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  Recommended Canon telephoto lenses for action, sports, wildlife and portrait photography
 
 


If you want to get close to a distant subject, you need a telephoto lens. These are ideal for sports and wildlife photography, along with capturing candid shots of people at a distance. They’re also great for getting closer to details in both natural and urban environments which are lost in a larger view. Their broad flexibility coupled with a desire to zoom-closer than a standard kit lens makes a telephoto model the natural choice when most people start shopping for a second lens.

There’s a large variety of telephoto lenses out there and the first question you need to ask yourself is how close you want to get to your subject. If you’re shooting portraits or close-range action, then a zoom in the equivalent range of 70-200mm will be ideal. Canon offers no fewer than four 70-200mm zooms, and while they may not reach as far as a 300mm models, all four offer superb quality. If 200mm is sufficient for your needs, they’re highly recommended.

 

If you need to get closer to mid-range action or start photographing wildlife though, then you’ll want at least 300mm at your disposal, and if you really get into wildlife, and especially bird photography, you’ll want the longest lens you can afford. While the natural desire for many people is to always go for a zoom lens, don’t rule-out fixed-primes. If you always find yourself zooming-into the maximum focal length, you won’t miss out on any flexibility, but you’ll enjoy a lens that’s typically superior in overall quality.

Image Stabilisation is invaluable at high magnification and if you’re shooting subjects which move quickly, then USM focusing is also very useful.

Anyone shooting action or working in low light will also appreciate a lens with a larger aperture, indicated by a small f-number, such as f2.8. These may make the lens bigger, heavier and more expensive than models with average apertures, but have the major advantage of gathering more light. This allows quicker shutter speeds to be selected, which in turn enable you better freeze action or reduce camera-shake without having to increase your camera's sensitivity and compromise the image quality. Smaller f-numbers also allow you to achieve greater blurring on backgrounds, which is desirable on many action, wildlife or distant portrait shots.

Note when we mention full-frame bodies we’re referring to models like the EOS 5D Mark II. When we mention cropped-frame bodies, we’re referring to models like the EOS 450D, 500D, 50D, 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 our lens guide. If you find the information here useful, please support us by shopping at the stores below and if you have any questions about lenses, feel free to ask in the forum!



   
Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS


Specifications

Focal length:
55-250mm
Aperture: f4-5.6
Lens mount: Canon EF-S
EF-S equiv: 88-400mm
FF compatible: No
Anti-shake: Yes
AF motor: DC Motor
Closest focus: 110cm
Filter thread: 58mm
Hood: Optional ET-60
Optics: 12 el. / 10 groups
Diaphragm blades: 6
Weight: 390g
Size: 70x108mm

     
Canon’s EF-S 55-250mm is an affordable telephoto zoom designed for owners of mainstream cropped-bodies; as an EF-S model, it’s not compatible with full-frame bodies. The EF-S 55-250mm picks-up where the standard 18-55mm kit lens stops, extending the equivalent coverage to a maximum of 400mm. There’s no USM focusing at this price point, but there is Image Stabilisation to iron-out the wobbles. A great telephoto zoom for those on a budget.


   
Canon EF 75-300 f/4-5.6 III


Specifications

Focal length:
75-300mm
Aperture: f4.5-5.6
Lens mount: Canon EF
EF-S equiv: 120-480mm
FF compatible: Yes
Anti-shake: No
AF motor: Micro Motor
Closest focus: 150cm
Filter thread: 58mm
Hood: Optional ET-60
Optics: 13 el. / 9 groups
Diaphragm blades: 7
Weight: 480g
Size: 71x122mm

     
The EF 75-300mm III is Canon’s most affordable telephoto zoom, and as an EF model it’s also compatible with both cropped and full-frame bodies, although its low price means it’s best-suited to entry-level cameras. The lens delivers a classic telephoto range, which extends to an equivalent of 480mm on a cropped body. There’s no Image Stabilisation which may make the EF-S 55-250mm preferable, but there’s no denying it’s great value.



   
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM


Specifications

Focal length:
70-300mm
Aperture: f4-5.6
Lens mount: Canon EF
EF-S equiv: 112-480mm
FF compatible: Yes
Anti-shake: Yes
AF motor: USM
Closest focus: 150cm
Filter thread: 58mm
Hood: Optional ET-65B
Optics: 15 el. / 10 groups
Diaphragm blades: 8
Weight: 650g
Size: 78x138mm

     
The EF 70-300mm IS USM also works on both cropped and full-frame bodies, delivering a classic telephoto range. The price may be a lot higher than the model above considering it shares a similar range, but crucially this lens features both USM for quick and quiet focusing, along with Image Stabilisation to iron-out any camera-shake – an essential feature for a telephoto lens. A good option, but also consider the un-stabilised 70-200mm f4.0L at a similar price.



   
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM


Specifications

Focal length:
70-200mm
Aperture: f4
Lens mount: Canon EF
EF-S equiv: 112- 320mm
FF compatible: Yes
Anti-shake: Yes
AF motor: USM
Closest focus: 120cm
Filter thread: 67mm
Hood: ET-74 included
Optics: 20 el. / 15 groups
Diaphragm blades: 8
Weight: 760g
Size: 76x172mm

     
Canon’s EF 70-200mm f4.0L IS USM is the first ‘L’ lens in this list and really delivers the goods on both cropped and full-frame bodies. The range may not extend as far as 70-300mm models, but the optical quality is superb and as an ‘L’ lens, the build quality is also excellent. The lens also features a constant f4.0 aperture, quick and quiet USM focusing and Image Stabilisation, although note an un-stabilised version is available at almost half the price.



   
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM


Specifications

Focal length:
70-200mm
Aperture: f2.8
Lens mount: Canon EF
EF-S equiv: 112-320mm
FF compatible: Yes
Anti-shake: Yes
AF motor: USM
Closest focus: 140cm
Filter thread: 77mm
Hood: ET-86 included
Optics: 23 el. / 18 groups
Diaphragm blades: 8
Weight: 1,570g
Size: 86x197mm

     
Canon’s EF 70-200mm f2.8L IS II USM is a professional workhorse for both cropped and full-frame bodies. Like the model above it enjoys USM focusing, Image Stabilisation and ‘L’ quality, but what makes it really special is the constant f2.8 aperture allowing faster exposures for action shots and delivering nice blurred backgrounds for portraits. This aperture makes the lens relatively large, heavy and pricey, but it remains a coveted option.



   
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM


Specifications

Focal length:
70-300mm
Aperture: f4-5.6
Lens mount: Canon EF
EF-S equiv: 112-480mm
FF compatible: Yes
Anti-shake: Yes
AF motor: USM
Closest focus: 120cm
Filter thread: 67mm
Hood: ET-73B included
Optics: 19 el. / 14 groups
Diaphragm blades: 8
Weight: 1,050g
Size: 89x143mm

     
Canon's EF 70-300mm f4-5.6L IS USM brings L quality to this popular zoom range. You get tough build quality, quick and quiet USM autofocusing, full-time manual focusing, effective image stabilisation and great optical quality in a barrel that's comfortably shorter (albeit fatter and heavier) than the EF 70-200mm f4L IS USM. It may not feature the constant aperture of the 70-200mm f2.8 and f4 options, but it zooms 50% further and the stubbier barrel more easily fits into bags.



   
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM


Specifications

Focal length:
100-400mm
Aperture: f4.5-5.6
Lens mount: Canon EF
EF-S equiv: 160-640mm
FF compatible: Yes
Anti-shake: Yes
AF motor: USM
Closest focus: 180cm
Filter thread: 77mm
Hood: ET-83C included
Optics: 17 el. / 14 groups
Diaphragm blades: 8
Weight: 1,380g
Size: 92x189mm

     
If you want a quality telephoto zoom with longer reach, consider the EF 100-400mm IS USM. Compatible with both cropped and full-frame bodies (and delivering equivalent coverage up to 640mm on the former), it’s ideal for capturing distant action or wildlife. The ‘L’ build quality is superb and there’s quick and quiet USM focusing along with Image Stabilisation. A great partner for the 24-105mm, although some may not like the push-pull zoom action.



   
Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM


Specifications

Focal length:
200mm
Aperture: f2.8
Lens mount: Canon EF
EF-S equiv: 320mm
FF compatible: Yes
Anti-shake: No
AF motor: USM
Closest focus: 150cm
Filter thread: 72mm
Hood: ET-83BII included
Optics: 9 el. / 7 groups
Diaphragm blades: 8
Weight: 765g
Size: 83x136mm

Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM

Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM
     
If you find yourself always zooming-in to the maximum focal length, why not go for a fixed lens instead? Models like the EF 200mm f2.8L II deliver superb quality and a bright f2.8 aperture at a much lower price than the 70-200mm f2.8 zoom, although note there’s no Image Stabilisation on this model. There is quick and quiet USM focusing though and ‘L’ build quality. A quality option for distant portraits or close-range action if you don’t need a zoom.


   
Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM


Specifications

Focal length:
300mm
Aperture: f4
Lens mount: Canon EF
EF-S equiv: 480mm
FF compatible: Yes
Anti-shake: Yes
AF motor: USM
Closest focus: 150cm
Filter thread: 77mm
Hood: Built-in
Optics: 15 el. / 11 groups
Diaphragm blades: 8
Weight: 1,190g
Size: 90x221mm

Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM
     
If you can live without a zoom, but are after the next step-up in magnification, how about the EF 300mm f4.0L? It’ll match the maximum coverage of most telephoto zooms, but the f4.0 aperture will allow you to use exposures twice as fast as those at f5.6. Coupled with quick and quiet USM focusing, Image Stabilisation and ‘L’ build quality, it’s a great option for mid-range sports and action. It’s also a lot cheaper than the f2.8 version adored by pro sports photographers.



   
Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM


Specifications

Focal length:
400mm
Aperture: f5.6
Lens mount: Canon EF
EF-S equiv: 640mm
FF compatible: Yes
Anti-shake: No
AF motor: USM
Closest focus: 350cm
Filter thread: 77mm
Hood: built-in
Optics: 7 el. / 6 groups
Diaphragm blades: 8
Weight: 1,250g
Size: 90x257mm

Canon EF 400 mm f/5.6L USM

Canon EF 400 mm f/5.6L USM Canon EF 400 mm f/5.6L USM
     
For greater magnification without breaking the bank, consider the EF 400mm f5.6L, the most affordable long lens from Canon. It’s a quality performer with ‘L’ build and quick and quiet USM focusing, although this older model is sadly lacking Image Stabilisation which hints at a possible updated version in the future. The 300mm f4 plus 1.4x converter delivers similar coverage and aperture, but if you need 400mm, it’s the preferable choice.



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