Here’s how to choose the best Canon EF lenses and EF-S lenses currently available for your Canon EOS DSLR – you can get some great deals

Let’s begin with a bit of background. Canon EF lens are designed for Canon’s full-frame and APS-C DSLRs, while EF-S lenses, which tend to be cheaper and more compact, are designed for Canon APS-C DSLRs.

As the Canon DSLR range established itself, a huge range of lenses arose to cater for photographers of all ability levels. The result is that the EF-mount lens catalogue is one of the best and most comprehensive you can find. Even though the firm is focussing on RF-mount mirrorless cameras these days, Canon DSLR users are still spoiled for choice when it comes to EF and EF-S lenses.

So, we’ve put together this guide to help you find the right lens for you. Picking a good EF lens isn’t just about choosing the latest models – there are loads of older Canon lenses that are still worth the money, especially on the used market. We’ve included a broad selection of lenses for all budgets in this guide, based on our review team’s extensive experience.

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

As mentioned, Canon EF lenses are actually split into two types – EF and EF-S lenses. The difference is fairly straightforward to explain.

Canon EF lenses can be used on full-frame and APS-C cameras. If you’re shooting with a full-frame Canon camera like the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, then make sure you choose an EF lens designed for full-frame cameras.

Canon EF-S lenses are designed for APS-C cameras only. If you’re shooting with an APS-C camera, such as the Canon EOS 90D, then make sure you choose an EF-S lens, as these are designed for APS-C cameras, and a 1.6x crop factor is applied. More on APS-C vs Full-frame here.

A note on lens compatibility: Make sure you check your lens mount, and camera body to ensure you get the right lens for your camera. If you’re shooting with a Canon EOS R camera, then have a look at our guide to the best Canon RF mount lenses. You can use a Canon EF / EF-S lens on a Canon EOS R camera as long as you have the right adapter, but you can’t adapt an RF lens to an EF camera. 

Things to look for when choosing a Canon EF / EF-S lens:

Sharpness – Lenses live and die on their ability to cleanly resolve detail. Lens sharpness is a tricky thing to gauge, and requires a dedicated testing setup to really be sure about. Click through to our reviews where available, and you’ll see a detailed breakdown of how the lens performs. Lenses tend to be sharpest in the middle of their aperture range, in the middle of their zoom range if they have one, and in the middle of the actual frame, too.

Optical Image Stabilisation – When choosing a lens, look out for lenses with image stabilisation. Can refers to it as the Image Stabilizer system (IS). This can help you get sharp shots even when shooting at slower shutter speeds, or helpful when using more zoom.

Autofocus system – Canon lenses use various autofocus systems, such as the Ultra Sonic Motor (USM) or Stepping Motor (STM). The more sophisticated systems tend to be found on the more expensive lenses, and they are not only faster, but also are often silent, which is useful for video.

How to pick the right Canon lens for your needs

If you’re planning on 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. If you’re planning on shooting portraits, look for a prime lens with a bright aperture, such as the 50mm f/1.8 lens, or any bright prime lens with a focal range between 35mm and 200mm.

For landscape photography it’s likely you’ll want to go for a wide-angle or ultra-wide-angle zoom lens. For wildlife photography, a longer telephoto zoom lens is a great choice, such as a 70-300mm lens. For everything else, and general photography, a standard kit zoom lens, such as a 24-70mm (full-frame) or 18-55mm (or similar for APS-C) is a great choice. If you know you want a zoom lens, you may want to see our dedicated guide to the best EF-mount zoom lenses.

Here are our picks of the best Canon EF-mount lenses…


Best wide-angle Canon EF-S 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: £229.99 / $285

If you’re after a compact wideangle zoom for your APS-C DSLR, this is a fine example to consider. It pairs up well with entry-level models such as the EOS 1300D/EOS Rebel T6 and EOS 200D/EOS Rebel SL2, as well as mid-range DSLRs like the Canon EOS 90D. Its Stepping Motor Technology (STM) helps keep focus operation inaudible and with four-stop image stabilisation it’s possible to shoot sharp handheld images with shutter speeds as slow as 1/5sec. It may have a plastic mount and electronic manual focus, but don’t let that put you off as it delivers very pleasing results for such a low price. As such, it’s hard to think of a reason not to include this in your lens collection if you’re looking to expand and fancy a decent but affordable wide-angle lens. This means that it’s great for landscapes, interiors and architecture.

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • Plasticky build
  • Electronic manual focus

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

Canon EF 100mm f2.8 L Macro lens product shot

Canon EF 100mm f2.8L Macro IS USM

At a glance:

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

This close-up specialist bears Canon’s ‘L’ designation, meaning it’s a premium lens built to be long-lasting and deliver some of the best image quality in the business. With a reproduction ratio of 1:1 and a minimum focusing distance of 30cm, it’s ideal for any macro photographer. The long focal length of 100mm makes it possible for subjects to really fill the frame, and if you mount it on an APS-C DSLR, this gets upped to 160mm.

The Canon EF 100mm f2.8L Macro IS USM bears ‘IS’ in its name because it has Canon’s Hybrid Image Stabilization built in – indeed, is one of the first full-frame macro lenses to offer this feature. The real-world usefulness of this is maybe a little questionable when so much macro photography is done using a tripod, but it certainly doesn’t hurt, and will improve your chances of getting the shot in situations where you need to react quickly.

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • 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: £829.99 / $879

Though not the newest of lenses in the EF-S lineup, this fast zoom is an appealing optic for Canon users who demand a fast-aperture lens that produces pleasing results. The AF performance is accurate and quiet, while the image-stabilisation (IS) system is effective at allowing users to shoot three stops slower than is otherwise possible. Full time manual focus (MF) and an ultrasonic motor (USM) feature as you’d expect. Particularly useful for shooting challenging low-light scenes where you don’t want to raise the ISO too high, it produces high levels of sharpness and low distortion. The only real downside is wide-aperture sharpness at 55mm and the appearance of colour fringing under some conditions. It deserves close attention from users of Canon APS-C DSLRs such as the Canon EOS 90D and EOS 7D Mark II.

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • 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

At a glance:

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

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 price tag.

Pros:

  • Superb autofocus capabilities
  • Effective stabiliser
  • Exceptional image quality

Cons:

  • 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: £2,099 / $2,600

As well as developing the BR (Blue Spectrum Refractive) optic to reduce chromatic aberration, the lens features a totally new optical design. Whereas the older EF 35mm f/1.4L USM incorporated 11 elements in nine groups with eight aperture blades, the newer EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM features a more complex arrangement of 14 elements in 11 groups with nine aperture blades. The result of the new design makes it both larger and heavier than its forerunner, which also plays its part in the way the lens handles. One of the key attributes of this lens is its maximum aperture that’s complementary to capturing natural, reportage-style images that so many photojournalists, sports and wedding photographers like to take.

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • High asking price
  • Heavy for a 35mm

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


Best Canon lenses: 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: £119.99 / $125

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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • 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: £1,700 / $2,105

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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • 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: £619 / $767

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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • 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: £149.99 / $179

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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • Some vigentting
  • 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: £989.99 / $1,299

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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • 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

At a glance:

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

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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • 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 (Photo credit: AP)

At a glance:

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

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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • 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

At a glance:

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

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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • 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

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.

Pros:

  • Excellent value
  • Reliable autofocus
  • Very good centre sharpness

Cons:

  • 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

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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • 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

At a glance:

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

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.

Pros:

  • Bright aperture
  • Interesting focal length
  • Gorgeous bokeh

Cons:

  • Bulky
  • Weighs more than a kilo

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


For more have a look at the latest news, lens reviews, and buying guides, or have a look at the best Canon EOS cameras


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