Canon’s Normal lens lineup

Canon offers a very diverse set of normal lenses that you can get in prime and zoom models. Many zoom lenses that extend well into the telephoto range also have normal focal lengths, such as the EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM. However, many photographers feel that the wider the focal range of a zoom, the more you end up compromising in various factors; for sure, you compromise in lens speed (for example, f/3.5-5.6) with such a broad range, even though this particular lens, being an L series model, has phenomenal quality. Zoom lenses tend to weigh more and be physically larger, also (see 6-18).

The size and weight differences between prime and zoom normal lenses can be significant On the left is the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM zoom and to its right is the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM prime lens.

The EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens is perhaps the most widely used lens by event and sports photographers working with this focal range; it is a workhorse lens with outstanding quality, speed, depth of field, and versatility. However, some photography purists swear by Canon’s 50mm prime lens for ultra-high-quality portrait results; furthermore, you can get great results with low light and very narrow depth of field with the EF 50mm f/1.2L USM prime lens (but it comes at a lofty price!). For many photographers, the EF 50mm f/1.4 lens covers most of what they need to accomplish while still fitting into their budgets.

The Canon normal lenses that fall into the prime category include:

  • EF 50mm f/1.2L USM
  • EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
  • EF 50mm f/1.8 II

The Canon lineup of normal zoom lenses includes the following (note that several of these extend into the telephoto range):

  • EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM
  • EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM
  • EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 USM
  • EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
  • EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
  • EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 USM
  • EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
  • EF 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 II
  • EF 28-90mm f/4-5.6 III
  • EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II USM
  • EF 28-105mm f/4.0-5.6 USM
  • EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM
  • EF 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 USM
  • EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM

As you can see, many of the zoom lenses range well into the wide and telephoto categories, so the type and style of images you’re shooting, as well as your budget, will largely dictate which lens or lenses you need. If you shoot a variety of types of photography, my suggestion is to begin with the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM because it is high quality, fast, and versatile, as shown by the image in 6-19. Here I’ve used it as a portrait-type zoom lens, but I often shoot fencing matches with it, especially if I have to be very close to the action. It’s a bit on the expensive side, but you will be able to do a lot with it. However, if you’re specifically interested in serious, very high-quality portrait work, then I would begin by investing in a 50mm lens — preferably the EF 50mm f/1.2L USM model.

Normal lenses are great for portraits and have excellent depth-of-field features. This image, taken in natural afternoon light in St. Petersburg, Russia, uses a stone wall as a nonreflective, textured backdrop. Taken with a 1D Mark II, EF 24-70mm f/2.8L lens, ISO 125, 1/400 second at f/4.

Category: Canon Lens Lineup, Science of Lenses

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