The best Canon lenses are key to getting the most out of your EOS camera – but with five different Canon lens mounts, finding the right glass for you can be daunting!
This guide will break down the best Canon lenses for DSLRs; this includes full-frame EF-mount lenses, and APS-C optics using the EF-S mount.
Both of these lens types can be adapted to Canon's mirrorless systems, but owners of EOS R and EOS M cameras should check out our dedicated guides for those mounts. If you're using an EOS R body, you'll want to look at the best Canon RF lenses (both full-frame RF and APS-C RF-S glass), while EOS M users should check out the best Canon EF-M lenses.
Working out which is the best Canon lens for your needs will depend, first and foremost, on what kind of photography you shoot. Obviously there is no point recommending a portrait lens if you mainly shoot architecture! For this reason we've lined up a selection of different optics for different purposes, to point you to the right glass for you.
And if you're looking for glass for a specific Canon DSLR camera, these are the best lenses for Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, the best lenses for Canon EOS 90D & EOS 80D, and the best lenses for Canon EOS Rebel T6 and T7 (EOS 1300D and 2000D).
The best Canon lenses
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Best Canon lenses: Telephoto zooms
For many photographers, a good telephoto zoom lens is the first extra lens they buy. This is because they give users that extra reach that most kit lenses aren't capable of. We've given our recommendations for each of the four Canon camera types here, but for more choices, see our full guide to the best Canon telephoto lenses.
Canon makes a pro-grade L-series 70-300mm zoom, which comes complete with weather seals and an optional tripod mount to take the weight and steady up your shots, but this newer lens is practically as sharp, only about two-thirds of the weight and less than half as much to buy. Clever features include a revolutionary Nano USM autofocus system, which is incredibly fast for tracking moving objects when shooting stills, yet gives smooth focus transitions during video capture. The lens also features a neat LCD display with options for showing focal length, focus distance and stabilization information.
If money and muscle-power are no object, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports lens is our favourite super-telephoto zoom for Canon cameras, but it’s a big and heavy lens, weighing in at nearly 3kg, which makes prolonged handheld shooting a struggle. This ‘Contemporary’ version of the lens is much less expensive to buy, more compact, and almost a full kilogram lighter in weight than its counterpart. It stretches to a mighty 600mm on full-frame bodies, and delivers an incredible 960mm 35mm equivariant on Canon APS-C bodies, thanks to the 1.6x crop factor you get from the smaller sensor on those cameras. You really do need lenses with this kind of reach for many wildlife subjects, long-range sports like cricket or baseball, and aviation photography. This 'Contemporary' lens is not quite as extensively weather-sealed as the 'Sports' version, but it's still very well made, almost as sharp, and has the same range of up-market features and controls. On balance, it’s a better buy for most of us.
Best Canon lenses: Wide-angle zooms
Standard zoom lenses are versatile pieces of glass, but if you're keen on shooting landscape or architectural photography, then you might want to consider investing in a wide angle zoom as well. It's imperative to make sure that you get the right lens for your camera mount, as a wide angle APS-C lens on a full frame camera won't give you the effect you want, and vice versa. To find out more, check out our full guide to the best Canon wide-angle zooms.
For extreme viewing angles, this lens doesn’t go quite as wide as the massively expensive Canon 11-24mm zoom, nor Sigma’s 12-24mm Art lens, but it comes pretty close and is only about half the price of the Canon. The Sigma 14-24mm delivers stellar sharpness across the entire image frame, even when shooting wide-open at f/2.8. Distortions are incredibly minimal for an ultra-wide zoom, and colour fringing is absolutely negligible. The top-performance optics are wrapped up in a superbly well engineered and fully weather-sealed construction. This relatively new lens has become our favorite ultra-wide zoom for full-frame Canon DSLRs.
Tamron makes some great lenses that cost less than Canon equivalents. This one is a major upgrade over Tamron’s original 10-24mm ultra-wide zoom for APS-C format cameras, with improved optics, 4-stop Vibration Compensation stabilization, and a new High/Low toque-modulated Drive autofocus system. Handling is improved as the focus ring no longer rotates during autofocus and enables full-time manual override. Weather seals are also added, plus a fluorine coating on the front element to repel moisture and aid cleaning. The image quality is very good and, while it's not the cheapest ultra-wide angle zoom for Canon EF-S DSLRs, it is the best choice if you can afford it.
Best Canon lenses: Standard kit lens upgrades
The kit lenses that typically come with Canon cameras are great pieces of equipment in their own rights, but upgrading to a better quality standard lens will transform your photography. Featuring better image quality, a faster or a constant aperture and often longer zoom ranges, these standard kit bag lenses are fantastically flexible. To see more, read our full guide to the best Canon standard zoom lenses.
The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM is the choice of many professional photographers around the world, but it’s not particularly good value for money and lacks image stabilization. This Sigma 'Art' lens isn’t as fully weather-sealed as the Canon, but it’s beautifully built and matches the Canon for all-round performance and image quality. Sharpness and contrast are spectacular, while bokeh is lusciously smooth. Autofocus is very quick and extremely quiet, while the 4-stop stabilizer helps to ensure sharp handheld shots at relatively slow shutter speeds. At around two-thirds the price of the Canon lens, it’s a better buy.
The 1.6x crop factor of Canon’s APS-C cameras is quite limiting at the wide-angle end of the zoom range, so a regular kit lens that offers a widest setting of 18mm gives an ‘effective’ 28.8mm focal length in full-frame terms, which really isn’t that ‘wide’. The EF-S 15-85mm lens has much greater wide-angle potential, as well impressive telephoto reach, with its effective zoom range of 24-136mm. That makes it much more versatile as a lens for everyday shooting, especially considering that the lens is robustly built and features excellent ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system, along with 4-stop stabilization. Image quality is mostly great and, although barrel distortion and vignetting are quite heavy at 15mm, they can be quite easily corrected in-camera or with software.
Best Canon lenses: Macro lenses
Macro lenses enable photographers to capture super close-up photos of their subjects, making them firm favorites for lovers of nature. However, not all macro lenses are created equal. A "true macro" lens will feature full 1.0x magnification, which means that your subject will be reproduced at life size on the camera's sensor. However, some cheaper macro lenses will deliver 0.3x or 0.5x magnification, so keep an eye out to make sure you're getting the right model for you. We've picked our favorite macro lenses for each Canon format here, but to see more options, read our guide to the best macro lenses.
A focal length of around 90mm to 105mm is often regarded as ideal for macro photography, as it enables a comfortable and natural working distance for close-up photography. This is a high quality Tamron ‘G2’ lens, equipped with improved optical performance, nano-structure coatings, weather-seals and a fluorine coating on the front element to repel moisture and grease. It also adds a new ‘hybrid’ image stabilizer that counteracts horizontal and vertical shift, as well as the more usual angular vibration or ‘wobble’. This makes stabilization much more effective in close-up shooting and, in this respect, the Tamron directly matches Canon’s esteemed 100mm IS USM L-series macro lens. It also performs every bit as well in terms of handling and image quality but, at only around two-thirds of the price, the Tamron is the better buy.
The Laowa 100mm macro lens is a manual focus lens designed for very close-up macro photography, with two times magnification, you can get closer than all the other macro lenses on this list, although this is at the cost of losing autofocus abilities.
The 100mm focal length is slightly longer than the 'normal' 90mm macro distance, but works in its favor by getting slightly closer to the subject. The lens offers great sharpness rivaling the best lenses, with good bokeh and a solid metal build. It is available in EF and RF mount, however, the RF is considerably longer to make up for the shorter distance between the sensor and the lens due to the lack of a mirror.
Like many recent designs, this lens features a stepping motor autofocus system with an electronically coupled focus ring. The hybrid image stabilization is inherited from Canon’s range-topping 100mm L-series lens and is able to correct x-y shift as well as vibration, making it more effective for close-up shooting. At the minimum focus distance, however, the front of the lens comes to just 3cm from the subject and can block ambient light. To compensate, there’s a built-in LED ‘Macro Lite’, with two brightness levels and the option to use both sides or just the left or right. It’s not very bright, though, so even at full power and at the closest shooting distance you’ll need a slow shutter speed of about 1/15th of a second at f/8 (ISO 200). It's an interesting and affordable 'novelty' lens, but serious close-up fans would probably go for a lens with a longer focal length.
Best Canon lenses: Portrait lenses
When shooting portraits, you generally want to lift people from their surroundings and make them the center of attention. That can be hard to achieve, especially if you’re shooting against a detailed or cluttered background. A lens with a medium to long focal length and a ‘fast’ aperture rating of around f/1.4 to f/1.8 can solve the problem. With a tight depth of field, it’ll enable you to throw the background out of focus and make people stand out from their environment. Discover more with our guide to the best Canon portrait lenses.
When buying a portrait prime, you usually need to make a choice between image stabilization or a fast f/1.4 aperture. This Canon lens gives you the best of both worlds, with no compromise in features or image quality, along with top-notch build quality and a full set of weather seals. It comes with a nine-blade diaphragm that enables an extremely well-rounded aperture for attractive ‘bokeh’, and Canon’s advanced Air Sphere Coating to minimize ghosting and flare. It’s quite big and chunky but still noticeably smaller and lighter than the competing Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art lens. It’s not quite as bitingly sharp as the Sigma but the Canon’s stabilizer can make a huge difference in low-light handheld shooting and its bokeh is deliciously smooth and creamy. Specialist lenses like these are expensive, but you get what you pay for. See full Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM review.
This is a much cheaper 'portrait' alternative for Canon APS-C DSLR owners, where the 1.6x crop factor gives it an effective 80mm field of view. It's true that the build quality of Canon’s later EF 50mm f/1.8 lenses have felt a little suspect, right down to their plastic mounting plates, but this latest edition feels much more solid, boasting a metal mounting plate and a better Stepping Motor autofocus system with an electronically coupled fly-by-wire focus ring. A handling benefit is that the focus ring no longer rotates during autofocus and, although audible, autofocus is quieter than in preceding editions of the lens. Smooth autofocus transitions also become available for movie capture. The diaphragm blade count goes from five to seven, enabling a more well-rounded aperture when stopping down. The lens is wonderfully compact and a real lightweight at just 160g. It definitely punches above its weight in terms of image quality.
How we test lenses
We test lenses using both real world sample images and lab tests. Our lab tests are carried out scientifically in controlled conditions using the Imatest testing suite, which consists of custom charts and analysis software that measures resolution in line widths/picture height, a measurement widely used in lens and camera testing. We find the combination of lab and real-word testing works best, as each reveals different qualities and characteristics.
Are Canon or Sigma lenses better?
In terms of image quality, both manufacturers produce excellent lenses. Canon's top-tier optics are its L-series lenses, which have the iconic red ring around the end of the lens. Many people consider Sigma's Art line, generally possessing faster apertures, to be the most desirable.
For build quality, again, Canon's L-series of lenses are professional quality – they possess weather sealing and are of robust construction. Sigma also offers weather-sealed lenses, so the "best" lenses are the ones that suit your budget and shooting requirements.
What is the best Canon lens for shallow depth of field?
Shallow depth of field is achieved by three factors: the size of the image sensor, the focal length of the lens, and the widest (or fastest) aperture of the lens.
That being the case, we would be looking at full frame lenses with the longest focal length and fastest aperture. Depending on the use case, this could include the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2, the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2, the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 and the Canon EF 600mm f/4.
- The best Canon telephoto lenses in
- Best Canon RF lenses
- Best Canon EF-M lenses
- Best Canon standard zoom lenses
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- The best Canon portrait lenses
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