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Best Canon lenses reviewed and compared

Updated on May 14, 2013

The best Canon lenses to improve your photographs

The best Canon lenses WILL help you improve your photographs and take your photography skills to the next level, but do you know what the best canon lenses actually are? Well let me tell you........ The Canon l series lenses are the top of the range Canon lenses and are the "professional" grade lenses, i.e. the best canon lenses.

The Canon l series lenses has a distinctive red ring near the front element so they are easily recognisable. All Canon l series lenses are made out of the best components, are fully sealed (which makes them waterproof and dustproof), and have excellent image quality. If you want the best canon lenses for your Canon digital slr camera you need to buy the Canon l series lenses.

The Canon l series lenses aren't cheap, but then you have to remember these are the best Canon lenses so you would expect to pay more for them, but the Canon l series lenses are well worth shelling out some more cash for. Besides, you should see the Canon l series lenses as an investment that will provide years of trouble free service.

There are plenty of Canon l series lenses available and you will find one to cover whatever situation you are in. Many of the lenses are specifically designed for a certain task, which is fine but what if you want a "general" lens carrying the l red ring?

For the best Canon lenses, i.e. the Canon l series lenses please carry on reading and check out the best Canon lenses below, where there is a brief Canon lens review on each model.

Canon EF100mm f2.8L IS USM macro lens

I, like many people have a passion for macro photography therefore I thought it only right to include a macro Canon lens review on my favourite Canon macro lens.

If you have a passion for macro and close up photography one of the best Canon lenses money can buy is the Canon EF100mm f2.8L IS USM macro lens. The Canon EF100mm f2.8L is a true macro lens, i.e. 1:1 reproduction which means life size, with a fixed focal length of 100mm. The focal length gives a good working distance between lens and subject, therefore this is one of the best Canon l Series lenses for capturing macro images of insects and mini beasts, and this is the reason I bought the 100mm f2.8L macro lens.

Being one of the Canon l series lenses means this lens is tough, durable, well-built and fully sealed. The build quality of this lens is awesome and it is bullet proof. The fact it is fully sealed and weather proof means I can scrabble around on my hands and knees in the morning dew looking for mini beasts without having to worry about moisture getting in to the lens.

One of the best things about the EF100mm 2.8L lens is the image stabilisation technology, which helps to ensure tack sharp shots each and every time. When I photograph insects I don't use a tripod because they are too restrictive, so I have to take all shots hand held and the image stabilisation technology really does help with this.

The image quality of this lens is simply stunning with bright and vivid colours that aren't over saturated and zero distortion or pin cushioning. If you use this lens wide open images can be a little soft right in the corners but if you stop it down, even just a little, the sharpness significantly improves and images are tack sharp from the centre of the frame to all edges. Some photographers whinge about the "softness" at 2.8, but in reality you won't use this lens at 2.8 for macro photography purely because the depth of field will be too slight. Bearing this in mind, the "softness" at 2.8 is not a problem and you shouldn't let this put you off buying one of these excellent lenses.

Even though this lens is specifically designed for macro and close up work it can also be used for photographing other subjects and doubles up as a great full body portrait lens or general walkabout lens. The Canon EF100mm f2.8L IS USM macro lens is one of the best Canon l series lenses and if I had to choose a single lens for all my photography needs this would be it.

Canon 100mm - 400mm f4.5 - 5.6L IS USM telephoto lens

I enjoy sports and action photography therefore it is only right I include a sports and action Canon lens review of my favourite Canon sports lens.

The Canon 100mm - 400mm is the best of the Canon l series lenses in the "long reach" category by far, and the Canon 100 - 400L IS USM lens is the most versatile and best value for money Canon L lens available. The maximum aperture is f4.5 at the wide end and narrows to f5.6 at the long end, which means it is not a fast lens but don't be deterred by this as you can always overcome this by keeping the ISO up to compensate.

Virtually all other Canon lenses have a twist focusing action however this is not the case with this lens and the Canon 100 - 400L IS USM lens has a push/pull action, which is very good. It does take a some getting used to in order to get the most out of it, but once you have mastered the action it is quicker than adjusting the focal length than using the traditional twisting action. You may have heard the push/pull action acts like a vacuum and sucks in the dirt, but I have never found this to be an issue. In my four years of ownership I have never suffered any such problem and I have used my 100 - 400 in some real dirty situations. 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 safe in the knowledge that it will work regardless of what Mother Nature throws at it.

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

All Canon l series lenses have excellent image quality and the 100mm - 400mm is no different. The image quality of the Canon 100 - 400L IS USM lens is simply amazing. Colours are bright and vivid but still true to life and there is little distortion, pin cushioning or fringing.

Compared to other long focal length telephoto lenses the Canon 100 - 400 is affordable and gives the best bang for your buck. In fact, I think the Canon 100 - 400 is the best value for money lenses available.

The Canon 100 - 400 is not a low light lens and not good to capture fast moving subjects indoors. However this should not be a problem if you mainly shoot outdoors.

If you want the best sports and action lens of the Canon l series lenses, as well as the versatile l grade lens that is tough and built to last, capable of capturing some stunning photographs, and affordable the Canon 100 - 400 lens is the lens to go for. It really is an excellent lens that doesn't disappoint.

Canon 400mm f4.5L USM lens

Here's a Canon lens review of one of the best wildlife and bird photography lens of all time.Out of all the best Canon lenses for wildlife photography many photographers consider the Canon EF400mm f4.5L USM one of the best Canon lenses for bird photography. Like all Canon l series lenses the 400mm f4.5L USM is tough, durable and sealed which makes it waterproof and dustproof. This is one tough lens that is built to last whilst out in the field. The EF400mm f4.5L lens isn't as versatile as the Canon 100mm - 400mm but given that you will be shooting at 400mm in most bird photography situations this shouldn't create too many problems.

Many photographers argue the image quality of a prime lens is superior to that of a zoom lens. I agree there is less barrel distortion and pin cushioning with a prime lens compared to a zoom lens, but I wouldn't necessarily say the image quality is significantly better. The image quality of the Canon EF400mm f4.5L is exceptionally good. Colours are bright and vivid but still realistic and there is sharpness across the frame.

There is no doubt about it, the Canon EF400mm f4.5L USM lens is one of the best Canon lenses for bird photography and it allows you to capture birds wading through water, sat high up in the trees or flying overhead. The Canon EF400mm f4.5L lens doesn't have image stabilisation technology but it is such a lightweight and comfortable to use lens it really doesn't need it. The Canon EF400mm f4.5L really is one of the best Canon lenses and especially for bird photography.

Canon 70mm - 200mm f2.8L IS II USM telephoto lens

The 70mm - 200mm zoom lens is a useful bit of kit ad having used all Canon models over the years I thought this article needed a Canon lens review on the awesome 70mm - 200mm zoom lens.

Canon makes four 70 - 200 l grade lenses, which consists of the f2.8L IS USM, the f2.8L USM, the f4L IS USM and the f4L USM lens. The best 70mm - 200mm of the Canon l series lenses is the Canon f2.8L IS USM lens, however it is also the most expensive.

The 70 - 200 f2.8L IS USM lens has a maximum wide aperture of f2.8 throughout the entire focal range, which makes it a fast lens. The wide aperture means the lens is ideal for indoor sports, where light levels are low and tripods are not allowed. This lens is also perfect for outdoor sports and sports played under floodlights at night. The image stabilisation technology also helps to ensure tack sharp shots in low light conditions.

As well as sports photography this lens is ideal for street photography, candid shots and capturing portraits from a distance. It is also ideal as a general walkabout lens and for low light photography.

Like all Canon l series lenses the 70 - 200 f2.8L IS USM lens comes in an "in your face" white colour, which makes everyone aware of the quality of lens you are using. Some people may like this, however I find it can create unwanted attention some of the time. To overcome this I cover my 70mm - 200mm f2.8L IS USM in a lens jacket.

This lens is weather sealed, therefore it is tough, durable and able to withstand whatever you and Mother Nature can throw at it.

Like all Canon l series lenses the image quality of this lens is awesome. Images are vibrant and sharp, and distortion and fringing are well controlled. Pin cushioning , distortion and vignetting are not a problem, so you don't need to worry there.

The Canon 70 - 200 f2.8L IS USM lens is a heavy lens, but this is to be expected given the built in image stabilisation. The weight may not seem a lot start with, but once you have been using the lens for a few hours you will soon start to feel it.

If you need a mid length telephoto lens with some fast glass for indoor and low light shots and want the best of the 70mm - 200mm Canon l series lenses the Canon 70 - 200 f2.8L IS USM lens should be number one on your list. This lens is not cheap but it is quality and worth every cent. Besides, you should see this lens as an investment.

Best Canon lenses - The other Canon 70mm - 200mm L series lenses

The Canon 70mm - 200mm f2.8L IS USM lens is an awesome lens but it is expensive. The other Canon 70mm - 200mm lenses are cheaper and also exceptionally good lenses. I have been fortunate enough to try out all the Canon 70mm - 200mm L series lenses and I can guarantee that you will be more than happy with whatever version you buy. For a full review and comparison of each and every one take a look at "The best Canon 70 - 200 Lens".

If you want to check out the other types of Canon 70mm - 200mm Ll series lenses on Amazon check out the lenses below.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras

This Canon 70mm - 200mm lens has a widest maximum aperture of f4 and image stabilisation technology. If you shoot most of your subjects outside and in good light, and don't need a 2.8 aperture this is the best Canon lens in this focal length range.

 
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras

This Canon 70mm - 200mm lens has a widest maximum aperture of f4 but no image stabilisation technology, hence it is the cheapest in the range. If you are on a budget, or don't need a wide maximum aperture or image stabilisation technology this lens may be right up your street.

 

Canon EF50mm f1.2L USM lens

A 50mm prime lens is something that all photographers should have in their kit bag and they don't come any better than the 50mm f1.2L lens, which is one of the best Canon lenses you can buy. The 50mm f1.2L has a maximum aperture of 1.2, which is really wide and allows you to take images of tack sharp subjects against a nice blurred out background with ease. Because of this Canon 50mm f1.2L is an excellent lens for portrait photography where it is very popular with wedding photographers. Everything about this lens is pure class. This lens is made out of the best components, which means it is tough, durable and built to last. The image quality of this lens is simply outstanding and colours are bright, vivid and punchy but not oversaturated. This lens is also tack sharp.

The Canon 50mm f1.2 is expensive but it is worth every cent. If you can't justify the cost of the Canon 50mm f1.2L there are two alternative 50mm lenses, which are the 50mm 1.4 and the 50mm 1.8. As you've probably guessed the 50mm 1.4 has a maximum aperture of 1.4 and the 50mm 1.8, 1.8. The image quality of both of these lenses is very good and both are worth buying.

Best Canon lenses - 50mm f1.4

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

Even though the 50mm 1.4 isn’t an L series lens it is still one of the best Canon lenses available and well worth buying. The 50mm 1.4 is the best compromise between cost and maximum aperture, therefore it is very popular. The image quality of this lens is superb, and if you buy one of these great lenses you won’t be disappointed.

 

Best Canon lenses - 50mm f1.8

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)

The Canon 50mm 1.8 feels more like a child’s toy than a serious piece of photographic equipment, but don’t let this put you off buying one. The 50mm 1.8 is an exceptional lens that is tack sharp and has excellent image quality. The 50mm 1.8 is very cheap and can be bought for around a hundred bucks, therefore it is great value for money. Despite its flaws many photographers consider the 50mm 1.8 one of the best Canon lenses ever made.

 

Canon 8mm - 15mm f4L Fisheye lens

The Canon 8mm - 15mm f4L fisheye lens is one of the best Canon lenses to get as much in the shot as possible. The Canon 8mm - 15mm f4L is an ultra wide angle lens, which is perfect when you want to get as much in the frame as possible. The wide field of view puts off some potential buyers, i.e. those who don't want to go that wide, so you do need to take this in to consideration before buying this lens. This lens is ideal for those ultra wide seascapes and landscapes, as well as capturing some more "quirky" types of images.

Like all Canon l series lenses the build quality of this lens is fantastic and it is tough, sturdy and will provide years of service, provided you look after it of course. The image quality of this lens is awesome and it is capable of capturing some stunning images. Colours are punchy, there is sharpness throughout (even when used at its widest aperture) and fringing is well controlled. You may experience some vignetting, i.e. darkening of the corners when used wide open with screw in filters but this is easily sorted out by removing all filters, or using an ultra slim line if a filter must be used.

One thing I should note is that getting the best out of this lens is going to take some time and practice to stop distorted perspectives, but the time spent is well worth it in the end.

If you want one of the best Canon lenses for extreme landscapes and seascapes the Canon 8mm - 15mm f4L USM fisheye lens should be at the top of your list. This lens is ultra wide, has great image quality and is well built. It's not a cheap lens but if you want the best you are going to have to pay for it, and this lens is worth every cent.

Canon 16mm - 35mm f2.8L II USM lens

Here's a quick Canon lens review for the landscape photographers amongst you. The Canon 16 - 35 f2.8L USM lens is one of the best Canon lenses for landscape and seascape photography, and it is the landscape photographers Canon l lens of choice, and when you see the types of photographs you can capture with this lens it is easy to see why. Many landscape photographers consider a focal length of 16mm - 35mm is the most suitable for landscape photography so this lens fits the bill perfectly if you shoot a full frame camera. If you shoot camera with a crop sensor, such as a 7d, this lens may not cover your desired focal range so you need to take this in to account.

With a maximum aperture of f2.8 throughout this is a fast lens, which is useful when shooting in low light conditions but not really needed for landscape photography where a tripod is used for nearly all shots. That said, it is nice to have a fast lens as it will always come in useful.

The 16 - 35 lens is a wide angle lens that is also good for architecture and indoor shots, so don't go thinking this is only a landscape lens.

As previously mentioned, the image quality of this lens is second to none and many people think it is the best of any Canon lens. This lens is capable of producing some beautiful images with bright and punchy colours that are still realistic. Fringing can be a problem in landscape photography however it is not a problem when using this lens as the fringing is vey well controlled and virtually non-existent.

If you are looking for the best of the wide angle Canon l series lenses that is not over the top, the Canon 16 - 35 f2.8L USM is one of the best Canon lenses to buy. Like all Canon l series lenses this lens is not cheap but the images speak for themselves and it is easy to see that the Canon 16mm - 35mm f2.8L II USM lens is worth every cent.

Canon 24mm - 70mm f2.8L II USM lens

A 24mm - 70mm zoom lens is one of the best Canon lenses for all round general photography and it is considered a standard zoom making it a lens all photographers should have in their bag. The 24mm - 70mm zoom lens is a versatile lens that can be used for a whole variety of subjects including landscapes, portraits or as a general walkabout lens, therefore I thought it only right to include a 24mm - 70mm Canon lens review.

If you want the best Canon lenses of this focal length for your Canon camera you want the 24 - 70 f2.8L II USM, which is an awesome lens. Since this is a professional grade lens it is tough, durable and weather sealed, which means it is more than capable of dealing with daily use and abuse. This is one lens that is built to last and can be used in all weather conditions and all environments.

The image quality of the Canon 24 - 70 is second to none and it is capable of capturing some amazing images. Colours are bright and vibrant, but realistic and not over saturated, there is sharpness from the centre to the edges (even when used wide open), distortion and pin cushioning are well controlled and vignetting is not an issue.

One thing you should know about the Canon 24mm - 70mm f2.8L USM is that it is a beast and very heavy. This lens is huge compared to other 24mm - 70mm lenses, and it can be intimidating for your subjects when taking portraits.

Overall the Canon 24mm - 70mm f2.8L USM lens is an excellent lens and one of the best Canon lenses for general photography. So if you want the best 24mm - 70mm for your Canon camera this is the lens to go for. Like all Canon l series lenses this lens is tough, it is durable and the image quality is simply superb.

Canon 24mm - 105mm f4L IS zoom lens

The Canon 24mm - 105mm f4L IS is one of the best Canon lenses for travel photography, and this is the reason why many photographers buy it. When travelling you need to travel light therefore a bag of prime lenses is no good and the only option is to have a good zoom lens and they don't come much better than this. With a maximum aperture of f4 throughout the entire zoom range this isn't a fast lens but it Is perfectly adequate in good light.

Like all Canon l series lenses the Canon 24mm - 105mm f4L IS lens is fully sealed which means it is weatherproof, dustproof and shockproof. This is one tough lens that is built to last, which means it is perfect for travel photography. The image quality of the 24mm - 105mm is simply stunning. The colours are bright and vivid and there is sharpness from the center of the frame to the edges. One of the best things about the Canon 24mmm - 105mm lens is the image stabilization technology which ensures you will get tack sharp shots each and every time.

The Canon 24mm - 105mm f4L IS USM lens is one of the best Canon lenses for travelling and when you see what this lens is capable of you will soon see why.

Full line up of Canon lenses

If you want to view the entire range of Canon lenses, both prime and zoom, in one convenient place please click here

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If you have any comments rants or raves please feel free to note them here. Similarly, if you know of any other top quality L Canon lenses you think I should include then please share it.

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