Adding a zoom or telephoto lens to your Canon gear bag is a great move. These telephoto lenses can add dramatic effects for video, let you capture subjects like wildlife, and in general, give one a great view of the action. In this list, there are cheap telephoto lenses, for those who need a straightforward, tight shot, and much more expensive lenses with features like image stabilization, moisture resistance, and extremely high optical quality. There’s a zoom lens here for everyone, the key is determining what your needs are, and how much you are willing to spend.
Here’s our top 10 favorite Canon Zooms lenses from lowest to highest price.
1. Canon 75-300mm f4-5.6
While it come at a cheap price, this 75-300mm is more than a bargain. With solid sharpness, decent optics, and a ton of reach, for $79, it’s a steal. For most users who don’t need image stabilization, weather sealing, and other advanced features, this is the beginner lens to beat. It’s got solid build quality and the zoom ring doesn’t stick, so even though the variable aperture won’t do for video, it’s not out of the question. This is the best way to go for beginners and other people looking to try telephoto shooting.
- Fantastic range at a great price
- High quality construction
- Includes 1 year Canon warranty
- Optical quality is solid
- Minimum focusing distance is greater than four feet, won’t work for macro shots
- Lack of image stabilization means some shots can be extremely challenging, anytime the shutter speed isn’t very fast
2. Big Mike’s 500mm/1000mm f8
This lens is too interesting not to include on this list. While it may be strange, at this price, it’s easy to cater to one’s interesting in the “bigger is better” philosophy of life. Not only is this lens physically huge, the zoom is massive: 500mm without the teleconverter and 1000 with. That’s some serious reach. Of course, this lens is $129 for a reason; it has ZERO frills. No image stabilization, completely manual focus, and a weight that isn’t exactly portable. Still, for those interested in serious reach, it’s hard to argue with the value this lens brings you. If the 75-300mm seems a bit easy, this can be a great way to start wrapping your skills around manual focus and framing extremely tight shots.
- Includes 2x teleconverter to increase reach
- Great results with a tripod
- Excellent value at an unbeatable price for those willing to learn
- Includes adapter for T-mount and 35mm SLR cameras
- Accepts 67mm filters
- Over one foot long
- No image stabilization means one has to be very still
- Completely manual lens
- Tough learning curve
3. Canon EF-S 55-250mm f4-5.6 STM
While the 75-300mm may be dirt cheap, this may be the true budget/value option for telephoto shooters. Sure, $300 isn’t quite the popping deal that $80 is, but this lens has very comparable performance range-wise and includes image stabilization, drastically expanding the capability of one’s shooting. IS makes this lens truly one that is good for all picture situations. Obviously, at f4-56, the lens will struggle in low light, but for most cases, four stops of image stabilization should be enough to capture the moment. While $299 is a serious bump up from $80, this lens really will make photography tremendously easier and allow one to feel confident in virtually any situation.
- Close focusing distance of 2.8 feet
- Praised as best under $1,000 telephoto lens
- Brilliant, sharp images, great image stabilization
- Autofocus is fast and effective
- No zoom creep at all
- Solid plastic build quality
- Image stabilization up to four stops
- Mount ring is plastic
- Not as sharp as L series lenses
- Some users had issues with video shake
4. Canon EF-S 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 STM (Stepper motor)
While this lens may have less range than others like it, it’s got some great perks. Image stabilization and a short minimum focusing distance are nice (1.3 feet), but this lens is mainly targeted to those who don’t need a ton of reach, and still need wide-angle capability. Otherwise, it’s very comparable to the lens above it; the build quality is great and the zoom and manual focus ring have solid ergonomics. For those who need plenty of range that starts wide, this may be your best bet in the budget options.
- Focus is fast and quiet
- Praised as great for sports photography
- Great all around piece of glass
- Minimum focusing distance of 1.3 feet means it can be used for macro photography
- Lens is on the large side for some users
- Some users thought image quality was lacking
5. Canon 70-300mm f4-5.6 IS II
If the number one lens on our list grabbed your attention, but the lack of image stabilization seemed like a deal breaker, this is the answer to your desires. Boasting four stops of image stabilization, fast focus, and nice bokeh, this is a telephoto that delivers on every levels. While it’s not quite L-series quality, the sharpness and ability to do manual focusing are nice; the zoom and focusing rings also have a smooth feel. For most users, this should more than suffice in capturing pictures of distant subjects. Still, if this seems a bit below what you’re after, or you don’t want to deal with variable aperture, read on.
Price: $499 (9 percent off MSRP)
- Sharp, stable lens
- Not quite L quality, but significantly lighter weight and lower price
- Bokeh is praised as creamy
- Fast focus
- Full-time manual focusing
- 4 stops of image stabilization
- Can struggle to focus on foreground subjects
- Not weather-sealed like an L lens
6. Canon 70-200mm f4L
Starting our foray into Canon’s L-series is this wonderful 70-200mm f4. The sharpness is out of this world and with a minimum focusing distance of 3.9 feet, macro isn’t exactly out of the question. While f4 isn’t exactly lightning fast, having a constant aperture is nice for video. Another bonus of this lens is its fast and quiet ultrasonic motor. Surprisingly, however, it lacks image stabilization. This is the king of budget optics, but losing IS is a tough feature to give up on. Still if you’re shooting on a tripod, monopod, or in daylight, you shoudl be fine. Having an L-series lens like this is more than a status symbol; it’s a real practical advantage.
Price: $599 (8 percent off MSRP)
- Sharpness is great
- Excellent ergonomics and feel
- AF is great in everything but extreme low light
- Relatively light for size and functionality
- Quiet, ultrasonic motor
- 3.9 foot focusing distance means somewhat viable for macro shots
- Lack of image stabilization
- One user found autofocus too slow
- On the bulky side
7. 24-105mm f4 IS (Zoom lens)
This is the video shooters dream lens. It’s reasonably quick, offers a great range, and solid image stabilization. It’s an L series so you know the build quality is great and optics are sharp. It has but one downside and that is its relatively low speed. Still, for many this is a very practical choice. Stepping up to the 2.8 model may be worth it for some, but do you really want to spend $750 more ($1,749 24-70mm f2.8) for slightly faster speed? For some it’s worth it, but for most (especially video shooters), this is the way to go.
This is one of the best all-around lenses one could buy. It has exactly one shortcoming: f4.0 isn’t all that fast. Outside of this however, this lens has a versatile zoom range, tack sharp images, and the ability to zoom in and out during video. It’s often used by video shooters because of its fixed aperture (allowing one to maintain consistent lighting). It may not be the fastest lens out there, but it’s one of the most practical.
- Great zoom range
- Three stops of image stabilization
- Quiet autofocus with ultrasonic motor
- One year warranty, dust and moisture resistant
- One stop more slow than f2.8
- 1.5 lbs isn’t exactly light
8. Canon EF 400mm f5.6L
This is a lens one rarely hears about, but for a certain kind of user, it’s a great deal. At f5.6, it’s pretty slow, but beyond this limitation, some find owning a prime sniper rifle to be quite convenient. There’s no zooming back and forth; what you see is what you get. It’s build like a tank with fast autofocus and outstanding sharpness. Plus, at $1179, it’s the big white lens for the many. Sure, some will need the flexibility of a zoom range, but if you need to get close and tight in the daytime, this is the lens to beat. It’s not for everyone, but for those who can accept its limitations (and even embrace them), it can be a real bargain.
Price: $1179 (6 percent off MSRP)
- Praised as perfect wildlife lens
- Excellent sharpness
- Some users praise the lack of a range, makes shooting simpler
- Built like a tank
- Sharper than 100-400mm
- 2.8lbs is relatively light for lens of this caliber
- On the slow side, ideal for daylight shooting
- A few users had issues with focusing
9. 70-200mm f2.8 IS II (Zoom lens)
When most think of a telephoto lens, this is what they picture. Needless to say, it’s tough to beat on virtually every level. Boasting best-in-class image quality, silky smooth focusing and zooming, multiple image stabilization modes, and a blazing fast speed, there’s truly no downsides. The worst you can say about this lens is that it’s pricey and heavy, but these are small inconveniences for what you’re getting. For those who need the best of the best for sports photography, wildlife, and other kinds of shooting, and need it on a lens that’s fast to boot, this is the one for you.
This is a world class lens. With a USM motor (ultrasonic), unreal optics, and fast aperture, this is a go-to choice for sports photographers and anyone seeking top optical quality from a distance. There are no real downsides to this lens beyond its high price and weight, but that’s to be expected for images of this quality. The image stabilization has a variety of modes and is good for up to four stops. In short, for people who need a lens with great reach and pro optics, this is the one.
Price: $1899 (10 percent off MSRP)
- Outstanding image quality
- f2.8 leads to decent low light performance and tack sharp images
- Multiple stabilization modes allow one to use IS to their advantage in variety of situations
- Pretty quiet focusing motor
- 2.9lbs is a lot of weight to carry around
- Overkill for all but professionals and those in need of high optical quality
10. Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 L IS II
If the 400m f5.6 piqued your interest, but the notion of shooting only at 400mm was your qualm, this may be the zoom lens that works for you. Boasting outstanding optics and upgraded focusing and zoom rings, it’s everything the picture doctor ordered. Naturally, it’s water and dust resistant with amazing durability and that classic L series zoom lens look. While it has a variable aperture, shooting f4 at 100mm is still pretty nice. It also boasts a decent minimum focusing distance of just three feet, so it’s not hard to use as a macro lens. While it’s not for everyone, if you need serious reach, this is the creme de la creme that also lets you back off to 100mm.
Price: $2049 (7 percent off MSRP)
- New air sphere coating reduces flaring and ghosting
- Allows for zoom torque adjustment
- Highly resistant to dust and water, amazing durability
- Minimum focusing distance of three feet
- 4 stops of image stabilization via IS ii
- Great for carrying around
- Heavy (but not as heavy as 70-200mm
- A small percentage of users complained about power usage
- Best performance in bright light
Still looking for the right Canon zoom lens? Browse more top-rated Canon zoom lenses on Amazon.