Many times when we are starting photography, we keep asking ourselves and our friends on the best and most popular DSLR lenses to have. As an experienced photographer, I find many requests and questions on which is the best camera lens for folks with a DSLR. And which lens to upgrade from their kit lens.
Taking our cue from the various requests, here we are with the best and most popular lenses you can buy. As there are a variety of manufacturers, we’ll first give you the overall top 5 lenses you could purchase before going in-depth with the categories of lenses from Canon, Nikon and other manufacturers. As there are not that many other lenses compared to Canon and Nikon, we would just put them all under, ‘Other’.
- Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens
- Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Standard & Medium Telephoto Lens
- Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Standard Zoom Lens
The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS comes recommended as it is fast, comes with image stabilisation, great sharpness and is great for all sorts of work requiring the great focal length it brings. Especially for wedding photographers and photojournalists. Or those who intend to take great photos and requiring a telephoto lens.
Meanwhile the trio of 50mm lenses are always popular, with the Nikon 50mm f1.8D AF and the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lenses as great, value for money lenses to start with. The Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens however brings a much faster autofocus speed and is proven popular DSLR lens for most Canon users. If you absolutely could only afford one lens for your full frame Canon DSLR camera, you won’t make a mistake with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens.
Popular Canon Lenses
While we have touched on the general top 5 lenses for most photographers, we would like to go deeper with an in depth look at the top 10 popular Canon DSLR lenses available in the market. A lot of these recommendations are also vetted based on our experience as photographers ourselves.
- Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom LensÂ â€“ The best if not one of the best telephoto lens for Canon photographers out there. Expensive but fast, versatile and sharp. And no, it doesn’t hunt in low light settings unlike some of its competitors. Great lens for weddings, events, sports, portraits and anything else you can think of or need it for. Or if you had the chance to go to Tsukiji Fish Market, this is the lens you would want to carry with you, as it enables you take fast shots.
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II LensÂ â€“ It is one of the best value for money lenses available. Great lens to have when you are starting with photography as it doesn’t hurt the wallet much and produces great photos
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Standard & Medium Telephoto LensÂ â€“ If you could afford it, grab the f/1.4 version from the get go, as it provides a much faster autofocus and build quality. It is 3x the price of the f/1.8 though
- Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Standard Zoom Lens â€“ Fantastic walkabout lens for full frame cameras. A bit on the long side for crop framed cameras like the 7D Mark II though. Great for weddings and events too
- Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM LensÂ â€“ Slower than the 24-70 but comes with an extra 35mm and image stabilisation. We still prefer the 24-70 anytime though, as it is a faster lens.
- Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Telephoto Zoom LensÂ â€“ A great telephoto lens if you are on a budget and can’t afford the f/2.8 version. We would recommend you to upgrade once you could though, as the f/2.8 version comes a stop faster
- Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM LensÂ â€“ Fantastic walk about lens if you don’t use a full frame Canon DSLR. Fast, quiet and sharp. Plus it comes with the Canon 3-stop Image Stabilisation, which makes the lens useful in low light settings
- Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Medium Telephoto LensÂ â€“ An affordable prime lens and really good for portraits. If you can afford it, go grab the 85mm f/1.2 version instead, which is the staple lens for wedding and portrait photographers. However the 85mm f/1.8 is good for starters and really fast with the USM kicking in
- Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Ultra Wide Angle Zoom LensÂ â€“ I love this lens. Itâ€™s not as fast as some but has been great for landscapes.
- Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM LensÂ â€“ Great for macro shots, it also doubles up as a portrait lens. Will be a great investment for money if you plan to expand your photography range.
Popular Nikon Lenses
If you are a Nikon user, fear not as we have our list for you too. Unlike Canon, Nikon does have a different set of popular lenses and so we’ll start with what seems to be the most popular ones.
- Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor LensÂ -Â Just like the Canon version, Nikon’s nifty 50 is one of the best, value for money lenses. Great lens to start with and a lens you will definitely keep for life
- Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VR II Nikkor Telephoto Zoom LensÂ – This is a very versatile lens. With a huge focal range, the 18-200 ensures you have great width and the long telephoto shots as well. The vibration reduction helps makes it a reasonable lens to have if you want to travel light or are on a budget.
- Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S Nikkor Zoom LensÂ – The best telephoto lens for Nikon, this lens comes with Nikon’s renown vibration reduction and focusing speed. Just like Canon’s version, it is great for weddings, events, sports and just general photography when you need a telephoto lens with the range.
- Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8D ED AF Zoom Nikkor LensÂ – It comes at almost half the price of the VRII lens and 80% of its speed. Built from almost entirely metal, the lens ensures you take great shots quietly and efficiently.
- Nikon 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor LensÂ – Though the Canon lenses also features a macro, Nikon’s version comes with VR and comes with a quick and quiet focus and brings in razor sharp images. A great lens to have.
- Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor Zoom LensÂ – Another great walkabout lens for your crop frame Nikon DSLR camera. It is a great choice if you just need a lens to carry about, instead of bringing the rest of your lenses along
- Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Nikkor Wide Angle Zoom LensÂ – The equivalent to the 17-55 for full frame Nikon DSLR cameras, the 24-70 is a fantastic lens for your walkabout, weddings, lens and events. It also comes with a 2.8 aperture, making it reasonably fast for a lens.
- Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8G ED AF DX Fisheye Nikkor LensÂ – The Fisheye lens, though not suitable for most situations, will give you a a unique shot for that unique moment.
- Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Nikkor Wide Angle Zoom Lens – Brings about ultra wide for your full frame Nikon DSLR camera, it comes with the clarity of a prime lens. With this lens, you don’t need any prime lens within the same range, except perhaps the Nikon 24mm f/1.4
- Nikon 135mm f/2.0D AF DC-Nikkor Lens – Planning to shoot portraits? The 135mm f/2.0 lens would be the lens to have and keep for a long time. With beautiful bokeh at f2 and yet the ability to have defocus control, you won’t go wrong with investing in the 135 f/2 lens.
Other Popular Lenses
Among the other popular lenses for DSLR cameras, there are some which really stood out. Here on TechGarage, we list down five of them.
- Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Lens (Nikon)Â (also forÂ Canon) â€“Â this lens gives you an extra 2mm if you are on a crop frame Nikon camera. That could make a difference in between an average and a compelling shot. Well worth it.
- Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG APO Macro Telephoto Zoom Lens for CanonÂ â€“ (also forÂ Nikon) â€“ this lens certainly has a wide focal range and is certainly on the more economical end of the spectrum of lenses in this category.
- Pentax SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 LensÂ â€“ again the 50mm lenses pop up.
- Pentax-m 50mm 1:1.7â€³ (Asahi)Â â€“ the Pentax nifty fifty.
- Olympus 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II Zuiko ED Digital SLR LensÂ â€“ A well made and affordable lens that comes well recommended. Gives you an effective 28-108mm on a 35mm camera, which means a good focal length and excellent optics.
This list of popular DSLR lenses is by no means complete. We would definitely look more into the best lenses for individual brands and platforms. With the advent of mirrorless cameras and new lenses being released for the various mirrorless platforms, photography has a lot of new boundaries to explore.