The Best Lenses Available for Under $400

Published July 21, 2023

Finding affordable lenses in the photography marketplace has become more and more of a challenge over the last few years. Where a $2,000 price tag was once considered expensive, has now become normalized. There are plenty of lists online recommending expensive lenses, heck, we posted our list of the most expensive lenses just a few weeks ago. But what about those of us who are on a limited budget? Who are just getting started in photography or videography, and don’t yet have the means to build a 5-figure kit of lenses at our disposal? Well, we’re going to try to get you covered here as well.

Before we drop into the list of recommended lenses, it’s important to note some things about the state of the photography and videography market. If you’re looking to save on costs and are just getting started, your best bet might be to look at DSLR systems, as opposed to mirrorless platforms. Canon and Nikon both have decades of incredible lenses and cameras that are now being unloaded in the used market for bottom dollar prices and a Canon 5D Mark III, despite being ten years old, is still a rock-solid camera. While it doesn’t have the features that the most modern mirrorless camera has and is bulky in comparison, it’s a great place to start if you’re looking to build out a professional kit without a lot of money.

Secondly, but also on the same topic, it’s important to note that the market is the most segmented it has ever been when it comes to lenses. What I mean by that is that there are several different lens mounts for each camera manufacturer, so it makes it difficult to write a broad article like this that will appeal to everyone. So if I recommend a Canon RF lens in this piece, I’ll try to offer alternatives from other manufacturers as well. But it’s important to know your own camera’s lens mount and buy specifically for that mount. While there are adapters that can convert lenses and cameras, they are generally pretty cumbersome and never work quite as well as using a lens and camera meant for each other. With the housekeeping done, let’s take a look at the best lens options for photographers and videographers under $400.

Fujifilm XF 27mm f/2.8 Lens

First on our list is the Fuji XF 27mm f/2.8 lens, for the Fujifilm X Series of cameras. At $399 brand new, this lens just barely sneaks into our list for lenses under $400 and is a great option for those on the Fuji platform who are looking for a great prime lens. It has a 35mm equivalent focal length of 41mm, which makes it fantastic for portraits and candid work and is a very sharp lens despite its affordable price point.

Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens

If you heeded my advice above, and are using a DSLR, it’s hard to beat the pricing and quality of the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX lens right now. Designed for their crop body DSLR cameras (making it a 52mm equivalent), this lens has dropped down to one of the lowest prices ever, at under $200 from most stores. It’s a fast lens, with a lot of practical use, and is only limited by its lens mount platform. And likewise, if you’re still on the Canon EF platform, their version can also be had for pretty cheap right now.
Other Mount Recommendations: Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS ($500), Rokinon AF 35mm f/1.8 FE Lens for Sony E ($319)

Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM

It can’t be a list of the best budget lenses without including the 50mm f/1.8. Commonly called the ‘nifty fifty’, this lens is one of the most recommended lenses of all time for beginning photographers. At f/1.8, this lens gives you a super shallow depth of field and in my opinion, is one of the most versatile focal lengths ever. While the build quality is pretty lackluster, these lenses have great consistency, simply because they’ve mastered the manufacturing process with how many they’ve made over the years.
Other Mount Recommendations: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM, Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S, Sony FE 50mm f/1.8

Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary

To be inclusive to all brands, we also had to pick a great choice from Sigma, with their Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary. Available for all the major lens mounts, and pretty quick at f/1.4, it’s hard to beat this lens in a pricepoint to quality scale. Under $300 for an f/1.4 lens is nearly impossible to come by, and the 30mm focal length is a great focal range splitting the beloved 35mm focal range and 24mm.

Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Lens

Next on the list is the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM, or commonly called the ‘pancake lens’. Known as the pancake lens for its incredibly small size, this lens isn’t technically still available for sale new, it can be found in the used markets pretty easily, and for as low as $100-$150. While when making this list, I wanted to only include lens readily available new, I had to include this lens because of how great it is. While not exceptionally fast, this lens has a wonderful image quality to it, and its exceptionally small size and weight make it the perfect little walkaround lens if you’re on the EF platform of lenses.

Canon RF 28mm f/2.8 STM Lens

If you did end up getting over to the mirrorless platforms, and chose the exceptional Canon lineup, they have their own pancake lens for the RF platform, with the Canon RF 28mm f/2.8 STM. At only $300, this lens checks all the boxes as the lens above, but at a slightly wider focal length. A perfect lens for those who want to try street photography, while remaining as discrete as possible.

Anything you think we missed in the bargain bin? Wish there was a great zoom lens to recommend? Us too. Feel free to chime in with your own personal recommendations in the comments below.

Related Reading

Author: Lensrentals

Articles written by the entire editorial and technical staff at These articles are for when there is more than one author for the entire post, and are written as a community effort.
Posted in Equipment
  • KNaP

    for Pentax, the DA 50/1.8 and DA 35/2.4 are great lenses (in the nifty fifty kind of way) and can be had for way less than 400, together.

  • Athanasius Kirchner

    No 40mm f/2 and 28mm f/2.8 Nikkors? No Samyang recommendations for Sony, except a single model in passing? No Tamron 20mm f/2.8? Absolutely nothing for L-mount? Wow, talk about a disappointing list. I’d have rather made a list of focal lengths, and then highlighted the different alternatives available for each system, if applicable.

  • Kers

    Like the 40mm f/2 Z nikkor very much. Well below 400,-

    40mm is my favoutite standard lens and I also have the heavy Sigma f/1.4 too.
    It is not as good as that stellar lens; but love it, and rendering is beautiful.

  • asad137

    while remaining as discrete as possible.

    discreet, not discrete

  • You
    don’t mention the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN is a crop sensor lens,
    equivalent to a 50mm F/1.4 on a full frame. Not such a great deal,
    although I’ve heard it’s a good lens. The 56mm F/1.4, equivalent to an
    85mm on a full frame is a great lens. I would have included that rather
    than the 30mm.

Follow on Feedly