Canon’s L series lenses are considered to be among the best available lenses. In fact, the lens quality is so prized, it’s not uncommon to adapt them to use on other cameras such as Sony. Lenses offer users one of the most immediately noticeable ways to up their footage quality.
L Series lenses are demarcated by a red ring around their focusing ring. They’re made to resist weather, dust, and water, making them compatible with outdoor photography. They feature super optics and high-quality glass elements that minimize distortion, aberration, and other negative optical characteristics. L series lenses are a great choice for photographers and also an ideal choice for videographers using their Canon cameras to shoot footage.
Discover the best Canon L lens for you in this shopping guide, featuring 15 our favorites, listed from lowest to highest price:
1. Canon EF 17-40mm f4
It may be the cheapest L series lens on the market, but for range, practicality, and optics, it lives up to the name. Boasting poppin’ colors with great contrast, superb build quality, and a decent speed of f4, what’s not to love? Well, the worst that can be said about this lens is that it doesn’t have image stabilization. Still at a max focal length of 40mm, this isn’t the biggest deal. Needless to say, it may struggle in low light. Beyond this, however, the lens has a short minimum focusing distance of .9 feet, meaning macro shots are within the realm of possibility. It’s not the l series lens to beat, but it is the bargain of the bunch.
Price: $749 (6 percent off MSRP)
- Close focusing distance of .9 feet
- Great for nature, wedding, and landscape photography
- Colors pop with great contrast
- Tack sharp
- Praised as solid and dependable
- No image stabilization
- One use found quality poor when lens was wide open
- One user found 28-135mm much to be of comparable quality
2. Canon EF 100mm f2.8L
It may be a prime, one-trick pony, but for stunning macro and portrait shots, this 100mm f2.8L is undeniably glorious and for some, the best Canon L lens money can buy. It’s relatively lightweight compared to other zoom lenses, has fantastic color and contrast, and is praised for its clean sharpness. There are a few minor downsides including wonky focusing to infinite and a bit of a one-noted look. Still, if it fits your needs and style, this lens is a great and reasonably affordable addition to a stable of lenses.
Price: $799 (11 percent off MSRP)
- Praised as superb macro and portrait lens
- Amazing sharpness when used at macro
- Lightweight compared to similar lenses
- Fantastic color and contrast
- No image stabilization
- Some users had issues focus at infinity
- Large weight
- One user found focal length and features limiting
- One user had issue with jumpy autofocus
- Some users preferred longer lens for top of the line macro
3. Canon EF 135mm f2L
This lens is similar to the above one except it adds a little bit of reach and about half a stop more of light capturing ability. With this lens, one gives up image stabilization, but the trade-off is that f2 has a dreamy look, arguably making it even better for portraits and similar photography. Obviously, it has an edge in low light as well. The bokeh is lovely and as with most L-series lenses, it is weather sealed. Overall, the main reason to get this lens over the one above is if you need better portraits than macro.
- Great for macro shots and portraits
- Superb sharpness and color
- Bokeh is outstanding
- High quality weather-sealed
- Prime lens
- No image stabilization
- One user found images to be insufficiently sharp
4. 24-105mm f4 IS (Zoom)
This lens has exactly one shortcoming: f4.0 is a bit on the slow side. Beyond this very minor issue, this lens is among the best possible values for any within the L series. It boasts a great range, meaning one can get close to the action or at an acceptable wide angle. It’s decently sharp. Images and videos look great. This is a particularly common lens for video shooters as its fixed aperture makes zoom shots easy to execute (and keep your lighting consistent). While it’s not the creme de la creme for stills shooters, it’s a very versatile and practical lens that can get the job done for anyone.
- Flexible zoom range
- Crisp optics and solid image stabilization (three stops)
- Quick and silent autofocus with Ultrasonic motor
- Moisture and dust-resistant, includes one year warranty
- Full stop slower than f2.8; f4 isn’t that fast
- Somewhat heavy at 1.5 lbs
5. 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
6. Canon 8–15mm f4L EF (Fisheye to Wide Angle)
For those looking to take very wide angle and fisheye style stills, the Canon 8-15mm f4L offers unprecedented value. Boasting great sharpness and an acceptable speed. While fisheye lenses are available at much cheaper prices (check out our best fish eye lenses), the Canon version will make that key difference between looking like a GoPro and looking like an image was shot by a professional camera. Optical quality is especially pronounced on fisheye lenses since they are so distorted. For those who need to take landscape and real estate photos, where maximizing a sense of space is key, there is none better than this for the purposes.
- Beautiful, optically pristine pictures and video
- Autofocus is quick and effective, even in low light
- Sealed for weather-resistance
- High quality zoom and focus rings to make easy adjustments
- Produces both circular and diagonal style fisheye images
- Weight is heavier than some competitors
- Lens cover can be finnicky, does not always snap into place
- Despite amazing optics, there is still some chromatic abberation such as between background and subject lighting
7. 50mm f1.2 (Prime)
This is the mother of all prime lenses. At f1.2, it doesn’t get much faster. Wide open, this lens takes pure, dreamy cinematic stills with extremely shallow depth of field. At f2.8, it’s as sharp as they come. While it is limited (given that it doesn’t zoom), the 50mm f1.2 is every potrait photographers dream, and a force to be reckoned with for any cinematographer. On a camera like a GH4 or GH5 with a small sensor, the extremely shallow depth of field effect will be less pronounced, but the ability to capture a massive amount of light remains. It’s not for everyone, but for those whose needs this lens suits, it’s absolutely excellent.
- Unreal quality for portrait photography
- f1.2 means lens is excellent for low light photography
- Using lens on small sensor camera (like GH5) will give one great low light flexibility and not-too-shallow depth of field
- Fully open on a full frame camera, this lens is described as “dreamy”
- Tack sharp at f2.8
- For portraits and cinematography with a prime lens, it’s about as good as it gets
- It’s 10 times the price of a nifty fifty, but it’s not 10 times the quality
- Lack of zooming means it’s a one shot wonder
8. Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8 (Also Available at f4)
This lens is great for fast and wide shots. Boasting great optics and a solidly quick aperture of f2.8, it’s great for landscapes, real estate, and similarly wide photography. Users love the sharpness and accurate autofocus. It has all the trappings of other L-series lenses, but there are a few weaknesses. At this focal length, some users find it a bit on the soft side. The corners aren’t great. There is some vignetting when wide open on full frame. None of these are dealbreakers, but they do emphasize the particular oddities of this lens. For a certain kind of user, this lens is great, but it is for someone who is adding to a kit or who only needs wide shots that emphasize expansiveness not clarity.
If you don’t need the sharpness and/or faster speed, you can cut some of the price of this lens off with an f4.0 IS lens that’s otherwise very similar. Check it out for only $999.
Price: $1299 (19 percent off MSRP)
- USM motor for quiet accurate auto-focus
- Sharp, minimal lack of sharpness at the corners
- Versatile, fast lens
- Excellent quality wide open
- Fast at f2.8
- 82mm filters – can be pricey
- Not quite enough reach to walk-around lens
- Some vignetting all the way open on full frame
9. Canon EF 24mm f1.4L II
For those who need decent width, but still want solid depth of field and low light ability, the 24mm offers a great value. Boasting a short minimum focusing distance (.8 feet), and a lightning quick aperture, it’s great for capturing wide shots in all situation. No image stabilization and no range mean it’s particularly well-suited for a certain kind of need, but unlike the lens above, this thing is tack sharp. Vignetting here on a full frame is undesirable for some, though some users find the look stylish.
- Minimum focus distance .8 feet
- Slight vignetting, some users love the look, however
- Great for landscape and real estate shooting
- Excellent low-light lens
- Prime lens, no reach
- No image stabilization
- So wide, can’t see full field-of-view thourhg viewfinder
10. 24-70mm f2.8L IS II (Zoom)
While it may not have the immense zoom capability of the 70-200mm, the 24-70mm f2.8 offers users a great wide to medium lens with excellent sharpness and great speed.This lens is praised because the quality of the shots is extremely high and yet it is still formidably versatile. 24mm is wide angle and 70 is reasonably telephoto. Thus, this lens is described by some as the “if one was stuck on an island with one lens” kind of glass.
Price: $1699 (11 percent off MSRP)
- If you had to pick just one lens this would be the one; versatile and excellent. It can do almost everything really well
- Fantastic image quality
- Fast autofocus
- Users love its color quality, corner sharpness, and fast focus
- Very heavy
- A few find 70mm frustratingly medium distance
11. Canon 24mm f3.5L Tilt Shift
Of all the lenses on this list, this may be the that stands out the most. It’s hard to use, slow, and there’s vignetting. So why would anyone spend almost $2,000 on it? Because when used correctly, it takes images like no other. Not only can one rely on the tilt-shift effects, many users attest to the unique color, contrast, and optics of this lens. It is not forgiving nor approachable, but for those willing to learn, there’s just something special about the images it captures. This is partly because of the circular aperture, which does strange things to the highlights. It’s not for everyone and it’s especially not for the faint of heart, but for those looking to take pictures that are like no other, this is the way to go.
- Circular aperture for blurred, interesting highlights
- One of a kind look
- Best on tripod
- Great sharpness, color reproduction and depth of field effects
- Gimmick, one trick pony
- Tough to use, steep learning curve
- Major vignetting at some angles
12. Canon EF 85mm f1.2L
While the 50mm f1.2 is considered the gold standard with some versatility, the 85mm is considered the best portrait lens out there. For portrait photogs, it’s probably the best Canon L lens period. With lightning fast autofocus, speed, and stunning bokeh, it’s unbeatable. Sure at 85mm, it’s a bit dialed in, but the optics don’t lie: it takes unreal pictures. Much like other lenses this fast, this one can be a bit of an adjustment with some learning curve. For users willing to learn its traits, however, the 85mm f1.2 is probably the best portrait lens money can buy.
- Quiet accurate autofocus motor
- Relatively close focusing distance of 3.2 feet
- One user said this lens is comparable ot four and five thousand dollar Zeiss and Canon cinema lenses
- Praised as great for video and stills
- Ideal for portraits
- When autofocus fails (all the way open), manual focusing is smooth and relatively easy
- One user had an issue with the lens hood quality
- Slow autofocus
- Learning curve for using lens effectively
13. 70-200mm f2.8 IS II (Zoom)
This Canon lens boasts a 77mm filter sizer, inner focusing system, with ultrasonic motor and boasts beautiful clean optics, with a fast aperture to boot. Users say its much sharper than its predecessor and the image quality speaks for itself: clarity and sharpness here is beyond pro. For the medium telephoto range, this lens is the one to beat. Two minor downsides are its high price and heavy weight, but these are small costs to pay for images that look like as good as these.
Another option is to step down to the old model of the 70-200mm f4. It’s not quite as sharp, but it offers much of the same value at a fraction of the price, only $599 (See 70-200mm f4 on Amazon). A third option is the newer 70-200mm f4 IS, which has image stabilization and a new build, at $1,099 (see 70-200mm f4 IS on Amazon).
Price: $1899 (10 percent off MSRP)
- Top of the line image quality
- Image stabilization makes taking pictures at low shutter speeds more feasible
- f2.8 means this lens can be an asset in lower light situations
- Multiple stabilization modes means flexibility in getting the shot with four stops of stabilization total
- Motor is almost silent
- Focus distance selector can come in handy
- Lens is on the heavy side at 2.9lbs
- Pricey and may be overkill for all but professionals
14. 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
15. Canon EF 14mm f2.8L USM
For the wide-angle shooter who wants the best of the best, the 14mm f2.8L is fast, wide, and doesn’t really look like anything else. While it’s not quite as eye-poppingly odd as the tilt shift lens, it doesn’t quite look like anything else. On a full frame lens, 14mm is right on the edge of fish eye and at this speed and sharpness, one rarely sees images this wide that look this good. For real estate photographers, landscape photographers, and others who need to stress expansiveness with the utmost in sharpness and optical quality, nothing beats it. On a smaller sensor lens, 14mm becomes 22mm which isn’t quite as wide, but will still do for most purposes. The advantages of this lens, however are best seen on a full frame sensor.
- Built-in lens hood
- Fast rear focusing system
- Dust and moisture proof
- Close focusing distance of 7.9 inches
- Unreal sharpness and quality
- Praised as must for landscape photography
- Prime lens
- Not good for portraiture
- Lens cap a must- can’t cover lens with filter due to curve
Didn’t find the L series lens you were looking for? Browse more top-rated L series lenses on Amazon. Another great option for spending less and getting more is using a Sigma lens instead; here’s our picks for the best Sigma lenses for Canon DSLRs.
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