 on cropped sensors there are often focal reducers to squeeze all the full frame image onto the sensor gained f stop and reducing focal distance.

December 22, 2017 at 5:16PM

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Julian Richards
Film Warlord
1375

I was coming to mention the same thing.

October 10, 2017 at 6:47PM

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Freddy Long
Writer-Director
219

I have the YongNuo 50mm and can say that it's a pretty awesome lens for the price, IF you don't use it at f/1.8. It tends to have some weird magenta chromatic aberration (so weird and random that it's hard to fix in post), but immediately goes away at f/2. I love using my Sigma Art 50-100mm, but you can't beat the YongNou when you want to lighten the rig and are shooting at 50mm only.

October 1, 2017 at 6:32PM

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Nate Follmer
Multimedia Coordinator - PSU Eberly College of Science
81

Minolta Rokkor MD 50mm 1.4 bohen smooth like butter, sharp like razor, cheap to buy for 70-90$. good on mirrorless and cameras that not use EF mount (it's possible also to adapt with bayonet change by edmika kit, but you spent in total more than 100$).

October 2, 2017 at 10:51AM

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Carlo Macchiavello
Director
763

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November 17, 2017 at 1:43AM

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If you are looking to use the Helios 44 as your "50", actually it is 58mm then you can make up a set of 37mm Mir 1b, 58mm Helios 44, 58mm Jupiter 9, 135mm Jupiter 11A or 37 and 200mm Jupiter 21m. As these are all CZJ based you can usually swap in CZJ Flektogon, Biotar and Sonnar.

December 22, 2017 at 5:12PM

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Julian Richards
Film Warlord
1375

I have the Nikon manual 50mm used on a Nikon D3200 and one thing I realized that isn't discussed is the quality when using higher ISOs. At 800, it was a lot of noise! Consider that as well when choosing. I currently shoot with the Rokinon Cine 35mm. It handles higher ISOs better but I tend to stay at 200 to keep the most data in the image.

May 14, 2018 at 10:07AM, Edited May 14, 10:07AM

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Freddy Long
Writer-Director
219