Don't want to worry about changing lenses? Here are the best Canon lenses for covering all bases
What does it mean when we talk about the best walk-around lens for Canon cameras? We’re broadly talking about a general-purpose lens – i.e. one that will get you through the majority of everyday shooting situations – but there’s a little more to it than that.
The best walk-around lens should be something that you can strap to your camera and spend a day walking and shooting with, so it shouldn’t be too heavy or bulky. While people’s preferred focal lengths can vary, a good walk-around lens should aim for somewhere in the middle – neither too wide nor too long. It’s useful for a good walk-around lens to be a zoom, but crucially, it doesn’t have to be – we’ve included a couple of prime lenses on this list as we think there’s something to be said for a day spent moving your feet rather than your zoom ring.
This list covers lenses for Canon DSLRs. As mentioned it’s a mixture of zooms and primes, but also of lenses that cover a full-frame perspective and those designed for APS-C. We’ve aimed to cover lenses for a range of budgets, so whether you’re shopping for something inexpensive or looking to get the very best in quality, we should have you covered. We’ve also aimed to cover a few third-party manufacturers, not just Canon themselves.
So, let’s get to the lenses!
The so-called “nifty-fifty” has a deserved reputation as one of the best walk-around focal lengths there is. It roughly equates to the angle of view of a human eye, and so on full-frame it produces images with a naturalistic, documentary style look that works brilliantly for reportage and documentary-style shooting, not to mention street photography. The Canon EF 50mm f1.8 STM Lens is a beloved example, providing a superb balance between affordability and quality, with a generous f/1.8 aperture, a 7-bladed diaphragm for smooth bokeh, and Super Spectra coating to reduce ghosting and flare. The STM motor also means focusing is quick and quiet, so you have everything you need for a day’s photographic adventure.
Canon EF 50mm f1.8 STM Lens
Next up, we have one of Canon’s most affordable lenses – its EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS II Lens. Its all-purpose, wide-to-medium focal range allows it to shoot a huge range of subjects, from landscapes to portraits, and it has many useful features such as Canon’s 4-stop image stabilisation system, which makes it easier to shoot handheld with lower shutter speed, expanding the lens’s utility in low light. It’s also great for close-up, with a generous minimum focusing distance of just 0.25m.
One thing to be aware of is that this is an EF-S lens, which means it’s only useable on Canon DSLRs with APS-C sensors such as the EOS 7D Mark II or entry-level EOS 4000D. Always check your camera’s compatibility before buying a lens.
Canon EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS II Lens
If you’re the type who likes to be prepared for all situations, consider the Canon EF 24-105mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens, a zoom that goes from wide-angle all the way to short telephoto. It’s the perfect way to travel light and ensure that you’ll always have the focal length you need, especially if you’re on a fast-paced trip with lots of different stops. It’s as comfortable shooting street portraits and close-up details as it is shooting expansive landscapes and vistas – and performance is razor sharp in all conditions thanks to the 4-stop image stabilisation.
Also consider: Canon EF 24-105mm f4L IS II USM Lens, a more high-level version of the same focal length, with a constant aperture and more sophisticated optical construction.
Canon EF 24-105mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens
Another lens that covers a huge, versatile focal range, the EF-S 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens is an APS-C lens that takes advantage of Movie Servo AF to produce fast, silent autofocus that’s fantastic for video as well as stills. It’s got a minimum focusing distance of 0.39m, and is equipped with 4-stop image stabilisation to keep things smooth even at slower shutter speeds. Ultra-low dispersion (UD) lenses, aspherical lens elements, and lens coatings all work to ensure that images are clean and free from distortion, flare and ghosting. If you like to do a little bit of everything, this is a great lens for a fantastic price.
Canon EF-S 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS Nano USM Lens
This wide-angle zoom benefits from a constant f/1.8 aperture – meaning it can shoot wide-open all the way through its zoom range. This greatly adds to your shooting versatility when shooting portraits and when taking pictures in low-light, making the Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 DC Art HSM Lens a fantastic all-purpose lens. It’s designed for APS-C cameras, and boasts an internal construction with aspherical elements and Special Low Dispersion elements to reduce distortion and aberration, ensuring images are clean and sharp at all focal lengths and all aperture settings.
Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 DC Art HSM Lens - Canon Fit
Zeiss are among the best in the business, and this fantastic 50mm prime shows why. It’s manual focus only, so not one for the novice, but if this is how you prefer to focus then you’ll enjoy a lens with peerless optical quality, smooth ergonomics, and a generous maximum aperture of f/1.4 that makes it hugely useful in all sorts of different shooting situations. For shooting a real-life, naturalistic perspective in pin-sharp detail, you can’t ask for better, and this Zeiss lens will allow you to get the very best out of your full-frame Canon DSLR.
Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Milvus ZE Lens - Canon EF Mount
Finally, we have a fantastic lens from Tamron in the popular 24-70mm focal range – the Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens. A constant aperture of f/2.8 gives the user tremendous shooting versatility, while a series of high-quality, Tamron-exclusive lens coatings that substantially reduce ghosting, flare and reflections. Light transmission is simply superb and allows you to produce images of fantastic quality at all focal lengths and aperture settings. For its class, the lens also has one of the best stabilisation systems in the business, producing up to 5-stops of exposure compensation and further expanding the lens’s utility. A fantastic optical achievement by Tamron.
Also consider: The Canon EF 24-70mm f4 L IS USM Lens, a more affordable alternative, albeit with a narrower maximum aperture.
Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens for Canon EF
About the Author
Jon Stapley is a professional journalist with a wealth of experience in a number of photography titles including Amateur Photographer, Digital Camera World and What Digital Camera. See more of his writing on Jon's author page.