Best Canon Telephoto Lenses

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.

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.

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.

Best Canon Telephoto Lenses

Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 VC G2 review

Tamron's new 70-200/2.8 zoom is a very competent lens: It's almost up there with the best Nikon has to offer, even sometimes surpassing the new Nikon 70-200/2.8E VR in image quality. It offers a very effective image stabilization of almost 5 stops even if it could not suppress the mirror-slap of the D810 completely and has a fast and reliable AF. And as its price is almost half of what you pay for the Nikkor the new Tamron deservedly earns a Highly Recommended rating.

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Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art review

The new Sigma 85/1.4 Art finally brings Sigma's 85mm prime up to the performance one can expect from a modern lens designed with 36+ MP sensors in mind: It offers the best performing FF/FX-corners and the softest Bokeh of any 85mm lens I know. Plus it is astonishingly resilient against strong contra-light. And although it is not the sharpest in the center, has a little more longitudinal CAs than others, and is a huge and heavy beast of a lens I'd award Sigma's new 85/1.4 Art a Highly Recommended. But this is under the caveat that the AF-issues are singular problems with my copy of the lens.

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Tamron 150-600mm G2 review

Improved image quality combined with good image stabilization, improved sealing, shorter minimum focus distance, and an acceptable size and weight makes Tamron's new 4x super-telephoto a compelling package. It's a pity that Tamron didn't position it as the successor to their A011 model at the same price-point. But it certainly earns a Recommended rating.

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Samyang 135mm f2 review

Samyang did an excellent job when they designed their version of a 135/2.0 lens: For a 500 EUR lens to meet and even exceed the optical quality of an 1800 EUR Zeiss lens is quite an eye-opener. Only the plasticky feeling of the lens is a let-down. So if you need a robust long-lived lens that can take a beating, the Samyang may not be your first choice. But if you don't bang around your equipment that might not bother you too much, and don't forget you can replace this lens three to four times for the price of just one of the Zeiss versions. Like the Zeiss, there's no image stabilization and no autofocus drive inside that might break-down. But you should clearly understand whether you can cope with manual focus before considering getting this lens.

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Sigma 150-600mm Sport review

Sigma's 150-600mm Sport is a highly desirable lens for sport and wildlife photographers who demand a super-telephoto reach without the stratospheric cost of big primes, or even the highest-end zooms from Canon and Nikon. The build quality is excellent: it's heavy, but reassuringly built with full weather sealing. The AF, when coupled with a decent DSLR, is fast, confident and very usable for sports. And the optical quality in my tests proved to be very respectable across the entire range. There may be vignetting and evidence of coloured fringing, but both are easily corrected in RAW conversions, and importantly the lens delivers where it should with fine, well-resolved details right into the corners of full-frame images. Compare closely with Tamron's 150-600mm and Sigma's own cheaper Contemporary version.

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Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II USM

If you want a quality telephoto zoom with longer reach, consider the EF 100-400mm IS USM, now available in a Mark II edition. 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.

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Canon EF 70-300mm f4-5.6L IS USM

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.

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Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L IS II USM

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.

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Canon EF 70-200mm f4L IS USM

Canon's EF 70-200mm f4.0L IS USM 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.

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Canon EF 70-300mm f4-5.6 IS USM

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.

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Canon EF 75-300 f4-5.6 III

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.

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Canon EF-S 55-250mm f4-5.6 IS STM

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. This is the second edition of the lens which now features STM focusing that's quicker and quieter than before for movies, along with a slightly closer minimum focusing distance and a smoother seven bladed iris. Like its predecessor there's still Image Stabilisation to iron-out the wobbles. A great telephoto zoom for those on a budget.

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Canon EF 85mm f1.8 USM

Canon's EF 85mm f1.8 USM is a classic portrait lens for both full-frame and cropped bodies. The longer focal length allows you to stand a little further away than the 50mm models, and also accentuates the blurred background effect. The f1.8 aperture is sufficiently large to achieve very blurred backgrounds and the USM focusing is quick and quiet. It's an older lens, but one of the most affordable Canon primes with a large aperture and delivers great quality.

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