Best Prime Lenses

By Staff

Even though many shoppers want long zoom lenses, the key to super-sharp photos is a prime lens. Since primes are stuck on one focal length with no zoom, they can optimize for sharpness at that one length. They're generally the highest-quality lenses you can buy in any lens family, and an excellent way to wring the most out of your camera.

Whether you're a Fujifilm X-mount owner, a Micro Four Thirds photographer, or even a Canon or Nikon DSLR owner, we've compared across all available prime lenses in this article to find out which are the very best.

Updated October 14, 2016

10.0 score Tested by Experts

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A

Sigma's ART series lenses have quickly built a reputation for exemplary image quality, killer craftsmanship, and best-in-class value for the money. The 50mm f/1.4 is the pick of the litter, capable of astounding image quality, sharpness, and bokeh. It's a little bigger than other 50mm f/1.4 lenses, but it's available for Canon and Nikon DSLRs and goes toe-to-toe with any lens those companies have right now.

Read Our Review

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

For any photographer looking to capture small objects, such as jewelery, bugs, or just fine details, you'll need a macro lens. If you're a Canon shooter, there's no better option than the 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro. It's razor sharp, offers image stabilization, and it has a superb close focal distance that also works as a dandy portrait lens in a pinch. For less than $800, it's a teriffic investment for Canon fanatics.

Read Our Review

Where to Buy
Amazon $799.00 Buy
Adorama $799.00 Buy
Best Buy $799.99 Buy
Walmart $739.00 Buy

Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2

If you've bought into the Micro Four Thirds system (or are thinking about it), the 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron is as good as it gets. It's a telephoto portrait lens with creamy smooth bokeh and quality co-signed by Leica. It's a little big for a mirrorless lens, it's one of the best lenses we've ever tested and a must-own for any mirrorless shooter with the cash to burn.

Read Our Review

Where to Buy
Amazon $1,397.99 Buy
Adorama $1,397.99 Buy
Walmart $1,397.99 Buy

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G

If you're shooting a Nikon DSLR and you want a top-notch portrait lens, it's hard to do better than the AF-S 85mm f/1.8G. While the pricier f/1.4 has smoother bokeh and shallower depth of field, the f/1.8 arguably has better image quality, is cheaper, and is lighter. It's a perfect storm of portrait goodness that outperformed the 85mm f/1.4 in our lab tests, and at under $500 it won't break the bank, either.

Read Our Review

Where to Buy
Amazon $476.95 Buy
Adorama $476.95 Buy
Best Buy $479.99 Buy
Walmart $409.00 Buy

Fujifilm Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R

Fujifilm is playing by its own rules these days, debuting pro-grade cameras and riding high from the popularity of its Instax instant film cams. But if you're invested in Fujifilm's X-series cameras, the 56mm f/1.2 lens is as good as it gets. With creamy smooth bokeh and a focal length perfect for portraits, this lens is ideal for professional photographers of all stripes. It's pricey, but man is it worth it.

Read Our Review

Where to Buy
Amazon $999.00 Buy
Adorama $999.00 Buy
Best Buy $999.99 Buy
Walmart $976.04 Buy

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.