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Best Canon EF-S lenses to start your collection – Camera Jabber

What are the best Canon EF-S lenses to start your collection? In this guide we’ll show you how to build a collection of high-performance yet affordable Canon lenses for your APS-C format SLR. With these best buys, you’ll be prepared for pretty much any shooting scenario

Canon’s current line-up of APS-C format SLR bodies range from beginner-friendly models like the 1300D and 750D, to mid-range and enthusiast-level cameras like the 80D and 7D Mk II.

Whichever one you go for, you’ll need a collection of lenses to make the most of wide-ranging photo opportunities, so that you can unleash the full power and versatility of your camera system.

One thing to bear in mind is that Canon’s APS-C cameras have a 1.6x crop factor, or focal length multiplier, so you need to apply this to work out the ‘effective’ focal length of any lens, compared with shooting on a full-frame camera.

Things can get very expensive, very quickly, if you buy top-flight, professional-grade lenses. The good news is that there are plenty of more affordable options, with good build quality and handling, along with impressive all-round performance.

So, if you’re into anything and everything from portraiture and landscapes, to sports, wildlife and beyond, let’s find the ideal lenses to build your collection.

  • When to use APS-C lenses instead of full-frame

Best Canon EF-S lenses: 01 Canon 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM, £180

Best Canon EF-S lenses: 01 Canon 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM, £180

Type Wide-angle zoom

Fit one of these to your camera and enjoy an unblinkered outlook

Effective focal length: 16-28.8mm

Aperture range: f/4.5-5.6 to f/22-29

Autofocus motor: Stepping motor

Minimum focus distance: 0.22m

Maximum magnification factor: 0.15x

Image stabilizer: Yes

Weather seals: No

Filter thread: 67mm

Dimensions: 75x72mm | Weight: 240g

One of the things you lack with a standard zoom lens is a seriously wide viewing angle. Mount this 10-18mm lens on your camera and it’s astonishing how much more you can squeeze into the picture.

It’s perfect for everything from cramped interiors to rolling landscapes, and it’ll enable you to really exaggerate perspective when including near and far objects in the frame.

A relative newcomer to Canon’s range, this lens is smaller, lighter and cheaper than the more established EF-S 10-22mm lens but, based on our tests, it delivers sharper image quality. It also adds the bonus of four-stop image stabilization, a feature that’s completely lacking on Canon’s older lens.

The STM (Stepping Motor) autofocus system isn’t particularly fast, but is practically silent in operation and gives smooth focus transitions when shooting video. The lens is unbeatable value for money at the price, and quite literally enables you to see the bigger picture.

Best for Architectural interiors, landscapes, exaggerated wide-angle perspective effects.

Also consider

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM, £500

Pro The phenomenal maximum viewing angle is wider than from any other APS-C format lens, unless you buy a fisheye optic.

Con The built-in hood precludes the use of filters, although it’s possible to fit 72mm filters via the two-part lens cap when shooting at the longest zoom setting.

Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM, £330

Pro Superior build and image quality. ‘Faster’ f/3.5 aperture that remains available throughout the zoom range.

Con Maximum viewing angle isn’t any greater than from the Canon lens, and it’s nearly twice the price.

Best Canon EF-S lenses: 02 Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM, £170

Best Canon EF-S lenses: 02 Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM, £170

Type Standard zoom

Very versatile, this will be your go-to lens for general shooting

Effective focal length: 28.8-88mm

Aperture range: f/3.5-5.6 to f/22-38

Autofocus motor: Stepping motor

Minimum focus distance: 0.25m

Maximum magnification factor: 0.36x

Image stabilizer: Yes

Weather seals: No

Filter thread: 58mm

Dimensions: 69x75mm | Weight: 205g

Delightfully light in weight and seriously compact, this lens is a particularly well-balanced match for bodies like the 1300D and 750D. It’s well worth buying these cameras in ‘kit’ form, with this lens included, even if you already own the older non-STM edition.

The new lens sports a virtually silent stepping motor-based autofocus system and has a better-rounded aperture based on seven rather than six aperture blade.

Handling is much improved, as the focus ring doesn’t rotate during autofocus and neither does the filter attachment thread, which makes circular polarizers and graduated neutral density filters far easier to use.

Sharpness is impressive throughout the entire zoom range, even when using the widest available apertures. The zoom range itself stretches from moderately wide-angle to short telephoto, making the lens very versatile for many shooting needs. Under dull lighting, the four-stop image stabilizer enables consistently sharp handheld shots at slow shutter speeds.

Best for General shooting when you don’t need ultra-wide viewing angles, or extended telephoto reach.

Also consider

Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM, £510

Pro Better build quality, faster ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system, bigger zoom range with greater wide-angle and telephoto extremities.

Con Bigger and heavier than the 18-55mm lens, much more expensive and not available as a ‘kit’ option with a new body.

Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM | C, £320

Pro From Sigma’s ‘Contemporary’ line of lenses, it’s fairly small and light but boasts good image quality and fairly wide apertures of f/2.8-4 through the zoom range.

Con Zoom range is only slightly bigger than Canon’s 18-55mm, there’s little difference in image quality, and handling is impaired by the focus ring rotating during autofocus.

Best Canon EF-S lenses to start your collection

Best Canon EF-S lenses: 03 Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM, £295

Type Superzoom

A single lens to cover most eventualities, with all mod cons

Effective focal length: 28.8-216mm

Aperture range: f/3.5-5.6 to f/22-38

Autofocus motor: Stepping motor

Minimum focus distance: 0.39m

Maximum magnification factor: 0.28x

Image stabilizer: Yes

Weather seals: No

Filter thread: 67mm

Dimensions: 77x96mm | Weight: 480g

So-called ‘superzoom’ lenses are popular for day trips, holidays and any other times you want to travel light with just one lens. It can also be a bonus not having to swap lenses when you need to react quickly to different shooting opportunities, or if there’s a lot of dust or grit blowing around in the air.

Compared with most superzooms, including Canon’s own 18-200mm lens, this one has a relatively modest zoom range, equivalent to 28.8-216mm on a full-frame camera.

Even so, that’s a fair stretch of focal lengths and the lens does well to keep colour fringing and distortions at fairly low levels, while maintaining very good sharpness throughout the zoom range.

Like several other recent Canon lenses, the combination of a stepping motor autofocus system and four-stop image stabilization is great for shooting both stills and video.

Autofocus transitions in video mode are smooth rather than jerky, while stabilization is a big asset for handheld shooting.

Best for Travel photography and also for shooting events, where you might often need to quickly swap between short and long focal lengths.

Also consider

Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 DC MACRO OS HSM | C, £340

Pro Much longer telephoto reach than the Canon 18-135mm, equating to an ‘effective’ 480mm. Good image quality and it’s reasonably priced.

Con Focus ring rotates during autofocus, sharpness drops off a little at the long end of the zoom range.

Tamron 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD, £400

Pro The only Canon-fit superzoom lens to give a wider-angle 16mm rather than 18mm minimum focal length, and it also has the biggest outright zoom range.

Con Not quite as sharp as the Canon and Sigma lenses, and it’s the most expensive to buy.

Best Canon EF-S lenses: 04 Canon 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM, £200

Best Canon EF-S lenses: 04 Canon 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM, £200

Type Telephoto zoom

An ideal supplement to a standard zoom, giving good telephoto reach in a lightweight build

Effective focal length: 88-400mm

Aperture range: f/4-5.6 to f/22-32

Autofocus motor: Stepping motor

Minimum focus distance: 0.85m

Maximum magnification factor: 0.29x

Image stabilizer: Yes

Weather seals: No

Filter thread: 58mm

Dimensions: 70x111mm | Weight: 375g

Telephoto reach doesn’t always come in a big, heavy package. As an EF-S lens, this one is designed specifically for APS-C format rather than full-frame cameras.

As such, it only needs to produce a relatively small image circle to cover the downsized image sensor, and the construction can be smaller and lighter as a result. It therefore feels particularly well balanced on Canon’s lightweight, entry-level bodies.

The stepping motor autofocus system is fast and effective. This combined with an ‘effective’ zoom range of 88-400mm makes the lens ideal for shooting action sports and wildlife on the hoof.

The four-stop image stabilizer is similarly well suited to these types of photography, with automatic panning detection that applies correction in just the vertical or horizontal plane, as necessary.

Sharpness is excellent throughout the entire zoom range, especially in the central region of the frame, while overall image quality and handling are very good indeed.

Best for Action sports, wildlife and other scenarios that require long telephoto reach, where image stabilization is also big benefit.

Also consider

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM, £360

Pro Longer telephoto reach than the 55-250mm lens, and it’s full-frame compatible should you upgrade your camera body in the future.

Con Autofocus is slower than in the 55-250mm lens, stabilization is less effective and image quality isn’t quite as sharp.

Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD, £240

Pro Fast ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system, good build and image quality, full-frame compatible, weather-resistant construction.

Con Tamron’s proprietary optical stabilization system isn’t particularly effective when panning.

Best Canon EF-S lenses: 05 Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM, £380

Best Canon EF-S lenses: 05 Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM, £380

Type Standard prime

For optimum image quality, a standard prime lens can help your camera to deliver its full potential

Effective focal length: 56mm

Aperture range: f/2 to f/22

Autofocus motor: Ring-type ultrasonic

Minimum focus distance: 0.24m

Maximum magnification factor: 0.24x

Image stabilizer: Yes

Weather seals: No

Filter thread: 67mm

Dimensions: 78x63mm | Weight: 335g

This isn’t really a standard prime lens. It’s actually designed as a wide-angle optic for full-frame cameras but, with its compact and lightweight build, and an ‘effective’ focal length of 56mm, it works superbly well as a prime lens on APS-C bodies, where it gives the natural perspective of a standard lens.

The widest available aperture of f/2 doesn’t enable especially fast shutter speeds in dull lighting conditions, but the four-stop image stabilizer comes to the rescue.

This is at least true when shooting static objects, although no amount of stabilization can correct for motion blur caused by moving objects.

Even so, the good high-ISO performance of current and recent Canon SLRs means that the f/2 aperture should still be wide enough for low-light shooting and, even without stopping the lens down at all, sharpness and contrast are simply spectacular. Colour fringing is very minimal and, when used on an APS-C format body, the tiny amount of barrel distortion is negligible.

Best for Maximizing sharpness, contrast and clarity in general shooting, also great for environmental portraits.

Also consider

Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM, £130

Pro The combination of a tiny physical length of just 23mm, and a shorter ‘effective’ focal length of 38.4mm, this ‘pancake’ lens is ideal for street photography.

Con The shorter focal length and narrower maximum aperture of f/2.8 make it harder to get a tight depth of field, and it lacks image stabilization.

Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM | A, £300

Pro Designed exclusively for APS-C format cameras, this Sigma has superb build and image qualities, plus a fast f/1.4 maximum aperture.

Con No image stabilization and it’s 100g heavier than the Canon 35mm lens, at 435g.

Best Canon EF-S lenses: 06 Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, £235

Best Canon EF-S lenses: 06 Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, £235

Type Portrait prime

An ideal and very reasonably priced portrait lens for APS-C format bodies

Effective focal length: 80mm

Aperture range: f/1.4 to f/22

Autofocus motor: Ultrasonic motor

Minimum focus distance: 0.45m

Maximum magnification factor: 0.15x

Image stabilizer: No

Weather seals: No

Filter thread: 58mm

Dimensions: 74x51mm | Weight: 290g

The 1.6x crop factor of Canon SLRs extends the effective telephoto reach of any lens. In this case, it’s like using an 80mm lens on a full-frame body, which is perfect for portraiture. It means you can maintain a comfortable and natural shooting distance without encroaching on your subject’s personal space.

Another bonus is that the fast f/1.4 aperture enables a tight depth of field for blurring the background and making your subject really stand out in the resulting image.

Despite having an ultrasonic autofocus system that’s motor-based rather than ring-type, autofocus is still reasonably rapid and quiet.

Unusually for this type of system, the focus ring remains stationery during autofocus, which makes for better handling, and full-time manual override is also available.

Image quality is a little soft at f/1.4, which can actually be an advantage in portraiture, rather than emphasising every flaw and wrinkle. The lens sharpens up nicely at apertures of f/2.8 and narrower.

Best for Portraiture, still life and other short telephoto shots where you want a tight depth of field.

Also consider

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM | A, £580

Pro Stunning image quality and pro-grade build quality. Like the Canon lens, it’s also full-frame compatible.

Con Expensive to buy and it’s uncommonly big and heavy for a 50mm f/1.4 lens, at 85x100mm and 815g.

Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD, £500

Pro Unlike the Canon and Sigma 50mm lenses, this one adds optical image stabilization and weather-seals.

Con Slightly shorter effective focal length of 72mm, and the widest aperture of f/1.8 is a little narrower.

Best Canon EF-S lenses: 07 Canon 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM, £305

Best Canon EF-S lenses: 07 Canon 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM, £305

Type Macro

Specially designed for APS-C bodies, this macro lens can reveal extraordinary levels of detail

Effective focal length: 96mm

Aperture range: f/2.8 to f/22

Autofocus motor: Ring-type ultrasonic

Minimum focus distance: 0.2m

Maximum magnification factor: 1.0x

Image stabilizer: No

Weather seals: No

Filter thread: 52mm

Dimensions: 73x70mm | Weight: 335g

With its 1.0x or 1:1 maximum magnification factor, this lens can reproduce small objects at full life size on the image sensor, when used at its minimum focus distance of 0.2m.

This enables amazing enlargements of bugs and other tiny things when viewing images on screen or in print, with almost microscopic levels of detail.

Sturdily built, the lens features fast and quiet ring-type ultrasonic autofocus, with the usual full-time manual override. The 60mm focal length is an ‘effective’ 96mm in full-frame terms, which approximates to something of a favourite for macro photography.

It also means that the lens doubles up well for portraiture, where the f/2.8 aperture is just about wide enough to enable a shallow depth of field.

Back in extreme close-up mode, you need a very narrow aperture to get any depth of field at all, and the lens does well to retain good sharpness and contrast throughout its entire aperture range.

Best for Shooting insects and other tiny creatures, capturing fine detail and texture in extreme close-ups.

Also consider

Sigma 105mm f/2.8 Macro EX DG OS HSM, £330

Pro An excellent and super-sharp lens, complete with optical stabilization, although this feature is of limited value for extreme close-ups.

Con The flip side of being a full-frame compatible lens with a longer focal length is that it’s bigger and heavier than the Canon 60mm.

Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro VC USD, £580

Pro The latest edition of this lens features a new ‘hybrid’ image stabilizer that corrects for axial shift as well as vibration, more useful for close-up shooting.

Con Relatively expensive to buy, it costs nearly as much as Canon’s top-flight 100mm L-series macro lens, which also has a hybrid stabilizer.

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