Should you buy third party lenses?

For the budget conscious photographer looking for new lenses, there is a solution: third party manufacturers.

In fact, it surprises me that we don’t hear about them more often. They offer nice products and when you take into account that they cost half the price of the “official” ones, it is worth investigating.

So let’s see what they are all about.

Things you lose when moving away from Canon

Focus speed

The biggest advantage of Canon lenses over third party ones is not as much the image quality as the Ultrasonic motor (USM). As a generalization, we can state that all Sigma and Tamron lenses are slower to focus than their USM powered counterparts.

How much of a problem is this? It depends. If you are mostly shooting static subject or you are in a controlled environment, you couldn’t care less. On the other hand anything related to sport or wildlife photography requires instant focusing.

In either case, if you are planning to use the lens mostly for cinephotography, it should not be an issue since you will use the manual focus anyway.In this case, just make sure the focusing ring rotation is smooth and fluid.

Internal focusing/zooming

This is one of these things that you don’t notice until it is gone. Basically, it prevent the front of the lens to rotate or moves when you zoom or focus. While this might not seem like a big issue, it is quite important when you are using grad filters. It is a small annoyance when taking pictures, but a big deal when shooting movies. So according to your need you might want to watch this carefully.

Built quality

Canon might charge a premium for its lenses but at least a small part of it is spent toward better quality material. While a plastic enclosure might not have an effect on the quality of the picture, it has a better resistance to shock and scratches. Also, from personal experience I can say that I have never seen a broken metal lens while I have seen countless plastic ones which had a defect of some sort.

While most high end third party lenses have a very good built quality, it is just not as good as the one from Canon. I am thinking here about weather sealing (water and dust). But then again, unless you are planning to drop your lens on the ground, it should not be that much of an issue!

Image quality

Yes, it is true, generally speaking third party lens image quality is lower than the Canon equivalent model. How much lower? It depends. In some case there is not much differences and for others, it is drastic. This is why I created a list of premium third party lens (coming very soon!). While the lenses on this list might not have all the bling and coolness of their Canon counter part, they have identical (or better!) image quality which make them great buys.

If you are going to use the lens for video, lens sharpness is not as important since the resolution of the video is far from the maximum glass resolving power. You should be more interested in how color are rendered, vignetting and contrast.

Things you gain when moving away from Canon

Better warranty

Only god knows why, but Tamron warranty is much better than the one provided by Canon. Typical Tamron warranty lasts 6 years for the pro line, Canon: 1 year, enough said. Having some issues right now with my 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens, I can tell you how much I wished I had a longer coverage!

More money in your pocket

3rd party lenses are cheap, how cheap? Most of the time you can get an equivalent lens for about 50% of the Canon version. For the photographer on a budget (who isn’t?) this is incredible, especially if the lens fit the required task. Some would say going third party allow you to save half of your money, I prefer to say that it allows you to have twice as many lenses!

Broader choice of lenses

Since Canon does not cover every focal length, there are some interesting focal gaps that have been exploited by third party manufacturers. The most popular of these being the Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6, this lens might not have the best image quality, still it is the only zoom in that EFL range! Using these lenses increase your creativity potential.

Final verdict

Be careful, there are a lot of sub quality third party lenses available. If you are interested to go that route, you need to make sure that you buy the ones that compare favorably to their Canon counterparts. This is even truer for Canon 5D MRkii users since lens defects are magnified when used with a full frame camera.

Fortunately for our readers, I have already compiled a list of best “best” third party lenses which should be published very soon. Stay tuned and prepare your credit card!

About Tommy

Photography allows me to be what I want to be, to be where I want to be, and to do what I want to do ... I'm not professional photographer and I don't need a title, I love to take photographs and that is what I do, I love to learn and I always try to do it better ...

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