In the June 2011's Popular Photography magazine (Canada, hard copy, pg. 90) in an article titled "Star Power", on a one page overview of the Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II USM, the author (Julia Silber) claims (when talking about optical sharpness at 70, 135 and 200mm) that "While a significant improvement over its predecessor, which never rose above Very Good, its numbers were slightly below the comparable Nikon and Tamron glass, which scored excellent at all focal lengths."

I am assuming the predecessor could be any one of the Canon L 70-200mm, likely the f2.8 IS version. I don't own this lens and am still in the process of gathering information on the f4 (no IS) version which is the only one I will be able to afford but... So far all I have read was excellent when it came to the optics of these Canon lenses.

The question is: Which Tamron lens that is "excellent at all focal lengths" is the author talking about? Can someone point me to a good review or share their thoughts? (Purely optical quality preferably)

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    The predecessor is the MkI version of the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM. – dpollitt Jun 10 '11 at 13:46
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    The 70-200mm f/2.8 IS is renowned to not be as sharp as it could be, until the 2.8 IS MkII came out the 70-200mm 2.8 NON IS was the sharpest in the range with the 2.8 max aperture. The 70-200mm f/4 non IS I believe was the sharpest of them all until the new 2.8 was released also. – JamWheel Jun 10 '11 at 14:08
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    What a dreadful journalist, making a statement like that but without mentioning which lenses she was referring to specifically? – JamWheel Jun 10 '11 at 14:08

The author had to be speaking of the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD (IF).

The answer is no, this lens is not superior to the Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM mkII. Canon would never sell a single one if the Tamron was superior, considering the Canon runs about $1600USD more in price.

Some reviews of the Tamron:

I think that the Tamron in its own right is a very nice lens, and I have seen many people use it before. But it cannot hold up to the Canon is rugged professional use and it is not going to be nearly as fast for autofocus.

  • +1 The dpreview article is interesting: to put it bluntly (with only a bit of exaggeration) it says the Tamron won't focus--it won't autofocus correctly and the manual focusing doesn't work. That would explain the $1600 difference! – whuber Jun 10 '11 at 14:29
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    The question is actually about optical sharpness, not overall lens performance. So while you'd have to conclude that Canon's lens is better overall, DPReview's conclusion says "the technical quality of the images this lens can produce is superb throughout most of the range, matching or even outperforming the much more expensive Canon 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM". This comparison was based on the "I" version of the lens, so it's reasonable to expect the "II" version to be better, but the article, as cited, doesn't show superior optical performance for the Canon lens. – D. Lambert Jun 10 '11 at 14:50
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    @D. Lambert That's a good point, but lack of focus contributes to actual unsharpness regardless of how good the lens is on a lab bench. – whuber Jun 10 '11 at 19:20
  • @whuber - don't get me wrong - I'd never choose the Tamron vs. the Canon based on that review, but the original question seemed pretty stuck on optical quality only (excluding other factors). – D. Lambert Jun 11 '11 at 1:12
  • The 70-200mm f/2.8L USM IS mkII is so sharp for portraits some people soften shots a bit. I haven't used the Tamron myself, but in practice I would thing that any added sharpness would not ever be necessary in actual use. Of course that is up for you to decide as a user though. – dpollitt Jun 13 '11 at 1:10

Well my friend has the f2.8 IS II and from all the research we did it is by far the best of the 70-200 canon lenses. It performs so amazingly even at 200mm with the 2x mkIII extender on that I couldn't imagine anything being better, but I could be wrong. You can look at it's comparisons to other lenses here http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=103

I have the f4 IS myself, and whilst not as good as the f2.8 IS II, from what I've seen is a noticeable improvement optically over the non-IS, and physically with the 4 stops of IS.

I would love to know if you find these Tamron and Nikon lenses that are better, as that's gotta be a real nice lens. I personally think it's a myth though ;)

  • Maybe this should have been more a comment than an answer itself – Dreamager Jun 10 '11 at 13:31
  • It's pretty long for a comment, but you're right: it doesn't seem to even try to answer the question. – Jerry Coffin Jun 10 '11 at 16:18

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