How to Select the Best Canon DSLR Lenses (for Beginners)

Are you looking for the best Canon DSLR lenses for beginners? Canon sells an array of lenses designed for professional and amateurs alike. There are a number of constraints which determine the lens that you would pick up. Budget, first of all, is the most important factor.

In addition, compatibility and long-term planning are two other parameters which also influence the decision-making process. We actually discussed in detail the lens buying parameters. You could check this link as it is especially relevant for this discussion. Today, we shall go through a series of lenses that we feel are good choices if you are a beginner.

Going by sales figures, Canon is by far the largest and the most popular camera (and lens) manufacturing brand in the world. It sales more cameras and lenses than any of the other established makes in the industry. But even within that overall sales figures, there are some pretty hard lines that demarcate the entry-level, mid-range and professional gear. This particular discussion is about Canon DSLR lenses for beginners. These are the best Canon DSLR lenses for beginners:

Best Canon DSLR Lenses for Beginners

👉  Best for Shooting Street Photography

EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM
Canon EF 35mm f/2 is USM
EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM
EF 40mm f/2.8 STM
Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5 – 5.6 IS II

👉 Best for Shooting Wildlife Photography

EF 75-300mm f/4 – 5.6 III USM
Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4 – 5.6 IS STM
EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM

👉 Best for Shooting Landscape Photography

EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM
Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5 – 4.6 IS STM
EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM
Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5 – 5.6 IS II

👉 Best for Shooting Portraits

EF 50mm f/1.8 STM (on APS-C camera)
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM
EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM (on APS-C camera)
EF-S 55-250mm f/4 – 5.6 IS STM

👉 Best for Shooting Macro Photography

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 macro IS STM
EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM
EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM

1. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

First of all, we shall discuss the EF 50mm f/1.8 STM. The 50mm has a new avatar – the EF 50mm f/1.8 STM. The 50mm prime is also referred to as the nifty-fifty. STM stands for Stepper Motor and this technology works in tandem with Canon’s dual pixel CMOS auto-focusing mechanism. First of all, Stepper Motor is actually a pulse signal-driven AF motor which moves the stepper motor by one step with every pulse. Consequently, this results in precise AF movements. The second advantage is super-quiet AF performance. Normal USM AF motor used in legacy Canon lenses are fast but they are also jerky and noisy at times.

The EF 50mm thanks to Canon’s 1.6x crop factor on the cheaper entry level DSLRs becomes the equivalent of an 80mm lens mounted on a full-frame camera. That makes is suitable for shooting portraits. A fast wide aperture portrait lens. If you have a Canon rebel series camera you would enjoy shooting with this lens. For anyone with an EOS 6D Mark II or any full-frame camera, this is a good entry level standard prime for less than 140 bucks. Overall this is one of the best Canon DSLR lenses for beginners.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens
  • 50 millimeter focal length and maximum aperture of f/1.8
  • Great for portraits, action, and nighttime photography; Angle of view (horizontal, vertical, diagonal): 40º, 27º,46º
  • Minimum focusing distance of 1.15 feet (0.35 meter) and a maximum magnification of 0.21x
  • Stepping motor (STM) delivers near silent, continous Move Servo AF for movies and smooth AF for stills
  • 80 millimeter effective focal length on APS C cameras, 50 millimeter on full frame cameras.Lens Construction: 6 elements...

2. Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM

The EF-S 24mm f/2.8 is yet another STM unit which works as a great street photography lens. Street photography requires a slightly wider perspective and that way the 24mm is a wide angle lens. But you have to keep in mind that the lens is optimized for smaller image circle of APS-C cameras and consequently the effective focal length becomes the equivalent of 38.4 mm (35mm format equivalent). It is still wide enough for shooting great wide angle (and specifically street photography shots).

The dimensions measure just 2.69 x 0.90″. Furthermore, the lens weighs just 125 grams. Consequently, the lens fits the dimensions to be referred to as a pancake lens. Furthermore, the lens comes fitted with a STM auto-focusing motor.

Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM Lens
  • Wide angle lens for Canon APS C cameras (equivalent to 38 millimeter on a full frame camera)
  • Focal Length & Maximum Aperture: 24 millimeter 1:2.8, maximum magnification of x0.27
  • Slimmest and lightest lens of the EF S series
  • Circular aperture (7 blades) delivers beautiful, soft backgrounds
  • Full time manual focus allows manual focus adjustment while in One Shot AF mode

3. Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

First of all, this is the ideal portrait length if you are a beginner. Furthermore, this particular 85mm f/1.8 lens is fast, has a good focal length and is cheap. Above all the performance of the lens is more than satisfactory. Furthermore, the lens mounts on both full-frame as well as APS-C cameras. Consequently, on an APS-C camera the effective focal length becomes the equivalent of a 136mm. That is almost a mid-range telephoto lens. Therefore you could use this lens to shoot subjects further away and produce tight crops. This lens is especially relevant if you are using an APS-C camera.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Medium Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras - Fixed
  • 85mm standard lens with f/1.8 maximum aperture for Canon SLR cameras,Lens Type:Telephoto Zoom Lens
  • Ring-type ultra-sonic monitor (USM) brings subject quickly into focus, Focal length: 85mm, Closest focusing distance:...
  • Natural angle of view and perspective is ideal for portraits and natural images
  • Designed to produce beautiful background blur; weighs 15 ounces; 85cm closest focusing distance
  • Measures 3 inches in diameter and 2.8 inches long; 1-year warranty. Refer User manual for troubleshooting steps.

4. EF-S 10 – 18mm f/4.5 – 5.6 IS STM

Designed for the smaller APS-C camera systems of Canon, the EF-S 10 – 18 mm f/4.5 – 5.6 is a landscape lens in every sense. That’s said you can also shoot group, architecture and other elements. Please note that architecture photography results wouldn’t necessarily be as good as you would imagine when shooting with a tilt-shift lens. There would be a bit of ‘merging line’ problem. Therefore, tall buildings will appear tapering towards the top and parallel lines will appear merging at a distance. But landscape photography wouldn’t be a problem. The crop factor will come into effect though. As a result the 1.6x crop factor will make the lens’ effective focal length 16 – 28.8mm (35mm format equivalent).

Furthermore, this lens too comes with a STM (stepper motor technology). Each of the lenses which comes with STM AF technology comes with good video shooting abilities. Why? Because the AF performance of the lens works in tandem with the dual pixel CMOS auto-focusing technology of Canon’s new cameras. The video AF performance, despite being slow is consequently precise which is what every videographer wants.

The thing that kind of gives away that the lens is an ‘inexpensive’ version is the smaller maximum aperture. The lens has a maximum aperture of only f/4.5 at the wide end and an f/5.6 at the long end. Consequently, thee would be some amount of focus hunting, especially, when working in low light conditions.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens
  • EF S ultra wide zoom lens. Drive System Lead screw and rack system driven by stepping motor
  • Focal Length & Maximum Aperture: 10 18 millimeter,1:4.5 5.6
  • Closest Focusing Distance: 0.72 feet. / 0.22 meter
  • Stepping motor for noise free video shooting
  • Optical image stabilizer

5. Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM

How can one ignore this superb lens? The 35mm could rival and give the 50mm prime a run for its money any day. I do have a particular inclination towards the 50mm prime. Yet I have enjoyed shooting with the 35mm just as well. The 35mm gives a slightly wider field of view than the 50mm that was mentioned above. 46 ˚ on the 50mm (narrower field of view) compared to 63 ˚ on the 35mm (wider than the 50mm).

Since both the lenses are designed for the EF mount (full-frame), they also work on smaller EF-S mount (APS-C) Canon cameras. But with a slight increase in the effective focal length. Nothing serious, you can always take a few steps back to compensate. Consequently, you can enjoy the tighter cropping that comes naturally.

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Wide-Angle Lens
  • Focal length and maximum aperture: 35mm 1:2
  • Lens construction: 10 elements in 8 groups
  • Diagonal angle of view: 63 Degree
  • Rear focusing system with USM focus adjustment
  • Closest focusing distance: 0.24m/0.79 ft,Focal Length : 35mm Comparable APS-C 1.6x Focal Length: 56 mm.Lens...

6. EF-S 35mm f/2.8 macro IS STM

We read about the 35mm f/2 IS USM, the standard prime that is just perfect for street photography. But that lens is not suitable for macro work. This 35mm, though is. This is the EF-S 35mm f/2.8 macro IS STM. As a result this one has the ability to focus from a very short distance.

The minimum focusing distance of the lens is 5.12″ or just 13cm. In addition, the lens is capable of giving 1:1 or life-size reproduction of anything you aim it at from that distance. As a result, this lens is perfect for any beginner level macro work. But the short working distance means you will probably be messing up the light with your own shadow. Hence, for serious macro work you need something with a slightly longer focal length.

Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM
  • EF-S series macro Lens with built-in macro Lite
  • Bright f/2.8 aperture and 35mm standard angle of view
  • Hybrid image stabilization

7. EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM

What is better than the 35mm macro? The Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 macro USM of course. The extended focal length, consequently, gives you an extended working space. But even with the extended focal length, the lens is a true macro unit. I.e., it gives you 1:1 perspective or life-size reproduction of anything that you aim at from its minimum focusing distance. The minimum focusing distance of the lens is 7.9″ or 20cm. Consequently, that gives you a slightly longer reach for shooting creepy crawlies and stuff. Ideally, however, a 100mm lens is the best. Anything longer than that is a bonus.

Just like the 35mm macro that we read about before, the 60mm macro too is designed for the smaller image circle of Canon’s APS-C cameras, the 60D, the 80D, the 7D as well as the Rebel series cameras. The effective focal length, consequently, will be slightly longer because of the crop factor. The effective focal length will be 96mm. As a result, this becomes a short tele-lens.

Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Fixed Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
  • 60mm macro lens with f/2.8 maximum aperture for EOS digital SLR cameras
  • 25-degree angle of view is equivalent to 96mm lens on 35mm camera
  • Focal length : 60mm, Closest focusing distance : 0.65 feet
  • Floating optical system can focus down to life-size 1:1 magnification
  • Silent and powerful ring-type ultra-sonic monitor (USM) for autofocusing

8. EF 75-300mm f/4 – 5.6 III USM

A slightly longer focal length is what beginner photographers look for. Especially, those who have been stuck with a kit lens (the venerable 18-55mm). The 75-300mm f/4 – 5.6 is a telephoto lens The 75 – 300mm is a great lens because it allows you to get very close to the action standing where you are.

The 75-300 is a great range. The fact that this lens is designed for the image circle of the full-frame camera means it will mount on smaller EF-S mount cameras as well. And with that you also get the extended focal length (thanks to the crop factor of 1.6x) of 120 – 480mm. On an APS-C camera, thus, the lens becomes a super telephoto lens.

The thing that gives away the fact that this is an inexpensive lens is the fact that the maximum aperture is only f/5.6 (at the tele-end) and f/4 when switched to wide angle. That means this lens is likely going to struggle a bit when used in low light situations.

Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
  • Focal length and maximum aperture: 75-300mm 1:4-5.6
  • Lens construction: 13 elements in 9 groups
  • Diagonal angle of view: 32 Degree 11 ft. - 8 Degree 15 ft.
  • Front group rotating extension system with USM focus adjustment
  • Closest focusing distance: 1.5m/4.9 ft.

9. EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM

The traditional 18-55mm lens sold as a kit lens along with a lot of lower end APS-C DSLRs usually end up being the first ever lens that a photographer owns. But you don’t have to own that lens nor do you have to conform to the default choice. There are plenty of other options both OEM and third party. We shall discuss about one such lens – the Canon EF-S 17-55mm.

The 17-55mm is designed for the smaller image circle of the APS-C camera systems. The focal length of the lens is slightly wider, 17mm as against 18mm on the kit lens. Consequently, the effective focal length becomes the equivalent of a 27.2 – 88mm lens mounted on a 35mm camera. Not a significant advantage to be honest, but the build quality of this lens is much better than the kit lens that a normal entry level APS-C camera is likely to be paired with. In addition, you get the superior optics and resultantly much better image quality of the other lens. Image stabilization is also built-in to this lens.

But the main difference between this lens and the kit is the fast, constant and wide aperture across the focal length range. Consequently, the lens will be a welcome addition in the camera bag of someone who shoots indoors in natural light or outdoors in low light conditions.

Thanks to the crop factor and the wide focal length range, the lens is suitable for a number of photography genres including street (on the wide end), portrait (on the telephoto end) and even landscape. Undoubtedly, one of the best Canon DSLR lenses for beginners.

Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras
  • 17-55mm wide-angle zoom lens with f/2.8 maximum aperture for Canon DSLR cameras
  • AD and aspherical elements deliver impressive image quality through entire zoom range, Closest focusing distance : 1.15...
  • Image Stabilizer lens groups shift to compensate for image shake even in dim lighting
  • Large circular aperture produces shallow depth of field; ring-type ultra-sonic monitor (USM)
  • Measures 3.3 inches in diameter and 4.4 inches long; weighs 22.8 ounces; 1-year warranty

10. EF 40mm f/2.8 STM

We read about the EF-S 24mm pancake lens above. Unfortunately, that lens won’t mount on a full-frame camera. This particular one, however, will. This is the EF 40mm f/2.8. It looks and feels tiny when mounted on a full-frame behemoth like the 5D Mark III. But don’t take this lens lightly. It comes with auto-focusing powered by Canon’s latest Stepper Motor technology. There is also a thin manual focusing ring for when you need precise manual correction of focus.

The 40mm focal length makes this a standard prime coming between the 50mm and the 35mm prime. The fast max aperture of f/2.8 gives it decent low light abilities as well. This lens is suitable for everyday photography, street photography (when used on a full-frame camera), as well as a number of other genres. If you love the standard perspective as well as a lens that is uncomplicated to work with, then this piece of optics can be quite addictive. Consequently, this lens rates as one of the best Canon DSLR lenses for beginners.

Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Lens - Fixed
  • 40mm focal length, Lens not zoom able, 64mm equivalent focal length on Canon APS-C cameras
  • Minimum focus distance : 0.30m/11.81 inch, F2.8 maximum aperture; F22 minimum
  • Stepper-type AF motor with full-time manual focusing
  • 52mm filters, Lens Construction: 15 elements in 12 groups
  • Focal Length & Maximum Aperture: 100mm 1:2.8

11. EF-S 55-250mm f/4 – 5.6 IS STM

This lens is a perfect complement to the 18-55mm kit lens (discussed below) as well as the 17-55mm lens that we discussed earlier. With these two lenses you have everything between 17 (or 18mm) all the way up to 250mm covered.

Because, this lens is designed for APS-C cameras it won’t mount on Canon’s full-frame DSLRs. That also means the crop factor will come in to play. The effective focal length on APS-C cameras, consequently, becomes the equivalent of an 88 – 400mm mounted on a 35mm camera.

The lens’ auto-focusing is powered by the latest STM AF motor. Furthermore, this lens also has image stabilization built-in. Therefore, that should give you a lot more stabilized performance when shooting hand-held.

Canon EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
  • Focal length and maximum aperture: 55-250mm 1:4-5.6
  • Closest focusing distance: 0.85m/2.8 ft.
  • Lens construction: 15 elements in 12 groups
  • Diagonal angle of view: 27 Degree 50 ft. - 6 Degree 15 ft.
  • Rear focus system

12. Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5 – 5.6 IS II

The venerable and super popular 18-55mm lens has been upgraded to version II. Needless to say, this lens will only mount on the crop sensor cameras. Designed for these APS-C cameras the effective focal length on crop sensor cameras become the equivalent of a 28.8 – 88mm. Consequently, this lens is often paired with the cheaper APS-C DSLRs (the budget versions) like the Rebel series cameras.

This is a great all-round lens. It works for weddings, group shots, street photography and even a bit of landscape photography as well. No wonder why this lens is paired with the entry-level cameras. You could do almost everything with this lens. As a result, this is one of the best Canon DSLR lenses in the business. But that said, there are limitations to this lens and that is exactly why we have listed all the other lenses here.

The lens has image stabilization built-in as well. This gives it decent hand-held shooting abilities as well as the ability to tackle low light situations. Build quality is not great. Build quality is okay for standard lenses though. That said, you wouldn’t be able to expose it to rain or expect to abuse it by any degree and get away with it.

Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II SLR Lens
  • Focal Length & Maximum Aperture - 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II
  • Lens Construction - 16 elements in 12 groups, including UD-glass and aspherical lenses
  • Diagonal Angle of View - 74 20' - 7 50' (with APS-C image sensors)
  • Focus Adjustment - Gear-driven
  • Closest Focusing Distance - 1.48 ft./0.45m (maximum close-up magnification 0.24x)

13. EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM

Finally, the macro lens that we were waiting for – the EF 100mm f/2.8 USM. This is the perfect focal length for shooting macro work. Long enough to give you enough working space (and not scare the living daylights out of creepy crawlies) and yet giving you the 1:1 perspective that makes this a true macro lens.

Macro lenses are usually very sharp, a reason why these lenses are considered as extremely versatile. Why? Because they can be used in a number of other situations apart from carrying out macro duties. This particular lens, with its 100mm focal length, is also perfect as a medium telephoto. That way you can shoot portraits with this lens especially if you are using a full-frame camera.

Needless to say, the lens is designed for the larger image circle of full-frame Canon cameras. As a result, on an APS-C camera, the lens will give the equivalent focal length of a 160mm lens mounted on a 35mm camera.

In conclusion, this becomes a telephoto lens capable of shooting a bit of wildlife as well. Would be a bit too much as a portrait lens when mounted on an APS-C camera. Plus, you have to keep in mind that the lens does not have image stabilization. That means when hand-holding you will have to shoot using a shutter speed of at least 1/160 to be able to make a blur-free composition (unless of course, you wish to raise the ISO number).

Finally, a decision making aspect that you have to keep in mind is that Canon has a similar 100mm f/2.8L USM lens. Seems like, the price difference is almost a couple of hundred dollars. The red line around the barrel of your lens does mean a premium feel. If that is something that is important then you should buy the L lens, especially when the price difference is not much and you get the better build quality.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Fixed Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
  • 100mm macro USM lens with f/2.8 maximum aperture for Canon SLR cameras
  • Focal length: 100mm, Closest focusing distance : 1 foot (film plane to subject)
  • Secondary diaphragm blocks stray light at f/2.8 for increased contrast, Ultra-sonic monitor provides outstanding...
  • 3-group floating system for exceptional close-up performance; full-time manual focus
  • Measures 3.1 inches in diameter and 4.7 inches long; weighs 21.1 ounces; 1-year warranty

Related Post: How To Choose The Best Nikon DSLR Lenses (for Beginners)


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