The eight best DSLR lenses you can buy from third-party manufacturers
Looking for a new lens for your DSLR but not sure what to get? Our round-up reveals the best buys
Best DSLR lenses: Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD
With the kit zooms sold with most DSLRs starting at a less-than-inspiring 18mm, a wideangle zoom becomes a particularly useful addition for photographers shooting subjects such as architecture and landscapes. This 10-24mm zoom is a rare example of the type to feature optical image stabilisation, allowing handheld shooting at much slower shutter speeds than would otherwise be possible. It also sports moisture-resistant construction, which should be welcomed by photographers who shoot in the great outdoors. Optically, it’s pretty decent too, although you’ll get best results shooting in raw and removing chromatic aberration and distortion in post-processing. The understated design conforms to Tamron’s most recent lens releases and it features a new high/low torque modulated drive motor for fast autofocus.
Best DSLR lenses: Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
If you’re after one of the nest 50mm lenses, look no further. This sensational optic isn’t the smallest or lightest example, but it puts in a sublime image quality performance. Ideally suited for both stills and video use, it employs employs Sigma’s hyper sonic Motor (HSM) system to achieve fast, silent AF and special low Dispersion (SLD) glass to ensure the best level of sharpness. Out-of-focus highlights are beautifully rendered at the maximum aperture and it is constructed to the highest order as we’ve come to expect from sigma’s premium Art line. It handles best with DSLRs that feature a large grip, such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and Nikon D850, but also produces impressive results with APS-C DSLRs, with which it’s equivalent to 75mm on Nikon cameras and 80mm on Canon models. It’s a lens that is worth every penny.
Best DSLR lenses: Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary
This lens is designed to appeal to aspiring enthusiasts who might be looking to buy their first serious telephoto lens. With optical image stabilisation, a nine-bladed diaphragm, large rubberised zoom ring and zoom lock that engages at 100mm, it comes with all the features you should look for from a high-quality tele zoom. The only build and handling issues that may concern some is that it’s not weather sealed and doesn’t offer a tripod collar or 1/4in thread to add extra support. The lens and lens hood are designed in such a way it supports push/pull operation and its ‘sweet spot’ is found around f/8. For those who’d like a lightweight zoom capable of a strong optical performance covering a good telephoto range, this is one of the nest examples for under £800.
Best DSLR lenses: Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art
This sigma ‘DC’ zoom is optimised for DSLRs with APS-C sensors and covers three popular focal lengths (85mm, 105mm and 135mm equivalent) in one, while offering a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture throughout. It’s an attractive option for those who’d like to lighten their load; however, without optical image stabilisation you will be required to support the lens steadily in the palm of your hand or mount it to a tripod or monopod to prevent shake. It’s a lens that delivers stunning images right across its zoom range, but be aware that it can make smaller APS-C models feel rather front heavy. This lens complements the also excellent 18-35mm f/1.8 in sigma’s range of APS-C format zooms. It comes very highly recommended.
Best DSLR Lenses: Tamron SP AF 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical [IF]
While many photographers upgrade the kit lens that came with their cameras to something providing a longer zoom range, others prefer to opt for a large-aperture lens with premium optics. Tamron’s 17-50mm f/2.8 is a fine example of this type, and the addition of optical image stabilisation to this version adds an extra level of versatility for Canon and Nikon users (an older unstabilised model is also available for most DSLR mounts). The lens offers quick AF, with the main drawback of its eight-year-old design being that the manual-focus ring rotates at the same time. Sigma’s similar 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM is also worth a look.
Best DSLR Lenses: Tamron 60mm f/2 Di II Macro
If you’re after a relatively inexpensive macro lens for your APS-C DSLR, the Tamron 60mm f/2 Di II LD (IF) is a recommended third-party option. Capable of a 1:1 reproduction ratio, it features excellent ergonomics, an internal focusing system and focus distance window. It should be noted that the AF system isn’t the fastest or the quietest in use, but it produces excellent results when it’s stopped down to f/2.8 and controls chromatic aberration admirably. As well as being a useful macro lens, it’s a prime contender for portrait photography as it will give the same perspective as a 90mm lens on a full-frame camera. If you are in the market for a genuine macro lens and you’re working to a strict budget, you won’t come across any better for the money.
Best DSLR Lenses: Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
Long-range ‘superzoom’ optics are extremely popular, as they let you shoot a wide variety of subjects without having to change lenses. But in general, they’ve tended to be quite expensive, which is what makes this Tamron lens so appealing. For £100 less than its nearest rival, and indeed less than many telephoto zooms, it gives a very handy 28-300mm equivalent range. Like all superzoom lenses, it’s optically compromised, and is much less sharp at telephoto than wideangle. But it’s not obviously worse than much more expensive alternatives, meaning that as an all-in-one lens it represents unparalleled value. The Di-II lettering tells us that this lens is designed for DSLRs with APS-C size sensors and the ‘VC’ abbreviation reveals that it includes vibration compensation. For added dependability and longer life, it features a moisture-resistant construction that helps prevent damage caused by accidental exposure to rain. It offers good value for the price.
Best DSLR Lenses: Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD
During the past few years, we’ve seen some real innovation from third-party lens manufacturers, and Tamron’s latest line of SP (‘Special Performance’) primes is a case in point. Unusually, they combine a relatively fast f/1.8 maximum aperture with optical stabilisation, and manage to do so at prices enthusiast photographers can contemplate. This 85mm is a real gem, capable of providing the dreamily beautiful images that are the hallmark of a top-notch portrait lens on both full-frame and APS-C format cameras. Canon, Nikon and Sony-mount versions are available.