Third-Party Camera Lenses: Yes or No?

Some folks swear that the only way to get good pictures is to only purchase lenses from the maker of your camera body.  The Frog begs to differ.  There are some great third-party camera lenses out there!

Some third-party camera lenses are as good as the lenses from the camera manufacturer’s, some are better, and quite honestly, some are just plain bad.  Keep in mind that the lens can be the weak point in your system, so do your research and get the best lens you can!

First, whether your camera body is made by Nikon, Canon, Sigma, Pentax, Sony, Panasonic, Leica, or whomever, they’ve all got good lenses.  Similarly, so do lens makers like Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, and others.  Do your research!

Here’s a suggested approach to buying any lens:  First, identify what you want.  Then, check out the manufacturer’s websites (links above), check out Ken Rockwell’s site and Digital Photography Review.  Check out buyer reviews on retailer sites such as B&H and Adorama.

Look at the results, and study the QFLs.  Look at price.  You might find it helpful to keep notes or make a table to track your findings.

In the case of All-in-One lenses, recognize that none of them are perfect, no matter who makes them!  They’re great as long as you know their quirks, flaws and limitations (“QFLs”) – and your work within them.  You might find that the third-party lens that costs half as much as the manufacturer’s lens has some QFLs that are different than the QFLs that the manufacturer’s lens has.  And, for half the price, you can live with that!  (In one instance, The Frog did that and ended up with two third-party camera lenses for the price of one manufacturer’s lens.) That said, if the price is too good to be true, it probably is…

Keep an eye out for specials, rebates, and package deals, especially before major holidays.  You can save $$ if the timing works for you.

And… you probably know what’s coming… don’t forget to check things out at your local camera store!

You know that the Frog is shooting with Nikon DSLR bodies.  So, whose lenses does he use?  Nikon,  and third-party camera lenses from Sigma, and Tamron.


It’s the lens, silly!

As you may be pondering what to do if you’re looking to buy your first DSLR, or if you’re thinking about upgrading your current DSLR, here’s something to remember:


Think about it…

Your image must pass through your lens to get to the image sensor in the camera in order to create your image file that you use to print your picture.

If the lens isn’t up to the task… well…

So, as you’re contemplating what to do, focus (pun was not planned, but it works, so we’ll keep it) your attention on the lens, and if you’re wondering where your money should go, it’s the Frog’s humble opinion that the answer is the lens.  Get the best lens you can afford.  Don’t forget to consider refurbished and used lenses to stretch your dollars.

If you do your research on DSLR bodies, you’ll find that some of the “amateur” or “prosumer” bodies have the same image sensors as the “pro” bodies, or maybe they have the “old” sensor that was the “new” sensor six months or a year ago.  The most significant difference in many cases is that the amateur or prosumer bodies don’t have all of the controls, options, bells and whistles that the pro bodies do – and they’re a lot cheaper.  As was discussed in the Buying a DSLR post, think about what you photograph and what you absolutely need in a body first, then think about what you want.

And now, we’re suggesting that you think about the lens just as much, if not more.  Check out the post on Camera Equipment for Basic Travel Photography, and also the post on All-in-One versus Prime Lenses for more food for thought.

Don’t forget to visit your local camera store as part of the process!  We need small businesses to survive and thrive.



All-in-One versus Prime Camera Lenses

Over the years, lens technology has improved and lens size has decreased.   Following on our post about buying a DSLR, we’re going to talk about camera lenses – specifically All-in-One versus Prime Lenses.

Way back when, if you wanted to cover the range from 28mm to 200mm when shooting film, you were probably carrying a 28mm lens, a 50mm lens, a 28-70mm and a 70-210mm lens.  Most high-quality zoom lenses were in the 3X range – that is a range of three times their base number.  Examples include 28-70mm and 70-200 or 70-210mm.  Yes, there were “superzooms” out there with 5X and 10X in those days, but they were known to be compromised in their quality – and if you wanted serious quality, you were carrying around prime lenses.

A prime lens is a lens with a fixed focal length – 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, etc.  Most of the time, they are going to give you better results than a zoom lens or a superzoom lens.  I have 35mm and 50mm prime lenses that I carry on a regular basis – they are fast (f1.8), small, and light.  They are relatively “cheap” – some call them “fantastic plastic”, and can’t be beat for interior or low-light photography.

Today – it’s common to see lenses in the 10X to 15X range, such as 18-200mm and 18-270mm or 18-300mm.  These lenses typically have an optical stabilization or vibration reduction feature as well.  Their quality has improved to the point where they give good to great results throughout their zoom range – and, if you’re not trying to make 30″x40″ prints, they’re great lenses.  In general, the longer the zoom range, the more compromises (vignetting, pin-cushioning, distortion) you’ll need to be aware of to deal with.

Today, many cameras at retail stores are sold as “kits” – you get the body plus an 18-55mm zoom and a 55-200mm or 55-300mm zoom.  Most everyone will find these kits more than adequate for their purposes and needs.  If you go to your local camera shop or one of the big camera retailer website, you might find a choice in kits to the point where you might find it’s the camera plus an 18-200 lens.

  • If you’re going down the all in one path – do your research.  Think about what you want to do.  Check out the manufacturer’s websites to see what’s out there: Canon, Nikon, Sigma, Pentax, Tamron, Tokina,
  • Check out reviews on the manufacturer’s websites and on the web.
  • Talk to your local camera store.
  • Check out reviews on the web: Ken Rockwell, Digital Photography Review, B&H, Adorama
  • And, once you’ve made your choice, enjoy it!

I can’t deny or argue the convenience factor of just carrying a body and one lens.  It’s something that years ago many of us dreamed of, but the quality just wasn’t there.

And now, I enjoy the guilty pleasure of carrying one body and one lens and being able to accomplish most anything.