If you’re happy and content with your Canon EF-S mount camera and need a lens that is both high quality and good value, then it’s usually the third-party variety that comes up first. The best third-party lenses for Canon EF-S mount cameras can tick most of the boxes we need from a quality lens: affordability, high-quality optics, and similar features to same-brand versions.
As we can lump together both prime and zoom lenses and we don’t have any budget threshold, we can pick from the whole dining table of lenses available. This means our shortlist of third-party lenses for Canon EF-S mount isn’t just good value but, dare I say, it can be better solutions than the same-brand offerings.
1. Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sport (Overall Winner)
Generally, the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sport is the go-to lens for full-frame professional work, but as it works equally well on EF-S mount cameras at a 112-320mm focal length, it’s well worth the inclusion.
The lens features a wide f/2.8 aperture, along with a good deal of optics, which is comprised of 24 elements arranged in 22 groups. The optical arrangement has one Special Low Dispersion and nine F Low Dispersion elements to keep all those precious light rays in check, plus a Super Multi-Layer coating to increase clarity and reduce lens anomalies.
The Sigma also has a higher-than-normal 11-blade rounded diaphragm, Hyper Sonic autofocus motor (HSM), and a very usable optical stabilization system.
We could easily wax lyrical for hours about all the features and qualities of this lens. But it suffices to say, the Sigma has all the features you would expect from a same-brand version, with equally good optical qualities at a much more affordable price point.
If you do come across a bad review of the Sigma 70-200mm, it’s usually because they’ve received a bad copy or they’re looking through the lens the wrong way around.
Just like Sigma has been doing with its Art and Sport lenses, providing immense optics for the price, Tokina has its Opera range with the same sensibilities. For those after a very high-quality standard prime lens, the Tokina Opera 50mm f/1.4 FF has a wide enough aperture for low-light use and shallow depth of field, plus amazing optics for the money.
The lens is wrapped around three Super-Low Dispersion and one aspherical element with an Extremely Low Reflection coating and a Ring-shaped ultrasonic motor. As the lens is intended for professional use, it has been fully weather-sealed and is a Sumo heavyweight coming in at 950g.
This lens provides crystal clear images even at f/1.4 and the very wide aperture means it can venture into low-light conditions while still keeping respectable ISO levels. On a crop sensor camera body, the focal length of 80mm is verging on medium telephoto rather than a standard viewpoint. In every other respect, this is an incredible lens if you don’t mind its hefty weight.
All third-party lens makers have stepped up their game in recent years, providing premium lenses that put optical qualities first. We know this is a premium offering from Samyang as its part of their PREMIUM lineup and I take everything literally. This lens has taken design hints from ZEISS lenses, which is no bad thing.
On a more serious note, this lens provides a wonderfully wide f/1.2 aperture, while also having a 136mm focal length on crop sensor camera bodies. The lens features one aspherical element and an Ultra Multi-coating for increasing color and contrast. The lens barrel is made from aluminum and although it’s not fully weather-proofed, it feels solid enough for professional use.
At f/1.2 this lens is surprisingly sharp and really hits its zenith by f/1.8. More expensive Sigma and Tamron versions maybe sharper at f/1.8 by a touch, but if you need the better low-light capabilities of an f/1.2 lens, then this offering is a great choice at a great price.
A 24-70mm lens will always be one of the most versatile zooms you can own, with the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 matching same-brand versions in quality and features.
The Tamron SP 24-70mm features a fast f/2.8 aperture, with two extra refractive, three glass-molded aspherical, and three low dispersion elements. Along with eBAND and BBAR coatings for reducing ghosting and lens flare.
The VC image stabilization system offers an impressive five stops of compensation with two modes for general use and panning shots. The lens has also been treated to a moisture-resistant construction, along with a fluorine coating on the front element to repel dust and dirt.
On a crop sensor camera body, the focal length works out at 38.6-112mm, which means you will lose a little at the wide-angle end, but gain at the telephoto end. Ultimately, the lens will be a better solution for portrait shots or action and event work.
The image stabilization system is a wonderful addition, making it even more versatile in low light. It’s also far more cost-effective than the same brand versions, providing equally good optics.
5. Samyang AF 14mm f/2.8 F (Budget Winner)
Only a few years back it would have been the likes of Sigma and Tamron who would have been thrashing it out for the best budget lens. But just like the XP 85mm f/1.2 above, the Samyang AF 14mm f/2.8 F is now a viable alternative to same-make versions.
The AF 14mm f/2.8 F has been included not just because it’s a wide-angle prime, but also because of its wonderful image qualities. The AF 14mm offers a respectably wide f/2.8 aperture wrapped around an optical arrangement of 15 elements in 10 groups, plus an all-metal weather-sealed construction and an integrated lens hood.
This lens has more or less the same optical qualities as its manual counterpart, but in this case it also features autofocus. Manual focus is still available for those who need to shoot landscapes or night-time shots, with the addition of autofocus being best kept for general use.
This lens does suffer from slight barrel distortion, but in every other respect it’s an extremely sharp lens at this focal length.
Scoping Out the Best Third-Party Lenses for Canon EF-S Mount Cameras
While there are specific EF-S mount lenses available, the very best quality versions are usually those that can fit both the EF and EF-S mounts. The examples above cover the most useful focal lengths in either prime or zoom versions.