The best Canon EF SLR lenses for 2022

Canon is one of the most trusted names in photography, and countless enthusiasts, family and professional photographers seek out its cameras to capture the natural world. The company’s DSLRs can switch lenses, so you can change the angle of view to take shots of wide landscapes or distant subjects, pick a prime to blur backgrounds for portraits, or get dramatic with a fisheye lens.

Emerging shutterbugs can benefit from the basic starter zoom upgrade that comes with a Canon Rebel, and pros can consider a new 70-200mm F2.8 or wide aperture lens. No matter your skill level or expertise, we’re here to help you find the right lens for your SLR.


What Canon camera do you own?

Canon sells different types of interchangeable lens cameras, so you need to make sure you’re buying the right lens for the model you own. The lenses included in this guide are designed for Canon’s EOS SLR family. These cameras take Canon’s EF-series lenses, as well as compatible third-party options like Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina.

Canon EOS 90D

If you have an EOS Rebel or EOS 90D, you will be able to use two types of lenses, those designed for cameras only for APS-C sensors, designated EF-S, and full-frame EF lenses. If you jumped with a 6D Mark II or are using a recent pro 5D or 1D model, only EF lenses are compatible.

To confuse matters a bit more, Canon does not use the Rebel brand outside of North America. In Japan the series is called Kiss, and in Europe Canon uses model numbers with a three or four digit designation – the EOS 1500D and 800D being two examples. For the rest of this article, we’ll refer to them as APS-C DSLRs, just to keep things simple.


Don’t get EF-M and RF mirrorless lenses for an SLR

Canon also manufactures mirrorless cameras. Its EOS M models use APS-C image sensors and support EF-M lenses, while its EOS R series is full-frame and works with RF lenses. The EOS M and EOS R systems can use EF SLR lenses via the appropriate adapter, but you cannot use EF-M and RF lenses with an SLR; they just don’t match.

If you have one of these cameras and want to use an SLR lens, make sure you have the correct adapter. For the EOS M, you’ll hit the EF-EOS M, while EOS R owners should get the EF-EOS R adapter.

It should be noted that while the lenses are not fully compatible, many accessories are. If you have a modern Canon Speedlite, you can use it with any of the company’s current systems, assuming your camera has a hot shoe (and almost all do).


What to Look for in a Canon EF SLR Lens

Now that you know what kind of camera you have, the next step is to figure out what kind of lens you want. If you bought a consumer model, you probably started with a very basic zoom, which just needs an upgrade.

If you have an APS-C camera, you’ll need to think about lenses in a slightly different way than full-frame users. Due to the smaller sensor size, the 18mm wide-angle end of most equipped zooms is not as wide as an 18mm full-frame lens. Instead, it’s closer to a 28mm, close to the angle of view of most major smartphone cameras. With any system, a lower focal length provides a wider angle of view.

You can put a full-frame lens on an APS-C camera and just enjoy a tighter angle of view than you would with a larger sensor. But the other method doesn’t work: Canon EF-S lenses can’t be mounted on full-frame EF SLRs.

There are reasons to use full-frame lenses on smaller sensors, especially if you like to shoot distant subjects. You’ll get a bit more range thanks to the denser pixel designs of most APS-C sensors, which is a plus if you want to get close-ups of distant subjects.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Besides the focal length, you’ll want to look at the f-stop. The lower the number, the more light the lens can pick up. A lens can always be set to a dimmer – if you have an f/2.8 zoom you can set it to shoot at f/4 or f/5.6 to get more depth of field in a shot, for example, but you can’t open up to f/4 to f/2.8 zoom, it just doesn’t work that way.

Image stabilization (IS) is another thing to buy. Canon doesn’t include in-body image stabilization (IBIS) in any of its DSLRs, so it’s important to get the feature in a lens. Most zoom, telephoto and macro lenses include this feature.

Not all lenses are stabilized – for some, like ultra-wide zooms and very bright prime lenses, it’s just not practical or absolutely necessary. But if you’re debating between a lens with IS and one without, one with IS is usually a better choice, especially if you plan to use it for portable video capture.

Finally, be careful and make sure the lens you buy has autofocus, assuming you want it (and most buyers will). Pros will know when to use autofocus lenses and when to focus manually. The latter is popular for video productions where there is a dedicated camera operator to focus, as well as some ultra-wide and macro lens designs.

There are many ways to go about buying a lens, so we’ve broken them down by category. Read on for our top picks and to see what your choices are for each type of lens for your Canon SLR.

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