Canon is supposed to have introduced the EF-S system for the APS-C cameras to make smaller\lighter lenses and keep the costs low. However, most of their EF-S lenses are general purpose zooms in the range 15/17/18mm-55/85/135/200mm ones. There is only one telephoto zoom lens (55-250mm), and one prime* (60mm macro). In fact, most of the Canon non-L prime lenses seem to be a decade or 2 old and for the EF system.

While EF lenses are supported on APS-C bodies, they are much heavier and costlier. So, if one were to build a photography kit based on the EF-S system (primary constraints being cost & overall equipment weight), there are very few options to do so. The only high quality lenses are the 15-85mm & 17-55mm ones.

Are there any EF-S lenses (Canon or third party) that fill this gap for telephoto focal lengths and prime lenses? Is there any reason why Canon has not addressed this segment?

* Corrected the "no prime" mention based on the answers.

  • \$\begingroup\$ there is actually one prime from canon : Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM macro but I agree this category seems to be neglected by canon \$\endgroup\$
    – kristof
    Oct 21, 2011 at 12:08
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ See also: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/10884/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Imre
    Oct 21, 2011 at 12:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was in a real dilemma on whether to accept Imre's or Matt's answer as both answered the question, but from different angles. I finally upvoted both & accepted Matt's answer as it addressed the technical aspect of the question. Really would've liked to have accepted both though. \$\endgroup\$
    – ab.aditya
    Nov 2, 2011 at 15:08

4 Answers 4


The EF-S mount allows the rear element of lenses to sit closer to the sensor. This makes wide angle lenses slightly easier to design. The format size (of APS-C) allows lenses to be made lighter as the image circle the lens projects can be smaller.

EF-S doesn't really make sense for telephoto lenses, as the rear element sits quite far from the mount anyway. You do save a little weight, but not much since the size of the front element is dictated by the aperture, regardless of the size of the image circle. For wider lenses the size of the front element is dictated by the angle of view more than the maximum aperture.

As for primes, Canon make one EF-S prime, the 60mm macro.

The story goes that Canon introduced the EF-S lenses to allow them to scale down existing lens designs as the basis for new lenses as opposed to creating a new optical formula from scratch. The EF-s 60mm macro is thus a scaled down version of the 100mm macro. I don't really buy this however, as if you look at the block designs there are some significant differences.

The relative dearth of primes for the format is probably based more around the target market, Canon sell a lot more APS-C bodies, and their users are more likely to prefer zooms.

The fact that they recently celebrated the 50 millionth camera and 70 millionth lens paints a stark picture, that the vast majority of users have just one lens, which is likely to be a standard zoom.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yea I saw that 50million/70million stat announced recently and just held my jaw open. Wait a second, does that mean we only have 1.4 lenses per body!? What are all of these owners doing!? \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Oct 21, 2011 at 13:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @dpollitt: One of the reoccurring themes on the site seems to be that your lenses will last longer than your body. The stat may simply be skewed by people upgrading their bodies without feeling the need to buy the kit lens as well and there are also third party lenses to consider... \$\endgroup\$
    – forsvarir
    Oct 21, 2011 at 13:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @dpollitt: Can't say I'm too surprised by the 50M/70M statistic most owners of even quite high end bodies don't even know what anything other than fully auto mode does let alone know anything about lens choice, they buy the kit because it looks impressive. Quite sad really. \$\endgroup\$
    – Paul Round
    Oct 21, 2011 at 13:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ actually, in the "long" term, say, 10 years, an enthusiast can buy 5-6 lenses, but will probably buy 2, maybe 3 camera bodies. Lenses last longer than bodies in the digital era, "forcing" people to update. this probably adds to the similarity of the ammount of cameras/lenses sold. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 21, 2011 at 13:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ blah, bad language. i mean that as well as generic users that buy camera+kit, even enthusiasts who buy more lenses (and skew the ratio to the lens' side), will eventually upgrade their bodies, softening that discrepancy. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 21, 2011 at 13:38

The primary reason is that Canon would not want to lock quality-conscious photographers into APS-C systems - when you finally start thinking about full frame, you'd have to ditch all the lenses you've collected, and might as well choose some the rivaling system (where, by the way, is similar discrimination against APS-C).

Another reason is that for wide to normal angle photography, APS-C is at disadvantage due to the crop factor. You need glass with shorter focal length (more expensive) and have less control over depth of field - dictated by smaller physical aperture at same angle of view from on the shallow side and by reaching diffraction sooner on the higher end. So, asking for high quality at reasonable price, APS-C only makes sense for longer focal lengths, where the crop factor gives extra reach and extra depth of field (for macro). But as Matt Grum pointed out, in longer focal lengths the differences wouldn't be remarkable enough to justify designing a lens exclusively for APS-C.

Sigma marks their APS-C lenses with "DC", and has some primes to offer - a couple of f/2.8 fish-eyes and a 30mm f/1.4. In tele zooms, they're offering 50-150 f/2.8.

Tamron distinguishes exclusively APS-C lenses as Di II. There's one prime, 60mm f/2 Macro. There's also one tele zoom, 55-200 f/4-5.6.

Tokina's line for cropped sensor is DX. You'll find 35mm f/2.8 Macro prime, and no tele zooms (50-135 f/2.8 was discontinued in 2009).

For Canon and Nikon, full frame is the primary market. People who buy low-end bodies are not very likely to start hoarding high-end optics; and if they want, they can use full-frame lenses. If you're into building a system based on APS-C and primes, Pentax is a more suitable platform for you.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It depends on how educated the person buying a low-end body is. I bought a cheap Canon 450D+kit lens for my first camera. My next purchases were all high-end EF optics, including he 100mm f/2.8 Macro, the 16-35mm f/2.8 L II, and the 100-400m f/4.5-5.6 L IS lenses. It didn't take much to educate myself well enough to know that glass was what really mattered, and starting with a cheapy body wouldn't be a big deal so long as I could keep using my glass for years to come as new bodies were released. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Oct 22, 2011 at 2:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jrista of course, but you're not exactly a typical cheap DSLR buyer :) You're one of those who made me write "not very likely" instead of "unheard of". And you can use the full-frame lenses, two of which wouldn't make sense to design separately for smaller image circle as pointed out by Matt Grum. And you can switch to full frame with those lenses any time (I doubt you'd miss the kit lens). \$\endgroup\$
    – Imre
    Oct 22, 2011 at 7:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ touché...touché. ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Oct 22, 2011 at 16:56

They do have a 60mm prime(macro) lens. Most EF-S users that don't want the size of the high quality primes really don't want the cost. The size isn't the biggest issue for the purchase. It sounds to me like you are more looking for Canon to produce a micro four thirds format to compete on size. They have not done this yet.

Also, don't forget about the 10-22mm EF-S lens, it is excellent.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ If you're interested in size and quality for primes, I think @Imre's answer is spot-on. This is Pentax's niche. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Oct 21, 2011 at 15:48

The only prime lens in EF-S mount made by canon that I am aware of is Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM macro, and it seems to be getting pretty good reviews.

Other lenses that are respectable would be

if you add to this the kit 18-55 IS and 55-250 IS lens which are really a good value for money you will have the whole range covered pretty well.

I agree the ef-s mount seems to be treated as a second category, for example there is no single L lens in ef-s and no primes that would take advantage of the smaller sensor size. But I imagine that fast L class lenses would not have been that much smaller and perhaps it does not have much sense economically to make one that would only work with apc cameras when the EF lenses can be used on both apc and full frame bodies.

Also I believe that canon digital APC system was not created to make the DSLR system smaller, but simply because it was not possible to build a full frame camera body within the cost constrains of amateur and enthusiasts market.

When you look at the first APC digital cameras from canon you will notice that they did not even feature EF-S mount, and the body size and other components would match size-wise the full frame film SLR’s. I think that the first camera to feature EF-S mount was canon 300D (original Rebel in US) and that was sold with the first EF-S lens 18-55 (non is). I think canon basically was looking into a way of cutting the cost of creating a budget standard kit zoom. Before the 18-55 the lens most photographers would use for that purpose was 17-40 f4 L, but that would stretch the budget of an amateur shooter too much, so by moving the optics closer to the sensor they made it possible to build a 18-55 lens that would not break the bank.


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