Updated April 2023
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
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.Read more 
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Best of the Best
Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
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Customer Favorite
Bottom Line

A superior wide-angle lens that works well in most settings and offers impressive performance and build quality.


A versatile lens in the L series family by the brand that offers excellent wide-angle shots. Owners rave about the sharp, vibrant photos it produces. Optical image stabilizer helps it perform above expectations in low-light settings.


Barrel distortion in some settings is possible, which is typical of wide-angle lenses. Pricey, but in line with its quality.

Best Bang for the Buck
Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens
EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens
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Best for Beginners
Bottom Line

Lightweight, wide-angle lens that is a great starter piece for photography enthusiasts, offering sharp photos with a decent zoom range.


Maximum f/2.8 aperture allows for good performance in low light conditions. Minimum focusing distance of 1.15 feet from the subject. Compact and lightweight, for easy on-the-go shots. Nice quality at an affordable price point.


Some users have experienced problems with dust accumulating inside the lens; take care when switching between/storing lenses.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
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Easiest to Use
Bottom Line

High-quality lens that outperforms most zoom models in image quality and quiet auto-focus mechanism.


The fast auto-focus mechanism runs quietly. Works in many situations. Small size for a zoom lens. One of the best zoom lenses available for a Canon camera in terms of image sharpness.


Price point is well above average. The f/2.8 maximum aperture won't fit some needs.

Canon Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens
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Telephoto Favorite
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This lens is a hefty investment, but features an impressive range in focal length; it provides crisp, clear photos of subjects feet away.


Excellent telephoto zoom range maintains crisp details in photos. Optical image stabilization prevents blurring from shaky hands or wind. Autofocus and full-time manual focus. Maximum f/2.8 aperture through the total zoom range.


Comes at an expensive price. Heavy, bulky lens.

Canon EF 75-300 Telephoto Lens
EF 75-300 Telephoto Lens
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Outstanding Details
Bottom Line

This SLR lens from a beloved brand turns your camera into a reliable and well-focused moment-catcher.


Helps you zoom in and focus on the finer details that will sell your image from long range. It works on Canon SLR cameras and built to capture exactly what you want, as you want to see it. Great for photographers who shoot a wide range of subject matter.


Isn't great for unstable hands who need additional help. Keep it covered, it scratches too easily.


We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for the best canon lenses

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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


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.

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