When you buy into a new camera system, it can be tempting to only consider lenses of the same make as your camera. But other lens manufacturers also produce interesting alternatives, some of which provide unique capabilities, or simply excellent quality at a relatively low price. So it can be well worth exploring these offerings too.
Who else makes lenses for my camera?
The main third party manufacturers are Sigma, Tamron and Tokina, and all three make fully-featured autofocus lenses for SLRs, often including such goodies as ultrasonic-type focus motors, image stabilisation and (occasionally) weathersealing. Another name to look out for is Samyang, which makes inexpensive manual focus primes with a reputation for very decent optics; the same lenses are also rebadged and sold under the Rokinon, Bower, Opteka and Pro Optic labels. At the other end of the scale, Zeiss and Voigtländer make premium manual focus primes with the emphasis on optical quality (and prices to match).
How are the lenses in this article chosen?
In this article, we're highlighting our pick of stand-out third party lenses. By this we mean lenses that offer something that the camera manufacturers own options can't match, either in terms of zoom range, maximum aperture, or value for money. This does mean that many of the lenses we've picked are quite expensive, because outstanding features can command a high price. There are plenty of inexpensive lenses worth buying too though, but while they tend to be good value, they're generally not quite as outstanding in terms of optics or features.
Here's the full list of the lenses we've picked, and why. Click on any lens name to see full specs, user reviews and sample images (opens in a new tab/window):
- Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art - Outstanding image quality for all SLRs
- Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | Art - The fastest zoom for interchangeable lens cameras
- Sigma 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM - The widest zoom lens for APS-C / DX SLRs
- Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | Sport - Unique fast long telephoto zoom
- Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 Di VC USD - The only optically-stabilised 24-70mm F2.8
- Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD - High quality stabilised fast telezoom
- Tokina AT-X Pro 11-16mm f/2.8 DX II - The fastest wideangle zoom for APS-C / DX SLRs
- Tokina AT-X Pro 12-28mm f/4 DX - Versatile wideangle zoom for APS-C / DX
- Samyang / Rokinon Fisheyes - Inexpensive fisheye lenses
- Samyang T-S 24mm 1:3.5 ED AS UMC - The most affordable tilt-and-shift lens
- Voigtländer Nokton F0.95 family for Micro Four Thirds - Ultra-fast primes with movie-making in mind