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Best Canon EF and EF-S Lenses For Rebels ~ Choose Wisely

Updated on September 13, 2014

Canon Rebel Lens Choices Abound

Not all lenses are created equal! This is evident when you look at the prices.

But choosing a great lens will make your Canon Rebel camera even better. Many pro photographers are passionate about their lens choices, simply because they know that the lens is at least, if not more important than the camera itself.

When Canon introduced the Rebel in 2003, it was a ground-breaking event. Who woulda thunk that a sub-thousand dollar digital SLR camera was possible? But, not only did they do it, they have done it time and time again. Picking a Rebel as your camera of choice is a great decision.

But what happens when you have to decide on a Canon Rebel lens? Do you just blindly take the lens that is packaged with the camera, or do you buy the camera with no lens and purchase the lens separately?

This is the question that will be addressed in this article. Which Canon Rebel Lenses make sense if you are a discerning buyer looking for your first lens? And then, which Rebel lenses do you put at the top of your "must have" list for the future?

Photo from the Flickr photo gallery of E. Gonzalez. Taken with the Canon 55-250mm lens.

There is good news and bad news with regard to picking your Canon Rebel lens.

Canon Lens - Good news

Every lens that Canon makes will work on your Rebel digital SLR camera, whether you have the original Canon Rebel 300D or the most recent model, the Canon Rebel T3i (aka Canon Rebel 600D). That's right, even the biggest and baddest lenses like a Canon 600mm telephoto will work on a Rebel.

Canon Lens - Bad News

Every lens that Canon makes will work on your Rebel digital SLR camera! Wait... that was the good news. Right; well now, you have to choose from literally hundreds of lenses, including those made by other manufacturers such as Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, and more. Oy Veh! What's a Rebel owner to do?

Best Seller!

Usually purchased with the Kit Lens

This is actually the second best seller in the Canon lineup of lenses (the first is the Canon 50mm f/1.8 shown below)

If you opt to get the regular deal.. the camera with the 18-55mm kit lens.. you will want to add this lens to your arsenal right away.

It is the same quality as the kit lens in that it is made of plastic, so you will not want to use it as a substitute for your soccer ball (don't laugh, I tried that once and it didn't work too well).

Best Canon Lens @ 50mm?

On one end of the spectrum, you have economic value with the Canon 50mm 1.8, but on the other end, you have product value in the Canon 50mm 1.2L.

Then in the center, you have a combination of economy in a well built body.

All three are considered excellent in their own right.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens - Fixed (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens - Fixed (Discontinued by Manufacturer)

This is THE #1 seller at any focal length. The reason? It's the absolute best value, costing only a bit over $100.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Standard & Medium Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras - Fixed
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Standard & Medium Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras - Fixed

This 50mm lens is built to last a long time. It's wide aperture is awesome for portraits with beautiful blurry backgrounds.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras - Fixed
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras - Fixed

Pro photographers gravitate to this lens because it gives such fantastic results. It is built like a tank.


Canon 50mm - Portrait Lens

Muffin - Portrait with Canon 50mm lens
Muffin - Portrait with Canon 50mm lens

Canon Rebel Lens For All-purpose Use

Normal focal length for Canon Rebel Lens selection

Unless you have a very specific purpose for your Rebel camera, such as keeping dental records (many dentists take before and after photos of their patients' dental procedures), you will be looking to buy a lens that you can use for most of your photography needs. This will most likely be a zoom lens, and there are quite a few excellent choices.

Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS SLR Lens (aka "The Kit Lens")

What's wrong with the kit lens? Actually, nothing. It is quite adequate for general use, and most buyers proclaim the images it produces are good. In fact, it has been improved dramatically from the first version which was not well regarded at all. Now, it is a good starting place for new digital SLR owners.

Canon Kit Lens Advantages

  • Cost - The kit lens, in addition to taking good pictures, has the advantage of price over any other Canon Rebel lens possibility. Since it is offered as a package deal, Canon has been able to reduce the price as an incentive to buy both the camera and the lens as one purchase. If you were to buy the lens separately, it would cost you a bit more.
  • IS - Image Stabilization is a good way to make up for the lack of wide aperture. Some of the recommended lenses have an aperture of f/2.8 which allow them to take blur-free photos when the light is not as bright. Other lenses, like the Canon Kit Lens compensate for this by adding IS.

Canon Kit Lens Disadvantages

  • Lens Construction - The lens is made of plastic. While that does not have an effect on the image quality, it makes the lens less durable and less susceptible to damage. If you compare the Kit Lens to another lens made with better materials, you get the feeling that the Kit Lens is a toy.
  • Aperture - The Kit Lens does not have a very wide aperture as some of the other recommended lenses do, and the aperture is variable, meaning that as you zoom, the aperture may change. Taking pictures in low light is quite a challenge with this lens. If there is plenty of available light, there is no problem, but once the light dims, you have to make adjustments by boosting the ISO or using a tripod.

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS UD Standard Zoom Lens

This Canon Rebel Lens gives the user some added benefits over the Kit lens. Namely, it has a much longer zoom range, and it is built to last. Honestly, if this lens had been available when yours truly bought my first Canon Rebel lens in 2003, it would still be on my Canon Rebel T3i. It looks that good.

Advantages of Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens

  • Focal Range - from a wide angle of 18mm to a telephoto length of 135mm, this lens can cover a lot of photographic territory.
  • Build Quality - when compared to the kit lens, the 18-135mm lens is a "hands-down" winner. It has a nice professional feel to it.

Disadvantages of Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens

  • Aperture - the same issue exists as with the kit lens. The aperture is not constant as it is with an f/2.8 lens, and you may have some trouble getting non-blurry photos when hand holding this lens in low light situations.
  • Image Quality. Now, this is somewhat of a nit, but experts have rated this lens as a bit lower with respect to the quality of the image results. For most amateurs, it is difficult to see any difference.

NOTE: You can get the Canon EF-S 18-135mm lens as a "Kit Lens" instead of the 18-55mm lens that comes with most Rebels. If available, you should go for it. It will cost you an extra $170 or so, but it will be money well spent.

All Purpose Canon Lens Choices - Zoom lenses give the photographer lots of options.

Buying at Amazon has some excellent advantages, not the least of which is cost savings. You get competitive pricing with no state sales tax. Plus, their return policy is the best online (in this writer's humble opinion).

Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Standard Zoom Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras
Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Standard Zoom Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras

If you could get only one lens for your Rebel, this is an excellent choice.

Canon 50mm f/1.8
Canon 50mm f/1.8

THE Most Popular Prime Lens For Canon

Canon 50mm f/1.8 II - Prime Canon Rebel Lens

One of the most popular lenses for any digital SLR of any brand is the 50mm lens. Also called a "normal" lens, the 50mm is great for many types of photography.

The one that rises to the top for Canon Rebel users is the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens.

There are a few reasons this lens is so popular:

  • It is dirt cheap.. at about $100, it is the best value for the money with regard to image quality.
  • It has a super-wide aperture... finding a lens with a f/1.8 wide aperture is a real benefit for shooting in low light.
  • It's a good portrait lens... every photographer will need to take a portrait at some point, and this lens is good at it. It gives you that nice blurry background that every portrait shooter loves. This is due to the wide aperture.
  • It's cheap! (yes, this was already mentioned, but it is the number one reason that it is so wildly popular)

There is one negative that must be pointed out. It is made of plastic, so it does not come near qualifying for Canon's "L" status, which is what they give to their very best lenses. But the 50mm f/1.2 L lens costs more than 10 times what this one does.

Portrait With The Canon 50mm f1.8

portrait with Canon 50mm f1.8
portrait with Canon 50mm f1.8

Canon Rebel Lens - Third Party Lenses - This photo was taken with a Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Canon Rebel lens.

Canon Rebel Lens - portrait
Canon Rebel Lens - portrait

Tamron 28-75mm Lens

Buying a third party lens such as the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 lens featured here can give you years of photographic excellence.

Here are a couple of the advantages:

  • Aperture - The wide-angle f/2.8 aperture serves a couple of purposes. First, it performs very well in low light compared to the f/3.5+ lenses listed above. Second, it is an excellent portrait lens. You get that very desirable blurry background that portrait photographers love to brag about. Third, the aperture is constant across all focal lengths.
  • Fast Focus - this lens will focus with the speed of the best Canon lenses.
  • Internal Focus - this simply means that there is no external movement of the lens as it focuses.

Disadvantages of the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Lens:

  • Wide angle - with the smallest focal length being 28mm, you do not have a real wide-angle lens, especially considering the Rebels are "crop sensor" cameras. The 28mm becomes and actual 44mm lens when multiplied by the 1.6x crop factor.

Canon ef-s 18-200mm lens photo
Canon ef-s 18-200mm lens photo

Canon Rebel Lens With Super-Zoom

One lens does it all. There are a couple of reasons for buying the Canon EF-S 18-200mm lens featured here:

  • Focal Range - at about 11x zoom, this lens may be the only one you need! It can handle the wide-angle stuff, as well as the telephoto pictures.
  • User satisfaction - while there are questions about the performance of super-zoom lenses with regard to image quality at the low and high ends of the zoom range, this one has gotten plenty of rave reviews by folks who actually bought and used it.

Disadvantages of the Canon 18-200mm Lens:

  • Image distortion - you will always have some issues when you pack this much zoom power into one lens. Experts say there are issues, however, as already mentioned, users are quite happy with their results.
  • Aperture - the variable f/3.5-4.5 aperture has already been discussed above. It does not allow for low light images as well as the lenses with f/2.8 constant apertures.
  • Cost - at nearly $600, this is the most expensive lens listed. You really need to weigh your finances against your desires here. A Canon Rebel T3 with a respectable Canon EF-S 18-135mm lens could cost you about $300 less. Is the extra 65mm of focal length worth that much to you? It is not a matter of performance, because the lens will do what it is advertised to do.

The sea gull photo above was taken with a Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 Zoom Lens - image credit

Please Leave Your Comments - Do You Have a Favorite Canon Rebel Lens?

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I love the baby picture!