Best SLR Lenses of 2017


While SLRs and SLR lenses are the dinosaurs of the photo-gear world, 2017 has proved there’s no shortage of optical development for Canon and Nikon systems. Along with the expected updates from the two camera companies themselves, 2017 also saw a surge of releases from the likes of Sigma, Tamron, Voigtländer, and Zeiss, releasing lenses to entice and bring their systems up to professional expectations and desires.

Canon Shifts in Closer

A unique year of lens releases for Canon saw a thorough update to its line of specialized Tilt-Shift glass, a new highly anticipated portrait-length prime, and an inspired macro option for APS-C cameras. Looking at the tilt-shift lenses first, Canon has now brought its number of perspective and focus-control options to seven, and each of the focal lengths available has an L-series option. The three new choices released this year—the TS-E 50mm f/2.8L Macro, the TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro, and the TS-E 135mm f/4L Macro—all also hold the designation of being macro lenses with 1:2 maximum magnifications and, coupled with their long-for-a-tilt-shift focal lengths, are perfect for tabletop, product, and creative portrait photography applications. And as L-series optics, they all also sport an advanced optical design fit with low dispersion glass and Air Sphere and Subwavelength Coatings.

Canon TS-E 135mm f/4L Macro Tilt-Shift Lens

A more mainstream option, Canon also released the EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM; a short telephoto lens checking off both boxes for fast maximum aperture and image stabilization. The slightly long focal length makes this lens ideal for portraiture and its bright design affords great control over depth of field for selective focus control. While not as bright as its f/1.2 predecessor, the new f/1.4 version’s IS more than makes up for it by compensating for up to four stops of camera shake for sharper handheld photos. As an L-series lens, it, too, sports an advanced optical design with one aspherical element, an Air Sphere Coating, and protective fluorine-coated front and rear elements.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM Lens

Lastly, showing some love to the APS-C crowd, Canon also came out with the EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM. Distinguishing itself from nearly any other lens besides Canon’s own EF-M 28mm f/3.5 mirrorless lens, this normal-length prime features a built-in Macro Lite LED on the front to help illuminate close-up subjects when working at the 5.1" minimum focusing distance with a 1:1 maximum magnification.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens

Nikon Goes Wide, Wider, Widest…Then Long

Shadowed by its impressive D850 release, Nikon also announced a quartet of especially inspiring lenses this year, ranging from ultra, ultra-wide to a versatile telephoto zoom. Widest first—in the middle of 2017, Nikon released the AF-S Fisheye NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED, which is a fisheye zoom that, for FX sensors, has a circular field of view at the wide end and transitions to full-frame coverage with a 175° angle of view at the 15mm position. Characterized by its ability to exaggerate perspective and distort subjects, this optic has unique versatility in how it can produce a variety of ultra-wide looks within one lens.

Nikon AF-S Fisheye NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED Lens

Narrowing a bit, Nikon added a fast, premium wide-angle prime to its Gold Ring series with the AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.4E ED lens. This sophisticated optic uses several extra-low dispersion and aspherical elements to realize a well-corrected image, which pairs with the bright f/1.4 maximum aperture for depth-of-field control and low-light performance.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.4E ED Lens

Catering to DX users, a versatile wide-angle zoom was released with the AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR lens. Covering a useful zoom range well-suited to landscape and interior shooting, this lens also incorporates Nikon’s relatively new pulse stepping motor system for fast, smooth, and near-silent autofocus performance that is ideal for videographers, as well as photographers. Vibration Reduction image stabilization is also featured to help minimize the appearance of camera shake for sharper handheld shooting.

Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR Lens

Now, going long, Nikon also released its first FX-format lens with the pulse stepping motor: the AF-P NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR. This flexible telephoto zoom uses one extra-low dispersion element to control color fringing and chromatic aberrations throughout the zoom range and features Vibration Reduction to minimize the effects of camera shake. Additionally, this lens is weather-sealed for use in harsh weather.

Nikon AF-P NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR Lens

Manual Focus is Still Cool

Proving that manual focus lenses are still covetable, Zeiss continued to expand its Milvus series in 2017 with a pair of exceptional wide-angle primes. In the middle of the year, the company began with one of the most popular focal lengths—the Milvus 35mm f/1.4, available for Canon EF and Nikon F. This new high-speed general wide-angle option doesn’t skimp on optical attributes, with its inclusion of five low dispersion elements and one aspherical element, as well as the renowned Zeiss T* anti-reflective coating. Like other Milvus lenses, this quality manual focus lens has a robust all-metal design, large rubber focus ring, weather sealing, and a manual aperture ring that can be de-clicked on the Nikon version. Later in the year, Zeiss went a bit wider with the Milvus 25mm f/1.4, which is also available in Canon EF and Nikon F. Similarly, this premium fast wide-angle uses seven low dispersion and two aspherical elements, along with the T* coating to produce well-corrected imagery and minimal distortion. It also uses the same awesome physical design with an all-metal build, rubberized focus ring, and shapely contouring to benefit handling.

Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4 ZE Lens for Canon EF

With a decidedly more retro inspiration than Zeiss, Voigtländer also kept its manual focus offerings current with the Ultron 40mm f/2 SL IIS Aspherical, which is only available in Nikon F mount. The physical profile of this lens recalls vintage designs with its scalloped manual focus ring; however, the incorporation of a CPU gives it contemporary cred for camera-based control. In terms of optical qualities, a double-gauss design is used with aspherical and ultra-high refractive index glass for sharp and clear imagery. And, most notably, Voigtländer remains de rigueur with its penchant for unique focal lengths with this 40mm f/2 lens that hits the sweet spot in terms of being not too wide nor too long.

Voigtländer Ultron 40mm f/2 SL IIS Aspherical Lens for Nikon F

Sigma’s All About Being Artsy-Craftsy

Sigma has wowed many in recent years with its top-of-the-line Art series of lenses, which are known for their optical greatness, fast maximum apertures, and range of useful focal lengths. In 2017, Sigma added three more lenses to this line with an ultra-wide, a short-telephoto, and a workhorse zoom. The widest prime in the series is the new 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art, available for Canon EF, Nikon F, and Sigma SA. This ultra-wide uses a variety of low dispersion and aspherical glass to control the distortion from such a wide focal length, and its bright f/1.8 maximum aperture makes it an ideal choice for astrophotography applications. The other new prime is the 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art, again available for Canon EF, Nikon F, and Sigma SA. This unique lens blends the desirable short-telephoto length with a relatively ultra-bright f/1.8 maximum aperture to create a desirable portrait and headshot lens, which is further refined using low dispersion glass and Super Multi-Layer Coating for excellent sharpness and contrast. The third Art lens of the year is Sigma’s own 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art, for Canon EF, Nikon F, and Sigma SA. Poised to take a stab at this proven zoom design, Sigma uses a sophisticated optical design along with an Optical Stabilization image stabilization system to render sharp imagery when working in difficult lighting conditions.

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens for Canon EF

Aside from the trifecta of new Art lenses, Sigma also released the more modest but incredibly versatile 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens for Canon EF, Nikon F, and Sigma SA. This telephoto zoom’s main feature is its ability to fit such a zoom range into a compact and lightweight design, making for a perfect lens for travel and hiking. Low dispersion glass elements make an appearance in this lens, too, as well as an Optical Stabilizer to steady your shots and a Hyper Sonic Motor for quick and quiet autofocus performance.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens for Canon EF

Tamron Goes Zoom Zoom

After the previous two years where Tamron focused on developing its burgeoning SP lens line with high-quality primes, 2017 saw the manufacturer focus exclusively on zoom lenses. For the performance-oriented SP series, two workhorse lenses were released. Longest first this time—early in the year, Tamron released the SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2, available for Canon EF and Nikon F. Popular for events shooters, sports, and portraiture, this second-generation tele-zoom features an improved optical design with lots of low dispersion glass along with updated BBAR and eBAND coatings for greater clarity. VC image stabilization compensates for camera shake and a USD motor delivers quick, quiet, and precise AF.

Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens for Nikon F

The perfect complement to the 70-200, Tamron also released the SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2, in Canon EF and Nikon F flavors. Like the 70-200, this 24-70 received an updated optical layout with more special glass types than not, along with the same BBAR and eBAND coatings. VC image stabilization and USD autofocus are featured here, too, along with a weather-sealed design for working in inclement conditions.

Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens for Canon EF

Outside of the SP series, Tamron was still quite active with three notable releases this year, including two specifically for APS-C/DX shooters. The 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD, for Canon EF and Nikon F, is a compact wide-angle zoom using an advanced optical design to limit distortion and realize a high degree of sharpness. While not an SP lens, per se, this lens does borrow much of the top tier technology with the use of a BBAR coating to reduce lens flare, VC image stabilization to control camera shake, and a weather-resistant design.

Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD Lens for Nikon F

A remarkable lens, simply due to its awesome 22.2x zoom magnification, the 18-400mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD is a true all-in-one lens for Canon EF and Nikon F. Perfect for that epic vacation you’re planning, this lens encompasses everything from wide-angle to super-telephoto, and features VC image stabilization to help reduce the appearance of camera shake throughout the zoom range. It’s weather-sealed, too, and has an HLD motor for quick and quiet autofocus that suits photo and video applications.

Tamron 18-400mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD Lens for Canon EF

Finally, for the full-frame shooters, Tamron also announced the 100-400 f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD, again for Canon EF and Nikon F. The impressive zoom spans a useful range of focal lengths from portrait length to super telephoto, and three low dispersion elements help maintain sharpness and clarity through that range. Like other new Tamron lenses, this 100-400 also features VC image stabilization, a USD AF motor, and has a weather-sealed design.

Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens for Nikon F

Which lenses from this year made you the most excited? Let us know in the Comments section, below!

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I absolutely loved this - Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens for Nikon F. Can you tell us more about this? I am looking to get a comfortable but wide/long distance lense.

You have selected almost every new lens from Nikon/Canon/Sigma/Tamron, without saying anything like: SHARP or Exexcent.

Thanks for the, "General Sales Talk."

Agreed, No sort of real review of strengths or flaws and those lens are the newest in each of the brand line up...sounds like a sales pitch to me

The Tamrons are sharp

Compared to what?  Are ALL of them sharp? Which ones are sharp(est). VAGUE.
Are all Tamrons sharper than Nikons and Canons, Etc. HUH?

"My car is very fast", means WHAT? Very cool... or Canon's, "Very bright design", where it has the same window        to see the distance, like almost every other lens of its kind. Woooopeee.

By the way, I have a Nikon D750 with a Zeiss 21mm 2.8 Distagon. What is SHARPER than that?

I will answer myself: A D850.

I would like to hear from you.

Who writes this "Sales Talk", without any really important information, like, with DSLRs, Etc.: How many shots will the shutter make before it "Breaks Down": 150,000x, 200,000x, 400,000x?

How large is each pixel? And, how many people out there know what I am talking about.