November 17, 2012

Canon, Nikon, Sigma, and Tamron 24-70mm Lens Shootout: What's the Best Value for Your Money?

Kevin Good over at CrisisLab has recently published a comparison of both higher end (Canon and Nikon) and less expensive (Sigma and Tamron) lenses common for various types of DSLR shooting -- 24-70mm f/2.8 zooms. The test compares overall clarity, both at the center of each lens as well as at the edges, the quality of bokeh, the amount of vignetting, and the ability for internal optical image stabilization. The results of each test were weighted against the going price for each lens, in order to determine which possesses the best overall value. Read on to check out the video -- and which lens may have the most bang for your buck.

Calling this NSFW would definitely be a stretch, but there's a bit of a visual innuendo in the video -- pretty harmless, but I have to mention it, just in case. Here's the test:

As demonstrated, here are the lenses in question:

  1. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 -- $2,300
  2. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 -- $1,890
  3. Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 -- $824 (there's a few varions of these available, but they're all $824 and include autofocus)
  4. Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 -- $1,300 (there's variations of these available too, but they're all $1,300 and include built in stabilization and autofocus)

The clarity test was conducted by shooting high res stills and scaling down to 1080 resolution, which Kevin Good at Weapons of Mass Destruction contends illustrates the ceiling of sharpness capable with each lens. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Canon and Nikon fair better, particularly around the outer edges of the image. It's a bit tough to tell whether the Tamron beats out the Sigma or vice-versa, but it's pretty clear the more expensive pieces of glass here are more, well, clear (check out the video in 1080p for the best examination).

Interestingly, the vignetting test -- which was shot wide open at 20mm -- produces pretty miserable looking stuff from each contender, and the Sigma lens is pretty obviously the worst culprit. The very outer corners on the Sigma look almost black -- but as Kevin rightly points out, the vignetting from each is essentially unnoticeable in the shots from the forest test! This is something to take into consideration, because, although you can't excuse the failure of your shooting technology outright, I'd say there are definitely moments in which laboratory-style tests can be virtually irrelevant to real-world shooting conditions.

As for optical image stabilization, the Tamron is the only lens to include the feature, which -- again, well pointed out here by Kevin -- exists in this far less expensive lens, but for some reason, is not included on the heavy-hitters. Why this omission? Maybe Canon and Nikon just don't feel obligated to provide you with anything but high-quality glass for those prices. So with all these things in mind, and with the short-comings of the Tamron taken into account, it wasn't a Canon or Nikon that was chosen as the ideal solution for the working DSLR shooter on a budget. As for the rest, well, if you didn't see the end of the video, you're missing out! (By the way he's done this sort of destruction before with his other tests.)

How do you guys feel about the test? Would you agree, that the Tamron's value is superior for its price? As an investment, would you rather spring for the highest quality glass, or be perfectly happy with 'acceptable' quality? What about the big company's denial of optical stabilization in more expensive lenses?

Link: Weapons of Mass Production -- Zooms

Your Comment

30 Comments

Ouch! I cringed so hard when he broke the Sigma, but when he set the Canon and Nikon on the stool I was begging him not to. Best horror film ever! :(

November 17, 2012

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David Sharp

I did notice that of the three lenses destroyed by the baseball bat, the Nikon seemed to hold up the best ;)

November 18, 2012

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steve

The youtube comments note that the smashed "lenses" are likely replica coffee mugs. I never realized how upsetting destroyed camera gear was....

November 18, 2012

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Kevin

I have the Tamron and it is indeed a great lens, except for one issue that was never mentioned in the several reviews and spec sheets I looked over - it is reverse focusing, like a Nikon lens.

With every other lens I have going the other way this is an issue for my muscle-memory when filming.

I can only assume photographers who reviewed the lens aren't bothered because they use auto-focus.

November 17, 2012

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Stu Mannion

Well "reverse" focusing is a matter of opinion, eh? If you're a Nikon shooter (which I am) then that fits right in. In any case, the review is certainly not the most comprehensive-- I was attempting to hit the most important metrics in a short time.

November 25, 2012

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The Canon lens you linked isn't an f2.8, its an f4....

November 18, 2012

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bob

Fixed. Thanks for the tip :)

November 18, 2012

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avatar
Dave Kendricken
Writer
Freelancer

Ok, I'll wade in on this. The Nikon is not really worth the money. If you are shooting at that level of critical sharpness in that range there are cheaper primes that will blow it out the water. There are also much more versatile options for 'one lens' photography (the 18-200 for DX, 28-300 for FX). Also, surprised he didn't include the Tamron 28-75 in this, as for Nikon shooters I strongly recommend it. Much cheaper (under $500) and a very useful range for editorial shooting, both stills and video. If you have to have this length (you shoot weddings, editorial, or are doing run/gun doco work) its a great lens on Nikon and Canon DSLRs, or a Canon C300.
I do recommend the Canon one for Canon DSLRs if you can afford it. That combo works really well. Oddly, I've found that lens to perform poorly on REDs, but works beautifully on a Canon DSLR.
Final note - been bitten too many times by Sigma.

November 18, 2012

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marklondon

Been hearing about a HUGE variation in quality among the 24-70 mark II canons, some copies are way sharper than others.

November 18, 2012

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john jeffreys

I wouldn't say huge, but according to these tests, its WAY better than the old 24-70, which was the best of the bunch.

http://www.canonrumors.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/2470variation.jpeg

http://www.canonrumors.com/reviews/review-canon-ef-24-70-f2-8l-ii/

In 2004 I had the Tamron 28-75 2.8, because I couldn't justify the extra money for the Canon when the comparison tests were similar. However, on a shoot in 2005, when it was hot and humid, my lens fogged with condensation the second I took it out of the bag, even when the front element cleared up, all the elements "in" the lens were still fogged. Lens was useless for over an hour. Another shooter was running the Canon and it was fine. The sealing on the Canon lens is just that much better. It is a tank of a lens, a real PRO piece of equipment. The Tamron can make great photos, just like a Rebel can take great photos, but it's not a 1D. I upgraded to the Canon after that experience and then lens have never let me down.

As a pro, that's priority number 1 and I am willing to pay for that security. I've shot outdoors in the rain with my 1D and my Canon. Couldn't even do that with the Tamron. Snow, -40, caribean humidity, etc. I've taken that lens all over the world.

The Tamron is nice and is perfect for 80% of the people out there, but I couldn't recommend it over the Canon, it's not even close.

He is right about one thing though, Canon does need to make an IS version.

November 18, 2012

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sean

Oh yeah its sharp as fuck, but I've been reading on reduser of people that have way sharper 24-70s than other people with the same exact lens. Variation like that is normal (and a reason why people like Kubrick would allegedly buy 10 copies of the same lens and return the other 9, to get the best one), but not as dramatic as what we have been seeing with this one

November 18, 2012

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john jeffreys

I would be interested to see the sharpness comparisons with the lenses stopped down a bit. Obviously it will sharpen up more around 5.6 or so. Guess it's too late now that he smashed them all with a bat though haha.

November 18, 2012

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Tim

I just bought a Zeiss Contax Vario-Sonnar 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 (used on eBay for about $350, a very nice deal, with C/Y to Canon EOS adapter included!). I love these old lenses and already own some Zeiss Contax primes, but really needed a variable focal length for shooting docs and events.

No, it doesn't have image stabilization, but it does have a built-in macro feature, which is great. We'll see if I can make it work without IS and maybe just clean up shaky footage in post.

The Tamron looks nice but I'm a Canon focuser, righty tighty. Can't do that backwards Nikon / Tamron thang.

November 18, 2012

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Peter O.

I compared both the Tamron and Sigma when deciding on a 24-70 lens, and found the Tamron way too fiddly for manual focusing. It was almost impossible to get objects into focus with it. The Sigma was a way better lens for shooting video and focusing manually.

If I would be shooting mainly stills, I would've gone for the Tamron for the better sharpness, but I must say there's nothing wrong with the Sigma, which is still considerably cheaper than the Tamron.

I've been on shoots where the other camera uses a Canon 24-70 and footage from our both cameras have been mixed without anyone noticing.

So I'd say the differences are minimal, especially for video and the Sigma is the best value-for-money you can buy.

November 18, 2012

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I haven't had too many issues manually focusing (I even do it occasionally for stills on that lens), but that makes sense. I just won't buy Sigma anymore :-) The main issue is that there are serious alternatives to the OEM versions.

November 18, 2012

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marklondon

Hi, is the Tamron for full frame?

November 18, 2012

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Ed

Yes it is. However, if you use it with a super 35mm sensor, it performs even better in regards to sharpness and vignetting. Love mine!

November 18, 2012

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Mo

I use to have a sigma 24-70 for a few months, then sold it because of lack of focus efficiency (when taking still pictures, too many focus issues).
Then I bought the Canon L 24-70, and it's another world. Works perfectly. On the video side,I agree OIS is great. And it's a reall good point for Tamron (which I don't own).
Everything depends on the shooting situation. Budget is not a concern to me. But if it is a concern to you, go for the Tamron, don't spend all of your money on higher end brand equipment if your films go on youtube. Noone will ever notice the difference !

November 18, 2012

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Quite possibly the funniest camera related review I have ever encountered. Also loaded with common sense about what is really important to most users in a lens . It almost makes me want to rush out and buy the Tamron.

Great work :-)

November 19, 2012

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Laurence Bond

Thanks. :)

November 25, 2012

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Been using my 18-200 Nikon on my 550d for video and works just fine... Not quite as sharp as the sonys RX100 for video but gets the job done nicely with its range. Also use the 50 plastic canon for interviews on tripod and works perfectly fine - the 18-55 kit canon is just rubbish though lol. Left 30kgs of pro Nikon glass at home as the end result although much better just is not worth the weight in the end of traveling with all that weight vs the one 18-200 for video :)

November 21, 2012

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Terrific video! Enjoyed every minute. Especially the batting practise! Well done and informative.

November 21, 2012

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Photowyzard

Awesome. So glad I found no film school website.

November 22, 2012

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Loughlin

That's just moronic smashing lenses.

And what's this obsession with IS. I hate IS. You can't get a solid frame b/c it's creeping around on you. This is a feature for still shooters, not filmmakers.

Use a tripod and learn how to shoot. It only helps you if you're walking around handheld without a proper rig to give it mass and anchor points and change the center of gravity.

Do us a favor and don't give idiots like these guys attention on nfs.

You want good lens reviews, use Ken Rockwell's site (He is a still photographer, but the information is still valid, especially if you are planning to use your lenses into the future beyond 1080p). That's the go-to site for any lens review...not some smarmy kids smashing up good gear.

November 24, 2012

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Daniel Mimura

IS or VR or VC or whatever we're calling it gives you options. Of course don't leave it on for shooting locked-down. But it is super helpful much of the time: when I'm doing handheld, even with a rig; when I'm mounting on something that might vibrate, like a vehicle; even on a dolly/other moving platform it can smooth out some of the little tiny hiccups from less-than-perfect move. I'm not saying it's for all shooters (stills shooters that exclusively shoot with flash are the one group it's basically totally useless for). But I find it hugely useful in many many situations, and I given the choice I want that option in my lens.

I'm glad you like the video. :)

November 25, 2012

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Ken Rockwell as your reference????????????? My God that is scary

November 26, 2012

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Jerome

Outstanding review, clear, concise and funny as kucf.

I have no brand loyalty, worked with all four brands and more. I am just after the most versatile tool for the task, optical sharpness is not the be all and end all for me.

Vibration control, fast f2.8 and more consistent luminosity..............well done Tamron me thinks panic is flavour of the month in both Canon and Nikon headquarters.

Just out of curiousity did any of the lenses whacked survive their fate, bet they all qualify for soft focus portrait lenses

November 26, 2012

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Jerome

Next time you want to smash a great lens like those, can you offer them as prizes instead? A part of me died inside knowing they were smashed.. lol

February 18, 2013

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March 9, 2014

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thanks,it was really helpfull.

March 22, 2014

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zobo