Which lenses are must have for a Canon user having photography as hobby.

Please consider the following:

  • Praiseworthy
  • Hobby use. All kind of photography: landscape, macro, portrait etc.
  • Answer one lens at a time!
  • Yeah not really sure what you're asking... Are you talking about what you should achieve as a hobbyist or what lenses you should get as a hobbyist? Because hobby just means shooting for yourself. It has no relation to where and when and what. – Nick Bedford Nov 28 '10 at 23:24
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    This feels rather subjective, and at best needs to be a wiki thread. If you are actually looking for something very specific, I would remove the "Answer one lens at a time". If you are just looking for some general information, I'll need to convert this to community wiki. – jrista Nov 29 '10 at 0:45
  • Objective first, lens second. – Rish Jan 15 '11 at 14:41
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    I think the fact that there are eighteen answers to this question demonstrates that there's not really "must have" answers for all users! – mattdm Nov 14 '11 at 5:04

24 Answers 24


50mm f1.8

Or faster if you're rich!
OK - so it's not literally a "must have", but I don't know anyone who has one and doesn't rave about it.
In terms of bang for your buck, you can't beat it.
I love mine, and it is always attached to one of my bodies.

I use this for everything, but especially for portraits with a blurred background.

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    This lens, my cheapest, is also my favorite – Stu Thompson Dec 30 '10 at 15:42
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    +1, although I would recommend the f/1.4 first, and suggest the f/1.8 if and only if you don't have the money for the wider lens. – jrista Jan 13 '11 at 17:37
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    +1 - This lens is just about the only lens that you can recommend to a beginner without asking "what are you going to use it for" first, and anyone who knows why they'd rather have the 50mm 1.4, or 85mm 1.2, or whatever, won't be asking this question, anyway. ;-) – D. Lambert Jan 13 '11 at 22:36
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    It should be noted though that this is less-than-useful for general photography on a crop camera, since the 35mm focal length equivalent makes it more of a short tele than a normal lens. Still a great lens for its price though. – You Jan 13 '11 at 22:39
  • @You, quite right that the focal length changes, but since it changes to around 75mm-80mm, it becomes a classic portrait focal length. :-) I will stop before I'm all gushing! – AJ Finch Jan 17 '11 at 9:54

None of them are must have. You can always swap every lens for something a bit different that will do the job as well.

  • I'll update the question. – Amir Rezaei Nov 28 '10 at 21:22

For sports and general use a 70-200L f2.8 USM is a standard lens. Add a teleconverter, such as the 1.4x, and it'll still be sharp.

I don't particularly like the IS version unless you need it for slow-shutter non-moving targets, because IS adds weight and cost and complexity.

They're pro-glass, but well worth the money.

  • This seems to be the go-to lens for wedding and portrait photogs. The IS version especially for indoor / low light shooting. – AngerClown Jan 18 '11 at 14:24
  • Yes, for candids in a crowd situation they are awesome. Some of my favorite individual candids were shot with mine. – Greg Jan 18 '11 at 22:18
  • The f/4 L non-IS is no slouch either. And a whole lot cheaper and lighter besides. – Chinmay Kanchi Jan 10 '13 at 15:01

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

This lens is capable of crisp and sharp images, with low light also.
Its quality is better than 50mm 1.8 and you can have it for a really low price.

I took many photos with this lovely lens, before thieves stole it. Yeah, it's definitely a must have.

(just my final personal thought on the subject: it's the photographer that makes the photo, not the lens)

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    You can get the EF 50mm f/1.8 for $80-$100 -- is the f/1.4 really worth 3-4x that? – Michael H. Jan 31 '11 at 6:33
  • I've had both, and voted with my feet: No, the 1.4 isn't worth it. Neither build nor optical quality is better than medium, wide open it is rather soft and the autofocus motor is notoriously vulnerable to impacts on the front tube of the lens and is easy to break. I sold mine and got a 1.8 instead. I'd take a long hard look at the Sigma 50/1.4 if you need something beefier than the 1.8 instead. – Staale S Jan 31 '11 at 16:38
  • Staale, I would cite a review that says exactly the opposite: the-digital-picture.com/reviews/… In this review, f1.8 is presented as the poorest one of the family (f1.8,f1.4,f1.2L) for build quality, MF ring ("barely usable"), distance window (absent) and background blur (or "bokeh") quality. – Gabriele D'Antona Jan 31 '11 at 18:01
  • And another comparison where the f1.4 wins: photo.net/equipment/canon/ef50 – Gabriele D'Antona Jan 31 '11 at 18:07
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    Reviews, schmeviews :) All I can say is that I was massively underwhelmed by it. I'm not saying that the 50/1.8 is better, you understand, but that the 50/1.4 is nowhere near enough on an improvement upon it to justify the price. Besides, there are better fifties out there these days, the Canon 1.4 is a very old design optically. – Staale S Jan 31 '11 at 19:31

EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 USM

This is the lens I use for 90% of the shots with my 40D. Despite its designation this is equal to an 'L' lens in terms of image quality.

Useful zoom range, wide aperture, image stabilization. Much better than the kit lens, this is definitely in the 'you get what you pay for' category.

Also, because it's fixed aperture, there is one less thing to think about when shooting.

The main downside vs the kit lens is size and weight. This is a big, heavy lens but not any worse than other L grade zooms; depends on what you are used to. 77mm filter size too, so you know when it's pointed at you. It is not a discreet lens.

  • I've been drooling over this one for a few months. I've read one reviewer (Ken Rockwell) who doesn't think it's any better than the kit 18-55 mm, but absolutely everyone else seems to swear by it. Some day, I will probably get this one used from lensrentals.com -- and even still, it will be $800. But it's worth it? – Michael H. Jan 31 '11 at 6:31
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    @khedron There is no question this lens is better than the kit lens. If you want good shots at f/2.8 - f/5 or so or if you find yourself often making severe crops of your photos, it's worth the cost. If you want something light to carry around for one-off pictures or photos in good light and won't be looking hard at details or depth of field, the kit lens is great because it sharpens up when stopped down. – whuber Feb 1 '11 at 17:57

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

This lens fills the essential ultra wide angle focal range for APS-C cameras (not compatible with full frame cameras.) Effectively 16-35mm due to the crop factor, this lens can help you capture those expansive landscape scenes with great breadth and depth to them. The aperture is non-fixed and rather narrow for a maximum aperture, however with landscape photography, this will usually not be a problem.

Not recommended unless you only use APS-C cameras, and never intend to use a full frame camera. Useful focal range, but limited range of use due to aperture.


Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro

For macro photography, the 100mm f/2.8 macro lens provides the optimal blend of value and functionality. An ideal mid-range focal length for macro work, it offers a very useful moderate working distance from subject such that you are not too close that you scare off your subjects (like insects), and not too far that you can't frame properly. Its size is perfect for hand-held work. It has a very nice, well-damped, and VERY LARGE focus ring that makes manual focusing a breeze. Focus throw is a little short for some, however it is not too short that it is not useful. The bokeh from this lens is fantastic, and will really enhance your macro subjects.

Useful on both APS-C and Full Frame cameras, this lens is hard to beat at $400 or so. It is effectively a 160mm lens on cropped sensors, which is similar to the Canon EF 180mm L Macro lens for full frame cameras.

  • How does this lens compare to the Sigma 105mm macro lens? – LC1983 Jan 24 '11 at 18:32
  • Faster focusing and constant length. More pleasant to use as a general-purpose lens as a result; for macro neither feature is particularly important. The USM focus motor allows full-time manual focusing, this may or may not be imporant to you in macro applications (but to be useful this needs you to decouple AF from the shutter button). – Staale S Jan 31 '11 at 16:40

24-105 f4 L

This is my second favourite lens.
It almost always lives on one of my bodies. It has a lovely range, and is beautifully clear and sharp.
It's a good all-rounder. A truly excellent walk-around lens. I also use it for portraits.

It is a bit on the pricy side (GBP 900 ish), but that's photography - the expensive glass is usually the good glass!


Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM

This is an excellent wide-angle landscape lens. It fills two essential focal ranges, depending on the size of sensor you use. For APS-C cameras, it fills the critical 24-70mm range, as it is effectively 26-57mm on a cropped sensor. For Full Frame cameras, it fills the true ultrawide to wide angle range for those expansive landscape shots. Quality of this lens is superb, with very sharp pictures throughout the focal range. It gets a tiny tad soft at the 35mm end, but for landscapes, the loss of detail is rarely noticeable.

Highly recommended for either APS-C or Full Frame users. The 24mm focal length is a key focal length for landscape photography, and this lens serves that position well at the 16mm end. The 16mm wide angle focal length really brings in breadth and depth on full frame.


Depends on what you like to shoot. If you're into landscape, some sort of (ultra) wide-angle is a must have, but you also must know how to use it to its full effect.

For a hobby photographer, I can highly recommend the 50mm/1.8, because it is ultra-cheap yet gives you some amazing pictures. You can, of course, spend more money and get the 50mm/1.4.

  • I'm interested in all kind of photographing macro, landscape etc. – Amir Rezaei Nov 28 '10 at 21:21

For hobby use, you dont need L series lenses. I suppose you already have a kit lens (18-55mm). A few nice to have lenses within budget are:

  1. Canon 55-250mm f/3.5-5.6 IS [With your kit lens and this, you can cover 18-250mm focal length with fairly good quality]
  2. Canon 50mm f/1.8 [Its a nice to have low-priced prime lens with amazing photo quality]
  3. Lensbaby Composer + Macro Extension + Telephoto Extension [Gives your creativity a go!]
  4. If you're a landscape fan, get a Sigma 10-22mm [This is a little more expensive than the others I've mentioned]

There you go, already too much for a hobby photographer :)


Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 L II USM

Probably the most ideal portrait lens Canon has ever made. The focal range is perfect for up close head shots, or at a distance full body portraits. The bokeh produced by this lens is beyond perfect, blurring into that perfectly smooth, creamy softness that many portrait photographers chase. While costly, the cost is well spent, with top of the line optics, sharp from its widest aperture down. Effectively a 138mm lens on APS-C, this lens can fill the role of a head shot portrait lens on cropped sensors.

Best used on a full frame for best effect and thinnest DOF, this lens is pretty much unbeatable for portrait work. (It has a cult following on many photography sites, with several dedicated groups on Flickr.)


Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L

I have found this zoom lens to be absolutely amazing. Obviously not as fast as a prime, but for general use (hobbyist or otherwise), I believe this lens gives you excellent bang for the buck. For the things that I like to shoot (architecture, cars, people) I find this lens to give me a great range of shots with an unbeatable depth-of-field.


Cannon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM

I'm actually surprised that someone else hasn't mentioned this one yet, but this is the second lens that I picked up (the first being the Cannon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM) and found the lens to be quite good for the following reasons:

  • Flexibility - For the hobbyist photographer it gives you a good range and while you might come to find it limiting over time, when you first start out it gives you enough options that you don't have to worry about swapping out lenses a lot.
  • Optics - While it doesn't fall in to the same category as L glass, it gets the job done quite well and I didn't notice any issues with any of the photographs I've taken with the lens.
  • Image Stabilization - This point speaks for itself, IS will get you some shots that you might need a tripod for.
  • Price - The price isn't too painful when buying the lens new on its own; however, since it was a kit lens for some higher end bodies, the secondary market is actually a bit weaker than for some other lenses and it isn't uncommon to find the used in like new condition for half price or less.
  • This lens was the one I got after tossing the kit lens in the trashcan and used as my primary lens from 2009 to 2012. It's pretty nice, albeit dark, but then I had my 430ex II flash. – Michael Nielsen Jan 10 '13 at 9:33

The setup that works well for me as a non pro enthusiast are the 24-105mm L in combination with 100-400mm L. That way I am covered from 24-400 in beautiful L glass. I just added me a 35mm 1.4 L to speed up my kit since it is a "slow" kit setup. But works great for my needs since I shoot alot of outdoor portraits and nature.


Canon 17-40mm f/4L EF

This is a great lens for the following reasons:

  1. Light, you don't really feel the weight of it.
  2. Sharp
  3. Minimal distortion (yeah ok you do need to correct at 17 but it's quite fixable)
  4. Relatively cheap for its class (remember it's an 'L')
  5. Useful focal length, on a crop it's a bit closer to 26-65?
  6. Rather nice auto focus.

I own one and would recommend it to anyone as an all in one for landscapes, street photography etc. Bang for buck if you don't intend on getting too much equipment or have no interest in primes or the 16-35 f/2.8 is not within budget.


I would suggest, if you are using a non-full-frame sensor (for example the 60D/7D's) thinking about a 35mm f/1.4 as I previously found that a 50mm lens was a bit too much for portraits, especially in tight spaces. If that's a bit pricey, the 28mm f/1.8 is also a great and relatively cheap lens for cropped sensors.

And of course, both of these lenses will still work if your using a full-frame like the 1D/5D.


The Prime lenses that have been mentioned are all good, but for a Zoom lens my favourite is my Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

I got mine because my kit lens broke and it covers the range of the kit lens and has replaced my 70-300 as my zoom lens. Great walkabout lens and it's the only one I really use any more aside from my 50mm f/1.8

If you want to specialize I'd suggest investing in primes that meet your specialization, landscapes = wide angle lenses and portraits = 50mm 85mm or 100mm prime with as wide an aperture as you can afford.

  • If you have only one lens, then this is the best all around regular shooting. I love the 17-55, but when it is on the camera I miss some opportunistic telephoto shots. – social-biz Jan 10 '13 at 20:15

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

This is a superb lens for all kinds of wildlife and bird photography. It has great reach, especially on an APS-C camera (effectively 162-648mm field of view range.) It is clear, sharp (although a tad soft at the extremes), and not too terribly heavy for hand held use. It includes 2-3 stop IS (image stabilization), allowing you to capture quality hand-held shots as low as 1/25-1/30s at 100mm, or as low as 1/100s at 400mm. (If you have very steady hands, 1/15s@100mm or 1/50s@400mm is not impossible.)

Highly recommended if you do any kind of wildlife photography. Also useful for birds that are not in flight. For birds in flight, good hand-held technique will help you capture even those shots...however a 400mm f/2.8 lens is recommended for better birds in flight.


My other suggestion, for a beautiful lens, is the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM. This lens is stunning, it's a piece of art in itself and the shots it takes are always, without fail, technically perfect, and problems are always due to the person taking the shots in my experience. It's pricey at around $2500, but it pays for itself if you're a pro. You'd be hard-pressed to find a pro-photographer who doesn't have one in their kit either. I use mine in any number of situations, for portrait shots from a distance. It works great for sports photography. It works excellent in low light conditions as well!


17-50, 18-50, 18-55mm F/2.8 (-4.5)

Assuming a hobbyist have an aps-c body this is the go to lens for carrying around as a tourist, snapping social events, kids or pets indoors, etc.

Depending on the budget you have some options. Canon, Sigma, Tamron. Sigma and Canon are close (Sigma 2.8 is actually better on close focus and narrow aperture than the Canon), while the Sigma is cheaper. Tamron is even cheaper, but significantly inferior in terms of build and AF quality. i know more than one person with the Tamron whose zoom ring says crunch crunch. I don't know anyone with Canon or Sigma lenses that does that.

Second choice is to get fixed 2.8 or 2.8-4.5 (tight budget). The fixed aperture has three advantages: more light when zoomed in, constant metering makes it easier on full manual, and the flash balance when using fill flash (e.g. on Av mode) is constant. However, Sigma's 2.8-4.5 costs $200 while fixed 2.8 costs $600.

I have the $200 version and I'm very happy with it.


Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM

The 50mm focal length is easy to work with and understand. Its remarkable speed means you can shoot in low-light situations and still get great results. The lens is reasonably lightweight and works anywhere you can zoom with your feet. For social events it shines. You can shoot into the night without having to change lens.

Sometimes I miss IS and macro features, and consider pairing it with the 24-70mm f/4.0 L as that is strong in the areas where the 50mm is weak.


Canon EF 20/2.8, particularly on APS-C

On an APS-C crop body, I have found this to be a great lens for those times when you want something that will work reasonably well all of the time.

It's probably a bit wide for regular use on a FF body, but becomes a moderate wide-angle on a crop body, which means that you will rarely have to move away from your subject in order to frame it but may sometimes need to move closer.

The absence of a zoom control means there's one less thing to worry about.

It's a prime, which partly leads to it having quite good optical properties in a reasonably small package. The maximum aperture is not outstanding, but certainly decent.

If you have a camera which gives decent image resolution (which is just about any DSLR these days), there will be enough image data in the output that you can crop to "zoom in" and still have plenty enough image to make prints at decent sizes.

All in all, on APS-C, the 20/2.8 is my go-to lens for when I want a reasonably small package for all-around use and not have to worry about changing lenses. Whether it is a must have depends on your usage, as with any other lens.


any lens that rate over 9.0, that's my rule... i have most of them !


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    I'm sorry, but that is not a very useful answer. That list rolls in to the tune of $25,000! I highly doubt you have all of them, and I wouldn't include every one of those lenses on the "must have" list of lenses for every photographer. Not to mention the fact that the list contains only zoom lenses, and completely ignores prime lenses, which ARE essential for certain types of photography. – jrista Jan 13 '11 at 17:14

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