Most would agree that the best Canon medium telephoto lenses are very versatile beasts, covering a lot of very useful focal lengths. These focal lengths differ depending on who you ask, with some saying a medium telephoto lens is anything over 60mm, while others class them as anything over 135mm to 300mm.
There’s lots of overlap of focal lengths depending on the particular lens. It’s best to first decide on the application of a lens, then the factor of focal range. The focal length of a particular medium telephoto lens conversely depends on if the camera body is full-frame or has an APS-C or crop sensor.
Camera models such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV are full-frame, so a lens will give you the focal range as it says on the tin. While a crop sensor body with a 70-200mm lens attached works out at 112-320mm.
Then there is the question of what scenarios a medium telephoto lens is good for. Generally speaking, a medium telephoto lens provides that extra bit of reach, which works great for things like wildlife, action, events, and sports photography.
High-quality zoom versions usually offer an aperture of f/2.8. While this may not go as wide as some prime lenses, but it’s still very capable of shooting in low-light conditions and providing lovely bokeh effects.
With all this in mind, some of the Canon medium telephoto lenses below quite snugly fit into the medium telephoto lens category, while others, which have some overlap, are still highly useful and highly regarded, so worth the inclusion.
1. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM (Overall Winner)
If you’re even slightly familiar with Canon zoom lenses, then it’s no surprise that the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM has hit our top spot. Now in its third iteration, this lens covers everything you would need in this focal range, while also providing wonderful images.
The EF 70-200mm f/2.8L III works equally well on both full-frame and crop sensor (112-320mm equivalent focal length) camera bodies, providing a constant f/2.8 aperture.
Optically, the lens consists of one fluorite, five ultra-low dispersion glass elements, and an Air Sphere Coating (ASC) for improving clarity, along with reducing lens anomalies. A ring-type Ultrasonic Motor (USM) has also been included, as with an eight blade rounded diaphragm.
An Optical Image Stabilizer with 3.5 stops of compensation and various modes can be controlled via the switches on the lens barrel, as with the focus limiter and AF/MF switches. A removable rotating tripod collar has also been included, all wrapped around a fully weatherproofed outer shell.
In essence, the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L III provides wonderful looking images from the widest aperture upwards and feels bullet-proof in the field. No wonder this is the go-to lens for working professionals.
The only real downside to this lens is its 1480g mass, but the weight is a given for this quality of lens. It may feel initially expensive, but in exchange, you have a telephoto lens that will last you for years.
As a side note, if you have already upgraded to Canon’s mirrorless format, there is the latest Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM to consider.
It’s the common state of affairs that when the EF 70-200mm f/2.8 is just out of your price range, the f/4 version is the next best option. The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM provides the same quality of optics as the f/2.8 version, just in a smaller package and with a smaller aperture.
This lens is kitted out with one fluorite element and two ultra-low dispersion glass elements. It also features a Super Spectra coating for reducing the likes of lens flares and ghosting.
The optical image stabilization system offers up to five stops of compensation with three separate modes of working, plus a ring-type Ultrasonic Motor (USM), focus limiter, nine-blade rounded diaphragm and full weatherproofing.
The tripod mount ring is, unfortunately, an optional extra, but what this lens does provide is excellent image quality and sharpness even at f/4. Ironically, when both the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L and the EF 70-200mm f/4L have their apertures set to f/4, sharpness is roughly the same.
This basically means that if you don’t need the extra light-gathering abilities of the f/2.8 version, then the f/4 is a great second option and weighs less.
The Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II USM is one of those lenses that I’ve heard murmurings of over the years for being wonderfully sharp while providing fantastic image quality.
The lens is equally capable on both full-frame and crop sensor camera bodies, providing an equivalent focal length of an impressive 160-640mm for the latter. The optical arrangement consists of one fluorite and one Super Ultra-Low Dispersion element, plus an Air Sphere Coating.
The optical image stabilizer system provides four stops of compensation, with three modes of operation. Also featured is a ring-type Ultrasonic Motor (USM) and a nine-blade rounded diaphragm, wrapped around a fully weatherproofed lens barrel.
This lens is incredibly sharp throughout the focal and aperture range and although it has a variable aperture of f/4.5-5.6, the depth of field is incredibly small at 400mm. Although this lens isn’t wide enough for indoor shooting, it’s extremely fast for applications such as wildlife and action shots.
The Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM is a common sight strapped to many Canon DSLR cameras, as it offers a very useful range of focal lengths, image stabilization, and great optics. This lens may encompass relatively wide-angle views, but it’s worth the inclusion as it’s such a well-rounded lens.
On crop sensor cameras, the focal range results in a 38.4-168mm range. The lens features four glass-molded aspherical elements and an Air Sphere Coating. The image stabilization system offers four stops of compensation and the 10-blade rounded diaphragm produces excellent bokeh renditions.
The 24-105mm f/4L is reasonably priced and considering its very usable range, it’s an excellent all-rounder for everything but low-light shooting.
5. Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM (Budget Winner)
Choosing a medium telephoto lens that is budget-conscious while still offering good optics can be difficult with so many choices. Fortunately, the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM ticks many of the needed boxes.
This lens works out to have a 112-480mm range on crop sensor bodies. It features built-in optical image stabilization, a NANO USM system, a nine-blade rounded diaphragm, a zoom lock switch, and a handy lens information display.
This lens is reasonably lightweight at 710g, but most importantly, it provides excellent image quality and a good degree of zoom range. Considering its overall price is fairly inexpensive, this lens provides loads of functionality for its price point.
Choosing the Best Canon Medium Telephoto Lens
With so many Canon medium telephoto lenses available at such different price points, you’re not short of choice. The lenses listed above are all high quality, providing wonderful optics in a range of apertures and focal lengths.
Whichever you choose will be dependent on your budget and needs, but it suffices to say that each of the lenses listed above will provide you years of enjoyment and creativity.