If you recently bought your first Canon DSLR, chances are you only have the kit lens that came with the camera. Even if you’ve been shooting for a while, you probably don’t have all the lenses you want. There are literally hundreds of lenses out there to choose from (even more if you consider third-party lenses). How do you decide which ones are worth the investment?
This short list contains only exceptional lenses and what I believe provide the most performance and quality for your money.
#1: 50mm f/1.4 USM
Every photographer should have at least one prime lens in their bag, and the 50mm f/1.4 is one of the most popular and versatile. It works on both crop and full-frame cameras. The wide aperture has beautiful creamy bokeh and it is excellent for low-light and indoor photography. It makes a great portrait lens, and on a crop body functions as a short telephoto lens.
Cheaper Alternative: 50mm f/1.8 II
If you’re looking for even more of a bargain, the older 50mm f/1.8 II lens is less than half the price and provides roughly the same image quality. The aperture is slightly smaller at 1.8 and it doesn’t have the silent USM motor, but it’s a great deal at just $125.
#2: 70-200mm f/4 USM
The 70-200 f/4 is an incredible lens. It will provide you with the same image quality that the 70-200mm f/2.8 does, but for around $1,000 less. The maximum aperture is slightly smaller, but that also means the lens is much smaller and lighter.
There are two different versions of this lens available. One comes with image stabilization and the other does not. Currently, both are around the same price, so I would definitely get the version with stabilization.
Using this lens on a crop sensor body gives a zoom range of approximately 115-320mm. It is also an L series lens, so it has professional glass and it’s weather sealed.
With image stabilization
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM
Without image stabilization
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM
Cheaper Alternative: 55-250 f/4-5.6 IS USM
The Canon 55-250 zoom lens is a cheaper, smaller and lighter alternative to the 70-200 lens. It won’t work on a full-frame body, but if you’re using a crop body it’s an excellent lens. The aperture is not as large, but it will provide you with images that are just as sharp. It also has a much wider zoom range. At one fourth the price, this lens is worth considering if you shoot with a crop body.
#3: 100mm f/2.8 macro USM
The Canon 100mm macro lens isn’t just for doing macro photography. It also doubles as a fantastic portrait lens. Macro lenses are known for their crisp sharp images and this lens is no exception.
#4: Tamron 28-75 f/2.8
I currently own the Nikon model of this lens. Canon makes an equivalent lens, the 24-70mm f/2.8 that costs $2,300. The Tamron lens produces images of near equal quality for less than one quarter the price of the Canon model.
If you have no budget limit, the Canon lens is great, but the Tamron is a much better value. I would choose the Tamron lens over the Canon any day.
#5: 24-105mm f/4 IS USM
The 24-105mm f/4 is one of the most popular lenses Canon makes. It’s another L series lens like the 70-200 f/4, so it has a professional build quality and weather sealing. It has a wide maximum aperture and image stabilization and a great set of focal lengths for general purpose photography. You can use this lens on both crop and full-frame cameras.
This lens is great for street photography, portraits, and an all-in-one walking around lens. If you only want to take one lens with you, this lens is it.