Skip to main content

Best Canon lenses 2019: 20 top lenses for Canon DSLRs

When you're using a full-frame Canon EOS camera such as the EOS 5DS and 5DS R, with their 50.6MP image sensors, the lenses you use with it need to be super sharp. even cameras like the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and the Canon EOS 6D Mark II have fairly high megapixel counts, at 30.4MP and 26.2MP respectively. However, there's more to a good lens than simply its ability to resolve fine detail.  

You also need to think about how the lens handles. Fast and accurate autofocusing is of high importance, helping you to catch those once-in-a-lifetime moments which could be anything from a fleeting expression in portraiture to a split-second record-breaking moment in action, sports and wildlife photography. If you need to shoot handheld, effective image stabilization is key.

Even image quality is about much more than sharpness. You also want good contrast, minimal distortion and color fringing, resistance to ghosting and flare and reasonably low vignetting (darkened image colours). Various aspects of image quality can sometimes be corrected in-camera - or even in post-processing - but getting it right via the lens in the first place is always preferred.

Unlike with the systems of some other manufacturers, including Nikon and Sony, you can’t mount a lens that’s designed for a Canon APS-C format body on a full-frame camera

Other facets of image quality are harder to quantify, like ‘bokeh’ (the attractiveness of defocused areas within images). It’s a critical aspect of performance for ‘fast’ lenses that enable a tight depth of field, as well as enabling you to retain moderate shutter speeds even under dull lighting without the need to really push your camera’s ISO setting.

Some aspects of image quality are a little harder to quantify precisely. The ‘bokeh’ (also known as the attractiveness of defocused areas within images), is a perfect example of this. 

Canon's lenses differ a little from some other manufacturers - including Nikon and Sony - in that you can't mount a lens designed for Canon APS-C format bodies on a full-frame camera. Forget about shooting in 'crop mode' - you'll need to invest in the right type of lenses, which is something to think about if you're upgrading from APS-C to full-frame.  Where Canon, Sigma and Tamron classify their APS-C format lenses as EF-S, DC and Di-II respectively, you’ll need Canon EF, Sigma DG or Tamron Di lenses for a full-frame body.

As with the APS-C offerings, it won't always be the case that Canon lenses do better than competitors from third-party manufacturers such as Tamron and Sigma. In fact, some of the latest lenses from independents are frankly superb, while also having the ability to undercut Canon glass in terms of price. 

Based on our extensive lab tests and ‘real-world’ testing, here’s our top-10 list of lenses that cover a wide range of popular categories, as well as great-value alternatives to suit tighter budgets.

Best Canon lenses for full-frame DSLRs in 2019

Wide-angle zoom: Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM | A

The king of super-wide viewing angles

Type: Zoom | Sensor size: Full-frame | Focal length: 12-24mm | Maximum aperture: f/4 | Image stabilizer: No | Weather seals: Yes | Minimum focus distance: 0.24m | Filter size: None | Dimensions: 102 x 132mm | Weight: 1,150g

Incredible viewing angle
Premium build and image quality
No filter attachment thread
No optical stabilizer

In terms of the widest angle zoom on the market, Canon's EF 11-24mm reigns supreme (unless you opt for fisheye). This Sigma comes so close that's unlikely you'll notice the difference, but it'll only set you back around half the price. This more recent 'Art' version of the classic Sigma 12-24mm II lens has upgrade optics, including an extra-large diameter aspherical element at the front, as well as five top-quality FLD (Fluorite-equivalent Low Dispersion) elements. There's fluorine coatings on the front and rear lens elements, while the mounting plate gains weather sealing. Meanwhile, autofocusing is swift and speedy, plus there's a constant f/4 aperture throughout the zoom range. Image quality is great with minimal distortion, top-notch sharpness.

Great-value option: Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

Not quite as ultra-wide as the Sigma option, but you'll save cash with this Tamron offering, while also gaining optical stabilization and a faster f/2.8 aperture. 

Wide-angle prime: Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM | A

The widest f/1.4 prime in Sigma’s current range of Art lenses

Type: Prime | Sensor size: Full-frame | Focal length: 20mm | Maximum aperture: f/1.4 | Image stabilizer: No | Weather seals: No | Minimum focus distance: 0.28m | Filter size: None | Dimensions: 91 x 130mm | Weight: 950g

Excellent build and image quality
Wide f/1.4 aperture rating
No filter attachment thread
No stabilization

Another option from Sigma's beautiful 'Art' range. These lenses deliver excellent image quality along with a fast aperture range. The 20mm f/1.4 option is the widest f/1.4 the company currently offers (though there is a 14mm f/1.8). It's ability to combine such a wide aperture with a short focal length makes it ideal for a number of different applications. You get no compromises with the design quality, while image quality is superb. The downsides? It's big and chunky, but it really delivers.

Great-value option: Irix 15mm f/2.4 Firefly

It lacks autofocus, but this is a fabulous manual-focus lens that’s beautifully built and a real joy to use. The ‘Blackstone’ edition adds a couple of extra luxuries, but the Firefly is unbeatable value.

Standard zoom: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

It’s the go-to standard zoom for professional photographers the world over

Type: Zoom | Sensor size: Full-frame | Focal length: 24-70mm | Maximum aperture: f/2.8 | Image stabilizer: No | Weather seals: Yes | Minimum focus distance: 0.38m | Filter size: 82mm | Dimensions: 89 x 113mm | Weight: 805g

Really robust build quality
Premium optical design
No image stabilizer
Expensive to buy

This range-topping L series lens is the go-to choice for an everyday lens for full-frame users. It features a strong build quality, plus a design which is engineered specifically to produce the highest possible image quality, well-rounded bokeh. It's also super-sharp and particularly rich in contrast. On the downside, unlike more recently launched competitors from Tamron and Sigma, the Canon version doesn't feature inbuilt image stabilization.

Great-value option: Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2

The second generation (G2) edition of Tamron’s 24-70mm lens gives you excellent image quality along with a tough build, excellent handling and image stabilization - the latter of which is missing from the Canon option.

Standard prime: Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD

Who says you don’t need stabilization in a standard prime?

Type: Prime | Sensor size: Full-frame | Focal length: 45mm | Maximum aperture: f/1.8 | Image stabilizer: Yes | Weather seals: Yes | Minimum focus distance: 0.29m | Filter size: 67mm | Dimensions: 80 x 92mm | Weight: 540g

Image stabilizer
Premium build and image quality
Expensive for an f/1.8 prime
Lacks the faster f/1.4 aperture

If you're looking for a high-quality standard prime for your full-frame Canon camera, you'll probably already be torn between the fairly basic EF 50mm f/1.4 USM and the super fast (but hugely expensive) 50mm f/1.2L USM. You might also think about the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM | A lens, but this Tamron is one which you should consider for everyday shooting. It's not quite as wide - aperture wise - but it's a much more manageable size and weight, and it even includes image stabilization. 

Great-value option: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

Both our real-world shooting experiences and lab tests prove that this humble, entry-level lens is pretty much equal to the much pricier f/1.4 version. For the price, you can't really go wrong.

Superzoom: Canon EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM

It’s a supersized superzoom, and definitely not a ‘travel lens’

Type: Zoom | Sensor size: Full-frame | Focal length: 28-300mm | Maximum aperture: f/3.5-5.6 | Image stabilizer: Yes | Weather seals: Yes | Minimum focus distance: 0.7m | Filter size: 77mm | Dimensions: 92 x 184mm | Weight: 1,670g

L-series build quality
Good all-round performance
Big and heavy
Not the best image quality

One of the classic reasons for buying a superzoom lens is for holiday and travel photography. The advantage being that you only need to carry one lens with you but still be prepared for lots of different situations. On the whole, those lenses are relatively compact and lightweight - in other words they're ideal for travelling. This is not one of those cases. This is Canon's only full-frame superzoom and to be blunt, it's built like a batteship. In other words, it's huge and it weighs 1.6kg - it's more than twice as heavy as Tamron's 28-300mm full-frame superzoom which competes with it.  However, the reason we've included this option is down to fantastic image quality - something which can often be lacking from a superzoom. The main reason to consider this lens is for event photography, where you might need to quickly switch between different focal lengths without the hassle of changing optics.

Great-value option: Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD

This superzoom is much more manageable to handle - not to mention much less expensive - than Canon's option. With pretty good overall image quality, the compromise here is with basic build quality and fairly average focusing.

Portrait prime: Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM

A classic portrait lens for full-frame owners

Type: Prime | Sensor size: Full-frame | Focal length: 85mm | Maximum aperture: f/1.4 | Image stabilizer: Yes | Weather seals: Yes | Minimum focus distance: 0.85m | Filter size: 77mm | Dimensions: 89 x 105mm | Weight: 950g

Spectacular image quality
Image stabilization
Stabilizer is clearly audible
Expensive

Many times, you'll find that you're forced to choose between a really fast aperture range, or image stabilization. However, with the 85mm f/1.4L IS USM you get both - along with excellent build quality, stunning image quality and top-notch all-round performance. Sharpness is superb right into the corners of the frame - even when shooting wide open. You also get high-quality bokeh, which is as smooth, creamy and rich as you'd like to hope for from a portrait lens. 

Read our in-depth Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM review

Great-value option: Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

On the other end of the budget scale, the 85mm f/1.8 option isn't the fastest lens, and it's not image stabilized either. However, if you're looking for something which combines good sharpness and high-contrast with soft and dreamy bokeh, it's a great value option.

Macro prime: Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Macro

This lens goes toe-to-toe with Canon's EF 100mm f/2.8 IS

Type: Prime | Sensor size: Full-frame | Focal length: 90mm | Maximum aperture: f/2.8 | Image stabilizer: Yes | Weather seals: Yes | Minimum focus distance: 0.3m | Filter size: 62mm | Dimensions: 79 x 117mm | Weight: 610g

Hybrid optical stabilization
Top-grade construction
Pricier than some competing lenses
No lens pouch or soft case supplied

The latest edition of this Tamron classic undercuts Canon’s range-topping EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM for price, yet goes toe-to-toe in terms of features and specifications. Indeed, the feature list includes a revolutionary hybrid optical stabilization system, which can counteract shift in the vertical and horizontal axes, as well as angular vibration or wobble – this was the Canon’s main claim to fame when it was launched, prior to the arrival of the Tamron competitor. The hybrid stabilization performs better in handheld close-up shooting, but you’ll still need a portrait lens for ultra-close macro shots. 

Great-value option: Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro

It lacks the Tamron’s hybrid stabilization system and weather seals, but has refined handling and delivers superb image quality.

Budget telephoto zoom: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM

An excellent option for budget-conscious wildlife and action shooters

Type: Zoom | Sensor size: Full-frame | Focal length: 70-300mm | Maximum aperture: f/4-5.6 | Image stabilizer: Yes | Weather seals: No | Minimum focus distance: 1.2m | Filter size: 67mm | Dimensions: 80 x 146mm | Weight: 710g

Upgraded build and performance
Neat LCD info display
Genuine ET-74B hood is expensive
Pricey compared to older model

Coming to the market in early 2017, the Mark II version of Canon's original 70-300mm IS USM lens is a great choice for anybody who needs a long focal length - such as wildlife, sports and axtion photographers. The speedy Nano USM autofocusing system is nice and quiet in operation, while the image stabilizer has a four-stop rating. Best of all, images are sharp, with great contrast - even when shooting with wide apertures in the mid-to-long section of the zoom range. For extra neatness, there's a useful digital display on the lens barrel. 

Great-value option: Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD

This lens is not only our top pick for APS-C format cameras thanks a great performance and an affordable price, this Tamron lens is also a great shout for full-frame bodies. It's not a whole let cheaper than the Canon lens - but you do get a lens hood included in the price.

Fast telephoto zoom: Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2

This ‘Generation 2’ lens is the cream of the crop

Type: Zoom | Sensor size: Full-frame | Focal length: 70-200mm | Maximum aperture: f/2.8 | Image stabilizer: Yes | Weather seals: Yes | Minimum focus distance: 0.95m | Filter size: 77mm | Dimensions: 88 x 194mm | Weight: 1,500g

Professional-standard build quality
Outstanding performance
Teleconverters pricier than Canon’s
Smoother zoom ring operation

The cream-coloring of Canon's telephoto lenses are more than just a style statement. They're also intended to reflect sunlight, minimizing the build-up of heat in large lenses that have a big surface area. Despite that logic, Tamron's 70-200mm uses a black construction, but it's still very good for shooting in a number of different shooting conditions. There's a solid metal barrel, along with a full complement of weather seals, plus flourine coatings to repel dust and dirt on the front element. In most areas, it's a match for the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, while in others it even beats it. Autofocusing is super swift and accurate, while image stabilization is the best in class for this type of lens - with 5-stop effectiveness as well three different modes to shoot from, including static, panning and an option which makes it easier to track erratic subjects. In terms of image quality, there's very little between this lens and Canon's own fine example - but this one is much cheaper.

Great-value option: Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM

If you have a tight budget, this Sigma is significantly less expensive than the Tamron listed above, while still delivering very pleasing image quality along with rapid autofocus performance. On the negative side, it's not weather-sealed, while the image stabilizer isn't as effective either.

Super-telephoto zoom: Canon EF 200-400mm f/4 L IS USM 1.4x Extender

This lens gives you extra long reach when you need it most

Type: Zoom | Sensor size: Full-frame | Focal length: 200-560mm | Maximum aperture: f/4 | Image stabilizer: Yes | Weather seals: Yes | Minimum focus distance: 2.0m | Filter size: 52mm (drop-in) | Dimensions: 128 x 366mm | Weight: 3,620g

Scarily sharp 
Built-in 1.4x teleconverter
Uncomfortable handheld shooting
It’s huge and heavy

This lens is just over half a decade old, but it's still a great option for those who need the long reach for subjects such as wildlife. The secret weapon here is a 1.4x teleconverter (Canon calls them 'extenders'.). You get 200-400mm at f/4, but if you need a bit of extra reach, you can flip a switch and go up to 560mm - but with a narrower f/5.6 aperture. Since this lens was launched, other competing models have been brought to the market, including from Sigma and Tamron who have 150-600mm optics which don't need an internal teleconverter. This Canon offering wins out however for razor-sharp image quality and great all-round performance. If money is no object, it's definitely the one you want - but don't forget to include some money for a sturdy monopod in your budget, since the lens weighs the best part of 4kg.

Great-value option: Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | S

This 'Sport' lens is seriously good, overtaking Sigma's 'Contemporary' version for image quality, overall performance and build quality. It's also almost a kilogram lighter than the Canon at just 2.86kg - and a heck of a lot easier on the wallet, too.