Digital Photography Review

Best Canon Prime Lenses (Top 10 Lenses to Buy in 2021)


Canon has an extensive array of high-quality lenses for its various camera systems, including dozens of prime lenses. Prime lenses typically offer superior quality to their zoom counterparts and are ideal for specialist photography like landscapes, macro, and portraiture.

In this guide, we’ve selected ten of the best Canon prime lenses you can buy, including EF, RF, and EF-M mount picks.

1. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

For those who are still learning photography, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is one of the best Canon prime lenses available. This is an older lens, but it is incredibly cheap and an excellent budget buy. If you want a versatile, well-rounded lens without spending a fortune, it’s a great option.

Thanks to the 50mm focal length, the lens is suitable for a range of photography including portraits, street photography, and even landscapes on a full-frame sensor. On APS-C cameras, the 50mm focal length is effectively 80mm, which would make the lens better suited for portraits.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

While this lens cannot compare to the quality of L-series models, it still offers great image quality with consistent sharpness. It also has the Stepping Motor autofocus system, which is virtually silent and offers smooth focusing.

This could be the ideal lens to buy as your first lens – it would be a great introduction to Canon lenses, and you can use it as a springboard to more advanced models.

2. Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Similar to the Canon 50mm f/1.8, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM is another excellent budget option. This 50mm lens has a similar level of quality but has an improved maximum aperture of f/1.4. As a result, it should perform slightly better in low-light situations and give you better control for creating bokeh effects.

Also, this lens has the ring-USM autofocus system, not an STM motor, which is generally faster and more accurate.

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

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM has 7 elements in 6 groups. The aperture blades are also circular for beautiful rounded bokeh effects.

As for optical quality, the 50mm f/1.4 is considered to be slightly sharper than the 50mm f/1.8, but the difference is marginal.

3. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

If you want a specialist lens, Canon has a good range of macro lenses; a great option in this category is the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, which excels at macro photography for several reasons.

First, it has a focal length of 100mm. This offers greater reach than most macro lenses and guarantees greater detail from a distance. It also features a close-focusing distance of just 0.99 ft/0.3 m and a close-up magnification of 1X.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras, Lens Only

The 100mm f/2.8L is a well-rounded lens with a high-quality build. It is another premium L-series lens and packs various weather-resistant elements. The optical design is also impressive, with 15 elements in 12 groups.

You can expect your macro shots to be crystal clear, and the maximum aperture of f/2.8 means that you can easily highlight parts of your subject. Lastly, this macro lens has Canon’s ring-USM autofocus motor, which is fast and accurate for moving macro subjects.

4. Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM

Canon has some excellent wide-angle lenses, including the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM. This is an L-series lens and therefore benefits from durable construction and high-quality lens elements compared to standard Canon lenses.

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Wide Angle Lens - Fixed - 2750B002 , Black

At 24mm, this lens excels at wide-angle shots such as landscapes and street photography. If you want to specialize in either of these genres or want a premium lens for travel photography, then it’s one of the best options available.

Within the lens, there are a variety of elements including two large-diameter aspherical lenses. The different elements all have an anti-reflective SWC coating. What does this mean? It essentially improves image quality and helps reduce problems like ghosting and lens flare.

As a travel lens, the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM also features a dust-resistant and water-resistant exterior. This means you can comfortably use the lens outdoors and in different weather conditions. For autofocusing, you can benefit from the ring-USM motor, which is both fast and accurate.

5. Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM

85mm is an excellent focal distance for portrait photography. As a result, the Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM is one of the best Canon prime lenses for portraits. This L-series lens looks fantastic with a stylish red ring and sleek black design. However, it also packs amazing quality and performance.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens, Black

For portraits, you can benefit from the maximum aperture of f/1.2. This means that you can easily separate your subject from the background, and it also means that the lens excels at low-light portrait photography. For versatility, you can also program the control ring for various functions. For example, you could set it to control the aperture or exposure.

The lens construction has one aspheric element and one UD element. These help improve color and contrast but also minimize distortions. Effectively, your photos with this lens should look perfect. A small downside is that the Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM does not have any image stabilization (IS). However, you can still benefit from the in-body IS of cameras like the Canon EOS R5 and R6.

6. Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM

One of the most versatile lenses for Canon EOS R system users is the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM. This is a well-rounded lens that works for a variety of photography types. It can ideally serve as a high-quality portrait lens, but the 50mm focal distance also gives you room for movement, and you can capture some unique angles and compositions.

To ensure fantastic and consistent image quality, this lens has three aspheric elements and one UD element. The lens also features both Air Sphere coatings and fluorine coatings. The fluorine coatings help keep the glass clean, while the Air Sphere coating reduces annoying problems like flare and ghosting.

Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens, Black (2959C002)

We also like that this lens has some other useful features. For example, it has vibration resistance, which will help get in-focus photos. Add to that the fact that the exterior is resistant to both dust and water and you’ve got a winner.

To create amazing portraits with circular bokeh effects, the maximum aperture of f/1.2 should help greatly. This should also make the lens perform well for darker compositions.

7. Canon RF 600mm f/11 IS STM

Those who have a camera like the Canon EOS R5 or R6 have access to some fantastic telephoto lenses. In recent years, Canon has developed a series of compact, lightweight telephoto lenses that use a different design to their traditional telephoto options.

One of the best examples is the Canon RF 600mm f/11 IS STM, a relatively affordable telephoto lens in comparison to other Canon zoom lenses. Regardless, at 600mm, you are rewarded with exceptional telephoto detail – which makes it ideal for wildlife and sports photography.

Canon RF600/11 is STM(N) (3986C002)

Some people may be discouraged by the maximum aperture of f/11, but this should not pose any issue. At a focal distance of 600mm, an aperture of f/11 should still provide excellent separation between the subject and background.

To improve its performance for wildlife and sports photography, this lens also packs optical image stabilization, which gives up to 5 stops of shake correction. When combined with the in-body image stabilization of the Canon EOS R5 or R6, you can easily track and focus on moving subjects.

8. Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM

Canon EOS R system owners also have a great macro lens available: the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM. This is a standard series RF lens and is one of the cheaper options available for this lens mount. As a result, it makes for a great budget macro lens and a decent wide-angle lens, too.

For macro photography, the 35mm focal distance is a little short. As a result, you will have to get closer to your subject. However, this shouldn’t be an issue, as the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM has a minimum focusing distance of 0.56 ft/0.17 m. Also, it has a magnification ratio of 0.5X.

This macro lens is also easy to use and benefits from a control ring. The control ring can be programmed for different camera functions. For example, you could set it to control the aperture – a major component of most macro photography.

Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM Lens, Black - 2973C002

For additional functionality, the lens has optical image stabilization which corrects for up to 5 stops of camera shake. This should make it incredibly easy to use when handholding.

9. Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM

Currently, there are a limited number of prime lenses for the EF-M mount. However, one of the best Canon prime lenses for cameras like the Canon EOS M50 Mark II is the Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM. This remains one of the top lenses for Canon’s M series cameras due to its sharpness, compact design, and versatile aperture range.

Canon EF-M 22mm f2 STM Compact System Lens

This is essentially a pancake lens and it weighs only 0.23 lbs/105 g. As a result, it is one of the lightest EF-M lenses available. It is great for travel as you can easily fit it inside your pocket or your backpack.

The Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM excels at landscape photography, but it can also be used for close-up shots due to its small minimum focus distance. It is also one of the sharpest EF-M lenses available. Regardless of the aperture, you can expect pin-sharp photos with minimum issues.

This lens also has the STM autofocus system. The Stepping Motor is fast, and it also has a virtually silent operation.

10. Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM

Our last pick is the Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM. This is another excellent quality prime lens for Canon EOS M cameras. On the M-series bodies, the 32mm focal length has an effective focal distance of 51mm. As a result, it is a great lens for portrait photography, street photography, walkaround photography, and more!

Like the Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM, this lens has excellent sharpness and it also performs consistently in low-light compositions thanks to the maximum aperture of f/1.4. It also has the STM autofocus system, which is silent and offers accurate focusing.

Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM Lens, Black - 2439C002

In terms of portability, this is another compact lens. It weighs just 0.52 lbs/235 g and has an overall length of 2.4 in/6.1 cm. This makes it great for travel photography and it can easily be carried in a dedicated camera bag or backpack.

Which Canon Prime Lenses Is the Best for You?

Choosing a prime lens can be tricky – there are so many to choose from! Which is the perfect focal distance? What lens is suitable for specific types of photography? There are many questions to ask.

If you want a high-quality lens for wildlife and sports photography, something like the Canon RF 600mm f/11 IS STM is a great choice, thanks to its immense 600mm focal distance. Alternatively, for wide-angle landscapes, the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM or Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM are suitable.

Lastly, for portraits and street photography, a mid-range focal distance like the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM or Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM could be a great option.

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