Photography / Buying Guide

Best of 2016: Canon Lenses

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Canon already has quite the lineup of lenses, so the focus this year on upgrades and refreshes only ensures that its lenses stay top notch as digital technology rapidly progresses. Canon didn’t just focus on DSLR options this year—the company also released a couple of EF-M options for its ever-expanding mirrorless system. Here’s a closer look at what happened in 2016.

Macro for Mirrorless

A completely new creation from Canon, in more ways than one, is the EF-M 28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM for the EOS M-series of mirrorless cameras. The headline-grabbing feature of this lens is the built-in Macro Lite LEDs, which can illuminate the small subjects you are capturing with the Super Macro setting. This retractable lens is also quite small, keeping with the mirrorless theme, and offers a notable maximum magnification of 1.2x. Also, it has a 35mm equivalent focal length of 44.8mm and features an STM stepping motor AF system for stills and video, as well as Hybrid IS stabilization.

Canon EF-M 28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM Lens

Everyday Zooms for APS-C Cameras

Many shooters just want one lens that can do it all, and ideally without breaking your back. Canon definitely feels the need for quality wide-angle to telephoto zooms with the release of an EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM for APS-C DSLRs and an EF-M 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM for mirrorless.

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens
Canon EF-M 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM Lens

The EF-S 18-135mm is notable for its use of a NANO USM autofocus system, which blends the best of USM and STM technologies for a speedy, accurate, smooth, and quiet focus motor that works well for stills and video. The 28.8-216mm equivalent lens also offers a new trick—compatibility with the PZ-E1 Power Zoom Adapter, providing smooth control over zooming of the camera, something that will appeal to videographers. It is a very nice lens, optically, using UD and aspherical elements to manage aberrations, as well as incorporating an Image Stabilizer and Dynamic IS for minimizing camera shake.

Canon PZ-E1 Power Zoom Adapter

Mirrorless shooters clamoring for an all-in-one option should be pleased with the 28.8-240mm equivalent zoom range of the EF-M 18-150mm. This compact lens has all the features you have come to expect, including an STM AF motor and an Optical Image Stabilizer. If you happen to pick up the EOS M5 with this lens, you get an added trick with advanced panning stabilization and Combination IS which blends camera-based and lens-based IS for added stability.

The L-Series Upgrades

A pair of L-series lens updates accompanied the release of the 5D Mark IV, which are destined to become new favorites in Canons lineup.

First, we have an upgrade of perhaps the most popular Canon zoom for the EOS system, the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM. This zoom is loved for its versatile range, constant f/4 aperture, and excellent optical quality. This version does not disappoint, utilizing a brand new optical design with four GMo aspherical elements and an Air Sphere Coating that all help to improve overall quality and reduce vignetting. It also incorporates a ring-type Ultrasonic Motor (USM) and optical image stabilization to ensure tack-sharp imagery, and has a rounded 10-blade diaphragm.

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

Second, is a third version of the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM lens. Each iteration of this focal length has improved dramatically upon the last, with this model promising increased sharpness in the outer edges and corners, as well as reduced vignetting, two notable advancements for a workhorse wide-angle zoom. The lens uses two large-diameter GMo dual-surface aspherical elements, one ground aspherical element, and two UD elements to combat distortion and aberrations. Also, it has Subwavelength, Air Sphere, and Fluorine coatings to further optimize performance. As befitting an L-series lens, it has a ring-type USM motor and dust- and weather-resistant construction.

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens

Designed for Digital, a Telephoto Zoom with LCD Screen

Another NANO USM-equipped zoom released this year was the full-frame compatible EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM. The advanced AF system improves performance at longer telephoto ranges, making it easier to capture distant wildlife or action. The interesting part of this lens has to be its digital Lens Information Display, which clearly shows focus distance, focal length, and Image Stabilizer amount. It is a versatile and relatively compact option for those looking to get into the telephoto game, thanks to its enhanced image quality and built-in Image Stabilizer system.

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

Discussion 24

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Hello, I currently own a EOS 700D and a EFS 17-55mm 2.8. I use my camera to take picutes of my family's travels and adventures. I love the quality of the images I get from the 15-55 lens, but I find the 17-55 zoom very limitating. I need a street lens or 'all-purpose lens' (or as close as possible) that's not so big/ heavy, so I can carried with me at all times. It doesn't have to be in this list or a Canon lens even.

Thank you in advancse for you help!

I am looking for the ideal Canon lense for Solo Guitar Concert Recitals in low light for the Canon EOS 80 mounted on a tripod . Can someone  Can someone advise on this?.

Hi Gordon,

This really depends a lot on how far away you are and if you will ever need to adjust your shot. A good overall lens for this is the 50mm f/1.8 STM, which is relatively fast, provides a 75mm equivalent focal length, and has an STM motor for video. If you need a zoom, I would recommend the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 (APS-C only) or the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L (full-frame). These are relatively fast lenses that will help in low light. But, if you need to shoot from a further distance you should also consider a 70-200mm f/2.8. Looking at third-party lenses, I would advise you look at the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 and 50-100mm f/1.8 lenses which are both fast and provide notable zoom ranges. Hope this helps! You will need to pick something based on exactly what you need for your recitals.

Going to Alaska and looking for a good all around wide angle zoom lens.  I have a Rebel EOS SL-1.  Canon suggested the 24-105 f/4L Is USM or 24-105 f/4L IS II USM $999.00 and $1099.00 respectively.  What about the 17-55 f/2.8?!? 

Hi Mike,

If you want an all-around zoom, the 17-55mm f/2.8 is a great choice, though it doesn't have as great of a reach as those other options. If you want just a wide-angle zoom on the other hand I would advise the EF-S 10-18mm, which would be a nice lightweight option for you. Depending on what you shoot you may want some extra zoom however and will likely want to consider more options for this, perhaps including one of Canon's 18-135mm options.

Hi Mike- 

 I believe you have been well advised, Mike.  The 17-55 just does not offer enough "reach" for a trip to Alaska. You might want to consider a zoom telephoto as well:

This EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Lens from Canon offers high resolution, superb contrast, neutral color balance, and Canon's original built-in Optical Image Stabilization for compensation against blur caused by camera movement.

High zoom magnification is achieved by means of a 6-group configuration with 5 movable groups. Fluorite and Super UD glass reduce secondary spectrum for superb color rendition. Autofocus is fast and silent with Canon's ring Ultrasonic Autofocus Motor (USM), and AF speed is further enhanced through an advanced, lightweight rear focusing design that incorporates a floating element for consistent image quality at all focusing distances from 5.9' to infinity.

This dual-mode image stabilizer is suitable for panning shots as well as stationary subjects. With full-time manual focus, one-touch zooming with a wide grip, a focus range limiter and a special ring that permits adjustment of zooming tension, this is a lens that's extremely easy to use, and ideal for a wide variety of applications including nature, wildlife, sports, and documentary photography.  

In any case, especially with this zoom telephoto lens, be sure to pack and use a tripod.

Hi, 

I have a Canon T4i and a 18-135mm Lens. I love the versatility of that lens, but i wanna upgrade the quality of the photo that I get. Should I buy a new lens or a new DSLR camera? 

Hi JM,

Definitely go for a new lens. The most common first choice is the 50mm f/1.8 due to its affordability and great quality. It has an 80mm equivalent focal length on your camera, which is great for portraits. Another option is the EF-S 24mm f/2.8 which is extremely tiny and still very good and affordable, this will be a wider 38mm equivalent, which most will probably find more useful in day-to-day shooting. Also, lenses will have more of an impact on your photos than a new camera will, and you can use the lens on any future cameras you get.

I need a good telephoto for landscape and wildlife video using Canon 7D markll. The lens should be able to focus on wildlife flying, swimming or simply in spot. And I would like some versatility for landscape photography. Can you suggsest a lens to meet my needs? 

Hi Dee - 

Of the lenses described here,  go with the  EF-S 18-135mm,  notable for its use of a NANO USM autofocus system, which blends the best of USM and STM technologies for a speedy, accurate, smooth, and quiet focus motor that works well for stills and video. The 28.8-216mm equivalent lens also offers a new trick—compatibility with the PZ-E1 Power Zoom Adapter, providing smooth control over zooming of the camera, something that will appeal to videographers. It is a very nice lens, optically, using UD and aspherical elements to manage aberrations, as well as incorporating an Image Stabilizer and Dynamic IS for minimizing camera shake.

Hi Dee,

If you are interested in lenses not listed here I would recommend almost any of the Canon 70-200mm lenses, depending on your budget. The top of the line f/2.8 IS model is the best, easily, but if you want smaller the f/4 IS is very good. There are also non-IS versions, but I wouldn't recommend not having IS for wildlife. If you want longer then Canon's EF 100-400mm may do the trick, either version I or version II (II is obviously better but more expensive). If those aren't in your price range, Canon and third-party brands offer numerous other telephoto zooms ranging well past 200mm and I would recommend you check those out.

I finaly bought the 100 - 400mm and though it was expensive I absolutely love it for wildlife. I am not a pro so it was hard to justify the price but the lens makes me feel like I could go pro. Very happy I bought this lens :)

I have the ef-s 18-135 mentioned above and the f4 70 200 non-is. I use both with the 7d Ii for sports. The f4 70-200 works much better with the 7d ii AF system. I love this relatively in expensive version of the70-200 Canon lense.

I have the ef-s 18-135 mentioned above and the f4 70 200 non-is. I use both with the 7d Ii for sports. The f4 70-200 works much better with the 7d ii AF system. I love this relatively in expensive version of the70-200 Canon lense.

Mke D, JM & Dee. A trip to Alaska or any travel trip where you want to enjoy a wide range of 'nature', demands a lens with large expandable zoom lens. I had the Canon 18-135 when I bought the 7D (one of first ones made and is still my primary body for predominantly action.) 18-135 was a very nice versatile lens but I always longed for the 18-200 which I got when I replaced the 30D with a new 60D as my back up camera. I love the Canon 18-200 as a great all around very versatile lens and have recommended it to many photographers during the past few years. When in a museum or in tight locations, including doing people 'shots', the 18 to 24 area of the 18-200 lens is very valuable. I would part with my f2.8 24-70L before I would part with the 18-200.

I am not a fan of having to constantly change a lens.

My primary workhorse is the Canon 28-300. Great built lens but most would complain it is too heavy.

Actually the Canon 100-400 is lighter and I enjoy this as my second lens on travel trips. I have amazing photos with it and the 7D in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Great combination spending about four hours one day photographing the pelicans, who at times were literally only a few feet away. This 100-400 was still very appropriate for those 'in your face pelican detailed' photos. Something a 50mm or 16-35 or the standard 18-55 or any of those short lens would never do. 

Good morning sir or ma'am,

I wanted to come in today sometime after 10am to buy a SD, card, and possibly a new lens for my old Canon Camera... and was curious to know how much are you lenses from lowest to highest range. Thanks! 

We have lenses for Canon cameras in all price ranges.  All prices would be on our site, and should be the same in the store. 

I would be interested to know when the new CAF 200-600 IS lens is going to be released in 2017? It will retail for around $1995USD.

Hi JeffinMass,

As of right now, that lens is still just a rumor so we will have to wait and see what happens..

24-70 thoughts please

Hi Erika,

Canon's current 24-70s were both released a few years back which is why they didn't make this list of new lenses for 2016. But, they are stills both superb options. The f/2.8L version II is one of the best and most popular lenses in Canon's lineup for good reason, but if you need something smaller or more affordable, the f/4L is also very good, though at the cost of one stop of light.

I agree. The CAF 24-70 2.8L is the best lens out there. You can purcahse them pre-owned and save yourself some hard earned money. It is ideal for those low lighting situations we always seem to get in to.

Regarding the 15 - 45mm lens:

"glass-molded and precision-molded aspherical elements......"

What are "precision-molded" elements? Plastic molded? In the past Canon noted whether a lens contained a ground glass, replica or glass molded aspheric element. I thought plastic molded were only in point and shoot.

Precision molded elements are typically glass but could be other materials also.  In this day and age it is not uncommon for lens manufacturers to employ optical designs using materials other than glass for various technical reasons, (weight, ability to transmit light and or to keep the size small or cost to name a few).  In this case Canon has not published the make up of each element for us to confirm the makeup. 

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