The best Canon lenses are key to getting the most out of your Canon camera – but with five different Canon lens mounts, finding the right glass can be daunting combination of factors.
Working out which is the best Canon lens for you will depend, first and foremost, on what kind of photography you shoot. Obviously there is no point recommending a macro lens if you mainly shoot landscapes!
For this reason, we've lined up a selection of different optics to help you choose. From telephoto zooms designed for sports and wildlife photography, to wide-angle primes that are perfect for high quality landscapes, everyone can find the best Canon lens for their own particular requirements.
To discover what type of lens is right for you, we've split our guide into five different categories of the best Canon lenses. The first is telephoto zoom lenses, which are vital for sports and wildlife photography where you need a long reach and the flexibility to adjust your focal length at a moment's notice. Next up, we have wide angle zoom lenses. These are perfect for landscapes, cityscapes and architectural photographers that want to fit as much of a vista into an image as possible.
Meanwhile, many photographers will be interested in the standard zoom lenses. Designed to give users the ability to shoot anything from portraits to landscapes without having to switch glass, standard zoom lenses are inarguably useful in many situations. Plus, the lenses we feature here are a great step-up from the kit lens many Canon cameras come with.
If you're interested in capturing close-up details, then you'll want to check out our section on macro lenses. These will enable you to get up close and personal with your favorite tiny critters and floral subjects. Alternatively, if you prefer to capture people, then exploring the portrait lenses section will give you a variety of telephoto prime lenses that are perfect for flattering your subjects and incorporating pleasing bokeh.
There are five different actively supported Canon lens mounts: for DSLRs there are Canon EF and Canon EF-S, while for mirrorless there's Canon RF, Canon RF-S and Canon EF-M. We've added an explainer for these mounts below…
The best Canon lenses in 2023
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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 (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
The vast majority of 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom lenses have a fixed physical length, which remains the same at all zoom and focus settings. While this RF-mount lens has internal focusing, it has an inner barrel that extends as you zoom from 70mm to 200mm focal lengths. This enables a much more compact stowage size, as well as a more lightweight construction. Indeed, it’s only about two-thirds the weight of most 70-200mm f/2.8 zooms on the market, making it feel better balanced on R-series mirrorless cameras. High-tech thrills include super-fast Dual Nano USM autofocus and 5-stop optical image stabilization, all wrapped up in a solid, weather-sealed casing. It’s simply the best telephoto zoom for EOS R-series cameras, but it comes at a heavy purchase price.(opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
If you've chosen an EOS M camera because of it's small and light, you'll want lenses which are small and light too. This lightweight telephoto zoom is barely more than a third of the weight of Canon’s latest EF 70-300mm lens for DSLRs, and it’s much slimmer and shorter. Naturally, it’s also shorter in maximum focal length, but still extends to an 35mm 'equivariant’ of 320mm in full-frame terms. The other prominent factor in downsizing is that the aperture rating shrinks to f/6.3 at long zoom settings, instead of the more usual f/5.6. Despite having a plastic rather than metal mounting plate, the construction feels solid throughout. Image quality is good in all respects, with decent levels of sharpness helped by a 3.5-stop image stabilizer. All in all, it’s the ideal telephoto zoom for a compact EOS M camera body.(opens in new tab)
We've been promised more compact lenses with mirrorless cameras for a while now, and with Canon's RF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM, we've finally got something that's much more compact than its DSLR stablemate. When collapsed this lens is no bigger than a can of Coke, making it not only much shorter than the EF version, but it's also much easier to stow away in a camera bag. Performance is also very good, delivering an impressive 7.5 stops of stabilization (on an EOS R6 or R5 at least), or 5 stops on a non-IBIS camera. Sharpness is spot-on in the center, though we'd like to have seen a slightly better performance at the edges. Another downside is that it's confusingly not compatible with Canon's RF teleconverters, while it's noticeably more expensive than its EF counterpart. Otherwise, this is a brilliant lens for R series photographers.
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 (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
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 (opens in new tab), 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.(opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
Rather than try to keep the weight down with a more modest aperture rating, Canon has gone for glory with this ‘trinity’ lens, adopting a faster f/2.8 aperture that remains constant throughout the zoom range. The net result is a comparatively large ultra-wide zoom that goes equally large on performance and image quality. Nano USM autofocus is fast and accurate, as well as being virtually silent in operation, while the image stabilizer gives a 5-stop benefit in beating camera-shake. Aspherical and UD (Ultra-low Dispersion) elements enable impressive sharpness while keeping distortions and colour fringing to a minimum, and both of Canon’s premium SWC (Sub-Wavelength structure Coating) and ASC (Air Sphere Coating) are applied to minimize ghosting and flare. It’s the wide-angle zoom of choice for EOS R cameras.(opens in new tab)
With its compact and retractable design, this is an uncommonly small wide-angle zoom that’s entirely in keeping with the EOS M mirrorless design philosophy. Indeed, it’s only half the weight of the Tamron 10-24mm lens for APS-C format DSLRs. With a minimum focal length of 11mm, the maximum viewing angle isn’t quite as extreme but it’s very wide nonetheless. The STM autofocus system is virtually silent in operation, ideal for video capture, where it also delivers smooth focus transitions and sharpness is further enhanced by dynamic movie stabilization. Image quality is impressive and the extra-short minimum focus distance of 0.15m is brilliant for capturing extreme wide-angle close-ups and really exaggerating perspective. As with most lenses that feature stepping motor autofocus systems, though, there’s no focus distance scale.
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 (opens in new tab).
It is unusual that a 10x superzoom lens is so highly thought of, but Canon pulled it off with the RF 24-240mm f/4-6.3 IS USM. It delivers consistently sharp, well-corrected images right across its focal range. Not only that, it is compact and light enough to carry around while traveling and not have to worry.
The downside is that the lens leans heavily on Canon's in-camera digital corrections, which at the time of writing works wonderfully for JPEGs but it is not automatically added to RAW files, so will require some additional Lightroom tweaks for RAW shooters.(opens in new tab)
In terms of pure performance, the RF 24-70mm is a classic workhorse lens that delivers amazing results. This has been a staple lens for all types of photographers for decades as it covers almost every focal length working photographers need in a pinch, all in one package.
Canon finally added image stabilization to the RF version of the lens after leaving it off the EF version for so long, and it doesn't half make a difference. Being able to shoot in low light handheld with even lower shutter speeds is a very welcome addition. Every photographer needs a 24-70mm lens in their kit bag, and for Canin RF shooters, there isn't a finer one than this.
Read our review of the Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM (opens in new tab) 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.(opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
The Canon RF-S 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM, arriving with the R10 and R7 cameras is a very small and compact lens designed to be the ultimate travel companion. It offers a much greater range and a slightly faster aperture than the RF-S 18-45mm lens. As a bonus, it also boasts very slight macro capabilities. The lens also comes with image stabilization of up to 7 stops so will make taking photos in low light that much more stable.
It performs above expectations for a kit lens, with image quality being very good, and only falling off in the corners, but that is expected in lenses with larger zoom ranges. The aperture could be faster, with the minimum f/6.3 at the long end, but for the price and size of the lens, it is unsurprising to not see anything larger.
Read our review of the Canon RF-S 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
With an effective 51.2mm, this is the longest focal length prime lens that Canon markets for its EOS M mirrorless APS-C cameras. It's a bit short for a classic portrait lens but it's the closest equivalent in the EOS M lens range and works well for half-length and environmental portraits. The f/1.4 aperture rating enables you to blur the background quite successfully, though the relatively short focal length is not very good for tight head shots. You’ll find that you need to get a little too close to your subject, probably making them feel a little uncomfortable as well as distorting their features a little. Typical of such fast lenses with an f/1.4 aperture, there’s no image stabilizer and, while the stepping motor autofocus system works well and enables precise fly-by-wire manual adjustments, it’s not as near silent as in some other EF-M lenses. The best thing about this lens is that its image quality is excellent in all respects.(opens in new tab)
If you've got really deep pockets, then you won't go wrong with the stunning RF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens. However, for those of us with more modest budgets, Canon's pocket-sized RF 50mm f/1.8 STM costs a fraction of the price of its f/1.2 stablemate, and you don't even need to make many compromises. Sure, it's a little slower, but f/1.8 will still deliver nicely defocused backgrounds, and our tests show it's a match for the f/1.2 version in some areas. Focusing speeds are also very good, with the stepping motor (STM) AF offering quick and quiet focus. It's also better made than the EF equivalent lens, making this a must-buy for R series photographers.
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 (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
The Canon RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM takes everything that was great about the EF version of this lens and makes it even better. Magnification is boosted to 1.4x. Stabilization and equipped with 8 stops (on the EOS R5 and R6). Bokeh? even more beautiful, thanks to a control ring that shifts the lens elements. Focus and breathing? Faster and more controlled than ever. It's a superb standalone portrait lens as well, with pin-sharp rendering and a flattering focal length. If you're an EOS R-series shooter and you want to photograph close-ups of small things and large things alike, you've just found your next purchase.(opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
Despite having a chamfered front end on its extending inner barrel, this lens’s working distance for full-magnification macro shots is so short that it can often cast a shadow over the object you’re shooting. As with Canon’s EF-S 35mm lens for APS-C format DSLRs, a built-in LED ‘macro lite’ adds illumination. Again, you can alter the brightness level and choose whether to use the lamp as a circular ring-light or just to employ one side or the other. Other similarities include a hybrid image stabilizer and stepping motor autofocus system. The smaller EOS M’s party trick is that it adds a Super Macro mode, which increases the maximum magnification factor from 1.0x to 1.2x, though you can't focus on far away subjects in this mode. Taking the crop factor of the smaller EOS M sensor into account, this lens gives nearly twice the maximum magnification of shooting with a 1.0x macro lens on full-frame cameras.
When shooting portraits, you generally want to lift people from their surroundings and make them the centre 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 (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
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 (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
If you don't need, or more likely can't afford the Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM lens (below) then this mid-range RF 85mm fills in very nicely. This is a really compact and light lens, so is easy to carry around all day, but don't let the size fool you, it still pulls out fantastic image quality.
The aperture could be wider, but at f/2 you will get some good subject separation at 85mm, but this might not be enough for some artists demanding the most extreme depth of field. The bokeh you do get from this lens though is very good, as it comes with a 9-blade circular aperture. The 5-stop image stabilization is excellent and paired with a camera with IBIS will get you 8-stops in total.
This lens will also double as a casual macro lens, it doesn't provide true 1:1 macro photography, so keen macro photographers should look elsewhere, but for those wanting to dabble in macro, this is a good toe in the water.
Read our review of the Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
Dwarfing Canon EOS R-series camera bodies, this mighty lens is a real heavyweight at almost 1.2kg. Large-diameter forward elements are required to pull in sufficient light for the f/1.2 aperture, which enables a really tight depth of field. In fact, it’s so tight that you can often find that only one eye of a portrait sitter is properly sharp, while the background dissolves into dreamy bokeh. Indeed, for outright softness of defocused areas, this lens is one of the very best on the market. And if you still want more, there’s an even pricier Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM DS (opens in new tab) edition of the lens with an added Defocus Smoothing coating that creates arguably the most glorious bokeh we've ever seen (at the expense of a couple of stops of light transmittance).(opens in new tab)
This is a much cheaper 'portrait' alternative for Canon APS-C DSLR owners. It's true that the build quality of Canon’s recent 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.(opens in new tab)
Engineered specifically for APS-C format EOS M mirrorless cameras, this Sigma lens is a real triumph. It combines a portrait-friendly 90mm effective focal length with a fast f/1.4 aperture rating, ideal for shrinking the depth of field and blurring the background. Moreover, it does this while keeping the physical size down to just 67x60mm and weighing a mere 280g, giving the lens a wonderfully balanced feel on slim-line EOS M-series bodies. Build quality feels solid and robust and, unlike most Canon lenses outside of the L-series line-up, the Sigma comes complete with a lens hood. Handling is very refined, with fast and whisper-quiet autofocus and an electronically coupled manual focus ring. Image quality is simply superb, all in all, it’s a high-performance lens that’s a real bargain at the price.
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.
Somewhat confusingly, Canon has four different lens mounts – and it's super important that you make sure you get the right type for you. Here's a quick explainer to help you make sure you're on the right lines.
1) Canon RF lenses are designed for Canon's full frame mirrorless cameras, such as the Canon EOS R5, Canon EOS R6 and more. You might want to check out our full guide to the best Canon RF lenses if you have an RF mount camera.
2) Canon EF lenses are for full frame Canon DSLRs. It's actually possible to use full frame lenses on APS-C cameras (some photographers do this to get a little extra reach when using a telephoto lens, as the 1.6x crop factor of an APS-C sensor brings you closer to the subject).
3) Canon EF-S lenses are for APS-C Canon DSLRs, which means they're designed to only reflect light onto the smaller APS-C sensor size. While these lenses would technically fit onto any Canon DSLR, they're not suitable for full frame cameras, as you wouldn't get the focal length promised on the box.
4) Canon RF-S lenses are for APS-C format R system mirrorless cameras, namely the Canon EOS R7 (opens in new tab) and Canon EOS R10 (opens in new tab). However, since they use the same RF mount as full-frame mirrorless bodies, they can be used on cameras like the Canon EOS R (opens in new tab) and Canon EOS RP (opens in new tab) (while invoking a 1.6x crop on the focal length, as the cameras will default to crop shooting mode).
5) Canon EF-M lenses are for Canon's APS-C format mirrorless EOS M cameras, like the Canon EOS M50 Mark II (opens in new tab). The only way you can fit EF-M lenses (opens in new tab) onto a different lens mount is by using an adapter, which we wouldn't necessarily recommend.
It's important to note that you can actually use Canon DSLR lenses on Canon mirrorless cameras, but you must use an adapter. Considering that lenses are designed to complement the mount they use, we'd always recommend using 'native' lenses. However, if you've upgraded to the latest RF mount camera from a DSLR, there's no denying that having access to your library of EF mount lenses is useful!
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