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

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


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 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.

  • Paul Kurtz

    I just bought a NIKON D7100. Love it! I then bought a Vivatar battery grip for the D7100. Mistake. Both batteries drained simultaneously no matter what setting I had it set to. I paid the 260$ and now happy

  • alex comaya

    don’t use third part flashes also if you are shooting professionally and do not want to damage your expensive camera body… as an engineer, there is a risk that 3rd party battery and flash are NOT 100% compatible, particularly the contact points or electronic parts; it will overheat soon than expected and will damage your camera…

  • Cyberdansken

    The days where you could say “quality may vary” specific on third party lenses are over. Thequality of the newer Tamron and Sigma’s are asgood as the Nikon and Canon equivalents at a lower price.
    For anyone not part of a service deal the is no real reason to buy brand name any more.

  • As a strap alternative, I love my Spider Pro holster. I prefer to carry the weight on my hip and I’ll use it in any scenario I can take advantage of it, but it isn’t always 100% appropriate for every situation. When I’m not using it I just use a wrist strap and carry it in hand or it’s in my bag.

    I looked at Peak Design stuff also and was really impressed with the flexibility it offered.

  • Carlos J Encarnacion

    i bought my first Pentax in 1976, since then I have read hundreds of books and mags. Lens reviews and equipment reviews, Third party lenses were at first of questionable quality, especially sore brands. There were manys brands that eventually matched the quality of OEM, Vivitar, Sigma, Soligor, Tamron just to name a few. Those enses were very good and still rival current offerings and in many cases surpass in build qualty, ruggedness, durability and sharpness, That is why I tend to favor Nikon and Pentax, their lenses will wor on current cameras as well as current lenses, and are among the most solidly biult. Current plastic autofocus lenses of today are complex and fragile. and are mostly zooms, i still trust yesteryear lens quality, specially primes.

  • aryndar

    I love my spider holster

  • lchien52

    I’m going to take issue with the one thing you said you should always buy from the brand name manufacturer. And that is batteries. Not that I disagree with you on that but I think your reasoning is all wrong,
    First of all, all batteries are wear items – they have a finite amount of recharge cycles, and then they go bad.
    Second, there are just so many battery manufacturers in the world. With the exception of maybe Panasonic who is a large electronics manufacturing concern, I’ll bet no Camera manufacturer makes their own batteries.
    The camera manufacturers have the same choice of battery suppliers as does the third party battery pack guys. The camera makers tend to keep producing the exact same pack with the same batteries with no updates or improvements, but the third party guys are more agile about improvements – frequently their packs have as much as 80% more capacity since they use batteries of a more recent design.. My brand name made batteries have 1150 mAh and my third party replacements have 1800 and 2000 mAh in the same package.
    Reliability? Well, there there is a big question mark. How much testing do the third part makers do vs how much testing does the Brand maker do? That could be the difference. Potentially the third party makers buy a lot more batteries than the brand makers… if they make replacement packs for 6 brands vs just one for the brand maker. That gives them more incentive to buy the most reliable batteries. Or, maybe they just go for the cheapest batteries and change sources on price frequently. Its hard to tell. But I’m sure they don’t like battery failures… they have reputations, too.
    So I think there’s potentially reasons to buy third party batteries not the least of is what I didn’t mention so far… that the third party batteries are often 1/3 the price because the brand guys think they have you over a barrel.

  • jatinahujamail

    If money is not a problem or if you want the ultimate best lens out
    there, consider branded lenses. But if you are on a tight budget and
    would like the most value for money then seriously consider the third
    party option. You will be taking certain risks but the pros often
    outweigh the cons.

  • Kelvin Dickenson

    I have enjoyed superb results on D750 with a Tokina 17mm 3.5 and 100MM 2.8 Macro. Also wonderful results which have won prizes or been commercially successful on D7100 and D750 with a Sigma 70-210 2.8 APO I have owned for some years. My Nikon lenses (35MM F2, 50MM F1.8 10-24MM F3.5, 24-120MM F4) have been equally satisfactory, but not more so

  • KC

    Yes, no, maybe, but valid points. My cameras are Panasonic, For lenses I stick with the Panasonic or Sigma, but I don’t collect a lot of lenses. Batteries are always Panasonic. It’s too hit/miss with 3rd party batteries. Tripods/supports are Manfrotto, straps are Peak Design, Metz flash, B&W filters. I normally don’t name brands, but over the years, this works for me to the point where they’re the default. It’s not an endorsement.

    The “gear status symbol” bit is interesting because I don’t care. I work with what I work with. I’m not out to impress another photographer with my gear. In fact, not slinging “big name” gear has become a great marketing gimmick and time saver. People are curious, they don’t see Panasonic cameras often, and I avoid endless chatter from “big name” camera people. (That’s nice, that new model has an ISO so high you can shoot through the lens cap. Amazing. What happens when you take the lens cap off? Gotta go.)

    All kidding aside, in studio days, I did keep a staged camera bay with “props” in view. Expectations, marketing, and all that. My working bay was one space over, and a bit out of sight.

  • Maurice Phoenix

    Hi Keith…can you help straighten my mind of something…I’m thinking of buying the new tamron for my a7ii. And one of my friend said to better not to use third party lens. Some said that there a risk for my camera sensor. Do u have any saying for this. Is having third party lens really a big risk for the camera body for longer term? Thanks in advance

  • davesalpha

    I’m going through them under the bus and say no that the third parties aren’t good as far as Sigma and Tamron go. I want to get a new 70-200mm f2.8 lens and the Sony “a” mount lenses were fairly expensive. I had just bought a new Sony a99 ii and love it. It’s great to be shooting full frame. The Sony lens cost as much as the camera did. So I went to my local camera store and placed an order for the lens. A day later they said they couldn’t order it because Sigma and Tamron do not make any more Sony “a” mount lenses. I eventually found a lens, just a little older and not weather sealed. I found a Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX DG HSM OS FLD and got it. Love it, but it’s a beast of a lens.

  • Jaime Hazan

    The comment on “respect” blows my mind. If you’re too stupid to believe that someone is going to like you for the type of lens you mount, I suggest you use the money you would have spent on the lens and see a shrink for low self esteem.

Join Our Email Newsletter

Thanks for subscribing!

DPS offers a free weekly newsletter with: 
1. new photography tutorials and tips
2. latest photography assignments
3. photo competitions and prizes

Enter your email below to subscribe.
Get DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS feed