By Eugene Struthers
When I first wrote this six-step guide back in 2004 for the previous website, Glamour-Photography.co.uk. I stated that there is a trade-off between price and quality between a first and a third-party lens.
A “First-party lens” is a lens made by the same company that made the camera. The lenses are not interchangeable with a camera from a different manufacturer. So a Canon lens cannot attach to a Sony camera. But different Canon lenses can attach to different Canon cameras
A “Third-party lens” is a lens not made by the same company that made the camera. They are usually manufactured by a company dedicated to lens production. They consist of three key manufacturers: Tampon, Sigma, and Tokina. What makes these lenses a game-changer in the field of photography? It is the fact that their lenses can attach to any camera from a different manufacturer. As long as you have a camera mount to connect the two. The only downside is the fact that you will require a different lens mount adapter for each type of camera and in some cases lenses as well. Which can make the whole process of attaching a third-party lens, quickly, a labor-intensive procedure.
What is a lens mount adapter?
A normal lens connects to the body of the camera using a mechanical lock. This design is unique and specific for that particular camera. In modern digital cameras, this connection is completed when a system of electrical circuits clicks into place and are aligned with one another. This completed circuit allows for the various motors and sensors to be controlled by the camera body. The electrical circuit points and connections are brand-specific and must work together for them to function and operate correctly. If they don't interconnect and communicate at 100%. The transfer of information will not occur and their specific function and operation will not occur.
A lens mount adapter is used to connect the third-party lens to the brand-specific camera body.
Example: Sigma 50mm f/1.8 lens to a Canon 550d body. The lens mount is specific to the camera so that the interconnected parts function and operate as normal. The lens mount has the same electrical circuit system as the camera and the lens and serves as a bridge to connect the two, whilst transferring information seamlessly between the two.
Gone are the days when a third-party lens was considered an inferior quality product to a first-party lens. In, certain circumstances, they are a lot cheaper because of the optical glass used when compared to branded camera-manufactured lenses. Who use high-end optical components and defined structural elements. However,; when you compare images taken by both at the same camera and lens settings. This implies no obvious distinguishing differences between the two in any given lighting condition.
Don’t get me wrong. Certain types of third-party Prime and Zoom lenses might lack high-quality, expensive optical glass. And there might be a slight clarity or focusing issue. To be honest, you could probably fix using a software product like Photoshop or Lightroom anyway. In 2004, we didn’t have the technological advancements we have today. So a lot of photographers frowned upon the idea of purchasing a third-party lens. This isn’t the case today. A lot of the third-party lens manufacturers are on par with the brand-name lens and camera manufacturers. But with one major difference. That of the price. Especially for a new photographer with a limited budget. There is a huge difference in cost between the two. In certain cases, we are talking hundreds of pounds or dollars.
It is not a matter of whether one is better than the other. Each merits its specific qualities and individual functions. And each produces great-quality images.
So let's look into the advantages and disadvantages of each to help you decide.
A lens mount adapter may in certain circumstance cancel many of the camera's auto features, they can slow you down and may not be suitable for certain types of photography such as fast paced sports or wildlife photography. They are well suited for landscape and architecture where the photographer doesn't have to rely on autofocus to achieve exposure.
There are two major advantages of purchasing a first-party lens. These are:
1) Quality:- The optical components and structural elements and intrinsic electrical smoothness of information between the lens and camera, can’t be beaten. Compiled with the superior glass used and the dynamics of their construction, they have a head start in the battle for the best lenses.
2) Compatibility:- The lenses are for obvious reasons more compatible because they both come from the same manufacturer. This makes their function and ease of operation more convenient. Like a glove around a hand. The two complement one another. They are easy to attach and disconnect from the body of the camera. If compared with the third-party lenses, you may need a mount and then there may be a few connection and function issues. And certain basic operating functions may become redundant and not work at all. And if they do work, they may be slow and tedious to use. Which could in the long run defile the main reason as to why you purchased the lens in the first place. But saying that, I have three third-party lenses that have no issues, and function and operate perfectly fine under any lighting condition. Third-party lenses have come a long way, and the manufacturers have ironed out most of the major issues over the years. To be honest, you will never have a publisher dismiss an image purely because you took it with a third-party lens. So I wouldn’t worry. There are loads of wedding, landscape, portrait and glamour photographers who use third-party lenses and they make an income by using them.
There are two advantages of purchasing a third-party lens.
1) More third-party lens manufacturers tend to cover lenses that are not covered by the brand name photography companies. So if you need a 24mm f/2.8 or a 42mm f/1.8. You are more than likely to find its focal length is covered by a third-party manufacturer at half the price of a branded lens.
2) Lower prices:- The manufacturers of third-party lenses tend to only produce and manufacture lenses. So whilst the first party has huge advertising campaigns and publicity events. The third part is present but has a more subdued approach to brand awareness. So that they don’t have huge costs associated with brand promotion and advertising awareness. The savings they make are then passed onto the consumer in the form of lower lens prices.
To conclude, a lens irrespective of its manufacturer is dependent on the expertise of the photographer and the camera they use. The lens captures the image information, the camera then interprets this and produces an image, and the photographer's knowledge and experience oversee the whole process so that all three work in conjunction with one another. A lack of a basic understanding in one of these three areas will result in a poor image being captured, processed, and produced.
Katja has recently purchased a new Canon 80d digital SLR camera that came with an 18- 55mm
f/3.5 - 5.6 kit lens.
At her local pub, a group of glamour models have found out about her new purchase. And have asked her to photograph them for a charity topless football calendar.
The calendar is for a local charity associated with a local hospice. To help send terminally ill patients to the USA for a holiday.
Katja knows how important this calendar will be to the girls, and she doesn't want to let them down.
She only has her kit lens and knows how to capture a proper set of images for their calendar. She will require a better lens. One more suited with the capabilities and functions to make the day a success.
She knows that she will need to be in the mix with the glamour models as she photographs them from the sidelines. And the only way she will be able to zoom in and out as they run around and across the field as they kick the football. Will be if she has a "Telephoto to telephoto lens". This type of lens will allow her to capture all the actions of the topless players. As the game heats up.
After reading Glamour-Photography magazine. Katja decides that as she has a Canon camera, the lens must be canon as well. She also knows that she will require a zoom lens so that she can get up close to the models as they play topless football on the field.
Katja isn't too sure what maximum aperture lens to purchase. So she does a bit of research on the internet and decides. That she would need a Maximum aperture, just to cover herself. As the weather hasn't been that great in the UK. And she kind of knows that it is bound to rain or drizzle or just be an overcast day. So she isn't going to take any chances.
She isn't too confident with her new camera, and she doesn't want the added extra worry about lens settings. So she decides on a lens with a constant maximum aperture. So that she can have full control of the settings herself. This will allow her to put all her focus and attention on capturing crystal-clear images of the topless players as they run around the field.
Katja is brand loyal and doesn't know anything about third-party lenses. So she decides to purchase a Canon lens. To get her through the topless calendar day. She knows that she will probably purchase a third-party lens as well in the future. But has no rush to do so immediately.
Katja decides on: Lens mount: Canon
Lens focal length: Telephoto
Lens type: Telephoto to telephoto zoom
Maximum aperture: f/2.8 / Zoom aperture: Constant
First or Third party lens: Canon lens