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.


Buying a DSLR camera

Recently, The Frog was asked by someone about buying their first DSLR camera.  Their kids are growing up, and they sensed a need/purpose to get a better camera to capture family moments and memories.  That got The Frog’s brain cells going, and after thinking about it, The Frog offered his advice, starting with the basics as DSLRs were new to them.  As it’s a worthy topic, it’s been expanded upon and organized a bit better for your information and consideration.

A DSLR camera is a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera.  Basically, it looks like a 35mm film camera that many of us grew up with, and has interchangeable lenses.  There are also many worthy “hybrid” digital cameras on the market – they look like a DSLR, but you can’t change lenses.  There are so many of those on the market that we’re not even going to touch on that subject!

Buying a DSLR camera

So… you want a DSLR.  The next question is “which brand?”  Major DSLR manufacturers include: Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma and Sony.  Most have a range of products over a fairly wide price range.  In general, as price goes up, so do available features and capabilities.  Where do you start?

First – think about what you want the DSLR to do, and what you want to do with it.  Do you want to simply click the shutter button and be done with it?  Do you want to be able to set the shutter speed or aperture and let the camera do the rest?  Do you want to have full manual control?  Do you want to be able to do low-light photography without a flash?  All of these answers will factor into your decision.

If you want to read some impartial reviews before you go to your local camera store or after looking and/or before you purchase, check out Ken Rockwell’s site or Digital Photography Review for information and ideas.  Reviews can also be found on the manufacturer’s websites and retailer websites.

If you or someone in your immediate family has a Nikon or Pentax 35mm film camera, you might want to focus your efforts (pun not intended, but it works!) on a Nikon or Pentax DSLR – many/most of their “old” lenses will work on their new DSLR cameras.  They probably won’t auto-focus or couple with the exposure meter – but they will work!  For those of you (like me) that have Canon 35mm film cameras, well…, you can still shoot film with them.

Do you want new?  Used?  Refurbished?  The Frog’s digital equipment is a mix of new and factory-refurbished “stuff”.  New is new, and needs no explanation.  There are great used products out there as well, as many people upgrade their cameras like they upgrade their phones when something new comes out.  Factory-refurbished items are available from the manufacturer’s websites and some retailers, and are cheaper than new, but often with a shorter warranty.  You can add to your “stuff” more economically and faster if you’re willing to consider used or refurbished equipment.

Then, after your thought and research process, I’d recommend a visit to your local camera store and not a big box retailer.  Local camera stores give you the opportunity to get hands on with the cameras and get your questions answered – and your questions are probably better answered by someone in a camera store than someone who may be selling a refrigerator one moment and then a camera in the next.  There’s a perception that local camera stores are overpriced which isn’t necessarily true – manufacturers have a great deal of control over pricing these days, so your local camera store is going to either have the same price as the big box retailer or be extremely competitive.  We all need local businesses to survive and thrive – so pay your local camera store a visit!  The Frog’s local camera store in the Los Angeles area is Samy’s Camera.  (The Frog also admits to purchasing on the internet, and he’s been buying from B&H Photo – Video for over 20 years.)

Once you’re at your local camera store, get the equipment in your hands and see how it handles and feels.  Ask if the store rents equipment – that gives you a chance to see how it performs as well.  Your final decision will be based on feel, handling, and results if you can rent to try as much as it will be on price.

Upcoming posts will talk about lenses and what’s in the Frog’s camera bags.  Those posts may give you more to think about as you consider a DSLR purchase.