So ladies and gents, I am at a rather tough crossroads, which friggin lens to buy. I never thought I would be making a decision like this, and dear lord do I need some help.
First off, a bit of a forward, feel free to skip to "The Lenses" section, if you don't feel like reading. My most used lens has been my telephoto lens, hands down. I love doing work in nature, and with flowers/plants, and that thing is just so handy for getting close without actually getting close. The bad part is, it is a serious hunk-o-junk. Its the Canon 75-300mm f/4-5.6, and is absolute garbage. The build quality is laughable, the sharpness is non-existent, chromatic aberration and color fringing out the ass, and tons of distortion and vignetting. Ok that might be a rage based review of the thing, but it has seriously ruined so many once in a lifetime shots, that I can't stand to use the damn thing anymore. I just recently got to get some photos of two turkey vultures devouring a dead squirrel, and the photos were utter crap, and 2 out of 200 were decent enough to salvage. I love the focal range, but need something better; in comes the two contenders.
The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM
was always my first choice; I knew for a while I had wanted that, even before I got my T4i. The lens is a decent price, going for between $350 and $500 on sites like Amazon, brand new. Its got good build quality, some nice features including IS, and of course its a Canon lens. For the longest time I vowed never to put any glass but Canon glass in front of my cameras. I was even willing to go with old FD lenses, but no third-party junk. This lens has great quality below 150mm, and still thoroughly trumps the 75-300mm up to the maximum focal length. It is a great midrange telephoto lens, only lacking in popularity I feel because of the very closely priced Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L, I mean its quite hard to compete with an L lens that is just a bit over $100 more expensive. But I shake a bit, and shoot far too often at full 300mm, so that lens was never really a choice. I will eventually get an telephoto L lens, but it will probably be the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L lens.
The Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 SP Di VC USD XLD
came out of left field, and I only gave its Amazon page a look over because of boredom really. But what I found got me thinking twice about discounting third-party lenses. The thing seemed to be very close to the Canon offering in terms of sharpness, aberration, and fringing, losing out just a bit in the low end, and a bit more in the upper zoom range. But it was the Tamron VC that really caught my attention. Video after video I saw people amazed at the sheer awesomesauce that is this things image stabilization. Even shooting as low as 1/10th of a second shutter speed, people were getting good clean shots, even at 300mm. That just blew me away, I have used IS on 3 Canon lenses, and one of those was an L lens I got to play with. I can honestly say those never impressed me much. They helped, and as long as I stayed fairly steady (once again, I shake quite a bit) it would help get me below 1/100th of a second on some lenses. Yes I shake that badly. Today I got to play with it at my local camera store, and even at 1/20th of a second, I was capturing perfectly sharp clear photos, even at 300mm!! That blew me away, and the build of the lens felt solid, and almost as good as the Canon. Add in a window showing current focus length, and full time manual focus, and this things trumps the Canon in features.
So there lies my problem; both are great replacements for that piece of s**t 75-300mm, and while the Canon is of course going to be a great and great looking lens, with 2 mode IS, the Tamron has far more features, and right now sits at $350 with a mail in rebate. But the Canon has also been swinging pretty low on Amazon the past few days, getting really close to that price point as well. I keep going back and forth, and I was hoping to get everyones help in this. Check the link below for the poll for this journal. Also, check below that for some test images I got to do in the very very short amount of time I had at the camera store.
CLICK THIS LINK: [link]
I got a few moments with the two lenses today at my local camera store. I didn't have long, so no time to head outside and setup a good tripod based test, but this really shows the power of the Tamron's VC (Vibration Compensation). Also, while the Canon couldn't stay sharp due to shake, when it did the Tamron seemed to have better contrast, color and even sharpness. These shots are un-edited, with no noise reduction or added sharpness, just what the lenses do themselves.
First up, are both lenses shot at 70mm, the shortest focal length. I was focusing on the box in the center for this shot.
Next up, both lenses at 200mm. I don't know why, but I shot at a different target for the Tamron, I think because I has shot at it for the final images at 300mm with the Canon, but still we can see the detail and quality between the two.
Here we have the best offering from Canon at 300mm which such a slow shutter speed. I didn't want to bump up past 1600, as noise would start to really get in the way, but the VC on the Tamron just smashed the IS on the Canon, providing not one, but 4 out of 6 shots that were in perfect focus and sharpness. Just amazing what that thing pulls off.
So there are the test images; like I said I wish I would have had more time with them to really put them through their paces, but the Tamron just looks so good, and that price point and features, has me leaning towards it. It is amazing when you half press the shutter at 300mm, and the image you see in the viewfinder just goes still. It is mind blowing black magic. The other little features also have me leaning towards it, but I still just can't decide!!