lol... too much pressure
The closest analogy I can come up with is like driving a Honda vs driving a Mercedes. Both will get you there. The speed and ride quality might even be similar. But there's something a little extra with the Merc. There's a feeling of luxury to it. Other than the obvious color difference in the lens (great marketing move by Canon btw), it's hard to quantify.
Here's what I gather so far:
- The MkII focuses just a tick faster. It's barely noticeable, and for most of us should not affect how our picture should turn out. The difference, subjectively is between "one one t" and "one one tho" ... if you're counting "one one thousand"
- IQ is nearly / practically identical. If you shoot test charts and have your camera in an 8 pound tripod all the time, then you might see a difference. But for me, hand held, trying to hit moving subjects (somewhat), the variance I induce into the system is bigger than the shot to shot difference between the two. Also the variance that the camera will induce (in Av mode where I mostly live), is bigger than the variance between the lens.
- Though just lighter by a few ounces, it's perceptibly different, so much so that the canon feels quite a bit heavier than the Tamron. At first it almost seem "unbearable", especially when you're holding it with one hand all the time. However, as I hold the MkII longer, the difference seem to fade. You do feel the slightly bigger heft
- The TStop (MkII at 3.6, and Tamron at 3.3) feels identical in real world condition. What do I mean by this? Pictures in similar / identical condition shot with identical setting (iso, aperture, and shutter speed), will look equally bright. I thought that the Tamron would carry a bit of an advantage, but not so. Maybe the vignetting made it all move even.
- The vignetting FWIW is not at noticable to me, but maybe it's because I tend to like that look, and often add vignetting in PP anyway.
- Sharpness is identical (again, within real world condition). I don't go off measuring corners (which Tamron is supposed to be slightly better at). Around the center, Canon is supposed to be better, but I have found the difference to be negligible or imperceptible. I like to shoot people, and I can resolve every single skin pore already on a 1/2 body shot with either lens, so I don't think my wife, or anyone would want anymore detail than that. I can count every single eyelash also (as long as neither myself, or my subjects induce motion... and in many respect, even if we do that, I can still count eyelashes, just not as clear
- If you often shoot with the hood in the reversed position, good luck trying to zoom with the Tamron. The hood blocks most of the zoom ring, making is a real pain. However, that aside, holding the lens toward the end probably makes it feel more stable, and could contribute to the fact that the Tamron feels lighter. With the tripod colar on, zooming with the MkII is a real pain as well since your finger is blocked by the zoom ring. You almost have to turn it upside down completely to keep it from blocking you. But you can easily zoom with the hood in the reversed position.
Here's where I think Canon has the "Luxury" aspect covered:
- The zoom ring has a slightly heftier feel to it... a little more solid. Also when you hit the end of the zoom rage, it has a more solid "tick" instead of the more plasticky "tack" that I get on the Tamron.
- The extra heft does translate into a more solid-feeling package. It's akin to car buyers, talking about a solid "thud" when they close the door (hardly a measure of performance and reliability), but adds a certain touch of luxury to it.
- The IS / VC, while equivalent in their effectiveness, feels more luxurious with the Canon. It comes on notably faster. You would have IS on and ready the moment focus is acquired. On the Tamron, it may lag, especially in bright condition and when the focusing distance is near (when AF is near instant). In addition, while the Tamron makes a circkety sound, the Canon makes a more satisfying high-pitch grit to it. Both are about as quiet though, so I don't want people to get the wrong idea about it. The Canon stays on longer after you let go of the shutter button. The Tamron comes off probably within 1/2 sec or so. Again, this gives a feel of luxury on the Canon, though in the end, it's no more / less effective.
- The finish is a touch better, since the Canon is slightly less plasticky. Don't get me wrong, the Tamron, also feels very good and very highly made. This difference is probably more akin to Infinity (Nisan's luxury line for our international friends) vs. a Mercedes / other German luxury car. From the silver label in front of the red line, to the off-white finish, the Canon exudes Luxury. Now this might be a moot point for those of us who regularly beat our equipment since all that is just a ding away from not making a difference.
In the end, here's where I struggle with the decision.
- While $1,400 (1,500 minus 100 rebate right now), is at least 800 cheaper than the 2,200 (or actually 2,500 right now without the rebate) for the Canon, it's not exactly cheap either. There's someting about the 1,500 mark that is a mental block for me. While I feel blessed, and make enough, I work for the military, so my salary is roughly 1/3 of what my civilian colleagues make. So, while I can afford either, it's not a decision I take lightly.
- I've learned over time that you're better off buying the best, because you'll eventually would want that as your skill progress. I'm probably a self-described mid/advanced amateur. There are lots I need to learn, but I've got a good grasp of the basics. Will I notice the difference more as I get better? Maybe, though it shouldn't be a crippling issue. The Canon is definitely the better product, but now not so much because of the IQ alone. It's more about the "intangibles" that makes the difference. Is it $800 better? That's a personal decision. It's $10,000 worth the difference between the new Honda Accord vs The Merc C Class / BMW 3 Series?
- The jury is still out on the reliablity / durability / weather seal-ability (if that's even a word :p) of the Tamron. More recently, they've upped their game. So in some ways, it's almost like a Hyunday comparison. They have a new Luxury car series (like the Genesis), but (at least to someone who do not follow automotive as closely like myself), they don't have the track record yet. If I know that they're as good as Honda / Toyota is in the automotive world, I would pick the Tamron for sure.... but I don't know. They do carry a 6 year warranty, but do they nickel / dime you to death with that warranty? Are their customer service as good as the Apple Store?