Why Are Some Lenses So Expensive?

Every once in a while, I get asked why some lenses are so much more expensive compared to others. Interestingly, this question comes from both beginners and advanced photographers, but in different contexts. Beginners want to know why pro-level lenses are a lot more expensive than consumer lenses, while knowledgeable photographers wonder about what makes niche/exotic lenses from companies like Zeiss and Leica so much more expensive than modern professional lenses. These are all interesting and valid questions, so I thought writing a couple of articles to attempt to answer these questions would be useful for our readers. In this article, I want to answer the first beginner question on what makes professional lenses expensive.

Nikon Lens Comparison

NIKON D3S @ 50mm, ISO 400, 1/60, f/5.6

1) Lens Categories

To understand differences between lenses, I believe it is important to first categorize them into different groups. This is obviously a subjective categorization, something I personally came up with to group lenses in our lens database:

  1. Consumer – all affordable variable aperture lenses with f/3.5 and slower aperture and some cheap f/1.8 primes lenses (see prime vs zoom lenses). Plastic build and sometimes even a plastic mount to stay cheap. Often designed specifically for crop-sensor cameras. Price range for consumer lenses is typically under $500, but in some cases can be more for higher quality consumer lenses and superzooms. Examples: Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G DX VR, Canon 50mm f/1.8 II
  2. Enthusiast – a bridge between consumer and professional lenses with medium range pricing and slower constant maximum aperture. Better build than consumer lenses, more advanced optical formula with often coated elements. Price range is typically between $500 and $1500, but can extend further than that for certain lenses. Higher-end models will have a golden ring (Nikon) or a red ring (Canon) in the front to indicate “professional” quality. Examples: Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR, Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS USM
  3. Professional – high-end, constant aperture full-frame lenses (between f/1.4 and f/2.8) with superb optics, metal barrel / mount, advanced optical design with top coating technologies, fast autofocus motor and weather resistance. Prices typically start in the $1500 range, but can be lower depending on age and other factors. Examples: Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II, Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II
  4. Exotic / Special Purpose – expensive, manual focus hand-crafted lenses for specialized mounts and formats. Examples: Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH, Zeiss APO Sonnar T* 135mm f/2

The main differentiating factor between the above categories is not necessarily price. Features, quality, autofocus motor, size, optical features and price are what cumulatively separates one lens from another. Some lenses are sold at a cheap price just because of their age, but it does not mean that they move to a different category. For example, the Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 lens can be bought for under $1000 brand new nowadays, which is half the price of the modern Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II lens. The 80-200mm is still a professional lens though, despite its lower price. Manufacturers typically combine enthusiast and professional lenses into one category, which simplifies things. But in that case how would one differentiate between lenses like 70-200mm f/4 and 70-200mm f/2.8, if both are considered professional? Instead of breaking up the “professional” category into other sub-categories, I thought it would be easier to just introduce a separate one for “enthusiast” level lenses. For the below explanation though, I will combine enthusiast and professional lenses into one category as well, for simplicity sake.

2) Cost of Consumer vs Professional Lenses

But we are not here to talk about different lens categories in detail – I want to explain the price differences between these groups. Why does the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G cost over 8 times more than the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX? For many beginners, it is hard to understand why there is such huge difference. Does it mean that the lens is 8 times better? Here is a long summary of why professional lenses cost so much more:

  1. Production Costs and Quality of Components – one of the main reasons for the high cost of professional lenses, is production costs and high quality standards set by the manufacturer. Consumer-grade lenses are manufactured in batches in a mostly automated fashion with very little human involvement. While each individual glass/fluorite lens element goes through a very high quality manufacturing process, it is acceptable to use lower-grade acrylic elements or glass with naturally-formed bubbles in consumer lenses. In comparison, glass elements used in professional lenses go through rigorous testing and inspection, with only the highest grade optics making their way into pro-grade lenses. Glass elements used in high-end professional lenses are hand-pressed, shaped and handled by experienced engineers, who run both visual and computerized inspections to detect any potential problems. There are also big differences in physical assembly of lenses and other components used within lenses. Consumer-grade lenses are mostly assembled by machines and are composed of cheaper/lower-end, plastic and aluminum parts. Professional lenses, on the other hand, are hand-assembled and only the best components (mostly brass/metal) end up inside lenses. Hence, the production costs of professional lenses are always much higher in comparison. In addition, professional lenses require a lot more R&D to design top performers in the industry, which also adds to the cost.
  2. Quality Thresholds – on top of the above-mentioned production costs and component differences, professional lenses have much different Quality Assurance (QA) thresholds. For example, if a consumer lens variance is between numbers 1 and 10, professional lenses would have a much tighter variance, something like 1 to 3. These threshold differences are set throughout the manufacturing process – from variances in optical glass to assembly, inspection and final QA checks. Check out the following video that shows how Nikon produces lenses:

    And here is a detailed video from Canon that shows the manufacturing process of making the professional Canon 500mm f/4L IS USM lens:

    Pay attention to how complex and detailed the manufacturing process is. Unfortunately, there are no videos that show how consumer lenses are made. Probably because you would certainly be much less impressed…

  3. Optical Design – professional lenses are designed with complex optical formulas that require many optical elements to reduce or correct various lens aberrations. For example, the above-mentioned Nikon 35mm f/1.4G has 10 elements in 7 groups, while the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX lens has 8 elements in 6 groups. While the difference is the physical number of elements is not that big, there is a huge difference in the size of each individual lens element, as evidenced by their lens construction diagrams:
    Nikon 35mm f/1.4G vs Nikon 35mm f/1.8G Lens Construction
  4. Lens Elements and Coating – in addition to the differences in optical design, there are also big differences in the type of lens elements used within lenses. Aspherical, Extra-low dispersion and Fluorite lens elements cost a lot more to make than regular ones, so you will see many more of those types of elements used in professional lenses. In addition, professional lenses are often made with special coating such as Nikon’s Super Integrated Coating (SIC) and Nano Crystal Coat, which dramatically decrease internal reflections, improve sharpness, contrast, colors and reduce ghosting and flare.
  5. Image Quality (Sharpness and Contrast) – thanks to complex optical designs, professional lenses are optimized to provide very high image quality, with sharp center to corner resolution. Special attention is given to reduce various optical problems and aberrations such as distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting.
  6. Image Quality (Colors) – professional lenses also yield superb colors, again, thanks to advanced optical designs and coatings.
  7. Format – note the size differences between the above diagrams. Consumer lenses are often made for smaller, APS-C size sensor cameras. Because the smaller sensors only use the center area of the frame and chop off the corners, only the center portion of lenses is effectively used. To reduce the cost and size of consumer lenses, manufacturers made lenses with smaller image circles (the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX lens shown in the above diagram is such lens), because the corners are wasted anyway.
  8. Maximum / Constant Aperture – most consumer lenses are slow, variable aperture lenses. They do not perform well in low-light situations, because they let in a lot less light than professional lenses. Their slow aperture easily confuses autofocus systems, causing focus errors in challenging light. In contrast, professional lenses are mostly faster, constant aperture lenses. The differences are often quite big. For example, the Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G variable aperture superzoom lens at 200mm is an f/5.6 lens, while the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G stays at f/2.8 no matter what focal length you choose. That’s a big, two stop difference at 200mm!
  9. Bokeh – slow, variable aperture lenses are also quite bad at rendering beautiful out of focus highlights, known as “bokeh“. In addition, slow aperture translates to larger depth of field, which means that consumer lenses are limited in their subject isolation capabilities. In contrast, professional lenses are designed specifically to render backgrounds in a smooth, “creamy” way that is aesthetically pleasing to look at, and their large maximum aperture allows for much more effective subject isolation.
  10. Autofocus Speed – consumer-grade lenses often come with slow autofocus motors that are often inadequate for fast action, such as wildlife and sports photography. Professional lenses, on the other hand, typically come with very fast autofocus motors that snap subjects into focus immediately. In telephoto lenses, autofocus settings can be optimized for long range shooting, which further reduces focus acquisition time.
  11. Fixed Lens Size – most consumer and some enthusiast lenses change in size (extend or collapse) when zooming in and / or focusing. Because of this, it is not only inconvenient to use filters with such lenses (with rotating front elements), but they are also prone to potentially malfunction or break in the future. Some optical elements can shift overtime, which can significantly affect sharpness, contrast and overall image quality.
  12. Construction – consumer lenses are not designed to handle occasional bumps, drops and other type of abuse. Drop one and you might as well buy a new lens, as it might cost more to try to repair it. Plastic parts break easily or dislocate when hit with enough force. Professional lenses, on the other hand, are built to withstand a lot of abuse. Both inner components and the outer barrel are typically made of metal, which adds a lot of weight (below), but also protects these lenses.
  13. Weather Sealing – another big difference is in weather sealing. Fixed-length professional lenses with tough construction are mostly sealed against dust and moisture, so they continue to perform in extreme temperatures, humidity and even rain. Consumer lenses do not have the same level of protection and they are much more prone to accumulating dust, moisture and fungus overtime.
  14. Weight – while all that metal used on lenses can significantly increase their weight, it is not always a bad thing. Heavier lenses typically balance better on heavier pro-level DSLRs. However, if used on entry-level plastic DSLRs, it can make the setup too front-heavy and tough to handle. Heavy lenses can also potentially put too much stress on the lens mount, if handled incorrectly.

I hope this clarifies why professional lenses are so much more expensive than consumer lenses. Part 2 addresses what makes Exotic lenses so special.


  1. 1) Brenda Raubenheimer
    July 19, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Great article. Thanks for putting it together! The diagram of the two 35mm lenses really made the point.

    • July 20, 2013 at 12:53 am

      Thank you for your feedback Brenda!

    • July 20, 2013 at 6:56 am

      The thing that always makes me smile are the people that say what you paid $400 for that!! You’re crazy!!! (pointing at your 50mm 1.4 lens with its 8 ground glass elements, 9 blade titanium aperture, metal body, silent wave focusing motor etc etc…)?! All this while looking at you through their $600 D&G/LV/Chanel 3 piece plastic sunglasses… SMH!!!

      • 1.2.1) Kam Kazee
        August 28, 2013 at 3:46 am

        Mike, that’s the reason i just smile back when someone asks me how much i’ve spent on my current gear.

  2. 2) Frank Jr.
    July 19, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    Another key ingredient in price is popularity, supply and demand. There are some lenses that are or were very popular lenses that cost more than they should. On the other side of this there are some really good lenses that thankfully cost less because they are not in great demand.

    • July 20, 2013 at 12:52 am

      Absolutely agreed. Demand definitely drives prices up and lack of it forces manufacturers to resort to desperate measures. Look at what happened with the Nikon 1 V1 and now the same thing has happened to the Canon EOS M (it is currently on sale for $299).

      • 2.1.1) FrancoisR
        July 22, 2013 at 2:59 am

        Hello Nasim,
        I read rumors about EOS-M being discontinued soon even if the new firmware release has improved focus speed…

        thanks as usual

  3. 3) Indrajeet Singh
    July 19, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    Always interesting to read your articles, your in depth study and the use of “everyday English” makes understanding a lot simpler.

    I try never to miss you articles and have read through most of them.

    Thank you for guiding and inspiring so many photographers.

    • July 20, 2013 at 12:51 am

      Thank you for your feedback Indrajeet!

    • 3.2) Ivan
      July 21, 2013 at 4:16 pm

      Totally agree!

  4. 4) Arun
    July 20, 2013 at 12:24 am

    Thank you Nasim for a great article, looking forward to the next part.
    I do have another question regarding pricing: why the prices are different across the globe (forget about the various offers available in US & Europe than Asia in time to time – though all the manufacturing takes place in Asia!) so much substantially?
    Have a good day.

    • July 20, 2013 at 12:50 am

      Supply and demand. US market is the biggest purchaser in the world, so everyone tries to sell here, which obviously results in a lot of competition and price cuts. Then there are things like currency conversions, presence, channels and distribution, taxes, etc., which all impact prices one way or another.

  5. July 20, 2013 at 1:04 am

    very informative! the video on the canon 500mm lens production process is really eye opening, and I never knew so many lenses are still handmade!

    kind of makes me feel better about paying a fortune for some of these lenses, i suppose.

  6. 6) Hoeras
    July 20, 2013 at 1:50 am

    Thanks Nasim, we all appreciate your efforts and this article helps us to get a good perspective on things we may take for granted.

    I just received the Nikkor 85mm 1.8G this week, paid just over $500 for it, put it on my D800E – it is remarkable right out into the full-frame corners. Expensive? I don’t think so.

    But is this the consumer version of the 85mm 1.4G?

    I actually don’t care, but I do know WHY the 1.4G costs much more, but really happy with the 1.8G.

    I paid around $2000 for my 70-200mm F2.8 VRII – is that expensive for what it is? I don’t think so. Just because something is not cheap does not mean it is expensive.

    No, I don’t think good lenses are too expensive, but some are better bargains than others. In fact, I believe we live in a Golden Age of photography, one that I hope continues.

    May I also say that some of the Fuji X lenses that have come out, are not that expensive, but they are awfully good and terrific bargains, all metal construction. The Fuji-X 35mm F1.4 on my Sexy-One is a delight, both in feel and performance. And it was just $500 – another bargain.

    Choose your lenses wisely and with forethought, and you get what you deserve.

  7. 7) Spy Black
    July 20, 2013 at 2:23 am

    While most of this makes sense, there’s some missing elements here, taking your 35mm lens examples as a perfect example. While one is and FX lens and one is a DX lens, it can be argued that the 35mm f/1.8 is optically better than the 35mm f/1.4, which is a pretty crappy lens for the all the supposed engineering and manufacturing that one would be led to believe is put into it.

    And then there is the case of a lens like the 35mm f/1.4 Samyang lens. Here is a lens that is optically superior to the Nikon equivalent. Sure, it may not have an autofocus motor, but does that really excuse the price difference? The build quality on the Samyang is also of high quality. How does Samyang make an optically superior, and relatively mechanically equal lens than the Nikon for substantially less money?

    And then there is the 35mm f/1.4 Sigma, which is superior in every single way to the Nikon and Canon counterparts, again for significantly less money.

    Obviously there are other elements that need to be taken into account. I would say one is name brand markup. Nikon and Canon can charge higher prices simply because people will believe they will make the better lenses.

    So, good points, but there is more to this than meets the eye.

    • 7.1) Jeroen
      July 20, 2013 at 4:04 am

      Agreed in most aspects. Although third party lenses do have their flaws that do not meet the eye right away, inconsistent sharpness over the frame, sucking in dust with zoom lenses, flare, bad bokeh etc.
      But yes, Sigma and Samyang are making good business by simply producing good products and being satisfied with a lower mark-up.

      Software-wise lens correction information is also of interest as is the cooperation between camera and lens (800mm with adapter focus points come to mind, but well talk about exotic!)

      I think the sole reason Nikon has not come out with a 35mm f1.8 FX is that it will diminish the sales of the f1.4 to absolute zero. Too bad cause I want one!

      Nasim, a question: can you in part II maybe elaborate why the ‘exotic’ lens manufacturers do not offer autofocus abilities and such?

    • 7.2) HomoSapiensWannaBe
      July 20, 2013 at 1:07 pm

      Regarding the Sigma 35mm F1.4 for Nikon. It’s about time somebody set the record straight! It is most definitely NOT superior to the Nikon 35mm F1.4 in EVERY way. How so? OK, here it is… The Nikon front and rear lens caps are far better! I am so glad that I finally got that off my chest… (;->)

  8. 8) Nelson
    July 20, 2013 at 3:54 am

    I think you forgot one of the most important aspects.

    Optical glass is expensive! Starting at $1 = 1 gram of glass.

    And it’s very heavy, much more dense than window’s glass, for example.

    • 8.1) Nicolò
      July 20, 2013 at 5:24 am

      If 1gram glas = 1$, some 2k$ should be made intirely of optical glass…

      • 8.1.1) Nelson
        July 20, 2013 at 6:42 am

        What you can find for $2000 than weights more than 2kg?

        • July 20, 2013 at 7:16 am

          Kijiji! :) You can buy a lot for 2K.

        • Nicolò
          July 21, 2013 at 12:29 am

          Check Leica lensen, some Zeiss and even some Nikon too (24 1.4G)

          • Rui Nelson Magalhães Carneiro
            July 21, 2013 at 5:53 am

            Wtf? I’m not even commenting, how dumb

  9. July 20, 2013 at 5:44 am

    Great job Mansur, well done. I probably had most of Nikon and Canon lenses at one time or another in my hands and I must say you get for what you pay. This is absolutely true. Thanks again.

    • 9.1) Daniel
      July 20, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      Назим, а не Мансур.

      • July 20, 2013 at 2:32 pm

        Sorry about that Nasim, I was just talking to my friend Mansur before I made a comment. :)

  10. 10) Rohan Machado
    July 20, 2013 at 8:34 am

    Also, ashperical elements are much difficult to make than spherical. Number of aspherical elements also adds to the cost of the lens.

  11. 11) Mohamed Ramadan
    July 20, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Hi Nasim,
    I was interested in nikon 35mm f/1.8 as you mentioned that it’s a gem, but when I read this article I wonder what will be nikon 35mm f1.4? does it worth paying for it? note that I currently have D7000 but soon may get the fabulous D800E, please advise.

    • 11.1) Calibrator
      July 23, 2013 at 2:59 pm

      personally, I strongly advise you to *not* invest money in DX-only lenses if you decided to go FX in the near future and especially not if you get a D800E.

      This includes the 35mm F1.8, even though it can be used in FX-mode with some vignetting (it’s very subjective, yes, but thanks to the internet you should be able to find examples to make up your mind).
      Yes, it’s a gem (= cheap for the performance) but mostly on DX and it’s not without problems, too: Most notably lots of chromatic aberrations when wide open. Sometimes it’s not easy to get rid of all of those in post-processing (I have it for my D7000 and use Lightroom so I know…).

      Going from the D7000 to a D800E is quite the upgrade and using old DX lenses in DX-mode on it may be sufficient if you are in a pinch but you should think about getting lenses that exploit the FX sensor, IMHO. Otherwise the D800E is wasted.

      Personally, I stopped buying DX-only lenses a year ago because going FX in the near to mid future is something that could very likely happen to me, too. So when I chose a macro lens I bought the 105mm F2.8 VR macro instead of a DX-only macro. This has the added charm that on the D7000 it is a macro with quite a long working distance and on a FX the working distance is closer but not too close.

      A 35mm lens on the other hand is completely different on a DX body compared on a FX body: On FX it’s nearly a wide-angle lens and on DX it’s practically a “normal lens”. So when you buy it for your D7000 you may want to get a 50mm for the D800E to get a similar experience. Therefore it may make more sense to get the 50mm F1.8 instead of the 35mm – which costs about the same and is also highly rated. On a D7000 the 50mm is already a slight tele, though…

      In the end it comes down to how bad you need the D800E, I think, and how willing you are to get top-notch glass for it. Do you really need a 35mm F1.4, for example? And if so: Take a look at the new Sigma, which Nasim evaluated recently…

  12. 12) Daniel
    July 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    I guess there’s one more important point missing which is R&D. Professional lens requires much more R&D and that significantly impacts the price.
    And the brand name, of course. Look at the new fabulous Sigma 35/1,4. What else can justify its $700 lower price compared to the inferior Nikkor 35/1,4?

    • July 21, 2013 at 10:36 pm

      That’s why I love our readers! You are absolutely right, there is definitely more R&D spend on pro lenses. Will add that to the article :)

  13. 13) Max
    July 20, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Just back from Thailand with my d7100 and various lenses. My first weapon is the sigma 30 f1.4 which is amazing lens when it does focus.

    After af fine tuning I was manage to get better shoots but can’t tune it to every disstance or using manual focus all the time.

    Nikon does not have a pro alternative for normal focal length for DX. This is mean they are saying that if I want super fast lenses I should look earls ware. Sigma etc.

    So I got there point, I will buy the next full frame with lightening fast af as soon as a new 50mm will be introduce along with a killer body.

    I will keep the 7100 with the tokina 11-16 for landscape.

    So Nikon wins. Unfortunatly DX lenses is history.

    • July 21, 2013 at 10:35 pm

      Max, agreed, Nikon has been neglecting the DX market for a while now – what a shame!

      As for the 30mm f/1.4 – isn’t that supposed to be an “art” lens? Why don’t you send it back to Sigma and have them repair it? Or perhaps return/exchange?

      • 13.1.1) Calibrator
        July 23, 2013 at 3:10 pm

        Depends on which version he owns, I guess:
        Sigma has had a DX-only 30mm F1.4 for several years now (“30mm F1,4 EX DC / HSM”) and now they offer the new “art version”: 30mm F1,4 DC HSM.

  14. 14) Tom Crossan
    July 20, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    I learnt a long time ago that: “It is the lens that maketh the camera”.

  15. 15) Ms. Jen
    July 20, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    I had the opportunity in 2009 to visit one of the Zeiss factories in Oberkochen / Aalen, Germany. We got to see the production line of the Cine lenses from start to finish, as well as speak to various scientists and employees, and it was wonderful.

    The best part, besides seeing the lens elements shaped, was the testing facility where lenses go from approx. 50C to -20C – wherein we got to be in both the heat room and the icebox.

    After that adventure, I am in awe of even consumer grade lenses and the science / production that goes into the manufacturing.

    • July 21, 2013 at 10:33 pm

      Yes, the Zeiss lens manufacturing process is amazing. I posted part 2 of this article here, where I discuss that: https://photographylife.com/what-makes-exotic-lenses-so-special

      • 15.1.1) Ravi R
        February 20, 2014 at 12:04 pm

        I think I watched the Leica production process in their website once and I was surprised to find that the lens was being handled with bare hands right from after the lens was polished to being assembled inside its barrel. I would have thought they will at least be wearing some finger gloves, considering how oil from the fingers can be so condusive to fungal growth in the lens over the years.

        Maybe they irradiate it later on.. I don’t know.

  16. 16) hoang
    July 21, 2013 at 11:08 am

    to say it simpler :
    -volume of production
    -a little more in material cost
    -user acceptable range

    and the price is set

  17. 17) StevenP
    July 21, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Your database is a great idea and including categorization to the level of the lens, consumer, enthusiast or professional is helpful. We only buy L series lenses in Canon, but even within that what they classify as an L series includes enthusiast level. We are trying to buy the highest quality we can for our lenses, they are our investment. Body might change, lenses will not.
    The price does constrain our purchase, but its quality not quantity.

    • July 21, 2013 at 10:31 pm

      Agreed, good glass is to keep!

      We are still working on the database. Hopefully we will add more info in the near future – about 200 more lenses were published within the last 3 weeks.

  18. 18) Saeff
    July 21, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    Why the pro nikon prime lens made barrel from plastic? mostly the pro lens had metal barrel body like previous version.

    • July 21, 2013 at 10:30 pm

      I agree, pro lenses should be metal. The only downside is weight…

  19. 19) Tom Crossan
    July 21, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    I have to say that I have bought expensive Nikon lens which left me disappointed, and now only use Carl Zeiss with my D800. You can see and feel the difference in quality and weight. So sometimes many$$$ do not get you the better lens.

  20. 20) Ann J.
    July 30, 2013 at 6:20 am

    Hello Nasim,
    This is a bit off topic but I would love a reply – I’ve just got a Nikon D5100 with 18-55mm kit lens. Did I make the right decision? I’m just a starter and have been playing around with my camera. Have got some interesting photos from it so far. The main aim is to use it to improve my food photography as I have a blog and have been using my phone camera only so far for it! I would appreciate some advice and also tips on how to improve.
    Thank you.

    • July 30, 2013 at 11:51 am

      Ann, that’s a good way to get started. For food photography, consider getting a prime lens like the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G, since it allows you to isolate subjects more. Aesthetics are important for food photography and that’s where prime lenses shine. Also, read all the beginner articles you can find on this website, they will help you a great deal!

      • 20.1.1) Ann J.
        July 31, 2013 at 2:23 am

        Thank you!

  21. 21) siju
    August 17, 2013 at 7:02 am

    Thank you Nasim
    Day feels incomplete without checking out your site.
    I had purchased 70-200 f 2.8 mm vr2 reading your review in comparison with 70-200 f 4 vr3
    totally love the lens

  22. 22) Harry
    August 19, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    I’m fairly new to shooting with a DSLR, and found myself increasing the aperture value (smaller hole) when capturing multiple subjects with different depth of fields – e.g., landscape.

    My question is if I use a constant max aperture lens, would it mean I don’t have to increase the aperture value as much or not at all?

    Btw, I’m current using the Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 on the D7000.

  23. 23) Rick
    October 6, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    The real question is not why certain lenses (and cameras) are more expensive than others, but rather, “Why are some photographers much worse than others?” Psst: it has nothing to do with gear . . .

    • 23.1) Christy
      March 19, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      Rick I absolutely disagree!! IF you are a photographer, when you bought your very first camera, did you know the difference in what all of the numbers and letters meant? What about all of the manual settings, did you know what scene need which settings. I feel quite sure you did not come out of the womb knowing this stuff. I am a beginning amiture photographer, and I don’t know all of what this and that means, or which camera is better. But I have a love for photography! Psst: it DOES have everything to do with the gear until you learn about it. So why don’t you quit being so condescending and offer up some advice for a fellow photographer. Have a nice day!

  24. 24) aniessa
    February 22, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    hello my husband just bought me a new lens for my Nikon D3200. He purchased NIKKOR Lens AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR from overstockdigital.com. He said he was a little leary if the website was legit or not but when he purchased it There was a lens for $199 (which is what he intended to get because comparing it to amazon it was like a steal for the price) http://overstockdigital.com/ovcat/product_info.php?products_id=321404 and a lens for $599 http://overstockdigital.com/ovcat/product_info.php?products_id=322851 Now looking through amazon and overstock digital we could not tell a difference other than the word glass and the 199$ lens has a MPN 2197 ?? so when he called to order they asked if he wanted the foreign lens or the american lens ( he just said whichever one is better which the guy said the american since its glass(the $599))Now i just received my lens and i scanned the UPC code on amazon to see what came up, it came up NIKKOR Lens AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR for $396 but no where does it say the word glass. we have 12 days to return the item, were just making sure we didnt get ripped off which we payed 299 for the purchase of the 599 camera….not sure how that worked out but any advice or comments would be very helpful!!

  25. 25) Jade Jet
    June 13, 2014 at 2:22 pm


    I am a beginning photographer and I found this article extremely helpful as are many of the articles on this website! But I am not sure how to tell consumer from enthusiast from professional lenses while browsing lenses? As the article and many comments said, the price may not necessarily tell the quality of the lens.

    Also would it be possible to explain how beginners would be able to understand what they are reading when they look at lenses? For example “NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR” or ” Nikon 35mm f/1.4G”. I understand mm and f/— but what does the G or the ED VR or any other letters that would normally follow mean or how could I find out what they mean?


    • 25.1) John
      March 11, 2015 at 9:44 pm

      This is a bit late, but in case you were still wondering the letters will differ between manufacturers but in Nikon’s case ED stands for Extra-low dispersion which means that the glass is specially formulated to reduce chromatic aberration and improve sharpness and contrast.

      VR is Vibration Reduction which is simply image stabilisation so there are motors inside that moves the lens elements to counter any camera shake, letting you use smaller shutter speeds and lower ISO in low light.

      G stands for Gelded which means that there is no aperture control ring on the lens which makes it incompatible with old film cameras.

      As far as telling professional grade lenses from consumer lenses some manufactures have a letter designator for example, Canon’s L lenses are their premium grade glass. Zeiss lenses are usually top tier. When it comes to brands that don’t have a letter to identify the professional lenses you can usually go buy the lens speed. Faster lenses (lower f numbers) usually coincide with higher quality lenses for example the Nikkor 50mm 1.8D vs the Nikkor 50mm 1.4G, the 1.8 is a perfectly decent lens but the 1.4 is just that much better to justify 3x the price. Another example is the stock kit lens which is usually a 18-55 f3.5-5.6 compare that to say the 70-200 f/2.8 which offers the same speed throughout it’s zoom range and is much faster.

  26. 26) DW
    June 19, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    You can explain the reasons all you want, but the true answer is….. corporate greed. Anyways.. carry on.

    • 26.1) The Ghost of The Joffster
      June 27, 2015 at 6:38 am

      If it was really down to corporate greed then one greedy corporation could just make their lenses much cheaper than everyone else and get all the sales themselves.

  27. 27) Srinivas
    July 24, 2014 at 12:03 am


    I have a D5200 Nikon, Lens I have 18 – 55mm and 70 – 300mm. Need to get some best practice tips if I will be able to take a snap with background as dull/distorted whilst keeping the foreground intact. if yes kindly share what settings need to be done. Also appreciate if you can share some best practices guide on photo shooting wrt to shutter speed, etc…


  28. 28) Lee Yna
    December 12, 2014 at 3:46 am

    Most Expensive Leica Lenses in the world: http://richieast.com/expensive-camera-lenses-world/

  29. December 14, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    I am not a professional photographer but will be in the future, hopefully. This article, however, provided me useful information and answers the question about the cost difference between lenses.

  30. 30) Bob
    June 4, 2015 at 9:56 am

    what a bunch of dumb reasons? explain to me how on a canon lens, slapping a IS system on the 70-200 f4 doubles the price. pricing has nothing to do with any of the reasons you listed, but only to do with marketing. what marketers decide what the market is willing to pay, figure out what price will give maximum profit and set it like so.

Comment Policy: Although our team at Photography Life encourages all readers to actively participate in discussions, we reserve the right to delete / modify any content that does not comply with our Code of Conduct, or do not meet the high editorial standards of the published material.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *