With 12 years of experience behind me as a photographer, I’m not quite sure that I can make the vouch for cheap lenses.
When you’re first starting out as a photographer, the appeal of cheap lenses is really high. I mean, how else are you going to take better pictures without actually learning how to do something with your camera or lighting? There are tons of cheap lenses out there on the market. Despite a dwindling photography market overall, it seems like cheap new lenses come out of nowhere pretty much every week. It’s wonderful that there is so much variety on the market because of the fact that competition simply makes us all better. But if I really had to think about it, no cheap lens has ever given me a whole lot of satisfaction.
Here’s the full truth: cheap lenses are nice for a little bit of time. But after a while, they end up staying on a shelf somewhere in my office as I want something better. After sometime when I get the better stuff, I just end up selling those cheap lenses for super cheap prices or simply just giving them away. Why? I don’t care anymore about them and they have no value to me. In truth, I’m always going to want something better and I’m positive that most photographers here will also want the same things. Cheap lenses serve a purpose for a very short amount of time. And if you’re one of those photographers that completely embraces the idea of disposable products instead of trying to hold onto something for as long as possible, then cheap lenses may also be okay for you.
With full transparency, we routinely do roundups on this website all about cheap lenses. And the reason for that is because they’re quite popular and we’ve genuinely found ones that are really pretty darned good. But some of us are perfectionists and very discerning. We tend to go for only the best within reason. I bought the Sony 85mm f1.8 FE lens instead of the f1.4 G Master because of practicality. It’s a good enough lens for what I do and any shortcomings that it has I can fix with post-production. However, I’m getting a lot for my money and it’s not what I’d consider a cheap lens. There is weather sealing, fast autofocus, good image quality, etc. A cheap lens, on the other hand, would be something far more affordable that didn’t have good performance and build quality. Build quality is paramount as I often abuse the gear that I use.
In the long run, I haven’t found cheap lenses to be worth spending my time with. I personally need solid build quality coupled with incredible image quality. And while no cheap lens is a bad lens at all, there is a target market for them. The problem overall though is that the entire photography industry lineup of products is becoming more and more premium. And I’m not sure that there is really room for cheaper options at the moment unless you’re fine with disposable products.