It’s no secret we love photography. Drooling over the latest and greatest DSLR, like the Nikon D3S, can be a lot of fun, but all those megapixels won’t do much without a great lens. Sure, zoom lenses are incredibly versatile and take fantastic pictures, but sometimes you need something smaller, sharper, or with a larger aperture (faster). Any experienced shooter will tell you prime lenses are where photography gets exciting and appropriately they’re expensive, but there is a deal to be had. Nikon’s unbelievably priced Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D ($125).

Long called the “normal” focal length because it closely approximates the field of view of your natural eyesight, the 50mm (~75mm on DX Nikon cameras like the D3000 or D90) lens has been a favorite of such brilliant artists as Henri Cartier-Bresson for almost a century. This Nikkor lens will take great photos on just about any Nikon SLR ever made (even that old film camera in the attic), and only protrude about 1.5 inches from your camera. The fast f/1.8 aperture will let you take pictures in low light without a flash, or blur the background on portraits to create an out-of-focus effect the Japanese call “bokeh.” Best of all? It’ll run you just over $100. Consider it a DSLR Essential.

See my sample photographs taken with the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D below.

Take Note: On DX Nikon cameras like the Nikon D3000 and D90, lenses like the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D shoot an effective 75mm due to “cropping factor” (the truncated distance from the lens to the sensor). If you’ve got a DX camera and are looking to achieve a true 50mm range, consider the Nikkor 35mm ($200), which has also been reviewed on GP. Canon user? There’s an equivalent lens for you. The beloved “nifty-fifty” Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II ($100).

Buy Now: $125

By Greg Pugh