Ask David: Should I purchase an off-brand lens for my camera? :: Digital Photo Secrets

Ask David: Should I purchase an off-brand lens for my camera?

by David Peterson 6 comments

Off brand, or third-party lenses, have both perks and pitfalls. Some photographers will swear by third-party lenses, while others swear they are not as sharp or reliable as a proprietary lens. The first and probably the most important advantage of an off brand lens is the price. Quite often, third-party gear companies make lenses that are similar in capability to those produced by major camera companies at a fraction of the cost, especially when you get into higher end or more specialized lenses. For example, a Canon 24-105mm f/4L USM lens retails for about $1100, while a very similar lens by Sigma retails for $899.

Less Expensive = Less Quality

While they are less expensive, third-party lenses are created to be more affordable and with that affordability comes a dip in quality. Often the build quality is not on par with a brand-name lens of that same reported capability. The lens bodies are commonly made of lower-grade plastic. You will need to be extra careful not to drop or bump the lens harshly as it could render your lens useless. The glass elements inside might also not be of the same caliber as a brand name lens.

On the other hand, consider that Sigma and the other third party lens manufacturers don't have the advertising outlay that Canon or Nikon have, so they can afford to make their prices slightly cheaper.

Lens as an Investment

Most of us consider our lenses an investment; we pair this with the knowledge if we no longer need or use a lens, there is a pretty big market for used lenses both on local sites like Craigslist and globally on websites like EBay. Lenses from camera companies tend to retain their value, meaning if you decide to sell your lens, you’ll be able to recoup most of the money you spent on it.

Third-party lenses, even those from well-known and received companies don’t hold their value anywhere near as much. They depreciate in value because they aren’t meant to be family heirlooms, they are created to be used and serve a purpose for an amount of time. The companies are also younger and less trusted than big names like Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Sony. If you plan to resell your lenses in the future, it might be worth splashing out on a named brand.

Another advantage of off-brand lenses is the fact these companies sometimes create lenses that aren’t actually sold by the company that created your camera. If you are looking for a special lens, you might have to look to third party lens distributors.

If you are thinking of getting a third-party lens, I would recommend that you talk to other photographers, read reviews, and check photography forums for example photos. This will give you a good idea of a risk to gain ratio and allow you to weigh the pros and cons of a particular lens. Check all your options before you buy and remember that you usually only get what you pay for.

Also see: Should I purchase my next camera from a grey importer?

Most people think this post is Interesting. What do you think?


  1. Louis A. Podesta says:

    I live only about two miles from the Nikon U.S.A. headquarters in Melville New York. Nikon will repair a grey product, but one has to send it to Japan for repair. I guess since Nikon U.S.A. the official importer in the United States did not get to make a profit on the item, they will not repair it.

  2. Mike from Maine says:

    Hi Dave. Love the tips! I shoot a lot of sports. I currently have a Canon 75-300 mm but find I need more focal length. Would I be better off buying a Canon 100-400 mm lens or a Sigma 150-600 lens?

    • David Peterson says:

      Hi Mike,

      Both Canon and Sigma are great names in lenses, so you'll be fine with either. But those lenses are quite expensive, so go to a camera store and test them out first.

      Remember with a long lens like a 400mm or 600mm, you'll need a tripod and a really fast shutter speed to capture sharp sports photos.


  3. Dave Pidcock says:

    Your article about OFF CAMERA LENSES hardly scratched the surface. You really did not provide much info at all. How about GRADING every off camera lens? This way we would get a better idea as to quality and if we should purchase one. Like comparing a specific Nikon lens to (Let's say) one made by Sigma.

  4. Dennis says:

    One of my favorite lenses for my Nikon D7000 is the Sigma 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC (OS)* HSM. I am just an aspiring amateur and this is my go-to lens for general low-light and indoor shots (kids birthday parties, etc.). The build quality does not seem to be much different from my Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR
    18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II. Yes, there is overlap with these lenses, but the Sigma (in my hands) works better for me in low-light situations. The Nikon is a great walk-around general purpose lens.

  5. Bright Monday says:

    thanks ,am really insighted,keep it up

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