Best Canon EF lenses to buy in 2021

December 3, 2021

Amateur Photographer recently rounded up a list of the best Nikon lenses to buy and now we’ve found the best Canon EF / EF-S lenses for Canon EOS DSLRs you can get your hands on. 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. EF-S lenses are designed for APS-C cameras, such as the Canon EOS 90D, and a 1.6x crop factor is applied.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM

Best Canon EF-S lenses: Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM

Price: £219.99

If you’re after a compact wideangle zoom for your APS-C DSLR, this is a fine example to consider. It pairs up particularly nicely with entry-level models such as the EOS 1300D and EOS 200D, 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 owning an optic that’s better suited to containing more of what’s around you in the frame. It’s great for landscapes, interiors and architecture.

Best Canon lenses: Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM

Price: £379.99 (used)

If you own a Canon APS-C DSLR and like the sound of photographing objects at true life-size (1:1), you’ll want to add a dedicated macro lens to your arsenal. Equivalent to 96mm in the 35mm format, this dedicated macro lens will enable you to capture stunning close-ups, thanks to its 20cm minimum focus distance. The inclusion of Canon’s Ultra Sonic Motor (USM) means it can focus silently on subjects, and with Super Spectra coatings to suppress ghosting and flare, in addition to full-time manual focus override, it’s not short of features for under £400. What’s more, it doubles up as an effective portrait lens and creates beautiful background blur behind subjects when it’s used at its maximum aperture. All in all, it’s an excellent dual-purpose optic for Canon APS-C users who want a lens that’ll last a lifetime with due care.

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

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

Price: £829.99

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.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

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

Price: £1839

As well as developing the new BR 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.

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

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

Best Canon lenses: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

Price: £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.

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

Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM

Best Canon lenses: Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM

Price: £1,489

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. If it’s anywhere near as good as our first impressions suggest, this is going to be an extremely popular lens with Canon full-frame users.

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

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

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

Price: £519.99

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.

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

Canon EF-S 24mm f2.8 STM

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

Price: £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.

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

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM

Best Canon lenses: Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM

Price: £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.

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

Canon EF 17-35mm f2.8L USM

Best Canon EF wide-angle lens: Canon EF 17-35mm f/2.8L

Price: from £300 (used)

The Canon EF 17-35mm F/2.8L USM lens may be one of the older lenses on this list, but the lens, with the professional “L” designation is designed to survive. Andy Blackmore is a fan of the lens, having used the lens on assignment in constant dust in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you’re looking for a newer version, then the Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8L III is the latest version, but with a price of £2199, you may also want to look at the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM, which is priced at £999, and benefits from image stabilisation.

Read the Canon EF 17-35mm f/2.8L USM field test

13 issues for £13 - don't miss out!

Subscribe to Amateur Photographer magazine today and receive 13 issues for only £13 - saving 71%!