A 70-200mm telephoto zoom lens is often a pro photographer's most-used lens aside from a general purpose zoom. Engagements, weddings, parties, events, theater, stage performances, high school senior, fashion, documentary, lifestyle, zoo, sports, product and landscape photography are all great uses for this focal length range.
Those wanting to add a 70-200mm lens to their Sony kits will likely be considering the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS and Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS lenses. With that in mind, we're going to take a closer look at these lenses to see which might be the best investment option.
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS and FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS Primary Shared Features
Primary Advantages of the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens
Primary Advantages of the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS Lens
Other Spec Differences: Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS vs. FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS
Image Quality Differences: Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS vs. FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS
The FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS is sharper than the FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS in most direct aperture comparisons and shows less lateral CA overall. As can be expected from a wider aperture lens, the f/2.8 lens has less peripheral shading at f/4 than the f/4 lens has wide open. That difference is mostly erased at f/5.6 and the f/4 lens has even slightly less vignetting in some f/8 comparisons. The f/4 lens has slightly less distortion.
Who should opt for the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens?
Wedding and event photographers, who need to freeze action in low-light situations, will greatly benefit from the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS's twice-as-wide aperture which allows them to freeze motion in half as much light compared to the FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS. Portrait photographers will also appreciate the increased background blur the f/2.8 lens is capable of, enabling even better/more desirable separation between the subject and background. The mount gasket seal of the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS indicates that it is a better weather sealed lens compared to the f/4 lens. That Sony proudly offers a gasketing illustration for the f/2.8 lens (shown below) but not the f/4 model bolsters this assertion.
Who should opt for the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS Lens?
Those who do not need an f/2.8 max aperture can enjoy many of the benefits found in the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS – including a highly useful focal length range, a constant max aperture, OSS and included accessories – in a lens that's smaller, lighter and less expensive. Photographers who intend on using their 70-200mm lenses in good light and in pleasant weather, those who prioritize smaller/lighter gear because of transportation limitations (hikers, backpackers, etc.) and/or those who are budget limited will likely find the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS to be the perfect lens for their needs.
Landscapes, weddings, architecture, real estate, photojournalism – all are great reasons to have a wide angle zoom in your kit. Now the big question becomes, "Which one?" For Sony shooters, the FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM and FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS will likely be at the top of the wide angle zoom considerations list.
Before we dig deeper into this comparison, regular site visitors may notice that text below sounds a lot like our Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM vs. Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens comparison. Well, there's a good reason for that – the 16-35mm lenses listed above share many of the same benefits and drawbacks as their 24-70mm counterparts when compared against one another. Therefore, much of the content of the 24-70mm comparison applies equally to the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM and Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS lenses.
So, without further ado, let's take a look at these two 16-35mm lenses to see which one proves to be the best investment for your needs.
Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM and Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Shared Primary Features
Primary Advantages of the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens
Primary Advantages of the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens
Other Differences: Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM vs. Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS
Image Quality Differences: Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM vs. Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS
The FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM lens is slightly sharper in the center at 16mm and 20mm f/4 and the FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS lens is slightly sharper in the corners. The f/2.8 lens center of the frame advantage grows slightly at 24mm and more than slightly at 28mm. At 35mm f/4, the f/2.8 lens turns in a far better performance. These differences are minimalized at f/5.6, but the f/2.8 remains a much better choice at 35mm.
As one would expect, the f/2.8 lens shows less vignetting at f/4. By f/8, the differences are minor. The f/2.8 lens has more barrel distortion at 16mm, but less pincushion distortion in some of the mid focal length comparisons.
Who should opt for the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM?
There are many drawbacks to an f/2.8 constant max aperture lens compared to an f/4 constant max aperture lens, including increased size, weight and cost. However, the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM's twice-as-wide max aperture will allow you to freeze motion in half as much light at the same ISO setting compared to the FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS. If you're a wedding/event photographer, or prefer not to pack a tripod for nighttime cityscape/street photography adventures, the increased size/weight/cost associated with the f/2.8 lens will prove more than worthwhile.
Who should opt for the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS?
If you don't often need to capture moving subjects in low-light situations, and can tolerate higher ISO use when the need arises, then the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS offers many of the benefits of the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM at less than half the price. For static subjects, when combined with Sony alpha-series cameras' IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization), the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA's Optical SteadyShot should provide even more effective stabilization compared to a lens without built-in IS.
As you can see by the product pictures and specs listed above, the size and weight differences between these lenses are not insignificant. Photographers who will benefit from the FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS's smaller size/lighter weight include anyone carrying their gear for long periods of time (for backpacking, vacations, long events, etc.) and those wanting to pack more gear in a similar amount of space.
With many full frame Sony a-series cameras having built-in sensor stabilization, one of the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens's major benefits – optical stabilization – is diminished. However, it does have a few advantages remaining over the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM that will make it desirable for many photographers – smaller size, lighter weight and a much lower cost. In addition to the 1-stop wider max aperture, most photographers will prefer the FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM's image quality over the f/4 lens. For those photographing moving subjects and/or utilizing the entire focal length range on a regular basis, such as wedding/event photographers, will find the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM to be a worthy investment. Otherwise, the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS is available for significantly less.
A general purpose lens is the most important and most-used lens in most photographers' kits. With a highly useful focal length range and a wide to moderately wide aperture, 24-70mm lenses can cover everyday needs, portraits, landscapes, cityscapes, food/travel and much more. Sony has two high-performing, 24-70mm constant max aperture zooms in its lineup – the FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM and FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS – and we're going to take a closer look at them to see which may be better suited to fill your general purpose needs.
Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM and Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Shared Primary Features
Primary Advantages of the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens
Primary Advantages of the Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens
Other Differences: Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM vs. Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS
Image Quality Differences: Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM vs. Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS
From a sharpness perspective, the "sharpest lens" title will depend on the specific aperture/focal length being compared. There isn't really a clear winner when the entire range of tests is taken into consideration. The FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM shows slightly less vignetting at 24 & 70mm (vignetting is similar at the middle focal lengths) when the lenses are compared at their widest apertures.
When compared at f/4, the f/2.8 lens shows significantly less vignetting. The f/2.8 lens has less severe distortion over the zoom range (the difference is most noticeable at the lenses' widest and longest focal lengths), but most will prefer the f/4 lens' flare performance.
Who should opt for the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM?
There are many drawbacks to an f/2.8 constant max aperture lens compared to an f/4 constant max aperture lens, including increased size, weight and cost. However, the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM's twice-as-wide max aperture will allow you to freeze motion in half as much light at the same ISO setting compared to the FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS. If you're a wedding/event photographer, or prefer not to pack a tripod for nighttime cityscape/street photography adventures, the increased size/weight/cost associated with the f/2.8 lens will prove more than worthwhile. Portrait photographers will also appreciate the better subject-to-background separation provided by the 1-stop wider aperture and the smoother bokeh/better starbursts created by its 9 bladed aperture (vs. 7).
Who should opt for the Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS?
If you don't often need to capture moving subjects in low-light situations, and can tolerate higher ISO use when the need arises, then the Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS offers many of the benefits of the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM at less than half the price. For static subjects, when combined with Sony alpha-series cameras' IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization), the Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA's Optical SteadyShot should provide even more effective stabilization compared to a lens without built-in IS.
As you can see by the product pictures and specs listed above, the size and weight differences between these two lenses are substantial. Photographers who will benefit from the FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS's smaller size/lighter weight include anyone carrying their gear for long periods of time (for backpacking, vacations, long events, etc.) and those wanting to pack more gear in a similar amount of space.
With many full frame Sony a-series cameras having built-in sensor stabilization, one of the Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens's major benefits – optical stabilization – is diminished. However, it does have a few advantages remaining over the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM that aid in boosting the f/4 lens' popularity – smaller size, lighter weight and a much lower cost. If any of those features is a priority for you, then the Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS is the lens to get. Otherwise, a 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom has been a must-have lens for a wide variety of professional photographers over the years, and for those choosing Sony gear, the FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM is one of the first lenses they'll be adding to their kits.
A 70-200mm telephoto zoom lens is an extremely versatile tool. So veratile, in fact, it's often a pro photographer's most-used lens (or maybe just behind their general purpose zoom). Engagements, weddings, parties, events, theater, stage performances, high school senior, fashion, documentary, lifestyle, zoo, product and landscape photography are all great uses for this focal length range.
If you're looking to add a 70-200(ish) mm zoom lens to your kit, and don't need an f/2.8 max aperture and/or don't want the size/weight/cost penalties tied to the wider aperture, then the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM and Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens are likely at the top of your considerations list. Both lenses feature an f/4 max aperture that can be stopped down to f/32, nine rounded aperture blades and built-in stabilization. Where the two lenses differ, of course, will determine which one is the better candidate for your kit.
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM and Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Shared Features
Primary Advantages of the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Lens
Primary Advantages of the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens
Other things to consider:
Who should opt for the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Lens?
From an image quality perspective, most photographers will appreciate the sharpness of the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM's images compared to the better distortion and vignetting performance of the Tamron. If you're shooting in situations where you can't afford to miss focus, the Canon's better autofocus performance (both in accuracy and consistency) will more than offset the lens' higher acquisition cost, especially in low light situations. And in regards to low light situations, the Canon's 1-stop higher rated stabilization system will help you get sharper images of non-moving subjects under the same shooting conditions. For those that will typically utilize the lens at its longest focal length, the Canon's better image quality at 200mm will certainly be appreciated. If intending on having your 70-200mm lens mounted for long periods of time, the Canon's rearward positioned zoom ring will certainly be more comfortable to use. And finally, if you currently only have Canon-made zoom lenses in your kit, acclimating to Tamron's reversed rotating zoom and focus rings can be maddening, especially when a fleeting shot opportunity requires a fast reaction speed.
Who should opt for the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens?
If your budget does not extend to the Canon equivalent, the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD Lens offers many of the same benefits at at less than two-thirds the cost (without rebates). For those who plan on using their medium telephoto zoom primarily for static portraiture, especially when a focus-and-recompose technique can be employed while using the enter AF point, the Tamron's AF performance should be more than sufficient for the task. Do you own an EOS Rebel-series camera body without the ability to fine-tune AF parameters via Autofocus Microadjustment? The Tamron may prove to be the safest choice as you can compensate for autofocus miscalibration issues via the optional TAP-in Console; if you experienced a similar issue with the Canon lens, you'd need to send your camera and lens to Canon's Service Department for calibration, a much less convenient solution to the problem.
Note about focal length range difference: The extra 10mm of focal length range provided by the Tamron will not be terribly significant from a practical standpoint. For instance, the difference in framing the an identical target at 200mm with the Canon and 210mm with the Tamron amounted to slightly more than 1' (305mm), meaning you could get the same basic framing with the Canon lens by leaning forward.
As you can see, from a specifications standpoint, these lenses are very similar. If your budget extends to the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM, and you'll be using it with a body that features Autofocus Microadjustment, we highly recommend adding the L-series lens to your kit because of its sharpness, IS/AF and balance advantages over the Tamron. However, if your budget is more limited, the Tamron 70-210mm f/4 Di VC USD is an excellent value when its versatility and overall performance are considered.
With the introduction of three L-series tilt-shift lenses in August 2017, Canon can now has the largest and most varied selection of tilt-shift lenses available in the full-frame camera market. But with so many lenses to choose from, it may be difficult to narrow one's decision own to the right choice. Therefore, we're going to explore what differentiates these lenses and what each will be good for to aid in your decision-making process. For the purpose of this comparison, we're excluding the older Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 and TS-E 90mm f/2.8 lenses as we're uncertain how much longer they will be available.
If you're unfamiliar with tilt-shift lenses, first check out are article, "What is a Tilt-Shift Lens?"
What These Lenses Have In Common
Aside from an L-series build quality and extremely high image quality, the standout feature of these lenses is the ability to tilt and/or shift the optics in relation to the imaging sensor. These abilities allow for a photographer to correct perspective distortion in-camera (through shift) or change the plane of sharp focus (through tilt). Note: All tilt-shift lenses are manual focus only and none feature weather sealing.
The Biggest Differentiating Factor – Focal Length
Canon's L-series tilt-shift lenses – denoted by a TS-E prefix – range in focal lengths from an ultra-wide 17mm to a moderately short telephoto 135mm. Like most lens decisions, it's important to understand which focal length will suit your specific needs best.
Possibly Important Differentiator – Macro Ability
Canon's newest tilt-shift introductions, including the TS-E 50mm f/2.8L, TS-E 90mm f/2.8L and TS-E 135mm f/4L feature an Maximum Magnification rating of 0.50x, making them very useful for a wide range of macro subjects.
Least Important Differentiators – Max Aperture and Price
Even though prime lenses typically feature notably wider max apertures than zoom lenses covering the same focal length, the max aperture for these tilt-shift lenses ranges from f/2.8 - f/4. As tilt-shift lenses are typically used in conjunction with a tripod, the up-to-1-stop difference in max aperture will likely mean little to most consumers. And while there are modest differences in prices, the difference between any two lenses is unlikely to prove sufficient to sway one's purchasing decision compared to other notable differences.
A Look at Canon's TS-E Tilt-Shift Lenses
Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L
Featuring the widest focal length found in a tilt-shift lens from any manufacturer, the Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L is ideally suited from capturing interior and exterior architecture, keeping perspective distortion at bay with the shift feature. This lens can also be useful for landscape purposes, with tilt enabling both foreground and background subjects to remain in sharp focus. Note that this lens does not natively allow for the use of front filters, so that will be a drawback for some landscape photographers. Special accessories can be purchased to enable certain filters to be used.
Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II
With a modestly longer (and ultra popular) focal length, the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II can be used for the same subjects as that the TS-E 17mm lens is useful for, with the main differences being a moderately narrower angle of view and the ability to accept front filters. These attributes shift (pun intended) the TS-E 24's ideal uses away from interior, small room architecture to outdoor architecture and landscape photography where the use of circular polarizering and neutral density filters are often desired.
Canon TS-E 50mm f/2.8L Macro
As we continue to climb up the focal length ladder, the next Canon tilt-shift offering is the TS-E 50mm f/2.8L Macro. While it can be very useful for outdoor architecture and landscapes (the lens accepts front filters), the TS-E 50L really shines in the product photography realm, especially for medium-sized products such as clothing, home furnishings and three-dimensional art. With a 0.50x Maximum Magnification rating, small subjects can be projected half-size on the camera's imaging sensor, increasing the overall versatility of the lens. The 50mm focal length can also work well for loosely-framed portraiture, with this lens' tilt feature allowing for endless creativity in capturing selectively sharp imagery.
Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro
The Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro's focal length makes it very well suited for product photography, primarily for medium and small-sized products such as plates of food, model cars, bottles, etc. Floral photography is another great use of the 90mm focal length, especially when combined with the unique blurring effects that tilting the lens enables. Like the TS-E 50L, the TS-E 90L can be useful for landscapes and macro subjects, too.
Canon TS-E 135mm f/4L Macro
Featuring the longest focal length found in a tilt-shift lens designed for SLR (Single Lens Reflex) photography, the Canon TS-E 135mm f/4L Macro is likely the most specialized lens in Canon's lineup. Its medium telephoto focal length combined with tilt can help you capture very creative portraiture, assuming that manual focus is appropriate for your portrait application. Like the TS-E 90 and 50mm lenses, the TS-E 135L will often find its home in a product photographer's kit as it excels at capturing small-to-medium sized subjects all the way down to macro-sized subjects. With vast working distances available, this lens can create compelling compositions of even very large subjects.
With five L-series models in its arsenal, there's a good chance that you could find a multitude of uses for one (or several) of Canon's tilt-shift lenses. As I mentioned, the biggest differentiating factor for most will be focal length. Determine which focal length will be optimal for your intended subjects, get the appropriate model and enjoy the endless fun and creativity engendered by tilt-shift photography.
With two optically stabilized 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses hitting the market this year, many are likely wondering how the third-party lenses stack up against Canon's venerable – though unstabilized – EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM. Let's take a good look at the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art & Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 to find out which might make the best choice for own general purpose needs.
First, it's important to consider that these lenses are very similar from a primary features perspective, with built-in stabilization being the most notable differentiator. With that in mind, let's take a look at the shared set of features for these lenses:
Canon 24-70L II, Sigma 24-70 OS Art & Tamron 24-70mm VC G2 Shared Features
Now, let's see how these 24-70mm lenses differ from a design perspective:
Canon 24-70L II, Sigma 24-70 OS Art & Tamron 24-70mm VC G2 Differences
|Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM||3.48 x 4.45”|
(88.5 x 113mm)
|Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art||3.46 x 4.24”|
(88 x 107.6mm)
|Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2||3.48 x 4.40”|
(88.4 x 111.8mm)
When it comes to sharpness, it's difficult to adequately describe which lens is the cream of the crop. The reason is simple – the "sharpest lens" title changes depending on the focal length and aperture chosen along with the specific area of the frame being considered.
After pouring over the results for quite some time, I decided to compile my own subjective findings. You can find them below. However, I encourage you to compare the lenses for yourself at the focal lengths and apertures you will likely use most to determine which lens may be sharpest for your specific intended uses.
For the results below, I ranked the three lenses at each specified focal length / aperture. If there was little or no discernible difference between two lenses, then I marked the comparison a tie.
Vignetting performance is not a significant differentiating factor for this group of 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses. There are minor differences, but... none that would likely motivate you to pick one over the other solely based on corner darkening. If precise vignetting performance is a priority for you, check out the links below.
Vignetting: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM vs. Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art
Vignetting: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM vs. Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2
Vignetting: Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art vs. Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2
When evaluating flare performance, I typically compare lenses at f/16 at their widest and longest focal lengths. These comparisons usually give me a good idea of what to expect from the lens in near worst-case scenarios. Keep in mind that one's preference for tolerable types of flare is very subjective. Personally, I'd rather have an overall lose of contrast as opposed to clearly defined rings, circles and lines which are difficult to remove in post-processing and may block important details in the frame.
In this comparison, the Canon 24-70L II trails the Sigma and Tamron lenses at 24mm and f/16, at least as far as my personal preference is concerned.
Between the Sigma Art and Tamron G2, the pattern of flare artifacts is very similar, although the Sigma may show a little more contrast.
At 70mm, the Canon still shows more clearly defined flare artifacts while the other two lenses show less overall contrast. It's difficult to pick a winner between the Sigma and Tamron lenses, but if pressed to pick one, I think I would prefer the Sigma's results.
Zoom lenses typically exhibit barrel distortion at the wide end which transitions to pincushion distortion at the long end, and all of these lenses show these quintessential characteristics to varying degrees. As with vignetting, I don't think there is enough difference among the lenses to regard distortion as a major differentiating factor. However, if minimal distortion is a priority for you, compare the lenses at your most-used focal length to see which one will work best for your needs.
Distortion: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM vs. Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art
Distortion: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM vs. Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2
Distortion: Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art vs. Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2
With image quality sufficiently covered, let's dive into other aspects of the lenses to illuminate even more (likely more significant) differences.
Unlike most of the image quality comparisons above, this comparison is very straightforward – the Canon 24-70L II doesn't have built-in stabilization, while the Sigma and the Tamron lenses do. Between the two, the Sigma 24-70 Art seemed to provide slightly more handheld assistance in our tests.
Before we move on, I should point out that stabilization can have a huge impact on image quality, as a lens can only achieve its highest image quality when camera shake is neutralized (either by the use of a fast shutter speed or by lens/camera stabilization). Of course, stabilization does not help if your subject is moving, but... it can help a great deal when photographing stationary subjects.
Generally speaking, you'll get the best AF performance – especially in regards to accuracy and consistency – when using Canon lenses with Canon cameras. In the case of the Canon 24-70L II, Sigma 24-70 OS Art and Tamron 24-70 VC G2, while the third party lens manufacturers have certainly closed the performance gap over the past few years, the general rule still applies.
The good news is that all of the lenses perform quite well when using the center AF point, assuming a proper autofocus microadjustment (AFMA) calibration. Unfortunately, AF performance degrades noticeably while utilizing the outer AF points with both the Sigma Art and Tamron G2 lenses. Our testing indicates that the Sigma is a little more consistent than the Tamron with outer AF point use.
Those who don't mind employing a focus-and-recompose technique or otherwise can utilize Live View focusing for image capture, can maximize their in-focus take home percentage when using third-party lenses.
One area where the third-party lenses are advantaged is autofocus calibration through the use of Sigma's USB Dock and Tamron's TAP-in Console. While many high-end Canon DSLRs have the ability to fine tune AF using AFMA, most consumer-to-mid-level Canon DSLRs do not have this feature. And even if your camera does feature AFMA, the USB Dock and TAP-in Console allow for finer control of adjustment options (including separate adjustments for varying focus distances). Another benefit of dock-adjusted AF is that a lens can be calibrated once for use on several bodies (assuming the same adjustment is necessary throughout the set) instead of having to enter the same adjustment value in-camera on several bodies.
Price is one lens aspect that is quite easy and straightforward to compare. The Canon 24-70L II is the most expensive lens of the bunch, with the Sigma's price being about 30% lower than the Canon's (current MSRP in North America, no rebates). The Tamron is priced slightly less than the Sigma.
One thing to keep in mind when choosing to invest in a lens is the brand's typical resale value. Of the three manufacturers, Canon lenses tend to hold their value better than the third-party options.
By not including image stabilization in the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens, Canon left the door wide open for third-party manufacturers to produce an even more versatile and/or enticing general purpose lens. Both Sigma and Tamron saw the crack in Canon's armor, and the introduction of the 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art and 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 lenses represent the culmination of those manufacturers' efforts to unseat Canon in the professional general purpose lens market by taking advantage of Canon's biggest shortcoming.
Has either brand succeeded? In some ways the answer is "yes," and in other ways, "no." None of the lenses in this comparison blew away the competition, with the "best lens" being different based on one's own personal preferences and requirements. For those that cannot afford to miss a shot and prefer using viewfinder AF along with outer AF points (think, wedding photographers), the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM will likely be best. For the ultimate in versatility, however – thanks in large part to in-lens stabilization – the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 both offer compelling performance at a more budget friendly price. Ultimately, the choice between the Sigma and Tamron will likely hinge on one's preference for more accurate AF (Sigma) or increased potential sharpness (Tamron).
Want to know more about these lenses? Check out our full reviews linked below.
The Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM lens has been a staple in the manufacturer's lineup for more than 20 years. With the announcement of Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens in early 2017, consumers finally had a comparably spec'd alternative to Canon's popular 135mm wide-aperture prime. If you have been considering the addition of a wide-aperture telephoto prime lens to your Canon-based kit, you may be torn between the two options.
To help the decision making process along, we're going to see how these two designed-for-portraiture lenses stack up against one another to see which one might be the better choice for your needs.
Advantages of the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM over the Sigma 135mm f/2 DG HSM Art:
Advantages of the Sigma 135mm f/2 DG HSM Art over the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM:
Who should opt for the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM?
The EF 135mm f/2 USM has been a favorite among portrait photographers since its introduction. Its telephoto focal length combined with an f/2 max aperture makes backgrounds melt away giving more emphasis to your subject. In those ways, it's almost identical to the Sigma offering. However, from an AF perspective, Canon DSLRs tend to work optimally with Canon-designed lenses. While the Sigma 135 Art proved adequate (but not stellar) at consistently nailing focus in our tests, those shooting once-in-a-lifetime moments (weddings, editorial/documentary, etc.) will likely prefer the Canon option.
For those wanting to extend the lens's reach, the 135L is compatible with Canon's 1.4x and 2x Extenders with full AF being retained regardless of the body being used. The Sigma is not compatible with teleconverters.
If reduced size and weight are high priorities, the Canon's dimensions and weight will make it the preferred choice. Also, those with a limited budget will appreciate the Canon's significantly lower price tag.
Who should opt for the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art?
With a 1/3-stop wider max aperture, a design that's 20 years newer and better wide-open image quality, there's very little not to like about Sigma's longest focal length Art lens (to date). As I mentioned above, AF consistency is not quite as good as the Canon alternative, but it will likely be sufficient for most photographers' needs.
Those shooting with a DSLR that does not feature Autofocus Microadjustment (like the Rebel-series and 77D) will certainly enjoy the Sigma 135 Art's ability to calibrate focus parameters via the Sigma USB dock, as they would need to send both their camera and lens to a Canon Service Center in order to similarly adjust a miscalibrated Canon lens.
While these lenses are more similar than they are different, the differences will be enough to tip the scales in one direction or the other based on a photographer's preferences, priorities and budget. Although a bit long in the tooth, the Canon 135 f/2L USM is still highly regarded by portrait specialists (and for good reason). However, the Sigma 135mm Art raised the bar in regards to wide-open image quality, and those wanting to add the latest and greatest to their kits will certainly benefit from Sigma's commitment to one-upping the competition with its Art-series releases.
With the announcement of the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM, many of those previously considering purchase of the EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM may be now wondering which of Canon's L-series 85s is right for them. As such, we are going to take a look at how these lenses differ to hopefully make the decision making process a little easier.
Advantages of the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM over the EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM
Advantages of the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM over the EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM:
Who should opt for the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM
If you need the absolute widest aperture in your 85mm lens, either for action-stopping purposes or for maximizing separation between your subject and your background, then the EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM will ultimately be the best choice.
Who should opt for the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM
In two words – "everyone else."
The benefits of the EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM over the 85 f/1.2L II are both numerous and substantial. First and foremost, the lens' 4-stop IS system will enable you to shoot static subjects in significantly lower light while maintaining tolerable ISO levels. This is a huge benefit that should not be underestimated.
Next, the traditional manual focusing design will be welcomed by nearly every photographer who ever handled the 85mm f/1.2L II USM (or the EF 50mm f/1.2L USM, for that matter). The traditional design promises to be a much more responsive, akin to what we've come to expect from most L-series lenses.
The 85 f/1.4L IS's weather sealing further increases its versatility over the f/1.2 model. While we always advise taking precautions when inclement weather is expected, the 85L IS's weather sealing enables you to keep shooting without interruption in moderately wet or dusty conditions.
The EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM's lower cost will certainly be a universally-appreciated feature, as will the benefits of an extra aperture blade in creating a smooth background blur.
Unless you absolutely need or want an f/1.2 maximum aperture, the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM will likely prove the best investment for most photographers because of its overall greater versatility and lower price.
Those looking to invest in a 400mm telephoto lens have a several options available for consideration. One such option available is the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens. And while the telephoto zoom is certainly a versatile option, opting for a 400mm prime lens over the zoom alternative will typically either a) give you a wider maximum aperture at that particular focal length or b) save you some cash (but unfortunately, those benefits seem to be mutually exclusive).
Before we get started, it's important to note that I wouldn't necessarily consider wide-open image quality to be a differentiating factor among the 400mm prime lenses in this comparison. While there are certainly differences, all perform very well. With that in mind, let's take a look at the notable benefits/drawbacks associated with each of the 400mm prime candidates.
The Canon EF 400 f/2.8L IS II USM is the biggest, heaviest and priciest 400mm prime option. However, there's another "-est" descriptor that justifies this lens' price tag for many professional photographers – "widest." The 400L IS II's f/2.8 maximum aperture is 2-stops wider than most zoom lenses including the 400mm focal length, and 1-stop wider than the formidable EF 400mm DO IS II model. This lens is unparalleled when action stopping shutter speeds are necessary, especially in locations where the available light is less than abundant. Of course, the background blur at f/2.8 is noticeably stronger than it is at f/4 or f/5.6, with the benefit of stronger subject isolation. As you might expect, this lens is built for the needs of professionals with weather sealing and excellent AF performance.
Speaking of AF, a 3-position focus limiter switch allows focusing distances to be limited to a specific distance range - or to be unlimited: 8.85' - 23' (2.7m - 7m), 23' (7m) - ∞, 8.85' (2.7m) - ∞. Limiting the focus distance range can improve focus lock times and reduce focus hunting. Autofocus Stop buttons near the objective lens allow autofocus to be temporarily stopped. The Autofocus Stop feature makes it easy to obtain focus lock, turn off autofocus and recompose for a framing that places the active focus point(s) off of the subject.
The 400L IS II features a 4-stop IS (image stabilization) system with normal, panning and tracking modes available (Modes 1, 2 & 3 respectively). And while I mentioned image quality wasn't necessarily a differentiating factor in this comparison, the 400 f/2.8L IS II edges out the other two in most regards.
As noted, a high price isn't the only compromise one must accept to gain a wide, f/2.8 aperture at this focal length; consequently, this lens is neither small nor light. With the hood installed, the 400L IS II weighs in at 143.7 oz (4070g) with and is 7.68 x 13.8" (195.1 x 350.5mm) with the hood reversed for storage. While this lens can be used handheld, most will likely need a solid tripod or, at the very least, a monopod for comfortable medium-to-long-term use. Support/stabilizing gear necessary for long-term use will of course add to the size and weight storage/transport requirements when traveling with the lens.
If price is no object and small size and weight are not priorities, this is the ultimate 400mm option.
It's not often that a lens measuring 6.32 x 9.45” (160.45 x 240.13mm) and weighing in at 80 oz (2265g) (with hood) can be considered small and lightweight, but... everything is relative. Compared to its massive f/2.8 big brother, the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM Lens' size and weight are quite manageable considering its focal length and f/4 max. aperture, allowing for much longer periods of handheld use before fatigue takes its toll. This lens' diffractive optics elements allow for a very compact design that sports and wildlife photographers will especially appreciate.
The 400 DO IS II features a 3-position focus limiter switch with the following settings: 10.8' - 26.2' (3.3m - 8m), 26.2' - 8 (8m - ∞) and 10.8' - ∞ (3.3m - ∞). Autofocus Stop buttons are also included near the objective lens and allow autofocus to be temporarily stopped. Like the 400 f/2.8L IS II, the 400 DO IS II is weather sealed and features a 3-Mode, 4-stop IS system.
While an f/4 maximum aperture may not be considered "wide," the moderately-wide max. aperture combined with this lens' IS system makes for a very versatile tool that's reasonably sized for handheld shooting. Bird, wildlife and sports photographers will often forgo the f/2.8 maximum aperture to enjoy the smaller size, weight and price benefits associated with the f/4 DO IS II option.
Representing the lowest tier in Canon's 400mm primes in size, weight, max. aperture and price is the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM. Note that I didn't list "image quality" in the preceding list as the 400 f/5.6L is no slouch from an image quality perspective. That a lens designed nearly 25 years ago can perform compete so well with the 400L IS II (released only 6 years ago) is impressive, to say the least.
The most alluring aspects of the 400 f/5.6L, aside from the focal length shared by the other lenses in this comparison, are its small size, light weight and comparatively low price. The 400 f/5.6L measures 3.54 x 10.44” (90.04 x 265.17mm) (with hood unextended) and weighs in at only 47.7 oz (1351g). While the 400 DO IS II is shorter with its hood reversed, the 400 f/5.6L's diameter is significantly smaller and it weighs 32.3 oz (915.7g) less than the DO II model, making it significantly easier to travel with and use handheld for long periods of time.
On the downside, image stabilization is not a feature of this lens and it is only partially weather sealed (a lens mount gasket is not present, but the switches and focusing ring have moderate dust and moisture resistance). The lack of IS means that notably higher shutter speeds (up to 4-stops greater) will need to be utilized to negate camera shake compared to the other lenses mentioned above.
And speaking of the sealed switches, this lens only has two: an autofocus/manual focus switch and a focus limiter switch with settings of 11.48' (3.5m) - ∞ and 27.89' (8.5m) - ∞.
Without IS and a wider maximum aperture, the f/5.6 model's high image quality combined with its low price will represent the primary reasons why photographers choose it over one of the other 400mm prime options as well as the EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM (which features the same max. aperture at 400mm).
Size Comparison Images
While I mentioned the sizes of the lenses detailed above, the comparison images below will put those numbers into relative context. The first image (also displayed atop this post) shows the lenses in their ready-for-the-gear-bag form with hoods reversed (or not extended).
As I mentioned in the introductory paragraph, while there are certainly small differences in image quality (including sharpness, vignetting, flare and [less so] distortion), most will not consider IQ to be a differentiating factor between the 400mm prime candidates listed above. Instead, the significant differences in price found in the available choices directly correlates to the max. apertures available, the inclusion of image stabilization and (to some extent) the amount of weather sealing featured in the lens' design. Ultimately, your max. aperture needs, size/weight requirements and budget limitations will be the most important factors in determining which of these lenses is the ideal addition for your kit.
With two excellent, similarly-priced general purpose zooms available for Canon users, both of which feature an f/4 maximum aperture, weather sealing, great AF performance and image stabilization, choosing between the EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM and EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM can be a challenge.
The primary and significant advantage held by the 24-105 f/4L IS II is the extra 35mm of focal length range on the long end.
The 24-70 f/4L IS is a smaller and slightly lighter lens. It is 0.99" (25mm) shorter when retracted (actual measured length) and 1.25" (31.8mm) shorter with the hood installed. The 24-70 weighs 6.7 oz. (189.9g) less with hood installed (actual measured weight). Are these differences? Yes. Are they significant ones? Possibly.
For many, a more significant advantage of the 24-70 is its very impressive macro capability. A 0.70x maximum magnification from a non-prime-macro lens is eye-opening and significantly more impressive than the 24-105L II's 0.24x spec. However, it should be kept in mind that a 12mm extension tube can push the 24-105 to 0.60x maximum magnification. Disclaimer: I have not made an image quality comparison with the extension tube in play.
Image quality comparisons I have made show that:
The lenses are more similar than they are different in terms of sharpness. The 24-70 has less CA at 24mm, but more at 70mm. The two lenses have a similar amount of vignetting aside from at 24mm where the 24-105 has an advantage even stopped down. The 24-105 shows less flare effects while the 24-70 has less linear distortion.
Affecting image quality on a limited basis is the aperture blade count. The 24-70 has 9 blades vs. the 24-105 L's 10. This difference will primarily be noticed when point light sources are photographed at narrow apertures, with the odd blade numbered aperture creating 18-point sun stars vs the even's 10-point stars.
On the whole, I would not consider image quality to be a primary differentiating factor between these two lenses.
There is a minor difference in these lens' IS systems. The 24-70 features Canon's 4-stop Hybrid Image Stabilization, correcting both angular and shift movement in macro mode. The 24-105 L has 4-stop non-Hybrid Image Stabilization.
If price remains a deciding factor for you ... the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM's retail price is slightly lower than the freshly released EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM's, though rebates will likely increase or decrease the price differential from time to time.
While there are other uses for these lenses, these are by far the most commonly photographed subjects with these focal lengths. While no one will consider these lenses inexpensive, no one will consider the image quality they deliver to be anything short of stellar and image quality is not a differentiator here. Those who know what they want, want these lenses. While having both of these big whites in the kit would be perfect, most of us cannot afford or justify the purchase of both. Thus, the question of "Which one?" arises.
The obvious (and only) difference in the names of these lenses is the focal length number. These lenses were announced at the same time, arrived on my doorstep on the same delivery, appear very similar and indeed share the same overall design concepts and construction materials. Those wanting as much reach as possible will of course want the 600mm option.
But, sometimes a selected focal length can be too long. A too-narrow angle of view may make it too hard to quickly find a subject in the viewfinder, hard to keep a subject in the frame (especially if it is in-motion) and, if framed too tightly, important parts of a scene may be cropped from the frame. Because APS-C-format cameras have smaller imaging sensors and therefore use a smaller portion of the image circle provided by these lenses, they "see" an angle of view equivalent to a 1.6x longer lens on a full frame body. Thus, on an APS-C body, these lenses frame a scene similar to a 800mm and 960mm lens on a full frame body and at these angles of view, "too long" comes more frequently.
Similarly, a focal length can be too short. Too short is usually the result of not being able to get close enough to a subject. Reasons for this situation include physical barriers (a fence, a body of water), subjects that are not more closely approachable (wildlife tends to be uncomfortable with us nearby) and safety (dangerous wildlife, unsafe proximity to race cars). Too short usually results in an image being cropped with a lower resolution image remaining.
Another focal length related tip to consider is that, the longer the focal length, the longer the time span a moving subject is likely to remain in near-ideal framing. Without a zoom range available to quickly fine tune framing, prime lens-captured images often require cropping in post processing. However, the longer focal length lens has a narrower angle of view, which requires you to be farther from the subject for optimal framing and at that longer distance, an approaching or departing subject changes size in the frame at a slower rate. That means more images can be captured within the period of time with optimal framing. For the same reason, a larger physical area can be ideally-covered by the longer focal length – such as a larger portion of a soccer or football field. While the difference between 500mm and 600mm is not dramatic in this regard, the 600mm lens has an advantage.
Another benefit provided by a longer focal length is greater-enlarged background details, meaning that a longer focal length can create a stronger background blur. The 600mm lens can create a stronger separation of a subject from its background than the 500mm lens can. Most of us love an extremely blurred background and the longer focal length makes it easier to produce (though both of these lenses rank very highly for this purpose).
A longer focal length means a longer camera-to-subject distance and with more atmosphere placed between a lens and its subject, there is an increased likelihood that heat waves will cause image distortion. The longer working distance required by the longer focal length also provides more opportunity for obstructions, such as tree branches to get between the lens and, for example, a wildlife subject. The longer subject distance also delivers a slightly more-compressed perspective, creating a slightly different look to the subject (not necessary a benefit to either lens specifically).
Although focal length is typically my first priority for choosing a lens, it is not always the most important. In this lens comparison, there is a substantial size, weight and price differential that can sometimes be more important than the differences already discussed.
The site's lens specifications comparison tool has a detailed comparison between these lenses, but here is a quick look:
|Model||Size w/o Hood||Weight|
|Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens||5.75 x 15.08" (146 x 383mm)||112.6 oz (3190g)|
|Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens||6.61 x 17.64" (168 x 448mm)||138.4 oz (3920g)|
How old are you? How old do you want to become? How do you want to feel when you get that old? Safe to say is that all of us are getting older and also safe to say is that most of us reach a maximum strength point somewhere far prior to reaching the age we hope to survive until. And, how we feel at the end goal date is partially conditional on how we treat our bodies during the younger years. Just because you can handhold a 600mm f/4 lens for long periods of time now does not mean that you should do this and the strain placed on our bodies now may be long-lasting. If you are not able to use a lens support most of the time, the 500mm option is going to be the better option for most.
Size also matters, but when lenses get this big, the size differences don't seem to matter so much. Smaller is better, but neither is close to what I would consider small. You will likely find the biggest size difference to be in the volume of comments generated on the sidelines and the case size required by the lens. That said, I frequently carry the 600 with me on airplanes (in the USA), typically using the MindShift Gear FirstLight 40L and always as carry-on. With the 500, a modestly smaller case can be used or slightly more can be included in the same case.
The size difference between these lenses is apparent in the product comparison image accompanying this post. See the same comparison with the lens hoods on here (and also compare these lenses to other models).
The 500mm focal length is 83% as long as 600mm and the similarity factor for a majority of the above-discussed differences is about the same. One exception is the price factor, with that one dropping to just below the 80% mark. While neither lens is inexpensive, the 500 costs considerably less than the 600 and that factor alone will be the basis for this decision for some. That quality lenses typically hold their value well means that overall cost of ownership is not as bad as it first appears.
Most often, I recommend the 600mm lens for full frame bodies and the 500mm lens for APS-C bodies, though there are some exceptions.
If photographing big field sports such as soccer, the 600mm lens is my choice for a full frame camera and I would rather have the 500mm lens on an APS-C body.
Those photographing small birds will likely find the 600 preferable in front of any camera.
Those needing to handhold the lens with any frequency probably should select the 500mm option.
The Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens is one of the most important and most used lenses in my kit (primarily composed of full frame cameras). Many of my favorite images can be attributed to this lens, from irreplaceable memories of the kids playing soccer to captures of incredible wildlife in the mountains. The weight of this lens is a definite downside and I have more-than-once become worn out from carrying it, but ... the results are worth every bit of the effort.
To Learn More About These Lenses
Better Yet, Add One of These Lenses to Your Kit
Add One to Your Kit Temporarily
What are you doing this weekend? Spend some time getting to know and having fun with these big white lenses without the large price tag. Try renting! Lensrentals.com has the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens and Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens ready to ship to your doorstep.
by Sean Setters
A few short years ago, there were no super telephoto zooms featuring a 150-600mm focal length range. How things have changed...
In 2013, Tamron introduced the 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD, an affordable super telephoto zoom with a huge and versatile focal length range. The following year saw Sigma introducing a pair of similar lenses – the 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports & Contemporary models. Now Tamron has released an update to their original lens, adding a "G2" tag to the name.
Considering that neither Canon nor Nikon makes a native 150-600mm lens, it seems a bit odd to be spoiled for choice in this particular market segment. However, that's exactly what's happened. The third party manufacturers have solidly filled a niche that the big two lens manufacturers have yet to fill.
With so many options available, you may be wondering which one is the right lens for you. Read on for our take on this interesting crop of lenses.
The lens that started it all, the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens, burst onto the scenes in 2013 and was immediately a popular choice for sports and wildlife photographers whose budgets did not extend to the Canon big white telephoto lens range. Its price-to-performance ratio makes it an excellent value.
This lens is sharpest in the middle of its focal length range with less sharp results produced at its widest and longest extents. Unfortunately, this lens turns in its worst performance at 600mm, an important factor considering that most consumers purchasing a 150-600mm lens likely intend to utilize the longest focal length a significant percentage of the time.
The Tamron 150-600 G1's vignetting performance is typically mild for lenses in its class, showing roughly 1-1.5 stops of corner shading when used on full frame cameras. Flare is fairly well controlled. You may notice mild pincushion distortion if straight lines are near the long edges of your frame.
Important for a lens such is this is weather sealing, and indeed Tamron's initial 150-600mm offering has a level of weather sealing. Like three of the four lenses in this comparison, the Tamron 150-600 G1 features a 95mm front filter thread. Filters of this size are certainly not inexpensive, but... compatibility with filters makes for a more versatile lens. Some may find Tamron's zooming mechanism, which rotates in the opposite direction compared to Canon lenses (Nikon standard), a bit frustrating.
Focusing is probably the weakest aspect of this lens. The Tamron 150-600 G1 we tested sometimes failed to lock on to a subject in good light even with a high contrast and accuracy consistency was not stellar. The good news is that Tamron eventually issued a firmware update to improve focus performance. We did not retest the lens, but initial reports suggested the AF performance was improved. The bad news is that, unlike its successor, this lens will require a trip to Tamron's service department to modify the firmware should an upgrade be necessary.
One obvious advantage of this lens is its budget-friendly price.
In a rather surprising move, Tamron released the 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 (Generation 2) Lens only 3 years after the introduction of its predecessor. Improvements included increased sharpness and contrast in the shorter and longer focal length ranges (with the middle focal length range remaining similar), an updated exterior design with metal construction, better AF and VC performance, a new zoom lock mechanism and compatibility with Tamron's new TAP-in console.
Differences in vignetting, flare and distortion are largely insignificant between the G2 version and its predecessor, which is somewhat surprising considering they feature different optical formulas. Lateral Chromatic Aberration (LatCA) is moderately apparent in both of these lenses, though correcting the issue in post processing is typically quite easy.
With the ability to update the lens' firmware and adjust focus parameters, the G2 version allows for more flexibility and peace of mind for its users. For those needing focal lengths beyond 600mm, the G2 has new dedicated 1.4x and 2x teleconverters available.
Sigma made a big splash in September 2014 when they announced two 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Global Vision lenses at the same time, featuring a Contemporary model and a higher grade Sports model.
Before we can quantify the differences between the Sigma models and Tamron models, we first need to see how the two Sigma models stack up against one another. Here's a brief rundown of the main differences:
From a sharpness perspective, the 150-600 Contemporary lens edges out its Sports counterpart until 600mm where the Sports version is slightly better. Full frame camera owners will experience roughly 2 stops of vignetting in the extreme corners with both lenses. However, the Sports lens' vignetting is more gradual and encroaches farther into the center of the frame compared to the Contemporary lens (which has sharper falloff around the edges). While both lenses turn in average performances when it comes to flare, the Contemporary version features more contrast when the sun is in the corner of the frame. Both lenses show very slight pincushion distortion over the entire focal length range.
A benefit shared by both lenses is compatibility with Sigma's USB Dock, allowing for easy end-user firmware updates and access to customizable focus options.
Feature Comparison & Max Aperture by Focal Length
Below is a feature comparison chart followed by the available maximum apertures by focal length for the lenses discussed above.
& Tripod Ring
|Tamron 150-600 G1||20/13||4.15 x 10.57”|
(105.5 x 268.5mm)
|74.5 oz (2110g)||95mm||Y|
|Tamron 150-600 G2||21/13||4.27 x 10.54”|
(108.5 x 267.68mm)
|74.7 oz (2115g)||95mm||Y|
|Sigma 150-600 C||20/14||4.12 x 10.55”|
(104.7 x 267.99mm)
|71.8 oz (2035g)||95mm||N|
|Sigma 150-600 Sports||24/16||4.76 x 11.77”|
(120.95 x 299.05mm)
|111.4 oz (3155g)||105mm||Y|
|Tamron 150-600 G1||150-225mm||226-427mm||428-600mm|
|Tamron 150-600 G2||150-212mm||213-427mm||428-600mm|
|Sigma 150-600 Contemporary||150-179mm||180-387mm||388-600mm|
|Sigma 150-600 Sports||150-184mm||185-320mm||321-600mm|
With all of these lenses featuring identical focal length/aperture ranges and similar features (like vibration/optical stabilization), other lens aspects become the prominent differentiating factors. And, even image quality is close enough among the group to not be a major decision factor. Here's how we would rank each lens based on our own personal experience:
If you do not need weather sealing, it's difficult to top the value offered by the Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary lens. It's only slightly less expensive than the Tamron 150-600 G1 (the least expensive lens in this group) yet offers class-leading image quality and customizability via Sigma's USB Dock. If weather sealing and focus consistency are a priority, the Sigma 150-600 Sports and Tamron 150-600 G2 should be your top considerations, with the deciding factor likely being the price-to-image-quality performance ratio desired. And lastly, the lens that started it all – the Tamron 150-600 G1 – still remains a good choice if one's budget is the primary limiting factor.
A 24-70mm zoom is the quintessential general purpose lens for full frame camera users. The versatility afforded by the focal length range makes it well suited to a huge number of tasks including travel, lifestyle, documentary, architecture, wedding and event photography. Countless photojournalists have built careers on the pictures created with their 24-70mm lenses.
Largely because of the focal length range's popularity, just about every major manufacturer makes a version (or two) of the 24-70mm lens to satisfy customer demand. And most of the lenses we will be comparing today feature an f/2.8 constant maximum aperture which further adds to the lenses' versatility. Using an f/2.8 aperture will allow you to freeze motion in half as much light (at the same ISO setting) as an f/4 aperture. That's why a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens has been so popular with wedding photographers; when ambient light levels are low (as in a church or reception area), the wide f/2.8 aperture can be used to help stop motion at tolerably high ISO levels.
So which lens is right for you? Well, let's find out.
The EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM became the Canon general purpose when it was introduced in 2002. The lens quickly gained favor for its versatile focal length range (being 4mm wider than the 28-70L) and wide, constant f/2.8 aperture. A decade later, Canon introduced the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, a worthy successor to the ultra-popular 24-70mm lens it replaced with improvements to image sharpness, vignetting and AF speed. A disapointment to us was that Canon decided not to include image stabilization as one of the upgraded features, claiming that excellent image quality was paramount in this release.
The 24-70L II is impressively sharp in the center throughout its focal length range with very good contrast. Corner performance slightly trails the center until f/5.6 where even sharpness is obtained. With more elements than its predecessor, it doesn't fair quite as well in the flare department. The 24-70 L II exhibits typical distortion in its class, with moderate barrel distortion at the wide end that transitions to moderate pincushion at the long end.
Where the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM really shines is in AF speed and consistency. Version "II" is significantly faster than its predecessor when used on Canon DSLRs featuring advanced AF systems (non 9-point Rebel-series AF systems). Fast and consistent AF is yet another reason why so many photographers depend on this lens. When you do your job right as a photographer, it takes care of you.
Like its predecessor, the 24-70L II features weather sealing with a front filter in place. This feature alone differentiates it from most (if not all) of the 24-70mm lenses produced by third-party manufacturers.
When the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM was announced about 9 months after the 24-70L II, quite frankly, we were left a bit bewildered. Why would Canon release a lens with a shorter focal length range than the popular EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM and charge significantly more for it? At announcement time, the 24-70 f/4L IS's MSRP was $1,499.00. Since then, the lens' retail price has been lowered significantly putting its capabilities and performance into better perspective.
The 24-70 f/4L IS's image sharpness is difficult to summarize in a single sentence or two. Therefore, I'm going to pull from Bryan's review for a detailed description:
With a wide open f/4 aperture: At 24mm, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens is very sharp in the center with good sharpness extending to the periphery of the full frame image circle. This lens gets very slightly softer at 35mm and modestly softer yet (especially in the mid and peripheral image circle) at 50mm f/4 where the lens performs its worst. Sharpness improvement by 70mm brings the 24-70 f/4L IS back up to performance similar to that at 35mm.You can expect about 2.5 stops of vignetting in the full frame corners at 24 and 70mm, with slightly less vignetting through the middle focal length range. The lens' Super Spectra coatings have increased contrast in flare-producing situations, but I wouldn't necessarily consider this lens to have an aesthetically pleasing flare characteristic.
Benefits of this lens over its f/2.8 big brother are reduced size/weight, image stabilization and reduced cost. Another huge benefit (one the 24-70 f/4L IS holds over the rest of the lenses in this comparison) is maximum magnification (MM). The 24-70 f/4L IS features an impressive 0.70x MM (compared to 0.21x for the 24-70L II) which means it can double as a macro lens in a pinch. The fact that the 24-70 f/4L IS can negate the need to carry a second lens in your pack for macro work is a unique and worthwhile benefit. At the time of this comparison, the 24-70mm f/4L IS is less than half the cost of its f/2.8 counterpart (MSRP).
The downside, of course, compared to the rest of the 24-70 competition is significant – an f/4 maximum aperture.
The Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 VC USD broke new ground in 2012, becoming the first stabilized 24-70mm lens. Four years later, it's still rather unique in the marketplace as only Nikon has [relatively recently] released a specification matching f/2.8 zoom with stabilization.
It took us a few tries, but we finally received a copy of the Tamron 24-70 VC which produced sharp results throughout the zoom range (look for the term "ISO 12233 resolution chart" in Bryan's full review for details on our experience with testing this lens). With a good copy in-hand, you can expect impressive center sharpness at the focal range extents and remarkable image quality throughout the zoom range (even out to the corners of the frame) at f/4.
You can expect anywhere from 2-3 stops vignetting on a full-frame camera, wide open, depending on the focal length. A little more than a stop of vignetting remains at f/11. Flare is decently controlled, but CA wil likely be visible at this lens' shortest and longest focal lengths. Distortion is both typical and average for a lens in this class.
This lens' biggest advantage over the rest of the lenses listed here, of course, is its vibration control system which is capable of up to 4-stops of camera shake compensation. The ability of this lens to capture sharp imagery of static subjects in low light is extremely beneficial. That the Tamron is significantly less expensive than the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II is another important advantage.
Unfortunately, this lens' biggest crutch is AF consistency. The copy we tested did not focus very consistently on One Shot AF and performed even worse in AI Servo. For some lens usage, AF consistency may not need to be consistently spot on. But for a lens that would otherwise be ideal for shooting once in a lifetime moments (like weddings), less than ideal AF consistency can be problematic. If interested in acquiring this lens, be sure to purchase from an authorized retailer with a no-hassle exchange policy just in case the lens does not meet your minimum requirements for AF consistency. Otherwise, utilizing Live View focusing can aid in increasing your hit rate of static subjects.
Announced at Photokina 2008, the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM is by far the oldest (and least expensive) lens in this comparison with a maximum aperture of f/2.8. As Bryan mentions in his full review, it's extremely difficult to summarize this lens' performance in a couple of sentences. Unfortunately, it's a bit complicated.
To fully understand the image quality you should expect from this lens, read the Image Quality section in Bryan's full review. The good news is that results at f/5.6 are very good throughout the entire focal range. The bad news is that image quality at f/2.8 various from "very sharp" at 24mm to you-should-avoid-this-focal-length at 70mm, unless you prefer to specialize in artistic blur. And if you're buying a general purpose lens with an f/2.8 aperture, odds are you intended on using it wide open at least occasionally.
Flare is very well controlled (though with less contrast) at 70mm, but flare is certainly noticeable at the lens' wider focal lengths. The distortion this lens exhibits is very similar to the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM.
Like the Tamron, the Sigma's AF performance will likely be a significant differentiating factor for many. The copy we tested front focused at 24mm and focused inconsistently at 70mm. AI Servo performance was, "to be kind – poor." Again, Live View focusing may help increase your hit rate with this lens; however, thorough personal testing is needed to determine whether or not this lens meets your AF performance needs.
Introduced last year, the Tokina 24-70mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro FX receives the honor of being the newest lens in this comparison. Unfortunately, we don't have enough first-hand experience with the lens to adequately describe its AF performance. However, we did run the lens through our standard lab tests which illuminated a few things.
The Tokina 24-70 f/2.8 is quite sharp in the center at 24mm and 70mm wide open, although we did notice a slight drop in center performance at 50mm. The lens transitions to relatively soft with less contrast in the corners at f/2.8. Sharpness in the corners improves through f/5.6 where the difference between the center and corners becomes negligible.
Tokina lenses typically feature a very solid construction. This lens follows that trend. It's not the largest lens among those in this comparison, but it is certainly the heaviest (see below).
We didn't field test the lens to assess the Tokina's AF performance, but... it's unlikely to match the performance and consistency of Canon's USM lenses. Be sure to thoroughly test the lens within the retailer's return/exchange period to ensure the lens meets your needs.
Size, Weight, Maximum Magnification and Filter Size
It's especially important to consider the size and weight of your general purpose lens which is, by merit, likely to stay on your camera for long periods of time. Small differences in size and weight can be noticeable when packing space is limited and the hours of handling your camera begin to add up.
Filter size may also be a differentiating factor for a good number of photographers. All but one of the lenses in this comparison feature an 82mm front filter thread. These filters tend to be less common (though their popularity is rising among newly released lenses) and more costly compared to more common 77mm filters.
|Lens||Measured Size||Measured Weight||MM||Filter|
|Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM||3.45 x 4.72” (87.7 x 119.8mm)||28.4oz (805g)||0.21x||82mm|
|Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM||3.30 x 3.97” (83.7 x 100.8mm)||21.2oz (600g)||0.70x||77mm|
|Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD||3.47 x 4.72” (88.1 x 120.0mm)||28.9oz (820g)||0.20x||82mm|
|Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM||3.48 x 4.03” (88.4 x 102.3mm)||27.7oz (785g)||0.19x||82mm|
|Tokina 24-70mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro FX||3.51 x 4.63” (89.2 x 117.6mm)||36.0oz (1020g)||0.21x||82mm|
So which lens is right for you? If you need an f/2.8 maximum aperture, the best-available AF performance and your budget allows for it, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens is probably the right choice. If you can get by with an f/4 maximum aperture, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens offers great image quality, fast and accurate AF, image stabilization and a very handy 0.70x maximum magnification at a budget price. From there, the decision gets a bit murkier. I think each of the remaining lenses will appeal to different people based on their priorities with center/corner sharpness, image stabilization and price being the biggest differentiating factors.
A 24mm f/1.4 prime lens is equally at home in a wedding photographer's gear bag as it is perched upon a tripod and pointed up toward the night sky. It's an excellent lens for indoor events (like parties) where ambient light is low.
For those looking to invest in a 24mm f/1.4 prime for Canon DSLRs, two candidates likely to be considered are the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM and Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lenses. Today, we're going to see how these lenses compare to one another so that you can make the right investment for your needs.
First, let's first look at image quality. At f/1.4, the Canon 24L II is sharp in the center but the mid-frame and corners are noticeably softer. The Sigma 24 Art trails the Canon in center sharpness wide open, but it features a more even sharpness across the entire frame which results in the mid-frame and corners being sharper than the Canon. By f/2, the difference between the two lenses in the center is negligible but the Sigma is still clearly sharper in the corners.
Both lenses feature similar size and weight and accept 77mm front filters. If weather sealing is a high priority, the Canon 24L II is the lens you want. Otherwise, let's look at some other differentiating factors.
As usual with third party lenses, you can expect the Sigma 24 Art to focus less consistently compared to the Canon. Live View focusing can be used to increase focus accuracy (as the actual sensor data is being used for focusing), but Live View focusing may not be suitable in some situations.
However, in this particular case, a 24mm lens' relatively short focal length helps mitigate focus inaccuracies to some degree as depth of field (DOF) is derived from the relationship between sensor size, focal length, aperture and distance to subject. Let me share an example.
With a subject positioned 5 feet away while using a full-frame camera with a 50mm focal length and an f/1.4 aperture, the in-focus DOF would be about 3 inches (7.62 cm). If using a 24mm focal length under the same circumstances, DOF would increase to 1.12 feet (34.14 cm).
Of course subject framing would not be the same with different focal lengths being used, but suffice it to say that shorter focal lengths will give you more DOF at typical working distances.
As is typical of Canon vs. third-party lens comparisons, one big differentiating factor is price. Right now the Sigma 24 Art is only 55% the cost of the Canon counterpart. This represents a significant savings that could easily be applied to other lenses or desired accessories.
To summarize, if you need weather sealing and consistent AF, the Canon 24L II is the best 24mm f/1.4 lens to add to your kit. Otherwise, the Sigma makes a strong case for saving a decent amount of cash while investing in your 24mm prime.
Canon has no more than two L lenses sharing any same focal length or focal length range with one exception – they currently offer 4 different versions of the EF 70-200mm L lens. More choices are great, but more choices of course lead to more difficult decisions. While some may desire to have all 4 of these lenses in their kits, most do not need or want to afford all of them and one or two need to be selected. However, there is enough difference between the f/2.8 and f/4 models to make having two of these lenses in a kit make sense.
The No-Brainer Choice
The bottom line is that, if size, weight and price are not issues for you, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens is definitely the lens to get. This lens offers the best of everything and it is the most versatile among the 4 options.
The Rest of the Options
The decision becomes harder if the f/2.8L IS II lens is not affordable or if size/weight concessions are necessary. The 4 lens models are separated, in specs at least, by having or not having IS and by having an f/2.8 or f/4 max aperture. Fortunately, the remaining three options do not sacrifice performance as they all reliably deliver great image quality.
If size and weight are concerns, the f/4 models are the direction to go. At roughly half the weight of the f/2.8 models, your arms, shoulders, etc. are going to clearly know the difference after hours of carry and use. At roughly half of the cost of the respective f/2.8 model, your wallet will understand the weight difference as well.
Image stabilization adds to the cost, but it also adds greatly to the value of the lens, adding a great amount of versatility. If handholding in low light with still subjects, the f/4L IS model is the right choice between the f/4 models and possibly the better choice over the f/2.8 non-IS. This lens features weather sealing like it's f/2.8 counterpart (filter required) and delivers better image quality than the older, non-IS model and it is arguably better than the f/2.8 non-IS also.
The f/4L non-IS has the most attractive price tag and has been the introduction to Canon's L-series lenses for a huge number of photographers. If your budget is a primary limiting factor, the 70-200mm f/4L USM is a very capable lens with inherent benefits far exceeding its cost. It’s small, easy to pack, solidly built and a great introduction into Canon’s highest-tier lenses. However, caution should be exercised as weather sealing does not come with the budget price tag.
If stopping action in low light is important, the f/2.8 non-IS lens likely has your name on it at this stage of the selection process. The 1-stop wider max aperture can stop action in 1/2 as much light as the f/4 options at the same ISO setting. The wider aperture can also create a stronger background blur. Note that the f/2.8 non-IS version is only partially weather sealed.
As mentioned, the difference in features between the f/4 and f/2.8 lenses is significant and I currently have both the f/4L IS and the f/2.8L IS II in my kit. Both see frequent use.
A fast, 85mm prime lens is often a portrait photographer's best friend. The focal length helps to create a flattering perspective (ideal for faces) while the wide aperture aids in separating a subject (or subjects) from the background.
As such, many planning to invest in an 85mm prime will likely consider the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM and Tamron 85mm f/1.8 VC USD. To assist in the decision making process between these two lenses, we're going to take a look at how they compare.
First off, let's start off with the similarities. Both lenses feature the same focal length and same wide f/1.8 aperture. Both are compatible with full frame cameras as well as APS-C sensor cameras. There, that was easy. Now let's move onto the differences.
The Canon 85mm f/1.8 USM was released in 1992; the Tamron 85mm f/1.8 VC was released earlier this year (2016). The Tamron exhibits more even sharpness from the center of the frame to the corners, where it is noticeably better than the Canon. The IQ difference is significant, especially when factoring in the Canon's rather heavy CA wide open. Distortion is slightly better controlled with the Tamron (but neither is bad) and the third-party lens handles flare a bit better too.
The Tamron also features Vibration Control rated to 3.5 stops of assistance, meaning you can handhold this lens in much lower light compared to the Canon. For many, that additional feature alone would be the deciding factor in choosing the Tamron lens over the Canon offering. Tamron also offers a significantly longer warranty than Canon (6-years vs. 1-year).
So far, it looks like the Tamron is the clear winner of this comparison. But the Canon has three important advantages that should not be overlooked – size/weight, consistently accurate AF and a much lower price.
The Canon is smaller (2.96 x 3.15” vs. 3.36 x 3.9”) and significantly lighter (15.2 oz vs. 26.1 oz). Those packing and traveling with the lens may appreciate the Canon's edge in portability.
As Tamron must reverse engineer Canon's AF algorithms as opposed to having the blueprints at hand, you can expect the Canon 85mm f/1.8 USM to focus more consistently with better AI Servo tracking. Note that the Tamron also suffers from focus shift as the aperture is stopped down. To compensate for this behavior, you may need to focus slightly in front of your subject when using narrower apertures.
One way Tamron is dealing with AF issues (including the possibility of incompatibility with future DSLRs) is by copying Sigma's approach of end-user firmware upgrades and AF customizability with the introduction of their TAP-in Console. Purchasing the relatively inexpensive accessory (compatible with recently announced Tamron lenses) will ensure your lens works the best that it possibly can.
Now let's look at prices. At full MSRP, the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 acquisition would require only 56% of the investment required to purchase the Tamron. And with the Canon currently qualifying for an instant rebate, you could purchase two of the Canon lenses for the price of the Tamron. For budget-conscious consumers (especially those investing in their first prime lens), the price difference will be the biggest deciding factor.
Some may wonder why I didn't include the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM and the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM in this comparison. From my point of view, the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM is a more specialized tool and carries a price tag to reflect its status. If you need its 1-stop aperture advantage, there is nothing else that is comparable. And as far as the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 goes... it's currently listed as "discontinued" at B&H (Canon mount).
I wonder if that implies anything?
A 35mm f/1.4 prime lens is a go-to favorite for wedding photographers, street photographers and photojournalists alike. Empowered by its very wide aperture, it's a great story-telling lens that is able to be utilized with great effect in a wide range of situations.
If you're looking to purchase a 35mm f/1.4 prime in the near future, you may very well be stuck between two worthy contenders, the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM and the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens. While they share the same focal length and f/1.4 aperture, there is one important differentiator between them. Read on to find out what that is.
First, let's start off with the Sigma 35mm Art. This is the lens that changed the market's perspective of what third-party lens manufacturers were capable of. Introduced in late 2012, it was sleek, stylish and featured fantastic image quality at an attractive price. The impact of this lens's introduction on the value of Sigma's brand cannot be understated; this lens shook up the industry.
How impressive was it? Consider this: Out of 320 reviews at B&H for the Canon-mount version (at the time of this post), 89.38% rated the lens 5-stars. Another 8.44% rated it 4-stars. The rest of the ratings (3-stars and below) make up the balance of 2.19%.
But for the purposes of this post, we're interested in how the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 compares to the even newer Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM. While the Sigma had a sharpness edge on the original EF 35mm f/1.4L USM, Canon took the sharpness crown back with its introduction of the EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM. Both are very good, but the 35L II's corners are noticeably better. The Canon exhibits a little less distortion but doesn't fare as well as the Sigma in the flare department. With all things considered, I feel most will be happy with the image quality from both of these lenses. As such, we must look elsewhere for significant differentiating factors.
The two factors which seem to differentiate these lenses most are AF consistency and price. AF consistency can be mitigated; price, not so much.
First of all, Sigma has gone to great lengths to ensure its lenses will perform well in the AF department. They even designed their Global Vision lenses to be consumer upgradable via downloadable firmware and the Sigma's USB Dock accessory. The USB Dock can aid in dialing in focus at minimum focus distance, infinity and several points in between. The dock also provides a safeguard that Global Vision Lenses like the 35mm f/1.4 Art will play nicely with yet-to-be-released DSLRs (given time to develop new firmwares).
However, calibrating focus to maximize focus accuracy is one thing. Focusing consistently is another. I owned the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art for three years and used it primarily for weddings and events. I can say without hesitation that it did not nail focus as consistently with phase-detect (viewfinder) AF as my Canon USM lenses. The consistency wasn't bad, but the difference was noticeable. Thankfully, there is something you can do to significantly increase your in-focus rate.
If using the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art for an especially critical shot, Live View focusing can be utilized to ensure your subjects remain in focus. Because Live View uses the actual data processed by the sensor to achieve focus, any issues with traditional phase-detect AF are bypassed. It may look silly when you're holding your DSLR up like a compact camera, but... the in-focus result will likely be worth the small embarrassment for fleeting moments.
While Live View focusing for "can't miss" moments may be inconvenient, it will likely prove a worthwhile concession for many photographers considering the Sigma 35mm f/1.4's biggest benefit over the Canon 35L II – price. Without rebates or special pricing, the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art is half the price of the Canon at the time of this post. The Sigma is an incredible value, even when its primary drawback is taken into consideration. On the other hand, important to some is that the Canon has weather sealing to its advantage.
If you're a wedding/event photographer who wants the most reliable AF in a 35mm f/1.4 lens (or otherwise requires weather sealing), the Canon "L" is the best choice. It's an easy recommendation if one's budget allows for its acquisition. However, if your livelihood isn't dependent upon capturing fleeting moments with a 35mm focal length that cannot be recreated, or if Live View focusing is a tolerable solution for when the moments matter, then the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art can likely fulfill your needs at a very reasonable price.
Getting both of these lenses is of course ideal (and very highly recommended), but what if your budget allows for only one? Which one should you get? On the surface, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens and the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens are quite different in their specs, but with the addition of the Canon EF 2x III Extender creating a 140-400mm f/5.6 IS lens from the 70-200 whenever desired, these two options quickly become rather close in primary specs.
In making this decision, the first question to ask is: "How important is a wide aperture to you?" If you are shooting action in low light, especially indoors, the f/2.8 aperture is going to be very important. If you need the maximum background blur in the 70-200mm focal length range, the f/2.8 lens is the better choice. If you simply need the 70-100mm focal length range, the 70-200 is the right choice as the 100-400 can't do that.
While the focal length range should play strongly into the decision making process, the 2x extender evens out the playing field between these two lenses. One of the first concerns I have when adding an extender is the impact to image sharpness.
Overall, these lenses are both so sharp that image sharpness is not a significant differentiator over the native focal length range overlap. The 70-200 of course needs help from an extender to cover the 200-400mm comparable range. Adding a 1.4x extender to a great zoom lens will cause relatively minor impact to image sharpness, but a 2x extender generally produces a noticeable contrast and resolution impact and that is the case here. The 70-200 performs quite well with the 2x, but the difference in across-the-frame sharpness is noticeable with the 100-400 showing a moderately strong advantage in the 400mm comparison. AF performance/speed also takes a bit of a hit with this extender in place.
These two lenses are quite similar in size, weight and price ... until the 2x extender is added to the equation. The 2x adds 2" (50mm) to the length, 12 oz (340g) to the weight and roughly 20% to the cost.
Thus, if the longer focal lengths are going to see significant use, the 100-400 L II has the overall advantage including smaller size, lighter weight, lower price, better AF performance and better image quality. Applications I commonly use the 100-400 L II for include wildlife, landscapes and big-field daytime outdoor sports photography.
When the wider aperture is needed and/or the 70-200mm focal length range is preferred, the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II is my preference. This lens is an excellent choice for portraits, indoor events (including weddings), indoor sports, and many more similar uses. When longer-than-200mm focal lengths are needed only infrequently, adding the 2x to the 70-200mm lens can get the job done.
Again, the ideal Canon kit will have both of these lenses in it, but for those that must choose between the two, there is usually a best choice.
One relatively common question we get is, "Should I get the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM or EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens? Is the 100L worth the extra cost?" And those are certainly good questions. Of course there are comparable third party options to consider, but for the purposes of this post we'll be looking at the two 100mm Canon models typically considered.
Both lenses feature the same focal length, the same maximum aperture, offer 1:1 macro focusing capability and feature very similar image quality. While the 100L barely edges out the non-L in sharpness at wider apertures and the non-L is better with flare, I wouldn't consider image quality to be a differentiating factor between the two lenses. However, there are a couple of key differences between the lenses that aid in differentiation.
Probably the biggest advantage of the EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is its Hybrid Image Stabilization. Hybrid IS corrects for both angular and shift movements and allows for roughly 2-stops of correction at 1:1 focusing distances and up to 4-stops of correction at longer focusing distances. If you plan on using your macro lens handheld in the field, the L-series lens – with its HIS, great build quality and weather sealing – will be your best choice. The value of image stabilization for handheld macros cannot be understated; it's hugely beneficial. And considering that the 100L is only about 50% more than its non-L counterpart (in the US, without rebates), many photographers will find the pro-grade lens's benefits worth the investment. Being one of Canon's least expensive L-series lenses means that this lens is often a photographer's first introduction into Canon's premium lens lineup.
For those who prefer using a tripod when photographing macro subjects, and who do not need weather-sealing, the EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM provides L-series image quality at a more wallet-friendly price. I [Sean] personally opted for purchasing the EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM for my own personal use and I have rarely regretted it. However, I rarely shoot macros handheld. Instead, I typically prefer to capture macros under very controlled circumstances employing a solid support system [tripod] and strobes (whether indoors or outdoors). Under those studio or studio-like conditions, the benefits of the 100L are mitigated if not entirely moot.
In summary, if you plan on shooting macros handheld and/or need weather sealing, get the EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM. Otherwise, save some money and enjoy similar IQ with the EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM.
Those looking to add a Canon wide-angle zoom to their full-frame kits will likely be considering between the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM, EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM and EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lenses. At first glance, choosing between them may not seem easy.
The first thing to keep in mind when purchasing a wide-angle zoom lens is, "What is my intended use for this lens?" If the answer involves capturing action – like dancing at a wedding reception – then your decision is an easy one.
The Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens' one-stop aperture advantage will allow you to use a shutter speed that's twice as fast as the other lenses at identical ISOs. Another way to look at it is that using an f/4 aperture to stop action would require doubling the ISO to achieve the same shutter speed obtained using an f/2.8 aperture. Considering that many wedding receptions are held in low light venues, using an f/2.8 aperture is the only way to freeze action and keep high ISO noise at bay without compromising the image quality with detail-robbing noise removal.
There are three drawbacks to the 16-35mm f/2.8L II, though – price, lack of image stabilization and an 82mm front filter thread. Of course, that last "drawback" may not be an issue if you have other lenses requiring 82mm filters (allowing for the ease of filter sharing), but the 77mm filter size is certainly more common and more likely already part of one's kit.
If shooting architecture, real estate, landscapes, cityscapes (or anything else with a "scapes" on the end), the other two wide-angle zoom options can be easily employed while minimizing the investment required to create such imagery.
If you don't require an f/2.8 maximum aperture and price is not a primary factor, get the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens. Benefits of the 16-35 f/4L IS include a slightly wider focal length, 77mm filter threads, image stabilization and enhanced fluorine lens coatings for top notch image quality. The 16-35 f/4L IS will allow you to use shutter speeds 4-stops slower to capture sharp images of static subjects while hand-holding the camera, thereby making tripod use less of a necessity (great for backpacking adventures).
So why would you choose the EF 17-40mm f/4L USM over the other two options? The primary reason is price. However, rebate can affect the price comparison significantly. With the current instant rebates in place, the 17-40mm f/4L is only $250.00 less expensive than its 16-35 f/4L IS counterpart. Many will appreciate the 16-35 f/4L IS's benefits for the difference in price.
But again, if money is really tight, the 17-40mm f/4L is still an excellent option. One can easily give up image stabilization if using a tripod, and if shooting at f/8, you won't likely notice a sharpness difference between the two lenses at their widest focal lengths (though the 17-40L does exhibit more CA). Another benefit of the 17-40L is a slightly longer focal range, sacrificing 1mm on the wide end but gaining 5mm on the long end.
If size/weight is the ultimate deciding factor, the EF 17-40mm f/4L USM is the smallest and lightest with the 16-35mm lenses being very similar to one another in those regards. However, the EF 17-40 f/4L's lens hood is so big that it will take up significantly more space when affixed to the lens (reversed) compared to the EF 16-35 f/4L with its hood.
If image quality wide open is the ultimate deciding factor, the oldest lens of the bunch – the EF 17-40 f/4L USM – easily falls short of the other options. Take a look at the corner results of the 17-40 f/4L vs. 16-35 f/4L IS tested on the EOS 5Ds R at f/4 with the lenses set to their widest focal lengths. Of course a wide zoom lens isn't always used at its widest focal length and the IQ difference lessens at longer focal lengths, but... I feel that a wide-angle zooms are primarily purchased for their widest focal length capability, thereby making the widest focal length comparison most significant.
When comparing the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM to the EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM, differences in sharpness become much more nuanced when the lenses are compared at their widest common aperture of f/4 at 16mm. The 16-35 f/4L IS is definitely better in the corners, but not by a huge degree. When both lenses are compared wide open, the IQ chasm is greater as the f/2.8's stopped-down advantage disappears (the same is true for the 35mm results as well).
Of course, there are other factors that can impact image quality besides sharpness including distortion, flare and vignetting. Use the site's Comparison Tools to fully compare these lenses.
This is a question that I've been asking myself since the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens was introduced back in 2012. Since that time, I have second guessed my own decision multiple times, my vacillating illuminated by the fact that I've had and sold two different 24-105 L Lenses since then. Initially, the significantly higher price tag of the 24-70 f/4L IS made the recommendation decision considerably easier. Now that the list prices have completely equalized (though rebates potentially change the equation significantly), the merits of the lenses themselves become the bigger decision factors.
The first significant fact to understand is that these are both great lenses and for most, there is no wrong decision to be made here. Both lenses are well built including weather sealing, focus fast and accurately, have a great general purpose focal length range and have IS. They share a very similar design including appearance and on many accounts, can be used interchangeably.
The primary and significant advantage held by the 24-105 f/4L IS is the extra 35mm of focal length range on the long end.
The 7-years-younger 24-70 f/4L IS is a modestly smaller and slightly lighter lens. It is 0.52" (13.3mm) shorter when retracted (actual measured length) and 0.68" (18.5mm) shorter with the hood installed. The 24-70 weighs 2.3 oz. (65g) less with hood installed (actual measured weight). Are these differences? Yes. Are they significant ones? Not so much.
A stronger advantage for the 24-70 is its very impressive macro capability. A 0.70x maximum magnification from a non-prime-macro lens is eye-opening and significantly more impressive than the 24-105's 0.23x spec. However, it should be kept in mind that a 12mm extension tube can push the 24-105 to 0.60x maximum magnification. Disclaimer: I have not made an image quality comparison with the extension tube in play.
Image quality comparisons I have made show that:
At 24mm with a wide open aperture, the 24-70 f/4L IS bests the 24-105 L IS in sharpness by a modest amount. The 24-105 L delivers a sharper image at 50mm f/4, but at 70mm the 24-70 f/4L is back up to near equality with the 24-105 L. These two lenses perform more similarly at f/5.6 and at f/8 their results are nearly identical. The difference is negligible at f/11.
The 24-70 has less distortion, especially at 24mm. It also has noticeably less CA at the wide end, but more at 70mm. The 24-70 f/4L IS has less vignetting at the wide end at f/4, but more at the long end. By f/5.6, the two lenses are close in this regard.
Affecting image quality on a limited basis is the aperture blade count. The 24-70 has 9 blades vs. the 24-105 L's 8. This difference will primarily be noticed when point light sources are photographed at narrow apertures, with the odd blade numbered aperture creating 18-point sun stars vs the even's 8-point stars.
Another difference between these lenses is Canon's 4-stop Hybrid Image Stabilization featured in the 24-70, correcting both angular and shift movement in macro mode. The 24-105 L has 3-stop non-Hybrid Image Stabilization. Theoretically, the 24-70 can be handheld in 1/2 as much light as the 24-105 can be handheld in.
If price remains a deciding factor for you ... even though the list prices are equal, there remains at times a considerable difference, thanks to a rebate and a reward differential.
As of this post date, B&H has the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS Lens in stock with a $150.00 instant rebate with a 10% B&H reward. Also in stock is the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS Lens with a 4% reward. Check today's prices as these will, at some point, surely change.
Willing to buy a white box and/or gray (same lens not imported by Canon USA) version? On eBay, the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS Lens can currently be found for as little as $595 – an incredible value. Not too far behind is the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS Lens in white box condition currently priced at starting at $675.00 on eBay. These prices change, so check these links to get the latest.
Buying these lenses in refurbished by Canon condition is another great option. Expect Canon refurbished lenses to be in like-new condition and they usually (verify) have a same-as-new warranty. Check refurbished inventories at B&H, Canon and Adorama.
My Own Decision
After going back and forth, and back and forth, and carrying both lenses some of the time, I've personally settled on the 24-70mm f/4L IS as my primary walkaround, travel and general purpose lens. I usually have a telephoto zoom with me, reducing the value of the 24-105's focal length advantage. That leaves all of the other advantages to outweigh the 24-105's primary advantage. I've used the 24-70 f/4L IS in the 4 corners of the 50 USA states and many locations within. It has served me very well and has now permanently replaced my 24-105 f/4L IS.