Fast Autofocus Camera Lens Selection Guide

Nikon 50mm f/14.g Lens

Are Faster Lenses Better?
Faster lenses cost more than slower ones. But are they better?
In one area, they obviously are: They transmit more light. A faster lens provides a brighter viewfinder image for easier composing in dim light and allows you to shoot at a lower ISO for better image quality, or at a faster shutter speed to minimize blur due to camera and subject movement.

And faster lenses often outperform slower ones. For instance, Canons EF 300mm /2.8L IS USM pro telephoto is superior to its EF 300mm /4L IS USM pro telephoto not only in lens speed, but also in optical performance, AF performance and weatherproofing.

But you pay a price for those benefits. That /2.8 costs more than three times as much as the /4 and is much bulkier.

A fast lens is one that has a large minimum aperture (smaller f-stop numbers). The minimum aperture might be f/1.4 f/1.8, f/2 or f/2.8 in comparison to other lenses with the same focal length. The larger minimum aperture requires larger glass elements and is subsequently heavier and usually bulkier than a lens one or two slops slower. They are often higher quality as a side-effect of the lens maker justifying the extra expense. Most lenses do not perform very well wide open (shooting at their maximum aperture). You need to stop it down to get best result out of the lens. A fast f2.8 lens stopped down to 4 or 5.6 will give great results, where the slow 5.6 lens would need to be to be wide open and will not be as great a picture.  Always Best Prices for the fastest lens you can afford, or that you want to afford.  A professional zoom lens is already two stops slower than a f/1.4 prime lens.

Some of the fastest camera lenses ever made are:

  • Carl Zeiss 50mm f/0.7 (Limited production lens built for the NASA space program, used on 35mm movie cameras by Stanley Kubrick for some candlelit scenes in Barry Lyndon)
  • Tokyo Kogaku Toko 5cm f/0.7 (WWII) and Simlar 5cm f/0.7 (1951)
  • Rodenstock TV-Heligon 50mm f/0.75
  • Nikon TV-Nikkor 35mm f/0.9-Fastest Nikkon ever made[2]
  • Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH, announced on September 15, 2008, it is the fastest Aspherical lens to have ever reached mass production.[3]
  • Canon 50mm f/0.95 (Available in TV and Canon 7 Rangefinder Version)
  • Schneider Kreuznach 50mm f/0.95 'Xenon' (Available with C mount)
  • Leica Noctilux 50mm f/1.0 (Leica M mount, discontinued and replaced 2008 with a new Noctilux, see above)
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.0 (for Canon autofocus SLR, now out of production)


AV -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
f/# 0.5 0.7 1.0 1.4 2 2.8 4 5.6 8 11 16 22 32 45 64 90 128
Standard F Stop Table

Digital Crop Factor:  Placing a 100mm lens on a digital body with a smaller sensor size produces a picture that is the same as the picture taken by 35mm frame body with a 150mm lens. This is known as the digital multiplication factor, or sometimes called the Field Of View Crop Factor. It is the size of the digital sensor, which decides the effective 35mm equivalent focal length of the lens. Various brand digital cameras have different multiplication factors. (Nikon is 1.5, Canon 30D 1.3 and 1.6) These factors are an advantage to photographers taking telephoto shots, but a disadvantage when shooting wide-angle photos with a digital SLR camera.

Canon 35mm Zoom F-Stop - Price Angle of View - Filter Weight
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 - DX Lens Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 - DX f/2.8 - $570 104~82 - 77mm filter 19.75 oz.
Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM AF Lens Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM AF f/2.8 - $1,425 108-63  82mm filter 20 oz
Tamron SP AF 17 - 50mm f/2.8 XR DI-II LD AF-D Lens Tamron SP AF 17 - 50mm f/2.8 XR DI-II LD AF-D f/2.8 - $420 78 45'  - 67mm filter 15.3 oz
Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM f/2.8 - $1,030 78.3-27.5 - 77mm 20 oz
Tokina 16mm - 50mm F/2.8 Pro DX  AF Lens Tokina 16mm - 50mm F/2.8 Pro DX  AF f/2.8 - $660 82-31  - 77mm filter 21.5 oz.
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L USM AF Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L USM AF f/2.8 - $1.260 74 to 29 - 77mm 2.1 lb
  Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX Aspherical EX DG AF f/2.8- $499 84.1 to 34.3 - 82mm filter 1.6 lb
Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM Lens Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM f/2.8 - $1,699 30 to 12 - 77mm filter 3.5 lb with collar
Canon 35mm Zoom F-Stop - Price Angle of View - Filter Weight
Canon EF 50mm f / 1.2L USM Lens Canon EF 50mm f / 1.2L USM f/1.2 - $1,400 46 - 72mm filter 1.2 lb
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM Lens Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM f/1.2 - $1,870 28 - 72mm filter 2.25 lb
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Lens Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM f/1.4 - $1,170 84 - 77mm filter 1.4 lb
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM Lens Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM f/1.4 - $1,180 63 - 72mm filter 1.28 lb
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM f/1.4 - $315 46 - 58mm filter 0.64 lb
Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM f/1.8 - $420 75 - 58mm filter 0.68 lb
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II f/1.8 - $85 46 - 52mm filter 0.29 lb
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Lens Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM f/1.8 - $355 28 - 58mm filter 14.9 oz
Canon EF 35mm f/2 Lens Canon EF 35mm f/2 f/2 - $240 63 - 52mm filter 0.46 lb
Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM Lens Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM f/2 - $410 24 - 58mm filter 1.01 lb
Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Lens Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM f/2 - $935 18 - 72mm filter 1.64 lb
Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM Lens Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM f/2 - $5,200 12 - Gel drop-in 5.6 lbs
Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Lens Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro f/2.5 - $250 46 - 52mm filter 0.61 lb
Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM f/2.8 - $2,020 114 - Gel in rear slot 18 oz.
Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM Lens Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM f/2.8 - $390 94 - 72mm filter 0.89 lb
Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 Lens Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 f/2.8 - $305 84 - 58mm filter 0.59 lb
Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 f/2.8 - $420 75 - 52mm filter 0.41 lb
Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM f/2.8 - $350 24 - 52mm filter 11.8 oz
Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo Lens Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo f/2.8 - $800 15 - 58mm filter 1.94 lb
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM f/2.8 - $1,100 24 - 58mm filter 1.32 lb
Canon EF 135mm f/2.8 with Softfocus Canon EF 135mm f/2.8 with Softfocus f/2.8 - $295 18 - 52mm filter 0.86 lb
Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM f/2.8 - $695 12 - 72mm filter 1.68 lb
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM f/2.8 - $4,100 8 - 52mm (rear) 6.00 lb
Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM Lens Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM f/2.8 - $6,800 6 - 52mm (rear) 11.70 lb
Canon 35mm Zoom F-Stop - Price Angle of View - Filter Weight
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 DX Lens Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 DX f/2.8 - $570 104~82 - 77mm filter 19.75 oz.
AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED FX/DX Lens AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED FX/DX f/2.8 - $1,529 114 - 84 90 - 61 DX 35.3oz
AF-S Zoom-NIKKOR 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED FX/DX Lens AF-S Zoom-NIKKOR 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED FX/DX f2.8 - $1,500 2850 - 77mm filter 26.6oz.
Tokina 16 - 50mm F/2.8 Pro DX AF Lens Tokina 16 - 50mm F/2.8 Pro AF f/2.8 - $660 782-31  - 77mm filter 21.5 oz.
Nikon 17- 55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX Lens Nikon 17- 55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX f/2.8 - $1,164 79 to 28 77mm filter 26.6 oz
Tamron SP AF 17 - 50mm f/2.8 XR DI-II LD AF-D Lens Tamron SP AF 17 - 50mm f/2.8 XR DI-II LD AF-D f/2.8 - $439 78 45'  - 67mm filter 14oz.
AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED FX/DX Lens AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED FX/DX f2.8 - $1,500 61 - 22 50 minutes DX 2.45 lbs.
AF Zoom-NIKKOR 24-85mm f/2.8-4D IF Lens AF Zoom-NIKKOR 24-85mm f/2.8-4D IF f2.8-4 - $574 84 to 28  72mm filter 1.20 lb
Tamron SP 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di LD-IF AF Lens Tamron SP 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di LD-IF AF f/2.8 - $349 75-32 67mm filter 18.0oz
Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8 Pro DX APO AF Lens Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8 Pro DX APO AF f/2.8 - $650 31 3' - 11 8' - 67mm filter 29.8 oz.
AF-S VR Zoom-NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED Lens AF-S VR Zoom-NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED f/2.8 - $1,630 3420'-1220' (2250'-8 with D1-series and D100 digital 50.2 oz
Tamron 70 - 200mm f/2.8 DI LD (IF) VC  Macro, AF Lens Tamron 70 - 200mm f/2.8 DI LD (IF) VC  Macro, AF f/2.8 - $699 34 21' to 12  21' 77mm filter 40.6oz
Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 EX DG APO IF HSM  AF Lens Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 EX DG APO IF HSM  AF f/2.8 - $2,999 20.4- 8.2 105mm filter 91.71 oz
Sigma APO 200- 500mm f/2.8 / 400-1000mm f/5.6 EX DG AF Lens Sigma APO 200- 500mm f/2.8 / 400-1000mm f/5.6 EX DG AF f/2.8-5.6 - $24,500 12.3 - 5 72mm rear filter 553.7 oz.
Nikon 35mm Prime Lens F-Stop - Price Angle of View/Filter Weight
NIKKOR 50mm f/1.2 AIS Manual f/1.2 - $580 46 (FX) 3130 (DX) 13.8 oz
AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G Lens AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G f/1.4 - $440 46 (FX) 3130 (DX) 9.9oz.
AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4D Lens AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4D f/1.4 - $320 46 (FX) 3130 (DX) 9oz
Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM AF Lens Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM AF f/1.4 - $439 45 - filter 62mm 15.2 oz
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM Lens Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM f/1.4 - $490 46.8 - filter 77mm 18.3oz.
AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D IF Lens AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D IF f/1.4 - $1,024 2830' - 77mm filter 13.2oz
Sigma 20mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF RF AF-D Lens Sigma 20mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF RF AF-D f/1.8 - $460 94.5 - 82mm filter 18.3oz.
Sigma 24mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF Macro Af-D Lens Sigma 24mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF Macro Af-D f/1.8 - $390 84.1 - 77mm filter 17.1oz.
Sigma 28mm f/1.8 EX DG Aspherical Macro AF-D Lens Sigma 28mm f/1.8 EX DG Aspherical Macro AF-D f/1.8 $300 75.4 - 77mm filter 16.9 oz.
AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G Lens AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G f/1.8 - $199 52mm filter 7 oz
AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D Lens AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D f/1.8 - $110 46 (FX) 3130 (DX) - 52mm filter 5.5oz.
AF NIKKOR 35mm f/2D Lens AF NIKKOR 35mm f/2D f2.8 - $310 62 (FX) 44 (DX) 52mm filter 7.2oz.
AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8D Lens AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8D f/1.8 - $469 2830' - 62mm filter 13.2oz
AF DC-NIKKOR 105mm f/2D (defocus control) Lens AF DC-NIKKOR 105mm f/2D (defocus control) f/2 - $920 2320' - 72mm filter 21.9oz.
AF DC-NIKKOR 135mm f/2D Lens AF DC-NIKKOR 135mm f/2D f/2 - $1,070 18, 12 - 72mm filter 28.6oz
AF NIKKOR 14mm f/2.8D ED Lens AF NIKKOR 14mm f/2.8D ED f2.8 - $1,420 114, FX, DX, FX 23.6oz.
Tamron SP AF 14mm f/2.8 Aspherical (IF) AF Lens Tamron SP AF 14mm f/2.8 Aspherical (IF) AF f/2.8 - $1,099 113.8 - gel filter 23.3oz
AF NIKKOR 20mm f/2.8D Lens AF NIKKOR 20mm f/2.8D f2.8 - $490 70 - 62mm filter 9.5oz
AF NIKKOR 24mm f/2.8D Lens AF NIKKOR 24mm f/2.8D f2.8 - $310 84 - 52mm filter 9.5oz.
AF NIKKOR 28mm f/2.8D Lens AF NIKKOR 28mm f/2.8D f2.8 - $234 74 - 52mm filter 7.4 oz.
Tokina AT-X 35mm f/2.8 PRO DX Macro AF Lens Tokina AT-X 35mm f/2.8 PRO DX Macro AF f/2.8 - $460 43 52mm filter 340g
Sigma 50mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro AF-D Sigma 50mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro AF-D f/2.8 - $280 46.8 - 55mm filter 11.5 oz.
Sigma 70mm f/2.8 EX DG  AF-D Lens Sigma 70mm f/2.8 EX DG  AF-D f/2.8 - $449 34.3 - 62mm filter 18.5 oz.
Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di 1:1 AF Macro AF Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di 1:1 AF Macro AF f/2.8 - $360 27 - 55mm filter 14.3oz
Nikon AF-S VR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED Lens Nikon AF-S VR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED f/2.8 - $100% 2320'- filter 62mm 1.6 lb
Tokina AT-X 100mm f/2.8 PRO D Macro AF Tokina AT-X 100mm f/2.8 PRO D Macro AF f/2.8 - $400 24 - 55mm filter 19.0 oz.
Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX "DG" AF Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX "DG" AF f/2.8 - $405 23.3 - 58mm filter 15.8oz.
Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG APO AF Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG APO AF f/2.8 - $669 16.4 - 72mm filter 32 oz
AF NIKKOR 180mm f/2.8D IF-ED AF NIKKOR 180mm f/2.8D IF-ED f2.8 - $100% 13 - 72mm filter 26.8oz
AF-S VR NIKKOR 200mm f/2G IF-ED VR AF-S VR NIKKOR 200mm f/2G IF-ED VR f/2 - $4,000 12 20' - 52mm (drop-in) 93.24oz.
AF-S VR NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G IF-ED Lens AF-S VR NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G IF-ED f2.8 - $4,500 8 10' 52mm (rear) 101.23oz
Sigma 300mm f/2.8 APO EX DG Lens Sigma 300mm f/2.8 APO EX DG f/2.8 - $3,000 8.2 - 46mm drop in filter 84.7oz
Olympus 35mm Zoom F-Stop - Price Angle of View - Filter Weight
Olympus 25mm f/2.8 Lens Olympus 25mm f/2.8 f/2.8 47 43mm filter 3.35 oz
Olympus 50mm f/2.0 Lens Olympus 50mm f/2.0 f/2.0 24 - 52mm filter 10.6 oz
Olympus 150mm f/2.0 Lens Olympus 150mm f/2.0 f/2.0    
Olympus 14-35mm f/2.0 ED SWD Zuik Lens Olympus 14-35mm f/2.0 ED SWD Zuiko f/2.0    
Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0 Lens Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0 f/2.0    
Olympus 90-250mm f/2.8 Lens Olympus 90-250mm f/2.8 f/2.8    
Olympus 300mm f/2.8 Lens Olympus 300mm f/2.8 f/2.8    
Pentax 35mm Zoom F-Stop - Price Angle of View - Filter Weight
Pentax 31mm f/1.8 Lens Pentax 31mm f/1.8 f/1.8 70 58mm filter  
Pentax SMCP-FA 43mm f/1.9 Lens Pentax SMCP-FA 43mm f/1.9 f/1.9    
Pentax SMCP-FA 35mm f/2.0 AL Lens Pentax SMCP-FA 35mm f/2.0 AL f/2.0    
Pentax 14mm f/2.8 Lens Pentax 14mm f/2.8 f/2.8    
Pentax 16-50mm f/2.8 ED AL IF SDM Lens Pentax 16-50mm f/2.8 ED AL IF SDM f/2.8    
Pentax 35mm f/2.8 DA Macro Lens Pentax 35mm f/2.8 DA Macro f/2.8    
Sony 35mm Zoom F-Stop - Price Angle of View - Filter Weight
Sony 50mm f/1.4 Lens Sony 50mm f/1.4 f/1.4    
Sony SAL-85F14Z 85mm f1.4 Sony SAL-85F14Z 85mm f1.4 f/1,4    
Sony 50mm f/2.8 Sony 50mm f/2.8 f/2.8    
Sony SAL-16F28 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye Sony SAL-16F28 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye f/2,8    
Sony SAL1635Z 16-35mm f/2.8 Sony SAL1635Z 16-35mm f/2.8 f/2.8    
Sony SAL-20F28 20mm f/2.8 Sony SAL-20F28 20mm f/2.8 f/2.8    
  Sony SAL-28F28 28mm f/2.8 f/2.8    
Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 f/2.8    
Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro f/2.8 24 55mm filter  

Camera Lens Truths

  • f/1.4 lenses aren't used for their optical perfection, but because they are f/1.4.
  • There is no single manufacturer of camera lenses who is best at everything
  • Every lens manufacturer may make one or more best lens of a given type
  • Every lens manufacturer has some dogs and skeletons in their closet
  • Exotic lens choices may only be the OEM lens offerings due to market demand
  • For mass market lenses, there are more choices thanks to third party lenses
  • There may be fewer choices than you think, as many third party brand lenses are actually just the same lens offered as different brand names
  • The best lens can only be decided on a case by case basis
  • Price and quality are critical to determining which lens meets your needs the best

Circumvent brand loyalty without guilt by owning them all.