Another one of the questions I myself and many other photographers get from students is this one, “Should I only buy Name Brand lenses”, i.e. Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc.
To be honest there are no straight yes or no answer to this question. Some of it is personal preference, some of it is your budget. I am a Canon shooter and I love my Canon gear, but do I only buy Canon lenses? Absolutely not! Why, well for one thing, I have an I.Q. higher than 10 points and another, I am NOT rich!
In the past you would usually hear the old adage you get what you pay for but this is no longer the case. Over the last few years third party lens builders have gotten better and better at putting out quality equipment. Tamron, is in my humble opinion, the King of third party lenses, outside Carl Zeiss, who’s lenses are priced so ridiculously high, for manual only lenses, I will never own one.
I consider Tamron the King of third party lenses because I have personally never had a bad Tamron lens nor read any bad reviews on any of them. I have had Sigma lenses that threw all kinds of weird errors when I tried to use them and the image quality had been really weak on some of them I have used but I have read that lately Sigma is getter really good as well. Just like Canon or Nikon, both builders have their low end lenses and their high end lenses. For Tamron, their high end ones are the SP series, and many photographers compare Tamron’s SP series as being nearly as good if not sometimes better than Canon “L” series glass. Image quality, build quality, all on par or better than Canon’s “L” glass, the catch is, Tamron’s SP lenses cost WAY less money. I shot this below image of the Monarch butterfly with the Canon EF 70-200mm F/4 L USM.
What is the most popular zoom lens in photography? The 70-200mm lens is by far used by more pros than any other zoom lens every made. Why, well it has what is known in the industry as the “sweet” focal lengths. 70-85mm is popular for portraits as is 135mm and having a max of 200mm is good for most all around shooting, sports, events, etc. Now Canon makes four versions of the 70-200mm “L” series lens. There’s the 70-200mm F/4 L with or without IS (Image Stabilizer) and the 70-200mm F/28. with or without IS. These four lenses vary in price from $800-$2,100 for the new F/2.8 IS II. As most people will tell you, if you want the best lens, go with the F/2.8 with or without IS depending on your wallet. The reason is the faster F/2.8 lets in more light so you can use it in lower light shooting, like if you specialize in shooting bands at concerts or bars as those are very low light situations.
Not everyone wants to spend $2,100 for a single lens, enter Tamron. Tamron offers the same 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC (Di means fits full frame as well as crop bodies, VC means Vibration Compensation, same as Canon’s IS) for $999-$1,499 depending on who you buy it from. That is considerable savings for the most popular lens in one of the best apertures. I currently have the Canon 70-200mm F/4 USM but plan to pick up the Tamron 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC as one of my near future purchase.
Hopefully, this article will help you decide where you want to put your money when it comes to lens purchases. Now get out there and make some great images!