Why Amazon Prime Day is a great time to buy a camera lens

Three camera lenses on a blue background
(Image credit: Future)

Amazon Prime Day can be a fine time for camera discounts, but what if you're already happy with your DSLR or mirrorless body? It's well worth keeping your eye on lens deals instead, which can often eclipse the camera price cuts.

The Prime Day deals are traditionally headlined by record-low prices on coffee machines, TVs, laptops and Amazon's own tech. They do also often serve up some fine Prime Day camera deals. But for photography fans, the camera lens deals are often where it's at – particularly if you're prepared to branch out a from your traditional favorite manufacturers and focal lengths.

This year, the Prime Day camera deals take place from July 12-13, and within them we're expecting to see lots of discounted glass for all of the major lens mounts from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm and Panasonic. Judging by last year's haul, we can expect to see price cuts of 35% or more on some optics.

To give us a clue of what to expect this year, we're going to cast our eye back over the last couple of Prime Day events – here are the manufacturers and mounts to keep your eye on.

Prime time for Canon lens discounts

It'll be nigh-on impossible for this year's event to top Prime Day 2019, when Amazon accidentally listed the $13,000 Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 IS for just $95. Impressively, Amazon honored the orders some lucky Canon fans made before the mistake was corrected, but we're still expecting to see some price cuts on Canon glass this year.

Last year, Prime Day served up some good discounts on Canon EF mount lenses, the kind used by EOS-family DSLRs. In the UK, for example, we saw a 23% price cut on the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM, and a 21% reduction on the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L US USM.

The discounts during Prime Day 2020 were arguably even better. The Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, which is a great prime lens for Canon DSLRs, saw a 23% discount back then, making it one to watch again.

Canon EF 16-35 mm f/4L IS USM

(Image credit: Canon)

Canon’s EF 16-35 mm f/4L IS USM Lens also offered one of the most significant discounts in 2020, of 32%. This is not a cheap lens but has great built-in stabilization, which partly makes up for a narrower maximum aperture than you would see in a prime at this price. It’s a great all-rounder for landscape and wedding photography. And the f/4 is constant across the zoom range. 

The Canon EF 24-105 mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM, which has huge zoom versatility and baked in stabilization, also saw a big price cut during that sales event, with a massive 35% discount.

Still, what we're really looking to see in Prime Day 2022 are some deals on RF-series lenses, which are the kind used by Canon’s full-frame mirrorless cameras like the Canon EOS R6. Many of these lenses were not even available last Prime Day, while older ones like the RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens are now established enough to see price cuts – assuming stock is available.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

(Image credit: Canon)

Other top picks to look out for include the Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM, an affordable and extremely sharp prime that works well for portraits and street photography, and only weighs 160g. 

That said, we may have better luck with a lens like the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM. This was announced alongside the original EOS R in 2018, and is a highly versatile piece of glass, for a prime lens. It’s an obvious choice for an all-rounder if you want something wider than the 50mm. 

This lens did not go on sale last Prime Day, but it did earlier this year, suggesting the time for further discounts on this 2018 lens may finally be upon us. Fingers crossed. 

What about Sony and Nikon?

Sony does not have the same issue as Canon, because the E-mount lenses for its popular full-frame mirrorless cameras have been around for years. 

Top full-frame Prime Day discounts to watch out for include the Sony FE 35mm f/1.8 and Sony FE 50mm f/1.8, both of which received generous discounts in last year's sales. Meanwhile, the ones to watch on the APS-C side include the Sony 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS, Sony Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS and Sony E 10-18mm f/4 OSS, which were all discounted during Prime Day 2020.

Which would we like the most? If we were out for a kit lens upgrade without spending too much, it would have to be the Sony FE 50mm f/1.8. It's a prime lens, so forces you to approach your photography a little differently, and the wide maximum aperture is perfect for portraits.

Sony 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 OSS

(Image credit: Sony)

We noticed fewer Nikon lens deals last year during Prime Day, but there were a couple of tasty picks we hope to see reappear. The Nikon Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3 sold for well under half its RRP, which makes sense when you realize it is also sold as a kit lens. 

Look out for the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 if you’d prefer a higher-quality prime. This lens recently came back into stock at Amazon and is currently available for 25% off in the UK.

Nikon Nikkor Z 14-30mm f/4S

(Image credit: Nikon)

Last month, it was possible to get a decent 15-18% discount off the Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30 mm f/4 S in both the US and UK, which makes it another one to watch during Amazon's sales.

The lens' sharpness is excellent, while its small size makes it approachable. Just make sure you’re fine with the not-that-wide maximum aperture, and some vignetting (which can of course be fixed in post).

Don’t write off Fujifilm and Panasonic price cuts

Fujifilm fan? As ever, Fujifilm camera bundles tend to attract what few column inches Fuji achieves over Prime Day. It doesn’t help that many Fujinon lenses are the best part of a decade old at this point, but great lenses don’t age.

While there weren't too many X-mount discounts last year, we did get 15% off the terrific Fujinon XF56mm f/1.2 during Prime Day 2020 and a similar reduction on the Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R closer to Black Friday.

Fujifilm XF56mm f/1.2

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

You often have to hunt Fujifilm lens deals down. The discounts aren’t as eye-popping as some, but considering these lenses tend to stick rigidly to their standard pricing much of the year, they are still worth considering.

Fujifilm owners may get bigger discounts from third-party lens brands like Viltrox, which have been growing their X-mount options in recent years. The Chinese manufacturer makes some great-value primes, like the Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 AF, so we're hoping to see some discounts bring those prices down even further.

Panasonic Lumix S PRO 16-35mm f/4

(Image credit: Panasonic)

Panasonic is another tricky one for Prime Day bargains. Its G-series lenses lend to vacillate between a 'sale' price and a higher one, spending most of the last year at the lower cost. Newer L-mount lenses for cameras like the Panasonic Lumix S5 and S1H are yet to be sold at a particularly low price.

Maybe this year will be different. Panasonic lenses that are near the top of our wishlist include the Panasonic Lumix S Pro 16-35mm f/4, a very high-quality but eminently usable lens with a constant f/4 max aperture and reasonable 500g weight. And the Panasonic Lumix S Pro 50mm f/1.4, which is the total opposite in several ways. The price is high, and so is the weight considering this is a 50mm prime, but optical quality is superb.

We may not see all of these lenses for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm and Panasonic cameras get discounts during Prime Day, but we'll be on hand to point you towards the ones that do.

Andrew Williams

Andrew is a freelance journalist and has been writing and editing for some of the UK's top tech and lifestyle publications including TrustedReviews, Stuff, T3, TechRadar, Lifehacker and others.

With contributions from