Hunting down the best third-party lenses for Canon EF mount may seem like a foregone conclusion, but lens mounts aren’t always created equal. For the most popular Canon cameras there’s the EF, EF-S and now the RF mount. The RF mount is predominantly for Canon’s new range of mirrorless cameras, while the EF-S variety is more for the cost-effective crop sensor type cameras.
Some lenses can be used on both EF and EF-S cameras, but some are specifically designed for one camera mount. It’s easy to check the official website or manual for what type of camera mount you own and your chosen lens. But, for clarity and simplicity, we are going to show some of the best working EF mount lenses which can be used in a variety of applications.
It may seem obvious, but checking if a lens fits your camera is paramount. As previously stated, some lenses work with both Canon camera mounts, but they can deliver different focal lengths, different apertures, and in some cases, reduced functionality.
1. Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports (Overall Winner)
The mighty Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports zoom lens is made specifically for the Canon EF-mount, although it can also be used on a EF-S mount providing a 112-320mm focal length.
The lens features an optical arrangement of one Special Low Dispersion (SLD) and nine F Low Dispersion (FLD) elements, as well as a Super Multi-Layer Coating. The aperture consists of an 11-blade rounded diaphragm, providing an f/2.8 maximum width. Plus, an integrated hyper Sonic Motor (HSM), optical image stabilization, and a built-in tripod collar.
There is no faulting the overall image quality from this lens and on an EF mount camera, the full resolution is brought into play with exceptional detail. As a more cost-effective solution to Canon’s own 70-200mm zoom, the Sigma is a worthy opponent.
Normally, for the 85mm focal length, we would either recommend a Canon lens or the highly regarded Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art. However, if you don’t mind its manual focusing only abilities, this lens is wonderfully sharp for the money.
The Samyang XP 85mm f/1.2 consists of two refractive index elements along with one aspherical element, plus an Ultra Multi-Coating and a very wide and bright f/1.2 aperture. Although the lens isn’t fully weather-proofed, it is made from aluminum alloy and has clearly taken design hints from some very expensive lenses.
As with most high-quality prime lenses, it’s not exactly lightweight weighing 1050g. But what the lens does deliver is extremely sharp images, even with the aperture wide open. Ultimate sharpness comes in at f/2, showing little signs of lens anomalies, along with fine detail and loads of resolution.
Plus, the Samyang is far more affordable than some of the other third-party counterparts.
Another very useful and versatile lens for the Canon EF mount is the Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 Di OSD. The Tamron represents excellent value while also providing wonderful optics.
The internal construction of the lens comprises of 15 elements in 10 groups, plus Broad-Band Anti-Reflection and fluorine coatings. The f/2.8 aperture works wonderfully in low light conditions and can even drop in some good bokeh effects under the right circumstances.
Considering the overall performance of this lens and price point, the Tamron is a wonderful zoom lens for the wide-angle range.
If you could only choose one zoom lens, a 24-70mm would be a good choice. The Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 fits this category, covering the most useful focal lengths. While the Canon versions are highly regarded, the Tamron offers vibration compensation with an effective range of five stops.
Two extra refractive (XR) and three low dispersion (LD) elements, along with three glass-molded aspherical elements and eBAND and BBAR coatings. An Ultrasonic Silent Drive motor handles the autofocusing. The lens barrel is moisture-resistant and is can be easily linked up to the optional TAP-in Console for fine-tuned focusing and firmware updates.
The Tamron SP 24-70mm has the same wide f/2.8 aperture as Canon’s own, and considering the asking price of the Tamron, it’s a worthy choice for any EF Canon mount camera.
If you had to simply sum up a ZEISS lens, it’s all about the glass. Being a touch over the standard 50mm focal length, the ZEISS Otus 55mm f/1.4 is a manual only focusing lens featuring one aspherical element, a floating elements system, and the respected ZEISS T* anti-reflective coating.
A Distagon optical concept ensures the best levels of sharpness across the frame, while the lens barrel itself has a very simple design and an overall weight of 1030g.
To sum things up, images look incredible from the ZEISS Otus 55mm f/1.4 to the extent that you won’t be wanting for any other type of 50mm lens offering. If you don’t mind the high price point and a lens with manual focus, the ZEISS provides everything you need at this focal length.
6. Laowa 105mm f/2 STF (Budget Winner)
The Laowa 105mm f/2 STF has some unique features that go above and beyond most other lenses. The f/2 aperture is relatively wide, but the unique features are the two separate eight and 14 blade diaphragm. It also features an APD element which essentially acts as a radially graduated neutral density filter, providing a T-stop value of 3.2, while still retaining the properties of an f/2 lens.
This lens is manual focus only but it has two manual aperture rings, one for affecting the regular diaphragm and the other for the APD-affecting aperture. This may sound complicated to use, but in practice, it’s very straightforward and produces some lovely smooth bokeh effects.
This lens is incredibly sharp throughout the focal range and once you get used to its unique ways of working, it’s an excellent lens for applications such as portraits.
Summary of the Best Third-Party Lenses for Canon EF Mount
While the RF Canon mount is gaining ever more popularity, its the EF mount which is the most ubiquitous, mainly because of its long-standing history. There are plenty of EF mount lenses available, but not all of them are made equal. The shortlisted lenses above cover the most popular zoom ranges, along with the most useful prime lens lengths.
All of the third-party lenses for Canon EF mount above have their own specific applications. This means you have to start with what you want to use a lens for, then pick the right lens for that task.