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Best telephoto lens for Canon reviewed and compared

Updated on March 17, 2013

The best telephoto lens for Canon cameras

Do you need the best telephoto lens for Canon? If you are looking for the best telephoto lens for canon cameras you have come to the right place. The top end telephoto lenses, such as the Canon 500mm, 600mm and 800mm prime lenses are very expensive and can cost several thousand dollars and most people simply can't justify the cost.

Fortunately, there are some alternatives all of which are very good. Whilst the alternatives may not be as fast, i.e. have a wide maximum aperture, as the top end telephoto lenses they cost a fraction of the price yet they are still well made, durable and capable of capturing some awesome images.

So, if you want the best telephoto lens for Canon that is affordable and suitable for the enthusiast then please check out my selection of telephoto lenses, all of which have been hand-picked just for you.

Canon 70mm - 200mm f4L IS USM Lens

Many people consider the 70mm - 200mm telephoto lens the most useful standard zoom, and when you consider how versatile the focal range is it is easy to see why. There are four Canon branded 70mm - 200mm lenses, which includes the 70 - 200 f2.8L IS USM, the 70 - 200 f2.8L USM, the 70 - 200 f4L IS USM and the 70 - 200 f4L USM. The best of all is the awesome Canon 70 - 200 f2.8L IS USM lens, however it is a heavy lens and very expensive, and many people can't justify the cost of this lens. Out of the other Canon 70 -200 lenses the next best if the Canon 70 - 200L IS USM lens.

The Canon 70 -200 f4L IS USM has a maximum aperture of f4 throughout the focal range, which is suitable for all but the lowest light levels. This lens is perfect for outdoor use however you may find you need to resort to using a tripod when shooting indoors. This lens also has image stabilisation technology which means you can still get tack sharp hand held shots at slower shutter speeds.

The Canon 70 - 200 f4L IS USM lens is a professional grade lens that is fully sealed hence it is waterproof and dust proof, which means you can use it in all weathers, conditions and locations. This is one tough and durable lens that will withstand a lot of use and abuse. This lens is built to last.

The optical quality of this lens is simply superb and it is capable of capturing some stunning images, which is to be expected from a professional grade lens. You may think you are going to struggle to create a nice and out of focus background with the maximum f4 aperture, however you'd be wrong. Because of the focal length is very easy to capture a tack sharp subject against an out of focus background.

So, what makes the Canon 70 - 400 f4L IS USM lens the best, other than the canon 70 -200 f2.8L IS USM? The answer to this is the image stabilisation technology, which is simply excellent. The 70 - 200 f4L IS USM lens gives the greatest bang for your buck and it is great value for money. If you have concerns over the maximum f4 aperture, don't as this is more than wide enough for most circumstances.

Hands on review of the Canon 70 - 200 f4L IS USM

If you want to see what the Canon 70 - 200 f4L IS USM is capable of take a look at the following footage courtesy of Youtube.

Canon 100mm - 400mmL IS USM Lens

In my opinion the Canon 100 - 400L IS USM lens is the best telephoto lens currently available for Canon cameras. Out of all the telephoto lenses I own this is my favourite, and most well used by far.

The maximum aperture is f4.5 at the wide end and narrows to f5.6 at the long end, which means this lens is not particularly fast but don't let this put you off as you can always keep the shutter speeds up by increasing the ISO if you need to.

Unlike other Canon telephoto lenses the Canon 100 - 400L IS USM lens has a push/pull action, which is very good. It does take a bit of getting used to, but once you have the hang of it is actually faster swapping between focal lengths than the conventional screw action. Some people say the push/pull action sucks in dust and debris, but I have never had this problem. In my four years of ownership I have never suffered any issues with this and I have used my 100 - 400 in some very dusty environments. The Canon 100 - 400 is a professional grade L lens, which means it is fully sealed. This makes it fully weatherproof so you can use it in all conditions and all weathers.

The Canon 100 - 400L IS USM lens has image technology, which gives you four more stops. This means you can capture sharp images at slower shutter speeds than you usually would be able to.

Like all professional grade lenses the optical quality of the Canon 100 - 400L IS USM lens is simply awesome. Colours are bright and punchy but still realistic and there is little distortion and pin cushioning.

The Canon 100 - 400L IS USM lens isn't exactly cheap but when you compare it to other long focal length Canon lenses it is affordable and gives a lot of bang for your buck. I would say the Canon 100 - 400L IS USM lens is one of the best value for money lenses available.

Because of the maximum aperture the Canon 100 - 400 lens is not suitable for very low light conditions or shooting fast moving subjects indoors. If you shoot outdoors this shouldn't create too many issues, but if you primarily shoot indoors the Canon 100 - 400 is not going to be suitable.

If you are looking for a top quality lens with a large range of focal lengths and a long reach, that is bullet proof and built to last, versatile and capable of capturing some stunning images the Canon 100 - 400L IS USM lens is the lens for you. It really is a fantastic lens that will not disappoint.

Hands on review of the Canon 100 - 400

If you want to see what the Canon 100 - 400 lens is capable of check out the following hands on review courtesy of Youtube.

Canon 100mm - 400mmL IS USM Lens

The Canon 400 f5.6 is another affordable telephoto lens with an impressive 400mm reach. With a maximum aperture of 5.6 this lens is not particularly fast but if used for the right subjects this doesn't matter. The Canon 400 f5.6 is an excellent bird photography lens and this is what most owners buy this lens for.

When photographing birds you don't need anything too fast, after all you are going to be taking images of birds sitting in branches, warming their eggs, wading through water or simply standing in the breeze, therefore super fast shutter speeds aren't needed to freeze the action.

This is an l series lens which means it is fully sealed and hence water proof/ dust proof, it is made out of the best components and materials and it has superior optics. The image quality is simply awesome and it is possible to capture some stunning images. Pin cushioning, distortion and vignetting are all well controlled.

If you have a passion for bird photography or simply need a long reach telephoto lens where fast shutter speeds are not needed the Canon 400 f5.6 is something you should consider. This lens well made, affordable and capable of capturing some stunning images.

Hands on review of the Canon 400mm f5.6

If you want to see what the Canon 400mm f5,6 is capable of check out the following review courtesy of Youtube

Best telephoto lens for Canon - Other contenders

Personally, I always use Canon branded lenses and I always will, however there are third party telephoto lenses you can use on your Canon digital SLR camera, which are rumoured to be very good. The third party lenses that come up time and time again include;

Sigma 150 - 500

Sigma's offering is the 150mm - 500mm, affectionately known as the "Bigma". This is one large and heavy lens, but it appears ot be quite popular so it may be one you would like to consider.

Tokina 80 - 400

Tokina's offering is the 80mm - 400mm lens. All Tokina lenses are well made and bullet proof and this lens is said to be the same. It is not as popular the Bigma but it is an alternative you may want to look at.

Tamron 200 - 500

Tamron's offering is the 200 - 500mm. If you want a cheap telephoto lens with a long reach the Tamron 200 - 500 is the lens to buy. It is not as popular as the Bigma or the Tokina 80 - 400, but it is another option you may wish to look at when looking for a telephoto lens for your Canon digital SLR camera.

Affiliate disclosure

EdwardJames81is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for site to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to,, or

If you have any comments, rants or raves please feel free to note them here. Similarly, if you know of any other telephoto lenses for Canon digital slr cameras you would like to share please do so.

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