When outfitting your digital SLR camera with a lens, it’s almost always worth it to go with a name brand lens. While there are a number of third-party lens that can fit your Canon, Nikon or Sony DSLR, you’ll usually get better performance, better warranties and better overall value by sticking with lenses that are made by the same manufacturer as your camera. With that in mind, here’s my top picks for the best SLR lens for each brand.
Best Canon SLR Lens – Canon EF-S 17-85mm f4-5.6 IS USM
Yes, the Canon EF-S 17-85mm f4-5.6 IS USM SLR lens is expensive. It costs in the ballpark of $499 to $599.99, but the critics and users say it’s worth it. This is designed for Canon 40D and Canon 50D DSLR bodies. It’s a 5x zoom and performs very well in terms of image quality, veiling glare index, macro performance and geometric distortion.
Although it does zoom between 17 and 85mm, some users have reported that it performs best on the long end, at least above 24mm.
Best Nikon SLR Lens - Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 G VR
At about $199, the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 G VR is an excellent buy. This is only a 3x zoom lens, but it’s lightweight, versatile and has the same highly acclaimed image stabilization that all Nikon SLR lenses have. This lens is designed for the Nikon D40 and Nikon D5000. If you buy a brand new Nikon D5000, this lens comes packaged with it. If you want a little bit more zoom, consider the 18-105mm lens—but be prepared to pay up to $400 for it.
Best Sony SLR Len - Sony SAL-1870 18-70mm f3.5-5.6 DT
The SLR lens that comes with your Sony DSLR package will likely be a 18-55mm zoom lens. This Sony SAL-1870 18-70mm f3.5-5.6 DT is a reasonable upgrade, and at just $200, it might just be worth it to you. It’s very good in terms of image quality, ease of use, macro performance, veiling glare index and geometric distortion. The only place where it could see some improvement is in the reflexes with lens flare department. But compared to third-party lenses, the Sony SAL-1870 18-70mm f3.5-5.6 DT is still quite good.
Third Party Alternatives?
I know I recommended going first party up in the intro, but if you are a true believer in third party lenses and can’t bear the thought of paying a premium for a brand name, here are some decent alternatives:
The Sigma 18-200mm f3 5-6.3 DC lens is an excellent superzoom lens that only costs $300. This fits Canon, Nikon and Sony SLRs and provides a very good 11x optical zoom range.
Tamron is also a good third-party brand. The $300 Tamron AF 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 Di II LD Aspherical (IF) Macro lens fits all the camera brands mentioned above.