Interesting optics don’t have to cost a fortune. Andy Westlake tries out some inexpensive lenses to stimulate your creativity - and finds some to avoid, too

One of the quickest shortcuts to kick-starting your creativity is by buying a new lens. Acquiring an optic that can do something distinctly different to your existing kit – zoom wider or longer, focus closer or more selectively, or simply apply a different look to your images – can help you see and interpret the world in a different way. The only problem is, such lenses are often expensive to buy new.

Venture onto Amazon and eBay, however, and you’ll find plenty of lenses at low prices, including some brand-new lenses coming out of China. Indeed there are now quite a few companies making inexpensive manual-focus primes for mirrorless cameras, with more lenses showing up all the time from emerging brands such as 7artisans, Kamlan, Meike and Neewer.

DSLR users aren’t quite so well served, not least because they don’t work well with manual lenses; however Yongnuo make some very cheap autofocus lenses for Canon and Nikon users. There are also some unconventional creative optics around from the likes of Lensbaby, and they can be worth considering too. I tried out a selection of budget options to find out which are any good, and those that are better left alone.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Fujian 35mm f/1.7
  3. 3. NewYi 35mm f/1.7
  4. 4. DJ Optical Discover 25mm f/1.7 (7artisans 25mm f/1.7)
  5. 5. Neewer 50mm f/2 (Meike 50mm f/2)
  6. 6. Meike 50mm f/1.7
  7. 7. DJ Optical Viltrox 35mm f/2 (7artisans 35mm f/2)
  8. 8. Kamlan 50mm f/1.1
  9. 9. Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8
  10. 10. Olympus 9mm f/8 Fisheye Body Cap Lens
  11. 11. Holga 60mm f/8
  12. 12. Lensbaby Spark
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