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
Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8
At a glance:
- For DSLRs
- Covers full-frame
- Canon or Nikon mount
Chinese firm Yongnuo may not be the most familiar name to photographers, but it produces a range of inexpensive autofocus primes for DSLRs. Its YN 50mm f/1.8 costs less than £50 on eBay, including postage. Its bargain price can be explained by the fact that it’s pretty much a direct clone of the old Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II (although the F-mount variant has more Nikon-esque styling). A new version of this lens has recently been launched with more distinctive styling.
The YN 50mm f/1.8’s build quality is super-cheap, with an all-plastic barrel and lens mount, while its autofocus is slow and noisy by current standards. But optically it’s a good old-fashioned double-Gauss design, using 6 elements in 5 groups, which means it’s fully capable of giving excellent results. It’s not super-sharp wide open, but stop down to f/8 and you’ll get stunningly sharp results right across the frame on either APS-C or full-frame, including on the 50MP Canon EOS 5DS R.
There are a couple of changes compared to the Canon ‘original’, the most important being that the aperture diaphragm uses seven curved blades rather than five straight ones. As a result, the Yongnuo delivers vastly more-attractive defocused backgrounds when used at apertures of f/2.8 or thereabouts.
If you have a bit more money to spend I’d still recommend a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM or Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f1/.8 G ahead of the Yongnuo, for their better build and autofocus. Also, if you choose to buy this lens you’ll forgo the kind of warranty and after-sales service that you’d get from Canon or Nikon. But it’s so cheap, you might well consider this a punt worth taking.
If you’re on a really tight budget, or want a lens you can almost treat as disposable, the Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8 is capable of excellent results, and offers truly remarkable value for money.