As one of the market leaders in digital cameras in general to this day, the Japanese company Canon also has the largest market share of interchangeable lenses. Particularly lucky for those who choose Canon equipment is the fact that it is intelligently designed mounts: a lens with EF mount, designed for full frame cameras, can be easily put on a camera with a “cropped” matrix using EF-S mount, and with a simple adapter – and on a camera with EF-M or RF mount. To put it simply, the owner of a full-size SLR can have a lightweight camera (up to compact EOS M5) and use only one set of lenses for the whole park of equipment, buying for them only “carcasses”.
And the situation obliges – the quality of Canon optics really does live up to the company’s name. Well, if you bought a camera with kit optics and its capabilities are not enough, this article is just for you. Our rating includes the best Canon 20201 lenses (according to amateur and expert photographers).
The Best Lenses For Canon Consumer Report
Canon’s best standard lenses
1. Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM
This lens is the aperture champion: even the giants of the optical industry struggle to achieve f/1.2. In practice, it allows the photographer to achieve a minimal depth of field, putting the full focus of the frame on the subject. The more so since the aperture mechanism itself provides a microscopic level of distortion.
The image with the EF 50mm f/1.2L USM looks soft, with rich color reproduction. Even minor chromatic aberrations at the edges of the image are perfectly compatible with this – yes, the lens is not universal, but in the studio of a photographer who can play around with the nature of optics, it is a must-have.
Autofocus mechanism here is a bit slow, but this is not a reproach – we are, we repeat, not a reporter. “It doesn’t take pictures, it draws” – these words of one of the owners perfectly describe both the features and the purpose of the lens.
- Good weight balance with most SLR cameras
- Voluminous, soft images with great color reproduction
- Narrow specialization
- Difficulty in focusing at fully open aperture
2. Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM
The EOS R system started with a small, but very interesting set of lenses for its mount. A fast half-power Elka with an ultrasonic focusing drive is not cheap (although the prices for L-series lenses have never been especially low), massive (almost one kilogram!) and even purely tactile makes you feel like a thing made for quality and for a long time.
Getting good sharpness at such an open aperture is no easy task. A lot of lenses, including Canon’s, require aperture down and at lower apertures to get rid of “soap”. Nevertheless, even “open” lens is decently sharp, vignetting is more serious at this aperture. Chromatic aberrations are insignificant and can be easily removed with RAW processing. From f/2.0 onwards the sharpness becomes great in the center and on the edges.
The aperture is made up of ten rounded blades. We don’t just take a fast-aperture half-pint for nothing, right? It really has beautiful bokeh and the aperture ratio allows you to get all the unnecessary details out of the DOF. Another thing is that the author personally would call the bokeh faceless: “if a person opens the diaphragm the lens will draw circles”. Although, of course, it is better than “spinning”, which has become annoying after thousands of photos. What do we say to twirly bokeh? “Not today.”
The old familiar ring ultrasonic autofocus actuator is, as always, fast, quiet and allows you to use manual focus control without having to switch to MF mode. Autofocus dual mode – with a full range (0.4 m to “infinity”) and with a reduced (0.8 m – “infinity”). Nothing new here, everything is familiar and traditionally excellent. But the control ring of camera settings, introduced on RF lenses – this is a useful thing: an extra setting “at hand” (however, can be without quotes – literally) will not interfere. For example, you can control the aperture priority mode by holding the lens with your hand instead of using the camera wheel like you do with manual lenses.
- Fast autofocus with FTM
- Excellent sharpness even at open apertures
- Nice, but faceless bokeh
- Flawless build quality
- High price
- Dimensions and weight are a bit much for a comparatively compact EOS R
3. Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
A nice-looking and bright mid-range “mid-point” from Canon doesn’t contain anything particularly interesting in its design – “mid-range” as it is. It has good sharpness – someone even uses soft filters with it for portraits. Well, very decent aperture ratio is good not only as an end in itself, but it will allow to focus in limited light conditions even for owners of not the newest cameras where autofocus sensors are “blind”.
For cropped cameras, by the way, it becomes especially interesting as a portrait camera, they often buy it for this purpose. It is quite universal on full frame as a “half-pint” should be, and small dimensions with moderate weight contribute to it.
Speaking of portraits, the lens has a lot of strong points. Good detail in the DOF area, color rendering, beautiful bokeh – you can’t take it away from this lens. In fact, the popularity of this lens allows you to find a lot of photos in this genre when searching for the model at the same 500px or Flickr, you can see for yourself. But when closing the aperture, keep in mind that you may have to retouch later – the micro contrast of the lens becomes pronounced, emphasizing all the smallest skin defects. Or go straight back to two paragraphs above where we mentioned about soft filters. “Character” the lens has, so at the very least take it for a “test drive” around your acquaintances: it’s quite likely that the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM will appeal to you.
The autofocus is ultrasonic, but not the ring type. Speed is good, misses are rare, especially if you work on one central point. When using several lenses the camera can get “confused”, as with many other fast lenses because of the small DOF at an open aperture where the focus is set.
But it is not without its flaws, alas. The plastic-cased lens is quite delicate and you should take care not to drop it and give it a bump. This is far from the old Japanese manuals like SMC Pentax-M which you can drop on the floor and land on top of with all your author’s pounds without any consequences (just don’t ask how it happened). When carrying it, it’s worth forcing the lens to “infinity” to avoid “proboscis injuries,” which travels quite a distance on the MDF. At open aperture you can see obvious chromatic aberrations (especially in bad light), vignetting is strong – you will have to work in RAW-converter, correcting imperfections of the lens by hand.
- Picture quality (with the caveats noted)
- High micro contrast is interesting in many shooting genres
- Interesting bokeh
- Mechanical flaws
- Prone to chromatic aberration at open aperture
- Dislike for backlight
4. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
However, not everyone can afford a top-end Canon fifty. Well, if you lack the aperture ratio of a kit lens on an inexpensive “DSLR”, you can buy a good “fifty” lens ten times cheaper. With its minimum aperture of 1.8 the lens blurs the background quite well, especially since its seven blurring lobes with rounded edges do a pretty good job.
For a beginner photographer it is important that the lens at the minimum aperture is well compatible with autofocus: the same f/1.2L USM would require using manual focus more often. Here, on the other hand, even in low light, most cameras will ensure accurate focusing on the center point, and the focusing system itself here works quickly and quietly.
In addition, the lens is quite versatile. Good image sharpness comes in handy for reportage and portraits – the lens focuses starting from 35 cm so it can get close-ups of your face. And if you have a “cropped” camera in your hands, getting the equivalent focal length of 75-80mm makes it the best inexpensive lens for portrait photography at all.
It’s even more interesting than the twice more expensive Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, which in comparison is overly sharp and harsh in reproducing halftones, although it flaunts an ultrasonic autofocus.
- Excellent image quality at an affordable price
- Fast and accurate autofocus
- Plastic body
Canon’s best portrait lenses
1. Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM
The second generation of the undeniably legendary top-class portrait lens. Unique bokeh, crisp lines and rich colors are what make this lens so popular, even at a hefty price point. Sharpness is not affected in any aperture setting, meaning you don’t have to sacrifice anything by opening the lens as wide as possible to focus on your subject. That’s why the EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM is really ideal as a portrait camera.
Compared to the previous generation the autofocus speed and precision are increased – the lens is useful not only in the studio but also on the street. True, without a tripod its weight will begin to affect: the lens weighs a whole kilogram, and will not outweigh forward unless the elephant-like EOS 1D.
- Superb image clarity
- Really unique bokeh
- Light power
- Imperfect dust protection
2. Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM
A portrait telephoto lens? Yes, the EF 135mm f/2L USM is ambiguous, but it is loved by portrait photographers: almost everything we said about the leader of the Canon lens rating is true for it as well. Moreover, only a sophisticated eye will find the typical differences between these two lenses in the finished picture – and almost half the price will induce many to accept the non-standard focal length for portraits.
For a 135mm lens, it has excellent light output and the versatility of this optic is also worthy of respect – thanks to its long focal length it allows you to photograph distant fast moving objects at short shutter speeds, and at the same time the circular aperture gives excellent background blur, valuable for a portrait photographer. Another thing is that you have to shoot portraits with it in a spacious studio or outdoors – the 18-degree field of view affects it.
- High focus speed
- Rich colors, excellent rendering of plasticity
- Soft bokeh at the level of top “pure portrait” lenses
- An optical stabilizer would have been nice at this focus, but it’s not there
Canon’s best zoom lenses
1. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
The 2013 TIPA Award winner in the Best Professional Lens category is surprisingly sharp: at any focal length, even at the edges of the image, it is so sharp at the minimum aperture that it is hard to believe that the shot was taken with a zoom lens. The only thing you can pick on is the maximum zoom, but that’s how you pick on it.
No wonder the fame of the “wedding lens” – it can handle both group photos and individual portraits (although the quality of background blur loses to specialized optics), allowing the photographer to work all day with one lens. In addition, the lens works great in backlighting – for street photography this property is indispensable.
As for the plastic body it is both a pros and a cons – of course you want to have an “unbreakable” metal lens but it is much easier to work several hours handheld with plastic.
- Sharp, high contrast images
- Immunity to ambient light
- Low weight
- Not enough soft bokeh
- Low, by the standards of professional optics, aperture ratio
2. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM
Another TIPA award winner, it won the Best DSLR Standard Zoom Lens category. The wide range of focal lengths is achieved by using 17 lenses divided into 12 groups.
The presence of an effective optical stabilizer is important, when shooting handheld it allows you to make a lot more high-quality shots. Compared to the previous version, the aperture mechanism is improved: it now has 10 rounded blades, which positively affects the use of the lens in portraits.
Fans of video shooting on camera should take into account that this lens is not very good for zooming during shooting – during zooming the focus is a bit “floating”, and the lens itself rustles noticeably.
- Sophisticated optical system successfully eliminates aberrations
- Convenient range of focal lengths from wide-angle to portrait
- Optical stabilizer
- Image distortion is still noticeable in extreme positions of the focal length control
- Noisy operation
3. Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM
Yes, the product card in online stores makes me cough. Both from the price and the weight of almost one and a half kilograms, and from the dimensions. One is tempted to say that Canon decided to compensate for the size and weight saved by the cameras for this lens mount on top RF lenses.
But the “glass” itself, of course, turned out really well. “Double the relative aperture across the entire focal length range is a very good aperture for a zoom lens. The range of focal lengths is convenient – here you have quite a wide “end” and seventy for portraits. Wedding photographers should definitely have their inner Hamster animatedly squealing (though, his neighbor – Toad immediately starts recalculating the price of the lens in the number of weddings that need to work until the lens will only pay off). Considering your aperture of nine blades the lens is fully adequate as a portrait lens and for creative shooting when you need good quality background blur.
Quality of autofocus – no comments: ring USM-drive silently sharpens the lens in the desired point in tenths of a second. FTM, an inherent attribute of this design since its inception in the early nineties, is more of a “just to have” thing here than an actual necessary thing.
The quality of the optics, which include UD elements, is such that it’s hard to complain. You’ll have to look for chromatic aberrations under a magnifying glass, vignetting is noticeable only at “wide end” up to f/4, barrel distortion completely disappears starting from focal length of 35 mm. Backlight is confident and even beautiful – with even multi-beam stars without harsh highlights, it may well be used in artistic photography as a “chip”.
- Excellent quality optics
- Beautiful bokeh pattern
- High luminosity over the entire range of focal lengths
- Dimensions and weight are unacceptable for “recreational” photography, for which zoom lenses are interesting
- High price
4. Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM
However, let’s take a break from the near-cosmic prices of full-frame L’s and remember that there are many more part-frame cameras in Canon’s lineup: from the “thank you I’m a DSLR” 1000D to the quite well-established 7D reportage camera. And the L for them is not only expensive, to put it mildly, but not always justified: designed for a lower pixel density of full-frame sensors, they on APS-C sensors can quite a noticeable “blur”, not giving the expected “wow-effect” of fitting a lens with a red ring.
Well, Canon has quite an interesting part-frame lens in its lineup, besides it marks the most popular niche of all-purpose zooms (aka “travel-zooms”): an average APS-C camera buyer doesn’t need a big bag with a bunch of optics for specific occasions, but he wants to take both a wide shot and that roof over there for photographing.
And the 18-135mm focal range is quite reasonable here: it lets you get acceptable aperture ratio and image quality without much trickery (which also cost money), without making you goggle at the price – and at the same time incorporate a silent (yes, here – really silent) STM autofocus motor and modern dynamic image stabilizer, which automatically “understands” when you shoot single shot with your hands, when you shoot with a horizontal wire (usually you have to switch the stabilizer to a separate mode with the switch), when you put the camera on a tripod. And that’s another plus .
Yes, Canon already had a 18-135 lens (EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS) – but the company didn’t hang the new stabilizer and motor drive focus on the old optics, and redid the optics (in particular, introducing a low-dispersion lens set – and this is very good). Sharpness and contrast became more than acceptable, and the inevitable vignetting and distortion at the “ends” of the focal range can easily be corrected by any RAW software.
The aperture with 7 rounded blades gives good bokeh – well, for such aperture strength, of course. The lens fits within acceptable size and weight – well, here you have an adequate “zoom for every day” and also with internal focusing which does not prevent the use of polarizing filters. Variant with nano-USM drive uses exactly the same optical scheme and is interesting first of all for video shooting (as it supports external zoom control through additional adapter – but costs more even without it).
- Efficient stabilizer that automatically detects wired shots
- Convenient range of focal lengths
- Not bad for its price aperture ratio
- Decent sharpness without having to crank the aperture down to 5.6-7.1
- Inner focus
- Not the best choice for working with manual focus – which, in principle, applies to all STM lenses, but at least the ring is convenient
Canon’s best telephoto lenses
1. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
Winner of TIPA’s Best Professional Lens Award in 2011, this lens is still relevant today. In terms of long-focus lenses, it’s short enough, but light strong, and the ability to quickly reduce the focal length by almost three times is indispensable for reportage photography. And its focusing speed is in no way inferior to the latest reportage models.
But during this time and accumulated a reputation – despite the complex mechanics, among photographers EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM earned the reputation of almost “unkillable”, no matter what situations encountered the camera. The optical stabilizer together with the “foot” (it is not supposed to hold it, but you’d like to) at the bottom of the lens allows you to work effectively with your hands at maximum zoom – the lens is quite capable of shutter speed of 1/30 second without a tripod.
However, the lens is not suitable for artistic work – purely reportage sharpness together with perceptible doubling in the bokeh area does not look very nice.
- Rugged, effective dust and moisture protection
- Speed and accuracy of autofocus
- Weight (almost 1.5 kg)
- Huge front lens necessarily requires the use of protection
2. Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM
You can not be afraid to use the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM even at the stadium, where the light source is a modest spotlight. If the brightness is not enough – you can make the shutter speed longer – the lens has an optical stabilizer, it allows not be afraid to get a blurred shot. Unfortunately, the range of focal lengths is not very wide. Therefore, with the shooting of, say, jittery birds may have problems. But this model is able to please with a comfortable weight – the lens does not need to be mounted on a tripod, the camera with it can be held in hands.
- High quality build
- Protected from moisture and dust
- Low weight
- Permanent aperture
- Fast auto focus
- Optical stabilizer
- High price
- Not the widest range of focal lengths
Canon’s best lenses for macro photography
1. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM
Thanks to the ability to focus already at 30 centimeters and a sufficiently long focal length, this lens is undoubtedly the best in Canon’s lineup for macro photography. Add to this all the attributes of the top series – high-end optics, ultrasonic autofocus, and even an effective optical stabilizer. The image stabilizer, by the way, first appeared on Canon macro optics.
The focusing system has three modes – “traditional”, from half a meter to infinity, and specialized, in the range of 0.3-0.5 m. The third mode FULL allows you to move without unnecessary movements from one subject to another at all distances, but the autofocus is slower and rougher, so you should use the switch more often.
Image sharpness and contrast are exactly what you expect from a high-end lens – you can easily count the chitinous bristles on a bumblebee’s belly in the frames.
- Perfectly eliminates the effects of hand-arm sway on photo clarity
- Vivid and high contrast images
- Effective auto focus
- Chopped lines in the bokeh area despite the rounded aperture
2. Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM
Quite a reasonable price, and the dimensions and weight, not shocking from the beginning of acquaintance, make this Canon lens quite interesting.
With a minimum focusing distance of 17 centimeters it is quite tenable as a macro lens. In addition, macro photography can be done at long shutter speeds, in an awkward position – the built-in optical stabilizer with a range of 5 stops will always help.
Chromatic aberrations are already evident, you will have to correct photos. You can feel the “barrel” and vignetting. However, even this can be corrected – but if you use Lightroom, the autocorrection will be unavailable: Adobe has not yet “released” the profile for this lens. Fortunately, correction of peripheral illumination and distortion is supported by the EOS R cameras themselves, and Canon has not forgotten to create profiles for this lens there. Sharpness is not bad at an open aperture, and “full order” comes from f/2.8 and further up to f/11 – then the influence of diffraction becomes noticeable.
Autofocus is based on a stepper motor. It’s not as fast as the USM, but is OK. Focusing noise is minimal. Considering the wide field of view this lens may be popular with video bloggers who shoot themselves in a limited space (i.e. at home on the couch). Manual focus, as with other STM lenses, is “virtual” – the ring is not mechanically linked to the optics, with the power off does not work.
Nine-blade aperture and good aperture ratio allow you to think about bokeh. Yes, the blur quality is not bad even though the short focal length and macro friendly design limits its usability – a spider on a branch will produce beautiful bokeh while a photo of a man in the height would hint at the use of a half-pint or even a “longer” lens.
- Affordable price compared to other RF lenses
- Effective stabilizer
- Pleasant background blur
- Small size and weight
- Noticeable “limp” at open aperture
Canon’s Best Wide Angles
1. Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM
In this winner of the EISA Professional DSLR Lens 2016-2017 award it is difficult to recognize a wide angle – to the eye here is 70 millimeters of focal length. And it weighs a lot – almost 800 grams. This is due to the use of 14 lenses in the lens, which, in turn, promises low distortion.
Marking immediately gives a representative of the top series, even if not looking at the price – L indicates a first-class optics, USM – on the ultrasonic focusing system. And the lens is indeed excellent: only at apertures less than 2.8 vignetting is noticeable, at all other levels of distortion is insensible. The high sharpness of the image at the focus point is perfectly complemented by soft bokeh beyond the depth of field. The lens is also resistant to flare – even harsh backlighting can’t spoil the image.
- Superb image quality
- Light immunity
- Dust proof
- Slight vignetting at open aperture
The best fisheye lenses
1. Canon EF 8-15mm f/4.0L Fisheye USM
It is not the most perfect “fisheye” in Canon’s top line, but taking into account the fact that it is more than two times cheaper than Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye, deprived of the ability to play with the focal length, we will definitely give the 8-15mm f/4.0L Fisheye USM the primacy in this category of the rating.
It’s hard to fault the image quality – no matter how you look at it, it’s the L-series. Certain chromatic aberrations at the minimum focal length are inevitably present, but easily eliminated at the RAW post-processing stage. The ability to change the focal length itself makes it easy to play with effects, going from diagonal distortion to circular distortion.
The lens has two drawbacks: questionable fixing of standard lens hood which can easily come off (and it’s easy to scratch the protruding lens) and inconvenient manual focusing – ring travel is too short, you have to adjust with almost micron precision.
- Flexible distortion adjustment
- Fast autofocus
- Darker optics
- Unfortunate attachment of the lens hood and lens protector
How do I choose a lens?
First, let’s look at focal lengths. Originally, every lens had a fixed focal length which, in relation to the frame diagonal, determined its application.
The standard focal length for small-format film cameras and now for full-frame digitizers is 50 mm. The point is that with such frame sizes the angle of view of the 50 mm lens is almost equal to the angle of view of a human eye, i.e. with this lens the camera “sees” like a human eye. But in practice you need a lot more options – for example, a class of portrait lenses with not only an increased (70-90 mm) focal length, but also an increased aperture ratio has been developed: such a lens puts the frame composition in the center and focus, beautifully blurring the background and giving excellent detail and low distortion.
But what do you do when you need to shoot from a distance? A telephoto lens is essential for reporters and paparazzi, such lenses sometimes grow to monstrous sizes: for example, a rare Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6 L USM weighs 16.5 kilograms and has to be mounted on a solid tripod. When shooting buildings, on the other hand, you need a short focal length (less than 35mm), providing a field of view for wide-angle lenses. However, this angle of view carries a characteristic distortion – the edges of the frame “fall” inside.
The development of wide-angle lenses is “fisheye”, where the focal length is minimal (sometimes only a few millimeters), because of which distortions characteristic of wide-angle optics reach to the absolute. The minimum shooting distance for fisheye lenses is often shorter than for macro optics, or else too much excess will get into the frame with such an angle of view.
Macro lenses are similar in focal length to portrait lenses, but their key differences are the ability to focus at ultra-short distances and the precision lens processing that provides the least possible distortion.
But what to do if you want to shoot different shots but don’t have the money for a set of optics? Well, zoom lenses were invented a long time ago. They have a more complicated optical system, but they allow you to change the focal length often within a wide range. The price of universality is loss of aperture and an increase in distortion, especially in extreme positions of focus. Nevertheless, a good zoom lens can always be found in a professional photographer’s carrying case.
There is one more interesting point. At the beginning of the article we mentioned that Canon optics designed for a full format sensor mount can also work with “cropped” sensors. This reveals the meaning of the cropped factor mentioned in the specifications of the cameras. For example, if you take a normal lens with a full-size format, it will turn into a field of view… into a 80 mm lens (50*1.6) with an APS-C camera (the cropped factor is 1.6)! The normal lens for this camera will be 30 mm, which will work as a wide angle lens on a “senior” camera. Now do you understand why compact cameras with very small sensors have such short lenses? On the interchangeable optics the focal length is often specified for the full frame, so for smaller sensors it should always be recalculated when choosing according to the cropped factor of your camera.
If the focal length determines a large part of the applicability of the optics, its aperture ratio determines the quality and possibilities for low light shooting. Especially the aperture ratio is critical for low cost sensors, where you often have to adjust the sensitivity to such a value that noise becomes clearly visible. Luminosity is directly reflected in the smallest possible relative aperture, that is optics with f/2.0 is more effective than with f/3.5. And it is typical that the smaller focal length, the higher luminosity – due to the larger angle of view the lens transmits more light in the aggregate. So don’t assume that the optics in a telephoto lens with f/5.0 is worse than in a wide angle lens with f/1.8 – they are completely different lenses. But the demands on the quality of the camera sensor when you want to work with telephoto are understandably higher.
Good luck with your purchase!