Lenses: Brand or third-party?

When buying a lens, you have two options: brand (Canon lenses for a Canon camera, and so on) or third party (“Sigma made for Canon”, and so on).

Third-party lenses are often half the price of brand name lenses. Brands say “that is because ours are better”. Third parties, like Sigma, maker of the 24-70 f/2.8 Nikon-mount lens below, would probably say “this is because you pay for the name with those guys”. Which is it?

A bit of both, I think.

I would certainly consider a third-party lens. If:

  • aperture is large,
  • build quality is good,
  • focus is silent, fast and accurate,
  • the lens is sharp, even at the corners,
  • colour is good,
  • and importantly, the lens feels good to me..

…then I will most certainly consider it. And third-party lenses often have better warranty than Canon and Nikon offer.

But that also brings me to why – perhaps because these warranties are needed. The lens above is the third one that its owner tried in about two weeks: lens number one did not always focus consistently, so it was exchanged in its first week, and lens two suddenly stopped focusing after just a few days – the focus motor stopped working entirely in mid-shoot. Lens three, we hope, will work well.

Now that is from a sample of one (well, three). So you cannot draw any conclusions from it. But still… in the past, reliability and quality control used to the the third-party lens makers’ Achilles’ Heel. There is either a certain irony, or a wise lesson, in the fact that two samples of this lens failed in two weeks.

But the lower price – significantly lower – is hard to pass by. I think whatever you choose, you will be fine, as long as you go through the check list above abnd make sure the warranty is OK.

And remember: lenses make your photos, much more than your camera does. So whatever lenses you invest in – investing in lenses is never bad.


5 thoughts on “Lenses: Brand or third-party?

  1. I have several Sigma lenses:
    150 mm macro
    10-20 mm
    18-200 mm
    18-250 mm

    After several trips, well over ten thousand photos, and being frequently taken from air conditioned hotels to sub-tropical heat and humidity, the 18-200 still works well but growls when panning with stabilization turned on.

    At around twelve thousand photos, the 18-250 developed an intermittent fault and was replaced under warranty.

    I have not had any problems with my other Sigma lenses or with my Canon lenses but then, they are not used as heavily and have not been exposed to temperature and humidity fluctuations the way the 18-2×0 lenses have been.

    Image quality has been very satisfactory.

    The Sigma DC lenses have mounts that do not protrude into the body, unlike the Canon EF-S lenses. This permits use with teleconverters.

  2. Speaking of lenses and brands…I’m considering buying a new lens. The problem is, I shoot Olympus. Do you recommend I switch brands? Or should I disregard the brand issue and invest in an Olympus lens?

    Right now I only have one of the Entry-level Olympus SLRs and the basic kit lens (I believe it’s a 17.5-45 mm).


    • Great question. Worth a blog post. Well – there are no bad brands – all brands are great. My first real SLR was an Olympus OM-1. That said – pro photographers use Canon or Nikon. More lenses available, more knowledge more peripherals. Sony is making inroads too. If you are going to switch, now would be the time. I’ll blog about this very soon.

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