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04-15-2018, 10:14 PM   #1

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Buying after market lenses...wise or not ?

I've had many lenses over the years, invariably by the original manufacture of the camera bodies.

In the early '70's, I decided to save a few bucks and bought a new 35mm wide angle and a zoom telephoto...not made by Pentax, but by an after market company who shall remain nameless and to the best of my knowledge are no longer making lenses for cameras.

They were lousy lenses.

I recall I had bought the 35mm F 3.5 X lens new for $ 60 back then. A Takumar 35 mm F 3.5 would of set me back around $ 95,,,new. Every time I used the X lens I regretted not spending the extra $ 35 on a Tak 35/ F 3.5. After that I decided in the future, I would only buy a lens made by the same company that made the body. So it was and in the ensuing years it was only... Takumar, Pentax, Canon, Leitz, Mamiya-Sekor (medium format) , etc...for my wide variety of different makes. I was always happy buying original manufacturer lenses and always received good performance for the money. My experience confirmed my original opinion, buy the make's stuff or don't buy at all.

The old saying...fool me once ...shame on you...fool me twice...shame on me......seemed appropriate.

But then around 2010 I started taking photos of wild birds, wildlife and drag racing cars running down the track at high speed. I had my K10D and Km bodies and although my 55-300mm Pentax lens was pretty good Oliver Twist I wanted.."...more..."

At this point Pentax had the 300mm prime..great lens by all accounts,...but I wanted something significantly bigger and without adding an extender...which I have...think it's a Pentax 2X. Pentax was rumoured to be bringing out a super telephoto...but months dragged on and I started reading fairly good reviews of the Sigma 150-500.

I wrestled on and off about purchasing an after market lens. Finally, going against my decade long personal policy of only buying lenses made by the body manufacturer, I figured...I'll give it a shot.

I ordered one from Sigma, through a local dealer who just happened to be having a Sigma lens sale at the time. Think that was about 5 years or so ago. I've been very happy with quality, image quality, AF...everything except the weight, but then I anticipated that any lens the size of a howitzer would be a weighty beast. No big deal there..pardon my pun.

So yeah there has been a marked increase in quality with after market lenses and I've thought since getting my Sigma ...I wished I had checked after market products out more closely. But you live and learn.

There was that Vivitar 285HV that I had bought years is after market...and it has been an excellent product.

What's your take ?

04-15-2018, 10:41 PM   #2
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Third party lenses (aka after market or non-OEM) have come a long way and were once just less expensive or higher featured, lower quality alternatives to OEM. But when OEM moved production to China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, etc, and Sigma stayed in Japan, Sigma decided to become a premium brand, quality, price alternative.

Today, the quality of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, etc. made non-OEM lenses has narrowed the gap from what it once was. I do believe, however, that less expensive non-OEM lenses tend to have a greater sample variation with Zeiss and Sigma as the exceptions (price and quality variation).

For flash units, Iʻve migrated from Vivitar to Sunpak to Metz. OEM flash units usually have the most bells and whistles, but have been no more reliable than after market brands in my experience.
04-15-2018, 11:28 PM   #3
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I think it's not about brands, it's about the quality of the single lens.
I love a couple of my Soligor's
As a general rule, back in single-coated Takumar's time, third party wide angles and zooms weren't that great (with few exceptions)


04-16-2018, 12:23 AM   #4
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Now a days one can rent the lens and use it before deciding to buy, including the original brand lenses. For the matter of fact, except pros, most of us who have day jobs can rent the expensive lenses for the occasion and live by owning very few, may be one or two. The quality of lenses of third party providers have increased a lot but they might lose value rapidly i guess.

04-16-2018, 02:46 AM   #5
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For years it did make sense to stay with lenses from the camera brand, but nowadays many great lenses, and most cost effective too, come from 3rd party lens manufacturers.

Do your research and go from there. I certainly wouldn’t limit myself to camera brand only lenses nowadays.
04-16-2018, 03:33 AM   #6

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Some of my favourite lenses are 3rd party. I suppose that, with readily accessible online reviews and testing exposing flaws for everyone to see before they buy, it is less possible to drop substandard products on the market and hope for the best. There are some very good quality lenses out there, and some less-so but more affordable ones too...and you can find out which is which with a few clicks, no need to buy-and-pray.

If you limit yourself to only Pentax brand lenses, I'm afraid you will be rather restricted in your options if you want to buy new with warranty. When it comes to ultra-wide, you're out of luck (for now). When it comes to creative lenses like tilt-shifts and creative apertures, nothing available. When it comes to 'straight' zooms and primes in the wide to tele range you're pretty good, though.
04-16-2018, 05:24 AM - 1 Like   #7
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Even in the "old" days (you rightfully mention the Vivitar 285HV) there were excellent aftermarket, or third-party, lenses. The fist Vivitar series 1 lenses were, in many regards, better than the equivalent from OEM. The 70-210 is still sought after to this day.

Fast forward to now. Sigma and Tamron are the two main players in the third-party market. And they all make lenses that can be just as good as OEM. Or good enough, but cheaper, etc. I would say get the lens you want, and don't worry overly about who made it, as long as it's a serious company.

That being said, Sigma and Tamron seem to work on making big, fast lenses which test well but which might lack character. I'd pick a Pentax prime before a Sigma equivalent because of that.
04-16-2018, 06:36 AM   #8
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As you mentioned, it's not only a question of quality. Third party makers are selling lenses that some OEM manufacturers don't have. Like my Sigma 30 1.4 - not only a great lens (IMHO), but the only fast f/1.4 normal lens for APS-C bodies. And it's a similar story with your Sigma tele, Pentax just didn't have anything close to it until the DFA 150-450mm.

04-16-2018, 06:47 AM   #9
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+1 on all the comments above. Whether a third-party lens is good vs bad, mechanically and optically, depends on which lens from which manufacturer and when it was made. Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, Zeiss, and Voitlander all have made and offer at the present time lenses for K-mount that are not just good, they are outstanding. What is sad is that the number of K-mount lenses still being made by these manufacturers has declined as Pentax cameras have declined in popularity V-A-V CaNikon.
04-16-2018, 07:29 AM   #10
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I don't have many lenses; but out of the 7 I do have; only one is Pentax. I'm very happy with the non-Pentax lenses, and the prices make it possible for me to have a variety that I could not afford in Pentax.
04-16-2018, 08:16 AM   #11

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QuoteOriginally posted by bdery Quote
That being said, Sigma and Tamron seem to work on making big, fast lenses which test well but which might lack character. I'd pick a Pentax prime before a Sigma equivalent because of that.
I wouldn't lump in Tamron with Sigma on that count. Tamron's new SP primes are all "only" f/1.8 and smaller for it (though still no Limiteds), and the new 28-75/2.8 they announced for Sony E is also nicely compact compared to the competition.

(One of the reasons I got Tamron's A09 -- i.e. the DSLR 28-75/2.8 -- is because it was fairly light and took only 67mm filters, which couldn't be said about any of the other modern lenses in that range. Of course, I then discovered that its frame edges were too smeared (even when OOF) for my liking...)
04-16-2018, 08:29 AM   #12

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I've seen some good lenses produced by non-Pentax makers, usually these are with known manufactures such as Sigma, Tamron, and Vivitar (which no longer exists), so the answer to your question is "it depends". You can certainly find some great lenses from other makers, but you may need to research first to make sure you're not buying a "lemon". By reading this forum and others, you'll find good lenses pretty much make their way into threads and get recommendations, which you can take into account before buying. Just take a look at the comments you've already gotten - great info.

If you run into any difficult decisions, just ask here in the forum and you'll get more than enough advice on any given potential lens buy - lots of experience out there.
04-16-2018, 10:23 AM   #13
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These days ptoducts from third party manufacturers are interesting not just in terms of price. Few considerations:
- some products do not exist in the OEM lineup . Look at SIgma 1.8 zooms (18-35;50-100) or Tokina 14-20 for DX that are good products .
- some lenses are just better than equivalent OEM ones , some are just as good but ata a lower cost.
. some non OEM lenses can fill the gap in the OEM lineup (think of Samyang with TS 24 mm lense for Pentax).

But.... with third party manufacturers you potentially have no future compatibility with new cameras, My old 70-200 ex dg do not focus in LV with Nikon mount (any camera newer than d300). Also you loose the in camera features for jpeg shooting (distortion and vignetting compensation, etc).

So my point is to take some risk and enjoy the lenses from non OEM manufacturers, especially those lenses that aren't in the OEM lineup.

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