10 of the Sharpest APS-C Lenses Under $1,400

If you own an APS-C system camera and you're on the lookout for some amazingly sharp lenses to get your hands on heading into 2019 without breaking the budget, this top 10 list is absolutely perfect for you.

Christopher Frost has tested a total of 226 lenses over the years on his YouTube channel and he keeps a meticulous record of all the results. From that list, he's been able to compile a list of the 10 sharpest APS-C format lenses he's ever tested. In this video, he goes through the results, provides sample pictures for each lens, and expands on the benefits and features of each lens that made the cut.

The criteria he uses are very simple:

  • The lenses must be APS-C format only
  • They must be under $1,400
  • They must be lenses he has actually tested himself

The results themselves are quite varied. It's interesting to note that four of the lenses are exclusively for mirrorless systems only, while the other six are for DSLR systems and mirrorless systems (as long as you have an adapter). Of further interest is that five of the lenses are prime lenses, while the other five are zoom lenses. There is a good range of manufacturers that make up the list, including Canon, Tamron, Samyang, Sigma, and Sony. One slight drawback to the results is that he has never tested any Nikon lenses and only a limited number of Fuji lenses.

So, what's the winner? The Samyang 85mm f/1.8 UMC CS. It is for mirrorless cameras only, but Frost is effusive in his praise and adamant that it deserves to top the list. What do you think? Are there any glaring omissions from the list or other lenses you thought might have appeared? I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences with APS-C lenses below.

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Iain Stanley is an Associate Professor teaching photography and composition in Japan. Fstoppers is where he writes about photography, but he's also a 5x Top Writer on Medium, where he writes about his expat (mis)adventures in Japan and other things not related to photography. To view his writing, click the link above.

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Ok I was kind of on board most of the way, I just figured this guy hasn't tested many lenses (the Sigma 30 1.4 is sharper than the 30 2.8, for example), but when he said the 27mm was the sharpest Fuji lens.... sorry, I'm out. That lens is very nice for its size and price, but is absolutely nowhere near the sharpest Fuji lens (unless the only other ones he had used were like the 16-50). If I did a top 10 list like this, I don't think a single one of these would be in it (but I haven't used all of them, like the Canon EF-M lenses).

Agreed, the last video this guy did of a similar concept he had so many Samyang lenses on there it made me question whether it was a sponsored video or not.

At the start of the video he does say he hasn’t tested any Nikon lenses and very few Fuji lenses. So that might be why his opinion on the Fuji lens is not as informed as others.

I agree with him about the two Sigma zooms - not sure if they'd make my top 10 list including primes, but they definitely would be near the top of the best APS-C zooms.

Unfortunately, a lot of the sharpest APS-C lenses *are* Fuji lenses. There just isn't anyone else who puts much effort into their non-FF lenses.

Good point. This list is entirely subjective and dependent upon which lenses he has actually tested. He says he’s tested 226 lenses over the years so we just have to accept that the list, while good for ideas, is by no means exhaustive. That’s the main reason I titled the article “10 of the sharpest...” rather than “The 10 Sharpest....” You’re spot on about Fuji APS-C lenses though.

well...i'm just going to assume he has not tested the Fuji 80mm macro or the new Fuji 200mm. Both of those lenses are godly sharp. And the fact that he has many Samyang lenses on his list does not surprise. When you get a good copy of a known sharp Samyang/Rokinon, they are razor sharp. The build and lasting quality of them are garbage though. The Samyang/Rokinon 135mm F/2 is crazy freaking sharp.

Yeah he admits straight up he has tested a rather limited selection of Fuji lenses. And for what it’s worth, only 2 Samyangs are on the list. 3 x Canon; 3 x Sigma; 2 x Samyang; 1 x Sony; 1 x Tamron.

no testing methodology, objective or otherwise?

in other words, "some unqualified guy's unqualified opinion saying these are the sharpest lenses he's unqualified to judge."

the absolute sharpest APS-C lens of 2019 is actually the Zeiss Touit 12mm ƒ/2.8. it's APS-C only, under $1400 USD and i've used it before. it's sharper than the Samyang 12mm ƒ/2 because i said so.

If you say it’s so, it must be so. That’s what makes a successful YouTube channel isn’t it? Coming from an education background, I daresay the kids of today might not be able to stomach an explanation of methodology. “Get to the results already!!”

You can see his testing methodology on any of his single lens reviews. This was a compilation based on those other reviews.