If you’re using a Canon DSLR, you’ll need one of the best Canon EF lenses, and in this guide, we’ve picked the best examples for all budgets.

Welcome to our guide to the best Canon EF lenses! The Canon EF-mount ecosystem is a sprawling, varied and exciting place, and if you’re looking for the right lens to strap on your rugged, hardy Canon DSLR, it can easily all get a bit confusing. You’ll find yourself asking, do I want a want a zoom or a prime? Do I need optical image stabilisation? And what even is ‘chromatic aberration’ anyway? Fear not – we’re here to cut through the jargon and achieve one simple mission: help you find the right lenses for your Canon camera!

As mentioned, these are the lenses for the best Canon EOS DSLRs, all of which use the EF or EF-S lens mount (more on the distinction between those two shortly). If you’re using one of the best Canon mirrorless cameras – i.e. an EOS R or an EOS M – then you can actually still use these lenses, often with full functionality of autofocus, as long as you buy the appropriate adapter. This functionality does not work the other way around, making the EF range some of the most versatile lenses across Canon’s line-ups.

So, let’s dive right in and look at the different types of Canon DSLR lenses available, as well as how you might go about choosing the one that’s right for you…

Do I need an EF lens or an EF-S lens?

Canon EF lenses come in two varieties, EF and EF-S. Which ones you can use will depend on the size of sensor inside your Canon DSLR, namely whether it’s full-frame or a smaller APS-C chip. Pro and advanced enthusiast DSLRs like the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV will generally be full-frame, while smaller, cheaper DSLRs like the EOS 250D will generally field an APS-C sensor. All cameras’ sensor sizes are readily available online, so if you’re not sure, a quick Google will sort you out.

The key points to remember are as follows:

Canon EF lenses can be used on both full-frame and APS-C cameras. The majority of Canon DSLR lenses fall into this category. They will fit any Canon DSLR, though when fitted to an APS-C camera, the smaller sensor size will incur what’s called a crop factor, extending the effective focal length of the lens. Canon has a crop factor of 1.6x, meaning that a 50mm lens mounted on a Canon APS-C DSLR will produce an equivalent focal length of 80mm.

Canon EF-S lenses are designed for APS-C cameras only. A Canon EF-S lens cannot be mounted on a full-frame body. They tend to be lighter than EF lenses, meaning they balance better with the smaller APS-C cameras. Also, even though they are designed for crop sensor cameras, the crop factor still applies, meaning a lens like the EF-S 10-18 f/4.5-5.6 IS STM actually produces a focal range of 16-28.8mm.

For more on the differences between sensor sizes, check out our complete guide to APS-C vs full-frame.

How to choose a Canon EF / EF-S lens

When picking the right lens for your Canon DSLR, there are a few key criteria it pays to hone in on. In brief, here are the key specs to keep in.

Focal length / range – This is the first decision you need to make when buying a lens, and it will likely be dictated by what subjects you want to shoot. Those capturing architecture and landscape photography will likely opt for a wide-angle, in order to get as much of their expansive subjects in the frame as possible. For action, wildlife and animal photography, a telephoto is your best bet, as you’ll be limited in how close you can get to your subject. And for general-purpose or documentary photographer, a good standard zoom lens will fit the bill; see our guide to the best EF-mount zoom lenses for some suggestions.

Maximum aperture – How wide a maximum aperture a lens can offer affects both how much light it can let in and how shallow a depth of field (delineation between subject and background) it can provide. Those who are shooting portraits will want a large-aperture lens (at least f/2, ideally f/1.4) in order to get that portrait ‘look’ of a sharp subject and an artfully blurred background.

Sharpness – Quite a simple prospect here – how sharply does a lens render an image? Does detail extend all the way to the edges and corners of images, and how consistent is it throughout the aperture range, or the zoom range if there is one. There’s no way to know this for sure without testing out a lens, so you can click through to our reviews throughout the guide for sample images and resolution test results.

Optical Image Stabilisation – Newer Canon EF lenses will come equipped with image stabilisation (look for the acronym ‘IS’ in the lens name, meaning ‘Image Stabilizer). This is a system that compensates for unintentional camera movement, making it possible to use slower shutter speeds or greater zoom lengths while hand-holding the camera.

Autofocus system – Canon employs a variety of speedy and accurate autofocus systems on its lenses, including the Stepping Motor (STM) and the more sophisticated Ultra Sonic Motor (USM). Better autofocus means you’ll stand a better chance of capturing sharp images of fast-moving subjects; but, of course, they come at a price. If you’re planning on shooting video, you may also want to check whether a lens has a silent AF system.

Macro capabilities – For shooting close-ups and macro photography, then you’ll need to look for a lens with “Macro” in the name, as this will allow you to get closer to your subject. This means a lens that can reproduce a subject at life-size – or close to – on the sensor, meaning you can fill the frame with the tiniest of things.

Want to cut to the chase? Here is the quick list of our picks of the best Canon EF lenses, along with the best prices:

And our picks of the best third-party Canon EF lenses:

Read on for full details of these lenses, including how they performed in our tests:

Best wide-angle APS-C lens: Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM

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: Canon)

At a glance:

  • APS-C lens (equivalent focal range: 16-28.8mm)
  • Construction: 14 elements, 11 groups
  • Weight: 240g
  • Price: $285 / £229.99

Slim and lightweight, offering a wide-angle perspective, the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM is an ideal choice for any APS-C Canon DSLR. You might be using the beginner-friendly Canon EOS 2000D / Rebel T7 (same camera, just named differently in different territories) or the enthusiast-focused Canon EOS 90D – either way, you’ve got a lens that will balance well and deliver all the features you might need. Autofocus is nice and speedy, and also very quiet, which is useful for video work, and there’s also a four-stop image stabilisation system on board.

The affordable price tag of this lens makes it a bargain for any crop-sensor Canon DSLR user, as long as they’re aware that low prices come with compromises. For instance, the lens body is constructed from plastic rather than metal, making it rather more fragile than premium lenses. Also, while the maximum aperture of the lens is f/4.5, it can actually only shoot at f/4.5 when locked at its widest setting of 10mm (16mm equivalent); the maximum aperture drops very sharply to f/5 as soon as you start zooming.

Still, for an affordable, portable lens for architecture photography, the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM is a prime choice.


  • Near-silent focusing
  • Four-stop stabilisation
  • Small size


  • Plasticky build
  • Electronic manual focus

Best Canon lens for macro: Canon EF 100mm f2.8L Macro IS USM

Best Canon EF Macro: Canon EF 100mm f2.8L

Canon EF 100mm f2.8L Macro IS USM (Image: Canon)

At a glance:

  • Full-frame lens
  • Construction: 15 elements, 12 groups
  • Weight: 625g
  • Price: $1,226 / £989.99

Planning on getting into macro photography? Shooting frame-filling close-ups of minuscule subjects can be one of the most technically demanding photographic disciplines out there – as well as one of the most rewarding. One of the most important aspect of macro is getting the right lens, and the Canon EF 100mm f2.8L Macro IS USM is most certainly the right lens.

For starters, it’s one of Canon’s ‘L’ lenses, a designation the firm reserves only for its top-of-the-line lenses, built to exacting quality standards both inside and out. Next, it’s a ‘true’ macro lens. This means it has a reproduction ratio of 1:1, i.e. the size of the subject as rendered on your sensor plane is the same as its actual real-life size, meaning you can show the tiniest things in glorious, close-up detail. You’ll want to get good and close to these subjects, which is why the EF 100mm f2.8L Macro IS USM’s 30cm minimum focusing distance and telephoto focal length come in handy.

Like many macro lenses, the EF 100mm f2.8L Macro IS USM doubles up well as a portrait lens, helped by its maximum aperture of f/2.8. This is where you might get more use out of one of its additional features – image stabilisation, which tends to be of limited use in macro photography where tripods are near-ubiquitous.


  • Superb detail resolution
  • Fast AF and smooth MF
  • High-quality build


  • Price jump over previous iteration

Best Canon standard zoom: Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM

Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM

Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM (Image: Canon)

At a glance:

  • APS-C lens (equivalent focal range: 27.2-88mm)
  • Construction: 19 elements, 12 groups
  • Weight: 645g
  • Price: $879 / £829.99

If you like the focal range of the standard kit lens but wish it could allow for a little more creative expression, the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM makes for a fantastic upgrade. With a constant f/2.8 aperture throughout its entire zoom range, the lens excels at shooting in low-light, and is also handy at producing shallow depth of field (i.e. a sharp main subject with an artfully blurred background).

This is an EF-S lens, so when you apply the crop factor it covers an equivalent focal range of 27.2-88mm. Sharpness is generally excellent; it gets a little softer when you bang the aperture wide open at the extreme ends of the zoom, but this can often add to the character of an image. Distortion is exceptionally well-controlled throughout the frame.

One thing that impressed us about this lens is the autofocus performance. Powered by an ultrasonic motor (the titular ‘USM’ you’ll see mentioned in a lot of Canon lens names), the autofocus system is fast, accurate and nice and quiet. If you’re using a fast-shooting APS-C Canon DSLR like the Canon EOS 7D Mark II, then you’ll find this lens to be more than capable of keeping up. Also nice to see even on a slightly older lens is the image stabilisation (IS) system, which gives you three effective stops of compensation when using slower shutter speeds handheld.


  • Constant f/2.8 aperture
  • Fast, quiet, accurate AF
  • 3-stop stabilisation


  • Lacks sharpness at 55mm (wide open)
  • Some colour fringing

Best Canon lens for wildlife: Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM (Image: Canon)

At a glance:

  • Full-frame lens
  • Construction: 21 elements, 16 groups
  • Weight: 1640g
  • Price: $2,399 / £2,499

The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM is an ideal lens for professional users or serious enthusiasts who want to capture action, sport and wildlife images. We took it out for a field test to capture images of birds of prey – a tricky, demanding subject – and came away hugely impressed with its ability to nail sharp shots of moving targets.

Image quality is generally very, very good – we were blown away by the sharpness once we got the lens back and had a look at the images full size. Pair this with the superb image stabiliser and the premium construction, and there’s really not much to criticise about this lens. Except, of course, inevitably, the relatively high price tag.


  • Superb autofocus capabilities
  • Effective stabiliser
  • Exceptional image quality


  • Intimidating price
  • Some vignetting at wide apertures.

Read our Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM field test

Best Canon EF street lens: Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM (Image: Canon)

At a glance:

  • Full-frame lens
  • Construction: 14 elements, 11 groups
  • Weight: 760g
  • Price: $2,600 / £2,099

Canon went back to the drawing board when it came time to update its popular wide-aperture wide-angle prime, the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L. Competition had been increasing thanks to Sigma’s introduction of its Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens, a much cheaper alternative that still delivered the goods optically. Canon needed to pull something out of the big to figure out a way to hit back.

The one thing it did not do, perhaps inevitably, was cut the price. While Sigma Art f/1.4 lenses tended to be around the £700-800 mark, the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM arrived on the scene with an eye-watering £1,799 price tag. It’s much cheaper these days – just kidding. It’s currently retailing new for around £2,199. Inflation, baby. Isn’t it great?

But the thing is, the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM is a beautiful, razor-sharp lens that really does justify its price tag. Earning the full five stars in our full review, the lens is super sharp at the edges and centre of images, and it is highly effective at controlling chromatic aberration thanks to its new BR (Blue Spectrum Refractive) optic. It makes for a heavy lens, though not one that’s too difficult to handle.

As we said at the time, if you want the best, you do have to be prepared to pay for it. For wedding photographers, events photographers and other professionals, we’d say this lens is more than worth the investment.


  • Superb image quality
  • Smooth bokeh from 9-blade aperture
  • Good all-purpose focal length


  • High asking price
  • Heavy for a 35mm

Read our full Canon EF 35mm f1.4L II USM review

Best cheap Canon lens: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

Canon EF 50mm f1.8 STM lens (Image: Canon)

Canon EF 50mm f1.8 STM lens (Image: Canon)

At a glance:

  • Full-frame lens
  • Construction: 6 elements, 5 groups
  • Weight: 162g
  • Price: $125 / £119.99

This small ‘nifty fifty’ improves upon Canon’s older designs and has been brought up to date by incorporating a Stepper Motor (STM) for smoother and quieter AF. Compatible with full-frame and APS-C DSLRs, it becomes a highly practical and creative short telephoto lens that’s equivalent to 80mm when it’s attached to the latter.

If you enjoy shooting portraits or any subject where you’d like to create attractive background blur, this lens allows you to do it without breaking the bank. It has a smaller 49mm filter thread and improved build quality over Canon’s older EF 50mm f/1.8 II, but produces results of similar quality. Stopping down from f/1.8 to f/2.8 improves sharpness and all trace of corner shading disappears by f/4. It’s one of the most popular lenses for those who feel they’ve outgrown a kit zoom.


  • Super-light
  • Very cheap
  • Good for full-frame and APS-C


  • Inevitably sharpness compromise at this price
  • Autofocus not silent

Read the full Canon EF 50mm f1.8 STM review

Best Canon lens for portraits: Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM

Best Canon EF lens for portraits: Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM

Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM (Image: Canon)

At a glance:

  • Full-frame lens
  • Construction: 14 elements, 10 groups
  • Weight: 950g
  • Price: $2,105 / £1,700

This new L-series telephoto prime will have great appeal with portrait and wedding photographers who desire superior image quality to the aging EF 85mm f/1.8 USM and those who don’t want to splash out £1,765 for the larger and heavier EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM.

The big attraction is its optical image stabilisation, which is effective to four stops and will be a godsend in low-light venues such as churches and dimly lit interiors. It has a 77mm filter thread, 0.85m minimum focusing distance and weather sealing that’ll provide reassurance when it’s used in variable weather conditions.


  • Superb image quality
  • Four-stop stabilisation
  • Weather sealing


  • Expensive
  • Heavy

Hands-on Canon EF 85mm f1.4L IS USM review

Best Canon lens for zoom: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM (Image: Canon)

At a glance:

  • Full-frame lens
  • Construction: 17 elements, 12 groups
  • Weight: 710g
  • Price: $767 / £619

This mid-range telephoto zoom incorporates four-stop image stabilisation and a new, Nano USM motor for fast and silent autofocus. It weighs 720g, has a nine-bladed diaphragm and is equivalent to 112-480mm on an APS-C DSLR.

An interesting idea is the lens’s LCD panel, which can be used to cycle through three modes: focal length, a camera shake meter, and the current focus distance complete with depth-of-field scale. It’s a great match to mid-range DSLRs, offering a great balance between portability and image quality.


  • Fast, silent AF
  • Useful LCD readout panel
  • Balances well with mid-range DSLRs


  • No weather seal around mount
  • £75 extra for a hood is inexcusable

Full Canon EF 70-300mm f4-5.6 IS II USM review

Best Canon pancake lens: Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM

Canon EF-S 24mm f2.8 STM lens (Image: AP)

Canon EF-S 24mm f2.8 STM lens (Image: AP)

At a glance:

  • APS-C lens (equivalent focal length: 38mm)
  • Construction: 6 elements, 5 groups
  • Weight: 125g
  • Price: $179 / £149.99

This ultra-slim pancake prime is one of the least expensive lenses on the market, and measuring just 22.8mm thick, it’s one that can easily be carried around all day without any inconvenience. It’s a marvellous little optic for travel and street photography, providing a 38mm equivalent angle of view on the Canon APS-C DSLRs for which it’s made.

The lens does exhibit vignetting at wide apertures, as well as distortion, but both are easily remedied in software. Most importantly, the lens focuses accurately and gives consistently sharp, detailed images. With its bargain price, carry-everywhere size and highly competent imaging performance, this lens deserves to be high on the wish list of many a Canon APS-C DSLR user.


  • Ultra-slim
  • Useful 38mm equivalent focal length
  • Good sharpness


  • Some vignetting
  • Some distortion (both are easily corrected though)

Full Canon EF-S 24mm f2.8 STM review

Best Canon walk-around lens: Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM (Image: Canon)

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM (Image: Canon)

At a glance:

  • Full-frame lens
  • Construction: 17 elements, 12 groups
  • Weight: 795g
  • Price: $1,299 / £989.99

This lens is the replacement for one of Canon’s best-selling full-frame optics for the past 10 years – the EF 24-105mm f/4L USM. It features a revised optical design that has made it a little sharper towards the edges with less barrel distortion at the wide end.

Vignetting isn’t quite as severe either and it features a new electronic aperture diaphragm system (EDM) that provides smoother and quieter aperture changes during movie capture. It’s the best 24-105mm full-frame zoom Canon makes, but isn’t quite as razor sharp as the stunning EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM.


  • Do-everything zoom range
  • Excellent sharpness
  • Well optimised for video


  • Quality lags behind the flagship lenses
  • Quite pricey for an f/4

Full Canon EF 24-105mm f4L IS II USM review

Best ultra wide-angle zoom: Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM

Canon EF 11-24mm F4L USM lens

Canon EF 11-24 f/4L USM (Image: AP)

At a glance:

  • Full-frame lens
  • Construction: 16 elements, 11 groups
  • Weight: 1179g
  • Price: $2,999 / £3,099

Canon and its engineers must be praised for constructing one of their finest L-series lenses, and for the way they’ve created the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens, one of, if not the best, rectilinear wideangle zooms ever made.

If you’re a full-frame user who specialises in landscape, architectural or interior photography, and demand a lens that’s not only capable of squeezing as much of your surroundings as possible into the frame, but does so with exceptional optical performance, this is one to add to your wish list. You may also be able to find it second-hand, saving you money. A used model in good condition will cost around $1,800/ £1,500.


  • Outstanding image quality
  • Premium construction
  • Full-time manual focus override


  • Prohibitive price

Read our Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM review

Best ultra-wide-angle zoom with IS: Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM

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

Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM review image (Image: AP)

At a glance:

  • Full-frame lens
  • Construction: 16 elements, 12 groups
  • Weight: 615g
  • Price: $1,299 / £1,389

This ultra-wide-angle zoom lens is ideal for landscape, architecture, and interior shots where you need to get as much as possible into the frame. The built-in image stabilisation (IS) will help when slower shutter speeds are needed, such as when shooting in low-light conditions.

With an f/4 aperture, this lens is best suited to landscapes and detailed images, and the best results are found when shooting at f8. We were impressed by the image quality produced by the lens in our review. As a Canon L series lens, the lens is fully weather-sealed so should survive use in all conditions.


  • Solid image quality
  • Weather sealing
  • Built-in stabilisation


  • Not cheap
  • Only f/4

Read our Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM review

Best third party EF-mount lenses

If you’re looking for high-quality lenses at lower prices, or want to find slightly more unusual or specialist lenses, then have a look at some of these options.

Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sports

Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG lens

Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG lens (Image: Sigma)

At a glance:

  • Full-frame lens
  • Construction: 24 elements, 22 groups
  • Weight: 1805g
  • Price: $1,461 / £1,179

Sigma produce some impressive and interesting lens options, as well as offering similar alternatives to Canon’s own brand lenses. This 70-200mm f2.8 lens offers optical image stabilisation, with 4-stops of stabilisation, and delivers impressively sharp results, with low levels of distortion.

As well as being weather-sealed, it also benefits from being noticeably cheaper than Canon’s 70-200mm f2.8 lens, saving you some serious money.


  • Excellent sharpness
  • Powerful 4-stop stabilisation
  • Undercuts Canon’s own lens on price


  • Very heavy

Read our Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sports review

Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD

Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD

Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD (Image: Tamron)

At a glance:

  • Full-frame lens
  • Construction: 17 elements, 11 groups
  • Weight: 1,135g
  • Price: $799 / £799

Tamron has been on something of a discontinuation spree with its DSLR lenses lately, but there are still some excellent lenses from the manufacturer available for Canon EF mount. Case in point: the Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD.

A relatively cheap lens that punches above its weight, this optic arrived a few months after Sigma’s own Contemporary version, at a price designed to undercut it. If you want a Canon own-brand 100-400mm lens, your only options are the hugely expensive ones like the L lens listed earlier in our guide. So this Tamron optic fills a good niche.

It’s a great performer for the price, too. Sharpness is great at all focal lengths, especially in the centre of the frame, and the USD (Ultra-sonic Silent Drive) autofocus system delivers the goods. The Canon L lens is built to last a lifetime, and is generally better in all categories, but it’s also almost four times the price. Tamron’s 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD lens offers tremendous value for money.


Excellent value

Reliable autofocus

Very good centre sharpness


  • Some softness in corners
  • Plasticky build

Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Art

Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 DG OSM Art lens in EF-mount

Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 DG OSM Art lens in EF-mount (Image: Sigma)

At a glance:

  • Full-frame lens
  • Construction: 19 elements, 14 groups
  • Weight: 1020g
  • Price: from $1,149 / £1,149

Another alternative to Canon’s own brand lens, the 24-70mm f2.8 DG OS HSM Art lens offers the a bright f2.8 aperture throughout the zoom range, plus with the added benefit of optical image stabilisation, which is missing from Canon’s more expensive 24-70mm f2.8L II USM lens, at £2109. It’s also a compact lens, so a good choice for those looking for something smaller.


  • Optical image stabilisation
  • Relatively portable
  • Constant f/2.8 aperture


  • No weather sealing

Read our Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Art review

Sigma 40mm F1.4 DG HSM Art

Sigma 40mm f1.4 DG Art lens - Canon EF mount

Sigma 40mm f1.4 DG Art lens – Canon EF mount (Image: Sigma)

At a glance:

  • Full frame lens
  • Construction: 16 elements, 12 groups
  • Weight: 1200g
  • Price: $799 / £629

The Sigma 40mm F1.4 DG HSM Art lens is designed for optimum image quality, with minimal distortion. If you’re looking for a bright prime lens, then the Sigma 40mm F1.4 is a great choice, slightly wider than the typical 50mm lens, this gives a good choice for those wanting something different. It offers exceptional image quality and beautiful background blur (bokeh), however, it is a large lens, and quite weighty at 1.2kg.


  • Bright aperture
  • Interesting focal length
  • Gorgeous bokeh


  • Bulky
  • Weighs more than a kilo

Read our Sigma 40mm F1.4 DG HSM Art review

Text by Amy Davies, with contributions from Jon Stapley.

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