As a beginner getting into photography, I get how daunting it can be with the overwhelming number of lenses and equipment. Not only that, but everything seems so expensive! It can feel like you need a small fortune just to get set up.
It doesn’t have to be like this though. There is a fantastic range of used Canon lenses available (and from other manufacturers) that cost a fraction of new models and still perform amazingly. These used Canon lenses are typically older models that may have been discontinued and are no longer in production, or simply lenses that photographers upgraded from in favor of the latest technology.
In any case, their functionality is usually perfect and the only difference is the wear and tear. For example, you may notice a few scuffs and scratches on the casing. For your first set of lenses, this really doesn’t matter, and investing in used models allows you to start your photography journey much quicker.
If this sounds appealing, or you’re a seasoned photographer looking for a cheap used Canon lens to experiment with, I have scoured the web and found seven fantastic options below.
Used Canon Lenses – 7 Top Picks in 2024
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1. Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM
The Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM allows you to excel at different types of wide-angle photography like travel, landscapes, street photography, and photo journalism.
If you have a kit lens (something like a 15-45mm), I recommend the Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM as the next logical step. A wide-angle prime lens is a brilliant starting point as it’s especially versatile and can be used for different types of photography like landscapes, travel, and street.
You get great value for money and it allows you to see the difference between zoom and prime lenses without spending a fortune. This older 24mm from Canon is still a really good buy and many people swear by it. It’s sharp and delivers great image quality, and the f/2.8 maximum aperture means it holds up really well in low-light situations too.
The AF is not as advanced as modern Canon RF lenses but the ring USM motor still performs OK and because of the type of photography you will use this for, it’s not as important. Unlike many used Canon lenses and wide-angle primes in general, this lens actually has image stabilization too which helps with subject tracking and reducing camera shake.
2. Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM
The 35mm focal length, fast maximum aperture, and lightweight design make the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM ideal for street photography and travel photography.
For something a little different from the typical 24mm wide-angle lens, why not try the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM? 35mm is still a great focal length for different photography types and it particularly excels at street photography when you are exploring cities for example.
The lens is consistently sharp and although there is a little distortion occasionally, it’s nothing too impactful that can’t be touched up. You also get a fast f/2 maximum aperture which makes low light photography easier and is great for closeup portrait shots to get smooth backgrounds.
Although I prefer the newer STM and nano-USM autofocus systems, this used Canon lens has the older ring-USM which is perfectly functional and OK to work with when tracking subjects. In terms of build quality and size, it’s incredibly similar to the EF 24mm and although it’s not as portable as newer pancake lenses, you won’t struggle to carry it or use it for prolonged periods.
3. Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM
The Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM is a great alternative portrait lens and with the f/1.4 maximum aperture excels in low light situations such as wedding after-parties and indoor events.
The Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM is one of the more expensive used Canon lenses but it offers a huge discount compared to the new model and you save approximately 40% on the price. That is difficult to ignore, especially for an L-series lens that has such good functionality.
This 85mm lens is perfect for portrait photography and some telephoto work and many people prefer 85mm instead of 50mm for the different compositions and crops on people you can achieve and full body portraits. Indeed, for portrait photography, the f/1.4 maximum aperture and built-in IS really help.
The maximum aperture means you can get superb background separation and create smooth professional results while the IS helps if you are moving around at an event like a wedding or tracking moving subjects. It also makes this lens perfect for low light situations such as parties and wedding after-parties where there could be difficult lighting.
I find the build quality to be top-notch too and it feels durable and has various weatherproofing for outdoor use. The only drawback is that this used Canon lens is a little heavy and not the smallest either.
4. Canon EF 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 II
If you want an insanely cheap kit lens the Canon EF 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 II is a perfect starting point and delivers great quality, usability, and durability.
I mentioned kit lenses earlier and the Canon EF 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 II is actually one of the best used Canon lenses in this category. It’s quite an old model and it doesn’t look like the new range of lenses so be aware of that. However, the 28-80mm focal length range is quite versatile and lets you have a go at many types of photography.
This older lens does feel incredibly durable and the metal lens mount gives a satisfying tight connection. It does mean that it’s heavier and bulkier than most other kit lenses, but it’s still perfectly usable. The sharpness is OK across the focal lengths and the distortion is minor except for a little vignetting which can easily be corrected in photo editing software.
In terms of autofocus, this does have an older DC motor with rubber belt drive too which is quiet and perfectly serviceable, but if you have ever used something like the STM or USM AF, you will notice a difference. Regardless, for less than $100, this used Canon lens is incredible value for money and a perfect starting point for beginners.
5. Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM
This telephoto lens is highly affordable and great for those who want to get into wildlife or sports photography without spending a fortune.
The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM is one of the best used Canon lenses for telephoto photography and it is incredibly affordable compared to many quality wildlife lenses too. For less than $500, you get a flexible lens that has great utility and a more modern design compared to other choices on this list.
The 70-300mm focal length is really impressive and it allows you to do portrait work but also get fabulous detail on wildlife from a distance without disturbing them. The image stabilization really helps with this too as you can track the subject easily and still get sharp shots without any motion blur.
It’s not pin sharp at all focal lengths and apertures, but at the middle ranges the photos are exceptional quality and overall, providing you get your camera settings right, it delivers consistent quality. I really do like the appearance of this lens too and it looks especially sharp and has a smooth zoom transition that’s easy to adjust.
6. Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 MACRO
The Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 MACRO is a top choice for first-time macro photographers and offers great usability and features.
The Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 MACRO is one of the cheapest used Canon lenses available and although it looks really dated in terms of design, it has some good features and could be a great buy if you want to give macro photography of things like insects and flowers a try and put those macro tips to good use.
50mm isn’t a common focal range for Canon macro lenses and I must admit that 100mm is better, but it’s perfectly workable and you can still get close to your target to get superb detail. The closest focusing distance is 0.8ft / 24cm which again isn’t the best, but combine that with the 50mm focal length, and the 1:2 magnification and you get a capable lens for beginners.
I find the sharpness to be great from edge to edge, and the f/2.5 maximum aperture certainly helps with background separation. You can also create that desirable bokeh effect in your backgrounds due to the 6-blade circular aperture diaphragm. I don’t recommend this macro lens for professional work, but if you just want an intro to the genre and to practice your macro techniques, it’s perfect.
7. Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM
The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM is an older telephoto lens that still offers great image quality, decent usability, and a durable construction for outdoor use.
Last but not least I’ve found an absolute beast for wildlife and sports photography and I can’t believe the price of this used Canon lens. The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM is an older L-series telephoto zoom lens for less than $500 and this is virtually impossible to find. Yes, the technology is older, but it’s perfectly usable and offers excellent image quality.
With a focal length of 70-200mm, you’ve got a perfectly capable lens for wildlife photography where you can work from a distance or things like events photography where you are sitting in the crowd. It’s a really chunky and heavy lens though and isn’t the best for portability and I don’t like that unlike newer Canon telephotos, it doesn’t have a tripod mount.
The image quality is consistently sharp and the constant maximum f/4 aperture helps too with background separation and working in lower light conditions although it doesn’t compare to f/2.8 models. The autofocus is OK, and it is a ring USM motor, but this is an older version so don’t expect as smooth and fast AF as newer L-series lenses that have nano USM.
Don’t Overlook Used Canon Lenses to Boost Your Photography Gear Collection!
So, with this list of used Canon lenses, I think you have a brilliant starting point and could really bolster your photography gear collection without breaking the bank.
Used lenses will also play more of an important role in the future as Canon has been discontinuing much of its EF series in favor of RF and RF-S mirrorless lenses. This means that in time, more of the EF range will only be available as used or refurbished.
Either way, the list of used Canon lenses above should give you food for thought. The Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM, Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM, and Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 MACRO are all insanely cheap prime lenses that are great for trying out wide-angle, portrait, and macro photography.
Alternatively, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM, Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM, and Canon EF 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 II give you zoom flexibility and allow you to try out things like wildlife and sports photography instead.
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