The biggest advantage DSLRs have over smartphones and compact cameras is swappable lenses that suit what you’re trying to shoot. Whether you want a lens that can blur the background for great portraits or something that lets you zoom in close to the action, there will be one available.
Lenses, however, are expensive. With so many choices, you need to be make sure you’re getting the right one for your needs. A well looked-after lens will last for years so it shouldn’t be a throwaway choice.
If you’re already an experienced photographer, this article probably isn’t for you. I’m not going to be recommending any super expensive, professional quality glass. Instead, I’m going to look at some of the best options for beginner and intermediate photographers who are looking to shoot new things.
Before diving in, it’s important to note that Canon has two different lens mounts: EF-S and EF. EF-S lenses will only work on crop sensor cameras like the entry-level Canon EOS Rebel T6. EF lenses will work on all Canon’s DSLRs.
If You Want to Shoot Portraits
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For portraits, there are two things you need: a focal length of between about 50mm and 100mm, and a wide aperture. This focal length range gives you natural looking portraits without too much distortion and the wide aperture lets you blur the background to nothing.
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM fits both these criteria perfectly, and at $125 is an absolute steal. There are very few lenses this good, available that cheap. I still use the one I bought when I first started portrait photography regularly.
If You Want to Shoot Sports or Wildlife
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Sports and wildlife photography are technically very similar: you want close up photos that show the action, but, whether because you’re stuck on the sideline or can’t sneak up on a wild animal, you physically can’t get very close to your subject. To overcome this, you need a telephoto lens.
The $299 Canon EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM telephoto lens is one of the cheapest telephotos you can buy. At 55mm, it has an aperture of f/4, and when zoomed in to 250mm, it has an aperture of f/5.6. For sports and wildlife photography during the day, this isn’t a problem. This lens also has image stabilization, which makes it easier to get shots in low light, although the narrow aperture will mean you have quite a slow shutter speed.
The $599 Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM is a big step up in terms of image quality, and the aperture remains at f/4 throughout the whole range, but it costs a lot more and doesn’t have image stabilization. It is definitely the better lens, though, and if your budget can stretch to it, it’s worth the investment.
If You Want to Shoot Landscapes
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Although you can shoot landscapes with any lens, most professional photographers use a wide angle for the simple reason that you can get a lot more land in your photo. It’s a lot easier to show the size and beauty of the mountains with a wide angle than a telephoto.
The Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM wide angle zoom lens, at $279, is a great option. On a crop sensor camera, it gives you the equivalent of a 16-29mm lens on a full frame camera. That’s a perfect zoom range for landscapes. Although f/5.6 is quite a narrow maximum aperture, for a landscape lens it doesn’t matter as much; you’ll normally be using an aperture of between f/8 and f/16 anyway.
If You Want to Travel With Your Camera
Smartphones are rapidly taking over as the most popular cameras because that they are small, easy to carry, and always with you. You can take much higher quality photos with a DSLR, but they are too big and bulky to carry around on a regular basis. Part of this is the camera, but it’s also the lens.
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Canon makes two great pancake lenses—they’re called pancake lenses because they’re thin and flat—to solve just this problem. The $149 Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM and the $179 Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM are both great lenses with a super low profile. They are both less than an inch long. This means that compared to a regular lens, they add almost no weight or bulk.
If you’re planning to do a lot of street or travel photography, one of these two lenses is perfect.
You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get good, versatile lenses for your DSLR. There is some great glass available from as little as $125. Just make sure to choose the lens that’s right for you.