Canon has always put its competitors to shame when it comes to making a wide range of high-quality lenses. There are dedicated Canon lenses for different purposes ranging from primes to telephotos, zooms, portraits, and wide-angle. One of the most popular of these lenses is the Canon EF lenses. Designed for Canon Full-Frame DSLRs, you can also use them for APS-C models. In this article, we are going to unveil the 10 best Canon EF lenses and why you should choose them.
What is an EF Lens?
The EF or Electro-Focus lenses were first introduced by Canon in 1987 for their SLR film cameras. However, the company is still using EF mounts as a pattern or standard for connecting lenses to their full-frame DSLR cameras.
As the name suggests, Canon EF lenses focus on the subjects automatically using a built-in motor. Both camera and the lens communicate or connect through electrical components rather than plungers and livers. Canon EF lenses set Canon apart from other major companies such as Sony, Nikon. Nikon lenses still use plungers and livers for connecting with their cameras. Some Nikon cameras even supply the motor for autofocusing as opposed to lenses having their own motor.
Interestingly, the older Canon film lenses with EF canon mount are still compatible with modern DSLRs. This is because Canon’s professional “L-series” lenses are still using the EF mount. Canon also introduced a newer EF-S mount for their Rebel series incorporating DSLR cameras for beginners. These cameras and any other camera that support EF-S mount will also support EF lenses.
EF lenses are comparatively more expensive than other types of lenses. However, they are worth your money considering the sheer quality and modern technology put into them. You would obtain captivating images every single time you use them.
Best Canon EF Lenses
The dream team of lenses containing only Canon EF lenses will be as below.
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Canon EF 16-35mm F/4L
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8
Canon EF 17-40mm F/4L
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L
Canon EF 70-300 f/4-5.6
1. Canon EF 16-35mm F/4L IS USM Lens: Best Canon EF Lens for Outdoors
Canon EF 16-35mm F/4L is a quality wide-angle zoom lens that can give a new dimension to your outdoor shots. One of the biggest features of the lens is the superior “L-series” construction Canon is famous for. It also delivers exceptional performance in the daylight. The images are sharp and distortion is negligible. Similarly, it is a professional-grade wide-angle zoom lens available only for around $1000.
Most people would use either f/2.8 or f/4 at 16-35mm focal length range. However, we would suggest going for f/4 because a wide-angle lens is perfect for shooting in daylight. Similarly, the bokeh is not very important for a portrait lens.
The Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 also offers image stabilization besides being half as expensive as Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8. It is also smaller and lighter than its f/2.8 version. However, the f/2.8 may be a better choice if you specialize in the event or low light photography or shooting in the sunset. Other people should choose the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4.
2. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Portrait Lens: Best Budget EF Portrait Lens
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens is a great low-cost portrait lens for Canon APS-C DSLRs, especially when compared to Sigma portrait lenses. It is a solid lens with good built quality incorporating an excellent Stepping Motor (STM) autofocus system and metal mounting plate.
The electronically coupled fly-by-wire focus ring focuses the subject automatically. It is also easier to handle because the focus ring does not rotate during the autofocus. Similarly, the autofocus is comparatively quieter despite being audible.
It is also among the best Canon EF lenses for video because of the smooth autofocus transition. You also get a well-rounded aperture thanks to five to seven diaphragm blades. However, the autofocus is not as fast you would have liked.
Weighing only 160g, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 is a lightweight and very compact lens. The images produced by the lens are spectacular.
All in all, it is the best budget EF lens for portraits, especially for people with a tight budget.
3. Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens: Lens with Incredible Depth of Field
While Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 delivers brilliant image quality, its f/1.2L version offers incredible sharpness and depth of field. It is a premier prime lens for high-end Canon DSLRs such as Canon EOS 5DS R and EOS 5D Mark IV.
The 50mm f/1.2 provides you with extraordinary sharpness and superb bokeh, low light performance, and depth of field. It will also not disappoint you if you specialize in photographing people. It will deliver excellent image quality, to say the least.
EF 50mm f/1.2 is one of the best Canon EF prime lenses. However, it is quite expensive for a prime lens. It is also relatively heavier compared to f/1.4 and f/1.8 versions which are considerably less expensive as well. However, they are not as good as f/1.2 in terms of build and image quality.
You should also go for Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 if you are looking for a 50mm lens for portraits. Rest assured, it is worth its price.
4. Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Lens: Best in Class Canon EF Lens
70-200mm is a very popular focal range among photographers for telephoto lenses. And, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L is one of the best Canon EF lenses in this range. You can choose from two versions of this lens that are f/4 and f/2.8. Both these lenses have image stabilization and superior “L-Series” construction. However, the earlier is twice as cheap as the latter.
You should consider the f/2.8 version if you are a wildlife photographer who regularly shoots at dawn and dusk. However, the f/4 is also quite capable to deliver good results in low light as well. It may even surprise you with its image quality. Similarly, f/4 is also easier to carry besides offering good value for money.
Canon recently updated the 70-200mm f/4 lens. The updated version incorporates improved image stabilization, a third stabilizing mode for shooting fast objects, and a less noisy motor. It also boasts a shorter minimum focus distance of only one meter. The lens coating has also improved considerably.
The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 is a better choice unless you don’t need a faster maximum aperture of f/2.8.
5. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens: Best EF Travel Lens
Travel zoom lenses are growing in popularity. They are cheaper compared to prime lenses yet they offer maximum versatility when it comes to travel photography. Therefore, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L is a very good option delivering more reach than EF 24-70mm f/4.
The lens has features like image stabilization and a very good autofocus system. On top of that, it is very sharp throughout its zoom range. However, the focal range is the biggest selling point of this lens. The lens easily and beautifully covers everything from close-up portraits to landscapes, made possible by an additional 35mm of focal length.
One area where Canon EF 24-105mm falls short is poor center sharpness. Secondly, you can expect some distortion, especially at the ends from this kind of lens. Similarly, you won’t get a creamy bokeh as in the case of the f/2.8L lens as well as the low light performance is also questionable. However, EF 24-105mm is an “L-Series” lens available for a very decent price, offering great value for money.
6. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens: Best Canon EF Zoom Lens
You should consider Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 II USM lens if you are looking for versatility and superb image quality. It is basically a zoom lens that you can use for any photography task you like.
For example, it has a good focal range to become an excellent travel and portrait lens. On the other hand, it is also a good lens for landscape photography for being a reasonably wide-angle lens. Not to mention, the images are quite sharp and the overall optical performance is very impressive. You would not remove the lens from your camera once you put it on no matter the situation you find yourself in.
Canon EF 24-70mm is also available in two versions, the cheaper f/4, and the pricier f/2.8. We would recommend the f/2.8 for its amazing features such as brilliant low-light performance, captivating bokeh, and incredible depth of field. Similarly, it effectively resolves problems associated with nighttime and indoor shooting, something which the f/4 version cannot accomplish.
Canon EF 24-70mm F/2.8 is one of the best Canon EF lenses besides being a premier Canon lens. It is a little pricier but worth the money for all the features and qualities it has to offer.
7. Canon EF 17-40mm F/4L USM Zoom Lens: Cheapest L-Series Lens
Canon EF 17-40mm F/4L is an old full-frame lens by Canon yet it is still going strong. It is a marvelous deal considering it is an “L-Series” that is available for less than $500.
The lens has all the features and capabilities you expect from a wide-angle lens. It has the same maximum aperture as the newer Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 wide-angle lens. Similarly, it is a great value for someone who isn’t willing to spend huge money but still wants to get a powerful wide-angle lens.
The only problem with this lens is some softness towards the edges. However, it is not a deal breaker considering its price and the fact that it was released way back in 2003. It also has considerable distortion but you can correct it in the image post-processing.
Canon EF 17-40mm F/4L is one of the best budget Canon EF lenses on the market. It is an old lens but it can still meet most of your wide-angle requirements
8. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS US Macro Lens: Best Canon Lens for Macro Photography
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L is the ultimate choice for close-up portraits and macro photography. The lens falls in the middle of the price spectrum. It has a premium build which is the hallmark of all the “L-Series” lenses. Similarly, it focuses the objects quite accurately and quickly. Not to mention, the images are extremely sharp as well.
It is quite an affordable lens with features comparable to Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 which is twice as expensive. The image quality of both the lenses is almost the same. You can also use both lenses for portraits. However, the f/2.8 is also a macro lens with a 12-in minimum focus distance.
The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 is not a lens that you can use for everyday photography tasks. It is more suited for capturing the details and close-up portraits. You should not use it for street or travel photography because of its focal length. However, it is one of the best Canon EF lenses for serious portrait and macro photographers.
9. Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM Lens: Finest Portrait Lens to Get
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L is a behemoth of a lens when it comes to exceptional portrait photography. It is the finest portrait lens on the market at the moment.
One of the most striking features of the lens is delectable bokeh which you cannot attain even from seriously fast f/1.4 or f/1.8 lenses. More importantly, the lens is extremely sharp even when wide open. It also has excellent construction quality. You don’t have to take care of the lens as much as an “L” lens.
Another quality of the lens is that it captures an insane amount of light, necessary for portraits. The image quality is second to none. Even the most discerning of photographers seem to be appreciating this lens. The autofocus is not as fast as you would expect but speed is not a primary requirement for portraits.
10. Canon EF 70-300 F/4-5.6 IS II USM Lens: EF Lens with the Fastest Autofocus
Canon EF 70-300 f/4-5.6 is an excellent telephone zoom lens. You can mount the lens on both Canon EF and EF-S DSLRs as well.
It is a professional-grade EF zoom lens with impressive image quality and a super-fast Nano USM autofocus system. The autofocus system helps you focus the fast moving objects quickly and accurately. You can steady up your shot while reducing the lens weight thanks to the optional tripod ring. Similarly, it comes complete with brilliant weather sealing, making it a good option for outdoor photography.
The autofocus transitioning during video making is also very smooth. It also has a very good LED display to show focus distance, focal length, and information about image stabilization. It is also one of the sharpest EF lenses.
Popular Types of Lenses to Get
Canon EF lenses are available in many different types such as telephone lenses, macro lenses, ultra-wide lenses, and so on. These lenses serve different purposes. We are going to explain the five most common types of lenses for you.
1. A standard Zoom Lens
Most Canon cameras come with a kit lens that can help you get started in the world of photography. However, a standard zoom lens will offer a longer zoom range, a wider maximum aperture, and improved image quality.
2. Ultra-wide Zoom Lens
The ultra-wide zoom lens will help you squeeze the entire vista into the image frame. These lenses are good for small interior places and narrow streets.
3. Telephoto Zoom
Telephone zoom lenses are perfect for nature, wildlife, and sports & wedding photography. They enable you to capture fast moving objects from a distance with the utmost ease.
4. Portrait Lenses
Portrait lenses are an ideal choice to capture people rather than animals. It provides you with a perfect distance to blur the background while capturing the most flattering features.
5. Macro Lenses
Macro lenses allow you to get very close to miniature objects such as insects and capture the sharpest of details. They are also very popular among nature photographers.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the Difference between FD and EF lenses?
EF and FD lenses differ in terms of their functioning and mounting. You need to manually connect FD lenses to the sensor or film. Electric Focus (EF) lenses, on the other hand, connect to the camera using electrical components. FD lenses don’t have autofocus but EF lenses have this feature.
- Are EF lenses better than EFS?
EF lenses are compatible with both APS-C and Full-Frame DSLR cameras. EF-S lenses, on the other hand, can only cover the smaller sensors such as on Canon APS-C cameras because of their smaller image circle. Therefore, Canon EF lenses are more versatile and universal compared to EF-S lenses.
- Can I use EF lenses on mirrorless cameras?
Yes, you can use both the EF and EF-S lenses on Canon mirrorless cameras.
- What is the best all-around Canon Lens?
The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II is the best Canon all-around lens in our opinion. It produces razor-sharp images besides offering a versatile focal length.
With this, we sum up our guide to the best Canon EF lenses. We are quite sure you would find the EF lens you are looking for after reading this guide. We also encourage you to mention any other good EF lens you think deserves a place in this list.