by Alex W.
Many people first take the leap to an interchangeable camera system such as a DSLR or mirrorless simply because they are looking for the greater zoom reach offered to them by a telephoto lens.
All interchangeable lens camera systems offer a wealth of telephoto lenses to choose from and while some, such as professional-level wildlife photography lenses, are extremely expensive, there are plenty of budget telephoto lenses available, too.
Here, we go through the very best budget telephoto lenses for Canon.
This is a bit more expensive than some of the lenses on this list but if you have the money to spend it's well worth it.
The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM is compatible with both APS-C and full-frame cameras and offers image quality and handling far greater than the cheaper iterations.
The USM autofocus offers incredibly quick and silent focusing and the image stabilization works well up to four stops. Not only that, but there's a lovely little info display on the lens itself that provides information about focus distance, camera shake and depth of field.
Now, if you don't have the money to buy our top choice you could do a lot worse than Canon's budget telephoto lens offering, the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM.
The stepping motor autofocus, while not as snappy as the 70-300mm above, is almost silent and incredibly smooth, making it a joy to use for both photography and videography.
Elsewhere, image quality is good throughout most of the zoom range and the image stabilization works well, too. Unsurprisingly for this price point it does lack weather sealing, but it is a well-built lens and is inarguably good value for money.
The Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD made it onto our list of best budget telephoto lens for Nikon, too, and for good reason. It packs a lot into a very cheap and well-built package.
Image quality is good throughout the zoom range although this does fall away a bit towards the longer end, especially from 250mm onwards. However, up to 200mm is more than sharp enough and it crams in some relatively high-end features considering its price tag.
Ultrasonic autofocus with manual overrise is included and it feels well-built in the hand. There isn't any weather sealing but that's hardly a surprise at this price point.
Another budget telephoto lens that has made both our Nikon and Canon lists, although the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM isn't entirely a budget lens.
However, while it is more expensive than other lenses on this list it's a huge leap towards affordable and good-quality lenses at this focal range, which was previously only accessible to the very wealthy.
The Sigma 150-600mm boasts excellent sharpness through most of the range until, as is often the case, it drops off significantly at around 550mm. The Contemporary package is cheaper, lighter and more portable than the more expensive Sport version, although it does get rid of the weather sealing to keep costs down.
Tamron have a similar offering in this price range and there isn't much to choose between the two. In all, it's very difficult to criticise this lens and if you need that extra range but don't have $4,000 burning a hole in your pocket this is the telephoto lens for you.
While all the above lenses will work on EOS M systems if you have the correct mount adaptor, the Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM was made specifically for the EOS M series and as such it's the best option for budget mirrorless shooters.
It's beautifully lightweight and small to balance well with the smaller Canon EOS M cameras and the stepping motor autofocus makes for pleasingly smooth and quiet focusing.
Image quality isn't mindblowing but it's more than good enough for this price bracket and the reduction in size and weight makes it worth the compromise.
The Canon telephoto lenses are very popular because of their excellent optical specifications. But which lens should you get? This buying guide will help you decide based on your shooting style and the features that interest you.
Let's look at some typical scenarios for using these lenses, then check out the specifics about each of the available models.
The 500mm F4L IS II is the best lens for this job. It is bright (f/4) and has Canon's best stabilization system, but it's also bulky and expensive at nearly $8000. If you don't need the absolute latest model, the original 500 f/4.0L is $2000 less and nearly as good optically.
The Canon EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS USM II has an advantage here because it doesn't have a 1.6x teleconverter built in, so you can use it with your full-frame camera even on the wide end. It's also very sharp and has good stabilization for about $2000.
The EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM (for Canon APS-C DSLRs only) has better reach than its big brother, but doesn't go as long; this version of the lens is much more affordable at around $1300 new. This one won't work properly with full frame cameras like the 5D Mark II unless you consider cropping heavily.
The EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS II is Canon's sharpest telephoto zoom lens, and it focuses faster than the 100-400 lenses for about $1000 less. It weighs a lot less too, so you'll have an easier time carting this one around in a backpack all day long.
For example, if you have a Rebel T3i or 7D, then this EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM + 1.4x teleconverter combination will give you the equivalent of a 160-560mm lens. The bad news is that it won't autofocus on your camera body, so this $3500 combo will only be useful for manual focus.
The EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS USM II + 1.4x TC gives 140-560mm coverage, $2000 less than the previous example and you'll get autofocus back too! This is one of my favorite setups for Canon crop bodies because it's sharp enough to take nice tournament photos yet versatile enough for most other situations where you need a telephoto lens.
The EF 400mm F5.6L USM is a favorite of many sports and wildlife shooters because it's so inexpensive, sharp and has great autofocus performance... but the lack of stabilization is a big drawback for this kind of use in my opinion. You can always add camera support if you're shooting from a fixed location, but that won't help you track your subject while hand-holding the camera
A used 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM + 1.4x TC on a crop body will give you the equivalent of a 240-960mm lens! This is an affordable but very capable solution for someone who only needs the center of the zoom range and doesn't need autofocus... plus, there are plenty of good deals to be found on this one since it's been discontinued by Canon.
Okay, let's get really ambitious here! For example, if you have a Rebel T3i or 7D, then this EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM + 2.0x teleconverter combination will give you the equivalent of a 400-1200mm lens. Yes, it will cost $5500 and weigh over 8lbs fully extended with all components attached, but you just can't get this kind of reach on a crop sensor otherwise unless you combine multiple lenses together. Plus, the teleconverter is sharp enough to take good tournament photos when used within its limitations (I've done this myself).
The Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM II and 800mm f/5.6L IS USM are absolutely stellar performers optically; they're both expensive at around $65 new and require some skill to get the best results out of them (don't expect to be able to handhold these like you'll do with a kit lens... think monopod + gimbal head instead). These lenses won't autofocus on any cameras except for Canon's 1D series; if you're using anything else, then focus confirmation will always be manual without an accessory to help.
The EF 400mm f/5.6L USM is tiny compared to the other supertelephoto options up there, so this could be your best choice if portability is important to you. It weighs less than 4lbs so it's relatively easy to carry all day long... but it's very pricey compared to the other options, lacking IS and will only autofocus with Canon 1-Series bodies (this one will NOT AF on any crop sensor body).
The EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro is the smallest "true" telephoto you'll find (for Canon lenses at least), so this can be great news if portability matters to you above all else. It's also sharp enough to take nice photos of smaller events like birthday parties or weddings without breaking the bank... just don't expect it to reach out for anything that requires real telephoto power. Plus, macro shooting requires a lot of patience and skill to master.
If your needs are more modest, then save yourself some money by getting the EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM. It doesn't come cheap (it costs around $1400 new) but it's still much more affordable than the other "L" lenses; on top of that, this lens is tack sharp throughout its entire zoom range and has great built-in image stabilization! It only focuses with 1-Series bodies like Canon's own 1Ds Mark III or 5D Mark II.
If you're a casual photographer who needs a versatile, affordable lens but isn't interested in having a lot of options for bokeh or subject isolation, then the EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens is what you want... as long as you have an APS-C body to use it with. In the world of consumer telephoto lenses, this one offers exceptional value considering its capabilities and low price. You can find it on Amazon new for about $250.
Want a fast telephoto prime that'll be your silver bullet for indoor sports? Then look no further than Canon's EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM. This lens is so expensive it's not even funny (costs around $11,000 new) but it's still a professional grade performer at heart so don't expect it to disappoint when you hit the court or field. If 400mm isn't enough reach for your needs, then there are extenders available like Canon's 1.4x and 2x... but if you're going to get one of these, make sure 1.4x is max; 2x will decrease AF speed too much for this lens!
The crowning achievement in Canon telephoto lenses has to go to the EF 1200mm f/5.6L USM. This super telephoto lens is so expensive and rare, it's beyond the reach of most people (costs $120,000 new). That's just ridiculous but if you can afford one and have a reason to use this type of glass, then by all means... go grab it right now!
Obviously, every telephoto lens has its own pros and cons depending on your personal needs as a photographer. While some lenses excel in certain areas for specific types of photography, they might disappoint you when used outside their comfort zone. If you're not sure which telephoto option will match your style or budget best, then feel free to ask questions below! I'll try my best to help you out with any shooting questions you might have.
A telephoto lens is a type of camera lens that uses focal length to let you get close to faraway subjects without actually being close to them. The definition of "faraway" is subjective, but any subject that appears smaller to the naked eye will seem larger when you use a telephoto lens. A long focal length makes it possible for you to bring objects closer, like the moon on a clear night, and it also increases magnification.
If you're wondering, "How do telephoto lenses work?" the answer is that they use a special kind of lens group called a "negative" group to help reduce chromatic and spherical aberrations. The first telephoto lens was built by photographic pioneer John Dallmeyer in 1873, but it wasn't until 1886 that a New York photographer named Jacob R. Snyder made a lens that could produce the same effect on a smaller scale for portraiture.
The most common telephoto lenses have focal lengths between 100mm and 500mm, but there are options with shorter and longer focal lengths too. What Are Some Advantages of Telephoto Lenses? There are a lot of advantages to telephoto lenses for sports and wildlife photography, because they allow you to photograph your subject from a distance without disturbing it. This is great if the animal could be spooked by an approaching photographer or if photographing moving subjects like athletes could blur the photo. It's also a good choice for getting images of birds, because the larger aperture that telephoto lenses allow for more flexibility in low-light settings like cloudy days.
When it comes to lenses, there are a number of choices that consumers have. The two main types of consumer grade telephoto lenses are the third party and the Canon variety.
Generally speaking, third party telephoto lenses tend to be physically bigger than their Canon counterparts, which is a result of non-Canon companies making Canon-specific lenses. That difference can impact a photographer's ability to travel with lenses as well as the overall weight of photography equipment that must be transported from place to place. In addition, it is also worth mentioning that third party telephoto lenses tend to have less image stabilization benefits.
Canon produces telephoto lenses that are aimed at a variety of consumers, from first time users to professional photographers. The CANON TELEPHOTO LENSES USER GUIDE explains all the benefits of Canon telephoto lenses and the ways in which they can help make photography more enjoyable. In addition, it is also worth noting that many of Canon's telephoto lenses include a tripod attachment, which is a great way to keep equipment steady when taking photographs in low light conditions. Furthermore, Canon telephoto lenses have features such as image stabilization and weather sealing that can benefit photographers in multiple ways.
In short, choosing between a third party and a Canon telephoto lens comes down to individual preferences regarding weight, size and a number of other factors.
There are two main limitations to telephoto lenses: They tend to be expensive (although there are affordable options), and they don't work very well in low light. The first is a bit of a given, because telephotos need to be physically long in order to get that enhanced magnification. The second is due to the way they're constructed. In contrast, standard lenses are able to let more light into your camera because their aperture is much larger.
In other words, telephoto lenses don't have any moving parts, which is why they can produce sharp images. But moving parts are what enable lenses to open up so you can shoot in low light, and telephoto lenses just don't have that functionality.
Canon CANON Exchange Lens EF70-300mm F4-5.6 is II USM - Canon EF Mount (Japan Import-No - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Canon EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM Lens for Canon SLR Cameras - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Canon EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 is STM Lens for Canon SLR Cameras (Renewed) - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 SP Di USD XLD for Sony Digital SLR Cameras - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Canon EOS M200 Mirrorless Digital Camera (Black) Bundle with Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 Image Stabilization STM Lens (Black) International Version - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Nikon AF-P NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR Fixed Zoom Digital Slr Camera Lens, Black - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED VR Lens 20062B - (Renewed) - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED VR Lens for Nikon DSLR Cameras - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 SP Di VC USD XLD for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 SP Di USD XLD Digital SLR Cameras - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
NIKON NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR Ultra-Compact Long Telephoto Zoom Lens with Image - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Sony Alpha 70-350mm F4.5-6.3 G OSS Super-Telephoto APS-C Lens - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Sony E 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 OSS Lens for Sony E-Mount Cameras (Silver) - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Sony 55 - 210 mm / F 4,5 - 6,3 OSS 55 mm-Lens - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Pentax HD DA 55-300mm f/4.5-6.3 ED PLM WR RE Lens - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Olympus MSC ED-M 75 to 300mm II f4.8-6.7 Zoom Lens - International Version (No Warranty) - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Panasonic LUMIX H-FS45150EKA G Vario 45-150 mm Interchangeable Telephoto Zoom Lens - Black - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Fujifilm 50-230mm f/4.5-6.7 XC OIS II Zoom Lens (Black) - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Fujinon XC50-230mm Lens f4.5-6.7 Optical Image Stabilisation Lens, Black - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM Lens - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD for Canon - - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM Lens for Canon - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Canon EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 Image Stabilization STM Lens - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
There are many lenses that fall into the category of telephoto lenses. Some lenses like the EF 50mm f/1.8 II can be considered a telephoto lens because it has a long focal length, but is not really considered a "telephoto" lens since it cannot do what most people expect from a true telephoto lens (such as being able to "zoom in" on an image).
If you are looking for a telephoto lens to help you capture amazing photos, Canon has a variety of options available. Each lens has its own set of features that make it perfect for certain types of photography. Make
About Alex W.
Alex is the owner and lead writer for Click and Learn Photography. An avid landscape, equine, and pet photographer living and working in the beautiful Lake District, UK, Alex has had his work featured in a number of high profile publications, including the Take a View Landscape Photographer of the Year, Outdoor Photographer of the Year, and Amateur Photographer Magazine.