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 blogger who teaches others how to run a successful photography business.

  • Rex Deaver

    I have the battery my camera came with + two third party batteries. I keep them all charged and ready to go, and have never had a shoot where I didn’t have battery power. On of the third party batteries actually has better life than the OEM battery.

  • Keith Phillip Yeoman

    Until recently I’d have used Nikon eqpt exclusively, until I read reviews on Tamrons 24-70 2.8 VR, this lens now sits proudly between my high end Nikon glass, a place which it has deservedly earned and this being mounted on the D810 which shows up any short comings in sub standard lenses. A superb lens, slightly slower in autofocus than Nikons offering but wether in studio or Landscape I can easily live with the fractional difference.

  • Travel Photographer

    I bought the Sigma Art 34/1.4 and 20/1.4 lenses in December as I like to shoot dusk and nighttime street scenes and I was headed to Venice. The lenses were bought to be shot wide open, as needed the wide aperture for the above purpose and have Canon 2.8 zooms to work with otherwise. I noticed a lack of focus on the 50mm and so used a LensAlign focus calibration target to test focus accuracy at f1.4 on my 1DsmkIII, 1Dx and 5dSr and found BOTH lenses to be accurate focusing about 33% of the time, front focusing by 3 to 4 inches about 40% and way off the target about 25% of the time. Tried Sigma Dock to recalibrate, but that was pointless as focus was erratic, not consistently front or back focused. Called Sigma technical and got a techie to explain to me that Canon focus system is a very complicated prism based affair and they are having issues with focus accuracy. Returned both lenses promptly, even if Canon 50s lenses are optically inferior to Sigma. One thing worse than optical aberrations are shots not focused properly. Poor focus is the ultimate sin.

  • fadecomic

    Peer pressure has to be the least motivating reason for a gear brand for me.

  • Apostolis Tsi

    I own a tokina 11-16 for 2 months now and so far I’m very pleased with it. Crystal clear quality. Also I love the fact that it feels heavy on the hand (at least compared to my other lens, the 18-55), although I now need to buy a bigger camera bag!

  • Martin

    I’ve had mixed results with 3rd party. My Sigma 18-250mm lens had the zoom barrel lock up after about a year and a half of use, which has led me to bench it indefinitely. On the other hand, I’ve picked up two Yongnuo 565exII flashes as their cheaper than buying two 430 flashes from Canon and neither has left me in the dark yet after 4 years.

    As for accessories like straps and bags, I prefer buying from the companies that have experience making the good stuff. Canon and Nikon make good cameras, but they don’t make great straps.

  • That is an excellent point about camera straps. What are some third-party straps that you enjoy using?

  • A constant problem for photographers: finding bigger and better bags for holding all of our gear! 🙂

  • In Leica-land, do Zeiss ZM lenses count as cheap-and-nasty third party items?

  • Brian Drourr

    you should give the Tamron 15-30mm f2.8 VR lens a try it will blow your mind!

  • Matthew Potter

    I shoot with 2 Canon 5D Mark III bodies and Sigma lenses. I have rented Canon lenses – 24-80 f2.8 and 70-200 f2.8 – and those equivalent Sigma lenses. I could not tell the difference in function or photo quality between them, so when the time came to make the purchase, the price difference was so significant that I was able to add a Sigma 12-24 lens to the other two for the same price as the 2 Canon lenses.

    Perhaps if I had an unlimited budget I would have bought the Canons, but I have a lot more versatility for my photography, without sacrificing quality, by owning the Sigma lenses.

  • Brian Drourr

    I think this article is referring to the newer Sigma line more so then the previous incarnations that left some things to be desired. Sigma was very hit or mess up until the new ART line. I love my Yungnuo 600EX speed lights as well.

  • Keith Phillip Yeoman

    Hi Brian funny you should say that lol, it’s on my list after watching video reviews, as is the Sigma 150_600 which I texted out and found to be another superb 3rd party lens.

  • MattmanAlpha

    Certainly not all 3rd parties are created equal. I’ve been very pleased with the two Tamron lenses I’ve purchased. I did a lot of reading ahead of time. Years ago I had a very mediocre Sigma lens, but perhaps that was a bad model/copy. Nevertheless, I haven’t gone back to the brand. Recently I purchased a Rokinon manual lens and love it. As long as you have a good seller, it is worthwhile to give different makers a try.

  • Martin

    I backed the Peak Design Kickstarter back in the day. I haven’t looked back since. makes it easy to swap between bodies too.

  • I’ve had just the opposite experience. I bought a third party battery thinking that it didn’t matter that it wasn’t from the manufacturer. It was half the price of the OEM’s, but died after a few months.

  • Brian Drourr

    the Tamron 15-30mm is one of the finest lenses I have ever used let alone used. to get s 2.8 throughout with VR at that wide angel its perfect for me. I do a lot of life music and event shoots as well as night sky. you get the best of both worlds. If you get the Sigma its worth it to get the Sport version. Its a bit more expensive but the build is better. here are a few shot taken with the Tamron 15-30mm.

  • I bought a bundle package 2 years ago. The bundle came with some 3rd party items; grip, batteries, remote shutter release ect. I have had not a single issue with my batteries and have shot extensive and some timelapse too. I won a Tamron 70-300 lens from DPS and it has been amazing in performance. I only wish the AF was a little faster, but it is quicker than its bigger brother I have, 150-600. I also have the Tamron 90mm macro that is amazing and sometimes double it as a portrait lens now that I am used to its extremely tight focusing plane. I also use Rokinon lens for astrophotography and swear by the brand. I have rented the name brands before for comparison a few times and honestly I am quite pleased with my gear. I am far from the word pro and only a hobbyist, so my opinion may not matter here.

  • Paul

    Yes. Cheap and nasty. First adjectives I think of when someone mentions Zeiss.

  • Scott McKellin

    I’ve had an experience with third-party batteries very contradictory to this article:

    My two Canon batteries that I bought with my camera in late 2012 have both since died. The two Vivitar batteries I bought at around the same time are both going strong and holding the full charge they did when new.

    Moral of the story: if you go third-party, look for a good reputation. Also, don’t let this article stand as a rule book, but rather as a guideline.

  • Alan D Granger

    My battery that doesn’t hold a charge is a Nikon.

  • Todd Wallarab

    My third party battery shut down my Canon

  • Todd Wallarab

    I am FAR from a professional but have rented many Canon “red rings” but have since purchased the Tamron 24 70 and the Tamron 150 600 and I love them!! VC rocks!

  • Paul Fisher

    I bought a third party battery for my Sony A33. Very very inferior. I didn’t know it was third party until I received it and so beware and always buy from accredited retailers, especially online.

  • jhsvdm

    Generally I would go for the branded products, especially when it is going to be a long term investment like a lens or a Speedlite. Where consumables are concerned I would go for reputable third party products and the Hähnel batteries that I have bought seem to give at least the same service as original Canon batteries. I have not scientifically logged their performance, it’s only an observation. I do own a Tamron 150-600 that I am very happy with despite its shortcomings.

  • waynewerner

    When I can buy 10 third party batteries for the price of one LP-E10, I’m OK with occasionally getting a bad pack.

    But I probably wouldn’t buy a 3rd party charger.

  • Almost everything I have is third-party except for my lenses, especially batteries. Seeing how expensive those things are when they’re the original (even when I have them at a reduced price for working in a camera store), I prefer knowing I have 5 lesser batteries than just a single ‘good’ one. The only battery I’ve ever had that doesn’t hold its charge all that much belongs to my little S110 and it was a cheap battery I got for less than five bucks. Considering that I’m not using a compact camera for anything professional, I don’t mind it not having that much of a charge (still got 4 other batteries to back me up anyway). Other than that, I have third-party flashes, chargers, straps, bags… I’ve yet to get third-party lenses simply because they didn’t happen to actually be less expensive than what I already have while doing a very similar job.

  • pete guaron

    Interesting – I have the Sigma ART 24/1.4, and I have had to adjust it for back focus probs on my Nikon D810 – which allows an adjustment up to a max of plus or minus 20, and that lens is running on an adjustment of plus 18, close to the limit of what I can do to fix it.

    I also have their ART 50/1.4, and after less than 3 weeks use, I found the coupling of the lens hoods supplied with both lenses had become unexpectedly stiff to use – which is a pain, because you remove/reverse the hood or replace it, whenever you swap lenses. In over half a century, I’ve never had that problem with any of my other lenses.

  • oji kanu

    I do agree with you on 3rd party batteries.I used to go cheap on 3rd party batteries until the motherboard of my Canon 6D went kaput.I was told it was the 3rd party battery.It cost me more to fix the camera than the money I had hoped to save with the cheap batteries.Never again do I buy 3rd party batteries despite 5 stars rating by consumers.

    When it comes to Lens, I have several 3rd party lenses that have not disappointed. These include Tamron 24-70 f/2.8,Tamron 150-600mm, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 and Sigma 10-20mm.They have complemented my Nikon and Canon DSLR cameras and my more expensive Canon L and Nikon G lenses nicely.

  • John Cuthbert

    Most of the above is one persons opinion, is waffle to me and that’s being polite….The biggest problems we have had over the years is with brand named products. Zeiss and Sony to name a few. The service/repair times have been ridiculously long and shockingly costly and the quality of service atrocious. On the other side of things we have used the likes of Tamron and Sigma and they offer quality glass at a realistic uninitiated price and cannot be faulted for their customer service in our opinion…. The camera’s that failed were ALL branded, the cards branded, the lenses branded…..Don’t get too tied up in the tripe and hype……talk to a good few photographers and ask them about their experiences and then make your own minds up……

  • lbrilliant

    Like anything else, you get what you pay for. Cheap lenses are just that: cheap lenses. That means low build quality and less sharpness. But for casual users, they are useful. Kit lens? “Real photographers” scoff at them. So high quality third party stuff is probably as good or better than high quality brand names. But don’t expect cheap stuff to perform like expensive stuff. And that especially includes batteries.

    Compatibility can be an issue. I have a third party flash that works great EXCEPT on fill flash when it doesn’t! I bought it because it was 1/3 the cost of the brand name. So, I got 95% of the useablility for 1/3 the cost. A good trade off for me but maybe not for others. Perhaps if I had spent more…..

  • Tom Mann

    The reason third party assessories are selling currently is that they are competitive in terms of quality and performance with factory equipment. I use a Sony Camera with multiple lenses; original Sony brand, old Minolta, Tamron, and Sigma. After several years, the factory lenses stay in my bag and the Tamron and Sigma lenses have become my workhorses. It may be that brand name equipment companies have diverse marketing strategies compared to third party companies that have a single strategy of producing the best lense possible and therefore are more flexible and creative in their offerings. Third party equipment is not “third rate” in my mind and provides a valid alternative to original brand name equipment shortfalls or lags in marketing.

  • skipc43

    I bought a Tamron 75-300mm zoom a couple of years ago for my Rebel XT, and thought the quality of the photos it took was awesome. Then, I was given a Rebel T3 kit with 75-300 Canon zoom. I could not believe the difference in the clarity and sharpness! The Canon ran circles around the Tamron lens. The same with my 55-250 Canon zoom. I used to be skeptical about the difference in quality between 3rd party and name brand lenses. If you can afford the name brand, buy it. It’s nice to save money, but I don’t know if it’s worth quality suffering.

  • Dave Connolly

    happened to me too

  • Jessi McPeek

    Majority of my photography is shooting live music in poorly lit venues. I’m looking to add a 24-70 2.8 to my collection. I currently have only Canon lenses (Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II, Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II, and Canon EF 50mm f/1.8). Having never owned a third party lens I’m on the fence on whether I should purchase the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM or the Tamron SP 24-70mm Di VC USD. I like the idea of the vibration control on the Tameron since I will be shooting both stills and video and also there is the factor of price, which the Tameron bets Canon on by a long shot. While the Canon pictures are sharper on the edges, the Canon does not have any stabilization and the price is much higher. Any thoughts on which lens I should buy?

    Both images shot at 50mm f/1.8

  • I’m a live music photographer as well, and I’ve never used anything but Canon lenses to shoot in low lighting. It’s a personal preference, as well as the fact that I invested in my Canon lenses before third-party lenses were of the quality they are today. That is to say, I’ve never tried the Tamron 24-70, but I shoot all of my concerts with the latest Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 and havent’ been disappointed. Another factor about the Canon lenses is that they are all serviced and covered by Canon Pro Services (CPS), which I rely on heavily as a professional. I’d go for the Canon if you can afford it, but if not the Tamron is likely a good choice as well.

  • gameshoes

    I’m also having troubles with the stiff lens hood on my Sigma 50mm Art as well. It was smooth for a few months, and then suddenly it’s super difficult to take on and off. I however have had no issues with autofocusing on my D800 though, so I guess I’m lucky.

  • pete guaron

    The 50mm is fine on autofocus – I stood on top of the Eiffel Tower on my last trip to Paris, and took a shot along the Avenue de la Grande Armée (kind of the opposite end of the Champs-Élysées) towards l’Arche de la Défense – hand held, on 1/250th – and the scene is as sharp as a tack, as far away as la Défense, about 3 Km (a couple of miles) away. MOST impressed!

    But both the 50mm and the 24mm suffer from this problem with attaching or removing the lens hood (and they were both practically brand new when it started).

    And the 24mm has severe problems with focus, which I hope to finalise dealing with next week, using Sigma’s USB hub and associated software – at a cost of a further US$60 or thereabouts.

    Not that I begrudge the money (back focus & similar probs are quite common with lenses not produced by your camera manufacturer, and even occur with lenses that your camera manufacturer DOES produce). But even my camera store was startled when we explored how much adjustment was needed to deal with the problem.

  • Emilio

    You still think of Sigma and Tamron as of Third-party lenses ??? I can’t believe that! Lately both Tamron and Sigma are making the best lenses on the market! Forget Nikon and Canon, they all suck compared to what that those guys have created in the last 2-3 years maybe.

  • Andrew Johnson

    Backwards compatibility was a gremlin I uncovered with a Sigma lens. I had a very nice Sigma 70-300mm Zoom that I had used for years on my Canon EOS 300 (film camera) when I went digital some years back it was the only lens that either refused to work or work sporadically with my (then) new Canon EOS350D. All of my old Canon EF lenses worked fine and still work fine on my newest EOS digital. The named brands only guarantee backward compatibility with their own kit. I do realize that Sigma and Tameron try to keep up and now have firmware upgrades on some lenses but the experience has made me leery about shelling out on new lenses, shopping around I’m finding ever decreasing differences in price and for peace of mind I keep plumping for the named brand. After all most of my EF lenses have outlived more than one camera. Sat here looking to go from a 60D to 5D the collected Canon lens arsenal is as good as it ever was, I only have one EF-S kit lens that I know in advance is going to have to stay with the 60D either as a trade in or more likely as backup camera.

  • Marco Gruebler

    Until of late, I was using Canon lenses only with my 70D.
    Then i made the switch to a 6D, and got rid of my EF-S lenses.
    Now I only own Tamron + Sigma glass, and couldnt be happier.
    Yes I tried out both before from friends, as well as the brand alternatives.
    And I have to say, with budget in mind, I would never consider something twice as expensive with (IMO) same performance.

  • They ARE third party lenses. If Canon made a lens for Nikon it’d be a third party lens. Anything mounted on a camera except the OEM brand is third party; it’s not a derogatory term.

    Sigma lenses would only be non-third-party if they were mounted on a Sigma camera.

  • Nikon’s DX lenses are behind the times. I have a Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 and a Tokina 11-20mm f2.8 for my D7100 because the Nikon equivalents are either old and lack things like VR and/or are heavier and/or way overpriced.

  • landshark123

    People forget that Nikon got its start as a third party maker of lenses for Leica rangefinder cameras, even when they started making their own bodies, they stayed with the R mount until their first SLR came out.

  • Leslie Hoerwinkle

    There’s an obvious answer to this question. And, it’s

  • Todd Wallarab

    Black Rapid…

  • Todd Wallarab

    I have a Tamron 24 70, the newer Tamron 90macro and the new version of the 150 600. Love them all!!
    #tamron

  • Todd Wallarab

    By the time I am reading this you probably already have made a purchase and I can only hope you went for the Tamron. I have it and love it. Best advise I can give you when looking to buy a new lens is to rent them both and try them out. I did this with the Canon and the Tamron 24 70 and saw no difference except for price!

  • There are really good lenses but the problem is the completly stuuuuupid prices.

  • Jessi McPeek

    Actually because of the cost I am still trying to save enough to make my glass purchase (almost there). I have settled on the Tamron and I’m hoping to snag a factory refurb and save a few hundred extra.

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