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

Follow me on Instagram | Watch my latest Youtube Video | Subscribe to my YouTube Channel

 I love traveling with other photographers on #mckaylive trips. Kari, a trip participant, noticed this line of trees and shared her perspective with me. I had glanced at them but hadn't noticed how nicely they lined up when standing at a certain spot #teacherbecomesthestudent :) We had a great day leaving behind the cherry blossom crowds for a much quieter walk around #HarpersFerryWV. And a visit to #BolivarHeights a much fought over hilltop during the civil war and the site of the largest surrender of Union troops - over 12,000 men surrendered to Stonewall Jackson. *  Captured with the #Panasonic #GH4 and #1235mm lens
 "Such a blunder sometimes it makes me wonder why I even bring the thunder" * The Jefferson Memorial might be my favorite. Jefferson's quotes inside, the circular structure surrounded by the columns, the fact that it is perched on a more organic, curving body of water. There is much to love here! Inside I chose to go wide with the 12mm Laowa to capture that awesome dome and offer a different perspective. * Captured with the #Sony #A7RII and @venuslaowa #12mm f/2.8 lens
 Up early and rewarded with another fantastic sunrise. The colors were brief but beautiful. There were literally thousands of photographers lined up along the tidal basin. The reflections were beautiful but those can be captured anytime of the year, it was important to include some of the blossoms. *  Captured with the #Sony #A7RII and #Canon 24-70 lens

Want to be a better photographer? Become a Member! $5/Month gets you access to my Lightroom video library the support group and more!

Support this site - Shop for anything through the links below and I earn a small percentage - it costs you nothing extra.



  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.


Leave a Reply

four × four =