Canon 24-70 2.8 ii vs. Tamron 24-70 VC Review

With both Canon and Tamron having announced their new Canon 24-70mm lenses many are wondering which lens is right for them.  I had the same question.  All of the searches I came up with had great videos comparing the two for photography but nothing comparing them for video use.  In the end I decided to rent the two and put them to the test. Here is what I came up with:

Build Quality: Canon L series lenses have always been a much better build quality than any of Tamron’s lenses.  This was still the case with these lenses.  That being said, the build quality of the Tamron 24-70 f2.8 VC is much higher than their previous lenses.  It is very well constructed and feels much higher quality than other Tamron lenses that I own.  It still however can not compare to the build quality of the Canon 24-70 f2.8 mark ii.  The Canon lens is a tank.  It is weather sealed (supposedly Tamron’s version is somewhat weather resistant too) and built to last. It is also a very heavy lens.  One thing to note is the focus ring. The Canon 24-70 ii has a very smooth and relatively wide focus ring on the front of the lens.  This is great for using a focus pull.  The Tamron focus ring is located at the back of the lens (closest to the camera) and is very thin.  You can tell it is not contracted nearly as well as the Canon version.  Having it back so far on the lens and so close to the camera makes it much more difficult for using a focus pull system.

Optics: Canon wins this round hands down.  That being said the optics of the Canon lens are not twice as good as Tamron’s.  Like I said before, Tamron has really outdone themselves with this new lens and while the Canon beats it in almost every regard, it doesn’t beat it by that much. Most people and professionals for that matter will not notice a quality difference without sever pixel peeping.  I guess what it comes down to in this category is that if you feel you need the absolute best optics and can afford it then Canon is for you.  If you are on a tight budget or not as concerned with getting that little extra bit of quality (that most people won’t notice) then Tamron is for you.

Image Stabilization: When it comes to video work this was the biggest question mark.  In this category, Tamron wins!  Tamron announced their new lens with VC or vibration control (image stabilization) slightly before Canon announced the much anticipated second version of their lens.  Many people were very discouraged by the fact that Canon had decided not to put IS in their new lens.  This brought people like myself wondering what to do.  Is it worth taking a hit on build quality and optics in order to get the VC in the Tamron lens?  Not to mention it is half the price.  In testing the two here is what I found.

Most of the time when I shoot video, I use equipment that offers some form of stabilization.  When shooting with a jib and glidetrack dolly the VC didn’t serve a huge purpose.  With a glidecam I found that I like to shoot wider than 24mm anyway because I use a Canon 60D which has a crop sensor making it effectively 38mm. I probably wouldn’t use this lens on a glidecam because of that.  I normally use my Tokina 11-16. Update: I have since upgraded to a 5d Mark iii which is a full frame camera.  I have begun using the 24-70 while on a glidecam and like the end result.  I don’t find that image stabilization plays to big a role with a glidecam.  It is more about learning how to use the equipment efficiently in order to get the best shots.

On a shoulder rig I found that footage from either was perfectly usable with or without the image stabilization.  Usually when shooting with a shoulder rig you are looking for a somewhat shaky shot anyway.  The one problem I have found with Image Stabilization is that when using it you have a small window in which you can move in order for the lens to keep it smooth.  If you move too much and go out of that window it oftentimes doesn’t make a smooth transition.  It suddenly jumps from the one spot to another in order to keep stabilizing (I show sample footage of what I mean in the video review).

The last test is doing handheld.  If you find yourself somewhere without any equipment and want to get video how will it look.  The Tamron blows the Canon out of the water in this field. If you think you will need to shoot handheld often then Tamron is really the only way to go.  Shooting handheld with the Canon 24-70 is almost unusable.  This is where I sometimes find myself wanting the Tamron lens.  To help make a living I shoot a lot of stock footage.  Oftentimes I am shooting run and gun with as little equipment as I can.  Occasionally even handheld. I cannot do this with the Canon.  That being said, I still chose the Canon lens in the end and after having it a year I am still glad I went with the Canon.

In the end there are really only two main distinctions between the two lenses that plays a significant role in deciding which one to buy.  Price and image stabilization. Canon’s version is a very pricey lens.  The cost is probably the single largest variable between the two.  Many simply won’t be able to afford or justify the $2300 price tag.  With Tamron coming in at half that price with only minor cuts in quality, it is a very tempting lens.  If you shoot a lot of video chances are you have lots of equipment like I do.  Most of my equipment negates the need to have image stabilization.  Therefore I would recommend the Canon over the Tamron.  However, if you don’t have all the equipment, plan on shooting handheld often or are always shooting run and gun and don’t have the time to set up equipment the the Tamron is probably the lens for you.

I want to make it clear that the Tamron lens is a VERY good lens.  Don’t feel like you would be getting a subpar product by going with them.  All it really means is that you are not spending an exorbitant amount of money to slightly bump up the quality to something exceptional (minus the lack of image stabilization).  I hope this Canon 24-70 2.8 ii vs. Tamron 24-70 VC Review helps.  Feel free to comment and ask any further questions you may have.  I usually get back quickly.

Ethics Statement: I have not been paid by either company to promote or review their products.  This review is done entirely out of my own pocket and on my own time. 

2 thoughts on “Canon 24-70 2.8 ii vs. Tamron 24-70 VC Review

  1. Hi Sir,
    Thanks a lot for your test, it’s very helpfull.
    I ‘m a videomaker using Canon C100 mkII and I have a wonderfull 16-35 f/4 / 70-200 f/4/ 24-105 f/4 tokina 11-16 f/2.8 also some prime lenses. But I still need a 24-70mm for some theater and catwalk shooting.
    I like to ask you how il the zoom ring works well on video for the tamron 24-70 ? Is it smooth when you turn the ring or is it hard and triky like the canon 24-105 f/4 ?
    Thanks a lot and best regards from Switzerland !
    Georges

    • Georges,

      I am glad you found the review helpful. The focus ring on the Canon 24-70 is incredibly smooth. The Tamron version is decent but no where near as smooth and well built as the Canon focus ring. I have found that to always be a problem with the few Tamron lenses I have owned. That being said, it was better built than most of the other Tamron focus rings. Hope that helps.
      Jake

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