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Example: I wish to purchase a lens with the fixed maximum aperture of f/2, and some other features.

If I get the exactly same specifications in Tamron and Nikon, on what basis should I decide which one to go for (assuming there is a price difference)?

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If this needs to be a separate question for lens. bodies, and tripods, tell me and I'll edit. –  TheIndependentAquarius Dec 21 '11 at 4:25
    
Not sure, but I think I'd break it into separate questions. –  MikeW Dec 21 '11 at 5:04
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Related question here photo.stackexchange.com/questions/4303/… –  MikeW Dec 21 '11 at 5:06
    
@MikeW Thanks will see that question. –  TheIndependentAquarius Dec 21 '11 at 5:08
    
you get what you pay for: Nikon quality or Tamron lack of same. Or to qualify somewhat: A Volkswagen and a Lada may have very similar base specifications depending on model, which would you rather use? –  jwenting Dec 21 '11 at 6:06
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1 Answer

up vote 4 down vote accepted

For lenses:

  • overall build quality and durability (how long the lens will last)
  • smoothness of zoom and focus, zoom creep
  • materials - metal or plastic barrel and mount, glass or plastic lens elements
  • optics
    • number and design of elements (two similar lenses may have a different number and configuration of elements and this may affect the performance of the lens)
    • lens coatings to eliminate flare
    • distortion, chromatic aberration, vignetting (darkening of the corners)
    • contrast and sharpness throughout the range of apertures, both centre and in corners
    • bokeh (subjective quality of blurred areas of the image)
  • autofocus speed and accuracy
  • compatibility with current and future camera bodies (3rd party lenses are to some degree reverse-engineered, so no guarantee any and all communication between the lens and body will be equivalent with a 3rd party lens
  • image stabilisation (VR/OS/IS)
  • internal focusing (IF)
  • ability to take filters and filter size (larger diameter = larger, more expensive filters)

There are some very good 3rd party lenses (Tokina 17-50mm, Tamron 90mm macro). Overall 3rd party lenses tend to be less expensive but with lower build quality. I don't think you can generalise - there are some very good Sigma lenses, and some poor ones. You'd need to read reviews and try out these lenses yourself to know which ones are good value.

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What do you mean by build quality? How important is that? You mean if the lens falls down, itt won't break? –  TheIndependentAquarius Dec 21 '11 at 5:06
    
Also, you mean when the max fixed aperture on both the lenses is same, bokeh would still be different? –  TheIndependentAquarius Dec 21 '11 at 5:16
    
What is zoom creep? What is number of elements, coatings to eliminate flare? vignetting How does it effect what? –  TheIndependentAquarius Dec 21 '11 at 5:17
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build quality - better built products will last longer and have fewer problems. Not necessarily more likely to survive a drop, but more likely to last longer without repairs than a cheaper lens. bokeh is a subjective quality issue, some lenses produce more pleasing images. zoom creep is the tendency of a zoom lens to move when the lens is pointing down. Can be irritating to some people. More expensive lenses tend to have coatings that reduce flare and chromatic aberration, which give better contrast in the images. Vignetting is when the light is not even throughout the image –  MikeW Dec 21 '11 at 5:27
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Lenses consist of moving parts (zoom, autofocus, aperture blades). If cheaply made they may wear faster, meaning after a time the auto focus stops working. –  MikeW Dec 21 '11 at 5:31
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