Canon vs Tamron 24-70 f/2.8

Lens Comparison: Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8L II vs. Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC

The Comparison: Canon vs Tamron

Canon’s EF 24-70 f/2.8L II USM has been hailed as the sharpest lens of its type, but it has no image-stabilization, and it carries a hefty price tag at $2049. On the other hand, Tamron’s new 24-70 f/2.8 VC USD does have image stabilization, but the company’s optics only occasionally match the standards found in OEM lenses. Both are well built, with weather sealing and fast, quiet focusing motors.

There are only so many resolution charts that I can look at. I was curious how these lenses would compare in actual use, not in the laboratory, so I got both of them and took some test shots to compare them.  The results are presented in the video above, but can be summarized as follows:

  • Both lenses appear to be at their best at the wide angle end of the range. At 24mm, they produce excellent results in the center of the frame at f/2.8, and good results even at the borders. By f/5.6 and beyond, the image quality of both lenses is excellent across the frame.
  • At the 70mm end of the zoom range, the Canon performs well across the frame, even wide open at f/2.8, while the Tamron is significantly softer around the borders. The Tamron’s borders remain softer than the Canon until stopped down to about f/11, but they’re pretty good by about f/8, and for most purposes, are perfectly usable even at f/5.6.

It should be noted, in fact, that the differences between these lenses will not be significant for many people. If you publish your images on the web, for display at 1080p or smaller, no differences will be visible unless you crop the images heavily. After all, even full HD resolution is only 2 megapixels, a 90% reduction in size from the RAW files.  Even mid-sized prints, such as 8x10s, will not show the differences in the lenses in most circumstances.

Examples

Canon and Tamron comparison at 70mm f/2.8
With both lenses at 70mm f/2.8, both lenses are good in the center, but the Canon is a little sharper.
Click to view at 100%

You can download the RAW files from the video comparison images below. These are all in RAW format, so to view them, you’ll need software to render them, like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop CS6. In each case, I’ve bundled the files together in .zip archives for ease of downloading. Please read the information regarding copyright and usage that has been enclosed in each .zip.

Download The Seattle Skyline Example Images

Download the Skyline Examples ( 6 files, 180 MB, .zip)

Download The Riverbed Example Images

Download the Riverbed Examples ( 8 files, 243 MB, .zip)

Download The Tree Example Images

Download the Tree Examples ( 10 files, 350 MB, .zip)

Image Stabilization

After shooting tripod-mounted shots for a couple of days, it seemed only fair to let the Tamron’s VC system do some work, so early one morning, I went up to Camano Island to take some (moderately) low-light test shots. I found that I was able to get satisfactory results at 24mm at shutterspeeds of about 1/8th sec, but only rarely at 1/4 sec, and at 70mm, it was about the same, despite the focal length difference… though sharpness at 1/8th was not as reliable. Either way, I was able to take shots that I would not have bothered attempting with the Canon. Here are a few images from that morning, all taken with the Tamron, hand-held. Some sharpening has been applied, and of course, they’ve been re-sized:

 

I recommend using the “View Full Size” option when checking out these pictures; the resizing in the gallery system introduces quite a bit of blur. All of the images above were shot at f/5.6, with shutterspeeds ranging from 1/8th to 1/200th seconds. Sorry, I’m not making the RAW files of these images available for download.

Vignetting

I didn’t cover vignetting in the video for this lens because there doesn’t appear to be a very significant difference; both lenses display some vignetting at f/2.8, but it tapers off quickly by f/5.6.

In the examples below, both lenses were used to shoot the scene at 24mm, f/2.8 and f/8.  As usual, I did not apply any lens corrections here.

As you can see, both lenses produce some heavy vignetting wide open, but it’s not obvious to me that one is significantly worse than the other. The same was true at the 70mm end of the zoom.

Considerations & Conclusions

Beyond the obvious questions of which lens is sharper, there are a couple of important considerations when deciding whether to choose the Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC USD or the Canon 24-70 f/2.8L II.

  • Landscape photographers (and others for whom sharpness is most important) do not typically shoot at f/2.8, and when stopped down, the differences in image quality are minor at the wide angle end.
  • Those photographers who are most likely to use the image stabilization on the Tamron (such as wedding, event, or travel photographers) are also, I think, the photographers who are less likely to need ultra-sharp borders. If a photographer is focusing on a nearby subject, the edges of the frame frequently contain background this is slightly out of focus anyway.
  • If you shoot hand-held rather than from a tripod, the advantage in sharpness gained from having VC (Image Stabilization) will outweigh the advantage of having what would otherwise be a sharper lens at most common shutterspeeds. Next time, I’ll have to remember to shoot hand held with both lenses in situations with moderate light.
  • If sharpness is critical to the work you do, you shoot from a tripod, and you need to shoot with a large aperture, there’s no question: the Canon 24-70 f/2.8L II is simply better.

If you’ve found this comparison useful, please consider purchasing the lenses though the Amazon links below, or from Adorama Photo. This will help L&M create more (and better) comparisons in the future.

Editor-in-Chief

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Wes
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Wes

I see that this review is from 2013. Is this still the newest model?

Mally
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Would have loved to see some portrait comparisons.

Michael Bennati
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Michael Bennati

Hi Matthew
Thanks for the in depth review. Great work. I’m trying to decide between the two lenses. You didn’t review the AF speed and accuracy. I read a couple of places that the Tamron has inconsistent AF especially at the wide end. For weddings and as a general work horse how would you rate the AF speed and consistency between the two. For weddings which one would you recommend?
Thanks in advance.

jim
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jim

Very helpful for a fairly new person to the craft.

MedicineMan4040
Guest

I chose the Tamron just to have something in that focal range for the 6D….rarely used, in fact the lens sat idle for 9 months until I added an A7Rii and a Metabones adapter. I was glad to see fantastic focus speed on the Sony with this adapted lens. The FE 16-35 is used more but it’s still good to have 24-70 covered.

Ahmad
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Ahmad

As much as I liked the Tamron, my copy went back after one weekend…the QC is real shoddy at Tamron.

I could live with the slower AF of the Tamron, if only it had any consistency…it had a weird tendency of nailing focus sometimes, and being completely off even when shooting the same target multiple times in succession…for example, at 70mm it would nail focus dead-on, every time. At 24mm, I shot a target (a printed journal paper with varying text sizes, laser-printed), spun the focus ring, focused again and snapped. One picture was OK, one was substantially front-focused…and I only ever use the centre focus point.

And in general, at 24mm my copy was all over the place.

I shoot with a 50D, and both my 24-105 f/4L and 70-200 f/2.8 Mk II nail focus every single time.

Fotograf Brasov
Guest

The Canon is much, much better. I have tested both and 2.8 L II it’s sharper and super fast focus!I have read many reviews, but the final deciosin for my wedding photography business choice was the canon. Yes it’s much expensive – but it’s a sperb pice of glass!

Florin
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Florin

The lenses are Canon and SIGMA. That’s what i saw in the Exif info of the raw files!!!! What is this? Did you really use Tamron or a Sigma? And what’s with the exif info?

pHneutral
Guest
pHneutral

Nice lens! Does anyone know, are there two versions of this Tamron lens? Since I see there is a “model A007”. Is this like a first or second revision?

Mack
Guest
Mack

Hi. Nice review. Friend of mine has got tamron and she has been using it over a year now. She had some problems with battery drain when camera was switched off. But send it to tamron and they fixed it in 3 days.
I was in doubt between tamron and canon mk2. In the end I went for canon. As wedding photographer I do need best autofocus and keeper ratio as possible. Had a go with both lenses on two 5dmk3 at the same time. Frankly have to say that canon outperforms tamron and in 24-70 there is no need for is at all.
My friend put her tamron on eBay….after our test

Wavecrest
Guest

Thank you for a thorough, straight ahead review! Really useful to compare real world results from actual practical applications of a lens – bravo!!

nicola naj oleari
Guest
nicola naj oleari

Hello,very nice review but when i downloaded the images i found that they were all from the Sigma 24 70 and NOT from the Tamron… so maybe you made a little mistake there. Do you think it is possible to have the Tamron images to download ? Thank’s :-)
Nicola

Keith
Guest
Keith

Nice review! Thanks! Really like the low light photos you shared from Camano Island.

Bob Keenan
Guest

Great review. I have the Tamron and the had the Canon I. You have quantified the IQ differences in a way that is really easy to see the difference. I came to the same conclusion as you at to which one to buy. I do think it would have been fun to compare both lenses with Tamron VC on for a 24 and 70 mm shot at 1/8 a second. As you said we all know the outcome of that but it would help drive home the power of IS better than just your words. If only Canon would do this lens with IS…… I would switch back in a flash regardless of cost. But as it is i am very happy with the Tamron.

Stefan
Guest
Stefan

Great review! One thing missing is the distortion topic though..
I am trying to decide whether to replace my 24-105 with the Tamron. Can you tell whether the Tamron’s image quality outperforms the 24-105’s? The later’s distortion at the wide end is not good, it produces a lot of CA and somehow I just can’t ‘fall in love’ with this lens. It seems kinda big and bulky for the images it produces. My 70-200 2.8 IS II is a lot more big and bulky, but the IQ is superb and I don’t mind carry it around. I got the 24-105 as a kit lens with 5d III just 1-2 months ago. However so far I haven’t used this lens outside my house, because I prefer to take the 17-40 + 50 1.4 + maybe 100 2.8L OR 17-40 + 70-200. Any comment on the comparison between the 24-105 and Tamron 24.70 would be much appreciated. Most of the people on the web are comparing it to the Canon’s 24-70 (I, II and the newest f4 IS).

pat d
Guest
pat d

Outstanding review. You really have a way of helping a person make up their mind as to which lens is applicable to their individual needs. Thanks and I look forward to checking out a lot of your other reviews.

Antony
Guest
Antony

Hey Matthew,

Thanks for you hard work. I read through many many reviews and took me weeks to just decide on which one to get. But I finally settled for the Tamron. I have tried the lens, and found it to be very sharp even wide open (I worry most about the tele-end wide open, as I love to take portraits of loved ones)

However, I am still very paranoid and I really want to ask if you think the Canon lens produces more of a punch or “L-glass color” or “contrast” in all apertures (especially wide open) compared to the Tamron? If there was, would the difference be enough to set one photographer’s work to be more superior to another. (as in people can tell the difference)

Thanks again!

Antony

Ronnie Chan
Guest

Nice review,do you have any chance compare the tamron 24-70 F/2.8 with canon 24-70 F/2.8 Version 1?
How significant sharper the new tamron compare to older canon version?

nana
Guest
nana

Hello,
I just bought my Tamron and when I uploaded the photos to the computer the info was Sigma 24-70 is this normal?

Sergei Golikov
Guest
Sergei Golikov

This is how all reviews should be, a hard act to follow, thanks for all your fine efforts!
Based on this, I’ll go for the Tamron, a longtime user of this stable on APS sensors and film over the years.

Chee Hao Lee
Guest
Chee Hao Lee

I love this video very much. I made the decision after watching it. I would go for Tamron as I am going to buy it with my pocket $$ !!!!

Leon
Guest

Awesome review. I’m still trying to decide which one to get.

Marko
Guest
Marko

Nice Review. Im already going Tamron, just purchase on amazon.com from the U.S. and waiting for his arrival at my home here in Paraguay, South America.

Camera store and dealers here in south america doesnt have any Tamron products, may be Tamron doest come this way. I`d already own an Tamron SP 17-50 2.8 MarkI and was a fantastic lens, almost a match of the Canon 17-55 2.8 IS… (where contrast and color where the only diference).

Hope that this A007 of tamron will be that good..

Simon Ng
Guest

Great write up. For the price difference, I am definitely going for the Tamron.

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