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.
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