The Pros and Cons of Using Third Party Lens Manufacturers

Thinking of substituting first party lenses with third party ones? If your answer is yes, there must be a valid reason; in most cases it’S probably budget-related. Well, regardless of reasons, there are people who really prefer third party lenses for their DSLRs.

Proof of this is the fact that the number of manufacturers for these lenses is on the rise. Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, Samyang and Zeiss are some of the more popular third party lens manufacturers. What have they got that you would want? What can they offer to photographers like you?

First Party and Third Party Lens Defined

Lenses are an important weapon for any photographer. It pays to know more about them. Therefore, you should know why there are first party and third party lenses.

First party lenses are the ones made by the companies that manufacture the most popular camera brands. These include big names like Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus and Pentax. First party lenses are made specifically for the camera brands that they carry, so they are not compatible with any other manufacturer or brand. For instance, a Canon lens cannot be used on a Nikon camera, and vice versa. However, they can be used interchangeably with different models from the same camera manufacturer. For example, a single Nikon lens can be used for any Nikon DSLR.

Third party lenses, on the other hand, have different compatibility rules. You can use one third party lens to camera from different manufacturers as long it has the right mount. These lenses come with various mounts for every major camera maker. So you can use a Sigma lens for a Canon camera if it has a mount for that particular brand. You won’t be able to use it for your Nikon camera, though.


Now that you know the difference between the two, it’s time to look into the advantages of using third party lenses over first party ones.

  1. Price

    The most obvious advantage would be the price. There are a lot of reasons why third party lenses are more affordable than their first party counterparts. One reason is lesser expenses for advertising since they do not use the same avenue that big camera manufacturers prefer in exposing their products to the public.

    Another reason would be the materials used for the lenses. First party lenses are made of high grade and high quality materials, while third party lens manufacturers often prefer the less expensive options.

  2. More Options Available

    Another notable advantage is the range of options third party lens manufacturers offers the public. Majority of third party lens manufacturers – specifically Sigma, Tamron and Tokina – have lenses that come with various mounts so that they can be used for different camera brands. In some cases, you can even find a third party lens that’s not available through big manufacturers like Canon or Nikon.

    Sigma, for instance, has something not offered by Canon: the 8mm fisheye lens.


As is always the case, there are disadvantages to all advantages. In the case of third party lenses, these are the following:

  1. Optimized for Lower Price

    Since third party lens manufacturers work with a lower price in mind, there is a big possibility that quality is compromised. The biggest issue here, obviously, is related to lens durability. Since generic lens makers will want to keep their expenses down, they normally sacrifice the quality of the materials they use for their products.

  2. Compatibility

    There is no guarantee – nothing that’s 100% – that your third party lens will be compatible with any of your Canon or Nikon dSLRs. It is important to keep this in mind when trying to purchase a third party lens. Try doing a little online research; go into forums and gather feedback or user information from others who have tried third party lens manufacturers. Make sure you use tools like DP Review’s side by side lens comparison tool.

    Don’t just say yes because the salesperson told you it would be all right to use a particular generic lens for your branded camera. If possible, bring your camera and try using the third party lens before making a purchase.

  3. Value

    Third party lenses do not hold the same value as first party brands. So if you’re planning to resell or upgrade your lenses (or your camera set) in the future, you won’t be able to find a good deal.

  4. Focus Quality

    Not all third party lenses offer full manual settings, so this can be a problem if you prefer lenses primed for fast focusing jobs.

Choosing and Buying a Camera Lens

In the end, the decision rests on you. Which would you rather buy? In some cases, which can you afford to buy? Whatever your decision is, keep in mind that choosing and buying the right camera lens does not depend solely on whether you go with a first party or third party lens manufacturer. The process involves a lot of thinking, comparing, consultation (from fellow photographers and even industry experts) and your reason for buying one.

It is also important to consider what you use your camera for. Is photography just a hobby? Or is it your main profession and means of income? If you’re a hobbyist, you might want to consider what third party lens manufacturers offer. Despite the indicated disadvantages, there are quite a number of manufacturers (like Sigma, Tamron and Tokina) that have very decent products. There are third party lenses that also boast of good quality – and sometimes are even better rated than their first-party counterparts! Zeiss is well-known for producing very high-quality glass.

If you’re a professional photographer, then you should be willing to spend a little more for your lenses. Unless you plan to use generic lenses for practice purposes, go for first party lens manufacturers. You’ll spend some extra dollars, but you’re sure to get more out of your investment pretty soon.

Professional photographers take pride in the fact that they work with the best quality products. So this should be foremost in your mind.

The most practical thing that you can do, if you want the best experience, is to get one of both. You’ll have to spend more than what you will if you choose to go with just one, but nothing beats getting the best of both worlds. You can experiment using your generic lenses and then go out and do your professional thing with the first party ones.

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