Roundup: Third-party Lenses for Enthusiasts

Between them, third-party lens manufacturers offer a sizable array of optics, some of which compete squarely with models from major manufacturers while others fill a void of some kind within their ranges. By undercutting their bigger rivals in price while ensuring their products are competitively specified, these manufacturers’ lenses are an attractive option not only for budget-conscious novices, but enthusiasts and professionals, too. And, by occasionally trading away certain functionality for a significant proportion of the asking price, they’ve played a vital part in democratizing access to more exotic optics.

Here, we've examined ten of the most interesting third-party lenses on the market, arranged broadly by type, from wide-angle and standard zooms, through macro and prime lenses and ending with telephoto zooms. This article is not intended to be comprehensive, (we don't cover telephoto primes for example, or extreme telephoto zooms) and nor is it a review, per se. Where a lens has been tested by dpreview, we've included relevant observations and a link to the full review.

All pricing information is 'street' rather than MSRP, and where minor price variations exist between versions of the same lens, a representative average is given. Please note that if you click the 'check price / buy now' links you may still be a couple of clicks away from seeing purchase details for the lens mount that you're looking for.

The lenses: (click to jump straight to each lens)

Tokina AT-X Pro 11-16mm F2.8 DX

A short focal range maybe, but Tokina's AT-X Pro 11-16mm F2.8 DX offers a large constant F2.8 aperture

Tokina caters particularly well for wide-angle aficionados, and while this optic offers a narrower focal length range than its immediate competitors it has the advantage of a constant F2.8 maximum aperture. Indeed, Tokina’s reasoning for the lens’s short zoom range is that this upholds optical performance when used at its widest apertures.

The lens is only compatible with the cropped-sensor DSLR offerings from Canon, Nikon and Sony, where its equivalent focal length is closer to 18-26mm for owners of the former and 17-25mm for those using the latter two systems. Its reach ends, therefore, quite neatly at the point where most standard kit lenses begin theirs.

In addition to the multi-layer coatings on the lens’s internal elements, a water-repellant optical coating applied to the front element is designed to help keep water droplets from forming on the glass. Other features of note include an internal focusing system, as well as a One Touch Focus Clutch mechanism which allows the focusing ring to be easily snapped back and forth to alternate between auto and manual focusing operation.

An alternative wide zoom option from Tokina is the AT-X Pro SD 12-24mm F4 (IF) DX, a superb performer with excellent sharpness and low distortion characteristics. Since its release it has been updated with a Mark II version, which makes use of new optical coatings and is primarily aimed at Nikon users whose DX-format bodies lack their own focusing motor - elsewhere the two lenses are virtually identical. Another option, this time courtesy of Sigma, is the Sigma 10-20mm F3.5 EX DC HSM, which by comparison to the Tokina AT-X Pro 11-16mm F2.8 DX trades a little of its maximum aperture for a slightly broader focal range.

Key Features/Specifications

• Constant F2.8 aperture
• One-touch Focus Clutch Mechanism
• Available in Canon EF, Nikon F (DX), Sony Alpha mounts
• Maximum format size: APS-C / DX
• Dimensions: 84 x 89 mm (3.31 x 3.51 in)
• Weight: 560 g (1.23 lb.)

Pros - Constant F2.8 aperture, internal focusing, useful range for those with standard ‘kit’ lenses
Cons - Narrow focal length range next to those of its competitors, available in only three fittings

Sigma 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM

An ultra-wide lens for cropped sensor cameras, the Sigma 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM is ideal for general-purpose landscape and architectural photography.

Despite its small form-factor and unassuming design, this lens has the honour of being the widest rectilinear zoom lens designed for cropped-sensor DSLR cameras. Its approximately 12-24mm equivalent focal length range provides users with an impressively wide maximum angle of view of 121 degrees, something usually only obtainable with full-frame DSLRs.

Four 'F' Low Dispersion (FLD) elements are positioned toward the rear of the optic, and according to Sigma, these elements are comparable in effectiveness to fluorite with regards to minimizing chromatic aberrations. Three aspherical elements are also included for managing distortion, spherical aberration and astigmatism, while Super Multi Layer coatings play the vital role of improving light transmission and minimizing reflections. The lens’s focusing system hasn’t been overlooked either, with a Hyper Sonic Motor providing full-time manual override over its autofocus functionality.

A relatively recent addition to Sigma’s stable, the lens joins the previous 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM model, which itself is a favourite among cropped-sensor DSLR users. Tamron’s SP AF 10-24mm F3.5-4.5 Di II LD Aspherical (IF) is another sub-$500 alternative.

Key Features/Specifications

• Widest rectilinear zoom lens designed for APS-C/DX users
• Hyper Sonic Motor with full-time manual focus override
• Available in Canon EF, Pentax KAF3, Sony Alpha, Sigma SA, Nikon F (DX) mounts
• Maximum format size: APS-C / DX
• Dimensions: 75 x 106mm (2.95 x 4.16 in)
• Weight: 555 g (1.22 lb.)

Pros - Internal focusing system, useful focal length range for cropped-sensor DSLRs
Cons - Closest competitors around $200 less, slightly smaller overall maximum apertures than competition


Click here to read page 2 of our roundup of third-party lenses

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.

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Comments

Total comments: 169
12
Vlad Didenko
By Vlad Didenko (Nov 17, 2011)

bh photo video claims that Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM discontinued for 4/3 mount, although Sigma still lists it on the product page. What is the story?

2 upvotes
inevitable crafts studio
By inevitable crafts studio (Nov 17, 2011)

i think its just like you said. ^^

0 upvotes
Jim Lowell
By Jim Lowell (Nov 17, 2011)

A good read from DPReview. Shows the options available other than OEM glass. What would be great in the future is a comparison of '3rd party' glass against OEM glass. I'm a Bigma fan (50-500) and the newest version of it would be cool to include maybe sometime? Thanks for this list, DPR.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
Infared
By Infared (Nov 17, 2011)

I like this list, good eye!. I "usually" defer to Canon L glass...(although I wish a couple of Nikon lenses came on Canon mounts. LOL!), I do own one of these though...the Sigma 50mm f/1.4. Fun lens...the specs made me shun the Canon choices...and I am very happy with my Sigma. Great lens.
One lens on the list that I question for me as a Canon user...is the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG etc...etc...etc...LOL. I bought the Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro. (The lens may be the sharpest I own..even better than my Zeiss 21mm). Same price as the Sigma 105mm... so if I am not saving any money...it is a no-brainer to buy the Canon Macro (its a great lens for a LOT more than just macro photography)...So ..am I missing something about the Sigma?????

Comment edited 5 times, last edit 5 minutes after posting
1 upvote
inevitable crafts studio
By inevitable crafts studio (Nov 17, 2011)

what??? your 100 mm macro is even sharper than a cosina 21mm wideangle ? get outta here :)

1 upvote
Infared
By Infared (Nov 17, 2011)

well what ever you want to call it...my 21mm is pretty damn sharp. LOL. ...who cares who makes it...the proof is in da puddin.

0 upvotes
Chaitanya S
By Chaitanya S (Nov 17, 2011)

What about the Sigma 150mm macro lens?

0 upvotes
IcyVeins
By IcyVeins (Nov 17, 2011)

What about the Tamron 200-500?

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
newe
By newe (Nov 17, 2011)

Nice to see the morons who can't read. It's not a review. There is no testing.

1 upvote
Benjamin Marsh
By Benjamin Marsh (Nov 17, 2011)

slight error on the last lens mentioned, the Tamron SP 70-300mm F4-5.6 Di is available at least for Sony as well as Nikon and Canon, without the VC of course but you guys mentioned other lenses that had non stabilised lenses for the stabilised mounts...

1 upvote
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Nov 17, 2011)

Thanks for this, I just fixed it.

1 upvote
jquagga
By jquagga (Nov 17, 2011)

Hmm, I'm not sure what the fuss is about. I like the article. I took it for what it is. I figured it was a "Hey, that holiday where people need to buy stuff for photo enthusiasts is coming up. Let's put out a list of options!".

I've been saving for that Samyang as my first "fun" lens. Oddly the Rokinon you link to is more expensive in the Nikon mount. Amazon has the Bower as well and that is a bit cheaper so I'll probably go with that. I just have to wait for my trade in to clear!

I do look forward to the return of lens reviews though!

1 upvote
larrytusaz
By larrytusaz (Nov 17, 2011)

Well it is nice to FINALLY see this. Real articles for real photographers/hobbyists etc, rather than Android/iPhone camera articles for soccer moms.

Of course we all have our "how about the so & so" remarks, mine: the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8.

2 upvotes
sean000
By sean000 (Nov 17, 2011)

Tokina makes fantastic lenses. I've had their 12-24mm f/4 for my Nikons since early 2005. The image quality is excellent and the build quality equals that of my f/2.8 Nikon zooms that cost more than twice as much.

2 upvotes
Jogger
By Jogger (Nov 17, 2011)

Nokton 25 0.95 should be on that list. Its certainly interesting.

5 upvotes
aljudy
By aljudy (Nov 17, 2011)

I agree. This list is biased to Nikon and Canon cameras?

2 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Nov 17, 2011)

A list of third-party lenses is biased towards Canon and Nikon? Now I've heard everything ;)

9 upvotes
Simon Joinson
By Simon Joinson (Nov 17, 2011)

its biased towards SLR users. Where's the clip-on iPhone lenses?

8 upvotes
jeffharris
By jeffharris (Nov 17, 2011)

To add to the Micro Four Thirds list...
in addition to the Voigtländer Nokton 25mm f0.95, which is a fantastic lens, what about the Panasonic 7-14mm f4 ultra-wide angle.

4 upvotes
Mark Thornton
By Mark Thornton (Nov 17, 2011)

Clearly the article title is misleading. It should have said SLR enthusiasts.

3 upvotes
inevitable crafts studio
By inevitable crafts studio (Nov 17, 2011)

@barney: heard, but didnt read everything, he said canon and nikon cameras, so he obviously means the mounts :)

0 upvotes
Andy Westlake
By Andy Westlake (Nov 17, 2011)

@jeffharris: The reason why the Panasonic 7-14mm isn't included can be deduced from the article title (words 2 & 3).

In general, it's somewhat inevitable a Third Party lens roundup article will favour SLRs, because none of the major lens manufacturers (Sigma, Tamron, Tokina) have yet produced anything for mirrorless. In fact, aside from the Samyang SLR lenses reworked for NX, the number of 3rd party lenses designed for these systems can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

1 upvote
Mtsuoka
By Mtsuoka (Nov 17, 2011)

@jeffharris
"Third-party" does not mean "Second Tier"

0 upvotes
photo nuts
By photo nuts (Nov 17, 2011)

I think the Sigma 150 f/2.8 OS HSM Macro lens should be on that list, much more so than its companion Sigma 105 f/2.8.

1 upvote
thx1138
By thx1138 (Nov 17, 2011)

Wow what a MASSIVE oversight to not mention the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 VC and non VC lenses. How could you forget those two!

1 upvote
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Nov 17, 2011)

Calm down, they're mentioned on page 2...

5 upvotes
photo nuts
By photo nuts (Nov 17, 2011)

Never mind

Comment edited 19 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
thx1138
By thx1138 (Nov 17, 2011)

Sorry, I expected to see images of the lenses, didn't see the text. Oops.

0 upvotes
inevitable crafts studio
By inevitable crafts studio (Nov 17, 2011)

OHHH MYYYY GOOOOOD

0 upvotes
headfirst
By headfirst (Nov 17, 2011)

The Tamron SP 70-300mm F4-5.6 Di USD is also already available in Sony mount albeit it drops the VC.

0 upvotes
Guidenet
By Guidenet (Nov 17, 2011)

I think this is just one of those articles sent in by one of us and not professionally done, hense no tests, no review and not much length no much real meat. Matt must be primarilly comparing the glass he owns. I just don't feel like there's anything newer here than we could have picted up, as the other guy said, on the manufacturer's websites.

Never the less, I'm sure he did better than I could have. You have to give him that.

3 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Nov 17, 2011)

I think you're being rather disingenuous, and more than a little rude. This is a ROUNDUP. It is not intended to have test/review data in it. If you don't like it, fine, but at least read the introduction...

And it wasn't just sent in randomly. Matt is a respected freelance writer, and we commissioned him.

10 upvotes
micahmedia
By micahmedia (Nov 17, 2011)

Uh, they do review some of these lenses elsewhere on their site. Under the "Reviews" section. Although it's not very complete, their graphical representations of lens performance data a very accessible. Check it out. Compare a couple lenses.

0 upvotes
Guidenet
By Guidenet (Nov 17, 2011)

Well, Barney, might we say something of pots and black kettles here. I'm not sure I'm understanding the nature nor need for a ROUNDUP consisting of a very small sampling of consumer 3rd party lenses with only press release type information for the readers. Is it an advertisement for these particular lenses? Might it been more nearly appropriate for you to use the word roundup in lower case. A ROUNDUP might be used to describe a time when cattlemen round up all the cattle on the plain with their brand. All of them. A “roundup” of a very small sampling of lenses with their associated advertising copy might be a disingenuous title for this article.

Let’s try getting back to the material DPReview of founded on. DP”Review.”

3 upvotes
sandy b
By sandy b (Nov 17, 2011)

Need a dislike button for posts like guidenet

0 upvotes
Guidenet
By Guidenet (Nov 17, 2011)

So Sandy, that's called for when someone disagrees with the direction and an article posted? This comment section is for people to comment. I used no bad language nor did I denigrate anyone. I'm not sure that would be called rude, nor would my posting history show a tendency to be rude on any forum. That's what surprised me when I initially disagreed with this article when Barney responded. I really didn't expect another to jump on the bandwagon, but I suppose it's a little cold to get outside and photograph in Albert Lee by golly.

Over all the years I have been here when you look over some people's posting history there remains a constant. "Just rude, obtuse and relentless" remarks towards other's opinions.

Oh and there is a dislike button for you to use. It's called Ignore.

1 upvote
Eugene Powers
By Eugene Powers (Nov 17, 2011)

Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 OS is very sharp without stopping down.
As far as weather sealing and focus limit a $3 plastic sleeve will do. Certainly better than Canon $1000 option for weather sealing. And I don't want to be focus limited while I forgot to switch it back. Happened to me and I missed the shot because lens would not focus. Sigma lens focuses very fast without focus limiting switch.

0 upvotes
micahmedia
By micahmedia (Nov 17, 2011)

..."certainly better" than the more expensive Canon? If you can only afford the Sigma, then yes, since the one you can use is better than the one you can't. However, throwing a bag over your lens is NOT the same as good weather sealing that allows you to shoot in inclement weather. It works reliably, where duct tape and a plastic bag may not.

Sharp is a subjective. The Sigma isn't an unusable lens, but when compared to the Canon, Nikon, or Minolta lenses, it's not as sharp. It's a rare case where you get what you pay for.

And not being able to use or not use a switch is either an issue of preference or user error.

2 upvotes
Karl Gnter Wnsch
By Karl Gnter Wnsch (Nov 17, 2011)

Sigma HSM is fast, Canon ring USM is faster - and with the help of the focus limiter switch it is much more usable in the field. You just need to know what you are doing...

2 upvotes
Eugene Powers
By Eugene Powers (Nov 17, 2011)

You are both wrong on all counts especially Karl Gnter Wnsch who is a known Sigma hater because he had problem long time ago with 2 Sigma flashes and he so upset that he would not buy any Sigma. Yeah right, what a Du Blödmann.
I tested this Sigma against new Canon MK2 and it just the same in sharpness and focus speed. And it has for sure 4 stops OS or better. And that is why in my opinion Canon mk2 is waste of money. Those rich ba$tards can jump up and down as much as they want but $1000 differences can buy another good lens. In my case it went towards 120-300mm OS which is even more expensive than Canon 70-200mm and better (sharper) than Canon 300mm F2.8.
As far as weather sealing, plastic sleeve works for sure if it is on. Weather sealing is a very questionable feature. They say cameras are sealed but there are very many reports that camera got wet in the rain. So I would rather use $3 sleeve that can also protect my flash.

0 upvotes
tkpenalty
By tkpenalty (Nov 17, 2011)

You guys should probably have a check of samyang's 35 1.4; the premium lens killer :)

0 upvotes
Illorg
By Illorg (Nov 16, 2011)

WHEN DPREVIEW WILL START AGAIN WITH LENS REVIEWS? THE LAST ONE WAS ON OCTOBER 2010

0 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Nov 17, 2011)

Lens reviews are on hiatus as a result of our relocation to Seattle but we are gearing up again to produce them in 2012. It isn't quite as easy as just flicking a switch from 'off' to 'on'.

7 upvotes
Aaron MC
By Aaron MC (Nov 17, 2011)

2012, eh? I look forward to it.

0 upvotes
Der Steppenwolf
By Der Steppenwolf (Nov 16, 2011)

This "roundup" tells me exactly nothing. Is there anything in here that can't be found on manufactorers websites?
This is what is widely known today as "cut 'n paste" reviewing/journalism.

2 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Nov 16, 2011)

It gives you top-level specs, pricing information and an overview of popular alternatives for the lenses that we've chosen to highlight.

It also provides links to reviews and images both from our own readers and from trusted competitors. That's the extent of the copying and pasting.

This article is not a review. And that's made clear in the introduction.

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 4 minutes after posting
8 upvotes
sglewis
By sglewis (Nov 17, 2011)

Yes, there are things you can't find on manufacturers' websites. For example, all this information on one page (ok 4 pages). Or, the fact that it mentions alternatives from another manufacturer. I don't think Sigma's page on the 70-200 mentions Tamron has a 70-200. As a comprehensive suite of reviews, it would have been a failure. As a roundup of interesting third party lens choices, it would be successful. Given the title of the article, I think it succeeds.

2 upvotes
fus
By fus (Nov 16, 2011)

I like the idea... but tell me more.

3 upvotes
Prognathous
By Prognathous (Nov 16, 2011)

Where are the lens tests?

1 upvote
Absolutic
By Absolutic (Nov 17, 2011)

There are not any. I think the problem here is not with dpreview, but with reader base. Most of us who read dpreview for years, already know what lenses are out there. I, for example, have owned majority of lenses in this article. But of course I'd love to see a review of each and every one of them, with the excellent tool that dpreview uses where you can select the aperture and length and see the sharpness, it is amazing. So when I saw the article I got very excited, and then I discovered that it is basically just an information piece on whats out there. This is perhaps good for those who just start in DSLR photography. For everyone else, just like for dpreview writers, we know everyone of these:)))) Looking forward 2012 to see some lens tests, dpreview!!!!! You guys will have a lot of time to do it, since because of the floods, noone is coming with any new bodies these days.

1 upvote
Total comments: 169
12