Many new photographers are a often a little bit hesitant to try a prime lens at first. The lack of zoom can initially seem compositionally restrictive. However, as any experienced photographer will tell you, a good prime lens is an essential part of any respectable lens bag.
Prime lenses are seen as a great way for new photographers to take their new found hobby to the next level. A photographer that can use a prime lens, is a photographer that can take stunning photographs in any situation. Because the lenses have no inbuilt zoom, it means the photographer needs to “zoom with their feet” and be much more compositionally aware.
It will take a little bit of getting used to at first, but once you get a firm grip on prime lens photography, you will never look back.
Today we are going to take a look at 5 of the best Canon prime lenses on the market. These are our top picks and are great options for all photographers, regardless of their experience level.
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The Absolute Best Canon Prime Lens Available – Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
The lens that takes the number one spot on our list as the best Canon prime lens is the EF 50mm f/1.8 STM. It’s the fastest lens on this list which makes it great for low light shots, and it’s packed with advanced technology that makes it worthy of anyone’s consideration.
The speed of this lens is the biggest special feature we want to talk about. Its light speed f/1.8 rating means that it is going to be perfect for low light situations (without inducing any blur). It also makes it much easier to use without a tripod, which we always see as a big plus. With a good stance, and proper technique you will be able to get super sharp handheld shots time and time again.
With the almost unstoppable rise in popularity of Bokeh photography, we love to see any advances in technology that improves Bokeh’s photographic style. The octagonal shape of a closed shutter on traditional lenses creates an octagonal Bokeh effect in the scene. This lens has Canons circular shutter technology creating smooth, creamy Bokeh that is unmistakably circular. It’s beautiful effect from a beautiful lens.
Canon is widely regarded to be one of the experts when it comes to silent lens motor technology. This lens contains their STM hardware that makes it nearly silent. This makes the lens perfect for use for videography where lens motor noise can be a problem.
Flaws But Not Deal Breakers
We would like to have seen this lens be a little bit thinner. This is not a pancake lens (despite what others may be saying). It’s too long for that to be an accurate classification. So if you are looking for extreme portability, you should look elsewhere. (But if you just want a small lens, this is a great choice).
The Second Best Prime Lens By Canon – Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM
The second best prime lens by Canon is much slower than our first pick, but it nearly got the number one spot. The 24MM f/2.8 is a great lens that performs a slightly different job to the one above, so it’s worth considering both of them if you feel like treating yourself.
What we love about this lens is its wide angle. You will be able to capture wide vivid images with ease. We have all had those scenes in front of us where you wish you just had a slightly wider angle lens to enable you to capture it. With this lens that will not be a problem anymore, it’s about as wide as current technology allows (at this price point) without distortion and warping.
As you may know, some image stabilization technology is better than others. Unfortunately, many brands are putting low quality IS technology in a lens to allow them to market it as an IS lens. Luckily, this is not the case with this lens, its image stabilization can compensate for a whole 4 stops. This means you can shoot in low light almost as easily as our top pick, despite this being a technically slower lens.
The autofocus algorithms on the chip inside this lens are simply superb. They are able to focus on distant subjects with ease. There is no focus hunting and the transition time between subjects is very fast. When this is combined with the literally silent USM motor technology it’s a winner in our books.
Flaws But Not Deal Breakers
The only issue we have with this lens is the cost. It’s reasonably expensive compared to our number one pick (which is why it got the runner up spot). This being said, it’s a premium product and as such it has a premium price tag. With photography (and lenses in particular) you really do get what you pay for.
The Third Best Prime Lens – Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM
The product we have chosen as the third canon best prime lens is the EF 28mm f/2. It’s a very similar lens to the 24mm we picked for the number 2 spot but is a little bit narrower, and a little bit faster. So if you liked the look of the lens above (but you are not looking for a super wide angle) this could be the lens you are looking for.
This lens contains the same image stabilization technology as the 24mm above. This means it receives the same 4 stop low light benefits too. However as this is a faster lens it will outperform the 24mm in low light situations every time. What we really like about this lens (and the lens above) is the USM technology the focal motors use.
USM stands for Ultrasonic Motor, and for all intents and purposes its silent. The frequencies it emits while moving are mainly ultrasonic, and as such they are inaudible to human ears. This means that while you might see the frequencies on video editing software, you will not be able to hear them. Making it a great lens for people who wish to shoot a little video from time to time.
Optimized Lens Coatings
This lens (like many of Canons lenses) comes with Canons highly regarded “Optimized Lens Coatings”. These totally transparent chemicals are applied to every piece of glass inside the lens to improve picture quality. It results in greatly minimized ghosting, and a significant reduction in lens flare.
Flaws But Not Deal Breakers
Some people have reported that they have noticed a large amount of vignetting when shooting at f/2. This is something we personally do not think is a problem, its no worse than any other lens in this price bracket. But if you have a particular dislike for vignetting, you should probably look into this more and make your own mind up.
The Best Canon DSLR Prime Lens – Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
This is the fastest lens on our list, bar none. In fact, it’s one of the fastest lenses in the world. It’s an older lens which still works great in 2017, especially in fast moving or low light situations. But its age does mean that it lacks some modern technology we have become accustomed to. This being said, it’s a great lens and its 50mm focal length makes it a good workhorse that can adapt to a variety of situations and subjects.
This lens is all about speed. Its f/1.4 rating is lightening fast. You will be able to use this without a tripod even in low light conditions (with a good stance). Its perfect for people that are planning on taking shots in dark places (like concerts and nightclubs).
We also love the 8 blade circular shutter that creates stunning Bokeh effects. It was one of the first lenses Canon made with this design and has since been rolled out to many of their newer lenses due to its popularity.
High Refraction Lens Elements
Canon has used high-refraction lens elements (and Gaussian optics) on this product. It sounds complicated, and it is. But all you need to know is that it basically eliminates astigmatisim, reduces lens flare, and produces super sharp crisp images – even when at maximum aperture.
Flaws But Not Deal Breakers
As this is an older lens, it does not have image stabilization built into it. The technology was around when this lens was made – but it was expensive and in its infancy. It’s the only real problem this lens has. That being said, its super fast and as such you don’t really “need” IS technology anyway with a good stance, but it would have been nice to have.
The Best Cheap Canon Prime Lens – Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM
This is one of the oldest lenses on this list, it was first released back in 2012. However, it has stood the test of time well and is still widely used and loved by many photographers today. As a result of its age, it’s reasonably inexpensive and is the best cheap canon prime lens we have found. It’s one of the slower lenses on this list, but it’s also one of the most portable.
If you are the kind of photographer that needs insane portability, then this is the lens for you. It’s a pancake lens by anyone’s definition and you will easily be able to transport your camera (with lens attached) in a coat pocket or a handbag. This makes it perfect for travel photographers, or people that just cannot be without their camera at all times.
It’s a much narrower lens than the number 2 and 3 picks on this list, but it’s more than wide enough for most applications. Unless you regularly see shots that need a wider lens you are not going to be disappointed.
The lens contains Canons STM technology which is very quiet for shooting video, and the optics produce crystal clear super sharp pictures time and time again.
This is an incredible lens for those of you that like to experiment with Bokeh. The creamy blur this product produces rivals some of the most expensive lenses in the world. When you consider the fact that this is a budget lens, it gets two thumbs up for this from us.
Flaws But Not Deal Breakers
There is no lens hood included with this lens. Admittedly this is an unusual desire for a pancake lens when the whole point of them is portability. But we always like to see them included wherever possible.
Most of the features and specifications you should pay attention to when buying a prime lens are the same as they would be for any lens. They are not particularly “special” apart from their lack of zoom. The most difficult decision for people new to prime lenses is often deciding which focal length to get.
The easiest way to do this is by using one of your existing zoom lenses. Set it at a focal length of your choosing and do all your photography with it at that length for a week or so.
See how it feels, look at the kind of shots you take, and assess how usable it is.
After that, try setting it to another focal length and repeat the process. Then try it again with another length.
By the end of the process, you should have a rough idea of which focal length you prefer. If you use it to guide you on your first prime lens purchase, you will have a much lower chance of regretting your decision.
Canon makes some of the best lenses in the world, and any of the products on this list will be more than worthy of your consideration.
It’s true that no good lens bag is complete without a prime lens or two. We know that the lack of zoom might put some newer photographers off the idea of investing. But once you get used to a prime, you will almost always be a better photographer than you were before.
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