The Most Expensive Lenses Currently in Production
When you start your photo or video career, you’ll likely find several lists containing the best bargain lenses available for your interested style. These lenses often include the nifty 50, cheap but sharp zoom lenses, and various other lenses that are considered staples within their focal length. But what about expensive lenses? Sure, all quality lenses usually come with a financial cost, but a few thousand dollars in a digital shopping cart at B&H Photo can net you a great, well-rounded kit for your career. But if you were to outfit the most expensive camera bag, do you know what lenses it would contain?
Additionally, when you scour the internet, you can easily find a list of various lenses that are deemed the “most expensive lenses ever made”. You’ll also find on those lists that a lot of those lenses are one-offs. Lenses developed by Nikon or Canon or Zeiss, for NASA, or from some special utility where there are only three or four of them with an existence. Given the nature of those lenses, it’s easy to speculate that their value exceeds $100,000 to 2 million dollars, but regardless of whether you want those lenses, you would never be able to find them. Additionally, there are several Holy Grail lenses… We’ve talked about two of them with the Canon 50mm f/1.0L and the Canon 200mm f/1.8L, but again, those lenses are extremely rare, limited-release lenses that you wouldn’t be able to go to your local camera store and buy today.
And because of that, we have decided to make this list of lenses that are available for purchase and/or rental for the average consumer. Every one of these lenses listed below is available for sale today at authorized dealers, and many of them are available within our rental inventory to rent. Now that we’ve made that clear, let’s look at some of the lenses that are considered the most expensive lenses today, and what makes them so expensive. For ease of organization, we will be looking at each lens mount and manufacturer, and take a look at what their most expensive lenses available today are. And to start that list, let’s look at a couple of offerings from Canon.
The first of the most expensive lenses from Canon comes their EF mount lens with the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM. Release in late 2018, the 600mm f/4L IS III was released at a somewhat odd time for the year – after both the Winter Olympics and World Cup of that year. Still, it offers pretty substantial improvements over the previous generation of the same lens, shaving an impressive 2.25 lbs of weight off of the previous version, while still maintaining incredible sharpness at 600mm.
A lens like this would be best utilized in sports photography – specifically, those which would need the focal length and focus speed, like football, baseball, or soccer. Few lenses can stand up to the sharpness that the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM offers, but its price gatekeeps it from the general public. It’s available to own for a mere $13,000 or can be rented for a modest $471 a week.
If you’re on the RF platform, and you think to yourself “$13K is not nearly enough for a quality lens”, then may I interest you in the Canon RF 1200mm f/8 L IS USM lens? Double the focal length and at f/8, the RF 1200mm f/8 L IS USM Lens resembles a white cannon more than a lens. But make no mistake, this lens is considered the pinnacle of sharpness and autofocus accuracy. At 7.3 lbs and 21″ in length, there aren’t a lot of reasonable uses to use this lens (and it’s pretty much impossible to use without the use of a monopod or tripod) but was released nearly 2022 with the intent of bringing the RF lens lineup into the professional sports and wildlife photography into the top tier of optics and performance. The RF 1200mm f/8 L IS USM Lens is available for purchase at $20,000, or we have a couple available for rent at $791 a week.
Much like the other two 600mm f/4 lenses listed within this article, Sony also lets their 600mm f/6 GM OSS hold their record for their most expensive lens at $13K. To reaffirm the point made throughout this article, these lenses are known as the blue-chip of lenses, but only really attainable for those shooting world-class events, like the World Cup, Super Bowl, or Olympics. Designed to be attached to a monopod or tripod, these lenses are all considered pretty impractical for your average photographer. Still, if you wanted to get your hands on this premium lens, you can buy it for $13,000, or rent it for $536 a week.
While Nikon’s F mount is quickly being discontinued for their mirrorless platform and the Z mount, it doesn’t discount the 60+ years of lens development that went into Nikon’s prestigious F mount system. And among the most prestigious to that lineup is their incredibly impressive 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR. Recently celebrating its 10th birthday, this 800mm behemoth is unmatched in focal length, but it comes with a hefty price point, and weight (at over 10 lbs). The 800mm f/5.6E can be had for $16,200 or rented for $636 weekly. And at that price point, we’ll also include the rental of its exclusive 1.25x teleconverter for free.
Much like the Canon and Sony listed above, Nikon’s most expensive lens in their Z series of lenses is their fast and sharp Nikon Z 600mm f/4 TC VR S. Released in late 2022, the Nikon Z 600mm f/4 TC VR S is the newest of the big three’s 600mm lenses and offers much of the same as the competitors. The heaviest (at 7.19lbs), yet shortest of the three (at 17.2″), the Nikon has 32 lens elements in their behemoth, which gives it incredible sharpness and focusing speeds, which you would find on par with the $13K competitors from Canon and Sony. The perfect lens for the Nikon shooter looking to photograph wildlife, sports, or anything else that might need the incredible length of this 600mm lens. However, like others, it’ll cost you – $15.5K to buy new, for rentals, we have the Z mount iteration available for preorder for $692 a week.
Leica, a brand typically synonymous with expensive has the second most expensive lens on this list, with their Leica Noctilux-M 75mm f/1.25 ASPH. The phrase Noctilux is often regarded with the utmost respect, most notably for their blazingly fast Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M, and is often associated with unparalleled speed. While the Leica Noctilux-M 75mm f/1.25 ASPH is undoubtedly fast, it’s not breaking the ground of its brethren. Still, many find the 75mm focal length to be a perfect place for portrait photography, and this expensive little 75mm holds up against the critics for its incredible sharpness, razor-thin depth of field, and elegant design. Upholding its rangefinder roots, the Leica 75mm f/1.25 Noctilux-M ASPH is manual focus only and is available new for $14.3K, or to rent for the much more affordable $553 a week.
Like many of the other brands on this list, Leica has a segmented lens lineup, with their M-Mount lenses and their more modern L-mount lenses. For their L-series of mounted lens, comes their most expensive option, and a rare zoom lens from Leica with the Leica APO-Vario-Elmarit-SL 90-280mm f/2.8-4 lens. As our own photo tech Joey calls “a beast and a half”, the Leica 90-280mm offers a unique and broad zoom length that should be suitable for a large variety of applications. With the added autofocus ability, this lens gives you exceptional Leica-level image quality, without the need to carry a camera bag full of lenses to capture different focal lengths. The Leica APO-Vario-Elmarit-SL 90-280mm f/2.8-4 lens can be had to own for $7,300, or rented for the much more modest $289 a week.
When compared to the other lenses on this list, the Fuji 200mm f/2 R LM OIS lens is considered pretty modest in price, but still, is an impressive lens on its own. At f/2, this 200mm lens will give you a razor-thin depth of field, and the added 1.4x teleconverter included with the lens gives you a lens equivalent to 427mm at F2.8. If that math doesn’t sound right at first glance, that’s because given the crop sensor size on the Fuji X series, the 200mm f/2 LM OIS WR is actually a 35mm equivalent to a 300mm lens. And while this set is actually two pieces of gear – the teleconverter and the lens itself, it felt appropriate to include it as a single lens, as Fuji does bundle the two, and the 1.4x teleconverter was developed specifically to be used with this lens. Additionally, however, the teleconverter can work with a small number of other lenses in the Fujifilm lineup – mostly their telephoto lenses. Perfect for a broad range of uses in sports, wildlife, and general portraiture, the Fujifilm XF 200mm f/2 R LM OIS WR Lens with XF 1.4x TC F2 WR Teleconverter Kit is available to buy for ~$5,000 or to rent for $241 a week.
And to round out this list, is an incredibly practical zoom lens from our friends at Olympus. The Olympus M.Zuiko 150-400mm f/4.5 IS Pro lens is sort of a do-all lens. From having a broad zoom range with a fixed aperture throughout, to built-in IS and even a built-in teleconverter for added range, it surely feels like a lens designed to do a bit of everything. Perfect for fast-paced sports or wildlife that will require a lot of moving throughout a broad range of focal lengths, this Olympus lens works well as an incredibly sharp one-lens setup that can give you a really broad range of utility. Price modestly – for this list at least – the Olympus M.Zuiko 150-400mm f/4.5 can be had for $7,500, or rented for $356 a week.
Do you have any experience with these lenses? Were any of them a surprise to you? Feel free to chime in in the comments below with your thoughts. And if you’d like a more detailed breakdown of how lens manufacturers determine lens costs and design, Roger has written a great article on the topic.
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