Canon 70-200f4L IS vs Tamron 70-300 Di VC SP

Started Nov 26, 2010 | Discussions thread
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Thomas Kachadurian
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Canon 70-200f4L IS vs Tamron 70-300 Di VC SP
Nov 26, 2010

Earlier this year I sold my 100-400L because I rarely used it. My 70-200f4L IS is my go to lens now for most long work. When I heard about the 70-300L (the new one) I was planing to buy one and even have the cash stashed away. It would be almost exclusively my travel lens. I would take it rather than the 70-200L for the shorter length.

I was not excited about traveling with a big white lens, but I've done it before. Then, here on DPR I read about the Tamron 70-300 Di VC and checked it out. First, it's black, which I liked. I also like the fact that it's their new best lens, which I read as they put their best efforts into this lens. Lastly, here in the USA it's $400 with a 6 year Warranty.

So I bought one. It's a nice sized lens, well built and I really like that the hood is only as big as it needs to be to provide maximum protection, not and extra 20mm in diameter just to look cool like canon hoods.

Since it is only for travel I'm willing to accept a bit of compromise imagewise, but it turns out that isn't the case.

Since I had a day off I decided to do some testing. (NOTE: I hate people who rate lenses based on pixel peeping tests, but it's a grey 20ºf day so there's no reason to shoot outside).

Method: I used test charts I printed from the interenet, they aren't perfect, but they did enough to make fair comparisons. The camera was a 5DII. Tripod used, 10 second Self-timer with mirror lock-up. Raw. Stabilization off. The targets were at 15 feet. I made exposures at f4 - f11. I never shoot smaller than f11 so I didn't go there.

Before I get to the results, this preface. My 70-200f4L is a great lens. IT meets my needs for sharpness in every shooting situation I've ever used it for. If there are better lenses out theree, I don't care because in the ways I shoot the 70-200L is perfect. The point wasn't to evaluate the 70-200L, but to see if the Tamron was close.


70mm: From f4 to f8, the Tamron is marginally sharper than the Canon. At f11 they are equal. I was surprised to see this because I have never had an imge from the 70-200L that wasn't great. The Tamron has bit more light fall-off in the corners. I'm a guy who likes the slightly darkened corners but I know some will be put off.

135mm: From f4 to f8 the Canon is clearly sharper than the Tamron. The Tamron isn't soft but has a bit less snap (contrast), but the Canon is in it's sweet spot at 135 and I don't think anything will ever beat it. At f11 they are once again equal.

200mm: Wide open, f4 for Canon and f5 for Tamron, the Tamron is far superior. I was surprised by this. They are closer by f8, but the Tamron is still sharper. Even at f11 the Canon never catches up. The thing I really noticed is that the Canon has much worse corner CA than the Tamron at all apertures @ 200mm. Again I want to point out that I have never felt the 70-200 has a CA problem, just that the Tamron has less. I know people will try to slay me for this one, so the 100% crop follows:

300mm: Obviously the Canon lens doesn't go to 300mm. The results at 300 however were still very good for the Tamron. Interestingly, at it's maximum extension, the Tamron has the same level of CA in the corners as the Canon 70-200L at it's maximum extension, 200mm.

I am not going to take the time to post the 50 or more photos it took to come to these conclusions, but here's the executive summary:

The Tamron 70-300 Di VC SP is a great lens. At $800 it would be a reasonable purchase. At $400 it's the best thing out there.

Perhaps the 70-300L will be better, I've heard some reports that it does best the 70-200f4L, but I don't care. The Canon 70-200f4L IS is my threshold for quality and the Tamron 70-300 is very, very close.



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