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Popular Walkaround Lenses for Canon D-SLRs

Updated on November 24, 2012

"...been photographing seriously since 2010, and run a boutique media business, Shutterwords, with my partner," Shane <theblackedition>

‘Walkaround lenses’ are somewhat casually categorized, as a variety of lenses can fall into such a bracket. Most times, all standard zooms and some standard primes are used heavily by photographers that they gain the title of 'walkaround lens'.

Your most common subject matter and style of photography can directly affect the type of lens that you need on your D-SLR most of the time. If you’re a new photographer on the scene and you are not sure about what lens you need to get for your D-SLR then a general purpose lens maybe a good starter.

Walkaround lenses range from cheap to expensive, but just because a lens maybe cheap doesn’t mean the image quality it gives is poor. This is why it is good to explore your options when seeking a lens that you’ll use over 70% of the time on your camera body that suits both your needs and budget. It’s important that you are happy with your walkaround lens -- in fact it’s important that you LOVE your walkaround lens.

There are several lenses on the market that a number of photographers of various levels praise. By sifting through a few of these lenses along with links to more in-depth reviews, you may be able to make a more informed choice for your lens purchase.

Always keep in mind the kind of D-SLR that you are seeking a walkaround lens for, whether Full Frame as in the EOS 5D and 1D series or APS-C cameras which includes all the other EOS D-SLRs.

Canon Standard Zoom Lenses for APS-C
EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM
EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM
EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM
EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II
EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM
EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

Popular Walkaround Lenses for Entry Level and Prosumer Canon D-SLRs

As you can see, most of these lenses have variable apertures. Most of them are generally sold as kit lenses. They are economical, have a medium quaility build and suit non-specific purposes.

They are specially designed for APS-C (crop sensor) Canon D-SLRs which have a magnification factor of 1.6. Therefore the focal range limit of each lens will have to be multiplied by 1.6 to obtain the effective focal length. This variable aperture feature is a limitation, as at longer focal lengths the aperture will automatically rise to a larger value. The lens will get 'slower' at longer focal lengths and therefore will not perform as well in low light situations as what the 17-55mm f/2.8 lens can. But if it's not that important to you for your lens to have a constant aperture, then you can always use a flashgun or increase ISO to help you get shots in low light.

The most popular of these lenses is arguably the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 which is probably because it's the cheapest. It's a decent starter lens that has wide angle to medium telephoto capabilities, but generally new photographers want a bit more range. This is why the 55-200mm f/3.5-5.6 is also a popular lens, because even though it's not a standard zoom but rather a telephoto zoom, it completes the focal length range from wide angle to telephoto. Photographers who just want one lens to do any and everything particularly choose the 18-200mm lens or if the full telephoto range is not a big deal, then the 18-135mm fits the need.

Apart from these Canon lenses, there are Third Party alternatives which are highly praised include the: Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4, Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 and the Tamron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3.

Canon Standard Zoom Lenses for FF
EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM
EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

Popular Walkaround Lenses for Professional Full Frame (FF) Canon D-SLRs

Full frame cameras have the advantage of producing a one-to-one ratio between the actual focal length of lenses and the image produced. Lenses particularly designed for full frame cameras are at the higher end. After all, this which we speak of is professional grade. As for multi-purpose zoom lenses, there aren't many Canon branded models, but for the most part they are well built with great optics and a constant aperture throughout all focal lengths.

Only 3 standard zooms are specially made by Canon for full frame models, and the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM is the most popular of them all. This lens is used as a primary lens by a number of photographers. It's not uncommon to hear photographers state that they have this lens on their camera body for "...90% of the time!". For photographers who wish 'go a bit wider', the choice of the very popular 16-35mm f/2.8 wide angle lens is available.

Other 'unconventional' primary lenses to walkaround with include primes such as the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 or the Canon 40mm f/2.8 (pancake).

For reviews about lenses listed and discussed in this post and more see:

Choosing Your Walkaround Lens

There's no hard and fast rule to dictate what your walkaround lens should be. Photographers may opt for a prime, telephoto zoom or even a tilt shift lens for their walkaround lens. The real deal comes down to what your shooting style is, the situations that you shoot in and the kind of camera you use. If you're using a APS-C D-SLR, then take note in choosing a lens that is designed with the crop factor magnification in mind. If you will do a lot of shooting in low light, then it may suit you to get a wide aperture lens which is constant throughout the entire range such as the EF-S 17-85 f/2.8 lens.

But if you’re just starting out in D-SLR photography and want just one lens, the most reasonable advice would be to use a kit lens preferably one with a bit more range such as the 18-135mm or the 18-200mm.

Lenses can get rather bulky and heavy, and a walkaround lens ought to be the opposite of that. After all, this is a lens that you’ll have attached to your camera carrying around for most of the time you are shooting -- a lens that is comfortable, versatile and meets your general shooting needs.


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