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Canon 100-400mm L IS vs. Tamron 200-500mm

Quynh Nguyen , Jun 28, 2006; 08:03 a.m.

I am considering between the Canon 100-400L IS and the Tamron 200-500 before taking part in a birding class. Apart from the price difference, the reviews I got seem to suggest that the Canon is more usable whilst the Tamron reaches further.
Has anyone here used both? Can you tell me:

1. How much usability will I gain with the Canon, and how much further can the Tamron reach? Given that I will use tripod for the birding trips, while still expect to handhold for other purposes.

2. How often does the IS in the Canon help (not to miss a picture)? and how often do you use that last 100mm (400-500) in tamron?

3. Is the Tamron good for sport? i.e. for a football match.

By the way, I'm using a 20D. Thank you,
Quynh.

Responses

Steve Crist , Jun 28, 2006; 08:22 a.m.

I have the Canon 100-400 and it works great - even handheld. Focus is much faster than the Tamron. I used the Tamron briefly in the store and was not impressed (when compared to the Canon). Since you have a 20D the length of the Canon is more like 160-640 which should be more than adequate for birds. I don't recall the Tamrom having IS like the Canon but I might be wrong. I use a 5D and a 20D and on the 20D it really brings images in close. I recently shot an event at a remote control airplane club, and these were tougher shots to get than birding but the 20D 100-400 combination worked fine.

Gbl Juri , Jun 28, 2006; 08:24 a.m.

I don't know tamron lens, but i own the canon 100-400 since 2003. I can tell you that the IS, expecially in a telephoto lens is very very usefull, not only for handheld pictures but also for shots with monopod. I use the IS almost always, and the quality of this lens is very good. I use it almost only at long end between 300 and 400 mm. I really suggest it Bye

Daniel Cheung , Jun 28, 2006; 10:04 a.m.

For photographing birds, you would usually be stuck at the long end of your lens. i.e. you'd be using the 400-500mm section a lot. I bet if you got the 100-400, you'd be absolutely glued to the 400mm wishing you had longer. If you add a teleconver to that, you'd lose autofocus.

While the canon is built well, for photographing birds, the extra 100mm will definitely come in handy. The IS in the canon is decently useful but if you are trying to catch the birds in flight, then IS doesn't help since the subject is moving. You would need a really fast shutter speed anyways.

Sharpness >> I haven't looked at reviews for sharpness for the tamron so i can't really help you here. All i can say is that you should check out which one is sharp enough for you.

The last thing i would mention is that the canon is a push pull lens which makes acurate zooming more difficult. If you've never used a push pull lens, i'd suggest you try it out at the camera store and see how you like it. I personally hate it. If it was a conventional zoom, i probably would be thinking about getting that lens. I'm not sure if the tamron is a push pull lens or not. Maybe it is and that completely nullifies this last statement. lol.

have fun shooting birds

Gerhard Hofmann , Jun 28, 2006; 10:55 a.m.

This decision is not easy. It is true for photographing birds, you will be happy about every additional mm of focal length. But you would also want a lens with IS which by the way as the 100-400mm offers a panning-mode is VERY useful to catch the birds in flight. The push and pull design is something most people don�t like but really I like it. It is very fast and smooth, perfect for shooting action. The Tamron on the other hand extends tremendously way more than the Canon lens and zooming was very rough with lens I tried. I also didn�t like the manual focus with about a 50-60 degree rotation from closest focus distance to infinity. You have to be extremely careful when focusing manual as the slightest movement means quite a change in focusing distance. AF was reliable but not to compare to the Canon USM and of course there is no way to override AF on the Tamron. IS and USM would certainly make me want the Canon. In fact I use this lens since quite a while and I am satisfied with it.

Have fun Gerhard

Steve Dunn , Jun 28, 2006; 11:42 a.m.

The IS in the canon is decently useful but if you are trying to catch the birds in flight, then IS doesn't help since the subject is moving.

This lens includes IS mode 2, which is used for panning. It might be useful for birds, although it is certainly limited. Mode 2 works by detecting whether you are panning horizontally (i.e. it notices random positive and negative motion in the vertical direction, but motion only in one direction in the horizontal direction) or vertically, and it stabilizes the direction in which you are not panning. Because of the way this works, it can't stabilize for diagonal motion. So if you're tracking birds flying from your right to your left or vice versa, IS could help you out; if they're taking off or landing, IS isn't likely to help.

The IS version in this lens lacks tripod mode; if you're using it on a sturdy, motionless tripod, IS should be turned off. If you have the tripod head slackened off, however, to allow for quick adustments, then you may be able to use IS; basically, if you can see shakiness as you look through the viewfinder, you can use IS.

The comment about the push/pull nature of the Canon lens is well worth considering. Some people love this design, and others, well, not so much. Make sure you try it before deciding.

Mark Chappell , Jun 28, 2006; 12:38 p.m.

Since you have a 20D the length of the Canon is more like 160-640 which should be more than adequate for birds.

I do a lot of bird photography and I beg to differ. IMO, even with the 20D's 'crop factor', 400 or even 500 mm is rarely going to be sufficient for typically skittish wild birds. My default 35 mm equivalent focal length for birds is 1300 mm (1.3X camera + 500 mm + 2x converter) and very often I wish for more. So in that sense you're better off with the 200-500, but there is no denying the utility of IS. I've used the 100-400 fairly frequently for flight shots of birds, and the stabilization is quite helpful. The focus speed advantage of the 100-400 mentioned above is also extremely important for flight shots and probably sports, but much less so for perched birds and other static subjects.

How much further will the Tamron reach? Other things being equal, a bird's image made with a 500 mm will cover 56% more pixels than if shot with a 400 mm.

Quynh Nguyen , Jun 28, 2006; 02:37 p.m.

To Mark Chappell:
I saw your website, the pictures are wonderful. I wish Tamron comes up with USM and maybe IS for its 200-500.
Thanks,
Quynh.

Marcio Santos , Jun 28, 2006; 09:33 p.m.

When shooting birds you will always want a longer lens. The tamron will be better in this regard.

The tamron is a good lens for the price and range. The only problem is it's dark maximum aperture at 500mm.

The 100-400 everybody know.

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