Canon Lens Guide

Glossary

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
ef
Suitable and useable on crop sensor and full frame cameras
IS, OS, VC
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

Zooms

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

Walk-around

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

Wide-angles

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

Primes

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

Macro

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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 Rainy Day Reflections of Seattle's coolest public library - I almost said coolest building but the new Amazon spheres are crazy cool. I like living in the future - now if we could just ecotopia this place up all would be peachy!
 Upper Sunbeam Falls - Powered by melting snow(seen at the top of the frame) - Captured with GH5 and 12-35 f/2.8 lens 0.4 second exposure.
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12 COMMENTS

  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.

    Thanks,
    Lorrie

    • 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.

    Lorrie

    • 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

    • 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.

    Lorrie

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