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  Recommended Canon lenses for general-purpose, everyday photography and kit lens upgrades
 
 

General-purpose zooms are designed to handle most day-to-day shots, offering wide-angle to telephoto coverage. Unless you’re a specialist photographer, you’ll probably keep a general-purpose zoom fitted to your DSLR more than any other lens. Indeed if you bought a DSLR kit, you’ll already have a general-purpose lens, so why buy another one?

 

The answer is to upgrade to a superior model. Better quality zooms may offer superior optics, an extended focal range, tougher construction, quicker and quieter focusing, image stabilisation to reduce camera-shake, or brighter apertures for low-light work and blurred backgrounds.

Remember since this lens will probably be used for most of your shots, it makes sense to use a good quality model. Below you’ll find a selection of ideal models. I've also added a couple of prime lenses for general-purpose use if you fancy something smaller, lighter, brighter and better quality.

Note when I mention full-frame bodies I'm referring to models like the EOS 5D Mark III and 6D. When I mention cropped-frame bodies, I'm referring to models like the EOS 1000D, 650D, 60D, 7D and the entire range of Digital Rebels. If you’d like to learn more about lens specifications, from focal lengths to f-numbers, please see my lens guide. If you find the information here useful, please support me by shopping at the stores below and if you have any questions about lenses, feel free to ask in the forum!



   
Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS review

Specifications

Focal length:
18-200mm
Aperture: f3.5-5.6
Lens mount: Canon EF-S
EF-S equiv: 29-320mm
FF compatible: No
Anti-shake: Yes
AF motor: Micro Motor
Closest focus: 45cm
Filter thread: 72mm
Hood: Optional EW-78D
Optics: 16 el. / 12 groups
Diaphragm blades: 6
Weight: 600g
Size: 79x102mm

     
Canon’s EF-S 18-200mm boasts a massive super-zoom range, although as an EF-S model it’s not compatible with full-frame cameras. On a cropped body it delivers an equivalent focal length of 29-320mm, from wide-angle to powerful telephoto, covering almost any situation without having to change lenses. There’s no USM focusing and the quality is not as good as zooms with shorter ranges, but the sheer convenience will outweigh the downsides for many.


   
Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS review

Specifications

Focal length:
18-135mm
Aperture: f3.5-5.6
Lens mount: Canon EF-S
EF-S equiv: 29-216mm
FF compatible: No
Anti-shake: Yes
AF motor: Micro Motor
Closest focus: 45cm
Filter thread: 67mm
Hood: Optional EW-73B
Optics: 16 el. / 12 groups
Diaphragm blades: 6
Weight: 455g
Size: 75x101mm

     
Canon’s EF-S 18-135mm may not have the reach of the EF-S 18-200mm, but still delivers a respectable general-purpose range of 29-216mm on cropped-frame bodies (again it’s not compatible with full-frame models). It’s a more affordable model, often supplied as an optional kit lens on some newer bodies, and like the EF-S 18-200mm, includes Image Stabilisation to iron-out any wobbles. If you can afford to spend more though, consider the EF-S 15-85mm below.



   
Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM review

Specifications

Focal length:
15-85mm
Aperture: f3.5-5.6
Lens mount: Canon EF-S
EF-S equiv: 24-136mm
FF compatible: No
Anti-shake: Yes
AF motor: USM
Closest focus: 35cm
Filter thread: 72mm
Hood: Optional EW-78E
Optics: 17 el. / 12 groups
Diaphragm blades: 7
Weight: 575g
Size: 82x88mm

     
Canon’s EF-S 15-85mm is the replacement for its popular EF-S 17-85mm, and designed for anyone wanting a quality general-purpose lens for cropped-bodies; note as an EF-S model, it’s not compatible with full-frame cameras. Like its predecessor there’s quick and quiet USM focusing, Image Stabilisation and decent manual focusing, but it now features slightly wider coverage, equivalent to 24-136mm. Like other non-L lenses though, you’ll still need to buy your own lens hood.



   
Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM review

Specifications

Focal length:
17-55mm
Aperture: f2.8
Lens mount: Canon EF-S
EF-S equiv: 27-88mm
FF compatible: No
Anti-shake: Yes
AF motor: USM
Closest focus: 35cm
Filter thread: 77mm
Hood: Optional EW-83J
Optics: 19 el. / 12 groups
Diaphragm blades: 7
Weight: 645g
Size: 84x110mm

     
Canon’s EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 is the general-purpose zoom for anyone who loves to shoot portraits or work in low light; note as an EF-S model, it’s not compatible with full-frame cameras. The constant f2.8 aperture doesn’t come cheap, but it allows the lens to gather plenty of light and deliver nice blurred backgrounds. There’s also quick and quiet USM focusing, along with Image Stabilisation. An ideal wedding and portrait lens for cropped bodies. It's also interesting to note the equivalent lens for full-framers, the 24-70mm f2.8, remains an unstabilised model, so this is one range where cropped-frame owners enjoy an advantage.



   
Canon EF 24-105mm f4L IS USM review

Specifications

Focal length:
24-105mm
Aperture: f4
Lens mount: Canon EF
EF-S equiv: 38- 168mm
FF compatible: Yes
Anti-shake: Yes
AF motor: USM
Closest focus: 45cm
Filter thread: 77mm
Hood: EW-83H included
Optics: 18 el. / 13 groups
Diaphragm blades: 8
Weight: 670g
Size): 84x107mm

     
Canon’s EF 24-105mm f4.0L is the ideal general-purpose zoom for owners of full-frame bodies, covering wide-angle to short telephoto with quick and quiet USM focusing, Image Stabilisation, decent manual focusing and ‘L’ quality; and as an L lens you also get a lens hood. Mounted on a cropped-body, it misses out on true wide-angle coverage, but remains a popular choice and a perfect partner for the excellent EF-S 10-22mm ultra-wide zoom.



   
Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM review

Specifications

Focal length:
40mm
Aperture: f2.8
Lens mount: Canon EF
Equiv on EF-S: 64mm
FF compatible: Yes
Anti-shake: No
AF motor: STM
Closest focus: 30cm
Filter thread: 52mm
Hood: Optional ES-52
Optics: 6 el. / 4 groups
Diaphragm blades: 7
Weight: 130g
Size: 68x23mm

     
Canon's EF 40mm f2.8 STM is the smallest EF lens in the catalogue. It matches the weight of the EF 50mm f1.8 to become the joint lightest, but at just 23mm thick, is easily the thinnest, earning its nickname as a pancake prime. The 40mm focal length is useful as a general-purpose lens on both cropped-frame and especially full-frame models and it'll make your DSLR look and feel much smaller. Meanwhile the Stepper Motor AF allows quieter focusing for movies especially with models like the EOS T4i / 650D. The f2.8 aperture may be slower than the 50mm options (which coupled with the shorter focal length rules it out for serious portraits), but it's the size of the 40mm which is behind its ultimate charm. It's a fun, practical, extremely compact and surprisingly good quality lens to have in your collection.


   
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II review

Specifications

Focal length:
50mm
Aperture: f1.8
Lens mount: Canon EF
Equiv on EF-S: 80mm
FF compatible: Yes
Anti-shake: No
AF motor: Micro Motor
Closest focus: 45cm
Filter thread: 52mm
Hood: Optional ES-62
Optics: 6 el. / 5 groups
Diaphragm blades: 5
Weight: 130g
Size: 68x41mm

     
50mm lenses deliver so-called standard coverage when mounted on full-frame bodies, roughly matching the magnification of the human eye. They may become short telephotos when mounted on cropped bodies, but on full-frame DSLRs they're general-purpose options for anyone wanting a simple, but small, light, bright and great quality lens. Canon offers no fewer than three 50mm lenses with varying focal ratios and build quality. Most full-frame owners will go for the middle f1.4 or top-end f1.2 options, but it's still worth mentioning the cheapest f1.8 model. The build and focusing may be basic, but the optical quality is surprisingly good for the money. A great option for those on tighter budgets or experimenting with their first prime lens - truly the thrifty-fifty.


   
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Specifications

Focal length:
50mm
Aperture: f1.4
Mount: Canon EF
Equiv on EF-S: 80mm
FF compatible: Yes
Anti-shake: No
AF motor: USM
Closest focus: 45cm
Filter thread: 58mm
Hood: Optional ES-71 II
Optics: 7 el. / 6 groups
Diaphragm blades: 8
Weight: 290g
Size: 74x51mm

As mentioned above, Canon offers no fewer than three 50mm lenses, each with different focal ratios and build quality. For many photographers, the middle f1.4 option strikes the best balance of quality, build, aperture and price. Well-heeled L-lovers may be drawn to the top-end f1.2 model, but the f1.4 simply represents much better value, and is also a decent step-up in build and focusing from the basic f1.8, although in my tests the optical quality was similar. If you're a full-frame Canon owner looking for a quality general-purpose lens, it's well worth considering. After all, in the days of 35mm film cameras, a 50mm existed in every photographer's collection.



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