On Monday I visited the Lincoln Silver Street branch of London Camera Exchange to see if they had a Canon EF mount Tamron 70-300mm f4-5.6 SP Di VC USD Lens that I could try on my Canon EOS 70D. I already have an old Canon EF 100-300 f4.5-5.6 USM lens that is quite good optically but is not stabilised (in fact it was released before Canon had stabilised lenses). When you are at the 300mm end of this zoom there are times that you need some form of image stabilisation, whether this is IS, VC, VR, OS or OSS doesn’t really matter it’s all the same thing.
Unfortunately they did not have any Tamron 70-300mm lenses never mind Canon mount variants. When I spoke to Lee he informed me that most people just buy the Canon version and don’t consider 3rd party versions hence they don’t stock them – fair enough.
I had already considered the Canon 70-300 f4.5-5.6 IS USM lens but have struggled to find anything more than a couple of good reviews – it seems that it needs to be stopped down quite a bit to get good shots. Additionally the lens does not offer Full-time Manual focus and the front element rotates too, it is also probably due an update although this lens itself is the second version of a lens in this range form Canon with IS. The final issue (which is a snobbery thing possibly) is that there is no focus scale window – something which I want an all of my lenses if possible. The only exception to this is on STM lenses which don’t have them and the Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II lens that I have (an only because it was half price).
However, this LCE has almost the entire Canon lens line up to try so I asked if I could try their Canon EF 70-300 f4.5-5.6 L IS USM lens on my EOS 70D. Lee obliged and the lens was given to me.
Recently the lens had had a slight reduction in price (around £60 to £80) so now costs £1070 and there is also £100 cash-back too.
My initial impression that this quite hefty lens balanced nicely on the EOS body. The lens seems to be almost entirely metal and there were only two things that I didn’t like. The first is that it is really white, a very bright “HELLO THERE!” white colour, it seems whiter than normal, DAZ would be proud. If I was to get one of these I would need to consider a lens cover of some description (if they make one). The second was that this is a very expensive 70-300 f4.5-5.6 lens and Canon do not include a tripod-collar even though Canon put space on the lens for one.
Just like most Canon accessories the “Canon Tripod Mount Ring C (WII)” for this lens isn’t cheap and costs £164. Why don’t they include this? and why does it cost so much, if you need the tripod collar you will be wiping out the recent reductions in price as well as the cash-back.
As I was taking some test shots at various focal lengths and apertures out throgh the shops open doors one of the first things I noticed was how good the IS was (one of the main reasons to get this lens), you would be viewing the scene through the viewfinder and then a half-press on the shutter release would stabilise the image instantly, it was really quick and I kept doing it as I was really impressed, The sound of the IS was almost silent too, to hear it in the shop I had to put my ear against the lens and then it was only a non-obtrusive whirr.
I took a number of shots at various focal lengths, I shoot JPEG+RAW to give the maximum scope when I need pictures quickly I have them and RAW files when work is required on the images; I tend to do little to no adjustment on my Wildlife photos apart from the occasional crop (I can already here Jared grumbling about that).
I could show you lots of boring test photos instead I’ll just summarise my findings (I always skip to the conclusion of most lens reviews anyway). The lens is sharp and shows little to no vignetting or chromatic aberration. The lens oozes confidence but is a little on the heavy side although the I.S. is fantastic and will certainly help me capture sharper photos as I’m not the steadiest of people when hand-holding cameras. However is it worth £970 (with cash-back) and £164 for the tripod collar?
For me the answer is no at this moment as I still need to compare this with the Tamron 70-300 VC, the only real deficit of this is that it doesn’t have weather esealing and the image quality might not be as good as the Canon.
After writing this post I visited the High Street store and they had a Tamron 70-300 VC lens in Canon mount to try out and this cemented my opinion of what lens to go for. All being well this will be posted tommorrow.