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The best Canon standard zoom lenses in 2020: for Canon DSLRs, EOS M and EOS R

best Canon standard zoom lenses
(Image credit: PhotoPlus magazine)

Looking to replace your kit lens? This guide to the best Canon standard zoom lenses will help choose the right lens for you and allow you to take your photography to the next level.

When we talk about kit lenses, we're referring to the standard zoom lenses that are often supplied with your Canon camera. This are useful lenses to help you get started, but have been designed to be compact and affordable before anything else.

Over time though, you'll want to look at replacing this kit lens with a new lens. The best Canon standard zoom lenses offer a longer focal range than you kit lens, a constant maximum aperture or just better all-round picture quality. 

As we've just touched on, one major reason for upgrading to a new standard zoom lens is so you can get a lens with a wider maximum aperture, typically f/2.8, that remains available throughout the zoom range. This enables faster shutter speeds under dull or indoor lighting conditions, without the need to bump up your ISO setting too much. 

A wider aperture also enables a tighter depth of field, so you can make the main subject really stand out against a blurred background. Alternatively, you can compromise on a ‘slower’ f/4 aperture and enjoy a lens upgrade with a more compact, lightweight build, or a bigger zoom range that stretches further into telephoto territory.

It's not just Canon that makes great standard zoom lenses, both Sigma and Tamron do as well and are certainly worth consideration.

We've split this guide to the best Canon standard zoom lenses into four categories: one for Canon EF-M mirrorless cameras, one for each of Canon's EF-S APS cameras and EF full-frame cameras, and one for its full-frame mirrorless EOS RF models. 

With all that in mind, here's our guide to the best Canon standard zoom lenses for your Canon camera...

Canon EOS M

Best standard zoom lens for Canon: Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM

(Image credit: Canon)

1. Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM

Really small and lightweight, it’s a little gem for the EOS M

Effective zoom range: 24-72mm | Lens construction: 10 elements in 9 groups | No. of diaphragm blades: 7 blades | Minimum focus distance: 0.25m | Filter size: 49mm | Dimensions: 61x45mm | Weight: 130g

Compact, retractable design
Generous wide-angle perspective
Hood sold separately
Sharpness is good rather than great

Despite its impressive 24-72mm ‘effective’ zoom range, this retractable lens measures a mere 61x45mm and is a real featherweight at just 130g. To put that into perspective, a complete outfit comprising an EOS M camera body plus all three of Canon’s standard 15-45mm, 11-22mm wide-angle and 55-200mm telephoto zooms weighs as little as Sigma’s full-frame 24-70mm lens on its own, with no camera attached. Although small, the lens feels sturdy, has good handling characteristics and is impeccably turned out in a choice of silver or graphite finishes. The stepping motor autofocus system is quick and virtually silent, and the image stabilizer lives up to its 4-stop billing. It’s not the sharpest tool in Canon’s box but image quality is very satisfying overall.

Canon EF-S

Best standard zoom lens for Canon: Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM

(Image credit: Canon)

2. Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM

A veteran APS-C Canon DSLR lens, with high-quality build

Effective zoom range: 27-88mm | Lens construction: 19 elements in 12 groups | No. of diaphragm blades: 7 blades | Minimum focus distance: 0.35m | Filter size: 77mm | Dimensions: 84x111mm | Weight: 645g

Sturdy build
Fast and quiet autofocus
No weather-seals
Hood not included

This is the closest thing to a pro-grade, L-series ‘EF-S’ lens for APS-C cameras that Canon has ever built. Unlike Canon’s f/2.8 standard zooms for full-frame cameras, this one features an image stabilizer. Yet it’s an old version of the technology and only gives three, rather than four, stops of advantage in fending off camera-shake. Compared with the autofocus systems of other APS-C lenses on test, it’s faster and quieter, if not near silent as in Canon’s STM or Micro USM lenses. Lab scores for sharpness proved underwhelming for this particular test sample, but we’ve always been impressed by the lens’s clarity in our wide-ranging real-world tests and how other samples have performed in the past.

Best standard zoom lens for Canon: Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM | C

(Image credit: Sigma)

3. Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM | C

A new and improved Sigma lens for Canon APS-C DSLRs

Effective zoom range: 27-112mm | Lens construction: 16 elements in 14 groups | No. of diaphragm blades: 7 blades | Minimum focus distance: 0.22m | Filter size: 72mm | Dimensions: 79x82mm | Weight: 465g

Big zoom range
Compact and lightweight
Average centre-sharpness
No padded case

Sigma’s Contemporary line of lenses aim to be compact, and the 17-70mm is no exception. At 79x82mm and 465g, it’s smaller and lighter than any other lens on test. Centre-sharpness isn’t quite as good as from Sigma’s 17-50mm lens but sharpness towards the edges and corners of the frame is more impressive at wide aperture settings, especially at the short end of the zoom range. Autofocus speed is a little quicker, while the optical stabilizer is similarly effective. This lens comes with a petal-shaped lens hood but, unlike the other Sigma lenses on test, it’s not supplied with a padded soft case. Overall, this newer Contemporary lens is the more appealing of the two.

Best standard zoom lens for Canon: Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM

(Image credit: Sigma)

4. Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM for Canon

A bargain f/2.8 lens for Canon APS-C DSLRs, but it's not perfect

Effective zoom range: 27-80mm | Lens construction: 17 elements in 13 groups | No. of diaphragm blades: 7 blades | Minimum focus distance: 0.28m | Filter size: 77mm | Dimensions: 84x92mm | Weight: 565g

Compact construction
Bargain price
No full-time AF override
Autofocus noise

This Sigma lens appears to offer most of the same advantages as its Canon counterpart, but at less than half the price. Whereas both of the Canon and Sigma lenses have ultrasonic autofocus systems, the Canon’s is ring-type, whereas the Sigma’s relies on a small motor. On the plus side, this helps to enable a more compact construction, but the autofocus system isn’t as near-silent and lacks full-time manual override. Image quality is sharp across most of the image frame but quite soft in the corners, especially at short to mid zoom settings when using apertures wider than f/5.6. Living up to its claims, stabilization is slightly more effective than in the competing Canon 17-55mm lens, but autofocus speed is a little slower.

Canon EF

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

(Image credit: Sigma)

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

Better than Canon's own 24-70mm lens for full frame Canon DSLRs

Effective zoom range: 24-70mm | Lens construction: 19 elements in 14 groups | No. of diaphragm blades: 9 blades | Minimum focus distance: 0.37m | Filter size: 82mm | Dimensions: 88x108mm | Weight: 1,020g

Superb handling and image quality
Effective optical stabilizer
Works with Canon in-camera corrections
Relatively large and weighty

We prefer this lens to Canon’s own EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM standard zoom for DLSRs. Both have an identical zoom range and aperture rating, and both lenses deliver similarly excellent image quality in all respects. The big plus point for the Sigma is that it features an optical image stabilizer, which can be incredibly useful for general walkabout shooting. Another neat extra is that it’s compatible with Sigma’s optional USB Dock, which you can use for fine-tuning and customizing the lens, as well as for applying firmware updates. And like many Sigma Global Vision lenses, it can take full advantage of in-camera corrections in current and recent Canon DSLRs, for the likes of lateral chromatic aberration, distortion and peripheral illumination. All in all, it’s a highly desirable lens at a very attractive price.

Best standard zoom lens for Canon: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

(Image credit: Canon)

6. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

This Mk II edition is perfect for full frame Canon DSLRs... at a pricee

Effective zoom range: 24-70mm | Lens construction: 18 elements in 13 groups | No. of diaphragm blades: 9 blades | Minimum focus distance: 0.38m | Filter size: 82mm | Dimensions: 89x113mm | Weight: 805g

Excellent image quality
Fast, whisper-quiet autofocus
Build quality
No optical stabilizer

The standard zoom of choice for pro photographers, Canon’s original 24-70mm f/2.8L was something of a classic. As you’d expect from Canon’s range-topping standard zoom, autofocus comes courtesy of a fast and whisper-quiet ring-type ultrasonic system. Image quality is excellent, with great sharpness and contrast even when shooting wide-open. Sharpness has been improved towards the edges of the frame but, even so, the ability to capture consistently sharp handheld images can suffer due to the lack of an optical stabilizer, featured in all of the other lenses on test. The lack of stabilization aside, this simply delivers the best performance of any lens in the group.

Best standard zoom lens for Canon: Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2

(Image credit: Tamron)

7. Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2

A well-stabilized 24-70mm alternative for full frame Canon DSLRs

Effective zoom range: 24-70mm | Lens construction: 17 elements in 12 groups | No. of diaphragm blades: 9 blades | Minimum focus distance: 0.38m | Filter size: 82mm | Dimensions: 88.4x111mm | Weight: 900g

Impressive image stabilizer
Weather sealing
Improved autofocus system
Zoom ring rotates in opposite direction to Canon's own zooms

The Tamron is well built with a rock-solid feel and great handling. This updated "G2" lens brings with it a superb 5-stop image stabilization system and impressive autofocus performance - and unlike some lenses it is properly weather sealed for use in all outdoor conditions. The Tamron delivers excellent contrast and impressive sharpness in the lab – and particulaly so at the wide-angle end. Color fringing and distortions are well controlled but, unlike with some lenses, you can’t take advantage of in-camera corrections for lens aberrations.

Best standard zoom lens for Canon: Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM

(Image credit: Canon)

8. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM

A great longer range standard zoom for full frame Canon SLRs

Effective zoom range: 24-105mm | Lens construction: 17 elements in 12 groups | No. of diaphragm blades: 10 blades | Minimum focus distance: 0.45m | Filter size: 77m | Dimensions: 84x118mm | Weight: 795g

Extensive weather-seals
Four-stop image stabilizer
Constant aperture value
Barrel distortion 

The new Mk II has been redesigned to be tougher and more resistant to shock and vibration, as well as featuring fluorine coatings on the front and rear elements. More importantly, the optics have been revamped, with the aim of improving sharpness across the whole image frame, throughout the zoom range. Barrel distortion from the preceding 24-105mm lens was notoriously bad at the short end of the zoom range, but the Mk II performs a little better. It’s also a bit sharper, autofocus is a little quicker and bokeh is smoother, thanks to the fitment of ten, rather than eight, diaphragm blades. Overall, however, each of the improvements is quite subtle rather than making a hugely noticeable difference.

Canon RF

Best standard zoom lens for Canon: Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

(Image credit: Canon)

9. Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

The best RF standard zoom for quality, versatility and cost-effectiveness

Effective zoom range: 24-105mm | Lens construction: 18 elements in 14 groups | No. of diaphragm blades: 9 blades | Minimum focus distance: 0.45m | Filter size: 77mm | Dimensions: 84x107mm | Weight: 700g

Fast Nano USM autofocus
5-stop optical image stabilizer
Customisable control ring
Feels a little weighty on an EOS R

A highly popular choice for EOS R-series cameras, this lens occupies the middle-ground between the compact, low-budget RF 24-105mm f/4-7.1 IS STM and the mighty RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM. The former has a disappointingly narrow aperture at longer zoom settings, while the latter has a relatively limited zoom range is much pricier to buy. For our money, the 24-105mm f/4 offers an ideal compromise. It has a very versatile zoom range with a constant f/4 aperture rating, it’s not overly big or heavy, and is sensibly priced. Highlights in handling and performance include a customisable control ring, 5-stop optical stabilization and fast Nano USM autofocus, all wrapped up in a weather-sealed and typically sturdy construction, befitting an L-series lens.

Best standard zoom lens for Canon: Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM

(Image credit: Canon)

10. Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM

A high-performance pro grade standard zoom for EOS R cameras

Effective zoom range: 24-70mm | Lens construction: 21 elements in 15 groups | No. of diaphragm blades: 9 blades | Minimum focus distance: 0.21-0.38m | Filter size: 82mm | Dimensions: 89x126mm | Weight: 900g

Top-drawer build quality and performance
Nano USM AF and 5-stop stabilization
Customisable control ring
Expensive to buy

Unless you’re desperate for the faster aperture of Canon’s huge RF 28-70mm f/2L USM standard zoom, which tips the scales at nearly 1.5kg and is fiendishly expensive to buy, the 24-70mm is the better option. At 900g, it’s more manageable and is actually only 200g heavier than the RF 24-105mm f/4 lens. Naturally, it’s an f/stop faster but has less telephoto reach. The premium optical design includes three aspherical elements and three UD (Ultra-low Dispersion) elements, along with high-tech Air Sphere Coating to minimize ghosting and flare. There’s also a fluorine coating on the front and rear elements, to repel moisture and finger marks. High-speed Nano USM autofocus and 5-stop stabilization are featured but it’s the sensational image quality of this lens that makes it worth its undeniably up-market price tag.

Best standard zoom lens for Canon: Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM

(Image credit: Canon)

11. Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM review

Ultra-fast Canon standard zoom lens with a constant maximum aperture of f/2

Effective zoom range: 28-70mm | Lens construction: 19 elements in 13 groups | No. of diaphragm blades: 9 blades | Minimum focus distance: 0.39m | Filter size: 95mm | Dimensions: 104x140mm | Weight: 1430g

Stunning image quality
Fast f/2 maximum aperture
Weather-sealed construction
Heavy and expensive

The Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM is a bit of a monster, weighing in at 1,430g. The reason for this is it being a full f/stop faster than most professional standard zoom lenses, that sees a maximum aperture at all focal lengths of f/2. With a design that goes all out for premium image quality, it's a fabulous lens that really can rival three or four separate prime lenses. There's no built-in image stabilization though, so to help reduce camera shake, you'll want to pair it with either and R5 or R6. Both of these cameras feature in-body image stabilization and will be essential if shooting for prolonged periods unless you have arms as thick as tree trunks. 

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