[Review] Tamron 24-70mm 2.8 VC VS Canon 24-70mm

I've been waiting a long time for a 24-70mm full frame lens with stabilization. Tamron was the first to create this lens and we got our hands on a Canon version. In this review we compare the Tamron 24-70mm 2.8 VC to Canon's 24-70mm 2.8. Which is the better lens? The answer to that question is a little more complicated than you might expect.

As expected the Tamron's "VC" (vibration compensation) is fantastic. It may actually be the best stabilization I've ever seen in a lens. If you like hand-holding your camera at lower shutter speeds or shooting video handheld like us, lens stabilization is a must.

When we compared the optics to Canon's 24-70mm (version 1) we got some interesting results. Throughout the whole zoom range the Tamron had serious vignetting issues at 2.8. At F4 and above vignetting was no longer an issue.

In the center of the frame Canon's lens was always slightly sharper and at 24mm the edges were significantly sharper than Tamron's.

As we zoomed in the Tamron outperformed the Canon on the edges. At 2.8 the Tamron still struggled with vignetting but was still significantly sharper.

We were left not having a clear winner. The Canon did perform much better around 24mm but the Tamron was better towards 70mm (if you don't consider the vignette at 2.8) and it comes with stabilization. Only you can decide what lens is right for you. Check out the sample images and download the high res test files and make the decision for yourself.

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Mike Hylandsson's picture

Nice review!

Great review.  I used to use the Tamron 17-50mm 2.8 for a few years.  Was always super happy with it.  Even for stills actually.  Not sold on the 24-70mm from Tamron yet, but do with my Canon 24-70mm had image stabilization.  :)

Lee Morris's picture

Did you have the 17-50 or 17-55? I have both and I found the 17-55 2.8 (without VC) was plenty sharp but not the 17-50mm VC version. 

Had the 17-50mm 2.8 without VC.  I was shooting the Canon 7D at the time and the results were pretty good.  Funny thing was that when I bought my first Canon 24-70mm L 2.8, the images weren't as sharp as the Tamron.  I went and exchanged the Canon lens and the next one I got was amazing.  A read a bit ago that just like camera's, the lens' have specific tolerances to each camera company.  That's what I think happened with the first 24-70mm L I bought.  And like you say yourself, I wouldn't mind the vignetting since my lighting setups usually do that anyways.  :)

Patrick Hall's picture

I have the very first Tamron 17-50 2.8 without VC and it's as good as the Nikkor 17-55 2.8.  I still have it so my assistant can use it.  

not sure why you guys compared it with a Canon, you never use this lens anyway... You shoo with 24-70mm Nikkor, is it because there was no comparation to the tamron and it would have made this lens look bad ? why did you leave the 24-70mm Nikkor lens out of this test ? I don't get it... sorry...

Patrick Hall's picture

The Nikon version is not currently available.  Otherwise, yes we would have tested the Nikkor against it

Pat, the Canon 24-70mm doesn't has any VC (IS for Canon) in it just like the Nikkor no?

I must be very confused today because I know both of you have the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 without VR just like the Canon so I don't understand why it couldn't be added in the test... :) :)

Patrick Hall's picture

 Tamron hasn't sent us the Nikon version yet.  I've heard people saying the 5D Mark III is soft to begin with and since we are familiar with the D800 I'd love to do the test on that camera.  I'm sure we will do something with it as soon as we are sent one

I agree about the benefits of stabilization, even if you're not doing video.  But based on what I see here, comparison with the Nikon 24-70 is going to make you wonder if you can't live without stabilization, after all.  And I'm a Canon user.  

Hi Lee, I totally agree, I own both, I could not resist the slow hand-held capabilities of the VC version and the sharpness of the Non VC version, although it sounds like it's auditioning for the next Transformers character, the sharpness is unrivalled, I have even broken even with Canon's 16-35 f/2.8. However I can send you a sample I have taken with it.
Really worth/

Another thing to ad that people really tend to forget, many times lenses differ in performance even brand new, I have had ''lucky copies'' of lenses that are supposed to SUCK REAL BAD!

Everybody favorite picture.. a brick wall! hahahaha. laughed my ass off!

I always use brick or heavily textured carpet (I have a piece I hang from my backdrop supports in my studio) to test lenses. Carpet is almost infinitely detailed. Brick doesn't have quite as much detail, but it's much more accessible with numerous types available in every town, and they're already a vertical orientation and lay flat without help (unlike my carpet which requires weights or bungee cords to keep flat for my test). 

I just got mine in the other day and I love it... It may not be as sharp as Canon's (and the auto focus is noticeably slower but not "slow") but it also costs 1k less =). However I will say that I'm using it on a 7D so I'm not having the same vignetting problems as the full frame sensor people. I'll probably love it less when I make the move to full frame =/.

Really let down by the Vignetting. What a damn shame.  Remove the IS and give me better IQ.

Patrick Hall's picture

if you don't need IS then just buy the new canon or Nikon 24-70...

"as a wedding photographer i'm not too worried about vignetting. if anything i add vignettes after the fact."
ha! love this quote.. i do too man.  nothing wrong with that-- for wedding-type stuff it looks great.  i don't care what anyone says. 
this looks like a good video lens. i might buy it.  thanks for the review

Nicholas's picture

I'm definitely sold on this Tamron lens. It seems plenty sharp based on the comparisons and the vignetting is no big deal, especially in portraits. The VC more than compensates for this. What a great time in optics these days. This is one of those lenses that, 5-10 years ago, it was merely a what-if dream. Now here it is! 

Norman S.'s picture

I really wish you had done this with the newer version of the Canon lens. Comparing new technology to old leaves a lot of loop holes in the review.

Lee Morris's picture

is that lens even out yet?

 Not out yet...

Patrick Hall's picture

we need to compare current technology with future technology in order to be legit

Not really. If you look at the price points the MKI Canon and the Tamron are the same. The MKII is over 2,000...not even the same market almost. So people are wondering...do I get a MKI version L or the top Tamron? I think its a nice 3 tier price scale. eBay MKI, Tamron, MKII $900, $1300 and $2,something.

Patrick - Awesome.

The 24-70mm II is not even out yet. at least for consumers. Although, Lee you do have the best access for getting this lens and reviewing it when it does come out.

Ken Yee's picture

It shouldn't have that much vignetting w/ that big 82mm front element :-P
It matches what ephotozone said about it...2.5 stops of vignetting at the edges.

Can you guys take some photos of highlight bokeh?  On the ephotozine article, there was pretty obvious onion bokeh that's similar to the crappy bokeh on the Sigma 24-70 HSM...

Thank you, Lee.  Informative, as always.

Hmm, I had different, although also somewhat inconclusive results.

Shot handheld using as good a technique as I could muster, with a 5DIII at ISO 3200, at 70mm; with the first lens at 1/50, 1/25, and 1/15, then the same with the other lens.


The 70mm on the Tamron appears a little shorter (this image might reflect me being a tiny bit closer with the Canon, but there's still a difference). I'm curious if either is a true 24-70mm, and if the Tamron is a little wider on the wide end. Anyways, this is a bad/worst-case scenario (1/15s) type shot at a reception, but not unusual for wedding photogs to run across.
On a tripod, shooting the back yard at ISO 100, 24mm: 2.8, 4, 6.3, and 9, then the same for 70mm; then switching lenses and repeating.


More testing to follow, but I'm pleased overall. L-like quality with VC? Hell yeah.

Patrick Hall's picture

yes Mike, we did notice a little change in focal length between the two.  I can't remember which one was wider and which one was longer but 24 and 70 on both is not the exact same....that seems pretty picky though to some degree.  Sharpness and Vignetting seem to be the most important criteria...then maybe fringing and distortion for the super geeky folks :)

Garrett Graham's picture

I owned the 17-50 non VC and I think for the price it was fine, but really thought IQ was better on just about every other lens I own. I eventually sold it, but my 70-200 non VC takes beautiful pics!!!