Three Bang for Your Buck Lenses for the Discerning Cityscape Photographer

You don’t need to spend thousands on wide angle lenses to capture stunning cityscapes.

There seems to be a certain stigma that follows cheaper lenses around these days that really isn’t warranted or deserved; it is something that needs to change. There really isn’t such a thing as a bad lens anymore. Whether you’re looking at wide angle lenses, telephotos, or even super telephotos, you’re going to be able to get great glass for little outlay. When it comes to cityscape photography the wider the lens the better. After all, you want to capture as much of that stunning vista as possible, and fortunately there are some great wide angle lenses available that offer outstanding value for money.

While you may have gear envy when you see the lenses famous YouTube photographers use, be safe in the knowledge that you don’t have to drop over four figures on a lens like they do to get great images. The bang for your buck wide angle lenses we will be talking about may be low in price, but they are far from low in quality. Let’s take a look at these wide angle lenses that punch well above their weight.

 

Rokinon 14mm F2.8

 

The Rokinon 14mm f2.8 may have been out for a few years now but this lens is stellar. Rokinon has been making quality glass for a long time, and this lens is no exception. This lens is super sharp, light weight, and under $300.

In our review we said:

“Rokinon has created an excellent lens with their 14mm f2.8. It is sharp, delivers some excellent colors, and is ergonomically pleasing.”

The 14mm f2.8 from Rokinon is a manual focus and manual aperture lens, but don’t let that deter you from buying it. It’s super easy to use and the focus ring is nice and smooth. Finding focus is as easy as putting the camera in live view, magnifying by 10x and then adjusting focus until your point of interest is sharp. Changing the aperture is as easy as twisting the aperture ring which is found towards lens mount.

The lens features 14 elements in 12 groups and has six aperture blades. The body is made out of plastic but doesn’t at all feel cheap. The lens hood is permanently attached to the lens to protect the bulbous front element, so it can be hard to use filters unless you make a rig of your own. This lens is not weather sealed: make sure you don’t use it during a downpour.

The images this lens can produce are nothing short of spectacular. When shot wide open at f2.8 you can expect edge to edge sharpness, and the colors rendered are vibrant and saturated. There is some distortion, but that is to be expected with a lens this wide. Any distortion or color fringing can easily be corrected in Capture One or Lightroom in post processing. This 14mm lens will have an equivalent focal length of roughly 22.4mm on a APS-C camera body.

The 14mm f2.8 from Rokinon is easily one of the best wide angle lenses that you can get, regardless of price. This lens has been a firm favorite with cityscape photographers and astrophotographers for many years due to the insane level of sharpness. It should be one of the first budget wide angle lenses you should take a look at.

Buy now Canon ($266.44): Amazon

Buy now Nikon ($243): Amazon

Buy now Pentax ($237.59): Amazon

Buy now Sony A ($221.32): Amazon

Rokinon 14mm F2.8 Sample Images

Pro Tip: The Rokinon 14mm f2.8, like a lot of other lenses, is not weather sealed. This doesn’t mean that all is lost when bad weather strikes though. Keep some affordable weather proof camera and lens covers in your camera bag and you’ll still be able to shoot in less than pleasant weather.

 

Fujifilm 23mm F2 R WR

 

Fujifilm users have a myriad of choices when it comes to amazing wide angle prime lenses, but the 23mm f2 R WR slots right into the budget wide angle lenses category perfectly. This super sharp, lightweight lens will have an equivalent focal length of 35mm when placed on a Fujfilm camera, but that is still considered wide angle, and it’s perfect for cityscape photography.

In our review we said:

“The best thing about this lens has to be the color rendition. As always, Fujifilm’s color rendition is second to none in part from the Fujifilm film profiles built into the camera. But then consider that this is a high quality lens and you’ve got a winning combination.”

The Fujifilm 23mm R WR is a very small lens which complements the smaller, mirrorless Fujfilm bodies perfectly. Weighing in at just 0.39lbs, you’ll barely even know it’s attached to your camera. Inside the metal body you will find ten elements in six groups, along with nine rounded aperture blades. Two of the elements are aspherical which help keep things nice and sharp, and boy is this lens sharp.

Images from this lens are great when shot wide open, but stop it down to f5.6 and your images will be so sharp they could cut you. This is great if you will be using this lens predominately for cityscape work as you will be at 5.6 and lower in regards to f stops anyway. As you would expect from a Fujifilm lens, colors rendered are beautiful, and they’re enhanced even further with the built in film simulations found in Fujfilm cameras. You’ll not struggle with autofocusing either as this lens is a speed demon. Even in lower light situations, you won’t be left wanting more performance. In terms of distortion, color fringing, and chromatic aberration, you’ll be pleased to know there are next to no issues at all, and any issues are easily fixed in post.

Another killer feature of this lens is the fact that it’s weather sealed. This is great for cityscape photographers who may find themselves caught out in the elements after a long hike. Pair it up with a weather sealed camera and you’ll be good to go.

When it comes to bang for your buck wide angle lenses and Fujifilm, the 23mm f2 R WR is a fantastic choice. It’s affordable, super sharp, and weather sealed. This lens has a lot going for it.

Buy now ($399): Amazon

Fujifilm 35mm F2 R WR Sample Images

Pro Tip: When it comes to cityscape photography, sharpness is the key to great images. In order to get the sharpest images possible you should always use a sturdy tripod. There are many options out there that will offer great stability and functionality for an affordable price. Make sure you make a tripod part of your cityscape photography workflow.

 

Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary

 

Sony and Micro Four Thirds shooters have a fantastic wide angle lens available to them from Sigma. The 16mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary is beautifully engineered lens designed to be used on APS-C Sony cameras and Micro Four Thirds bodies. On Sony cameras it will have the equivalent focal length of 24mm; on Micro Four Thirds it will be 32mm. This is a great lens that will serve cityscape photographers on a budget very well.

In our review we said:

“It’s sharp, has nice bokeh, contrast, manageable fringing, and autofocuses at a fair speed. Plus it has weather sealing. There isn’t a whole lot to hate with the Sigma 16mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary. If you’re the type of photographer who shoots wide, does documentary style work, and needs a reliable lens in their bag, this is one of the best options you’ve got”

The Sigma 16mm f1.4 features a large maximum aperture of f1.4. While this may not matter too much when it comes to shooting cityscapes, it’s nice to know that if you need to use a wide angle lens in a low light situation, this glass will have you covered, which also makes this lens great for astrophotography. Inside the premium feeling plastic body you’ll find 16 elements in 13 groups, and nine rounded diaphragm blades.

The images produced from this lens are ridiculously sharp from corner to corner, so even the smallest details in your cityscape images will look amazing. Colors rendered are nice and natural, and not over saturated like many Sigma lenses tend to be. We did notice some color fringing while testing this lens, but it’s not the be all end all. Capture One and Lightroom can fix this problem in a heartbeat.

Focusing is lightning fast with this lens, and the build quality is outstanding, rivaling that of many Art series lenses. The Sigma 16mm f1.4 is also weather sealed and will work just fine with occasional drops of rain and dust hitting it. This really is a fantastic lens for cityscape work.

Sigma makes some really excellent wide angle lenses and the 16mm f1.4 contemporary is one of them. This lens will enable you to create wonderful images without breaking the bank. If you shoot Sony APS-C cameras (like the A6500 or Panasonic and Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras), and want a tough lens that is razor sharp, you should check this gem out.

Buy now Sony ($444): Amazon

Buy now Micro Four Thirds ($429): Amazon

Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary Sample Images