Recommended Canon Lenses

Recommended Full Frame Sensor EF Lenses:
Note that EF lenses can be used with either full frame or crop sensor Canon body. "L" lenses are professional grade and offer better image quality and better build quality with weather seals. "*" Denotes lenses of exceptional and near flawless quality. Each lens includes a recommended Canon body for ideal pairing.

  • 8-15/4L* (5Ds) : If you need a fisheye for any Canon sensor size then you are set.

  • 11-24/4L* (5Ds) : An uncompromisingly good ultra wide angle zoom, except for the massive diameter, weight and price.

  • 16-35/4L IS* (5D IV) : Probably the all around best wide angle lens for the money, and includes IS to extend low-light handheld capabilities. If you want wide angle perfection look to Canon's 17 & 24 TS-E tilt/shift lenses as well as Canon's 11-24/4L and 16-35/2.8L III lenses, or if you want handheld low-light performance then look to Canon's 24/1.4L II.

  • 16-35/2.8L III* (5Ds) : Canon's best, if not one of the best wide angles available. If you don't need the absolute best, don't need the faster f/2.8 or prefer having IS, then the 16-35/4L IS is a winner for less money along with smaller size, lighter weight and IS. If you required wider, then check out Canon's 11-24/4L, or if you want handheld low-light performance, then look to Canon's 24/1.4L II, and finally if you are shooing architecture, then get Canon's 17 & 24 TS-E tilt/shift lenses.

  • 24-105/4L IS II (6D II) : While not as strong of an upgrade as other recent releases, it is still a solid upgrade over the original. Overall the 24-70/4L IS might be the best option considering the size, weight and cost.

  • 24-70/4L IS (6D II) : Compact and light, with professional build quality along with all the latest hybrid IS and lens technology. The built-in macro capabilities match any other general zoom lens and nearly match dedicated macro prime lenses. This is an ideal lens for deep depth-of-field landscape, architecture and travel photos shot at f/8. It makes for the perfect zoom kit when combined with the 16-35/4L IS and 70-200/4L IS. 

  • 24-70/2.8L II* (5D IV) : A standard mid-range zoom that provides truly professional level of image quality, which matches Canon's near perfect 16-35/2.8 III and 70-200/2.8L IS II lenses. Tamron and Sigma offerings are good lower cost alternatives. If you want IS and plan on mostly using f/8, then look to Canon's  24-70/4L IS.

  • 70-200/4L IS* (6D II) : Small, light and with excellent performance. This lens is one of Canon's least expensive truly "L" grade zooms.

  • 70-200/2.8L IS II* (5D IV) : This lens matches the excellent performance of the f/4L IS version but at f/2.8. This lens costs twice as much, weighs twice as much and takes up twice as much space as the f/4L IS version, so make sure you need f/2.8 in a zoom.

  • 100-400/4.5-5.6L IS II* (5D IV & 7D II) : The go to all-around telephoto lens for full frame sensors and for wildlife on crop sensors.

  • 28/2.8 IS (6D II) : A small, light, low-cost prime with good image quality. The 28/2.8 IS model is slightly cheaper, smaller, lighter and with better corner performance than the 24/2.8 IS model. Sharp in the center wide open at f/2.8 but the corners are soft with strong vignetting, so expect to stop down if looking for solid corner performance.

  • 35/2 IS (6D II) : The new 35L reigns supreme, but this one is smaller, lighter, cheaper, includes IS and delivers solid image quality.

  • 35/1.4L II* (5Ds & 5D IV) : The original 35/1.4L was good but this lens is better, ranking as one of best all around Canon lenses. Although, all of the optical goodness makes for a larger, heavier and more expensive lens.

  • 40/2.8 STM Pancake (6D II) : Super small, light, and inexpensive with good center performance straight from f/2.8, with excellent overall image quality at f/8. This is a must have for all Canon DSLR kits.

  • 50/1.8 STM (6D II) : Along with the 40/2.8 STM, this is a must have lens at $125. Small, light and good stopped down image quality. Be sure to get the new STM model for updated metal mount, AF, optical coatings, rounded aperture blades and new housing. The 50/1.4 offers a slight upgrade to bokeh and vignetting but with less than stellar AF, build quality, and wide open image quality that isn't much better than the 1.8 version, it probably isn't worth the upgrade for most.

  • 85/1.8 (6D II) : Fast/reliable auto focus and fairly solid image quality stopped down to f/2.5. Considering the size, price and performance, this is one of the best FF lens per dollar around. The 100/2 performs slightly better wide open but it is slightly more expensive, heavier, larger and overlaps with 100 macro focal lengths.

  • 85/1.4L IS* (5Ds & 5D IV) : It's moderately large and heavy, but has excellent IS, AF, build quality and overall solid image quality, especially in the corners. It makes for a lovely companion to the 35/1.4L II.

  • 85/1.2L II (5Ds & 5D IV) : Test charts show the lens's age and optical weaknesses, but it delivers a unique rendering. Take note that the auto focus is slow, although accurate.

  • 100/2.8L IS (6D II & 5D IV & 5Ds) : Great for macro and portraits. Canon's latest hybrid-IS technology makes a big difference for handheld work, plus weather sealing is nice when shooting outdoors. The L IS version is a bit sharper in the center compared to the non-L IS version, while the non-L IS version has stronger corner performance. So if you plan to use a tripod and to stop down for maximum depth-of-field, then the non-L IS version might be a better and lower-cost option.

  • 100/2 (6D II) : Like the 85/1.8 this lens is compact, light and affordable with excellent image quality and auto focus. Slightly better wide open performance than the 85/1.8 version but also slightly larger, heavier and more expensive. Considering the size, price and performance, this is a great lens.

  • 135/2L (6D II) : Sharp wide open for dreamy subject isolation. Since the lens lacks IS, you will have to watch your shutter speeds to prevent camera shake. Considering the cost, size, weight, build quality, AF speed and optical performance, this lens is one of Canon's best performing lenses for the money.

  • Any Canon telephoto or super telephoto prime lens: 200-400x1.4/4L IS*, 200/2L IS*, 300/2.8L IS II*, 400/4 DO IS II*, 400/2.8L IS II*, 500/4L IS II*, 600/4L IS II* and 800/5.6L IS (1DX II & 7D II).

  • 17/4L TS-E* (5Ds) : If you shoot architecture then this is the absolute best lens produced with nearly zero distortion and solid optical performance even with large tilt/shift movements. As with Canon's 11-24 and Nikon's 14-24, price and an unprotected bulbous front element are penalties one pays for exceptional ultra-wide performance. Checkout my detailed review of the 17/4L TS-E with example photos.

  • 24/3.5L TS-E II* (5Ds) : While not as wide as the 17 or as good for large/tall architectural projects, it is a more versatile all around lens and better for nature photography. Checkout my detailed review of the 24/3.5L TS-E II with example photos.

  • 50/2.8L TSE*, 90/2.8L TSE* and 135/4L TSE* (5Ds) : Updated with the latest tilt/shift design and optical tech to provide the ultimate image quality and creative control for products, food, macro, portrait or other subjects. Canon engineers have stated that these represent peak optics from Canon.

  • Sigma 12-24/4, 24-35/2, 24-70/2.8, 24-105 OS DG HSM A, 14/1.8, 20/1.4, 24/1.4, 35/1.4, 50/1.4, 85/1.4, 135/1.8 DG HSM A, and 150/2.8 OS APO: Sigma AF seems to be getting better, and even if not quite as good as Canon lenses, the image quality for the price is hard to beat with Sigma's Art series lenses.

 

Recommended Crop Sensor EF-S Lenses:
Note that EF-S lenses can only be used on APS-C crop sensor bodies while all normal EF lenses can be used on any Canon body, and nearly all of the EF lenses list above will out perform the following EF-S lenses.  Also take note that the EOS-M uses a separate EF-M lens mount for it's APS-C crop sensor mirrorless (recommended 11-22IS, 18-55IS, 55-200IS, and 22/2 pancake prime, but especially the 11-22 IS wide angle zoom).   "*" Denotes lenses of exceptional and near flawless quality. Each lens includes a recommended Canon body for ideal pairing.

  • EF-S 10-18/4.5-5.6 IS STM (SL2) : Good wide angle performance, especially when considering the small size, low weight and $300 price, but if you want exceptional wide angle performance in a small/light package then get the M with 11-22 IS.

  • EF-S 18-55/4-5.6 IS STM (SL2) : This is the newest in a long line of 18-55 kit lenses that are included for around $100 more than body only. You can't do better for the size and weight when shooting stopped down to f/8.

  • EF-S 18-135/3.5-5.6 IS STM or USM (77D & 80D) : If you want more telephoto range and better AF, but don't mind a considerable increase in size and weight, then the newer 18-135 versions are a great option. The USM version has been optimized for video and can be used with a digital zoom accessory to help deliver smoother and quieter zooming.

  • EF-S 55-250/4-5.6 IS STM (SL2) : The latest STM version of Canon's entry level telephoto kit zoom is cheap, small and light, but it delivers excellent image quality. Plus, it can often be purchased at a discount when bundled with a kit lens body. So what's not to like?

  • EF 70-300/4-5.6 IS II USM (77D & 80D) : If you require extra range and better AF, then this is a good option. The "L" version offers better performance at 300mm but isn't necessarily worth the extra cost, size and weight. If you require a faster aperture, then consider the 70-200/4L IS or 70-200/2.8L IS II. 

  • EF-S 24/2.8 STM Pancake (SL2) : Combined with the EF 40/2.8 STM pancake and 50/1.8 STM, you have a tiny and inexpensive but excellent prime lens kit.

  • EF-S 35/2.8 IS STM (SL2 & 77D & 80D) : This is a macro lens with built-in LED lights that not only generates excellent macro images, but makes for an wonderful general use lens with f/2.8 and IS.

  • EF-S 60/2.8 macro (77D & 80D) : Can be used for any kind of shooting but is exceptional for macro. This is one of Canon's best and it is only available for APS-C.

  • 35/2 IS (77D & 80D) : While not a dedicated APS-C only lens, this lens delivers the goods on a crop sensor, giving you solid image quality wide open and with IS.

  • 40/2.8 STM Pancake (SL2 & 77D & 80D) : While not a dedicated APS-C only lens, this super small pancake delivers excellent image quality and makes for a compelling match with compact APS-C bodies, such as the Canon SL1/100D.

  • 50/1.8 STM (SL2 & 77D & 80D) : While not a dedicated APS-C only lens, this $125 lens is small, light, affordable and delivers excellent image quality when mounted on a crop sensor camera for portraits. Stopped down to this lens beats many $1,000+ lenses!

  • EF-S Sigma 18-35 and 50-100/1.8 DC HSM A* (80D) : There's nothing else quite like these Sigma dedicated APS-C lenses, and from the standpoint of light gathering abilities, they can even provide the smaller crop sensors an advantage over the large full frame cameras.

  • EF-S Sigma 30/1.4 DC HSM A (77D & 80D) : Another great dedicated APS-C option from Sigma for which Canon does not offer an alternative.

  • Any EF full frame lens listed above will yield excellent performance on an APS-C body, although do not forget to consider the 1.6x change in FOV. 

 

Upgrading Your Canon Crop Sensor EF-S 18-55 Kit Lens

Option One: Fast Prime Lens: Canon EF-S 24/2.8 STM, Sigma EF-S 30/1.4 DG HSM A, Canon 35 f/2 IS, Canon 35/2.8 IS STM, Canon 40/2.8 STM, or Canon 50 f/1.8 STM
These are fixed focal length lenses, otherwise known as a prime lenses that do not zoom. These lenses provide a much larger aperture compared to the kit zoom lens and for that matter any other zoom lens available.

Lets talk about the name of these lenses, for instance the 50 f/1.8 STM. The first "50" number indicates the focal length, which is the angle of view that you see when looking through the camera's view finder. All entry level (below $2,500) DSLR have crop sensors to reduce sensor fabrication and lens glass costs. Understanding how crop sensor effects focal length is a bit more complicated than on full frame cameras because the smaller sensor essentially only "sees" the center portion of the total image that the lens projects back into the sensor. Canon cameras have a 1.6x crop factor, meaning that the 50mm lens projects 50mm but your camera only sees 80mm (50mm x 1.6 = 80mm). So whenever you put a lens on your camera you need to multiple it by 1.6 to understand what you see in the viewfinder/screen.

The "normal" focal length is 50mm, which is approximately what the human eye sees without using peripheral vision. Any focal length number smaller than 50mm is considered wide angle, while any focal length number larger than 50mm is considered telephoto. This means that the Canon EF-S 24/2.8 STM = slightly wide 38mm view, the Sigma EF-S 30/1.4 DC HSM A = normal 48mm view, the Canon 35 f/2 IS and 35/2.8 IS STM = normal 56mm view, the Canon 40/2.8 STM = slightly long/portrait 64mm view, and the Canon 50/1.8 STM = longer/portrait 80mm view.

Now lets discuss the second part of the 50 f/1.8 STM name, the "f/1.8" portion. The number after the "f/" signifies the lens's maximum aperture opening size. The SMALLER the number after the "f/" the LARGER the aperture opening. Do you get that? It is an inverse relationship! The larger the aperture opening the more light the lens lets into the camera and the smaller the aperture number. The more light you let into the camera the faster the shutter speed the camera will produce for any given lighting condition. Can you imagine how this would be helpful in low-light conditions, such as shooting indoors or at night?

Since these large aperture lenses produce faster shutter speeds in low-light conditions they are called  "fast" lenses. The main benefit of faster shutter speeds in low-light conditions is that it prevents the normal shaking of your camera and thus causing the subject in your image to look blurry. Faster shutter  speeds also prevent the subject from blurring as a result of their motion.

In addition to speeding up the camera's shutter speed, large apertures also provide shallower depth-of-field, which is the distance between in-focus and out-of-focus portions of the image. The larger the aperture the smaller the depth-of-field and the more the in-focus subject pops out from the out-of-focus background. This is a highly desirable look for portraits.

There is one additional benefit of using prime lenses on your crop sensor, and that is a reduction in your camera's overall size and weight. The 24/2.8 STM, 40/2.8 STM and 50/1.8 STM primes are especially compact and light, as well as affordable. These lenses make the most out of the tiny and lightweight Canon 200D/SL2 body.

So why would you purchase a 50 f/1.8 STM or any of the fast prime lenses listed above? For all the reasons we just reviewed: 1) it captures images in low-light conditions without camera shake or subject motion blur, 2) when taking portraits it renders a beautifully blurred background to highlight your sharp and in-focus subject, and 3) it reduces your camera's size and weight.


Option Two: General Purpose Fast Zoom: Tamron 17-50 f/2.8, Sigma 17-50 f/2.8 OS, Canon 17-55 f/2.8 IS, or Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 DC HSM A
So now that you understand how to interpret lens names, what can you tell me about these lenses? First that the focal length is not fixed but has a range from 17mm to 50/55mm, and to understand what this range will look like on your camera you need to multiple by 1.6 (17mm x 1.6 = 27.2mm and 50mm x 1.6 = 80mm), so for example the Tamron or Sigma lenses "see" from 27.2mm to 80mm on a Canon body. That is a very useful range in that you see quite a bit wider than the normal 50mm and quite a bit tighter than the normal 50mm. This zoom range is similar to the kit lens, so you should have a good idea of the what that zoom range "looks" like.

The big difference between these fast zoom lenses and the kit lens is signified by the "f/2.8" part of the lens name. This means that the lens has a maximum aperture of f/2.8. Now this is a smaller or slower aperture as compared to the f/1.8 primes as discussed above but it is still considerably larger and faster than the kit zoom lens. The Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 DC matches prime lens's larger aperture openings!  With this lens you get the best of both worlds, the versatility of a wide angle zoom with the faster aperture.


Option Three: General Purpose Daylight Zoom: Canon 15-85 f/3.5-5.6 IS or 18-135/3.5-5.6 IS STM/USM
Okay here's the last lens upgrade type. Now what can you tell me about these lenses, why would you want this lens over the others? The main reason is that these lenses offer an extended zoom range. This allows you to get "closer" to your subject while making the "view" much tighter. Now what's the obvious trade-off of this increased zoom range? The "f/f3.5-5.6" is a much larger number, which means you have less light available for faster shutter speeds that reduces camera shake and subject motion blur. We will talk about how Canon's "IS" eliminates the camera shake problem in a bit. Back to the aperture f/3.5-5.6 discussion. The other thing you will notice is that the aperture designation f/3.5-5.6 isn't just a single number but a range, similar to the zoom range. This means that the maximum possible aperture changes or reduces as you zoom. So at the long 85mm end of the zoom range the maximum aperture is only f/5.6, which is a small opening and resulting in slow shutter speeds.

Now lets discuss what the "IS" designation means. "IS" stands for "Image Stabilization", a very useful feature that eliminates camera shake that results form slow shutter speeds. The IS feature does nothing to help with subject motion blur that may occur from slower shutter speeds. One other fact that I would like to introduce, is that the longer the focal length the more camera shake will effect the photo. Think about this, it makes perfect sense. If you magnify an image in a microscope very small movements of the slide or slide contents result in huge movements in your magnified view. Right? Same principle here. The rule-of-thumb is that you need a shutter speed at least equal to the focal length, but double is preferable. Of course you need to use the  crop sensor focal length, such as 85mm x 1.6 = 136mm, so at this focal length you need at least 1/136 second to be free of camera shake, that is without IS. With IS you can cut it in half or more! This means that IS compensates for the smaller lens apertures when shooting still subjects, such as landscapes.

So why would you get this slower f/3.5-5.6 lens in the first place? The intended purpose of this lens is for outdoor and daytime photography. This is the best hiking and travel lens, especially when couple with any of the Fast Primes list above in option 1 for low-light and evening photography.


Summary
There's nothing wrong with having all three lenses and even more for that matter! However, budgets are limited so you probably only want to purchase and use one or two lenses:

  • Option 1: Keep your current kit lens for general outdoor/daylight use and purchase a Fast Prime from Option 1 for low-light and portrait use. This makes a lot of sense if you don't mind carrying and changing lenses, as the 18-55 kit lenses performs fairly well at f/6.3 to f/8, especially Canon's latest STM version that optically out performs more expensive lenses in some criteria. If you purchase the $125 Canon 50 f/1.8 STM lens, then this represents the lowest cost option and allows you to use it with a full frame camera. Also consider the small and affordable EF-S 24/2.8 STM and full frame compatible 40/2.8 STM pancake lenses. The Canon 35/2.8 IS STM is a great all arounder with macro, built-in LED lights, f/2.8 and IS. The Canon 35/2 IS is larger, heavier and more expensive option, but it has better image quality, IS and works with full frames. The Sigma 30/1.4 DC HSM A is fast/bright for shallow depth-of-field and offers a normal 50mm view, so is a great option for a crop sensor only lens.

  • Option 2: You could replace your current kit lens with a General Purpose Fast Zoom from Option 2 for improvements in both general outdoor/daylight use and low-light/portrait use. Go with this option if you don't want to switch lenses and you don't mind having less than the ideal setup for each of the two types of photography, general daylight with the zoom and shallow depth-of-field low-light with the prime.

  • Option 3: You could replace your current kit lens with a General Purpose Daylight Zoom from Option 3 for improvements in general outdoor/daylight use and purchase a Fast Prime from Option 1 for low-light and portrait use. This option will cost the most but provide you with the best overall performance if you are willing to carry more than one lens and most importantly, actually change lenses when required.