Canon 70-300 L or Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD for safari?

Started Jun 21, 2017 | Discussions
Graham Meale
Graham Meale Veteran Member • Posts: 3,312
Canon 70-300 L or Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD for safari?

A few years ago when Tamron released their 150-600, I got all excited and ordered one. I had to wait almost a year for it. When I got it, I realised it was probably a silly impulse buy and that I'd probably rarely use it. And a couple of years on, I haven't.

Later this year I'm taking my 5D IV to Africa and doing a few safaris. It would only be a small exaggeration to say that the reason for my trip is to finally give myself a reason to use the big zoom.

But it's a big, cumbersome thing. I feel much more at home with my Canon 70-300 L, which has given me some great shots on African trips in the past.

So I thought I'd give the two lenses a direct comparison test to help me decide. I shot four scenes hand-held, each at 300 mm with the Canon, at 300 mm with the Tamron and at 600 mm with the Tamron. I took just one shot with the Canon, but three each time with the two focal lengths on the Tamron and each time picked the sharpest. All shots were at f/8, the Canon at ISO 100 and the Tamron at ISO 400, which enabled the shutter speed to increase to around 1/500. Image stabilisers were on. I processed them all exactly the same and compared.

Here are the results. In each example is a thumbnail of the whole scene (@ 300 mm on the Canon), then a detail of each one, left to right 300 mm Canon, 300 mm Tamron and 600 mm Tamron. (Blow them up to examine finer detail.)

The Tamrons are over-exposed, but fixable in processing (I didn't do this, as I wanted to process all shots the same).

And my conclusion? I like the Canon. It's more comfortable, more manageable, and more reliable. The Tamron may benefit from a tripod, but as most of my shots will be from safari vehicles, this is not really an option. If I take the Tamron, I'll need to get a new bag for my gear, whereas I'm used to my 5D IV and three lenses fitting nicely in a small Lowepro shoulder bag. Obviously cropping a shot at 300 mm gives me less resolution than a shot at 600 mm, but c'est la vie.

Looks like the Canon wins.

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noggin2k1
noggin2k1 Senior Member • Posts: 2,736
Re: Canon 70-300 L or Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD for safari?

Interesting test.

Just a thought, have you tried under exposing on the Tamron by a stop or two? Thought being, a) you won't have to sort it in post, and b), it'll give you a faster shutter speed to play with..

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Graham Meale
OP Graham Meale Veteran Member • Posts: 3,312
Re: Canon 70-300 L or Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD for safari?

noggin2k1 wrote:

Interesting test.

Just a thought, have you tried under exposing on the Tamron by a stop or two? Thought being, a) you won't have to sort it in post, and b), it'll give you a faster shutter speed to play with..

Yes, in the (unlikely) event that I choose the Tammy, I shall explore why it's over-exposing and compensate accordingly.

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noggin2k1
noggin2k1 Senior Member • Posts: 2,736
Re: Canon 70-300 L or Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD for safari?

I can see why you're not opting for the Tamron though!

It's really strange, and I'm sure there's a technical explanation to it - but whilst the Tamron looks sharper, theres so much more detail in the cropped Canon..

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hfjacinto
hfjacinto Contributing Member • Posts: 789
Re: Canon 70-300 L or Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD for safari?

I have both and while I use the 70-300 more there are times you need 600MM and in that front the Tamron wines.

I will say I never saw the over exposure issue you had. What I do find is that times seeing affects the Tammy but thats expected at 600MM.

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Chris B. Contributing Member • Posts: 619
Re: Canon 70-300 L or Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD for safari?
3

I think that you'll need the extended focal length on safari, especially since you are shooting with full-frame. The 70-300L, while a wonderful lens, is just a tad too short...

My suggestion would be to sell the Tamron, and pickup a copy of Canon's version 2, 100-400. The lens is critically sharp, and a big plus is it's ability to use a 1.4x converter with virtually zero loss in IQ. Yes, it's expensive but you might be able to pickup one up on the Canon eStore  Refurbished page.

Chris

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Dave
Dave Veteran Member • Posts: 5,630
Re: Canon 70-300 L or Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD for Safari?

I like my 70-300L, which I got after going on safari (with an SX40 "superzoom" - for shame!) and would probably take it knowing it would be short for some scenarios. My son rented a 100-400 and loved it. The 100-400 II (which he now owns) would only be better.

Fatigue from weight is less of an issue on long drives in vehicles where support is available (bean bags or various clamps/braces when a tripod or monopod isn't practical) than it is when out on foot. I agree that confidence matters, and you clearly have more of it in your Canon lens.

Have a great time.  Where are you going?

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Occams Razor Senior Member • Posts: 1,108
Re: Canon 70-300 L or Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD for safari?

I went on 3 safaris about 18 months ago in Botswana.  I found a great deal on the Tammy at the time and purchased it for the trip.  I was a little concerned with the lens performance prior to the safari as I didn't have much time to play with it.  The lens performed admirably with my 5DMK3 and I was impressed with the focus speed for birds in flight.  I actually also purchased a 7DII for the trip and sold it immediately after the trip. I used the Tammy with both bodies  Although the safari jeeps will try to take you as close as possible to the animals there were many times where I wanted the reach of 600mm.  No exposure problems with the 150 - 600.

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Randy

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justlikeit Regular Member • Posts: 126
Re: Canon 70-300 L or Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD for safari?

It is clear that canon has better color and contrast. Tammy looks like a low-level glass.

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gavin
gavin Veteran Member • Posts: 7,952
Re: Canon 70-300 L or Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD for safari?

Seems like you need as much length as you can get on a safari. I would figure out why the Tamron is working weird.

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Dave
Dave Veteran Member • Posts: 5,630
Re: Canon 70-300 L or Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD for safari?

gavin wrote:

Seems like you need as much length as you can get on a safari. I would figure out why the Tamron is working weird.

Agree with the figure out part.  Length can be a blessing or a curse.  With a 150-600mm mounted and no second body, a photographer can be handcuffed.

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Graham Meale
OP Graham Meale Veteran Member • Posts: 3,312
Re: Canon 70-300 L or Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD for safari?

Thank you all for your input.

I should point out that the Canon shots were a little under-exposed, and I compensated for this in processing, then, as I said, used the same settings for the Tammy, so the Tammy didn't over-expose by as much as appears. Still, it's surprising that there's an exposure difference between the lenses.

If I decide to take the Tamron over the Canon, I'll probably also take my 5D III with Canon's  24-105 L so that if any game comes close to our vehicle, I'll be ready. I usually take the 5D III as a backup body anyway.

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Graham Meale
OP Graham Meale Veteran Member • Posts: 3,312
Re: Canon 70-300 L or Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD for Safari?
1

Dave wrote:

Have a great time. Where are you going?

South Africa, with several wildlife parks including Kruger.

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poppyjk
poppyjk Contributing Member • Posts: 942
Africa 2012 with 5D3 and 70-300L and 24-105L

Here is a link to some Africa photos taken in 2012. About 95% of game drive pics are with the 5D3 and 70-300L and 90% of camp/lodging/travel pics with 5D3 and 24-105L. https://jmkeairnes.smugmug.com/Africa-Best-July-2012/

There are a few pics with a Canon S95 which I kept in my pocket for hasty up close pics. Also a few pics (one series of a cheetah chase/kill) with a 7D and 100-400L v1.

I had tested the 7D w/ 100-400L v1 vs the 5D3 w/ 70-300L at home before the trip and saw that the later combo easily outperformed the former by about the same difference that I can observe in your 70-300L vs 150-600 comparison. I could not quite believe my results and so I tried the 7D w/100-400L v1(obviously a mediocre copy) several times the first two days in Africa and was so disappointed vs the 5D3 w/ 70-300L that I never picked it up again for the rest of the trip. Sure, I missed a few really long shots but was happy to have the 70mm focal length a number of times for shots I would have missed with a 150mm minimum focal length.

You may have higher expectations/standards than I do, but I was satisfied with even the post processed 100% crops from the 5D3 w/70-300L. Your 5D4 will obviously be better.

2012 was before the Tamron/Sigma 150-600 and Canon 100-400 v2 zooms and the new generations of cameras. I would love a redo on that trip with my current 5DsR w/ 24-70 f2.8L and 100-400L v2. And my Sony RX-100 in my pocket. Maybe the 24-70 on the 5D3 and 100-400 on the 5DsR.

I suggest some more meticulous lens comparisons in order to make your choice. Maybe a trip to a zoo would help; wish I had. No substitute for real animal eyes, fur, and feathers to evaluate detail, micro contrast, and color as well as focus speed and accuracy.

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Andy01 Senior Member • Posts: 4,287
Re: Africa 2012 with 5D3 and 70-300L and 24-105L
1

I spent time in Hluhluwe and Kruger last year this time with my old 100-400L (original - I have since bought the Mk ii), and got some great pics.

I would say that a lot of the time you will find the 300mm is too short - I was OFTEN at 400mm, and then some cropping. I also had my M3 with 18-55mm kit lens as a wider angle backup, which worked well for closer animals. Given that I was using a 70D my 100-400L was equivalent to a 160-640 on FF. I think you will find the 300mm too short and would be doing some serious cropping.

I agree that the 70-300L blows away the 150-600mm based on pics above, and the 100-400L ii is better again. I would seriously consider a rental if you can get it - failing that stick with the 70-300L, but be prepared to crop.

My other lens for the 70D was a 24-105L but it was mostly on my daughter's M3 with an adapter as it was a big improvement over her 18-55mm kit lens. She got some really nice shots of closer wildlife, but obviously no good for the more distant animals.

Would be 320mm on FF

Colin

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hfjacinto
hfjacinto Contributing Member • Posts: 789
Tamron 150-600

I think the Tamron is pretty good.

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Dave
Dave Veteran Member • Posts: 5,630
Re: Africa 2012 with 5D3 and 70-300L and 24-105L

Andy01 wrote:

I spent time in Hluhluwe and Kruger last year this time with my old 100-400L (original - I have since bought the Mk ii), and got some great pics.

I would say that a lot of the time you will find the 300mm is too short - I was OFTEN at 400mm, and then some cropping. I also had my M3 with 18-55mm kit lens as a wider angle backup, which worked well for closer animals. Given that I was using a 70D my 100-400L was equivalent to a 160-640 on FF. I think you will find the 300mm too short and would be doing some serious cropping.

I agree that the 70-300L blows away the 150-600mm based on pics above, and the 100-400L ii is better again. I would seriously consider a rental if you can get it - failing that stick with the 70-300L, but be prepared to crop.

My other lens for the 70D was a 24-105L but it was mostly on my daughter's M3 with an adapter as it was a big improvement over her 18-55mm kit lens. She got some really nice shots of closer wildlife, but obviously no good for the more distant animals.

Nice black rhino.  Looks injured.  Hope it survives.

Botswana

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gavin
gavin Veteran Member • Posts: 7,952
Re: Africa 2012 with 5D3 and 70-300L and 24-105L

Nice shot. I like the hippo one the most.

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gavin
gavin Veteran Member • Posts: 7,952
Re: Canon 70-300 L or Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD for safari?
1

Use your cellphone for wide angle

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JM Hoffman
JM Hoffman Regular Member • Posts: 380
Re: Canon 70-300 L or Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD for safari?

hfjacinto wrote:

I have both and while I use the 70-300 more there are times you need 600MM and in that front the Tamron wines.

noggin2k1 wrote:

It's really strange, and I'm sure there's a technical explanation to it - but whilst the Tamron looks sharper, theres so much more detail in the cropped Canon..

Even at 300mm, the Canon may actually be sharper, with more detail than the 600mm of the Tamron. Zoom isn't everything.

For instance, the Canon 100-400mm II has more detail at 400mm than the Tamron at 600mm. In other words, if you crop an image taken at the 400mm end of the Canon down to (roughly) the same view as the Tamron at 600mm, the Canon image will be sharper, even though it's cropped.

I suspect the same may even be true of the Canon 70-300 at 300mm versus the Tamron at 600mm, judging from the results on DXO:

https://www.dxomark.com/Lenses/Tamron/Tamron-SP-150-600mm-F-5-63-Di-VC-USD-Model-A011-Canon-mounted-on-Canon-EOS-5D-Mark-IV---Measurements__1106

https://www.dxomark.com/Lenses/Canon/EF70-300mm-f-4-5.6L-IS-USM-mounted-on-Canon-EOS-5D-Mark-IV---Measurements__1106

By way of further example, the Nikon P900 at 2,000mm --- yes, two-thousand mm ---  still only has as much detail as the Canon 100-400 at 400mm.  (And in fact, I'm surprised it has that much.)

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