This Might Be the Best Lens That $80 Can Get You

This Might Be the Best Lens That $80 Can Get You

You don’t really expect so much out of ridiculously cheap lenses. However, every once in a while, a budget lens comes along that may surprise you. This might be one of those lenses.

The sensible expectation when buying lenses that are priced significantly lower than how much basic kit lenses sell for is that they offer the range and the aperture for an affordable price but often at the expense of glass quality and optical performance. Most of the time, these affordable lenses are also manual focus lenses. However, of course, there are also manual focus lenses that are made for specialized uses that come with a significant price tag and perform very well.

Budget manual lenses play an important role in the camera industry, and they contribute greatly to the development of many aspiring photographers and videographers. Camera gear tends to be expensive, and the more we spend on pieces of gear that we don’t have much use for, the more they begin to feel expensive. However, a crucial part of developing your artistic vision and style as a photographer is being familiar with different focal lengths, the effect of different depths of field, and, altogether, being familiar with what perspective each lens can give you. Learning this and going through this process can be very expensive for a lot of people, but because of the existence of budget manual lenses, photographers starting out can experiment with different tools without spending too much. In addition to that, it is surprising to see that there are budget lenses that can perform so well with very little compromise.

The Astrhori 50mm f/2 for Full Frame Cameras

This compact lens from Astrhori comes in at just 58mm (2.3 inches) long and 52mm (2 inches) thick, weighing just 310 grams (10.9 oz). As a lens with such an affordable price tag, it is quite impressive that it has an all-metal construction compared to other budget manual lenses that are made with a mix of metal and plastic. This lens has a 52mm filter thread and has no lens hood, nor does it have any attachment point for hoods.

It comes with a metal lens mount with no electronic contacts. On the more proximal part is a textured focus ring, and alongside it is a focus distance meter. On the more distal half is a thinner aperture ring, also with a textured surface. This aperture ring does not have any fixed stops or clicks and just turns smoothly until either end of the aperture range is reached.

While this lens is labelled as the Astrhori 50mm f/2 lens, the aperture ring actually reaches the maximum stop beyond where the f/2 mark is, and as the brand’s website mentions, the maximum aperture is f/1.6 and can go as small as f/16. Focusing can be done as close as 50cm, and the barrel extends slightly as the focus ring is turned.

It's so small, it fits in a small glass.

Image Quality

Upon testing this lens, it was immediately surprising to see how it performed. Of course, the image quality would be highly dependent on the accuracy of the user when focusing manually. At the widest aperture of f/1.6 as well as at f/2 and f/2.8, the resulting image had pretty good quality, especially considering other lenses of the same price range.

However, the sharpness visibly increased at around f/4 all the way to f/8 and seemingly had a peak sharpness around f/5.6. Beyond f/8 all the way to the very close f/16 mark, there was a significant decline in sharpness. There was, however, noticeable chromatic aberration when shooting wide open, especially in backlit situations, and slight vignetting was visible also at the widest opening.


50mm large aperture lenses are probably one of the most popular first extra lens options for most beginners. This is because 50mm f/1.8 lenses are usually the most affordable ones available aside from the kit lens. About a decade back, when DSLR cameras dominated the market, these lenses would be available for about $100, which made them a compelling choice for anyone looking for options, and at the same time, it allowed beginners to be able to try out shooting with apertures wider than the usual f/3.5 on kit lenses.

50mm lenses can have many different uses to photographers. While it is said to be (relatively) close to the perspective of human vision, it also is not too wide that would distort the perspective. Given this focal length and the large aperture capability, the Astrhori 50mm f/2 lens can have a wide range of uses.

It can be used for portraits, either up close or even environmental portraits with a bit of distance, of course possibly also in low light situations. It can be used for photographing still life and even products and food, as well as for street and travel photography depending on the user’s capability to walk around while manually focusing. Because of the smooth aperture switching, this can also be quite useful for shooting videos. It’s also great that this lens comes in many mount variants for Sony E, Canon RF/EF-M, Nikon Z, Fujifilm X, and Leica L.

Overall, this lens can be a great tool for photographers (and videographers) who are starting out and those who are on a budget. The $79 price tag enables the user not just to try out the focal length and aperture combination but allows them to do so without regretting it because it produces great quality images despite some limitations. There is a multitude of budget lens brands in the market; however, not all (and not even most) of them have good optical quality like this one. For a budget-friendly price, it would be easy to realize the value of this lens, especially as a tool for learning and experimenting with different styles. At the same time, even experienced photographers and even auto-focus-dependent users can find enjoyment in using this affordable lens.

What I Liked:

  • Impressive image quality
  • Large maximum aperture of f/1.6
  • Significantly affordable option

What Can Be Improved:

  • No lens hood
  • Perhaps a version with a clicking aperture ring
Nicco Valenzuela's picture

Nicco Valenzuela is a photographer from Quezon City, Philippines. Nicco shoots skyscrapers and cityscapes professionally as an architectural photographer and Landscape and travel photographs as a hobby.

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AF is so much used by today's photographers it has made them kinda lazy!!! I mean I was a film guy from early 70's to the mid 2000's when the little digital cameras came out. But let me take you back to the film days of what I call automatic cameras, what I mean by that is I started with the Canon Ftb and it had a light meter built in and all one had to do was turn the lens aperture for the lighting and yes do the focusing but before the light meter you and to use a hand held meter. With the in camera light meter and marrying it's needle with the aperture needle with a circle I never learned the SS, f/# or ASA triangle that even carried over to the digital age.
What drew me to Sony in '14 was the $25 to $50 adapters that let me use my old Canon FD and EF lenses and the nice thing by today's standards are very fast glass for mostly f/2.8 or less. And as far as manual focus there was focus assist with red/yellow/white colors that you align with your subject. I even used a FD telephoto lens to capture my first lunar eclipse in November '14. Only one thing was still needed and that was a tripod!
The old camera glass is still great and even if foggy from heat there is a fix for that. There is a couple items that are very hard to find and that is the vivitar prism filters.
They are great for portraits or different shots that even PS has a hard time to make.
There is one thing I see in YouTube videos and that is everyone still carry and use a tripod but with a camera with IBIS and/or using lenses with IS/OSS.
I stopped by the Florida Caverns that I passed by very often on trips and was when I had my A7s and found that tripods were not allowed and used the Voigtlander HELIAR-HYPER WIDE 10mm F5.6. I shortened the camera strap and put a bungee cord form one side to the other via my belt making me the tripod. Nice thing it was lit and colorful and was able to capture at .5 sec. and at 10mm none of the postcards were that wide!!! It was great the lens is chipped!!!
Look there may be new glass but beware no chip so metadata is not sent to the camera like focal length etc. that is where you need first is to use a log book of when and where and all settings just like the film days. Lucky for us in the digital age we can add all the settings to an image using a Plug-in called LensTagger that you put in Lr to add the info, I learned of it when using my film lenses. It is sometimes hard to recall what lens you used in an image like back in film days you might use 3 or 4 lenses on one roll of film.
4. Sometimes you buy a new lens unchipped like the Voigtlander Ultra Wide-Heliar 12mm f/5.6 Aspherical III M Mount but with a adapter you get to use. In search for the widest of lenses, this edited with the old Photomatix SW. Experimenting is so fun!!

Wow, so Nikon F really is just not a thing anymore.