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01-25-2013, 07:44 PM   #1
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Why are wide angle primes so expensive?

Why are wide angle primes so expensive? Is there a technical reason for it? Pentax's offerings are far and away the most affordable but are still very pricey. I checked Canon and Nikon and it is the same story. In fact, Canon has a 14mm that I believe is just a touch over a bazillion dollars. I know we have the DA 14mm, but I was hoping that something like the DA 35 or 50 could be a possibility in the future.

01-25-2013, 07:50 PM   #2
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It's all R&D and getting a good wide angle lens must take a while, in order to minimize chromatic abberations, vignetting, loss of sharpness, etc. After all they take in light from many, many directions as opposed to a regular lens like a 35/50. That's just my take on it.
01-25-2013, 08:04 PM - 1 Like   #3
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I'm not sure if it's true that "wide angle primes so expensive." I can't find a corelation between FL and price:

Pentax DA 200mm f/2.8 ED (IF) SDM: $1,196.95
Pentax D-FA 100mm f/2.8 Macro WR: $846.95
Pentax SMCP-FA 77mm f/1.8: $784.95
Pentax SMCP-DA 70mm f/2.4 ED: $699.95
Pentax SMCP-DA* 55mm f/1.4 SDM: $796.95
Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4: $369.16
Pentax SMCP-FA 43mm f/1.9: $584.95
Pentax SMCP-DA 40mm f/2.8 ED: $499.95
Pentax SMCP-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL: $219.95
Pentax SMCP-DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro: $699.95
Pentax SMCP-FA 31mm f/1.8 AL: $989.95
Pentax SMCP-DA 21mm f/3.2 AL: $649.95
Pentax SMCP-DA 15mm F/4 ED AL: $646.95
Pentax SMCP-DA 14mm f/2.8 ED IF: $709.00
01-25-2013, 08:09 PM   #4
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Good point ^. Let me rephrase the question then... Why aren't there any "cheap" wide angle primes?

01-25-2013, 08:14 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by bullitt_60 Quote
Good point ^. Let me rephrase the question then... Why aren't there any "cheap" wide angle primes?
The main reasons, I think, are lack of consumer demand and the fact that you need a lot of glass to make a (fast) wide-angle prime, especially if it's going to be a FX lens.

The reason Pentax can keep its prices low is simple: most are for the DX (crop) format and there are few fast lenses, thus not as much glass is used and manufacturing costs are lower. You'd be surprised how much more glass the FA 31mm would need if it were half a stop faster

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01-25-2013, 08:21 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by bullitt_60 Quote
Why aren't there any "cheap" wide angle primes?
I think the correct statement is that there are no such thing as "cheap" primes, wide angle or not.

There are relatively inexpensive lenses:

- Old design: Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4: $369.16
- Economic construction: Pentax SMCP-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL: $219.95 and Pentax SMCP-DA 50mm f/1.8 AL: $264.95
01-25-2013, 08:22 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
The main reasons, I think, are lack of consumer demand and the fact that you need a lot of glass to make a (fast) wide-angle prime, especially if it's going to be a FX lens.

The reason Pentax can keep its prices low is simple: most are for the DX (crop) format and there are few fast lenses, thus not as much glass is used and manufacturing costs are lower. You'd be surprised how much more glass the FA 31mm would need if it were half a stop faster
Ahhh... more glass, I didn't think of that. Guess I better save my pennies then, huh? You don't happen to have exploded diagrams of any modern primes laying around do you? I'm a nerd, engineer, and have an inexplicable desire to tear apart everything I own... diagrams help save quite a bit of time and money.
01-25-2013, 08:27 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by SOldBear Quote
I think the correct statement is that there are no such thing as "cheap" primes, wide angle or not.

There are relatively inexpensive lenses:

- Old design: Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4: $369.16
- Economic construction: Pentax SMCP-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL: $219.95 and Pentax SMCP-DA 50mm f/1.8 AL: $264.95
Agreed, that's why I quoted it... I'm considering the DA 35 & 50 cheap or inexpensive. I have the 35mm and am enjoying it but was just wondering if a similar version around 15mm would be a possibility. It doesn't sound like it. That being said, I just received a Sigma 10-20 that hasn't even been on the camera yet.

01-25-2013, 09:36 PM   #9
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One thing Adam didn't mention is rate of return on investment. Every company looks at how much something costs to develop, tool for and produce, then looks at the market for the product to determine how much to charge in order to get their money back in whatever period of time they deem is satisfactory. If they don't feel they will sell a lot of a particular lens, the price will be higher to recoup the costs within the time frame. Companies can't afford to price their products where it would take them 10 years to recover the costs. More realistic figures are 3 years or less.
01-25-2013, 09:46 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by bullitt_60 Quote
Ahhh... more glass, I didn't think of that. Guess I better save my pennies then, huh? You don't happen to have exploded diagrams of any modern primes laying around do you? I'm a nerd, engineer, and have an inexplicable desire to tear apart everything I own... diagrams help save quite a bit of time and money.
I don't, but if you take a look at the optical design of the K or A 15mm F3.5, you'll see what I'm talking about

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01-25-2013, 10:09 PM   #11
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I'd consider 20mm a wide-angle on APS-C. Sony is offering pricing their new 20mm f2.8 at $350, which sounds like a pretty great deal.
01-25-2013, 11:56 PM   #12
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When you take pictures with a wide angle you "get more stuff" in your photo, so its better value for your money . Those expensive telephotos only give you the little bit in the centre of what you're shooting.


Cheaper alternatives are manual focus primes even resonably fast (f2.8) 24mm or 28mm of which there are millions of out there. AF is not so important with wide angle as the depth of focus is much deeper. Often you can just set f8 and shoot hyperfocal for anything more than a few metres away.

Also its generally not that important to have fast and huge lenses for wide angle as it is easier to hand hold shorter FL at slower shutter speeds (eg M 20mm f4). Unless you're shooting the ceiling of a dark church I couldn't think of any reason why Sigma could sell anyone a 20mm f1.8.

If you want wider than 20 or 24mm in old lenses they get expensive beacause all of the old glass is full-frame compatible, and larger elements because of this. It is also much rarer because the wide angle on APS size is the FOV of ultra wide angle on the full frame size. See how huge the K 15mm f3.5 is compared to a DA15.

Lastly there is always the 18-55 kit lens or 16-45 f4 both of which aren't too expensive, are AF and you can correct the distortion easily.

Last edited by steve1307; 01-25-2013 at 11:58 PM. Reason: poor grammer ...oops.
01-26-2013, 01:11 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by bullitt_60 Quote
You don't happen to have exploded diagrams of any modern primes laying around do you?

Not a diagram, but this may give you an idea (Zeiss ZF18/3.5):

01-26-2013, 01:17 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by lytrytyr Quote
Not a diagram, but this may give you an idea (Zeiss ZF18/3.5):
I know the lens has been sliced in half and reassembled, but the top piece of glass lens is assembled at an angle. To me this demonstrates the assembly errors that can occur in an actual lens.
01-26-2013, 01:24 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by lytrytyr Quote
Not a diagram, but this may give you an idea (Zeiss ZF18/3.5):
WHO DOES THAT TO A LENS! So cruel...for science?
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