With the new Canon 70-300mm lens we need to revisit the comparison with the Tamron 70-300mm. Prior to the new lens I would typically recommend the Tamron over the Canon due to the much faster autofocus speed of the Tamron. However Canon has raised the bar and this Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 IS II vs Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 VC review will compare these two lenses.
First of all the new Canon features a much faster “Nano USM” focusing system. This new focus motor is very fast and extremely quiet. It is optimized for video focus to minimize the noise while recording. This is a HUGE improvement over the old Micro USM focusing motor of the original Canon 70-300mm IS lens. The Tamron is pretty close to the same speed and noise level but the Canon is slightly faster and quieter.
The Canon 70-300mm lens also features a new LCD distance scale that shows the focusing distance. If the lens is attached to an APS-C body such as the Rebel series of cameras it will then convert the focal length to account for the “crop factor”. In other words if you set the lens to 300mm on a full frame camera the lens will display “300mm”. However, if the lens is mounted on an APS-C body the lens will report “480mm” instead when zoomed all the way in. I don’t find this all that usefull since most people will zoom the lens while looking through the viewfinder. Additionally there is an option to display the effectiveness of the image stabilization on the LCD screen. Again this is not very useful since when using the lens you can’t see this display (and even if you could what would you do about it?) finally the lens also allows you to view your depth of field scale and set hyperfocal distance. This is the feature I find most intriguing, however on a 70-300mm lens it is not very useful since depth of field is pretty shallow anyway. but I would love to see this technology applied to an ultrawide zoom lens.
As far as image stabilization goes I feel like both lenses are pretty equal. The Canon seems smoother, while the Tamron seems to have an initial jump before it settles in. But overall effectiveness is very similar.
The Tamron still holds a couple of advantages. For one the Tamron includes a lens hood. Canon only includes lens hoods on their professional “L” series lenses and offers them as an option on their consumer lenses. Second, the Tamron includes a 6-year warranty vs the Canon 1 year warranty. And finally, the Tamron is less expensive by $50 plus the lens hood for the Canon if you decide to purchase one.
One thing many people might point out is the minimum focus distance of the Tamron is significantly closer than the Canon, however the Max magnification remains the same at 0.25x (or 1:4) so this is not really helpful.