The Best Budget Lenses for Mirrorless Cameras

Mirrorless cameras and their systems are very hot for the experienced users who want most of the benefits of a DSLR in a smaller package. In fact, one of staffers decided to go fully mirrorless. We’ve seen more and more systems come out of the gate and some even reach quite a bit of maturity. If you’re a mirrorless camera user, it is often an extremely good idea to invest in some better glass.

Here’s a roundup of some of the best mirrorless camera lenses to date.

Edited 4/14/2013


Micro Four Thirds

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Olympus Magazine (1 of 1)ISO 1601-40 sec at f - 2.8

Panasonic 14mm f2.5– Previously, Mike put this lens to the test against the Olympus 12mm f2. Mike still loves his 14mm f2.5 due to the small size and very good image quality that it renders.

It is available for around $300 at B&H and Amazon.

Olympus 17mm f2.8– This lens gets knocked on quite a bit, but the matter of fact is that when I just want to go out and have fun, this is my go to lens. If anything, it is a wonderful video lens due to the fact that it is just sharp enough for most consumers and it keeps the overall package down if you’d like. Keep in mind though that it is slow to focus except with the newer bodies.

It comes in at under $300 from B&H and Amazon.

Olympus 45mm f1.8– This lens is the one that wows everyone. First off, it is currently the fastest aperture lens that Olympus has made for the system. Second, it is pretty darn affordable. When our review was over, we had a hard time letting it go. Rendering a 90mm focal length, it is the perfect compliment to an Olympus OMD or other camera. It features the MSC focusing motors and is perhaps one of the sharpest lenses we’ve seen wide open. We honestly saw no reason to ever stop it down.

Bonus points for this lens if you’re a street fashion blogger.

The lens comes in at around $400 from both B&H Photo and Amazon.

SLRMagic Noktor 12mm f1.6– This lens is actually a T-stop lens, so it has a clickless aperture that is wonderful for videography. It is well-built and extremely sharp wide open. During our review, we really fell in love with it partially due to what it was designed to shoot: food. When polled, many users said that they wanted a wide angle lens with a fast aperture to take images of their food. SLRMagic responded with this lens.

For videography, Seb Farges has created lots of wonderful content with it. Keep in mind that this lens isn’t one of the company’s toys.

They’re nearly impossible to find, but if you can get your hands on one, try it. Spring for eBay.

SLRMagic 26mm f1.4– Like swirly bokeh? This lens will be the love of your life then. With swirly bokeh and wide open sharpness, this lens can win your heart in the right lighting conditions. It is small, fairly well-built, manual focus only, and is really just quite fun overall. I recommend it for the Panasonic GH2. I’ve since handed it off to a friend, but am jealous of the images he creates with it. Indeed, our review doesn’t do this lens enough justice.

The lens goes for less than $250 on eBay.

Olympus 60mm f2.8- The Olympus 60mm f2.8 is another macro lens option–but the killer feature of this lens is the weather sealing. We’ve tested it out and we approve; it’s sharp, contrasty, and really overall quite good. As always though, we recommend using flashes to take advantage of specular highlights.

Sony NEX

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX f3 product images (5 of 6)ISO 1600

Sony 30mm f3.5- While we overall found this lens to be a bit underwhelming, recent tests with it on the Sony NEX F3 have made me think otherwise. Wide open, it is absolutely stunning for portraits. On the APS-C sensor, it renders a near 50mm field of view, retains lots of sharpness wide open and only gets sharper until its peak at f5.6. It can be slow to focus at times, but for the value, you have a very versatile focal length at a bang for your buck price.

Plus: it can do Macro shooting. If you love Macro photography, this is the one to look at.

The lens comes in for under $300 at both B&H Photo and Amazon.

SLR Magic Bokehmorphic– This is a weird but awesome lens coming in at 28mm and fixed at f2.8. During our review, we quickly noted the fact that even though you have a fixed aperture, you also have the option to switch the shape of the aperture. That means you can switch out to a heart, diamond, cat’s eye and more with just a flick. It is a wonderfully built metal toy, but don’t rough it around too much as is to be expected with all toy lenses.

The lens is only currently available on eBay, and will perhaps be the funnest lens you’ve ever used for the system.

Sony 50mm f1.8– If any lens should seriously considered for the Sony NEX system in the budget range, it is this one. In our review, we considered it to be the best bang for your buck and near creme-de-la-creme of the system. It is fast to focus, extremely sharp wide open, has some of the best color rendition I’ve seen, and is also the perfect portrait lens currently available for the system. I’ve even used it on a professional, paid shoot.

You can get the lens from B&H Photo or Amazon for around $300.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5R with 35mm f1.8 OSS product photos (8 of 9)ISO 8001-50 sec at f - 4.0

Sigma 19mm f2.8– Though once again not reviewed for NEX but instead for Micro Four Thirds, this lens renders an interesting 30mm field of view. If you think like a Pentaxian, you’ll probably appreciate this lens as Pentax previously created a 31mm that was the apple of many photographers’ eyes due to its balance between the 24mm and 35mm focal length. On an NEX system, this lens is super sharp, fast to focus, and small. Getting small lenses for the system is a very tough feat to begin with, but Sigma managed to do it.

This lens goes for the sub-$200 price range from Amazon and B&H Photo.

Sigma 30mm f2.8- While we didn’t review this lens for Sony NEX, we did review it for Micro Four Thirds. On the smaller sensor format of said system, it is quite long at 60mm, which can be a weird focal length depending on how you see the world and your final vision of the image. But like its slower aperture Sony counterpart, this lens renders a near 50mm field of view on the APS-C sensor. In fact, combined with the f2.8 aperture, it is a no brainer to spring for. Add on the fact that it focuses swiftly and is bleeding sharp wide open and you’ve got yourself a near pancake lens that you’ll happily shoot with all day. And though many have formerly been afraid to go with Sigma’s lenses, I can assure you that their quality control has been much improved in at least their prime lenses.

The lens is one of the most affordable around at $200 from B&H and Amazon.

Rokinon 8mm f2.8– This lens has only recently become available for purchase, but we reviewed it a while ago. To really get the most of it, we recommend using the NEX system’s focus peaking function. However, it is one of the sharpest fisheye lenses that I’ve ever seen and renders different colors then the standard Sony lenses when attached to the camera. In fact, I tend to stray more towards the Rokinon lenses instead.

The lens is available from Amazon for around $400.

Sony 35mm f1.8 NEX- This a also one of Sony’s sharp optics, but it isn’t as sharp as we originally expected it to be. After some thought though, it made sense as to why it isn’t–and the trade off is that there is image stabilization built into the lens. Generally, when there is stabilization, the image quality can suffer because the elements need to be made smaller for the function to work. But trust us, it’s still very much worth it.

Fujifilm X

To be constructed soon, the system needs to evolve a bit more.

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.