The wisdom of crowds can sometimes provide valuable insight, so we want to know which lens you think is the most underrated. Here are a few of mine too.There are many lenses that everybody just accepts as amazing, or nearly everybody. Almost any decent brand 85mm f/1.8 and faster, several 70-200mm f/2.8, several 24-70mm f/2.8s, and so on. We also know lots of lenses you ought not to touch with a barge pole. For me it was a Canon 75-300mm f/4-5.6 that was the second lens I'd ever bought, and softer than a pile of tumbledried kittens. But an interesting question that often throws up unexpected answers is which is the most underrated lens?
That question can be answered in a number of ways. For one, it can be answered from the point of view of someone who likes a lens many others don't like or that has received negative press over the years. Alternatively, you could present an answer in the form of a hidden gem which just doesn't appear to get much publicity at all, positive or otherwise. To get things going, I'm going to present my 3 suggestions for this topic.
Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro (1990)
I wrote an article on this lens a while ago because I bought it by accident in my first year of photography. It's an old lens and not one of the modern iterations of the 100mm macro. It has a built-in lens hood and a rather unusual design, but it served me very well indeed. 95% of my macro work was completed with this cheap 1990s lens and while it might be hard to find, if you can locate one, it's a brilliant way to get in to macro photography without spending a fortune. As if that wasn't enough, 100mm f/2.8s are excellent for portraiture too. I used this lens on commercial work that ended up being printed billboard size and its quality was never once a problem. A brilliantly underrated lens, mostly due to its obscurity these days.
Zenit 85mm f/1.5 Manual
This lens, which I have sadly parted ways with now, was one I described in an article a few years ago as my "secret weapon". This lens is on this list by virtue of arguably gracing both categories; not always well received and obscure. However, it's a great prime focal length, it's a very fast lens, and if you can handle the manual focus, it's a hell of a lot of lens. It has a metal barrel, metal lens cap, and everything about it feels like it was designed to be an instrument in the Cold War. It's one of the few lenses that genuinely took time to learn and become skillful at using and that, perhaps through nothing more than an antiquated love of physical technique, is a real plus for me. While some with disregard it on its colossal weight or no autofocus, I suggest you capitalize on their loss. I'll end with my conclusion from my article 2 years ago:
...this lens is awkward, heavy, irritating, averse to bright lights, and erratic: 10/10, would buy it again.
This I'll admit is more of a fringe entry to the list. I'll expand: the evidence I have for this lens not being as popular as it ought to be is that I've heard more than one photographer scoff at its widest aperture being f/4. I understand that worry, but I wouldn't discount it. I bought this lens as it was relatively cheap for a wide angled lens, and I don't do a great deal of landscape photography, but was going on a trip. It ended up being a staple in my camera bag for years and used for a multitude of applications outside of landscape. There are a few things I don't like about the lens, primarily surrounding its build quality, but for the price and the sharpness of the results with little vignetting, I'd say it shouldn't be disregarded just because it's not as fast as its more expensive competitors.
So what are lenses do you believe are the most underrated? Share them in the comment section below.