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The Best Budget Telephoto Lenses for Canon: 7 Top Picks

Getting started in photography can involve shelling out a lot of cash for lenses that will help take your photography further. If you’re a Canon shooter looking to get started in wildlife, sports, or event event photography, finding the best budget telephoto lens for Canon cameras is a must.

These lenses are great for starting to explore telephoto photography options without requiring a major cash commitment. You should be able to get some stunning shots with these lenses and discover if a telephoto genre is to your liking.

Read on to find out more!

Our Picks

Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III
Fast autofocus, versatile telephoto range, and sharp image quality.
Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM
A compact telephoto lens with a quite autofocus and great aperture range.
Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM
Great for APS-C Canon cameras and a fast AF system.
Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III
Older technology but still a superb telephoto choice with great image quality.
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM
Newer technology with an updated AF system and image stabilization.
Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD
A brilliant third-party option providing sharp images and a durable build.
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM
One of the cheapest L-series telephoto lenses available.

1. Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM

Best Overall Pick
Great quality and performance

The EF 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 III is a brilliant budget option with a solid autofocus and overall image quality.

Fast and responsive AF system
Relatively lightweight
Enhanced lens coatings to reduce flare
No image stabilization
  • Aperture Range – f/4 – f/32
  • Autofocus System – Micro USM
  • Image Stabilization – No
  • Weight – 480g / 1.058lbs
  • Dimensions – 71x122mm / 2.79×4.80 inches

First up we have the Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III. This is an older lens, but it is still one of the best budget options available. At 75-300mm, you can cover a range of photography types and this lens would be great for close-up wildlife shots.

In terms of image quality, it has Super Spectra coatings which reduce flare and ghosting. It also has an advanced lens construction that contributes to excellent contrast and sharpness. You can expect sharp photos throughout the zoom range and minimum distortions.

Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III

Despite being a telephoto lens, this model is also one of the smaller and lighter options available. It weighs much less than most Canon telephoto lenses and as a result, you should still be able to carry it easily and use it comfortably handheld. The only downside is the lack of image stabilization which is beneficial for tracking moving subjects at great distances.

2. Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM

Best for EOS M Cameras

For EOS M owners, this is a must-have telephoto lens.

Has built-in image stabilization
Great telephoto quality for a budget price
Compact and lightweight
No super-telephoto capabilities
  • Aperture Range – f/4.5 – f/22
  • Autofocus System – STM
  • Image Stabilization – Yes
  • Weight – 260g / 0.573lbs
  • Dimensions – 60.9×86.5mm / 2.39×3.40 inches

Canon EOS M users do not have a huge range of native lenses. There is an EF adapter available to expand your options, but native lenses usually offer better quality and performance. Luckily, there is the fantastic Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM telephoto lens.

This is virtually the only native telephoto lens available for the EOS M cameras, like the Canon EOS M5, but it doesn’t matter because it’s brilliant! It makes for a fantastic travel telephoto lens as it weighs virtually nothing and is one of the smallest telephoto lenses you can find.

Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 Image Stabilization STM Lens (Black)
Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM

Aside from its portability, however, it also has excellent performance. You can expect sharp images with great clarity and contrast from this small lens. It has image stabilization and the fast STM autofocus motor which will both help when taking difficult wildlife and event photos. For EOS M owners, this is one of the best budget telephoto lenses for Canon available and a must-have!

3. Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM

Best for APS-C Cameras

This remains a versatile lens for APS-C Canon cameras and has a great zoom range.

Has automatic panning detection
Quiet and accurate STM AF system
Versatile for various photography types
Not as sharp as EF telephoto lenses
  • Aperture Range – f/4 – f/22
  • Autofocus System – STM
  • Image Stabilization – Yes
  • Weight – 375g / 0.826lbs
  • Dimensions – 70.0×111.2mm / 2.75×4.37 inches

The Canon EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM is one of the best options for Canon APS-C sensor cameras. It’s everything you need from a telephoto lens – cheap, lightweight, portable, versatile, and provides fantastic image quality. It may not be as sharp as some of the EF lenses, but its quality is more than enough for first-time users.

Canon EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM

The lens construction contains aspheric and ED elements to improve image quality and reduce distortions. As a result, your telephoto shots will be sharp with excellent contrast.

The lens is easy to use thanks to the fast STM autofocus system and built-in image stabilization. As a result, you can comfortably use this telephoto lens handheld, and in low light situations, and still get great results.

4. Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III

A great choice for beginners

Although lacking an advanced AF system, this is a cheap telephoto lens for beginners.

Compact and lightweight
Excellent image quality and sharpness
Great for first-time users
Not the best autofocus system
  • Aperture Range – f/4 – f/22
  • Autofocus System – Micro Motor
  • Image Stabilization – No
  • Weight – 480g / 1.058lbs
  • Dimensions – 71x122mm / 2.79×4.80 inches

If you want a simple telephoto lens to practice wildlife, landscape, and events photography, the Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III could be a good choice. This is an older lens, but it still boasts great image quality. Compared to similar telephoto lenses, it is much lighter and smaller – another reason why it is a good first-time user option.

Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III

You can also expect sharp images with minimum softening due to the lens construction. The only downside is that this lens only has a basic autofocus motor, and it does not have any image stabilization – this is why it may not be suitable for professional telephoto photography.

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5. Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM

Fantastic performance and quality

An updated version, this remains one of the best budget EF Canon lenses.

Fast autofocus motor
Consistent image quality
Image stabilization
Not the lightest of lenses
  • Aperture Range – f/4 – f/22
  • Autofocus System – Nano USM
  • Image Stabilization – Yes
  • Weight – 710g / 1.565lbs
  • Dimensions – 80×145.5mm / 3.14×5.72 inches

One of the best budget telephoto lenses for Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM. This is a newer telephoto lens so it has some better technologies like a Nano USM autofocus motor and image stabilization. It also has an improved build quality and generally looks better than some of the older Canon lenses.

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM Lens
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM

With a focal range of 70-300mm, you can shoot a range of subjects and take amazing super-telephoto images. Regardless of the focal distance, you can also expect sharp images with minimum distortions. We also like the circular aperture that lets you create amazing background separation and a gorgeous bokeh effect.

For sports photography and wildlife shots where you have to track fast-moving objects, the quick USM autofocus motor will also help greatly.

6. Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD

Best third-party option

This popular telephoto lens offers great image quality and usability.

Excellent image quality and sharpness
A versatile maximum aperture
Durable build quality
Autofocus system can be a little noisy
  • Aperture Range – f/4 – f/32
  • Autofocus System – USD
  • Image Stabilization – Yes
  • Weight – 765g / 1.686lbs
  • Dimensions – 81.5mm / 3.20 inches

Tamron has some amazing telephoto lenses and the Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 SP Di VC USD remains a popular choice for Canon camera owners. This Super Performance lens is incredibly versatile and has a range of XLD and LD elements that boost contrast and reduce distortions.

You can expect sharp images regardless of the focal distance. The maximum aperture range of f/4-5.6 is also excellent. It means you can shoot wildlife and other objects in portrait style and still get a beautiful bokeh effect and foreground/background separation.

Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 SP Di VC USD XLD for Canon Digital SLR Cameras
Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD

This telephoto lens also benefits from Tamron’s Vibration Compensation technology which is their version of image stabilization. Combined with the fast USD autofocus motor, you should easily be able to track and focus on moving objects at great distances.

7. Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM

Best affordable L-series

If you can stretch your budget a little, this older L-series lens still offers excellent quality.

Fantastic image quality
Constant f/4 maximum aperture
Durable build quality
No image stabilization
  • Aperture Range – f/4 – f/22
  • Autofocus System – Ring USM
  • Image Stabilization – No
  • Weight – 705g / 1.554lbs
  • Dimensions – 76x172mm / 2.99×6.77 inches

If you are set on owning an L-series lens, but can’t quite budget for the ultra-professional models, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM could be a great option. This is an older L-series lens, and while it doesn’t have some of the latest features, it still performs exceptionally.

It has a durable build and is weather-resistant so you can comfortably use it outside. Also, the constant f/4 aperture across the different focal distances gives you great control, even in low-light telephoto situations.

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

As you would expect from a Canon L-series lens, the image quality this lens can produce is also superb. You can expect sharp images from corner to corner at any focal distance. The advanced lens construction will mean virtually no distortions and softening. This is a brilliant L-series telephoto lens, without the usual L-series price tag!

Which Budget Canon Telephoto Lens is Right for You?

We hope you have found this guide on the best budget telephoto lenses for Canon useful. A telephoto lens is a fantastic piece of kit to have – it can broaden your photography greatly.

For EOS M owners, the Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM is a must-have option.

Alternatively, for standard full-frame and APS-C Canon cameras, you have a great selection of budget lenses to choose from. The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM is an older model, but still offers superior L-series performance. The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM boasts updated technology and is a fantastic all-purpose telephoto lens.

Canon Telephoto Lens FAQ

What focal distance is considered telephoto?

In most instances, “telephoto” is considered anything above 70mm. This is then broken into “short telephoto” (70-135mm), “medium telephoto” (135-300m), and “super telephoto” (Over 300mm).

What is the difference between a telephoto and zoom lens?

Telephoto lenses can be zoom lenses and zoom lenses can be telephoto lenses! Telephoto deals specifically with the focal distance and is generally anything of 70mm. A zoom lens is basically any lens that you can change the focal distance of i.e., 70-200mm.

Can you use EF telephoto lenses on an EOS-M camera?

Yes! However, you need the Mount Adapter EF-EOS M. This allows you to use EF lenses on your EOS M camera.

Is image stabilization useful for a telephoto lens?

Yes! Image stabilization can help when tracking moving objects and focusing on subjects at a great focal distance. It can help you take in-focus and steady photos with less effort.


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