Ten of the Sharpest Full Frame Lenses Under $1,400

When it comes to lenses, there always seems to be a balancing act between sharpness and cost. It’s really tough to find that tipping point; thankfully, you don’t have to. YouTuber Christopher Frost does some of my favorite lens testing out there, and he has put together his top ten list of the sharpest lenses under $1,400.

While sharpness is not everything when it comes to a camera lens, having a consolidated list like this is extremely helpful when buying lenses, ensuring that, at the very least, you can avoid a dud or two. There are a few surprising items on this list; for example, there are no Canon lenses on Christopher’s top ten and a surprising number of Samyang lenses, which were often seen as cheap, good enough beginner lenses just a few years ago that have really come into their own as a real player. 

While the number one spot, the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 Art, isn’t that much of a surprise, the fact that the Tamron 70-200mm is so sharp while still being so affordable is shocking, showing just how far third party manufacturers have stepped up to the plate quality-wise. I can think of a few different photographers off the top of my head who shoot with next-to-no first-party lenses, and this just goes to show that they are no longer just good enough, but true competitors.

Were there any surprises on the list for you? Were you expecting to see a lens that didn’t show up?

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user-156929's picture

Should be "Ten of the Sharpest Full Frame Lenses Under $1,400, Excluding Nikon"
You should have mentioned that in the introduction.

revo nevo's picture

fuji, micro43...

user-156929's picture

Not Full Frame.

Sony's there. Same same - without Sony, no Nikon.

user-156929's picture


Rob Mynard's picture

Nikon have some very sharp lenses, but I cant think of any in the sub $1400 range.

user-156929's picture

I wasn't suggesting they should be in the top 10, just that the title is slightly misleading. Honestly, I think sharpness is overrated. It gets overused in lieu of good photographic technique, kinda like bokeh.

michaeljin's picture

Their f/1.8 primes are pretty sharp across the board. Whether they're sharper than the lenses listed, I have no idea, though.

Surprised by Samyang, especially multiple lenses. I have a Rokinon (same thing) 14mm f/2.8 manual focus (adapted lens) for Sony and it's pretty rubbish when compared to either the 16-35 f/4 and especially the Zeiss Batis 18mm. Granted, it's significantly cheaper, but still... calling the corners soft is an understatement when "corners" in this case means anything that isn't dead center. I've read that they have serious quality control issues and that there are some good copies out there, but after my experience with this one I'd just as soon not go through the hassle. I realize this particular lens wasn't on the list but it's hard to believe those are so good when this one is so bad.

Also surprised none of the Zeiss E-Mount lenses made the list (Batis or Loxia). Several of those are under $1400 and I have a hard time believing they couldn't beat out a Samyang.

Philipp Pley's picture

Sharpness is always the go to attribute when commenting on lenses.
To me that's merely a basic expectation.
It's the other attributes that truly set lenses apart.

user-156929's picture

...says the guy with three Zeiss lenses. :-)

Philipp Pley's picture

haha, they are really great though, I'm super happy with them for various reasons. Even less obvious things like the focus throw and its precision just complete them for me.

michaeljin's picture

It's one of the few attributes that can be measured in an objective manner. Most of the things that people describe as lens "character" are aesthetic preferences that are often difficult to describe and are not simple to measure or compare.

Philipp Pley's picture

True, valid point. There's so many things to consider, some are more subjective, some not. Something I love about my lenses is the minimal focus breathing (objectively measurable). Also I only buy lenses with 9 blades because of how they render out of focus areas and star shapes at tight apertures (somewhat more subjective, 8 blade stars look way different).

David Pavlich's picture

I liked the way Christopher used to test his lenses against that building. It was good for showing sharpness and revealing CA. I like his videos since I'm a Canon shooter. Dustin Abbot gave some pretty positive reviews of the Rokinon/Samyang 85 f1.2 and the 135 f2.