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Which Lens Do I Need?

27th May 2019

Canon Collective ambassador Jenn Cooper discusses the various EF, EF-S, EF-M and RF lens ranges to help you find the perfect lens for you and your camera.

There are so many types of lenses available it can get a little confusing knowing which is the right one. Every lens has its own unique advantages. Some offer excellent low light shooting, while others are more compact and offer superior optical quality than the kit lens supplied with your camera.

The first thing to consider is what type of camera you have. Do you have an APS-C, full frame or mirrorless camera?

Canon DSLRs are categorized into one of two image sensor sizes: APS-C sensors (also known as a crop sensor) and full frame sensors.

The Best Lens for Your APS-C Camera

If your camera has an APS-C sensor, you should first look at the EF-S range of lenses, which have been specifically designed for this range of cameras.

The Best Lens for Your APS-C Camera

EF-S lenses feature a white square on the lens mount index and correlates to the same white square on all Canon APS-C camera bodies. This indicates that you can use Canon’s full range of EF-S and EF lenses on your camera body. However, if you use a Canon EF lens on an APS-C body, there is a crop factor that magnifies the lens by 1.6x.

Some photographers use this to their advantage. For example, a wildlife photographer shooting with the Canon EOS 7D Mark II, which has an APS-C sensor, and an L series EF 100-400mm lens can increase their focal length by 1.6x and achieve a greater zoom range (400mm x 1.6 = 640mm).

The Best Lens for Your Full Frame Camera

If you have a full frame camera then you should only use EF lenses. These lenses are indicated by a red dot on the lens mount index. Canon’s professional series EF lenses are commonly called L-Series and feature a red ring around the outside of the lens.

The Best Lens for Your Full Frame Camera

EF lenses can be used on all Canon DSLRs, as well as on all Canon mirrorless cameras when using a lens adapter.

The Best Lens for Your Mirrorless Camera

Mirrorless cameras are more compact than DSLR cameras, which means the lenses are also more compact. For this reason, mirrorless cameras have a unique lens mount designed to work with the EF-M and RF lens ranges.

EOS M Mirrorless Cameras and Lenses

The EOS M range of mirrorless cameras pair with the EF-M lenses and generally feature a white dot on the lens mount index. These are the most compact of all Canon lenses, making them ideal for travel enthusiasts and photographers looking for a lightweight camera setup.

The Best Lens for Your EOS M Mirrorless Camera

EOS M cameras can also be paired with the full range of Canon’s EF and EF-S lenses using the EF-EOS lens mount adaptor.

EOS R Mirrorless Cameras and Lenses

Canon’s latest lens technology can be found in the RF lenses, which have been specifically designed for the Canon EOS R and EOS RP full frame mirrorless cameras and feature a red line on the lens mount index. These revolutionary lenses provide superior sharpness, reduced aberrations and outstanding optical performance.

The Best Lens for Your Mirrorless Camera

The EOS R and EOS RP mirrorless can cameras can also be paired with the full range of EF or EF-S lenses by using the EF-EOS R lens mount adaptor.

Understanding the Different Types of Lenses

Now that we have figured out which range of lenses best suits your camera, we can discuss the different types of lenses you can use to really get the most out of your photography.

Macro Lenses

Macro lenses allow you to focus on a subject at extremely close distances and capture ultra-fine details.

Canon macro lenses like the MP-E65 allow you to produce images at 5x life-size magnification, revealing details that even the human eye cannot see.

Macro lenses are not used exclusively for macro photography, as they offer versatility and an impressive focusing range that allows you to go from close-up detail to infinity focus. The EF 100mm f/2.8 L macro lens is one of my favourite portrait lenses.

Telephoto Lenses

Wildlife and sports photography require lenses with larger focal lengths that can capture the action from a distance.

These types of lenses are known as telephoto lenses and have a greater magnification power that enables us to zoom in on distant subjects in stunning detail.

One of my favourite telephoto lenses is the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L. If you want to get the most range out of this lens, you can pair it with an APS-C crop sensor camera. The 1.6x crop factor increases the maximum focal length from 400mm to 640mm.

Another outstanding telephoto lens is the EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L, which is found in many photographers’ kit bags. It’s an extremely versatile lens that’s suitable for everything from portraits to wildlife, offering superior image quality.

Wide Angle Lenses

Landscape photography requires a wide angle lens in order to capture a greater field of view. Lenses like the EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM or EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM capture ultra-wide vistas with ease. With their wide focal range, these lenses are also suitable for interior photography and astro/night sky photography, making them popular among travelling photographers.

Prime Lenses

If portraits are your passion then investing in a great portrait lens will really elevate your work. Portrait lenses offer a shallower depth of field, which creates that desirable soft blurry background while keeping your subject perfectly sharp. Portrait lenses can range from the entry-level EF 50mm f/1.8 STM to professional lenses such as the RF 85mm f1.2L USM.

Canon Lenses Compatibility Guide

Full Frame (35mm)
Full Frame (35mm)
EOS R Series
EOS M Series
EF-S Lens Not compatible Via Mount Adapter EF-EOS R. Crops image by 1.6x Fully compatible Via Mount Adapter EF-EOS M. No cropping effect
EF Lens Fully compatible Via Mount Adapter EF-EOS R. No cropping effect Crops image by 1.6x Via Mount Adapter EF-EOS M. Crops image by 1.6x
RF Lens Not compatible Fully compatible Not compatible Not compatible
EF-M Lens Not compatible Not compatible Not compatible Fully compatible

Explore the full range of Canon lenses here and find the right lens for you and your shooting style.