The 9 Best Canon Lenses

Shotkit reviews 9 of the best Canon Lenses

Writing a post about the best Canon lenses was never going to be an easy task. I’ve spent the last month choosing from all the amazing lenses in the Canon EF and EF-S line up to showcase what I consider to be the 9 best Canon lenses of all time.

Canon has always been a step ahead of its competitors when it comes to their selection of lenses. Being able to offer such a wide range of both prime and zoom lenses, not to mention the enviable f/1.2L lenses, has been a major factor in steering photographers towards the Canon brand.

In addition, Canon’s best lenses are available for cheaper than Nikon counterparts, sometimes by as much as a few hundred dollars.

I decided to stick to purely Canon lenses for this camera lens guide (ignoring the 3rd party options), and include both cropped sensor (EF-S) and full frame (ES) options where relevant.

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You’ll understand my criteria as you read each review below, but in the interests of simplicity, this is just a list I could give to any Canon shooter and say with confidence, “pick any Canon lens from these and you’ll be very happy!”

The Best Canon Lenses for All Uses

The Best Canon Lenses in the entire lens Lineup

I’d like to get something straight from the outset. This is a camera lens guide about the best all-round Canon lenses.

I’m well aware that the term ‘best’ is very subjective, especially when it comes to a range of camera lenses that are all good enough for their specific use.

If I were to compare the Canon 50mm f/1.2 and f/1.8 lenses for example, both could be considered the best, depending on the usage. The f/1.2 is usually the pros choice, giving superior bokeh (out of focus areas) and a larger aperture (allowing more light to enter). However, the f/1.8 is light, more affordable, and sharper than the f/1.2.

After interviewing the Canon photographers on Shotkit and based on my own experience with Canon lenses, I’ve put together a post which I hope will help the vast majority of Canon dSLR camera owners, rather than catering to a specific niche.

Another thing I should mention – all the gear in the world won’t make you a better photographer. I’m not against buying gear by any means, as long as it keeps your passion fun and motivates you to create better images. Remember that you should be investing in photography education too – here are some of the best photography books to start you off ;-)

Enough of the preamble! Let’s take a look at the best Canon lenses (listed in no particular order of awesomeness).

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1. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM review

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Specifications

Compatible Format: EF, EF-S
Diaphragm Blades: 7
Minimum Focus Distance: 1.15 ft. (35 cm)
Filter Size: 49mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 2.7 in. (69mm) x 1.5 in. (39mm)
Weight: 0.35 lbs. (158 g)
Price: Approx. $110 – Click here for the latest price

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Review

Just like on the best Nikon lenses post I published recently, this ‘nifty-fifty’ from Canon is first out the gate in this list of the best Canon lenses. (If you’re a Fuji shooter, be sure to check out the best Fuji lenses too.)

Spoiler alert: I’m not going to recommend the other 50mm lens that practically every Canon shooter on Shotkit owns, i.e. the Canon 50mm f/1.2L. Even though the f/1.2L is an incredible lens, it’s a bit too specialist for this roundup.

f/1.2 can be useful, but for the majority of applications, the depth of field is just too shallow. Sorry, Canon wedding photographers!

I’d also recommend this lens over the now discontinued 50mm f/1.8 II version, since it’s faster to focus and has 2 extra diaphragm blades, meaning smoother bokeh.

OK, with that out of the way, what makes the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM worthy of a spot here? Why does it have over 600 positive reviews on Amazon, and why is it Canon’s number one best selling lens?

First big reason – the price. Or rather, the value for money.

There are cheap Canon lenses, and these are ones that are cheap and awesome too! The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is in the latter category, exhibiting stellar image quality whilst being the cheapest Canon EF lens ever made!

Canon 50mm f/1.8 best lenses
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM | Copyright Mark Velasquez

For around a hundred bucks, you’re getting a lens that works perfectly with every Canon EOS camera ever made, i.e. every Canon DSLR and every Canon autofocus 35mm camera made since 1987.

50mm is a favourite focal length of everyone from portrait photographers all the way through to landscape photographers (that’s right – landscapes aren’t just about wide angle lenses – see these landscape photography tips to learn more about this).

Having a wide angle lens that’s this light and fast to acquire focus is just a joy to use.

On a cropped sensor Canon (EF-S), 50mm translates to around 80mm, meaning the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM becomes one of the best Canon lenses for portrait photography, at least at this price point.

If you can stand back far enough to fit your subject in the frame, 80mm can be equally used for any genre of photography of course.

The ‘STM’ in the name refers to Canon’s Stepper Motor technology, which provides a quieter and smoother focus system. Whilst it’s nice to have virtually silent operation for stills-photography, STM is more beneficial for video recording.

Auto-focus is fast and accurate, as is typical with lightweight Canon lenses. Compare this to the f/1.4, and to a greater extent the f/1.2 lenses and you’ll see a huge difference in AF capabilities.

f/1.8 allows enough light into the camera for low light shooting, and if you’ve got a Canon dSLR with high ISO capabilities (such as the Canon 5D Mark IV, reviewed here), f/1.8 will be more than enough for most situations.

It’s only wedding photographers or those who shoot professionally in very dark locations who really have any need for wider apertures than this.

The size of the aperture isn’t just about low light though, of course – larger apertures can also produce more exaggerated bokeh.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM | Copyright Mark Velasquez
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM | Copyright Mark Velasquez

The bokeh from the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM when compared to the f/1.2 version is admittedly less creamy (when both are shot at f/1.8), but it’s doubtful that anyone will notice.

There’s no cheaper way to get a nicely blurred background with sharp foreground than this Canon lens.

An additional bonus with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is that it can focus closer than any other non-macro Canon 50mm lens, at just 1.15 ft. (35 cm) away from the image plane.

Since this lens is incredibly sharp, you can use a relatively high mega-pixel Canon dSLR (i.e. pretty much any modern one) to crop into the image and still retain this impressive sharpness.

At this price point, you can’t expect bomb-proof build, but at least the plastic housing feels solid enough to take a few knocks.

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is a lens that’s small and light enough that you can do what a lot of photojournalists do and keep it in a jacket pocket to be used when the light drops.

At this price point, it’s also a perfect backup lens for anyone using Canon to shoot professionally. 100-ish bucks could be the best insurance you ever get!

CLICK HERE TO GET THE LATEST PRICE ON THE CANON 50MM F/1.8 STM

2. Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM

Canon EF 40mm F/2.8 STM REVIEW

Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Specifications

Compatible Format: EF, EF-S
Diaphragm Blades: 7
Minimum Focus Distance: 0.9 ft. (30 cm)
Filter Size: 52 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 2.7 in. (68 mm) x 0.9 in. (23 mm)
Weight: 0.29 lbs. (132 g)
Price: Approx. $179 – Click here for the latest price

Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Review

This is gem of a lens and makes me envious that there’s no Nikon equivalent. It’s without a doubt one of the best Canon lenses for travel – if you have no need to zoom, I’d actually name it Canon’s best lens for travel.

At less than an inch tall, the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM looks like an over-weight lens cap. It’s known as a ‘pancake’ lens for this very reason.

Attaching it to the front of your Canon dSLR will bring a smile to your face – at only 0.29 lbs. (132 g), you’ll notice no difference in weight to just your camera body on its own!

Despite its small size, the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM features impressive optics which render mind-blowing sharpness, edge-to-edge, even wide open.

Canon 40mm pancake lens example
Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM | Image copyright Dylan M. Howell

40mm may seem like an unusual focal length if you’re used to shooting zooms, or at least ‘standard’ focal length primes. However, once you get used to it, it’s actually a remarkably versatile focal length on a full frame Canon camera.

It may sound obvious but 40mm is perfect if you find 50mm too long and 35mm too wide. It’s actually a ‘normal’ focal length.

Personally I find 50mm too long for the majority of my wedding photography work, so choose to stick with a Nikon 35mm lens.

However, I often struggle indoors with 35mm being just that little bit too wide, including more of the surroundings than I’d like.

As I said before, I’m rather envious of Canon shooters for this lens…!

STM is Canon’s near-silent motor mechanism. It’s not 100% silent on the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM, but for stills photography, it’s as quiet as it needs to be.

There’s only very slight distortion and no chromatic aberration that you’ll notice, but you’ll see some vignetting when shot wide open at f/2.8. Personally I like a bit of ‘in-camera’ vignette, but if you don’t, it only takes one click in Lightroom to fix it.

Despite its small size, the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM still manages to pack in 7 diaphragm blades, which result in surpisingly smooth and creamy bokeh. Many users actually find the bokeh more pleasing at f/2.8 than even the f/1.8 range of Canon lenses.

Is f/2.8 fast enough for professional use? Well, it depends on how dark the location and how well your camera can handle high ISOs.

Canon 40mm pancake lens review
Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM | Image copyright Dylan M. Howell

Most wedding photographers would turn their nose up at an f/2.8 prime, despite the fact that their zooms are usually f/2.8 too! However, I’m willing to guess that for travel photography, even the wedding photogs have a Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM stashed somewhere in their backpack.

[Check out these travel tips for photographers for more ways to save weight when photographing overseas.]

For this bargain price, there simply isn’t a lighter, smaller and sharper Canon lens in existence.

If you have a big dSLR but still want to remain relatively inconspicuous whilst traveling, I couldn’t recommend the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM more.

Getting a tired wrist after shooting a long day is largely due to the weight of the lens rather than the weight of the camera. It’s the lens that tips the camera off balance, requiring your grip and wrist to counteract the tilt.

With the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM attached to the front of your bulky dSLR, shooting an entire day is a breeze. Did I mention I was really jealous of Canon shooters for this lens?!

CLICK HERE TO GET THE LATEST PRICE ON THE CANON 40MM F/2.8 STM

3. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM

Canon EF 24-105mm f4 L IS USM review

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Specifications

Compatible Format: EF, EF-S
Diaphragm Blades: 8
Minimum Focus Distance: 1.5 ft. (45 cm)
Filter Size: 77mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 4.2 in. (106mm) x 3.3 in. (83mm)
Weight: 1.5 lbs. (680 g)
Price: Approx. $1,000 – Click here for the latest price

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Review

Yes that’s right, I’m recommending the older Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM as opposed to the newer v.II of this lens.

This one is 100g lighter than its successor, smaller and cheaper too. The new version has better image stabilization, but I’d still go with this older version every time.

24-105mm is another focal range that Nikon doesn’t offer. Sigma has tried to fill the gap, but it falls short of this Canon version.

The Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM is Canon’s highest performance mid-range zoom available, and even at f/4, deserves its place on this best Canon lenses roundup.

Why do I specify ‘f/4’? Well if you’re a professional who needs lenses to work in near pitch black situations, f/4 just ain’t gonna cut it, even with that excellent image stabilization.

However, for the rest of us (i.e. the majority of Canon owners), f/4 is perfectly fine for our needs.

What’s USM? Don’t even worry about that. It’s Canon marketing speak for ‘relatively silent lens’ :p

Canon 24-105mm_review
Canon 24-105mm f/4 | Image Copyright Don Giannatti

As for image quality, the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM has great optical performance throughout its focal range.

Speaking of the range, 24-105mm really covers a lot of options. I mean, 24-70mm is already great, but having that extra length really makes this Canon zoom lens incredibly versatile.

If you use on-camera flash a lot, the 24-105mm zoom range actually matches the zoom range in E-TTL mode, meaning that the flash zooms to match the lens.

Where it does slip up a little is in the distortion stakes. Whilst a 24-70mm Canon lens has slight distortion, this one is really noticeable at 24mm.

However, one click in Lightroom and it’s all gone. You can even set up an import present in Lightroom to fix distortion automatically, so it’s really not an issue. [Check out Lightroom Power User for more tips and tricks.]

There’s also vignetting when shot wide open, but that’s easily correctable in post too.

The Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM is impressively sharp for a zoom lens of this range. It’s not quite as sharp as the 70-200mm f/2.8L, but it’s better value, lighter and offers a much more flexible zoom range.

As for the build, it’s top quality. Any ‘L’ series Canon lens is built like a tank, and this one is no different.

The zoom and focus rings are both silky smooth. All L lenses also produce great colours and contrast thanks to the high quality optics, and the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM is no different.

24-105mm Canon best lenses
Canon 24-105mm f/4 | Image Copyright Todd Laffler

As for the image stabilization, it’ll steady camera shake at up to 3 stops.

If you’ve ever used an IS Canon lens before, you’ll know it’s a bit of an eerie experience…

What magic is this that steadies the image I see before me?!

Most photographers assume that image stabilization is most useful during low light, but this is only half the story. IS is also beneficial when you shoot at longer focal lengths, since camera shake is more pronounced.

When the sun starts to fall and you want to be using lower ISOs, the IS is of course useful throughout the 24-105mm range, but you’ll enjoy it most when shooting at 105mm for a sharp shot.

If you’re a zoom lens shooter looking for a single lens to attach to your camera for good, the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM is the lens for you.

It offers a hugely versatile focal range at a manageable weight, for an affordable price – especially when you consider it as the only lens some people will ever need.

For these reasons, it deserves its spot here as one of the best Canon lenses, whether you’re an amateur or a pro photographer.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE LATEST PRICE ON THE CANON 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

4. Canon 35mm f/1.4 L

Canon 35mm f/1.4L review

Canon 35mm f/1.4 L Specifications

Compatible Format: EF, EF-S
Diaphragm Blades: 8
Minimum Focus Distance: 1 ft. (30 cm)
Filter Size: 72mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 3.1 in. (78.7mm) x 3.4 in. (86.3mm)
Weight: 20.5 oz. (581 g)
Price: Approx. $1,200 – Click here for the latest price

Canon 35mm f/1.4 L Review

With modern technology, it’s commonly assumed that newer always means better. I know many photographers who’ll rush out to buy the new version of a camera or a lens, despite never having used it before.

That’s what happened when Canon released the v.II of its hugely popular Canon 35mm f/1.4 L – one of the best Canon lenses for wedding photography.

Then people realised their mistake, and with their tail between their legs, returned to the trusty older versions.

Don’t get me wrong – the Canon 35mm f/1.4L II is an amazing lens. When shot wide open, the quality is better than the original version, but it’s only if you’re really examining two photos shot with both lenses side by side that you may notice the differences.

Aside from the marginal advantage when shot at f/1.4, I’d still recommend you save some money and go with the original version.

Newer doesn’t necessarily mean better. Nor does ‘more expensive’…

There are a lots of sites which discuss why this 1998 lens is actually better than the 2015 one, so I won’t go into it here. However, what I will say is that if you’re lucky, you can still get a new or used Canon 35mm f/1.4 L for a bargain price.

What’s that? $1,200 doesn’t sound very bargain to you?! Try comparing it to the Nikon version! The image quality is indistinguishable and yet the Canon 35mm f/1.4 L comes in at over $400 cheaper!

Canon 35mm f/1.4L lens Review
Canon 35mm f/1.4L | Image Copyright GMB Akash

If you didn’t already know, the 35mm focal length is a favourite of photographers of all genres. Wide enough to ‘fit the whole story in’, whilst still allowing you to take a flattering portrait – just don’t stand too close to your subject.

I use a 35mm lens for 80% of my wedding photography work. If I could get physically close enough to my subjects for the entire day, I’d use it for 100% of it.

On a crop sensor Canon dSLR, 35mm translates to roughly 56mm, which is also a versatile focal length.

However, it’s on a full frame Canon that the Canon 35mm f/1.4 L really sings. Being able to take advantage of the width of 35mm whilst still being able to knock the background into creamy out-of-focus really is useful.

At f/1.4, the Canon 35mm f/1.4 L is super sharp and exhibits beautiful bokeh. Add these two elements together, and shooting a subject a few feet in front of a background at f/1.4 delivers an almost 3D effect – the subject is pin sharp, whilst the background is a sea of beautifully blurred colours.

Another bonus is that being a USM lens, you can grab the focus ring of the Canon 35mm f/1.4 L and adjust it manually to override the auto-focus.

This is really useful for wedding photographers who need to focus on the bride’s eye and not the veil during a close up portrait, for example.

Best Canon Lens - Canon 35mm
Canon 35mm f/1.4L | Image Copyright Robert J Hill

There’s no need to mention colour, contrast or build quality – it’s a Canon L series lens. Nuff said.

What’s most impressive about the Canon 35mm f/1.4 L for a Nikon shooter like me (aside from its price!), is the fact that it exhibits very little distortionway less than the Nikon 35mm equivalent.

As for the sharpness, Ken Rockwell said:

The Canon 35mm f/1.4 L is among the sharpest wide lenses I’ve ever tested. It is extraordinarily sharp and contrasty, even at f/1.4.

It truly is remarkable that a lens that’s over 19 years old can out-perform much more recent ones. I can’t really understand why Canon chose to update the Canon 35mm f/1.4 L – it really is that good.

If you’re a Canon full frame dSLR camera owner who wants one prime lens to be used during the day, during the night, for wide shots and for portraits, there simply isn’t anything better.

If I were a Canon shooter, the Canon 35mm f/1.4 L would definitely be the first lens I bought.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE LATEST PRICE ON THE CANON 35mm f/1.4L IS USM

5. Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM review

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Specifications

Compatible Format: EF, EF-S
Diaphragm Blades: 8
Minimum Focus Distance: 2.8 ft. (85 cm)
Filter Size: 58 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 2.95 in. (75 mm) x 2.83 in. (72 mm)
Weight: 0.94 lbs. (426 g)
Price: Approx. $349 – Click here for the latest price

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Review

I’m fully aware that Canon f/1.2 owners will stop reading right about now. They may even spit at the screen

Canon’s due to release an f/1.4 version of this lens in 2017, but I don’t think I’ll need to update this best Canon lenses post. The Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM is simply that good.

Let’s deal with the elephant in the room first. Why oh why would I not recommend the Canon 85mm f/1.2L II?! A lens that’s widely regarded as one of the best portrait lenses ever created.

One word. SLOW. And if you needed 3 more, HUGE, HEAVY and EXPENSIVE!

If you shoot models in a studio all day long, then fair enough. Maybe you don’t need a lightweight lens with fast auto focus (you probably don’t need f/1.2 either, but that’s another story).

However, to all those wedding photographers who insist on using the Canon 85mm f/1.2L lens in low light during the reception, I’ll put money on at least 50% of your shots being missed.

So, onto the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM – what makes this little-known Canon lens such an incredible bargain?

VilladsenDiane_Canon_85mm1.8
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM | Image Copyright Diane Villadsen

For just under $350, you’re getting a ridiculously good portrait lens with un-rivalled sharpness, at half the price of the Nikon equivalent!! Damn you, Canon!

As another kick in the balls to Nikon users, this Canon version features manual focus override, meaning you can grab the focus ring to make manual adjustments, even in auto-focus.

This is a hugely underrated advantage, as any Nikon user who’s had to take their eyes off the action to fiddle with a manual focus switch will tell you.

85mm is a popular focal length for portrait photographers, or for those who want to get closer to the action without moving their feet!

85mm still retains the feeling of being ‘involved‘ in the image, rather than longer focal lengths that make the viewer more of a spectator.

If you’ve got room to move back, 85mm is also a great focal length to shoot group portraits. Just make sure to stop down so each row of the group is in focus, but 85mm can be a flattering and efficient way to knock the background out of focus.

On a cropped sensor Canon dSLR, 85mm translates to around 136mm – no longer a versatile focal length perhaps, but still excellent for portraits.

At this price point, buying this EF lens to be used on your EF-S camera body still makes perfect sense.

The bokeh when the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM is shot at f/1.8 is gorgeous. Sure, the f/1.2 can reduce any background to cream, but when shot at f/1.8, only a pixel peeper could tell the difference.

Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens review
Canon 85mm f/1.8 | Image copyright Stark Photography

It’s also very refreshing to be able to shoot at this focal range with such a (relatively speaking) lightweight lens. The build is plastic, but strong enough to withstand knocks.

Focus speed is great. Comparing it to the f/1.2 is like comparing a gun to a bow and arrow.

If you haven’t got the time to wait for the lens to do its thing, the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM wins every time.

Just because the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM doesn’t have that elusive red ring of the L series Canon lenses, doesn’t mean it can’t trade punches with the big boys.

This really is a bargain of a lens, and one of the big reasons I’d recommend a newcomer to wedding photography with a modest budget to use Canon over Nikon.

Lenses really are cheaper on the Canon side of the fence, and the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM performs like a lens 3x the price.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE LATEST PRICE ON THE CANON 85mm f/1.8 USM

6. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II review

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II Specifications

Compatible Format: EF, EF-S
Diaphragm Blades: 9
Minimum Focus Distance: 1.25 ft. (38 cm)
Filter Size: 82 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 3.5 in. (88 mm) x 4.4 in. (113 mm)
Weight: 1.7 lbs. (805 g)
Price: Approx. $1,700 – Click here for the latest price

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II Review

It’s time to bring out the big guns. No more pussy-footing around with old lenses or first versions – the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II is quite simply the best all-round Canon zoom lens money can buy.

The first version of this hugely popular lens was good, but this second iteration is way better. Even though it’s almost twice the price, it’s definitely justified.

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II is among Canon’s best lenses ever, and is a favourite for both amateur and professional Canon dSLR camera owners the world over.

There’s an f/4 version too, but the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II is much better. It’s also even sharper than the Nikon equivalent.

24-70mm Canon best lenses
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L II | Image Copyright Gillespie Photography

The 24-70mm focal range is extremely popular with professional wedding and event photographers who need to quickly move from wide groups to close up detail, all in one twist of a lens barrel.

Common pro usage of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II is to use the wider zoom range for a large group portrait, then to switch to 70mm to isolate one of the subject’s reactions within the group.

This is much harder when using 2 prime lenses on 2 bodies, as I can attest!

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II is also commonly used on the dance-floor at wedding receptions. It’s definitely not a light lens to be using at the tail end of a long day, but the versatility in the zoom range, coupled with its incredible auto focus performance really is undeniable.

The AF is fast and accurate, even at f/2.8. Let’s face it, no one buys an f/2.8 lens to shoot at anything but wide open.

The beauty of f/2.8 is that you can pretty much get away with shooting it wide open all day long.

With the primes, you’ll be struggling with f/1.2 and f/1.4 on a sunny day, but with the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II, blown out photos is one less thing to worry about if shooting in aperture priority.

20-70 canon best lens
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II | Image Copyright Gillespie Photography

On the down side, f/2.8 doesn’t really give you much subject separation unless you shoot it at around 70mm. That’s why I wouldn’t call a 24-70mm one of the best Canon lenses for portraits – moreover, it’s a hugely versatile story-telling lens.

From 24-70mm, you won’t be missing any of the action, and when you have a chance to use 70mm, you can still benefit from bokeh to make your subject stand out from the background.

In summary, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II is one of the sharpest lenses I’ve ever used. 24-70 is a great focal range, and even at 38-115mm on a cropped sensor camera, it’s a very useful lens that can remain on your camera all day long.

It’s without a doubt the best zoom lens for wedding photographers.

If you’ve got around $2k to spend on lenses, I’d recommend this one every time. With your change, get the 50mm f/1.8 from above, and you’ll be able to shoot anything, anytime.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE LATEST PRICE ON THE CANON EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II

7. Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM

Canon EF 135mm f2L USM review

Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Specifications

Compatible Format: EF, EF-S
Diaphragm Blades: 8
Minimum Focus Distance: 3 ft. (91 cm)
Filter Size: 72 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 3.27 in. (83 mm) x 4.41 in. (112 mm)
Weight: 1.7 lbs. (771 g)
Price: Approx. $1,000 – Click here for the latest price

Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Review

If there’s one lens that makes Nikon shooters jump ship to Canon, the incredible Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM is it.

Ask any one of the photographers on Shotkit who own this lens and they’ll tell you that it’s simply one of the best Canon lenses of all time.

Nikon has a 135mm lens, but it just can’t compete with this. The Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM hasn’t been updated since 1996, but why should it? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Optically, the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM is very impressive. Colours and contrast are excellent as with all L series lenses, and bokeh when shot wide open makes backgrounds melt away in a creamy swirl of colours.

Canon 135mm f/2 review
Canon 135mm f/2 | Image Copyright Jay Cassario

If you’re a pixel peeper, you’ll note that the 8 diaphragm blades produce a beautiful circular bokeh, especially at f/2. Even if you don’t notice, it’s hard to deny that a photo shot with the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM just looks like no other.

Auto focus is lightning fast and accurate, and ergonomically this lens feels great attached to even the biggest Canon dSLRs.

It’s not a compact or lightweight lens by any means, but its ergonomics and build quality just feel right.

The 135mm focal length isn’t particularly versatile, and for this reason I did hesitate including the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM on this list of the best Canon lenses. Unless you have a subject in the distance, or have the room to move back, 135mm is too tight for most situations.

However, for wedding or event photographers who need that extra reach, or portrait photographers who want a flattering focal length or the ability to reduce any backgrounds to beautiful blur, there really is no rival to the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM.

Canon 135mm f/2 lens review
Canon 135mm f/2 | Image Copyright Jay Cassario

A fixed 135mm lens is admittedly not suited to all day use, but it’s something to have in the bag for those special moments that require it.

Many photographers who own the excellent Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L start using the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM and never go back. Being able to zoom is useful, but the smaller size, weight and larger aperture of the 135 makes the 70-200 redundant.

When compared to 85mm, 135mm gives the photographer just enough physical distance from the subject to largely remain unnoticed.

Also, being a relatively small black lens rather than huge white one means that the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM is more likely to pass incognito than a larger zoom.

Canon 135mm lens sample
Canon 135mm f/2L USM | Image Copyright Tono Garcia

More importantly, the look of the images produced by the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM has a certain quality that other lenses simply can’t reproduce.

It’s one of the best Canon lenses for portraits, and is actually great value for money for the kind of image it can produce.

If you’re a bokeh-whore but you budget can’t quite stretch to the f/1.2’s of the Canon lens lineup, the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM is there for you!

f/2 at 135mm gives incredible subject separation, and as long as you have the space between you and the subject, 135mm makes for a very flattering lens for photographing people.

If you want to see more examples of images shot with the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM, just filter by the lens in the drop down menu over on the right.

You’ll find that every photographer who owns this lens has something great to say about it, so maybe it’s time you saw what all the fuss is about too ;-)

CLICK HERE TO GET THE LATEST PRICE ON THE CANON 135MM F/2 L

8. Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM

Canon EF 16-35mm f4L IS USM REVIEW

Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Specifications

Compatible Format: EF, EF-S
Diaphragm Blades: 9
Minimum Focus Distance: 0.92 ft. (28 cm)
Filter Size: 77mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 3.3 in. (82 mm) x 4.4 in. (112 mm)
Weight: 1.35 lbs. (615 g)
Price: Approx. $999 – Click here for the latest price

Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Review

There are 4 different versions of the 16-35mm zoom in the Canon lens line up. 3 of those lenses are f/2.8, which is usually considered ‘better’ than f/4. So why on earth have I chosen the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM as one of Canon’s best wide angle lenses?

Let’s get one thing straight from the outset. If you absolutely need the sharpest, fastest (largest aperture, not AF speed) ultra-wide angle lens from Canon, don’t get this lens. The Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L III is better.

However, it’s also bigger, heavier, and much more expensive!

The Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM on the other hand is sharp enough for most situations, and the image stabilization allows it to be shot handheld as if you had an aperture of f/2.8 anyway.

Don’t think about the difference in f/4 vs f/2.8 from a bokeh-producing stand point – with an ultra-wide angle lens such as this, its very hard to get any kind of blurred background or subject separation whatsoever.

One caveat is that image stabilization doesn’t work as well when the subject is moving. That’s why the majority of photographers who invest in one of the f/2.8 variants of the 16-35mm are event or wedding photographers. I’d go as far as to say that the f/2.8 III is the best Canon wide angle lens for weddings.

However, if your subject is stationary (hello architecture and landscape photographers!), the IS on the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM works great.

Canon 16-35 f/4 sample image
Canon 16-35mm f/4 | Image Copyright Joseph K. Sarkodie

Even when the light falls, the IS will give you four extra stops… which actually means it’ll fair better than an f/2.8 without the IS.

Shooting at ultra-wide angles already allows you to use much slower shutter speeds when shooting handheld. By using the IS, you can expect sharp shots even as slow as 1/2 second… which is frankly ridiculous.

Another benefit of this lens is that the USM in its name means that you can take advantage of manual focus override – if your camera misses focus for whatever reason, just twist the focus ring to correct it and move on. There’s no fiddly switches to waste your time turning on and off.

As for the image quality, the red ring of the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM indicates that its optically superb… and it is.

As with all ultra-wide angle lenses, you can expect moderate barrel distortion at 16mm, but where this lens excels is that there’s very little distortion from 20-35mm in the zoom range.

Canon lens reviews
Canon 16-35mm f/4 | Image Copyright Darran Leal

As with all modern lenses, distortion, vignette and other known issues are all instantly correctable using Lightroom or any other major editing software. It really isn’t an issue for anyone who edits their photos.

If you’ve never shot at 16mm, prepare to be blown away – it really is an eye-opener.

Whilst this lens can be used on an EF-S mount Canon, the focal range will be longer (narrower). For APS-C (cropped) cameras, I’d recommend the lens coming up next in this list – it’s super wide and cheap too.

So in summary, if you’re an automobile, architecture, landscape or any other genre of photographer who needs the widest of sensible wide-angles, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM is the best value for money lens for you.

Don’t get sidetracked by the exotic f/2.8 lenses in this focal range – most photographers don’t need them.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE LATEST PRICE ON THE CANON 16-35MM F/4L IS USM

9. Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM

Canon EF-S 10-18mm IS STM review

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Specifications

Compatible Format: EF-S
Diaphragm Blades: 7
Minimum Focus Distance: 0.72 ft. (22 cm)
Filter Size: 67mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 2.95 in. (74mm) x 2.83 in. (71mm)
Weight: 0.53 lbs (240 g)
Price: Approx. $280 – Click here for the latest price

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Review

It’s rare to find an ultra-wide angle lens for cropped sensor cameras, since the nature of APS-C is to lengthen focal distances. However, the impressive Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM manages to achieve just this.

In my opinion it’s the best wide angle lens for APS-C Canon shooters.

One often unmentioned benefit of shooting with a Canon APS-C body is the relative affordability of lenses. This is obviously apparent if you consider the difference in price between APS-C and full frame Canon bodies in general, but the lower prices of the lenses is another huge benefit.

At less than $300, the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM delivers enormous bang for the buck. Just check out how sharp and un-distorted the image below is:

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM
Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | Image copyright Jorge Guadalupe Lizárraga

It’s small and super light weight, especially for a zoom, and is a joy to shoot with. It’s the kind of lens you can have in a jacket pocket while hiking and forget it’s there.

Landscape photographers who are used to big and bulky lenses will rejoice in having this lens permanently attached to their cameras.

The Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM is optically very impressive. There’s no sharper ultra-wide angle lens for APS-C cameras, and it also adds image stabilization (IS) – a first for any Canon ultra-wide.

STM means that focusing is virtually silent, but more importantly, you’re able to grab the focus ring at any time to make minor adjustments to the auto focus.

This is incredibly useful for landscape photographers – using the camera’s Live View to zoom to 100%, you can make micro adjustments to the focus without needing to flip switches or otherwise disturb the camera.

The image stabilization works great and negates any issues you may have with the relatively slower apertures.

Achieving a shallow depth of field is impossible when using ultra-wide angle lenses, so the only thing apertures governs here is the amount of light entering the camera. The IS allows for an extra 4 stops, meaning the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM can be shot handheld even at 1/4 or 1/2 a second.

This in turn means you can use much lower ISOs to get the shot, meaning much cleaner images.

Ian Emerson Canon 10-18mm
Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | Image copyright Ian Emerson

The sharpness produced by the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM really is mind-blowing. It’s even sharper than full frame wide angle lenses costing 10x the price!

Coupled with the close focusing distance of only 0.72 ft (22 cm), you can crop into an image shot with the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM and still achieve razor sharp close-ups.

It’s razor-sharp in fact throughout the entire image at every setting. This is rare for an ultra-wide angle lens, and the fact that it’s all available at a budget price is unbelievable.

To achieve such a low price, lenses need to be made out of plastic. Usually this means dubious build quality and shorter lifespans, but that’s not the case with the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM – it’s all plastic, but it still manages to feel great quality, perhaps due to the large rubber focus ring that takes up the majority of the lens barrel.

The size and weight of the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM really is a huge advantage, and coupled with a lightweight APS-C Canon dSLR, it’s a pleasure to shoot.

It’s without a doubt one of the best Canon lenses for landscape photography, and any genre of the art that encourages you to fit as much as possible within the frame.

Simply put, the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM has no competition. Every other ultra-wide angle lens for Canon’s APS-C cameras costs at least twice as much, is optically inferior, can’t focus as close or has no image stabilization.

If you’re about to invest in a crop sensor camera from any brand to be used for landscape photography, this is the kind of lens that makes Canon cameras the absolute best bet.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE LATEST PRICE ON THE CANON EF-2 10-18MM F/4.5-5.6 IS STM

I hope you enjoyed this roundup of the best Canon lenses available in 2017. Leave a comment below if you use any of the lenses I mentioned, or if you think I missed any other good ones.

Remember that whilst I don’t advocate buying camera gear just for the sake of it, a mediocre lens will always hamper the ability of your camera.

These days, modern dSLR camera bodies can all deliver excellent results, no matter the sensor size or price point. However, unless you’re using a great lens on the front of your camera, you’re not realising its true potential.

You wouldn’t buy a new car and drive it around without leaving second gear, would you? So choose from one of the Canon lenses above and make an investment into your photography. Your camera deserves it!

Now get out there and shoot ;-)

Shotkit is not affiliated with Canon in any way. The products recommended in this camera lens guide on the best Canon lenses contains affiliate links. This helps pay for the running of the Shotkit site and my time spent writing posts such as this. The links in no way affect your purchase price.

38 Comments

    • Sure, but these are all round lens recommendations – those lenses are for a pretty specific use. Also, I’ve never tried them to be able to recommend them. Have you got any sample photos?

    • Thanks Dave! Yeah, I’m a big fan of lenses that are so light that you can’t ‘feel’ on the camera. Those 2 are super sharp too, as you no doubt already know :-)

  • I’m amazed that the Canon 70-200 F2.8 II is not on your list. It is a superb lens which is fantastically sharp and is great for isolating people in street photography. It is certainly my most used lens.

    • I’m going to be adding it later to an ‘also rans’ section. I agree that it’s arguably the best zoom lens in the Canon line-up, but it’s not a useful focal length for everyday use for the majority of people, hence my not including it here. Thanks for your input Dave!

  • This is an awesome article, especially for those thinking of making the switch to canon for 1.2 lenses. I know none are listed here but it means if you really wanted the 50 1.2 then it shows other great options for different focal lengths where money can be saved instead of exclusively just getting all the 1.2 L glass. Thanks Mark!

    • Hey Che, yep that was my intention actually – the f/1.2s are incredible lenses, but unless you’re a pro who needs that shallow DOF and speed for low light, they’re a bit unnecessary. So many nice Canon lenses out there!

  • Nice list, but you’ve maxed out at 135mm.

    What about going a bit longer, like the 100-400 L II?

    • A great lens, Robert, but a bit specific to be considered ‘all-round’. Even the 135 was stretching it a bit for this list…

  • Hi Mark, Thanks for the review I really enjoyed reading it. I have been taking photos with Canon gear for 20 years and sadly I have not tried all the lenses you list.

    My favourites are:
    (I agree) EF85mm f1.8–I stop this down to f2.2 on my DSLR (1DX) to avoid vignetting and from that aperture on its a cracker for portraits.
    EF100mm 2.8 macro (non-usm!). A bit specific I know but Ive had this lens for 18 years, its been serviced once and its tack sharp.
    EF 17-40mm f4.0L — love, love, love it for all sorts of stuff.
    I know you give the 24-70 f2.8 a gong. I have the f4 version with IS. Bang for buck I have found this lens wonderful as a run about leans. The stabiliser is fantastic. 3-4 stops.
    Lastly a lens I sold a long time ago that I wished I had not: EF 18-135mm f4.5-5.6 IS. Really a very useful focal length for general photography/travel. a f4 L version would be awesome if your listening Canon??

    Cheerio Mark and thanks again. James

    • Hey James, thanks for the feedback and kind words! I’ll have to check out the 17-40 f/4 – it wasn’t really on my radar before this. All the best!

      • Thanks, Mark. Very useful article. I am thinking of upgrading from 70D to 5D M IV. I use 24 MM with my Canon 70D. Very good lens. 90% of my photos came out good with this wide angle lens. Affordable as well.

  • I’ve got some of these lenses – the 85mm, 135mm, and 40mm pancake, and I love them all. I have the first iteration of the 24-70 and that’s also very good. I’d add the 100mm 2.8 macro which isn’t just a very sharp macro lens but also fantastic for portrait and other photography. I also have the 200mm L 2.8 mkII which is beautifully sharp and focuses from 1.5m, an absolute bargain price-wise at about £800 for an L lens.

    • Sounds like you have a nice collection of lenses, Susie! Yes on the 100mm – I need to add that above. I hear the 200mm f/2.8 is an incredible lens too but I’ve never used it. It’s also a bit too specialist for this list imo.

  • EF-S 17-55mm ƒ2.8
    Constant ƒ2.8 throughout the zoom range for about a grand. And plenty sharp, IMHO. Been using it for more than 10 years…

  • I’m very happy to read I am not the only person who thinks the above. One lens I would like to include is the Canon 100mm Macro 2.8. This is amazing for macro shots but also serves great as a portrait lens, Its not uncommon that I finish my macro (ring shots) and continue to use the 100mm as a portrait (when my 85mm 1.8 is not handy).

    • Hey Anna – thanks for the feedback! Ah yes, the 100mm was actually on my list as I agree that it’s multi-purpose. Maybe I’ll add it as an ‘also-ran’ :-)

  • I don’t want to be that guy… but I think it’s hard to have a ranked order list of lens. What’s the best Canon lens? Depends on what I’m trying to do. Depends on the lighting. Depends on how close I can get to my subject. Appreciate the amount of time you put into this.

    • I appreciate that, David. It’s not actually a ranking though, and I address exactly what you mentioned in the intro, I think?

  • What about longer zoom lenses? Or are these mainly lenses for wedding photographers? It felt heavily weighted towards that with only a few comments on landscape / architecture. There’s plenty of other amazing lenses for sports, birdwatching, and macro as was mentioned earlier

    • Hey Angus, I think I mentioned in the intro about the lenses being those that I consider to be multi-purpose, or all-rounders. The longer zoom lenses are great but they serve too specific a purpose for this post.

  • Excellent article —

    I am considering the 5D Mark IV –got to this article from that one! I have had several of these lenses but have found the Sigma 50-500 my go to lens–I often shoot at horse shows as a hobbyist and haven’t found a canon lens that fits my needs like the 50-500 I have the 100-400 but that 50 allows me to do so much more. I see people walking around with two bodies and two lenses and always have a second body in my back pack but I am such a klutz I am sure I would fall and break one! I should learn to shoot a fixed lens but always find myself looking for the zoom–I guess since it is a hobby it doesn’t matter as much–sometimes it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks. The Canon 24-105 is the lens I use to shoot family and friends. My camera body’s at the moment are the Canon 5D Mark III and the Canon 7D Mark II I also have a Nikon 7100 and a Samsung Mirrorless Camera. The 7D Mark II in good light is awesome for shooting the moving objects but very noisy if the lighting is low and I have to bring the ISO up–My 5D Mark III is not fast enough to shoot the moving horses as well as I would like but I do take it out if the lighting is too low for my 7D Mark II

  • nice review and I actually own some of them. I have the EF35mm F2 IS USM and is a great lens probably not top notch as the 1.4L so keep it in mind if your are looking for an alternative.

  • Great article Marc!! Thank you. Am a Canon user with a 50mm f/1:8 and a 24-105mm f/4.
    Am happy you say all these nice things about them. Seems I dont need more :)
    However I started flirting with an 35mm or a 40mm.

    Thank you, happy to follow you :)

    • Hi Alexandros! Thanks for the kind words. Yes, those are 2 great lenses! I love a 35mm too, and the 40mm pancake is perfect for travel. It’s a never-ending obsession ;-) Good luck!

  • I think it would be great to see identical images of things taken with different lenses of a similar focal length, and taken at the same f/stop,
    in order to make a sensible judgement.

  • Good read and the lenses listed are all good all rounders.

    had Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS, but gave away when I bought Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II. The review on Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II is spot on and it’s my goto lens at all times (fantastic all rounder , saves space on my bag).

    Question;
    I am getting into portraits (individuals, family) from next month, Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II is enough or should I go for 85mm 1.8?

    Don’t want to accumulate gear, wanted to keep it simple. Other lenses I have are:
    Canon ef 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6l is usm (rarely used, even for landscape)
    Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L Tilt-Shift (I use it often for landscape and cityscape. This in combination with 24-70mm are excellent for any tour)
    Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM (rarely used)

    If I could avoid adding one more lens, it would be great.

    • Go for the 85mm, Rhonald. It’s cheaper, lighter, better in low light, sharper and produces better bokeh (compared to the other lenses you mentioned when shot at 85mm).

  • if you guys didn’t know already, amazon seriously has so much stuff for canon cameras like here :http://amzn.to/2wlFcIZ I literally bought everything for my camera (including my camera) from there, it’s super convenient

  • Mark I am a wildlife photographer and from day 1 have been a Canon user, so I have quite a collection of Canon lenses. I shot with a 1Dx II and a 5D IV, however one of the best classic lenses by Canon you haven’t mentioned at all; the 70-20 L f/2.8 and f/4 – awesome lenses. And there is the new 100-400 Mark II L which I tend to use most of the time because it’s so sharp and flexible. And of course there’s 500 f/4 my go to lens whether I’m in Africa or the Arctic. So it seems your got “9 best Canon lenses” is quite different than mine. When I started reading the article, I was under the impression you were selecting THE best Canon lenses regardless of what genre of photography you’re into because you didn’t make that distinction.

    Having said all that though, I am in the midst of a transition to a mirrorless system, since they have now come up to par and can function very well, for the most part, as wildlife photo gear. I selected the Fiji X-T2 as my backup to Canon and have not been disappointed, especially with their 100-400 f/4. As you have already pointed out, they do have an amazing collection of primes that deliver unparalleled image quality and depth of colour, but for my part, I can hardly wait until they come out with a 500 f/4.

    Keep up the great work.

    P.S. I quite liked your tips on landscape photography. As I travel the world on wildlife photo expeditions, I am now taking advantage of the landscapes I’m in, so thanks for that.

  • Hi Mark,

    great article, how about writing the one for third party lenses? and how would you compare canon 10-18mm vs canon 10-22mm (ignoring the price tag)?

    peace.

    Shahid Javed

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