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Holiday 2012: Canon Lenses For Every Shooting Situation And Style

by Peter West Carey on 11/30/2012

Are you looking to buy a new Canon lens for the holidays? There are some great deals out there but I won’t be touching on those in this post. Instead I want to lay out some options depending on which type of camera you already have and what you want to shoot.

This post will first highlight great lenses for cropped sensor cameras, like the T4i, 60D and 7D. Then we’ll step up to some lens options for the full frame shooters out there; 5D and 1D series cameras. I will also make a note for lenses I have personally tested, which will be the majority of my recommendations. Also, the images you see on the right side were all taken with the lens mentioned in the caption.

Cropped Sensor (APS-C) Cameras

Now then, you have a cropped sensor camera and you want a new lens?  Here are some options based on what you might want to start, or continue, shooting.

Landscape

Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM

The great outdoors. I love them and the sheer variety this planet holds. There are a couple of options for outdoor landscape shooting and my personal favorite is the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM. This lens equates to a 16-35mm lens and fits the bill for wide, wide shots without a lot of distortion. It is not perfect, but the zoom capability offers what I need when shooting outside. I own this lens, that’s how much I like it.

Also worth a peek is the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM. While this lens is intended for full frame cameras, it works well on a cropped sensor. The edges of the lens will be seen when shooting below 10mm but the curved look is unique and has certain useful applications. I have tested this lens and wish I owned one.

Kids Sports

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

Do you want to get great shots of your kid on the field but have to stay on the sidelines? Grab a Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens for a moderate price. While this lens is a little darker (f/5.6 at 300mm) most modern digital SLR cameras can handle ISO up to 1000 with little problem in reducing noise. Meaning you can overcome the lack of light by increasing sensitivity and not sacrifice shutter speed to stop your kid kicking the winning goal. I have tested this lens.

If you have a few dollars more, there are two great options depending on the sport. For indoor sports, like volleyball and basketball, I would suggest a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM. This lens is not only fast, it has a large, constant aperture to let in a lot of light. The range also works well indoor in closer quarters. Otherwise, grab a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM for outdoor sports where the field is bigger. I have tested both of these lenses and they are superb.

Kids Around The House

Do your monkeys never stop moving? Do you want just ONE good photo of them but your kit lens won’t handle it? You could do with a faster lens. For starters, and on the cheap but good side, try the Canon EF 35mm f/2. This will let in a lot of light and give a field of view similar to what your eye sees. It a decent lens for around the house. If you are looking for a zoom that lets in a lot of light and is fast, you’ll need to spend a few more pennies. In which case, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM is kinda overkill but will give you some variety in your shooting.

For an all around good ‘kid’ lens, I would suggest the Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM. It’s not super fast, but the range is great for inside the house and in the backyard. It can even work okay for sports.

Travel

Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

This is an easy one. Pick up a Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS. I tested this lens along side the equivelent Nikon, Sigma and Tamron versions and the Canon was sharpest to my eye. It is also fairly quiet and gives those wishing to travel with one lens an excellent option. Mix this up with the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM mentioned earlier and you have an economical couple of travel lenses for 90% of the situations you will encounter.

Wild Animals

Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM

If you will be shooting a variety of animals, start with the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM. This allows for a wide level of zoom for shooting lions on the Serengeti or hawks attacking their prey. If you know your subjects will be at a distance, the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM is one of the sweetest lenses you can own. I used this lens to shoot humpback whales in Alaska this summer and loved it, despite the weight of lugging it around. I have also owned the 100-400mm for 3 years.

Street Photography

If you want to keep it simple and low key, while being able to shoot in a variety of light, think toward a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM. Or, for more range, pick up at Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM . If you like to stay waaaayy back from your subjects, the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II will work and not break the bank.

Portrait

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM

The key with portrait is to remember your sensor has a multiplying factor of 1.6. Traditional portrait lenses range from 50-100mm or thereabouts. This means a good lens to seek out would be the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM  if you want to be serious or the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II if you don’t want to sell your children to afford the lens. For a few dollars more, the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM is an excellent lens. I have tested the 100mm and the depth of field is very nice.

Full Frame Options

If you have a full frame camera I’m going to suggest some expensive stuff. Why? Because your camera wants it, needs it, thinks about it at night when you’ve gone to sleep.

Landscape

Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM

There are two options here that are both top notch. I owned one for 5 years (the previous version) and tested the other while traveling Asia. If you want the versatility of a zoom, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM is only surpassed by the Nikon 14-24mm in terms of quality. If I were to pick a prime lens for landscape, it would be the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM hands down. I have tested or owned both of these lenses and their quality and sharpness for landscape is nearly impossible to compare.

Kids Sports

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

I’m going to cut and paste what I mentioned up above when it comes to sports because it holds true for full frame cameras as well:

If you have a few dollars more, there are two great options depending on the sport. For indoor sports, like volleyball and basketball, I would suggest a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM. This lens is not only fast, it has a large, constant aperture to let in a lot of light. The range also works well indoor in closer quarters. Otherwise, grab a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM for outdoor sports where the field is bigger. I have tested both of these lenses and they are superb.

Kids Around The House

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

The previously mentioned Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM works well for full frame or consider the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM for a little more range.

Travel

Is your mind numb yet? Don’t give up! We’re almost done.

For travel, with one lens, grab a Canon EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM. This is my prime lens for travel and most every day shooting. It is big and bulky but dang, it has a great range. If you can get over the f-stop limits, it will treat you well. It is also easy to create panorama with it, like this shot of San Francisco created from 81 images.

Wild Animals

Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM II

Again, cutting and pasting:

If you will be shooting a variety of animals, start with the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM. This allows for a wide level of zoom for shooting lions on the Serengeti or hawks attacking their prey. If you know your subjects will be at a distance, the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM is one of the sweetest lenses you can own. I used this lens to shoot humpback whales in Alaska this summer and loved it, despite the weight of lugging it around. I have also owned the 100-400mm for 3 years.

Why the cut and paste? You can certainly go with a Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM and blow the doors off everyone around you, but it will really matter on what you’re shooting. Small birds in the far distance will require it, but honestly, that f/2.8 400mm is a great all around workhorse for a wide variety.

Street Photography

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM

For street photography I’m going to suggest the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM again. It has the range you will want and is not too big.

Portrait

In the realm of ‘dreamy’ for portrait would be the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM. Great bokeh and the range will serve you well.

Conclusion

What can I say. Canon has a plethora of lenses for just about and shooting situation. I’m sorry if I didn’t get to your specific shooting situation, there’s just way too much for one blog post!

No matter the lens you choose, it is useless unless you get out there and start shooting!

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