Picking the right lens to go with your Canon-mount camera is a crucial decision if you want to make beautiful videos. While the camera itself is an important piece of the video equation, the lens is just as important—if not more so. In terms of both photography and videography, your final product will only be as good as the glass that you are shooting through.
The good news is that there are a lot of great lens options out there for videographers. The bad news is that having a dense variety of choices can make the decision-making process a lot more difficult. Figuring out which features you want in a video lens can be a challenge, but our comprehensive guide will provide you with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision.
In this article, we’ll give both experienced and aspiring videographers some ideas on what to think about when choosing a budget lens for their Canon-mount cameras We’ll also provide you with a few of our favorite options currently in the market.
The 10 Best Canon Mount Lenses for Video
Important features to consider:
Prime or zoom
One of the very first things you will have to decide when choosing a lens for your Canon video camera is whether you want a prime lens, which has a fixed focal length, or zoom lens. Prime lenses are available in all of the popular focal lengths, and often have wider apertures than their zoom counterparts. Many professionals prefer primes because they are sharp, fast, and often lighter than zoom lenses. The major benefit of zoom lenses is that they offer flexibility that just can’t be found in a prime. They’re often bulkier than primes, but despite the extra size and weight, they are a lot more versatile.
Before choosing a Canon lens for video, it’s very important to be sure of what focal length you want to shoot at. This is especially true if you will be shooting a prime lens! Knowing what you intend to capture will go a long way towards helping you figure this out. If you plan on making landscape or travel videos that show a lot of the scene, you will probably want to look for something 35mm or wider. If wildlife videos are your specialty, look for a longer lens (like a 70-200mm). Mid-range focal lengths are often a good choice for people who like to do a lot of different types of videography. A lens that is somewhere in the 24-70mm range will give you a lot of options.
Type of camera you are shooting on
While many lenses will work on both full frame and APS-C cameras, some are designed to only work on crop sensor cameras. It is important to be sure that the lens that you pick will be compatible with the camera that you own (or are planning to own!). Keep in mind that effective focal length will be longer on an APS-C camera due to the crop factor.
Aperture is the measure of how wide a lens can open, which affects how much light can enter the camera. A wider aperture will allow you to shoot in darker spaces and help to produce that creamy blurred effect in the background of your videos. Aperture is expressed as a fraction, which means that a smaller “bottom” number is a larger aperture (e.g. f/1.8 is wider than f/4). If you plan on shooting in low light or like that blurry background, look for a lens with a wider aperture.
In the same vein, it’s also important to look at t-stops and f-stops when comparison shopping for lenses, as these metrics describe the ratio of the lens’s focal length to the diameter of the entrance pupil. In plain English, that means they describe the amount of light that actually gets to your sensor. This ratio is usually measured in f-stops on photographic cameras, and t-stops on cinematic cameras.
Depth of field
Depth of field (DoF), which we just mentioned, essentially refers to which part of your image is in focus. One of the most visually stunning things you can do as a videographer is change up the DoF in your shots. Using a shallow DoF can create a creamy blurred background and a sharp, focused foreground, while a deep DoF can result in a fully crisp, focused image. Aperture is part of what controls DoF (f/5.0 being shallow, f/32 being deep, etc), but you can also control DoF with your focal length. A longer focal length will produce a far shallower DoF because the lens will be technically closer to the subject. If you are interested in shooting with a shallow DoF, a longer lens is the right choice for you, and vice versa; if you’re more interested in a deep DoF, you’ll want to go with a shorter lens.
Stabilization is a good feature to have if you plan to move around with your camera while you are taking video. While many mirrorless camera systems have stabilization built into the cameras themselves, Canon cameras (both DSLRs and Cinema) typically do not. The good news is that many of the lenses for Canon cameras have stabilization, including their EOS and EF lenses. A lens with image stabilization will help you get smoother videos when you’re not using a tripod.
Canon cameras have two most commonly-used focus modes: manual and autofocus. Most advanced videographers prefer to use manual focus when shooting on a DSLR or Cinema camera, but that doesn’t mean that autofocus doesn’t have its benefits. The novice videographer may find autofocus to be far more user-friendly than manual focus.
It can be difficult to achieve perfect focus using manual focus, which leads to a lot of distracting noise from adjusting the lens. It also leads to quite a bit of time wasted searching for focus while subjects move around and eventually exit the frame. That said, when using autofocus, you want to make sure that the lens you are using has an autofocus feature that works quickly and quietly.
The Canon Cinema cameras have decent autofocus modes, like Dual Pixel AF mode, which has been referenced as a game-changer by many top reviewers. STM lenses are also commonly used to achieve a quiet and accurate autofocus. Most DSLR cameras are not capable of achieving a good autofocus and will constantly readjust; if autofocus is important to you, it’s best to look for Cinema lenses. The Canon Cinema lens marketplace has plenty of options for beginner videographers looking for easier and smarter ways to autofocus their cameras.
Price and quality
At the end of the day the best lens for you is the one that gives you all the features you need but doesn’t force you to sell all of your other equipment to buy it. Having said that, lenses are one of the most important things you can invest in to help your videography and they typically retain their value well in the event that you decide to sell them down the road. You don’t want to skimp on lenses.
Now that you have an idea of what to look for in a Canon video lens, let’s talk about some of our favorites.
|Lens||Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 Pro DX II||Canon 14mm f/2.8 L II||Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 DC HSM||Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L II||Canon 24-105 f/4L IS II||Rokinon 35mm T1.5 DS Cine||Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II||Rokinon 85mm T1.5 Cine DS Lens||Canon 135mm f/2 L||Canon 70-200 f/2.8 L II IS|
|Minimum Focus Distance||12″||8″||11″||1.25″||1.5″||12″||14″||3.6′||3′||4′|
|Format Compatibility||APS-C only||Full Frame and APS-C||APS-C only||Full Frame and APS-C||Full Frame and APS-C||Full Frame and APS-C||Full Frame and APS-C||Full Frame and APS-C||Full Frame and APS-C||Full Frame and APS-C|
|Weight||1.2 lbs||1.4 lbs||1.8 lbs||1.8 lbs||1.75 lbs||1.5 lbs||5.7 oz||1.3 lbs||1.65 lbs||3.3 lbs|
The 5 Best Canon Mount Prime Lenses for Video
($92 weekly rental, $2,100 MSRP)
Yes, this lens is expensive. Yes, it’s a somewhat niche focal length. But if you like to shoot ultrawide primes, this is the lens for you. For a lens this wide it has very little distortion. It is very sharp at the center but sharpness falls off a bit near the edges of the frame, especially when shooting at wider apertures.
Shooting with a lens this wide isn’t especially easy. It requires that you get super close to your subject and constantly be aware of what is happening in the background. This is especially tricky if you are moving around a lot as is often the case with video. Don’t be scared away, though. If you love shooting ultrawide, this is one of your best options.
($52 weekly rental, $600 MSRP)
If you are looking for a high-quality video lens and don’t need autofocus you should consider the Rokinon 35mm T1.5 DS Cine. With a wide t-stop, this lens works well in low light and the 35mm focal length is extremely versatile. This lens will allow you to shoot everything from relatively wide shots to up close portraits in poorly lit scenes. Its minimum focus distance of 12” means you can get up close and personal with your subject.
This lens does not have autofocus but for many videographers this is not a problem. The focus ring on this camera turns smoothly and the aperture ring is “declicked”, allowing for smooth transitions while shooting. This lens also creates a “softer” effect on video when it is open all the way. Considering the price and quality, this is an excellent starter lens for anyone just getting their feet wet with videography.
($15 weekly rental, $125 MSRP)
Affectionately known as the “nifty fifty”, this 50mm f/1.8 lens is the gateway into prime lenses for many people. Photographers and videographers love this lens because it’s fast, light, and an incredibly good value. The optics on this lens are well beyond its entry-level status in life and the 50mm focal length is good for everything from portraits to sports to street photography.
It wouldn’t be fair to talk about this lens’ benefits without mentioning a few of its drawbacks. The nifty fifty is made primarily of plastic and isn’t especially rugged. It doesn’t take much to break one of these but at $125 you’re not out a lot of money if you do. If you’re not quite sure that you will love a prime lens, this is a great place to start.
($40 weekly rental, $400 MSRP)
If you think you have to spend a ton of money to get a fast, high-quality prime lens for your Canon camera the Rokinon 85mm T1.5 Cine DS is here to prove you wrong. The 85mm focal length is popular among portrait photographers for its compression, brilliant bokeh, and flattering perspective and all of this translates well into the video world.
Because this lens is designed for video, the aperture is measured in t-stops rather than f-stops but rest assured that the aperture on this lens is plenty wide. If this lens has a pitfall it’s that it is manual focus only but for many videographers that is simply not an issue. Much like the Rokinon 35mm T1.5 DS Cine, this lens also creates “softness” when wide open. At $400 this lens is a steal!
($45 weekly rental, $1,000 MSRP)
The 135mm f/2L lens by Canon is a good option for people who want a long, fast prime lens that produces beautiful bokeh and isn’t too bulky. The 135mm f/2 L is widely considered to be one of the best lenses in Canon’s lineup and it’s a great option for videographers as well. As with all of Canon’s “L” lenses, the optics from the 135mm f/2 L are top of the line.
One of the best features of this lens may be the fact that it has a relatively long focal length but it isn’t overly large. This lens weigh in at 1.65 pounds which doesn’t sound too light until you consider that to get this kind of speed and focal length in a zoom lens you’re looking at lugging around the Canon 70-200 f/2.8L which is over twice as heavy. Image stabilization is the only thing that could make this lens better.
The 5 Best Canon-Mount Zoom Lenses for Video
($44 weekly rental, $500 MSRP)
Tokina’s 11-16mm f/2.8 Pro DX II lens is a very good budget-friendly option for APS-C shooters who want a relatively wide and fast zoom lens. This lens does have some distortion, especially as you get close to 11mm, but that is to be expected from a lens this wide.
Videographers who are looking for an ultrawide lens for their APS-C camera will be well served by the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 Pro DX II. Can it match some of the higher priced options on our list when it comes to build quality, sharpness, and versatility? No. But it isn’t designed to. This lens fills a specific niche (well-priced, ultrawide lens for APS-C cameras) and does a solid job of it.
($80 weekly rental, $800 MSRP)
Sigma’s ART lenses have been making waves in the photo and video world for a while now and the 18-35mm f/1.8 is no exception. This lens, which is designed to work on APS-C cameras, may be one of the very best video lenses on the market for less than a thousand dollars. Wide apertures such as f/1.8 are rare in zoom lenses but with this lens Sigma delivers!
Sigma designs their ART lenses to look, feel, and perform like professional quality glass and the 18-35mm is no exception. This lens is heavy and solid. The barrel is made of metal and the focus rings work smoothly. This lens is extremely sharp throughout its focal range. Sigma ART lenses sometimes have focus issues but this can be easily corrected using the Sigma USB dock. The bottom line here is that if you shoot an APS-C camera like the C100, C300, 80D, 7D Mark II, or any of Canon’s Rebel line, this is an excellent and versatile choice.
($76 weekly rental, $1,850 MSRP)
The Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L II is a workhorse in both the photo and video worlds. This lens ticks so many boxes that it just can’t be ignored. The 24-70mm focal length covers a wide range of situations and the maximum aperture of f/2.8 means that it works well in low light. Unless you want to shoot very long or very wide this lens will cover the bases for you. It’s not just about the extremely versatile focal length, though, this lens is also incredibly sharp.
This lens feels a bit like a brick in your hands. It’s heavy—but don’t let that dissuade you. This is a professional level piece of equipment and it is built to last. The metal body is sturdy and weather-sealed, meaning that it can take a pretty good beating. If you want just one lens that can do a whole lot and aren’t afraid to spend some real money to get it, this is the one for you.
($54 weekly rental, $1,099 MSRP)
If you bought a higher end Canon camera as part of a kit, such as the critically acclaimed Canon 5D Mark IV, there’s a good chance that you already have the 24-105 f/4 L IS II in your arsenal. And if you don’t have it, you may want to consider getting it. This lens is the latest addition to Canon’s “L” glass, and it deserves its lofty place in the lineup. The wide focal range allows this lens to cover everything from portraits to sports to landscapes.
While its f/4 maximum aperture isn’t as fast as some of the others on our list it does have one thing that many of the other lenses don’t (especially at this price point) and that’s stabilization. Finding image stabilization on a lens this wide is a rare treat. Add to that the legendary build quality of Canon’s L lenses and you’ve got your new favorite lens for video.
($83 weekly rental, $1,950 MSRP)
The 70-200mm is one of Canon’s most popular lenses for photographers and videographers alike. The 70-200mm focal length covers a variety of situations (especially when paired with a 24-70mm) and the wide f/2.8 aperture produces stunning bokeh. This lens has everything that you want in a professional level telephoto—image stabilization, sharpness, and a super rugged construction that is built to last.
If this lens has one pitfall it’s that it is extremely heavy. Weighing in at 3.3 pounds, this lens is almost twice as heavy as any other lens on our list. It is a beast to carry around but if you can put up with the weight you will be rewarded with one of the best Canon video lenses on the market.
Choosing a lens for any Canon camera, whether it’s a mount, Cinema, or DSLR, can be a tough decision and there are a lot of different factors to consider. We hope that this article helped make the decision a little bit easier for you. If you’re still on the fence about what to get, consider taking a few different options for a test drive. Renting a lens is a great way to figure out what features you’ll use—and which ones you won’t.
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