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Best Canon Lenses

Updated July 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 16 Models Considered
  • 68 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 133 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping Guide for the best Canon lenses

    Last Updated July 2018

    When you’re ready to increase your photographic skills, you may take some classes or do some reading about this enjoyable art form. You also may decide to invest in new, advanced camera gear.

    A new DSLR camera won’t instantly make you a better photographer. But it will help you properly apply the photographic principles you’re learning about by giving you accurate results and full control over settings.

    If you want to stick to a brand name that’s been proven successful over time, it’s tough to go wrong with Canon. The Canon name has been one of the top two in photography for many decades, migrating successfully from film to digital cameras.

    If you’ve already chosen a Canon DSLR camera body, you’re going to need to purchase lenses for that camera. Have no fear – in addition to making great cameras, Canon also excels in lens manufacturing.

    We at BestReviews can help you get the most from your investment in the best Canon lenses with our buying guide and product recommendations. Our goal is to help readers learn all of the key information about each product category we cover.

    Canon has manufactured more than 100 million EF mount lenses over the past three decades.

    What is a Canon lens?

    When you take pictures with a smartphone or simple point and shoot cameras, the lens is built into the device. However, with advanced DSLR (digital single lens reflex) or mirrorless ILC (interchangeable lens camera) models, the lens detaches from the camera body.

    Changing the lens gives you varying features and capabilities when shooting photographs.

    Dozens of different Canon lenses are available. They’re often referred to as stand-alone or interchangeable lenses. You can purchase whichever lens will meet your photography needs.

    It’s important to use Canon lenses with Canon camera bodies, because the connection isn’t only physical. You screw the back of the lens onto the lens mount on the Canon camera, and once they’re attached properly, they communicate electronically. The camera body controls many lens settings and adjustments.

    Perfect standard-use lens

    With its 50mm focal length, this Canon DSLR lens is one every photographer will want to have in the bag. It’s a standard size lens that allows you to shoot many different types of photographs successfully. It’s also available at a really nice price point, meaning it’ll give you a great value over time. This 50mm prime lens will become a go-to lens for many photographers.

    Canon lens designs

    All types of Canon DSLR lenses are made for the EF lens mount on the camera body. This means any Canon lens with “EF “in its name will fit the EF mount. (EF is short for “electro-focus.”)

    Canon offers a few different types of lenses with this designation.

    EF lenses

    Canon makes EF-designated lenses to work with its most expensive DSLR cameras. An EF lens works best with Canon DSLRs that contain full-frame image sensors, as well as APS-C sized sensors.

    A full frame image sensor is the largest sensor offered in consumer DSLRs, creating outstanding photographic quality. Full frame cameras are expensive, though. EF lenses also will work with smaller APS-C sized image sensors. This is a common size of sensor for entry-level and intermediate Canon DSLRs.

    The large circle of light that the EF lens projects onto the image sensor covers both the full frame and APS-C sized image sensors fully. This explains why an EF lens can work with both sizes of image sensors.

    EF-S lenses

    Canon DSLR lenses that contain an EF-S designation in the name will work best with DSLR cameras with APS-C sized image sensors.

    The EF-S lens projects a small circle of light onto the image sensor, so it will not be able to cover the larger full frame image sensor in light. It’s perfectly adequate, however, for covering the smaller APS-C image sensor.

    Although the EF-S lens will fit onto a full frame DSLR camera, it will not give you very high image quality.

    EF-M lenses

    The Canon EF-M lenses only will work with mirrorless Canon interchangeable lens cameras, which feature a different body style than DSLR cameras. You cannot use EF-M lenses on DSLR cameras.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    A Canon DSLR camera will work with Canon brand lenses, as well as some third-party brand lenses made specifically to be Canon compatible.

    History of Canon lenses

    Canon began using the EF lens mount in the late 1980s with 35mm film SLR cameras. All of its digital SLRs have used EF mounts.

    Before the EF mount, Canon used the FD mount and the FL mount. Old FD and FL lenses are not compatible with Canon DSLR cameras and the EF mount. However, some Canon mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras can use these older lenses, if you purchase an adapter.

    Versatile lens for beginners

    A zoom lens for your Canon DSLR camera gives you the ability to shoot many different types of photos. The Canon 75-300mm lens offers a versatile zoom range, but it’s also available at an entry-level price. It’s perfect for beginners seeking a first zoom lens with telephoto capabilities. Its maximum aperture of f/4 is a bit of a disappointment, though.

    Canon lens important terms

    When shopping for Canon lenses, come armed with knowledge of the jargon often used in this product category. Shopping for the best Canon lens will be frustrating unless you understand what features you’re buying.

    • Aperture: The aperture is the adjustable opening of the lens through which light travels. A small aperture opening allows less light, but allows more depth of the image to be in focus. A large opening is called a fast aperture lens and works well for portrait photography, where the subject will be in focus and background will be blurred. All Canon lenses can use a range of aperture openings, but the largest opening the lens offers is the most important measurement.

    • F-stop: The f-stop measurement on the lens is the numeric representation of the aperture setting. A low f-stop number equals a large aperture, and a high f-stop number equals a small aperture. Canon lenses can work at a range of f-stop numbers. F-stops of 1.4 or 2 are common on the low end, while f-stops of 22 or 32 are common on the high end. Often times, the name of the Canon lens will include the lowest f-stop number it can achieve.

    • Focus: Most Canon lenses will allow you to dial in the focal point in a photographic scene in one of two ways. With autofocus, the lens dials in the focus for you. Or you can use manual focus to twist a dial and sharpen the focus yourself.

    • Focal length: The focal length of a Canon lens is measured in millimeters and appears in the model name. Small focal length numbers indicate a lens with wide angle capabilities. A large focal length number indicates telephoto capabilities. A focal length of 50 mm is considered average, as it closely approximates human vision.

    • Prime: A prime lens can only achieve one focal length, such as 50 mm. It creates sharper photographs than a zoom lens.

    • Zoom: A zoom lens can achieve a range of focal lengths, such as 35-175 mm. The zoom lens provides more versatility than a prime lens, but its images aren’t quite as sharp, especially at the extreme edges of the zoom range.
    EXPERT TIP

    Lenses are expensive equipment, so invest in a padded camera bag to carry them safely.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Use a clean microfiber cloth to clean your Canon lenses, both the front and back glass panes.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Canon lens costs

    This probably won’t surprise anyone who has experience as a photographer: Canon lenses are expensive. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll pay more for lenses that have higher quality optics.

    • Up to $150

    The most basic Canon lenses fit in this low price range. Such lenses work well for beginners. You’ll rarely find telescopic features, high-end glass, or fast apertures in these inexpensive lenses.

    • $150 to $400

    Mid-range Canon lenses work well for most amateur photographers. You’ll find a nice collection of mid-telephoto lenses, high-quality optics, wide-angle lenses, and fast aperture lenses here. None of these lenses will be top-of-the-line professional models, but they yield strong results.

    • More than $400

    Professional-level Canon lenses can run from $400 to as high as a few thousand dollars. The highest quality telephoto lenses will appear at the upper end of this price range. These lenses also will have the fastest apertures and quiet operation. Still, only pro photographers will be able to take full advantage of these lenses.

    Many photographers carry more than one lens in a camera bag, giving them the versatility to shoot different styles of photos.

    FAQ

    Q. What is a Canon kit lens?

    A. When you purchase a Canon DSLR camera body, it may be shipped with no lens included. Sometimes, though, the manufacturer will include a lens with the camera body. This type of lens is called a kit lens, as it ships with the camera body as part of a kit. Typically, a kit lens will not deliver the image quality and high-level components of a standalone lens that you’ll buy later, but it’s a good starter lens.

    Q. How do I know which cameras my Canon lenses will fit?

    A. If you purchase a new Canon lens, you can count on it fitting any Canon DSLR camera. All of Canon’s digital photography gear is made to be compatible with each other. Canon DSLR cameras make use of EF mounts. This means that as long as your Canon lens has an EF designation in its name, no matter how old it is, it will work with your Canon digital camera.

    Q. What is a USM Canon lens?

    A. When you see “USM” in the name of a Canon lens, it’s referring to the inclusion of an ultrasonic motor inside the lens. Canon uses an ultrasonic motor to handle the autofocus work of the lens. Contrasted to a standard autofocus motor, Canon says the ultrasonic motor runs faster, quieter, and more accurately.

    Q. What is an STM Canon lens?

    A. “STM” in the name of the lens is short for “stepping motor drives.” This type of lens runs even more quietly than a USM lens when dialing in the focus. This means an STM lens is perfect when you’re looking to shoot video with your Canon DSLR. The camera’s audio track can often pick up the sound of the autofocus motor. Newer Canon lenses are more likely to include STM technology.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jeff
      Jeff
      Editor
    • Kyle
      Kyle
      Writer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor