Best EF-mount zoom lenses for Canon DSLRs
July 7, 2022
Zoom lenses are great for giving you maximum flexibility when it comes to shooting at different focal lengths, and here you’ll find our recommendations for the Best EF-mount zoom lenses for Canon.
There can be some compromise though – while prime (fixed focal length) lenses tend to be able to offer a super-wide aperture (f/1.8 or wider), most zoom lenses will give you a smaller aperture.
How to choose a zoom lens
When choosing a zoom lens, you’ll need to consider first what type of Canon DSLR camera you’ve got.
With Canon cameras, this crop factor equates to 1.6x the length written on the lens.
That means, for example, the equivalent focal length of the standard 18-55mm kit lens supplied with many entry-level APS-C format cameras is actually giving you a 28-88mm focal length range.
What type of zoom?
Next, think about what kind of zoom lens you want.
For this article, we have separated the options into standard and telephoto zoom lenses.
Standard zooms are great as ‘everyday’ options, giving you a range from wide-angle to short telephoto, and are useful for a wide range of situations.
On the other hand, telephoto lenses are great for sports, action, or wildlife – basically for any subject where you can’t get particularly close to the subject.
So, without further ado, here are our picks for the current Best EF-mount Zoom Lenses for Canon DSLRs…
Best Standard EF-mount Zoom Lenses for Canon DSLRs
Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4
For: APS-C | Equivalent focal length: 27.2-112mm | Street Price: £349
This good value standard zoom lens is designed for APS-C sensor cameras, and gives you a flexible range to work with. It would serve well as a ‘walk around’ lens, with the wide apertures available at each end of the optic good for creating shallow depth of field effects, or shooting in low light. The wide angle end of the lens is ideal for landscapes, while the mid-ranges could work well for street photography and portraits. At the maximum focal length, the lens is ideal for still life, portraits and picking out details.
Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM
For: APS-C | Equivalent focal length: 27.2-88mm | Street Price: £859
The constant f/2.8 maximum aperture of this lens makes it appealing for APS-C users looking for a high-quality walk around lens. It closely matches the classic 24-70mm focal length usually preferred by full-frame shooters. Great for shooting in low light, the maximum wide aperture is joined by a 3-stop image stabilisation (IS) system.
Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC
For: APS-C | Equivalent focal length: 28.8mm-56mm | Street Price: £687
It’s extremely unusual for a zoom lens to feature a super-wide aperture like f/1.8, so this lens is great news for low-light photographers who can enjoy the benefits of shooting at wide apertures, without having to carry two to three prime lenses. With this lens you get the classic 28mm, 35mm and 50mm focal lengths in one package, saving you time and hassle when it comes to switching between different optics. It would also make for a great ‘walk around’ lens for general use, if you don’t need to get too close to your subject.
For: Full-frame | Street Price: £1,389
Falling within Canon’s professional ‘L’ series of lenses, the 24-105mm gives you a lot of flexibility in one package. It’s a great ‘walk around’ lens for full-frame cameras, as well as being useful for professionals shooting subjects such as wedding and events. At the wide-angle end of the lens, you have a focal length suitable for landscapes and so on, while at the 105mm end, portraits, still life and more is within reach. On the downside, the maximum constant aperture of f/4 is not perfectly suited to low-light photography, however, the IS (image stabilisation) does help. Still, if you mainly shoot in good light and want the added reach that the 105mm gives you, it might be a better choice than Canon’s other standard telephoto option.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
For: Full-frame | Street Price: £1,999
Here we have the best compromise for full-frame shooters when it comes to flexibility of focal length and wide aperture. Canon also has a 24-70mm f/4 lens, which is available for less than half the price of the f/2.8 version, which is something to consider if you don’t often shoot in low light. The 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM is favoured by professionals and enthusiasts alike, giving you a great option for landscapes, portraits and subjects in between.
Best Telephoto EF-mount Zoom Lenses for Canon DSLRs
Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM A
For: APS-C | Equivalent focal length: 80-160mm | Street price: £949
This lens is from Sigma’s superb ‘Art’ lens category. That means you get super-fine image quality from this telephoto lens, which covers a range of classic focal lengths in one package. What’s more, you get a super wide aperture – which, again, is very unusual for a zoom lens, especially a telephoto zoom. It’s quite a big lens, but it certainly takes up less room in your bag than three equivalent prime lenses.
For: Full-frame | Street price: £2,109
If you need to get closer to the action than a standard zoom lens offers, then something offering a range from 70-200mm is ideal. At the wider end of the lens, you can still use it for relatively close-up work, such as portraits. For that reason, it’s also favoured by events and wedding photographers. The maximum wide aperture throughout the lens range makes it ideal for low light shooting, or subjects such as sport. It’s designed for full-frame cameras, but you could conceivably use it on some APS-C cameras – you may want to use it with the larger models, such as the Canon EOS 7D Mark II though, as the 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM is a large lens that is likely to unbalance an entry-level model.
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM
For: Full-frame | Street Price: £519
If you can’t quite stretch to the high asking price of the 70-200mm f/2.8L lens, there is another alternative. The 70-200mm f/4 still falls into Canon’s “professional” L-series of lenses, but as a trade-off you get a narrower maximum aperture. An aperture of f/4 is still wide enough for many subjects, though super low light shooting might present a bit of a struggle.
For: Full-frame | Street Price: £1,199
Using a third-party lens is a great way to save money when compared to Canon’s proprietary optics. It doesn’t have to mean compromising on image quality either, as this second generation lens from Tamron has proved. Here we’ve got a 4-stop, three-mode image stabilisation (IS) system, which helps to deliver excellent image quality. You get a constant maximum aperture of f/2.8 throughout the zoom range, which makes it great for low-light shooting, too.
For: Full-frame | Price: £599
With the EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM, Canon has made a significant and much-needed update to its mid-range ‘telezoom’. Most importantly, it has vastly improved the autofocus compared to the previous version, and up-rated the image stabilisation too. This means that it will deliver more ‘keepers’, either when shooting moving subjects, or hand-held in marginal light. This, in turn, means you can get the most from the lens’ very decent optics. It also offers good value for money, however, if you want a lens hood, this is an optional extra.
Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary
For: Full-frame | Street Price: £699
This zoom gives you a long focal length which makes it great for far-off subjects, such as sports, action and wildlife. The wider angle also makes it suitable for weddings, events and some portraits. With optical image stabilisation, a nine-bladed diaphragm, a large rubberised zoom ring and zoom lock that engages at 100mm, it comes with all the features you’d look for in a high-quality tele zoom. It offers a strong optical performance across a good telephoto range at a comparatively affordable price.