The best Canon zoom lenses under $250 can still provide plenty of scope for creativity. Features that allow you to play with the focal lengths and depth of field are entirely possible, with affordable options also having niceties such as image stabilization.
The main point of zoom lenses in this price bracket is that they are a step up in quality from the average kit lens while also sticking within the budget. To pack in all these features, things like a plastic lens barrel and limited weatherproofing will be the order of the day. The focus here will be on good lenses with quality optics that still have a good workable optical zone.
As we are not restricted to any focal lengths here, we can feature the whole gamut of possibilities. This can include lenses from the wide-angle to the telephoto side of things. Fortunately, Canon zoom lenses under $250 have examples that can cover the whole focal range.
1. Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM (Overall Winner)
The Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM is designed specifically for the Canon EF-S-mount, providing a 16-28.8mm equivalent focal length. It may be just out of our required budget range, but it’s well worth the money if a wide-angle zoom lens is your preference.
The EF-S 10-18mm features one ultra-low dispersion and one aspherical element, with a Super Spectra coating for reducing all types of lens anomalies. The lens also features optical image stabilization, with four stops of compensation. On a wide-angle lens such as this one, this provides extremely low shutter speeds in low light conditions.
An STM autofocus motor is included that is extremely quick and quiet and also has a full-time manual override for the likes of landscape shots. The EF-S 10-18mm may not have the widest aperture around, but it does provide wonderful images for the price point with sharpness and contrast to very respectable quality levels.
2. Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III
If you’re looking for a zoom lens that covers the telephoto range, the Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III is a top choice lens under our spending limit. This is not a cheap lens, but rather a solution that works equally well on APS-C models, providing a healthy range of 120-480mm.
The lens may not have any of the fancy workings of more expensive offerings, but it still has a Super Spectra coating, plus a micro Ultrasonic autofocus motor which is reasonably efficient at locking into focus. The lens is reasonably well weighted, coming in at 480g.
This lens is a great affordable telephoto solution for the beginner or intermediate photographer, with loads of zoom range and a good degree of sharpness. It’s a shame it doesn’t have image stabilization built in for the longer focal lengths, but at this price level, it provides respectable image quality that counts.
3. Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO DG Macro
If you prefer to venture into the third party lens side of things, the Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO DG Macro has plenty of range for the money. This is an older style lens that also has the benefit of a macro mode with a reproduction ratio of 1:2.
This zoom covers the whole telephoto range, with a variable aperture and a dedicated macro switch, working within the 200mm and 300mm focal lengths. The optical arrangement includes 14 elements arranged in 10 groups, with a Special Low Dispersion glass element for reducing chromatic aberration and other lens anomalies.
The macro side of things is really an added extra, as its when this zoom is around f/5.6-f/8 that it comes alive. The autofocus system is reasonably fast, which means this lens is a good choice for capturing wildlife or even outdoor sports events.
4. Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II
Designed specifically for the APS-C-format, the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II provides an 88-400mm equivalent focal length. This range giving enough scope for anything from portraits to wildlife images.
One Ultra-Low Dispersion element has been included in the optical arrangement of 12 elements and 10 groups along with a very usable image stabilization system which provides four stops of handheld compensation. A Super Spectra coating has also been included on all lens elements to reduce the likes of lens flare and ghosting, along with adding extra levels of color and contrast.
This zoom lens is one of the best budget telephoto solutions available for Canon crop sensor cameras. The lens provides very efficient autofocus and stabilization throughout the focal range, and most importantly, great optical quality for the money.
5. Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD MACRO (Budget Winner)
For a lens that offers a zoom range of 70-300mm, with also a macro mode for less than $200 is quite an outstanding feat. The Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD MACRO has a dedicated macro switch, providing a reproduction ratio of 1:2 over the 180mm to 300mm range and a close focusing distance of 95cm.
As with the Sigma above, the macro mode is OK at filling the majority of the frame with the subject. But its really in the lens’ telephoto abilities where things count. Image rendition has been further enhanced by applying Internal Surface and multiple-layer coatings to all lens elements. Also included are LD glass elements to further enhance image quality.
The Tamron will ideally need mounting on a tripod for the sharpest images, especially at the longest focal lengths. The lens will also need to be stopped down to f/5.6-f/8 for the majority of its use. This means that the Tamron is best used in daylight conditions, but if you work within its optimal zone, it’s a very respectable zoom lens for the nominal asking price.
Working Through the Best Canon Zoom Lenses Under $250
There was a time in the not so distant past where cheap zoom lenses were very counter-productive. As shown by the Canon zoom lenses under $250 above, modern budget lenses can still provide great images, as long as you become familiar with their optimal working zones. In the majority of cases, most have variable apertures, which means they are more adept at daytime shooting.
However, with the likes of the Canon EF-S 10-18mm with image stabilization, low-light photography is entirely possible, with examples such as the Canon EF 75-300mm still being adept in areas such as wildlife imagery and sports events which have a reasonable amount of lighting.
Then again, if you’re on a really tight budget, the Canon EF-S 55-250mm is one of my personal favorites. This lens can go from standard viewpoints to a healthy telephoto range, with built-in stabilization at a very affordable price point.