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Ultimate guide to best Canon camera lenses

Whatever the scene, let us help you capture the full picture with our guide to lenses

Selecting the right lens for the correct subject matter is crucial. Your lens is the eye of your camera and records or captures what is sees. In term of cost and performance, it usually comes down to the more you spend, the better your results. However, if you’re just starting out there is no point in splashing out on lots of expensive equipment straight away as you first need to learn the basics of photography. A good lens is pricey; there’s just no getting around the fact. The cheaper kit lenses will produce good enough results for beginners, but when you need to take your photography to the next step you will have to invest in a couple of decent lenses.

A lens’s angle of view is measured in millimetres . An ultra-wide-angle lens will have a measurement that is less than 24mm, a wide-angle lens ranges from 25-35mm, and  a normal or standard lens is 36mm-60mm. Past this number the lens becomes a long focus lens or telephoto. Another thing to consider when looking for the right lens is the construction. There are prime lenses, which have fixed focal lengths (ie the lens does not zoom in or out), and there are zoom lenses, where the focal point can be adjusted.

The type of camera you have will also affect what lens you should shoot with. If you have a full-frame sensor then the angle of view is the equivalent to how it reads of the lens (a 35mm will be 35mm, for example). However, if you have a camera with a crop factor then the focal length will be different. If the camera has a crop factor of 1.6x then a 35mm will be equivalent to a 56mm angle.

1/ Best Canon camera lenses for landscapes

Most photographers will opt for a wide-angle lens when capturing a landscape image, as they will want to include as much of the vista as possible.

For most photographers, a wide-angle lens is anything that is lower than 35mm. But remember that if your camera has a crop factor of 1.6x then you will need a lens measuring 22mm to have a 35mm equivalent.

When shooting a landscape scene there are some technical aspects to be aware of. If you want fine detail from the front to the back of the image then  you will need to set a narrow aperture, ie anything higher than f16. This is when the lens is letting in the least amount of light, so to balance the exposure
with the shutter speed you will most likely need to support the camera on a tripod. You should also compose your shot in thirds and look for leading lines in the landscape to pull the viewer’s eye through the image.

On a landscape shoot it is best practice to use the focus on manual mode, as your eyesight is far more accurate than the camera lens and you should be aware of where you want the focal point. With  landscape photography you have time to consider and control all these aspects, so you should use the
camera and lens manually. Some lenses are so wide that they take on a fisheye effect and the image becomes distorted in a spherical manner. For the 35mm format, a typical focal length of a fisheye lens is between 8-10mm for cameras with a crop factor, and 15-16mm for a full-frame sensor. Whether or not you should use a fisheye lens in your landscapes is down to individual taste – some embrace this effect whereas others aren’t too keen on it.

Take a look

They may not be the cheapest ones available to buy, but these are the best Canon lenses for landscape photography.

Canon EF16- 35mm f2.8L II USM

The recommended retail price of this lens is pretty expensive, but Canon users will not be disappointed with the results of the 16-35mm – they’re absolutely incredible. The zoom range is highly adaptable to any landscape scene, and the fact that it’s teamed with a wide f2.8 aperture makes this lens perfect in low light.

Canon EF 14mm f2.8L II USM

This fantastic landscape lens goes beyond human perspective offering a massive 114-degree field of view. Its ultra-wide nature not only packs plenty into the frame, but also gives a strong separation between foreground and background elements. A maximum aperture of 12.8 enables you to take sharp handheld shots too.

Canon EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS II

Don’t be put off by the price – this 18-55mm ultra-wide-angle zoom lens from Canon has a decent focal range and works superbly well at its widest setting of 18mm. It comes with Intelligent four-stop Image Stabilisation, which automatically detects panning in order to deliver the best results possible for a very reasonable cost.

2/ Best Canon camera lenses for outdoor portraits

For portrait photography you want to shoot the head and the shoulders, Prime lenses will produce perfect results and Canon has plenty of options. However, some photographers find these lenses hard to use as they’re fixed in their focal range, which means any zooming you do will have to be with your feet. Despite this, the unique style that this type of lens produces is highly popular with many industry professionals.

Many prime lenses are able to open to a wide aperture and this can create a dreamy effect where the subject is sharp and the background is blurred, which puts the focus on your subject. On some lenses the aperture will go as wide as fl.4, meaning it’s effective to use in low light and for street / documentary photography. Prime lenses are also generally a  lot lighter than zoom lenses, so if you’re out and about they can make a considerable difference to your comfort. Again, your camera’s sensor will make a difference to which lens you should go for, and some people may prefer shooting portraits with a zoom lens. Something like a 15-
85mm can be most useful, as the versatile focal range is perfect for close-up portraits or if you want to get a wider angle. But remember that zoom lenses are not as fast as prime lenses, so you may need to up the ISO to compensate for the lack of light. It’s best to set your camera to anything above 1/125sec if you want crisp results.

Zoom lenses will also struggle to create the unique effects that prime lenses are capable of; however, they make up for any shortcomings with their versatile focal lengths.

Take a look

These lenses will deliver great outdoor portraits every time.

Canon EF 40mm f2.8STM

The ultra-wide f2.8 aperture means that this well-priced lens from Canon will cope well in low light and with street photography. The ultra-slim design helps the photographer from scaring their subjects with a large lens. putting models at ease while also producing stunning, professional-looking results. The newly developed stopping motor is smooth and quiet, too.

Canon EF 35mm f2 IS USM

Forthose that are wanting a wider angle, this 35mm prime lens from Canon is popular with street and portrait photographers alike. Like the EF 40mm lens that we looked at above, the 35mm option has a wide aperture, but this one goes as shallow as f2. Keep the eyes in focus to get the best results.

Canon EF24- 70mm f2.8L II USM

This standard zoom lens is a multi-purpose option that delivers fantastic image quality from the wide-angle 24mm to the telephoto 70mm. A nine-bladed circular aperture produces
beautiful bokeh, creating the coveted blurred background in portraiture. It’s also well suited to low light conditions with its fast 12.8 maximum aperture.

3/ Best Canon camera lenses for travel

If you’re an adventurous type of person, then you may find yourself on many big trips to some rather remote places. If you’re a travelling photographer then the biggest thing to consider in your kit bag is  the weight of your photographic equipment. You may even have to compromise on image quality due to practical reasons, as if you’re travelling alone you will soon get annoyed with lugging around two or three heavy lenses. This weight issue will most
likely affect photographers with heavy professional DSLR camera bodies.

For travellers, having the lightest but most versatile lens possible is important, so a large focal range is essential. The best option to consider to take on a trip is just one zoom lens
with a focal range from around 18-200mm – in 35mm terms this will equal 27-300mm. This means you have everything covered from landscapes to portraits.

At the full zoom of a zoom lens you will need to consider technical issues such as lens shake, so always check to see whether the lens comes with Intelligent Image Stabilisation to help combat blurry pictures. Also, if you have a good camera model you can always up the ISO and shoot in RAW to try to correct as much as possible in the post-production process. This also means that you need to take plenty of memory cards and a portable external hard drive to back up your images whenever possible.

When you’re travelling as a photographer you may find your expensive equipment could make you a key target for pickpockets, but don’t let this put you off. Take out a fully comprehensive insurance policy and try not to show you have lots of flashy equipment. Some photographers deliberately make their gear look worn out by putting tape or plasters on their camera body and lenses.

Take a look

Travel light with these three lenses.

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM

On this well-priced lens, Dynamic Image Stabiliser technology smooths out vibrations and camera movement so that whether you’re shooting hand-held or recording a video, the results are sharper and better quality – ideal for shooting on the go. High speed auto focus locks onto subject quickly and accurately.

Canon EF 70-200 f2.8L IS II USM

This compact lens is ideal shooting sports, wildlife and portraits, making it perfect for the wide variety of subjects that a travel photographer faces. It boats rugged durability and four-stop Image Stabiliser. It’s not the cheapest, but if you want quality photos on the go there aren’t many better.

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f4-5.6 IS II

Light, compact and great for those on the go, this 55-250mm lens from Canon weighs just 308g, which is great. It has been designed to be an affordable, versatile lens for general-purpose photography and it is a must have item for any Canon user’s kit bag.

4/ Best Canon camera lenses for macro

In close-up photography, a macro lens produces consistently great results. There is of course a variety of matter that can be shot in macro form, but macro lenses are most often uses for product photography, while bright colors, flowers and insects generally make excellent subjects too.

A macro lens could measure any focal length, but a 30-60mm range is typically used for product photography and small objects. A 90-105mm range is the standard focal range used for flowers and small objects, and a 150-200mm range gives more working distance and is typically used for shooting insects and other small animals.

There are a few zoom lenses available to buy that provide a macro option, but they generally do not allow a one-to-one magnification.

In macro photography, if you want detailed results then it’s best to use a narrow aperture, ie anything above f16. This ensures that the whole image remains sharp and in focus. But if you want to blur the background and have just one focal point in the image, then you’ll need to use a shallow depth of field. Most macro lenses aren’t as fast as primes, and usually only open as wide as f2.8, but this should be enough. If you want to use macro lenses with a shallow depth of field, it’s unlikely you’ll need anything much wider than f2.8.

But those who don’t want to take the plunge on a macro lens need not fear, as extension tubes are available as an alternative. Extension tubes are a fair bit cheaper than a macro lens and can be attached in between the camera and standard lens. Tubes vary in length and can be stacked, decreasing lens-to-subject distance and increasing magnification. Less light will reach the sensor with an extension tube, so a longer exposure time will be needed to compensate and a tripod will have to be used. Check out our guide below to which Canon lenses you can use you enhance your macro photography.

Take a look

Get up close and personal to your subject with some of our favorite moderately priced macro lenses from Canon.

Canon EF-S 60mm f2.8 Macro USM

The EF-S 60mm f2.8 Macro USM is the first true Macro lens in the EF-S series from Canon. With its ability to focus crisp and sharp life-size images onto the sensor, the EF-S 60mm f2.8 Macro USM offers true macro performance for a relatively low price.

Canon EF 100mm f.28L Macro IS USM

This lens’s 100mm focal length enables a comfortable distance between the subject and the photographer, meaning that there’s less chance of scaring insects and small creatures away. There is also less chance of casting a shadow and spoiling your otherwise-perfect image.

Canon EF 50mm f2.5 Compact Macro

Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Lens
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Light and compact, this general purpose macro lens can also function as a flexible standard lens. The large f2.5 aperture enables fast, flash-free shooting in low light settings, and creates gorgeous blurred backgrounds for portraits and close-up captures. It also won’t break the bank.

5/ Best Canon camera lenses for action and wildlife

For action and wildlife photography it is essential to be at the heart of the action. But this is not always physically possible, so a zoom or telephoto lens is the next best thing.  Most photographers wanting to get up close will use a camera with a crop factor as it makes a difference to the length of the lens; for example, a 200mm lens on a 1 .6x crop becomes 320mm.

There are other aspects to be aware of with a longer lens, as the more you zoom in the more you will have to compensate with the shutter speed. A monopod can be a good accessory to
have to hand as it provides the user with flexibility, yet it still adds that extra bit of support. Most zoom lenses also come with some type of image stabilisation feature. We recommend  you keep it on, but it could affect the continuous burst mode, so check to see how your camera model handles this. You may also find that this feature uses up the battery life on your camera faster than normal.

There are many lenses on the market to choose from and with long lenses they do become pricier the longer they get. This is because they are complex in their design as there are many elements that make up the construction. You want to be careful not to bash the lens when out on location – if one of the elements gets knocked out of place, it can be expensive to fix. You may not notice that it’s broken until you get back to upload your images onto your  computer and realize that they’re all out of focus.

Take a look

Get in close to the action with a long zoom lens

Canon EF 70-300mm f4-5.6L IS USM

This affordable telephoto zoom lens from Canon has a decent focal range and supports an eight-blade circular apeture, which creates a beautiful background blur and makes your subject stand out. It’s an ideal lens for zooming in close to whatever action you’re trying to capture.

Canon EF 200mm f2L IS USM

Fixed focal length lenses such as this one generally offer a wider maximum aperture. Canon offer a fixed lens for every shooting scenario, and this one is geared towards the wildlife, sports and news photographers that crave a telephoto lens to bring them closer to the action. The lens also comes with a dedicated, detachable hood. It’s definitely a premium option, so only those serious should apply.

Canon EF 135mm f2L USM

Canon’s L-series of lenses promise to combine superior performance with superlative handling, and they are resistant to dust ans moisture to boot. This the ideal optic for indoor sports, although it still fares well outside too.

6/ Best Canon camera lenses for creativity

Creative photography has become increasingly popular as the digital medium has developed. Effects such as fisheye and lenses like tilt-ans-shifts are at the forefront of this advancement. It’s not only the high-street consumer that has become fascinated by the alternative effects, as industry professionals are using them for their advertising ans editorial work to try to produce something unique for their clients.

Tilt-and-shift lenses work by adjusting the lens’s optical axis and controlling the depth of field. They can be tricky to use, and even professionals have admitted that they can have
problems with them. Architecture and fine art photographers are the most likely to use this type of lens as it can help correct barrel distortion, which is a common problem with architectural images shot from the ground. It can also be useful in the city where the distance between the photographer and building can be restricted and a wide enough angle cannot be composed.

The tilt-and-shift lens can also make subject matter appear as if it’s miniature by blurring the top and bottom of the image. This type of effect is appearing in most cameras as a creative
filter, so anyone thinking of investing in one of these expensive specialist lenses should first consider how much use they will get out of it.

Fisheye lenses are not as tricky to operate as the tilt-and-shifts and can simply be used like a normal lens. Fisheye lenses can be good for interior photography or where the photographer needs to get an extreme wide-angle view. There are some fisheye lenses that are subtler and some that are more extreme; the one you should buy depends on the kind of impact that you’re after.

Take a look

If you want to produce creative images then check out these lenses.

Canon TS-E 90mm f2.8

 

This is a short telephoto lens that comes with perspective and depth-of- field control, which enables you to produce images that simply are not possible with normal lenses. It is perfect for architecture, portraits and product photography. You can also focus all the way down to 0.5cm, boosting its versatility.

Canon EF 8-15mm f4L Fisheye USM

 

This robust 8-15mm lens has been made for rough weather conditions, while the all important front glass has been treated with a distinct fluorine coating that makes it much easier to keep clean. For users with a crop factor this lens will equal 12-24mm. It has a hefty price tag, so make sure you’re serious about creativity before buying.

Canon TS-E 17mm f4L

 

The tilt-and-shift lens effect has proved to be very popular in recent times; however, special tilt-shift lenses can be notoriously tricky to use. Optically, theTS-E 17mm f4L lens is one of the best on the market and is used by many architectural photographers (see our guide on page 140), but, like most pro-grade lenses, the price is steep.

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