The Canon Digital Rebel Series has been around since 2003 and has been the most popular DSLR over the past decade. Before the Digital Rebel, the Canon Rebel brand was already very strong with several film cameras a part of the product line. There are so many lenses in Canon’s product line. And then, when you consider all the lenses offered by third party manufacturers like Sigma, Tamron and Tokina, knowing which lens to purchase can get confusing.
My goal is to identify the lenses that meet your needs and wants, while keeping them in a budget range to match the camera that you use.
While the lenses I discuss below are compatible with all Canon Rebel DSLRs, if you are using a camera older than the Canon Rebel T1i, you could certainly benefit somewhat in overall image quality by upgrading to a more recent model.
If you are asking yourself the question of what lenses you should buy for your Canon Rebel Series camera, you are likely looking more specifically to understand which lenses provide a certain “look” for your images. So, lets break down the different types of lenses for different types of shooters.
While I am going to talk about lenses for the Canon Rebel Series DSLRs, these lessons apply more to the user understanding what looks these lenses provide and which scenes are generally a better fit for certain lenses.
As a result, if you love to shoot landscapes, you will get a clear picture of which lens you should consider adding to your arsenal. Likewise, if you chase your kids or grandkids around with a camera, there are specific recommendations for your situation as well.
All-Purpose Lenses for Every Kit
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM – This is the first lens I tell new Canon Rebel owners to buy. There are three key reasons for that. First, it is very affordable at only $125 at full retail. Second, it is great for low light with a bright f/1.8 aperture. Finally, it is great for nice-looking portraits on a budget, which is also due to that aperture that produces a great bokeh. If you don’t know what the stuff about aperture means, read this Photography Basics article on Lens Speed and Aperture.
Canon EF-S 18-135mm IS USM – If you already own a Canon Rebel model, chances are good that you bought it with the 18-55mm kit lens. However, recent Canon Rebel models have had an option to buy the 18-135mm lens with the kit. If you haven’t bought a Canon Rebel yet, I think you should consider getting the kit with the 18-135mm lens. It is usually just $200 more than the 18-55mm kit and I think the zoom range and lens performance is worth the extra money out of the box.
Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM – This is another affordable, fast lens. At f/2.8, it’s not as fast as the nifty-fifty mentioned above, but it is still fast enough to consider in low light. It is also very compact. It is good for video AF in later Canon Rebel models and is considerably wider than the 50mm lens above, which makes it a great little all purpose lens to use for quick family snapshots indoors or a nice walk-around lens for family outings.
Budding Sports Photographers
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM – A requirement for indoor sports. It’s not as good as Canon’s model, but it is half the price. It is still not cheap at over $1000 but it is a fantastic lens with fast AF and bright f/2.8 constant aperture. You will see some zoom lenses that are 75-300mm with f/4-5.6 aperture. That means at 75mm, the aperture is f/4, but at 300mm, the aperture is f/5.6. Those lens will suffice for outdoors, but you need a big f/2.8 for indoor sports. If you are shooting basketball, volleyball, martial arts or some other indoor sport, you are going to be disappointed with anything less than a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.
The other great thing about the Sigma lens is the Optical Stabilization (the “OS” from the lens name). This stabilization allows you to get crisp shots at shutter speeds slower than would otherwise be possible. Combine that with the max f/2.8 aperture and you get a solid combo.
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM – Outdoor sports lens. If you aren’t going to be shooting indoors all that much and are more likely to be shooting outdoor sports in broad daylight, then the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens is a good choice. It’s not pro caliber, but it is close. The bonus is that it doesn’t have a pro-level price at only $650 retail. This lens is often equated with producing image quality close to professional-grade lens and the image stabilization system inside is great.
The EF 70-300mm gives you 100mm of extra reach. And the smaller sensor on your Canon Rebel means you have the reach of a 420mm lens on a full frame camera for a much lower price.
Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM – Budget outdoor sports lens. Note the “USM” acronym on the end. This is important because there is another Canon 75-300mm lens that does not have the USM in the name. This stands for Ultrasonic Motor. It is the motor that drives the autofocus system. You want USM in your Canon lenses if possible. On this lens, the USM version is only about $40-$50 more than that non-USM. This is still a consumer-grade lens, but the USM motor will provide enough AF speed to help you focus quickly on moving subjects. It’s not going to be as fast as the other sports lenses above, but it has some telephoto reach and it is a place to start.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM – This would be a step up from the 50mm f/1.8 II lens mentioned in the all-purpose section above. If you want faster AF and better image quality for your portraits, the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens is a great lens to add to your kit. At about $350, it offers great quality for the price and falls at the short-end of the common portrait focal lengths when paired with a crop-sensor camera like the Canon Rebels.
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM – This would be at the longer end of the common portrait focal lengths on Canon Rebels, which will add more compression to your image and is still very bright with its f/1.8 aperture. It is a highly-regarded lens among Canon shooters and offers the fast USM focusing explained above.
Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM – Consider this a high-end kit lens. While the pros have their $2000 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, the equivalent for Rebel owners is this 17-55mm f/2.8 lens. Thankfully, it is priced at a more reasonable $879. This is a zoom lens for indoors with great image quality and enough reach to suffice as a portrait lens. If you like your 18-55mm kit lens, but are just looking for something better, this is the lens to get. Once you enjoy that f/2.8 constant aperture though, it may never come off your camera.
Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM – At just $300, this is probably the most affordable lens with this wide of a focal length. At 10mm, you get the equivalent of a 16mm lens on a full frame camera. That’s really wide.
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM – This is the next step up in build quality. You’ll notice it when you first pick this lens up compared to the 10-18mm. It offers a bigger zoom range and a better overall aperture range than the cheaper version.
Tokina AT-X 11-20mm f/2.8 PRO DX – While Tokina makes the well-regarded AT-X 11-16mm f/2.8 lens for Canon DSLRs, this new lens promises better overall quality and an extended reach out to 20mm. At f/2.8, the Tokina lenses promise better low light performance than Canon’s options too.
Wrapping It Up
So that’s all I’ve got for now. Do you existing Canon Rebel shooters agree or disagree with this list?
Do you have a better suggestion or maybe I missed an obvious choice? I could always be persuaded to update it if something needs to be added for our readers.
Keep in mind, I’m trying to look at lenses that fit within budgets. I hesitated about the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8, but it’s a lens that I think enthusiasts and amateurs should stretch for if it fits their goals.
Fire away with questions and comments below.