Cheap Lenses Can Be a Good Investment

by | Apr 7, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Here’s my philosophy about buying lenses: For most of the photography that I do, I prefer lenses that are made by my camera’s manufacturer. But there are exceptions. Even when used with really wide-angle lenses, the focal-length multiplication factor built into some DSLR’s and mirrorless cameras robs us of truly wide-angle results. But ultra wide angle lenses are expensive aren’t they? That’s one reason why I don’t mind buying used lenses because I’m going to use them anyway. Everybody likes a bargain and some of the best deals on inexpensive wide-angle lenses are provided by Russian-made optics.

The good news is that the current Zenitar 16mm f/2.8 lens lens for Nikon and Canon mounts has been improved, including the overall look and build quality. It’s still a rectilinear full-frame fish-eye lens that fills the 24x36mm frame or a cropped portion of whatever size your DSLR imaging chip may produce. At $219.95 the lens no longer the bargain it once was but Sony’s 16mm f/2.8 fisheye lens is almost a thousand bucks. The now discontinued Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 lens for my EOS system costs about $400 for a used copy.

The Zenitar 16mm f/2.8 lens is a manual focus lens that does not couple with your camera’s metering system. My favorite method for focusing with these inexpensive wide-angle lenses is setting the lens at its hyperfocal distance. The hyperfocal distance is a specific point of focus where any object from this point and infinity is in focus. Here’s how to do it: After you select an aperture, rotate the focusing ring setting so that aperture appears opposite the infinity mark. On the 16mm Zenitar this produces a depth-of-field from five inches to infinity that effectively turns my camera into a digital point and shoot DSLR. Image sharpness is more than acceptable at smaller apertures

How I made this shot: The 16mm Zenitar f/2.8 was my favorite lens when shooting infrared with my Canon EOS system partly because of the wide angle effect it produces at a 25.6mm focal length equivalent. The above image of a Ferrari Mondial Spyder was made with an EOS 50D converted to IR capture by Life Pixel and was in Aperture Priority mode. Exposure 1/80 sec at f/16 and ISO 200 with a minus one-third stop exposure compensation. The RAW infrared image file was converted to monochrome using Exposure X5.


I’ve found that Life Pixel does a great job with IR conversions and they’ve done conversions for some of my Canon DSLRs as well as all of my Panasonic Lumix G-series cameras, including a GX1 that uses their new Hyper Color conversion. This is not a paid nor sponsored endorsement, just my experience.

My book, The Complete Guide to Digital Infrared Photography is available from Amazon for with used copies selling for $12.99, as I write this. Creative Digital Monochrome Effects has a chapter on IR photography and is available from Amazon with new copies at $33.55 with used copies starting at a little more than two bucks, as I write this.