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Do you want to know all about the best camera lens brands in today’s market?
You’ve come to the right place.
Because this article will tell you everything you need to know about the best camera lens manufacturers.
Plus, it’ll help you pick lenses for your own kit.
For each brand, I’ll give you a bit of the relevant history – so that you understand where the brand is coming from, and the type of lenses it produces.
I’ll also talk about the lens mounts each brand uses, so you can be certain that the indicated brand is compatible with your camera.
You see, the way a lens attached to a camera body called lens mount, and every lens is made to attach to a specific camera mount. It’s not possible to attach a Canon EF lens to a Nikon F -mount camera, because EF lenses aren’t made for the Nikon F-mount. And it’s not possible to attach a Sony FE lens to a Canon EF – mount camera, because Sony FE lenses aren’t made for Canon EF – mounts.
(The exception to this is when you place an adapter between the lens and the camera, but these aren’t available for all camera/lens combinations).
OEMs vs Third Party Brands
Note that lens brands can be divided into two basic groups:
Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and third-party brands.
Original equipment manufacturers produce lenses only for their own proprietary lens mounts. So Canon, for instance, produces cameras with specific mounts – and lenses that work on those mounts.
Nikon is the same, as is Sony, Fujifilm, Olympus, and more.
Third-party brands, on the other hand, produce lenses for other lens mounts. And they generally don’t offer many cameras of their own.
So a brand like Sigma will produce some lenses for Canon mounts, some lenses for Nikon mounts, some lenses for Sony mounts, etc. Same with Tamron, Tokina, and more.
These third party manufacturers pay licensing fees each time they want to make a lens for another camera manufacturer. This explains why third party lenses tend to be primes over zooms–because license fees for prime lenses are lower.
Now let’s take a look at the best lens brands in 2020:
Best Camera Lens Brands Today
Below, we’ve listed the top camera brands creating equipment in 2020.
While pretty much all of these brands produce quality lenses of some sort, we’ve ordered the camera manufactuers in terms of popularity, quality, and breadth of lens selection.
So the title of absolute best camera lens manufacturer goes to:
These days, Canon is known as the photography powerhouse, but it wasn’t always that way. Back in 1937 and throughout the 20th century, the market was dominated by companies such as Eastman Kodak.
It wasn’t until recent years that Canon claimed the lens production throne, and the company now offers the largest lens lineup available.
Canon’s current lens options include EF lenses, which work on Canon full frame and APS-C DSLRs, as well as EF-S lenses, which only function on Canon’s APS-C offerings. Some of the EF lenses are dubbed as “L,” or “Luxury,” to indicate superior sharpness, autofocus, and build quality over its other equipment.
And it’s Canon’s “L” lenses that have managed to capture the hearts and minds of professional photographers; Canon’s EF, L-designated lenses are a favorite of sports and wildlife shooters in particular, even as the industry moves in the mirrorless direction.
Note that while Canon is a leader in DSLR lenses, the company hasn’t ignored the shift to mirrorless. The RF-mount lens lineup, built specifically for Canon’s mirrorless bodies, is expanding. And Canon also offers adapters to fit EF and EF-S lenses onto RF-mount cameras.
Related article: Selecting the Right EF-S Lens for Canon
Canon’s growing RF lens lineup is something to keep an eye on over the next few years, as the imaging giant tries to outcompete Sony in the mirrorless arena.
Nikon was founded in 1917 and was a prominent lens producer throughout much of the 20th century. For years, the imaging corporation fought with Canon over the top spot (though Canon maintained a noteworthy lead)–but it wasn’t until the last decade or so that Sony crept into the mix, upsetting Nikon’s position as second in line to the throne.
Related article: Top Rated 50mm Prime Lens for Nikon
While Nikon may not offer quite as impressive a lens selection as Canon, the company is known for its stellar quality lenses. In particular, Nikon’s FX lenses (produced for full-frame DSLRs) and DX lenses (produced for APS-C DSLRs) are consistently top tier.
In terms of mirrorless lens production, Nikon was late to the game compared to companies like Canon and Sony, but has taken major strides in recent years. The Nikon Z-mount lenses may be a game-changer for Nikon fans, and Nikon is working to produce a number of high-quality Z-mount lenses over the next few years.
Out of the big three lens manufacturers, Sony is a relative latecomer. While Sony has been around for the better half of the 20th century, the company wasn’t known for its lens (or camera) production.
But then, in the early 2000s, Sony acquired Konica Minolta–and the first noteworthy Sony cameras were born.
It was from Konica Minolta that Sony acquired the A-mount, which it incorporated into its first DSLRs, and used to create lenses. The A-mount, however, didn’t last long, with Sony moving onto its current E-mount system.
Related article: Lens Selection for Sony Crop Sensor Cameras
Sony E-mount lenses are built for Sony Alpha cameras such as the full-frame A7 series, as well as the APS-C a6000 series.
Note that Sony has several categories of lenses, including FE lenses (for its full-frame mirrorless cameras), and E lenses (for its APS-C mirrorless cameras).
Sony also produces G Master (GM) series lenses, which are designed to offer incredible build quality, impressive resolution, and more–though they do come at a premium.
And Sony creates some lenses in partnership with Zeiss, another leading lens manufacturer (one particularly known for its high-quality lenses).
These days, Fujifilm is a dark horse in the lens manufacturing industry. For years, the company was one of the major players in the camera business, especially in Japan, though Fujifilm successfully expanded into the US in the late 1900s.
Fujifilm doesn’t offer the same number of lens options compared to Canon or Nikon, but the corporation is famous for producing the best lenses for crop sensor cameras. In fact, Fujifilm produces no full-frame cameras, choosing to focus only on APS-C and medium format bodies.
Fujifilm’s APS-C cameras use X-mount lenses, which are designed for mirrorless bodies such as the acclaimed Fujifilm X-T3 and X-T30.
Fujifilm also produces G-mount lenses for its medium format cameras, such as the GFX 50R body.
While you’d be hard-pressed to label Olympus as a ‘dominant force’ in the camera lens manfacturer industry, the company has managed to survive plenty of market upheaval, including the transition from film to digital and the transition from digital to mirrorless.
Back during the DSLR heyday, Olympus and Kodak together developed the Four Thirds system, which used smaller-than-APS-C sensors to produce a brand-new cameras system. This was then expanded (with the help of Panasonic) to become the Micro Four Thirds system, which is used for Olympus and Panasonic lenses.
Note that the small sensor size used in the Micro Four Thirds system allows for smaller lenses. Hence, the company is known for its high quality, durable-yet-compact lens lineup.
In 1918, Panasonic started as an electrics company–but eventually grew into the corporation you see today, with a robust full-frame mirrorless camera lineup, and the co-developer of the Micro Four Thirds system.
In recent years, Panasonic partnered with Leica to create Lumix Leica lenses (designed for its full-frame L-mount mirrorless cameras). But the primary Panasonic mount is the Micro Four Thirds; Panasonic uses this in conjunction with its Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras.
Panasonic tailors many of its lenses to videographers–so if video is something you’re interested in, Panasonic is a good choice.
Leica is one of the oldest lens manufacturers on this list; the company dates all the way back to 1869, and is known for its high quality (but pricey) lenses.
These days, Leica produces L-mount lenses alongside Panasonic, and these can be mounted on Panasonic full-frame mirrorless bodies, as well as Leica’s mirrorless full-frame and APS-C offerings.
While Leica’s history is rich and its lenses are breathtaking (both in terms of optics and aesthetics), its high prices prevent most consumers from adopting the Leica brand.
Carl Zeiss AG is the oldest company on this list, going back to 1846–but while the company has produced cameras in the past, these days it’s known in the camera world as a third-party lens manufacturer.
Related article: How to Choose a Camera Lens
In this, Zeiss is quite prolific, offering dozens of Zeiss cinema lenses, medium format lenses, large format lenses, Sony full-frame lenses, and even ZF and ZE lenses for the Nikon F-mount and Canon EF-mount cameras, respectively.
While Zeiss lenses are recognized for their high-quality optics, they’re also incredibly pricey, making them less popular among consumers.
Sigma is a relatively new lens manufacturer, having been founded in 1961 as a family business. It grew to become the largest independent producer of lenses in the world.
Related articles: Why Are Camera Lenses So Expensive?
Sigma does produce cameras of its own, but its greatest claim to fame is its third-party lens lineups; the company produces Canon EF-mount lenses, Sony A-mount lenses, Sony E-mount lenses, Nikon F-mount lenses, Four Thirds lenses, and Pentax K-mount lenses.
In particular, Sigma is known for its line of ART lenses, which produce stellar images and provide fantastic build quality while offering impressively fast apertures. Note that Sigma recently announced the development of ART L-mount lenses, which can be used on Leica, Panasonic, and Sigma cameras.
While Sigma is the largest third-party lens manufacturer out there, Tamron is one of its main competitors, along with Tokina and Rokinon (below).
Related article: Nifty50 Lens Guide
The Tamron company was originally developed as a camera lens and binocular producer, but it’s most known for its interchangeable lens lineup.
Tamron lenses are generally offered for Canon EF-mount cameras, Nikon F-mount cameras, Sony A-mount cameras, and Pentax K-mount cameras. Though Tamron isn’t known for its build quality, the company is famous for its low-priced and suprisingly high-quality third-party optics.
Tokina is the oldest of the third-party lens manufacturers, having been founded back in 1950 (though it experienced some turbulent early years, and didn’t start creating lenses until the 1960s).
Related article: Understanding Chromatic Aberration
While Tokina’s lens lineup isn’t particularly large, it is versatile, including options for full-frame and APS-C cameras, compatible with Canon, Nikon, and Sony bodies.
12. Samyang / Rokinon
In recent years, Samyang has garnered attention thanks to its high-quality prime lenses, though the Rokinon label is part of Samyang Optics (a relatively new company in the third-party lens industry).
Under the Rokinon name, Samyang has produced autofocus lenses for Sony E-mount cameras, Canon EF-mount cameras, and Nikon F-mount cameras. And Rokinon’s manual focus lenses have been manufactured for Canon RF mounts, Pentax K mounts, Fuji X mounts, Micro Four Thirds mounts, Nikon Z mounts, and more.
Now that you’ve finished this article, you should be familiar with the broader landscape of lens manufacturers.
While the number of good lens brands can be confusing, just remember that Canon, Nikon, and Sony are the big three original equipment manufacturers, followed by Fujifilm, Olympus, and Panasonic.
Finally, Sigma and Tamron are the most well known third-party lens producers, though Tokina and Rokinon are both worth keeping an eye on!