Canon EF and EF-S Lenses

Canon EF and EF-S Lenses

This is a series of a few posts to review the different aspects of a Canon DSLR camera system, mostly focused on full frame bodies. Here are the other posts in the series:

Just to note that EF lens can fit on any Canon DSLR. That means you can buy a 24-105mm f/4L USM and put that on a Canon T3i or T5i or even the old rebels. However, the reverse is not true. You cannot put an EF-S lens on a full frame body. In addition, you need to take into account the crop factor, explained in the Digital Photography Nomenclature post (see above for the link).

Canon EF Lens:

Here is just some thoughts on the lens I already have. I also make some recommendations on lens to get if you’re starting out.

Lens (24-105mm)

  • Coming from the XSI, the Ultra-sonic Motors (USM) autofocus lens is amazing. Its quiet, super fast and works really well. I think because of the ring type USM the focus is much better.

Lens (50mm f/1.8, non-USM focus)

  • You can notice a difference in the speed of the focus between this and the USM zoom lens. Its not as fine and also not as fast.

Recommendations for EF Lens

Here are my top three lens to have for a full frame camera and in this order:

  • 24-105mm f/4L zoom lens
  • 50mm f/1.8 or 50mm f/1.4
  • 17-40mm f/4L Wide Angle Zoom Lens

As of this post, I have the first two of the three. I will receive the 17-40mm f/4L on January 2nd and hope to update this post to include my thoughts on this lens.

A close fourth would have been a 20mm or lower wide angle lens. Having a 24mm would be fine as well, great to have a fast wide angle lens. These are generally great for landscape pictures. Under 24mm is great for indoor pictures where you need the wider angle. Note that to get the best pictures with a wide angle lens, you need to be very close to certain objects.

Canon has generally two main category of lenses, L and non-L. Many people take it to mean luxury. L lenses generally have better quality glass, weather sealed (need UV filter to complete the sealing), and are great at the maximum aperture. Note that these lenses are weather sealed, not waterproof or hermetically sealed. I know the front element of the 24-105mm EF f/4 USM moves in and out, which will cause air to go in and out of the lens assembly. There can be a chance that dust may get into the lens assembly. In addition, water can get into the through humidity in the air. This can be a concern in Southeast Asia as fungus could grow inside the zoom lens assembly.

Canon EF-S Lens

Note that these lens will not fit on a full frame body (Canon 5D, 6D). However, a majority of people still have APS-C cropped cameras so this may be helpful for those who are looking to get better images out of the camera they already have. The below lens is a decent price and worth it before jumping head first into full frame.

The standard cropped frame DSLR kit is the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II Lens. Good but not great. It has a non-USM focusing ring so its a bit slow and can be inaccurate depending on certain conditions, like focusing on the wrong thing or doing it while moving or on fast moving objects.

I personally have the 18-55mm version 1 (or MKI or mark 1 on the forums) and from what I read, MKII was a cost reduced version of I. Plastic replacing metal for the most part. Glass is identical.

Here is what I would recommend getting if you wanted to upgrade your lens:

  • Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM- Most of the newest kits come with IS II. STM means stepper motor, which should focus better than the regular version. Other than that, the glass is exactly the same.
    • Also available in 18-135mm IS STM version as well. This would be a great telescoping option.
  • Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM – Unfortunately not better aperture than the EF-S 18-55mm zoom lens. You gain some zoom compared to the 18-55mm and the autofocus should be better than the original version (MKII)
  • Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM – better aperture than the original kit lens with a much better autofocus. If you are ok with the range on the original kit lens, this will be a good upgrade. However, you’re limited to an effective focal length of 27.2-88. Despite the better aperture, I would recommend the 15-85mm over this lens solely due to the range.
  • Canon EF-S 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 IS USM – the only Canon wide angle zoom lens available for the Canon cropped frame DSLR. Because of cropped frame, there is nothing like it with an EF mount unless you want a fisheye zoom lens.


I have only covered Canon lens. There is a wide world of other lenses (EF or EF-S) to choose from. In some of the above categories and focal length range, there are third party lenses (Sigma, Tamron) that are better than the Canon lens. Most are not better. Canon lens provide a nice consistency and quality to their lenses despite a few of their shortcomings with specific lenses. Also to note that Canon lens tend to resell for much higher than third party lens due to its name and reputation.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.