Canon Lens Guide


in an effort to help you understand all these terms – for more detailed explanation of what this all means see my All About the lenses – Acronyms post

ef-s(canon), DX(Sigma)
Built for crop sensor cameras, not useable on full frame cameras
Suitable and useable on crop sensor and full frame cameras
Image Stabilization(Canon), Optical Stabilization(Sigma), Vibration Compensation(Tamron) – All terms for a system built into the lens that removes camera shake and allows you to shoot at slightly slower shutter speeds.
USM(Canon), HSM(Sigma)
UltraSonic Motor – Means fast and quiet autofocus


Super Budget Zoom Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras Decent lens with solid reviews very hard to beat the price. If shopping around make sure you don’t purchase the non-APO version which is crummy. Price: $189.00

Budget ZoomCanon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras
Very good lens with IS (image stabilization) which allows you to get sharper images with less light- nicely compliments the kit lens. Price: $210

Mid-Level Zoom Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens for Canon EOS SLR Cameras
Some call this a hidden “L” lens. L lenses are Canon’s professional level lenses that offer superb optics at a serious price. The lens is very good and includes IS and USM (ultra sonic motor for focusing). Price: $540

High End Zoom Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
A beautiful “L” lens at an affordable price, probably one of the best values in Canon’s line. You don’t get IS but what you do get is a lens that is bright and sharp and offers f/4 across the zoom range. Price: $650

Serious Wildlife/Sports Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 AF APO DG OS HSM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras
Getting 500mm of reach for ~$1000 is amazing, especially when it is at this quality level, downsides: big/heavy and you will need lots of light at the longer focal lengths. Price: $1000


This is a difficult category to recommend – Some lean toward having the convenience of large focal range (i.e. the 18-200ish lenses) some want fast and light and some want something in between. You really need to take a look at the type of shooting you do and decide which of the following lenses is the best fit for your needs.  I have a second post devoted to just this idea of one lens on your camera 99% of the time.

Budget Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS SLR Lens
Don’t be quick to replace this lens. The earlier kit lenses were crummy but the current IS version is quite capable and covers a useful range. Price: Free with your camera

More range constant f/2.8 Tamron AF 28-75mm f/2.8 SP XR Di LD Aspherical (IF) for Canon Digital SLR Cameras
This Tamron lens is excellent – so sharp, beating Canon’s $1500 24-70 lens in some tests. Downside- not very wide start at 28mm and focus is not as snappy as I would like in lowerlight Price: $450

Pricey but excellent Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Ultra Wide Angle Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
Fairly limited range but excellent quality and perfect for landscapes. Price: $760

Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras
IS, USM and a constant f/2.8 A very good lens but maybe not the best value Price: $1100

Best quality for the range – Canon’s EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM is the lens that is paired with the new Canon T4i and is quite good for its range.  Currently selling for $500-ish, would be much higher recommended if it came in closer to $400.

Ultra-Convenient! Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Standard Zoom Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras
One lens that covers a very large range (11x) You will be sacrificing quality and will experience distortion at the wide end. Price: $540


Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras
Solid lens, widest in its class at a decent price. Price: $499 or Tokina 11-16/2.8 AT-X 116 PRO DX Lens for Canon EOS Digital -ATX116PRODXC
Less range but sharper and fast with a constant aperture of f/2.8 Price: $799


Everyone should own at least one prime – They offer very sharp glass and large apertures at good prices- the downside, you need to zoom with your feet. The cheapest of the primes is the 50 f/1.8- Using the large apertures of prime lenses like the 50mm helps understand the connection between Depth of Field and aperture.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens
For just a shade over $100 you get a decently sharp prime lens. It is a little long on crop sensors so you may want to spring for the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras Still a prime and not nearly as cheap as the 50mm but at 1.4 lets in almost twice as much light as f/1.8


Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
Excellent Macro lens. On a crop sensor the focal length can be a little long but this will let you get closer to skitish bugs and other small creatures. Price: $540 or Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Digital SLR Lens for EOS Digital SLR Cameras
Very nice Macro and portraiture suitable lens. Price: $399


Thinking about upgrading to the Canon T4i?  Everything you want to know about the T4i

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  1. On the Amazon website sometimes on the lenses or other products for that matter, it will say “10 used for x amount of dollars. Would you ever buy a “used” lens? And what exactly do they mean by used.


    • That is Amazon’s version of Ebay – anyone can sell on Amazon too and a used lens is just that – already used by someone. If they state that it is in good condition and they are reputable, meaning they have good reviews I am fine buying used. I would be wary about buying cheaper lenses used though – the cheaper the lens the less likely it has been built to last and the more likely you are to end up with problems. The more expensive a lens the more likely I am to consider used. Hope that helps

  2. Thanks for the response. Do you get the credit if I click on the link from your page but buy the used one??

  3. Hi Toby,

    Would you recommend refurbished lenses? I have been looking at the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens for Canon EOS SLR Cameras. I have found a good price on Amazon for a refurbished one. Tell me what you think??

    Thanks for all your help, great website and quick responses.


    • Hi Lorrie, Refurbs are a great way to save money on a lens. The only downside is you often get a shorter warranty but I have bought refurbs in the past and would do it again. Amazon of course is great but the Canon store sometimes has better deals. . sometimes.

  4. Thanks, Toby. I checked the Canon store and it wasn’t really a “deal”. I just ordered a “used one”. Emailed the seller and they are selling because they are upgrading to a 70-200/2.8 II IS. Got the lens for $319 plus shipping. Also got the tripod you told us about on FB. I really appreciate your help and all the great articles you have. Really like the videos too, Can’t wait to get my lens so I can get out there with my T4i. I want to shoot some sheep herding events with it. I will let you know how it goes and I will ask if I have any questions.

    Thanks again,

    • Lorrie, Appreciate the effort to use my link and your kind words. $319 is a great deal. Be sure to share some photos.

  5. Hi Toby

    FYI got my lens today and it was just like buying a new one. Came in the original box, owner’s manual, warranty card, lens caps, the works. Maybe late for work out there trying it out. Thanks for everything.


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