This Canon lenses buyer’s guide caters for beginners as well as advanced users. For the sake of beginners I will start by giving some basics about camera lenses especially Canon EF and Canon EF-S lenses. I will cover the terminology, types of lenses, and what the different categories of lenses are good for.
There is the terminology that one has to be familiar with to start with. Some of the terminology is specific to Canon. Other camera manufacturers have their own as well. Canon and Nikon are the most popular camera makes. Lenses can be categorized as either prime or zoom lenses. Prime lenses have a fixed focal length. Zoom lenses have a variable focal length. Zoom lenses allow the photographer to stand at a fixed place and take photos of objects at various distances without moving from where he or she is standing. On the other hand with a prime lens, the photographer has to move near or farther away from an object to get it in focus. Prime lenses are simpler to manufacture and would normally take higher quality photos than zoom lenses of the same price range. However you may need to carry several prime lenses in order to take photos of objects at different distances. A zoom lens is a kind of compromise. It gives you the convenience of having one lens that can take fairly good (not excellent as a prime lens) photos at different distances.
Let’s look at two examples:
You are also likely to come across the following terms:
L – L is used for professional lenses. They are made of higher quality glass and tend to be off-white in color. They are also more costly.
IS – this stands for Image Stabilization or anti-shake. It “compensates” for shaking hands especially when taking photos of distant objects.
Macro – usually designated for lenses that are for shooting objects that are very near. They support 1:1 focusing.
Canon EOS cameras
Canon has two types of lens mounts for its SLR cameras. There is the EF and the EF-S. EF stands for electrofocus. The EF was the first to be introduced and then the EF-S. Earlier Canon camera models are EF compatible i.e. they can only use EF compatible lenses since they all have EF mounts. Later digital SLR cameras are both EF and EF-S compatible.
Canon EOS DSLR cameras have a smaller body and use smaller image mirrors such that the image is cropped to 2/3 of the image size on a 35mm frame camera. This cropping factor has an effect of multiplying the focal length by a factor of about 1.6x to get the equivalent focal length of a regular (35mm frame) EOS camera. As an example, an EF-S 20mm lens would be equivalent to an EF 32mm lens on a full frame camera.
You should look out for a red dot on the lens mount of a Canon EOS camera to determine if it supports EF lenses. If it has both a red dot and a white square, it means it supports both EF and EF-S lenses.
Now we can discuss the applications of various types of lenses.
|Application||Lens Type||Focal Length (For EF-S)||Equivalent Full Frame (35mm)|
|Architecture||Ultra Wide Angle||10 to 22mm||16 to 35mm|
|Landscape||Wide Angle||15 to 40mm||27 to 65mm|
|Portraits||Standard (Normal)||30 to 45mm||50 to 75mm|
|Sports||Telephoto (Medium)||50 to 185mm||80 to 300mm|
|Birds and wildlife||Super telephoto||250 to 375mm||400 to 600+mm|
Other Types of Lenses
Depth of field: the depth of field has to do with how much of the background is clearly seen in a photo. Wide apertures tend to produce low depth of field. This is good when taking portraits where you only want to see the subject and blur the background. However this is not ideal for landscape photos. In the latter case you would go for small aperture settings which produce greater depth of field and hence causing the background to be very clearly defined.
Light conditions: If you are to take photos in low lighting conditions then you need lenses with wide maximum apertures that will allow more light to enter otherwise the photos will be underexposed.
Moving objects: If you are to take fast moving objects e.g. in sports, you will need fast lenses. These tend to have wide apertures and fast motors (e.g. USM).
Manufacturer’s or third party lens: You can decide to buy Canon or third party lenses such as Sigma, Tamron and Tokina. Canon lenses tend to more pricey for the same quality but inherently guarantee compatibility on all Canon EOS cameras (remembering to check EF-S compatibility on the lens mount). Third party lenses may offer compatibility across different camera makes e.g. Canon and Nikon. For example it may be possible to buy a lens and then buy mounts for Canon and Nikon in case you have both cameras.
How To Select Your Lens
|Your Lens Criteria||Lens Characteristics||Comments|
|1. Determine your application (e.g. landscape, photos)||Focal length||See earlier table|
|2. Determine conditions (e.g. low light, fast moving objects)||Aperture, Lens motor speed, Anti-Shake (Canon IS)|
|3. Determine whether you’re buying one or many||Many prime lenses,A zoom lens||It could a decision on whether to carry many prime lenses or one heavy zoom lens that covers all.|
|4. Determine price point (budget)||Canon,Third party||It is not always true that 3rd party lenses will be less expensive.|
After going through the four steps, the middle column should describe the profile of the lens (or lenses) that you should buy. The next step is to read reviews and then buy your “ideal” lens or lenses. You can check out the reviews here on the best and worst lenses in the various categories.
We will be updating the reviews as new lenses come into the market.
View our top picks below: