Buying a first or additional lens for your camera can be tough, but if you know what you want and you don’t want the utmost in quality, there are numerous Canon options available in a reasonable price range. These lenses are all manufactured directly by Canon and include the quality and reliability guaranteed by having an established manufacturer behind them. Canon lenses are known for their value, solidity of their build, and most importantly, their startlingly high optical quality–despite their low price. If you’re looking to take sharper, better pictures, prime (non-zooming) lenses) are always sharper than zoom lenses in this price range. Zoom lenses, on the other hand, can get one very close to the action (or for the final lens on this list, very far as well). While zoom lenses lack some optical quality, they’re still great buys if versatility is what you’re after. All in all, there’s not a bad lens on this list; it’s all about what you are looking to capture in your photographs.
Here are our top five favorite lenses from lowest to highest price and all under $300, some significantly under.
1. Canon Ef 75-300mm f4-5.6
This lens may come at a dirt cheap price, but it can easily help photographers (and even videographers) step their game up considerably. It’s tack-sharp and has solid optics and a solid range. While it can’t be zoomed in while shooting video due to its variable aperture (f4 – 5.6) and it lacks image stabilization, it’s hard to find any fault with this extremely versatile and affordable lens considering the price is this low. If one is looking to take pictures of far away subjects, and even very far away subjects, there’s just no better value way to do so. The lens construction is sturdy and zooming feels great. Also, if one needs stabilization, a three axis gimbal stabilizer can work for both steadying video and stills.
- Excellent range and decent speed for a lens of this price
- Build quality is solid
- One year warranty from manufacturer
- Excellent value in terms of optical quality
- Closest focusing distance is over four feet; it can’t be used for macro shots
- No image stabilization means some shots will come out blurry
2. Canon 50mm f1.8 STM
The so-called “nifty fifty” has long been a staple for users looking to shoot great pictures with their Canon camera. Canon took a stab at improving this glass and they’ve succeeded. The nifty fifty with STM (stepper motor) is a knock out. People are loving this classic lens more than ever. The optics haven’t changed too much; but this is probably for the best. The nifty fifty has some of the sharpest, cleanest lines, and lack of chromatic or optical aberration on any Canon lens; it just plain rocks. Some users have said that the optics are slightly better, however. One may be inclined to think that higher image quality can be obtained with say, the 50mm f1.4, but according to DXOmark, this 1.8 is slightly better by their objective testing measures (f1.8 vs f1.4 on DXOmark).
The biggest upgrade here is the compatibility with video autofocus and a much more quiet motor. This is a must have for anyone who wants to shoot tack-sharp portraits (note that it’s 80mm effectively on an APS-C sized sensor. If you don’t have this lens, there’s just no reason not to get it. It’s awesome.
- Praised as silent with its new stepping motor
- Image quality is praised as sharp and attractive
- Autofocus praised as snappy and accurate
- Bokeh is creamy and loved by users
- Motor makes some noise, detectable when using on-camera mic, for instance
- If one already has the nifty fifty, the optical quality improvement is barely noticeable.
Not necessary to upgrade
3. EF-s 24mm f2.8 STM (Pancake Lens)
If you’ve ever felt like your camera was just a little bit bigger than you wanted it to be than this pancake lens offers a unique solution and some solid optics to boot. One of two affordable, Canon lenses of this profile, it has a 7 blade aperture and is the lightest lens of the Ef-s series. Another unique feature is that it allows one to use manual focus in one shot AF mode. Users love its tiny size and nice optics. On an APS-C sensor (common in most consumer-level Canon cameras like the Ti series, 60, 70, 80d), this lens is 38mm, meaning it’s not nearly as wide as it sounds at first glance.
Price: $129 (13 percent off MSRP)
- Excellent optics and tiny size at a great price
- Focus distance is a mere six inches, meaning its viable as a pseudo macro lens
- Filter size is 52mm meaning filters are more affordable
- Build quality is superb
- No image stabilization
- Some users complain about focusing sounds during video shooting
- Some users found optics to not be sufficiently sharp
4. Ef 40mm f2.8 STM
If one is looking for a compact fix that is a bit more zoomed into the action than the 40mm f2.8 pancake might be the one for you. Boasting similar traits to the lens above, it has a stepper type AF motor with always available manual focusing. While the minimum focusing distance is a bit far at 11 inches, this lens still can work for some decent quality macro photography.
Price: $179 (10 percent off MSRP)
The optical quality is good enough to take pictures that strongly evoke that classic Windows XP background. What more can one ask?
- Very portable lens that’s so light it feels like there’s no lens attached
- Praised as sharp with low chromatic abberation
- Stepping motor is on the quiet side for video shoot (external mic is still recommended)
- Minimum focusing distance of 11″ means one can zoom in pretty close
- Can be difficult to remove from camera
- Some users found the ability to focus wonky
- Few users had issues with the optical quality
5. Canon EF-S 18-135mm STM
Praised as a great lens for video, the STM (stepper motor) is particularly quite on this very versatile Canon lens. Users love it for sports photography, video, and being a lens that can pretty much do it all. At this range, there truly are few subjects that will elude you. While this lens is certainly on the pricey end of cheap, its four stops of image stabilization mean it is very viably used for sports photography and catching those tough to nail action shots.
- Focus praised as quick and silent
- One user said it’s great for sports photography on an APS-C camera because of its crop factor (1.6x)
- Great all around “do anything” lens
- Can be used for decent macro photography with focusing distance minimum focusing distance of 1.3 feet
- Lens is on the big side
- One user had an issue with the lens dying; another had an issue with the AF mechanism failing
- Some users found the optics to be mediocre