If you own a Nikon Z camera, you’ll know that there are some really great lenses available, particularly the Nikon S-Line lenses. But you’ll also know that they’re quite expensive as well. Here I’m looking at five low-cost, full-frame options, which hopefully won’t break the bank but will still offer some decent performance and quality.
This is not an S-Line lens, even though it’s made by Nikon, and that’s why it’s a little bit cheaper. You can pick it up for around about £200 pounds in the UK (about $245), but the quality is still surprisingly good. It handles really well, focuses quickly, and is really small and super light. The only drawback for some people is that it’s a 40mm focal length, which is a little bit odd. It’s somewhere in between the more traditional 50mm and 35mm focal lengths, so you might not know what to do with it. However, I get good results when doing landscapes and also street photography with this. So, check it out and you might get some good results as well.
If you prefer a more traditional focal length, though, you might want to take a look at the TTArtisan 50mm. This is the cheapest lens that we’re going to look at here, coming in at around about £80 ($98), and you do get some compromises with that. It’s a manual focus-only lens and it’s a non-cpu lens, so it won’t communicate with the camera, and you’re going to have to tell the camera (through the menu system) what the focal length is and the maximum aperture in order to gain the benefits of in-body stabilisation. Having said all that, it’s very well made. It’s really, really small (about the smallest full-frame lens I’ve seen for the Z system), and it’s quite light. You get some average to decent image quality with it, but you are going to suffer from things like flaring because it doesn’t have any fancy coatings or elements inside. However, for a cheap, really small, really light lens, you can’t really go far wrong. It’s definitely worth trying out for the price alone.
Moving on to something a little wider now, we’ve got the 28 mm 2.8 Nikkor Z lens. Again made by Nikon but not an S-Line lens – you can get this for around around £230 in the UK ($281). It performs much like the 40mm Z lens in that it’s very quick and snappy, it’s very small, lightweight and it’s pretty much all plastic. You do get some fairly decent results out of it considering the price though. The main drawback, like the 40mm, is that it’s a slightly unusual focus length for some people. I don’t mind it and if I want to do some street photography where I get a little bit closer to my subjects, I think 28 mm is a pretty good focal length for that. You can also use it for landscapes as well and get some great results.
Let’s look at an ultra wide option now with the 7Artisans 10 mm F 2.8 fisheye lens. Personally I don’t think there are many good wide-angle budget options for full-frame Z cameras, so a fisheye like this is about the best alternative you can get. Obviously, it’s fisheye and will create distorted images when used at extreme angles, but you can also get some great landscape images with this and it’s only about £250 ($306). It’s very heavy because it’s all metal and it’s manual focus only, but on the plus side, it does have fairly decent image quality and you’ve got a pretty fast maximum aperture at f2.8. So if you’re looking for a budget wide angle lens, then this could be the option for you.
At the opposite end of the focal length scale, we’ve got the Tokina 400mm f8 reflex lens. Reflex lenses use mirrors inside, and this allows them to have massive reach but still be really small and light like this one is. The downsides are that it’s manual focus only, it has a fixed f8 aperture, and the image quality is only average. You can get some good results on bright days, but if you’ve got any atmospheric haze, you’re going to get low-contrast images. Although this can be fixed with post-processing, the lens also suffers from flare and glare issues and that can be harder to fix. However, considering it is only £240 in the UK ($294), you’re not going to find a regular 400mm lens for anything like that kind of price. It’s definitely worth checking out and can be a great option for when you need to travel light.
All prices are approximately accurate at time of publication.
All of these lenses feature in my landscape photography video at Stanage Edge in the Peak District. Check it out to see some of the images captured with this lens, as well as links to other videos where I review each lens in more detail.