Brand Name Versus Third-Party Photography Gear: Which is better?

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Not long ago, there were two types of camera accessories to buy: brand items designed by known manufacturers such as Canon and Nikon, OR third-party items of questionable quality that you’d likely buy only if you were on a tight budget. Today, this situation has changed, with third-party manufacturers such as Sigma and Tamron stepping up their game and producing alternatives that even serious professionals have begun using.

Still, the question remains: does the brand name truly matter when it comes to camera accessories?

Let’s explore some of the pros and cons of each side. Keep in mind that this is a highly debatable topic, and this is just a short list of general pros and cons for using brand name and third-party items. If you have any other points to add, please mention them in the comments below.

third party camera lenses

Why brand names matter

Brand name items are almost always going to be more expensive than third-party ones, but as most photographers say, “you get what you pay for.” Some reasons for the premium pricing on brand name items include:

Better build quality and dependability

This can be extremely important if you belong to any professional organizations such as Canon or Nikon Pro Services, as cleaning and repair of brand name gear is generally included in your membership. While most third-party manufacturers have begun adding their own repair services, they’re not known to be as fast and consistent as name brands, and guaranteed compatibility with your brand name camera of choice.

third party camera lenses

Guaranteed compatibility

Third-party vendors thrive on the ability to produce accessories and items that are compatible with many major brand name cameras. If you buy say a Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens, there will be both a Nikon and Canon mount option. This means you have to be ultra diligent to make sure a third-party item will work with your camera model. However, if you buy a 35mm f/1.4 lens from Nikon (for example), you know for sure that lens will work your Nikon camera.

Respect from other photographers

When you shoot with a brand name accessory, you’re more likely to get nods of respect from other photographers who recognize the value of that authentic, name brand lens (the coveted red ringed lenses from Canon and gold ring on Nikon lenses). This is becoming more of a debatable point lately with the rise of high-quality third-party gear options, but there’s still something to be said about acknowledging the real deal over a third-party brand.

Why third-party brands are coming up

Unique innovations

third party camera lenses

As mentioned earlier, the scene for third-party brands has shifted to the point where Sigma and Tamron are no longer necessarily viewed as compromises, just for the budget-minded photographer. Instead, these brands are focusing not only on improving old designs perfected by established name-brands, but they’re innovating alternatives that even Canon and Nikon haven’t come up with. Consider the Sigma 120-300 f/2.8, which is already in its third incarnation, or the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lens, the first zoom lens for DSLRs that holds a consistent f/1.8 aperture throughout its entire zoom range. These are lenses with features that even Canon and Nikon have yet to offer. Quality and consistency of these Sigma lenses might be questionable depending on your photography standards, but the fact that a third-party brand is innovating and selling unique lenses speaks to how third-party brands are shifting in the overall industry. (Read this to see why one dPS writer uses the Sigma 150-600mm for wildlife photography.)

The price is right

Every photographer knows that camera gear isn’t cheap, and while brand name items may be ideal, sometimes they just aren’t realistic price points for what is affordable. This is where third-party items can help beginners, or photographers on a budget, can get their hands on some quality equipment. If the gear is kept in good shape, resale value should still be pretty decent, if and when they decide to upgrade to a brand name alternative down the road.

third party camera lenses

One item you probably shouldn’t buy third-party

When it comes to third-party accessories, there’s one in particular that you may want to make sure is brand name authentic: your camera batteries. Personally, I’ve had mixed experiences using third-party batteries on both my DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Most of the time they work, but every once and a while, there’s a battery that just won’t hold a charge, or fails for some mysterious reason. That battery is always from a third-party brand. A simple way to work around this would be to stock your camera battery arsenal with some brand name batteries, and some third-party ones to make sure you’re covered. There’s nothing worse than having a battery fail when you need it the most.

Over to you

What has been your experience using brand names and third-party brands? Are you partial to one over the other? Do you go for brand name camera bodies and lenses, and opt for third-party accessories like filters, tripods, and batteries?

What has your experience been, let us know in the comments below.


Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of articles this week that are Open for Discussion. We want to get the conversation going, hear your voice and opinions, and talk about some possibly controversial topics in photography.

Give us your thoughts below on the article above and watch for more discussion topics.

See all the recent discussion topics here:

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Suzi Pratt is an internationally published Seattle event and food photographer. Her photos appear regularly in Eater and Getty Images. She is also a prolific blogger who teaches others how to run a successful photography business.

  • Subhash Prasad

    A very nice article and well explained. We can consider for speed light also, Branded flashguns are meant and tested for the particular brand. But, its comes with the high price tags.whereas third party speed lights comes with the more features within the budget. But, again the individual choice and experiece matters.

  • Todd Wallarab

    Well when you gather up the money (I feel your pain) then I would highly recommend saving and going with the Tamron. I shoot Canon but I now own the Tamron 24 70, the 90 macro and the new 150 600. I am in love with Tamron! They shoot just as good as my Canon glass!

  • Scott

    A Tamron 18-270 has been my go to daily general purpose lens for a couple of years now. I have lenses that are faster, and a couple that give better quality, but the Tamron has performed consistently across the board. I did have to send it back under warranty to have some dodgy gears replaced, but great ever since.

  • oji kanu

    User’s reviews and cost are the deciding factors for me.

    Though I have canon L lenses (24-70mm II USM, 70-200mm F/2.8 IS, 180mm F/2.8 macro), I am equally happy with my Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 canon mount lens ,Tamron 90mm F/2.8 Macro lens and Tamron 150-600mm lenses.

  • oji kanu

    Why do we not have 2nd party lens?

  • oji kanu

    Check Amazon for Tamron 24-70mm and look at the users’ reviews including one by Songhai.

  • You could say Sony/ZEISS lenses are second-party because they’re co-developed by ZEISS for Sony.

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