What is the Best Canon Lens for Video?

Canon has hundreds of lenses, and it can be very confusing for a beginner to understand what the best Canon lenses are for video.

This article is written for the beginner who wants to start with decent lenses. Nobody wants to make a mistake!

Just a quick note: You can buy third-party lenses for Canon cameras, but we are only focusing on Canon-branded lenses in this article. The assumption being you have made up your mind to only buy Canon lenses for video.

Why do you have (or need) such a large range of Canon lenses?

Canon makes different types of camera systems. The combination of sensor size and lens mount is what makes a system unique. Here are the four important systems:

SystemSensor SizeLens Mount
Canon DSLR xD*36 x 24mmEF
Canon DSLR xxD, XXXD and XXXD*22.5 x 15 mmEF-S and EF
Canon Mirrorless Full Frame36 x 24mmRF
Canon Mirrorless APS-C22.3 x 14.9 mmEF-M

*xD is a number and D, e.g., 5D or 1D. The single digit typically indicates it’s a full frame camera. Full frame is 36 x 24mm.

Canon has recently launched two mirrorless full frame cameras, the EOS R (Amazon, B&H) and the EOS RP (Amazon, B&H). If you would like to know the differences between these Canon cameras for video, check out this article.

All the others cameras have a smaller sensor, called an APS-C sensor. This generally corresponds to the Super 35mm sensor/film size for filmmaking. So there’s nothing “wrong” or “worse” or “unprofessional” about APS-C sensors! Most of the great movies you’ve seen in your life were shot on sensors the size of APS-C.

When it comes to choosing lenses, the system matters. A lens specifically designed for a smaller sensor will have an image circle just big enough for that sensor. If you try to use that lens on a full frame camera, you get vignetting or a dark/black circle around your videos.

This means, if you have an APS-C sized DSLR or Mirrorless camera, you can pretty much use all the lenses Canon has. All you need is an adapter that converts EF to EF-M. By the way, both EF and EF-S have the exact same mount, so you can use EF lenses on EF-S bodies without anything extra.

You can also a adapt EF lenses to RF bodies. Click here to learn more about that.

Does lens quality differ with the system?

Sadly, yes. Canon has always prioritized lenses for full frame sensors, because that is their target audience. You have to remember these cameras were still photography cameras, and they predominantly still are.

The best Canon lenses are given a red ring around the camera, and are labelled “L”. E.g., this is a Canon 28-70mm f/2 USM L-series lens (Amazon, B&H):

If you were using a Canon EOS R camera for video, I would not hesitate to recommend this lens as a must-have lens for filmmaking – but only if you are a professional (or an amateur with deep pockets).

What do you get with expensive lenses?

You get these main benefits over cheaper lenses, generally speaking:

  1. Better image quality overall, and over the entire focal length range.
  2. Consistent image quality over multiple samples.
  3. A wider aperture, in most cases.
  4. Faster autofocus performance.
  5. Quieter focus and zoom motors.
  6. Better construction and weather sealing.
  7. A more consistent size and weight range.
  8. Better ergonomics. E.g., the focus and zoom rings are smoother and larger.
  9. Better resale value.
  10. More consistent filter-size threads.

For simplicity-sake, I’m going to divide this article into the following groups, so you can find what you want quickly.

  1. The Best Budget Canon lenses for APS-C.
  2. The Best Canon lenses for APS-C, price no problem.
  3. The Best Budget Canon lenses for full frame cameras.
  4. The Best Canon lenses for full frame cameras, price no problem.
  5. The Best Canon Cine lenses for video.

I will be focusing entirely on EF and EF-S lenses. If you’re interested to learn what the best lenses for the EOS R and RP system are, please read the Best Lenses for the Canon EOS R for Video.

I’m going to recommend one must-have lens, which should probably be your first purchase. Then I’ll recommend three others that will complement your kit and help you achieve more. Let’s go.

What is the best budget Canon APS-C lens for video?

Get this: Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM (Amazon, B&H)

If you don’t have money for this lens, then go for the Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM (Amazon, B&H)

Three amazing lenses to add to your kit:

  1. Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM (Amazon, B&H) – for low light work and a great “walk-around” lens.
  2. Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM (Amazon, B&H) – for wide angle work.
  3. Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM (Amazon, B&H) – for telephoto work.

All the lenses I’ve picked here have image stabilization (IS). To a beginner on a low budget this is important – especially for video where your shutter speeds tend to hover around 1/50s.

What is the best Canon APS-C lens for video?

Get this: Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM (Amazon, B&H)

Yes, it’s the same lens! Just because the price is reasonable doesn’t mean it’s not the best choice.

Three amazing lenses to add to your kit:

  1. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM (Amazon, B&H) – extend your range with just one lens.
  2. Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM (Amazon, B&H) – the low-light legend, and it works great as a general-purpose walk-around lens.
  3. Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM (Amazon, B&H) – the wide-angle version, though it doesn’t have IBIS the image quality is superior in every which way.

What is the best budget Canon full frame lens for video?

Get this: Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM (Amazon, B&H)

You might not need another lens!

Three amazing lenses to add to your kit:

  1. Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM (Amazon, B&H) – for low light work and a general-purpose walk-around lens. However, it doesn’t have IBIS.
  2. Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM (Amazon, B&H) – when you want to go wider.
  3. Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM (Amazon, B&H) – when you want to go “poor-man’s” safari.

What is the best Canon full frame lens for video?

If money is no problem, get this: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM (Amazon, B&H).

This range will single-handedly cover 90% of most shooting needs. To know why, read What lens to get?

Three amazing lenses to add to your kit:

  1. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens (Amazon, B&H) – the telephoto sibling. Or if you want to go “rich-man’s” safari, get this: Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM (Amazon, B&H).
  2. Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM (Amazon, B&H) – the wide-angle sibling.
  3. Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM (Amazon, B&H) – the low-light legend, and it works great as a general-purpose walk-around lens.

What are the best Canon cine lenses for video?

Cine lenses are not cheap. They are for working professionals who earn money from their cameras, and who need the extra features a cine lens brings.

What do you get with cine lenses?

Generally speaking, you get the following benefits with cine lenses (though not all might be true):

  1. Less focus breathing.
  2. Some zoom lenses are parfocal.
  3. The construction is solid and designed for heavy use under many scenarios. Being heavy, they also don’t shake much on touch.
  4. Manual focus rings are precise so a focus puller can use tape to nail focus. You can also use wireless follow focus systems standardized for this.
  5. The aperture ring is de-clicked so you can smoothly ride the aperture during a shot.
  6. The size, shape and weights are very similar so you can swap lenses without readjusting balance on gimbals, steadicams, cranes, etc.
  7. True cine lenses should be color matched, so they cut well together.

To know more about how a cine lens is different from a photo lens, read this article.

Canon cine lenses come in both primes and zooms. Let’s start with cine primes.

Primes

As for primes, Canon makes two sets of cine lenses:

SetMountsFocal lengths
Sumire PrimesPL and EF mounts14, 20, 24, 35, 50, 85, 135^
CN-E primes EF mount only*14, 20, 24, 35, 50, 85, 135^

*Some companies offer a conversion service from EF to PL convert it to PL at an additional cost.

^Average T-stop is T1.5, though the range is from T1.3 to T2.2, and the 14mm for both is a T3.1.

The Sumire lenses are almost twice the price. What is different about them? Canon claims these are completely new optical designs, and the lenses were designed for a more aesthetic look to them. I’ll let Canon explain the difference:

The advantage of the EF mount cine lens is you get great dual pixel autofocus with Canon cameras. So you can use any of the lenses listed above even on expensive Canon cine cameras like the Canon C700 – and you can use these expensive cine lenses on Canon DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. The ecosystem is seamless and integrated, and that is very important to a lot of professionals.

Many other manufacturers also provide cine cameras in the EF mount. E.g., the Panasonic Varicam and Red cine cameras.

To be honest, at this price range and budget, you owe it to yourself to test both sets and see which one you like. To my eyes, I prefer the CN-E primes, though they don’t come in PL mount. That’s a big negative in this price range and market.

If you’re interested to know more about other full frame cine primes, read this comparison.

Zoom lenses

Canon has zoom lenses that are in both the PL and EF mount (they were launched near to the CN-E prime set, so I don’t know why they were offered in the PL mount while the CN-E primes were not).

One key difference between the cine primes and cine zoom lenses are that the primes cover full frame cameras, while the zoom lenses are designed for APS-C and Super 35mm cameras.

If you could only pick one, get this: Canon CN7x17 KAS S Cine-Servo 17-120mm T2.95 – you could shoot entire projects with just this one lens.

Three amazing lenses to add to your kit:

  1. Canon CN-E 15.5-47mm T2.8 L S – for wide angles.
  2. Canon CN-E 30-105mm T2.8 L S – for telephoto work.
  3. Drool over this, the most popular lens among wildlife documentary filmmakers: Canon CINE-SERVO 50-1000mm T5.0-8.9

That’s it! These are my suggestions for the best Canon lenses for video and cinema work. Hope you found it useful!