The best Canon lenses in 2019: top lenses for Canon DSLRs and EOS mirrorless

Best Canon lens

A Canon DSLR or mirrorless EOS M camera kit can open the door to your photographic career, but you will also need the best Canon lenses to take that next step – or, to be more precise, the best 'Canon compatible' lenses. It's not just Canon that makes lenses to fit Canon cameras!

The single biggest advantage of any ‘system’ camera with interchangeable lenses, is that you can swap to the ideal lens for any kind of photography. Debates rage over which is best, DSLR vs mirrorless, but Canon makes both DSLR models and mirrorless cameras. Both take interchangeable lenses, which is the key to unlocking their photographic potential.

So what other types of lens deserve a place on your shopping list, and which are the best buys? We explain all the basic types here and include lenses right across the price range, from affordable lenses for cameras for beginners right up to the type of lenses used by owners of professional cameras.

When you need to literally cover the distance, for example in sports and wildlife photography, a Canon telephoto zoom is a must. At the other end of the scale, when you want to squeeze sweeping vistas into the image frame, or you’re shooting interiors, you need an ultra-wide zoom for your Canon.

As you learn new techniques and get more creative with your photography, you might want to upgrade the standard zoom that came with your camera body for one with a longer zoom range or a wider maximum aperture… or just better quality all round.

For more specialist subjects, favourites include a ‘macro’ lens for shooting extreme close-ups and a ‘portrait’ lens that can deliver flattering perspectives, a tight depth of field and blurred backgrounds in your people shots.

Check your camera compatibility

You need to make sure you get the right lens to fit your camera. You can use full-frame compatible lenses on Canon’s APS-C format DSLR bodies, but not the other way around. That’s because APS-C type lenses can’t physically be mounted on full-frame DSLRs. Full-frame compatible lenses are have Canon EF, Sigma DG and Tamron Di in the name. APS-C format lenses are designated Canon EF-S, Sigma DC and Tamron Di II. 

Canon’s APS-C format EOS M (mirrorless) bodies take EF-M lenses, but an optional ‘Mount Adapter EF-EOS M’ is available. This enables you to use any full-frame EF or APS-C format EF-S lens for Canon DSLRs on an EOS M camera. The same goes for Canon’s new EOS R series of mirrorless cameras, when using one of range of EF-EOS R adapters. However, there’s no adaptor for mounting an EF-M lens on an EOS R body.

If you’ve bought a Canon camera, it’s only natural to buy Canon lenses to go with it. In many cases, however, lenses from independent makers deliver equally good or even better performance, while often being considerably less expensive. Read on to discover our top recommendations in all the main categories.

Telephoto zooms

A telephoto zoom is the first extra lens that most of us buy. Ideal for shooting sports and wildlife, it’s a must-have lens whenever you can’t get as close as you might like to what you’re shooting. Longer focal lengths also enable a tighter depth of field, so telephoto zooms can work well for portraiture.

The Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM is a good budget option for APS-C format Canon DSLRs but, since you can use both full-frame EF and APS-C format EF-S lenses on this type of camera body, we’d go for the longer reach of a full-frame format 70-300mm lens. Image quality and overall performance are better and, should you upgrade to a full-frame camera later on, you won’t need to discard it. For even longer reach, a ‘super-telephoto zoom’ like a 150-600mm gives truly telescopic power.

Best Canon lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM

1. Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM

Perfect for Canon DSLR owners who want to stay on brand

Mount: Canon EF | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: Nano USM | Stabilizer: 4-stops | Minimum focus distance: 1.2m | Maximum magnification: 0.25x | Filter thread: 67mm | Dimensions (WxL): 80x146mm | Weight: 710g

Impressive image quality
Super-fast Nano USM autofocus system
Hood is an expensive ‘optional extra’
No weather-seals

Canon makes a pro-grade L-series 70-300mm zoom, which comes complete with weather-seals and an optional tripod mount ring, but this newer lens is similarly sharp, only about two-thirds of the weight and less than half as much to buy. The only sticking point is that the lens hood is sold as an optional extra and it’s outrageously expensive in the UK at around £80, although pricing is less extortionate in the USA and cheaper independently manufactured options are available. Trick 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 movie capture. The lens also features a neat LCD display with options for showing focal length, focus distance and stabilization information.

Best Canon lens: Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM | S

2. Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM | S

More expensive ‘constant-aperture’ telephoto zoom for Canon DSLRs

Mount: Canon EF | Diaphragm blades: 11 | Autofocus: Ultrasonic (ring-type) | Stabilizer: 4-stops | Minimum focus distance: 1.2m | Maximum magnification: 0.21x | Dimensions (WxL): 94x203mm | Weight: 1,805g

Stunning image quality
Exotic features and handling
Slightly bigger and heavier than rivals
Non-removable tripod mount ring

A classic in both zoom range and aperture rating, the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens has long been the telephoto optic of choice for enthusiast and professional photographers. The third generation of Canon’s own-brand, image-stabilized lens is now available but, while it’s a great performer, it’s fiendishly expensive to buy. This newer Sigma ‘Sports’ competitor actually beats the Canon for sharpness through the zoom range, while offering a raft of more exotic features. These include autofocus-hold/on buttons around the mid-section of the lens, the ability to switch autofocus to either auto-priority or manual-priority mode (the latter making manual-override available even in AI Servo mode), and two switchable custom modes. You can set these up with Sigma’s optional USB Dock, for example to increase or decrease the effect of stabilization in the viewfinder image, or to alter the autofocus speed and range limiter distance. The only minus points are that the Sigma is a little bigger and heavier than most 70-200mm lenses, and its filter thread is also a little larger.

Best Canon lens: Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | C

3. Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | C

A super-telephoto lens for Canon DSLRs that’s still just about affordable!

Mount: Canon EF | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: Ultrasonic (ring-type) | Stabilizer: 4-stops | Minimum focus distance: 2.8m | Maximum magnification: 0.2x | Filter thread: 95mm | Dimensions (WxL): 105x260mm | Weight: 1,930g

Manageable size and weight
Smart image quality and features
Not quite as sharp as the ‘Sports’ edition
Weather-seals are not fully comprehensive

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. It has highly impressive sharpness, pro-grade build quality and plentiful features including dual custom modes, but it’s a big and heavy lens, weighing in at nearly 3kg, which makes prolonged handheld shooting a struggle. The ‘Contemporary’ version of the lens is much less expensive to buy, more compact, and almost a full kilogram lighter in weight. It stretches to a mighty 600mm on full-frame bodies, and delivers an incredible 960mm ‘effective’ focal length on Canon APS-C bodies, thanks to the 1.6x crop factor you get from the smaller sensor on these cameras. It’s not quite as extensively weather-sealed but 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 lens: Canon EF-M 55-200mm f4.5-6.3 IS STM

4. Canon EF-M 55-200mm f4.5-6.3 IS STM

A small and portable telephoto zoom for Canon EOS M cameras

Mount: Canon EF-M | Elements/groups: 17/11 | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: Stepping motor | Stabilizer: 3.5-stops | Minimum focus distance: 1.0m | Maximum magnification: 0.21x | Filter thread: 52mm | Dimensions (WxL): 61x87mm | Weight: 260g

Compact and lightweight build
Stepping motor autofocus system
Relatively limited telephoto reach
Plastic mounting plate

Unlike in Canon’s EOS RF full-frame line-up, where most lenses are comparatively colossal when mounted on these slimline mirrorless cameras, EF-M lenses for APS-C format EOS M cameras generally look a better fit. As such, this is a particularly small and lightweight telephoto zoom that’s barely more than a third of the weight of Canon’s latest EF 70-300mm lens for DSLRs, and it’s very much slimmer and shorter. Naturally, it’s also shorter in maximum focal length, but still extends to an ‘effective’ 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, 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.

Wide-angle zooms

Standard zoom lenses are pretty versatile but often don’t give a wide enough angle of view. On an APS-C format Canon, the typical kit lens has a minimum focal length of 18mm, which only equates to 28.8mm in full-frame terms. It’s wide, but not THAT wide. Most APS-C format wide-angle zooms, however, start at 10mm, enabling you to fit massively more of a scene into the image frame. 

Unlike with telephoto zooms, it’s important to get the a lens designed for your camera’s sensor size. You’ll need to get an APS-C format lens for shooting on an APS-C class camera, as full frame wide-angle zooms won’t give actually give you the wide angle of view you’re looking for.

If you have a full frame Canon, on the other hand, you will need a full frame wide-angle zoom to go with it.

Best Canon lens: Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD

5. Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD

An up-market APS-C wide-angle zoom with image stabilization

Mount: Canon EF-S | Elements/groups: 15/12 | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: HLD (High/Low toque-modulated Drive) | Stabilizer: 4-stops | Minimum focus distance: 0.24m | Maximum magnification: 0.19x | Filter thread: 77mm | Dimensions (WxL): 84x85mm | Weight: 440g

Impressive performance and image quality
4-stop image stabilizer
Weather-seals and fluorine coating
About twice the price of Canon’s 10-18mm

A major upgrade over Tamron’s original 10-24mm ultra-wide zoom for APS-C format cameras, this one has improved optics, 4-stop VC (Vibration Compensation) stabilization, and a new HLD (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. Image quality is very good and, overall, it’s simply the best choice for an APS-C format ultra-wide zoom. 

Best Canon lens: Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM | A

6. Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM | A

A full frame wide-angle zoom with incredible sharpness

Mount: Canon EF | Elements/groups: 17/11 | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: Ultrasonic (ring-type) | Stabilizer: None | Minimum focus distance: 0.26m | Maximum magnification: 0.19x | Filter thread: None | Dimensions (WxL): 96x135mm | Weight: 1,150g

Epic image quality with negligible distortion
Superb build quality and handling
No filter thread (it's too 'wide')
Not as ‘ultra-wide’ as Canon’s 11-24mm

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 favourite ultra-wide zoom for full-frame Canon DSLRs.

Best Canon lens: Canon EF-M 11-22mm f4-5.6 IS STM

7. Canon EF-M 11-22mm f4-5.6 IS STM

A small yet ultra-wide lens for Canon EOS M cameras

Mount: Canon EF-M | Elements/groups: 12/9 | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: Stepping motor | Stabilizer: 3-stops | Minimum focus distance: 0.15m | Maximum magnification: 0.3x | Filter thread: 55mm | Dimensions (WxL): 61x58mm | Weight: 220g

Compact retractable design
3-stop image stabilizer
Starting at 10mm would be better
No focus distance scale

With its compact, 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 movie 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 zoom upgrades

The ‘kit’ zoom lenses that Canon supplies with its DSLRs and mirrorless cameras bodies will help you get started, but they can feel relatively basic. If, like most of us, you use your standard zoom for the majority of your shooting, it might pay to invest in something more up-market.

Reasons for upgrading include better image quality, a longer zoom range or a faster, constant-aperture rating, typically of f/2.8. This enables faster shutter speeds for freezing motion, even under dull lighting conditions, as well as giving a tighter depth of field. For APS-C format DSLRs, the fairly ancient Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM best fits the brief although, as you’ll see, it’s not our first choice.

Best Canon lens: Canon EF-S 15-85mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM

8. Canon EF-S 15-85mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM

A much wider zoom range than a regular APS-C Canon's kit lens

Mount: Canon EF-S | Elements/groups: 17/12 | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: Ultrasonic (ring-type) | Stabilizer: 4-stops | Minimum focus distance: 0.35m | Maximum magnification: 0.21x | Filter thread: 72mm | Dimensions (WxL): 82x88mm | Weight: 575g

Wider maximum  angle than kit lenses
Up-market handling and performance
Heavy barrel distortion at 15mm
Fairly pricey, hood sold separately

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.

Best Canon lens: Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM | A

9. Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM | A

A great constant-aperture standard zoom for full frame Canon DSLRs

Mount: Canon EF | Elements/groups: 19/14 | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: Ultrasonic (ring-type) | Stabilizer: 4-stops | Minimum focus distance: 0.37m | Maximum magnification: 0.21x | Filter thread: 82mm | Dimensions (WxL): 88x108mm | Weight: 1,020g

Fabulous image quality
Pro-grade build and handling
Large 82mm filter thread
Heavy, at just over a kilogram

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 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.

Best Canon lens: Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM | C

10. Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM | C

A supremely versatile ‘superzoom’ lens for Canon APS-C DSLRs

Mount: Canon EF-S | Elements/groups: 17/13 | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: Ultrasonic (motor) | Stabilizer: 4-stops | Minimum focus distance: 0.39m | Maximum magnification: 0.33x | Filter thread: 72mm | Dimensions (WxL): 79x102mm | Weight: 585g

Huge 28.8-480mm effective zoom range
Fairly lightweight and compact
No weather-seals
Focus ring rotates during autofocus

It’s good to travel light, and carrying around a couple of extra lenses can be a pain. This so-called ‘superzoom’ lens gives you everything from modest wide-angle coverage to super-telephoto reach at the flick of a zoom ring. And it’s barely any bigger or heavier than Canon’s 15-85mm standard zoom. The high-quality glass includes four top-grade FLD (‘Fluorite’ Low Dispersion) elements along with one SLD element. As with other Sigma ‘Global Vision’ lenses, it’s compatible with Sigma’s optional USB Dock for applying customisation, fine-tuning and firmware updates. The motor-based ultrasonic autofocus system reduces size and weight but, typical of the breed, the focus ring rotates during autofocus. Even so, the focus ring is positioned right at the front of the lens and is easily avoided during handheld shooting. For a superzoom lens, image quality is very good overall although, as is usually the case, sharpness drops off a bit at the long end of the zoom range.

Macro lenses

‘Macro’ is used as another word for close-ups, but there's a bit more to it than that. While many zoom lenses have the word ‘macro’ in they typically only offer a maximum magnification ration of between 0.3x and 0.5x. By contrast, a ‘real’ macro prime lens will deliver a full 1.0x magnification at its closest focus setting. This means that the subject you’re shooting will be reproduced at full life size on the camera’s image sensor. On an APS-C camera, for example, a standard postage stamp would fill the entire image area. 

As with telephoto lenses, there can be advantages of buying a full-frame format macro lens, even if you’re shooting with an APS-C format camera. Full frame lenses have longer focal lengths, so you’ll get a longer and more comfortable working distance to your subject. And, of course, if you decide to upgrade to a full frame Canon DSLR later, your lens will work just fine on this, too.

Best Canon lens: Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Macro

11. Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Macro

This modern classic macro lens is great on any Canon DSLR

Mount: Canon EF | Elements/groups: 14/11 | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: Ultrasonic (ring-type) | Stabilizer: 4-stops | Minimum focus distance: 0.3m | Maximum magnification: 1.0x | Filter thread: 62mm | Dimensions (WxL): 79x117mm | Weight: 610g

Hybrid image stabilizer
Full 1.0x magnification
Includes weather-seals and fluorine coating
Easily confused with the previous edition

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. Like Tamron’s recent ‘G2’ lenses, this is the second generation of the company’s 90mm VC USD macro lens. As such, it features a host of upgrades included improved optical performance, nano-structure coatings, weather-seals and a fluorine coating on the front element. 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.

Best Canon lens: Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM

12. Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM

A macro lens for APS-C Canon DSLRs that can also light up your subject!

Mount: Canon EF-S | Elements/groups: 10/6 | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: Stepping motor | Stabilizer: 4-stops | Minimum focus distance: 0.13m | Maximum magnification: 1.0x | Filter thread: 49mm | Dimensions (WxL): 69x56mm | Weight: 190g

Built-in LED lamp
Hybrid image stabiliser
Short working distance for close-ups
LED could be brighter

Like many recent designs, this lens features a stepping motor autofocus system with an electronically coupled focus ring. Equivalent to a 56mm lens on a full-frame body, the viewing angle makes the lens ideal as a ‘standard prime’, even without taking its macro abilities into account. Hybrid image stabilization is inherited from Canon’s range-topping 100mm L-series lens, able to correct x-y shift as well as vibration, making it more effective for close-up shooting. At the minimum focus distance, 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, however, you’ll need a slow shutter speed of about 1/15th of a second at f/8 (ISO 200). 

Best Canon lens: Canon EF-M 28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM

13. Canon EF-M 28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM

This remarkable EOS M lens gets you much closer to your subjects

Mount: Canon EF-M | Elements/groups: 11/10 | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: Stepping motor | Stabilizer: 3.5-stops | Minimum focus distance: 0.09m | Maximum magnification: 1.2x | Filter thread: 43mm | Dimensions (WxL): 61x46mm | Weight: 130g

Built-in ‘macro lite’
1.2x Super Macro mode
Minimum working distance is just 13mm
Plastic lens mount

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, while precluding long-distance focusing. Taking the crop factor into account, it gives nearly twice the maximum magnification of shooting with a 1.0x macro lens on a full-frame camera.

Portrait lenses

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. 

As with macro lenses, there can be advantages in shooting with a full-frame format lens on APS-C format bodies. An 85mm focal length is usually regarded as ideal for portraiture with a full-frame camera. This enables you to be close enough to engage with your subject and give posing directions if necessary, without being so close that you’re invading their personal space and making them feel (and look) awkward. On an APS-C format camera, a 50mm lens will give similar benefits, taking the crop factor into account, though an 85mm lens will work fine here too, though you’ll need to move a little further away. 

Best Canon lens: Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM

14. Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM

A great, wide-aperture portrait lens for full frame Canon DSLRs

Mount: Canon EF | Elements/groups: 14/10 | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: Ultrasonic (ring-type) | Stabilizer: 4-stops | Minimum focus distance: 0.85m | Maximum magnification: 0.12x | Filter thread: 77mm | Dimensions (WxL): 89x105mm | Weight: 950g

Beautiful image quality
4-stop stabilizer in an f/1.4 lens
Very expensive for an 85mm f/1.4
Quite weighty at nearly a kilogram

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 ASC (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 (the quality of defocused areas) is deliciously smooth and creamy.

Best Canon lens: Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM | A

15. Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM | A

A fabulous lens for portraiture on APS-C Canon DSLRs

Mount: Canon EF | Elements/groups: 13/8 | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: Ultrasonic (ring-type) | Stabilizer: None | Minimum focus distance: 0.4m | Maximum magnification: 0.18x | Filter thread: 77mm | Dimensions (WxL): 85x100mm | Weight: 815g

Fast f/1.4 aperture
Superb image quality and build quality
Big and heavy for a 50mm lens
Lacks image stabilization

If you think that bigger is better, you’ll be drawn to this Sigma lens! It dwarfs the competing Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM and is about three times heavier. More importantly, it kicks the relatively ancient Canon lens into touch when it comes to image quality and all-round performance. The Sigma’s much more complex and high-tech optical layout includes an aspherical element and three SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements. Colour fringing, distortion and vignetting are kept to a minimum and become virtually unnoticeable when using this full-frame compatible optic for portraiture on an APS-C body. Centre-sharpness is spectacular and the 9-blade diaphragm helps to keep the aperture well-rounded when stopping down a little, maintaining very pleasing bokeh.

Best Canon lens: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

16. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

A great low-cost portrait lens for APS-C Canon DSLRs

Mount: Canon EF | Elements/groups: 6/5 | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: Stepping motor | Stabilizer: None | Minimum focus distance: 0.35m | Maximum magnification: 0.21x | Filter thread: 49mm | Dimensions (WxL): 69x39mm | Weight: 160g

Compact and lightweight
Inexpensive to buy
Hood is sold separately
No image stabilization

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. The latest edition feels much more solid, boasting a metal mounting plate and a better STM (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.

Best Canon lens: Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM

17. Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM

The best portrait lens option for Canon’s EOS M cameras

Mount: Canon EF-M | Elements/groups: 14/8 | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: Stepping motor | Stabilizer: None | Minimum focus distance: 0.23m | Maximum magnification: 0.25x | Filter thread: 43mm | Dimensions (WxL): 61x57mm | Weight: 235g

Wide f/1.4 aperture rating
Compact and lightweight build
Focal length is a bit short for portraiture
Autofocus system is rather audible

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 works well for half-length and environmental portraits, and the f/1.4 aperture rating enables you to blur the background quite successfully, though the relatively short focal length is short 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.

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