Please help, I am very torn between these 2 lenses in my budget. I am looking for a telephoto lens to use primarily outdoors for photos of my 3 year old, husband playing football and longer focal length candids. By I don't want to rule out using it indoors totally. I understand neither of these are fast lenses and I don't need VC/IS for running/sport but for the candids when I don't have my tripod with me and for wildlife ie family visits to the zoo etc VC/IS would be very useful. The IS version of the Canon is waaaay out of my budget.

How do the two lenses compare in terms of IQ, contrast, sharpness, AF speed and accuracy? I know I can bump the ISO indoors for the Canon to try and increase my shutter speed to help prevent camera shake but I don't really want to go above ISO 800. Do you think I will struggle not having IS/VC indoors?

I have tried the Tamron (only in a shop) and I was really surprised with what the VC allowed me to hand hold. But I don't want to loose IQ/sharpness/contrast for the sake of VC.

Has anyone compared the two?

I decided on the Tamron and Canon 70-200 F4 L USM (non-IS) and not the Canon 70-300 USM IS because of build quality and being non rotating to use filters. In the UK the prices differ slightly: the Tamron new is £329 and the Canon 70-200 F4 L USM (non-IS) used is selling for about £429 (I could not afford it new), different than the $350 and $709. I wish I could afford the 135mm F2!

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    You really should be comparing the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens to that Tamron. The Canon 70-200mm is $709USD, the Tamron 70-300mm is $350, and the Canon 70-300mm is $500. If you can budget for the Canon L AND shooting outdoor sports with a desire for the highest IQ, I would certainly get that. If you are shooting indoors, I would look for a 85mm f/1.8, 135 f/2 or similar if you need this range and can't afford a 70-200 f/2.8. The Tamron is in a different league. It is not a professional lens, has a variable aperture, probably not the best autofocus, but is very reasonably priced.
    – dpollitt
    Oct 12, 2012 at 18:48
  • I have the Canon 70-200 f4L and it is perfect for the outdoor situations you describe. Not weather-sealed but feels very solid. It's neither fast nor long enough for indoor sports like hockey however. It will do at high ISO but don't expect miracles; it ain't a f2.8. This lens is incredibly sharp! and I was surprised to get some decent macro-like shots with it. Oct 13, 2012 at 19:46

6 Answers 6


Go with the Canon 70-200mm F/4L, its image quality is vastly superior. That is the lens I still use for professional sport photography.

Stabilization does nothing for moving subjects, in order to freeze action in sports even 1/200s is too slow, you often need to shoot around 1/1000s which is fast enough to give your a perfectly sharp image without stabilization. Considering you primary subjects, IS wont be needed.

Not only that, the 70-200mm is F/4 all the way which lets more light in at the long end and lets the camera focus faster. This one focuses very quickly thanks to an internal focusing system and USM motor.


As for IS/VC or not: most image stabilization systems claim to allow 3-4 stops slower shutter speeds. One stop here is always twice the amount.

So let's say you shoot a sharp picture at shutter speed 1/200 without IS. If you turn on IS and assume it gives you 3 stops, then you could achieve the same sharpness and "steadiness" at shutter speed 1/25 with IS.

3 stops => three times double speed => (2*2*2) * 1/200 = 8 * 1/200 = 1/25

  • I guess this is the difference between getting a candid portrait in lower light with a slower lens or not. so would I gain more with the tamron ie at 200mm F5 vs the canon 200mm F4 but no IS? I understand neither is going to be good for fast action in lower light.
    – Vicky
    Oct 12, 2012 at 14:19
  • @Vicky Most indoor portraits you'll be in the 70-120mm range, unless you're in a big room. In this range you should be able to shoot at able 1/100, and at ISO800 you should be able to shoot in most situations. And you always have the option to push the ISO up a little higher if it means not missing a shot. Oct 12, 2012 at 18:36
  • Thank you, I do also own a 430 EX II which should help, I am mainly worried about my camera shake I really noticed it when I was trying the canon out in the shop, i know I can improve my technique but thwere is not always something to brace yourself against. I found the bannisters great indoors at Hampton Court Palace :) I do have a tripod but it is not CF so is very heavy and with a 3 year old I am already carrying alot!
    – Vicky
    Oct 13, 2012 at 7:00

If you options are an L lens, vs. a non-L. Go with the L. The IQ, build quality, focus speed, weather sealing(a few exceptions), are outstanding on every L lens I've used.

As for IS, it won't matter for wildlife, since you probably be in bright light and using high shutter speeds to freeze action. You will see it indoors, but remember you'll already lose a stop at the long end of the Tamron due to the f5.6 aperture.

I've used the 70-200 and I suspect that the better IQ and build will make up for the lack of IS, but if you need the 2-3 stops of IS then you'll have to go with the Tamron (or save up for the IS Canon, which is also a great option).

  • Thank you, unfortunately this version is not weather sealed, but neither is my body 60D so I wont be taking any risks :) I wish I could afford the L IS version of the Canon but I am looking used already unless I win the Lotto. If I won the Lotto it would be the 2.8 IS LOL!
    – Vicky
    Oct 13, 2012 at 6:56

IS (image stabilization) does little or nothing for shooting moving things. Its about camera/lens shake. So it won't make any difference shooting your husband or kid being active.

The solution for indoor shooting is off camera flash. Or using a 50mm F1.8 or F1.4

  • Thank you, I do have a 60mm F2 and a 17-50 2.8 VC which I use for indoors primarily so this is not my main concern I just didn't want to rule out using it indoors. I also thought the extra 100mm of the Tamron would be useful.
    – Vicky
    Oct 13, 2012 at 6:54
  • The extra 100mm can be useful, but a 300 lens is really long and takes a fair amount of practice to develop the skill to hold it steady -- unless you can use really high speeds such as 1/1000. Oct 14, 2012 at 18:05

I have the IS version of 70-200mm f4/L and I must say it's a pretty good lens. Always reliable, only real short coming is the f4 but to be fair there's a 2.8 for that :D

You won't go wrong getting either lens depending on your budget but I'll add that image stabilization is always plus with a telephoto lens for me.

There's a review here you can check out as well.

  • Thankyou it is tough when u have a ltd budget. It is a lot of money and I don't want to choose the wrong one!
    – Vicky
    Oct 15, 2012 at 14:09
  • My only other consideration is I have seen a used sigma 70-200 hsm II (non-os), how does this compare? Is it sharp wide open? Af speed/accuracy? The 2.8 would give me faster shutter speeds indoors.
    – Vicky
    Oct 17, 2012 at 6:26
  • I haven't had the opportunity to try that unfortunately. Here in this review they seem to like it in general but there are things they did point out about it. I checked out some of the pictures they looked pretty nice to me. I guess this could be the one if it fits the budget :D Oct 17, 2012 at 6:53

I've used both, side by side, simultaneously, switching between full frame and crop bodies at multiple indoor and outdoor events shooting both photo and video for over a year. My advice is not to believe the hype or anyone who blindly points you toward the more expensive options just because of a red line running around the lens.

This is in no way meant to put the Canon down; it is an absolutely great performer in every respect. But the Tamron consistently matched it for IQ, focus accuracy, color rendition, and contrast (this was very surprising to me). What the Canon had over the Tamron was bokeh quality, build quality, weather sealing, focus speed, constant aperture, parfocality, and the ability to accept a tripod mount collar. What you get with the Tamron over the Canon was stabilization, an extra 100mm at the long end (and yes it is totally usable over 200mm), and a 66% savings over the Canon; the Tamron is one-third the price of the Canon.

If you're on a budget, that last point cannot be ignored. Again, the Tamron is not "better" than the Canon, it is different with significant similarities. Most importantly, you will not experience a noticeable image quality penalty, but you will gain stabilization and reach for far less money.

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