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Q&A Post #1: Is the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II Worth the Extra Money?

Dustin Abbott

September 4th, 2013

Q&A Post #1:  Is the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II Worth the Extra Money (Over the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 VC USD)?

I get gear questions on basically a daily basis from people who have read my reviews or have seen my work and are just curious about gear and/or photography.  I do my best to answer every question as well as I can, but, of course, I do get a fair bit of redundant questions.  I have decided to start a new column here where I answer these questions in a public way so that others can benefit from them as well (or can rant about how poorly informed I am)…

So, here is the first question:

Hello Dustin,

I am currently is search for a standard zoom on FF camera. Have been reading lots of reviews, but cannot  find the topic I am looking for: is it worth to pay for a lens which unprocessed result is 10-20% better than of a lens which costs 1/2 or even 1/3 of the price if all the images are being saved in RAW and postprocessed in LightRoom? Your review seem to mention LightRoom post processing. So I wonder the degree of difference reduction after LightRoom post processing. I am currently torn between Canon 24-70 f/4 IS and Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC. Maybe you could share your thoughts?

Looking forward to your answer soon,

Regards,

Anton

This is an excellent question because it strikes to the heart of the choice that is on the market today.  My opinion is that consumers should celebrate the recent renaissance of Tamron and Sigma.  They have moved out of the budget lens range into providing recent products that compete on merit with Canon and Nikon lenses.  This not only creates more choice for the consumer, it also pushes Canon and Nikon to both improve their new lens offerings and also to price them a little more competitively (a lesson that Canon REALLY needs to learn!)

 

This question can unfortunately best be answered by the individual, because different shooters have different priorities.  I chose to go with the Tamron, and I have not regretted my decision at all.  I have seen some fabulous pictures taken with the new Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 MKII USM lens.  By all accounts it is a fabulous zoom lens that rivals the mighty 70-200mm f/2.8 II for supremacy as the best zoom lens that Canon makes.  That being said, what I haven’t seen are pictures that I feel I couldn’t replicate with my Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD.  I have learned how to maximize the potential of the Tamron in the 10 months that I have owned it.  I have it “dialed in” on my camera bodies, and it’s sharpness is consistently amazing.  I love its bokeh rendering (particularly in the transition from focus to defocus – an often overlooked area that really makes pictures pop!).  On a full frame body it has great dimensionality, helping subjects to stand out.  The Canon is reported to be less than impressive at minimum focus distance, but I find that to be a real strength of the Tamron.

 

Even a casual snapshot has a special quality with the Tamron.  Note the excellent sharpness and transition to defocus in the 100% crop.

I know the AF is better (faster and perhaps marginally more accurate) on the Canon.  It’s corner sharpness at maximum aperture is slightly better.  But here’s the deal:  when I am shooting wide open, I’m not shooting for the corners.  I am shooting a subject that I want to stand out – which means mostly the edges of the center.  Stopped down (for landscapes, for example), the lenses’ sharpness is indistinguishable.  I don’t feel like I am missing shots because of AF because I have lost a millisecond compared with the Canon.  The Tamron has such low CA that I don’t even have the “Correct CA” box checked in Lightroom.  And my images from the lens are excellent.  It is sharp enough that I use it wide open most of the time, stopping down because I want more depth of field, not because I need more sharpness.  I just made a very nice sum of money from an image being used in conjunction with a Canon 6D promotion that I used the Tamron to shoot, and that is but one image taken with the lens that has had commercial success.

 

So, in conclusion, the Canon is not worth the extra premium in my mind.  I know that it is a fabulous lens, but I don’t think that there is enough of a separation in quality (build or optical) to justify the difference, particularly if one has the capability of processing their images.  Others will disagree, but in my mind, that extra thousand dollars could buy a lot of nice things – hint:  a Canon 135mm f/2L might be a nice choice 😉

 

P.S.  This three shot panorama taken with the Tamron shows its great resolving power stopped down (click to see the big story!):

Nassau, the Bahamas

Nassau, the Bahamas

 

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