4.2. Canon Lenses

Canon Lenses Lineup

Most Canon ASP-C (crop, smaller sensor) cameras come with the standard Canon 18-55mm or Canon 18-135mm lens. Full frame Canon cameras come with the 24-70mm f/4 or 24-105mm f/4 IS lenses. While these kit lenses are OK, here are a few other options that I enjoy and recommend:

Additional kit lenses

If you purchased an entry-level dSLR, such as the Canon Rebel series or Canon 70D, your camera most likely came with the 18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS lens. If you’re looking for another lens that will allow you to zoom in a lot more, get the Canon 55-250mm IS lens – it’s inexpensive, light, and perfect for occasional wildlife, cruises, photos of grandkids playing, etc. Both the kit lens and this 55-250mm lens are outdoor lenses – don’t expect miracles indoors, unless there is very good light. There are other telephoto zoom lenses available at around $250 or so, but they don’t have IS (Image Stabilization), don’t get them – you’ll have soft and blurry photos.

Canon 50mm f/1.8, Canon 50mm f/1.2, Canon 85mm f/1.8

Canon Prime Lenses for dSLR Cameras

Canon 50mm f/1.8

The Canon 50mm f/1.8 (STM version) is the cheapest Canon prime lens you can get – it’s very sharp, light, and very affordable. Every photographer should consider one of these – on an ASP-C camera (Canon Rebel series, 70D, 7D Mark II), this lens is a fantastic portrait lens, and on a full frame camera (6D, 5D series), this is a great do-it-all lens.

Canon 50mm f/1.4

The Canon 50mm f/1.4 is a slightly more expensive version of the Canon 50mm f/1.8, but adds a wider aperture – if you have the extra $200 to spend, and shoot a lot of portraits get this lens instead of the f/1.8, it’s worth it. I don’t think the optics are better, but the backgrounds get softer, which helps a lot in tight spaces.

Canon 50mm f/1.2 L

The Canon 50mm f/1.2 is my absolute favorite 50mm lens – it’s twice the size of the f/1.8 version, but at f/1.2, the backgrounds melt away whether you shoot a full frame camera or a ASP-C camera. It costs $1,500, but worth every penny if you shoot weddings and portraits. For headshots and fashion photography on a full frame camera, get the Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens instead, or even better, the Canon 85mm f/1.2 if you can afford it.

Canon 85mm f/1.8

The Canon 85mm f/1.8 is a great lens for portraits and weddings if you’re shooting a full frame camera. For my personal taste, the 85mm f/1.8 is impractical on a crop sensor (ASP-C) body camera: you always need a lot of space between you and the subject, it doesn’t have Image Stabilization (IS), and it’s not a macro lens either. For crop/ASP-C cameras like the Rebel series or 7D, 70D, etc., get the Canon 50mm f/1.8 instead.

Canon 85mm f/1.2 – II L

The Canon 85mm f/1.2 this is my favorite lens for portraits and headshots, and one of my all time favorite lenses. It’s slow to focus, huge (really, it’s almost bigger than a Canon 5D Mark III), heavy, and obscenely expensive. But, at 85mm and f/1.2, I find it very hard to take a bad portrait – the backgrounds completely disappear into a smooth gradient that has superb bokeh, and all your attention is focused on the subject. If you’re serious about headshot and indoor headshots, start saving today, you’ll never look back once you get one of these.

Canon 40mm f/2.8

The Canon 40mm f/2.8 is a tiny, cheap ($150), and amazingly versatile little lens that looks and performs awesome – it’s so small, that most people don’t even take you seriously when you have it on your camera, which makes it ideal for travel or street photography. I’m not a huge fan of the f/2.8 aperture when you can get the Canon 50mm f/1.4 or Canon 50mm f/1.8 lenses, but I do like the 40mm focal length and the tiny size (half the size of the 50mm lens). If you’re looking for an unobtrusive lens while are around other people, get the Canon 40mm f/2.8.

Canon 24mm f/2.8 STM

The Canon 24mm f/2.8 is the ASP-C (crop sensor only) body version of the Canon 40mm f/2.8, still around $150. This is a great lens for travel and indoor photos of your kids playing. Like the Canon 40mm f/2.8, this lens is so small that your subjects aren’t inhibited by you, and instead relax and keep talking with you while you take photos of them. Kids love it, strangers love it, so we photographers love it!

Canon 105mm f/2.8 IS

The Canon 105mm f/2.8 IS lens is an excellent macro lens and also a great lens for portraits. If you like bugs and flowers, this is your best option. I would skip any wider angle lenses like the 60mm – you have to get too close to small subjects.

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 (Canon)

The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 (Canon) is an excellent lens for crop sensor (ASP-C) cameras. I’ve used the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 (Nikon) version quite a bit for landscapes, real estate photography, and even weddings. It’s light, focuses fast, and surprisingly affordable. If you’re looking for a really wide angle lens, you’ve found it.

Canon Pro Zoom Lenses for dSLR Cameras

Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS

The Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS is the best wide-angle zoom lens for Canon landscape photographers. It’s expensive and big, but very sharp and covers pretty much all your landscape photography needs. I tried the Canon 17-40mm f/4 and the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8, but they were both soft in the corners – so soft that I couldn’t use the photos. Until this lens came out in 2014, I had stopped shooting landscapes on Canon, and instead shot Nikon. I find this lens very useful for weddings too, especially during the reception.

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8

The Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 is the standard zoom lens in every pro wedding photographer’s bag. It’s expensive, heavy, and big, but very versatile and ultra sharp. If I had only one lens to take with me to a wedding, this would be it.

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L II IS

The Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS is Canon’s best and sharpest telephoto zoom lens. It’s insanely expensive, it’s big and heavy, but if ultimate sharpness is what you want, there’s no other alternative, sorry. Pro sports, wedding, and portrait photographers use it all the time, and many journalists too.

Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS

The Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS is a cheaper version of the 70-200mm f/2.8 IS lens – it’s not cheap by any means, still $1,200 or so, and very well built. There is another 70-200mm f/4 lens at around $600, but that lens doesn’t have IS (image stabilization), I would skip it.

If you’re counting hairs, the Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS is not as crisp as the f/2.8 version, but it’s a lot lighter and easier to use. I highly recommend this lens instead of the f/2.8 version for most serious amateurs or starter pros on a budget. Remember that this is a pro lens – it is far, far superior to the cheap Canon 55-250mm kit lens and delivers superb photos, and I wouldn’t have any problems shooting any weddings/portraits with it.