Best Canon telephoto lenses

The Best Canon Telephoto Lenses in 2024 [Beginner’s Guide]

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If you’re ready to add a telephoto lens to your camera kit then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’re going to review the 6 best Canon telephoto lenses looking at different areas like focal length. image stabilisation, aperture and price.

What is a Telephoto Lens?

Firstly, a telephoto lens (or zoom lens) is used to provide a longer focal length than that of a standard lens. They are usually around 70mm or longer and provide a shallow depth of field with a magnified image.

Above all, they are great for filming all kinds of scenarios such as action sports, wildlife, architecture and anything you want to see up close.

What To Look For in a Telephoto Lens?

In short, there are plenty of options on the market but reading endless specs can be confusing and overwhelming. To help find what’s best for you, we’ve simplified everything you need to know when buying a Canon telephoto lens.

Firstly, here are a few quick questions to ask yourself.

  • How far away is my shot?
  • Do I need zoom?
  • Do I need a low f-stop?
  • Do I need image stabilization?
  • What kind of focus do I need?
  • Will it fit in my travel bag?
  • Does the look match my other lenses?
  • Do I have on-camera audio? If so, the lens needs to be quiet.

Our 6 Best Canon Telephoto Lenses

Still a bit confused? No worries. To help make your decision, here’s a list of our favourite Canon zoom lenses with a full list of specs including some quick pros and cons. 

1. Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III

  • Lens Mount: Canon EF / EF-S
  • Focal Length: 75-300mm
  • Aperture: ‎ f/4-5.6
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 1.5m
  • Weight: 498g
  • Image Stabilisation: No
  • Size: 71 x 122mm
  • Focus Type: Auto/Manual
  • Lens Type: Zoom
  • Filter Thread: 58mm

This Canon telephoto lens is great for live events. Firstly, it’s compact but has an impressive 4x zoom which allows you to capture special moments from a distance without being noticed.

Secondly, it’s lightweight and compact so even if you think you might not need it, bring it with you anyway. Remember, you want to be ready when you only have one chance to get the perfect shot. 😉

The Super Spectra coating ensures correct colour balance and enhances contrast. It also helps reduce flare and ghosting – a common problem caused by light bouncing off a camera’s sensor.

For the money, it’s a great investment and we consider it the best budget telephoto lens for Canon. The only drawback is there can be a slight colour distortion at times depending on the lighting situation.

✔ Up to 300mm zoom✘ Slight colour distortion
✔ Lightweight & compact✘ No image stabilisation
✔ Travel friendly
✔ Quiet and reliable operation 
✔ Comes with a 1-year warranty 

2. Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM

  • Lens Mount: Canon EF-S
  • Focal Length: 18-135mm
  • Aperture: ‎ f/3.5-5.6
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 0.39m
  • Weight: 515g
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Size: 77.4 × 96mm
  • Focus Type: Auto/Manual
  • Lens Type: Wide Angle, Normal, Telephoto
  • Filter Thread: 67 mm

There are many reasons why this lens should have a place in your camera bag. First off, 18-135mm gives you a lot of range.

Not many Canon zoom lenses are equipped with a wide angle, normal, and telephoto all in one. As a result, you have most of your focal lengths covered which is helpful in case you’re unable to bring extra glass with you.

Secondly, the USM technology delivers fast focusing that’s super smooth and quiet for filmmaking. Also, the lens elements reduce chromatic aberration throughout its wide focal range giving you excellent colour and contrast.

Finally, its compact, lightweight design makes it a lens perfect for travelling. It’s important to realize, that framing flexibility with one lens is handy for filming but also saves on weight in your camera bag. This lens gives you plenty of room for experimentation as a beginner.

✔ Wide range of focal lengths✘ Little Pricey
✔ Dynamic image stabilisation 
✔ Sharp image and colours 
✔ Motor is near silent 
✔ High-speed autofocus 

3. Canon EF-S 55-250mm F/4-5.6 IS STM

  • Lens Mount: Canon EF-S
  • Focal Length: 55-250 mm
  • Aperture: f/4-5.6
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 0.85m
  • Weight: 374g
  • Image Stabilisation: Yes
  • Size: 70.0 x 111.2mm
  • Focus Type: Auto/Manual
  • Lens Type: Zoom
  • Filter Thread: 58 mm

Without a doubt, this is a pretty versatile Canon telephoto lens. For example, it’s lightweight and has great image stabilization which is a real bonus when going handheld. Canon’s Image Stabilizer technology allows shutter speeds up to 3.5 stops slower which is great in low light.

The lens features a stepping motor (STM) which allows for smooth, quiet continuous focusing when capturing video. Also, STM focusing is so quiet that it’s not picked up by the camera’s microphone. 👌

On a side note, if you’re going to use a tripod, turn off image stabilization to save battery. When image stabilisation is activated, be advised that your framing can change slightly. 😉

Lastly, for the price, this lens has great image quality. The glass element and Super Spectra lens coatings deliver crisp, sharp, high-contrast footage throughout the zoom range. Also, being a general-purpose zoom lens, you’ll find it a must have for your entry-level kit.

✔ Affordable✘ Mostly plastic build
✔ Crisp, sharp, high-contrast footage✘ Not great for sports
✔ Very lightweight 
✔ Good image stabilisation
✔ Smooth & quiet autofocus

4. Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM

  • Lens Mount: Canon EF
  • Focal Length: 135mm
  • Aperture:  f/2.0
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 0.9m
  • Weight: 771g
  • Image Stabilisation: Yes
  • Size: 82.5 x 112mm
  • Focus Type: Auto/Manual
  • Lens Type: Prime
  • Filter Thread:  72mm

We don’t always shoot with primes, but when we do, we praise the gods. The L-series is Canon’s flagship professional lens range, representing the best in high-quality optics.

This Canon telephoto lens has one of the lowest f-stops on the list at around f/2.0 which is pretty awesome. It’s ideal for many uses, but studio scenarios and wildlife shoots are where it shines.

The narrow depth of field is something else and gives you what you need in the trickiest of lighting conditions. Also, the ring-type ultrasonic motor allows you to autofocus extremely quickly, and in near silence. 🙌

So if you’re looking for something fast but happy to settle for a fixed focal length then look no further.

✔ Low F-stop✘ Fixed focal length (not zoomable)
✔ Vibrant colour✘ Closest focus range is 3 feet
✔ High-quality optics 
✔ High-strength aluminium body 
✔ Fast & quiet Ultrasonic autofocus

5. Canon RF100-400mm F/5.6-8 IS USM

  • Lens Mount: Canon RF
  • Focal Length: 100-400mm
  • Aperture:  F/5.6-8
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 0.88m
  • Weight: 635g
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Size: 79.5 x 164.7mm
  • Focus Type: Auto/Manual
  • Lens Type: Telephoto
  • Filter Thread: 67mm

This Canon telephoto lens is perfect for getting in-the-moment action and with the Ultrasonic motor, it’s pretty fast. Not the cheapest, but you can easily capture subjects at high speeds accurately.

Most telephoto lenses are prone to shake, however with 5.5 stops of correction, this lens delivers excellent stability. Also thanks to a Nano USM motor, focusing is quiet and smooth.

Weighing just 635g and measuring 164.7mm in length, this compact, lightweight lens is well balanced, even when fully extended, and fits in a kit bag beautifully. Also with the solid weatherproofing design, it offers great moisture resistance.

People who can’t justify the more expensive Canon L series version will love this sharp and silent beauty.

✔ Compact & lightweight✘ Slight softening at 400mm
✔ Fast & quiet Ultrasonic autofocus 
✔ High-quality optics 
✔ Excellent stabilisation 
✔ Moisture-resistant construction 

6. Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM

  • Lens Mount: Canon EF
  • Focal Length: 70-200mm
  • Aperture: f/4.0
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 1m
  • Weight: 780g
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Size: 80 x 176mm
  • Focus Type: Auto Focus
  • Lens Type: Zoom
  • Filter Thread: 77mm

Looking at the price, this might go above your budget for a zoom lens, but the quality is unmatched. This Canon EF 70-200mm telephoto lens is beloved by all shooters.

Firstly, the build quality feels indestructible. As mentioned the Canon L-Series lenses are their flagship range, with top-notch fluorite lens elements and weather sealing that protects against dust and moisture.

Shoot with confidence, even in poor light, thanks to a 5-stop IS system that guards against blur from camera shake. Also, the lens’s constant f/4.0 aperture stays the same when it’s zoomed, so exposures remain consistent.

Finally, weighing just 780g, this versatile 70-200 telephoto lens is perfect for anyone on the move, shooting travel, sports and wildlife videos.

The only thing this lens doesn’t do is disappoint. For these reasons, if you can afford it, get it!

✔ Low F-stop ✘ Heavy
✔ Fast & quiet Ultrasonic autofocus
✔ Excellent stabilisation 
✔ High-quality L series optics 
✔ Moisture-resistant 
✔ Constant aperture

Best Canon Telephoto Lens – Wrapping Up

To sum up, there are plenty of options out there but what matters is what’s actually going to be useful for you. Work out what you film most of the time, whether it’s wildlife, events, or music videos and pick the most suitable one based on the features you need.

For example, if you shoot in low light conditions then go for a telephoto lens with a lower f-stop and if you film action then make sure you have good image stabilisation.

Also, it’s worth experimenting with a few different Canon telephoto lenses until you find one that fits. Try renting one from your local camera shop or rental house and have a play.

Marcus VanWormer
Marcus VanWormer
Marcus is a freelance director, cinematographer, and video editor based in Brooklyn. He has a diverse background in film production working with companies like ABC, CBS, Jeep, Harley Davidson, and Levi's. His passion is storytelling. Follow him on Linkedin.
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