If you want the best image quality you need a prime lens. Okay, modern day zoom lenses are very good and capture high quality images that are tack sharp but if you want the images of the highest quality possible prime lenses are the way forward.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a single best prime lens for Canon cameras you can use for all subjects and there are loads of prime lenses available, and the best prime lens for Canon cameras depends on the subject matter you are shooting………….
BEST PRIME LENS FOR CANON – MACRO AND CLOSE UP
If you have a passion for macro and close up photography the best prime lens for Canon cameras is, without a doubt, the awesome Canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens.
This lens is Canon’s flagship lens, and when you use one and see the type of images you can capture with this prime lens it is easy to see why. Images are tack sharp from the centre of the frame to the edges, colours are bright and vibrant without being oversaturated, the level of detail this lens can record is mind blowing and the overall quality is second to none.
Out of all the lenses I own I can honestly say the Canon 100mm F2.8L IS macro lens is the sharpest of them all. For an honest an unbiased review of the best macro lens for Canon cameras feel free to check out “Review of the Canon 100mm F2.8L IS macro lens”.
The Canon 100mm F2.8L IS macro lens is the best all round macro lens you can buy however it is quite pricey. I bought the Canon 100mm F2.8L IS lens primarily for photographing insects, mini beasts and other critters, where I needed a long focal length to get a good working distance, and image stabilisation so I can capture sharp hand held shots at slower shutter speeds.
If you don’t need a decent working distance (because the subject won’t scuttle off for example) or you don’t need image stabilisation (because you can use a tripod to capture macro photos of your chosen subject) the Canon 100mm F2.8L IS lens may not be the best macro lens for your needs. In these circumstances the best prime lens is the Canon 100mm F2.8 lens, which is like the Canon 100mm F2.8L IS but without image stabilisation. I owned this lens before the IS version was released and I can vouch for the image and build quality of this lens. This lens is much cheaper than the IS version, therefore it is awesome value for money and gives you a lot of bang for the buck.
So what is the best prime lens for Canon cameras if macro and close up photography is your passion? The answer to this is easy. If any of your macro photography involves photographing small critters and insects the best prime lens is the Canon 100mm F2.8L IS. If your macro photography involves subjects that won’t scuttle away for fly off the best primes lens is the Canon 100mm F2.8.
Sample Images - Canon 100mm F2.8L IS Macro
BEST PRIME LENS FOR CANON – LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY
If you have a passion for landscapes and need an ultra-wide angle prime the best prime lens for canon cameras has to be the 14mm F2.8L, and many landscape photographers consider it the best prime lens for landscape photography.
There’s no doubt about it, the Canon 14mm F2.8L lens is awesome. This lens not only has a wide field of view, is tack sharp and produces high quality images but it is also tough, durable, well-built and weather-sealed. I can only describe this lens as bulletproof and it will deal with whatever Mother Nature throws at it.
The only negative about the Canon 14mm F2.8L is the cost – it is very expensive. I know quality lenses are expensive, but this lens is disproportionately expensive and isn’t as good a value as many other Canon L series lenses. That said, if you want the best ultra-wide angle prime lens you are going to have to suck up the cost and buy this lens.
Whilst many photographers have the “wider is better” attitude there are as many landscape photographers who consider 14mm too wide, and prefer something a little longer. If you are one of these people and want a longer prime lens for landscape photography the best prime lens for Canon cameras is the 24mm F1.4L
BEST PRIME LENS FOR CANON – INTERIOR PHOTOGRAPHY
If interior photography is your thing the best prime lens for Canon cameras is the Canon 14mm F2.8L. The objective when shooting tight interior scenes is to get as much in to make the space look bigger than it actually is and get as much in the frame as possible without distortion raising its ugly head.
There are wider lenses than the Canon 14mm F2.8L however 14mm is the widest you can go without being plagued by distortion. Some photographers actually want the distortion, however I am not one of them. Because of this I never shoot wider than 14mm when I take on interior photo shoots.
The Canon 14mm F2.8L has a wide aperture which makes it ideal for taking hand held shots in dimly lit interiors. There are many locations that prohibit the use of tripods, monopods and other supports and it is in these situations when the F2.8 aperture comes in to its own. Many photographers argue depth of field is important and a F2.8 aperture is never used in interior photography, however I don’t agree with this.
When I take interior shots I use a range of apertures. For example, I take shots with the lens stopped right down to maximise the depth of field and get front to back sharpness, and I also take shots using the lens wide open at F2.8 to get a particular subject in sharp focus and throw the background out of focus in order to get some creative interior photos. The Canon F2.8L lens is versatile and allows a whole variety of shots.
Like all L series lenses the 14mm F2.8L lens is tough, durable and well made. This lens is weather sealed, which is wasted on me since I only use this lens for interior shots. Since this lens is weather sealed it means it can withstand anything Mother Nature can throw at it, so if landscapes, seascapes and cityscapes are your thing, as well as interior photography of course, the 14mm F2.8L will be even more useful to you.
The image quality of the 14mm F2.8L is superb and it is super sharp, even when used wide open. Images are sharp from the centre of the frame to the edges, and it is very impressive. The overall image quality of this lens is awesome, and guarantee you will not be disappointed.
BEST PRIME LENS FOR CANON – PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY
When shooting full body portraits you are going to need a portrait lens that is a little wider than the norm and in these circumstances the best prime lens for Canon cameras is the Canon 35mm F1.4L. With a fixed 35mm focal length this is considered a wide (but not super or ultra-wide) but it is still an awesome portrait lens.
To get full body portraits with the 35mm lens you need to get up close and personal to the model. Fortunately, the 35mm is a small lens that will not get in the way or intimidate the model.
The 35mm lens isn’t an “in yer face” lens so getting close to the model isn’t too much of a chore, besides it leads to more personal and engaging photos.
The image quality of the 35mm F1.4 lens is awesome. Shot wide open there is the slightest hint of softness, which is a good thing for portraits. Super sharp lenses show every spot, pimple, blemish and variation in skin tone and are not that good for portraits and this is where a slightly softer lens comes in to its own, such as the 35mm F1.4L. I should point out that this lens is sharp just not super sharp, unless you stop it down that is. Stop this lens down and it becomes real sharp.
When taking head shots the best prime lens for Canon cameras is the Canon 85mm F1.8. With the 85mm F1.8 you can have the same working distance but get a frame filling shot of the model’s head and shoulders. Being close to the model means you can communicate with them, make them relax and act natural to get awesome portrait shots.
The 85mm F1.8, like all Canon L series lenses is made out of the best materials which means it is tough, durable and very well made. Build quality is not an issue with the Canon 85mm F1.8 lens.
If you are in to your portrait photography I suggest owning both the 35mm F1.4L (for full body portraits) and the 85mm 1.8 (for head shots). Sure, you can use the 85mm for full body portraits but because of the distance you have to stand from the model the shot is highly unlikely to be engaging.
BEST PRIME LENS FOR CANON – WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY
If wildlife is your target the best prime lens for Canon cameras is the one of the super tele prime lenses, such as the Canon 500mm, 600mm or 800mm lenses. All of these are top quality lenses but they are exceptionally expensive and out of reach for most photographers.
The 500mm, 600mm or 800mm prime lenses are great if you can spare a few thousand bucks to drop on a lens, but what if you are like most people and have a realistic budget? Well, if this sounds like you the best prime lens for Canon cameras is the Canon 400mm tele lens.
The 400mm prime lens is available in F4L or F5.6L versions and whilst the F4 version is more versatile (because it is faster) it is also the most expensive. Other than the maximum widest aperture these lenses are virtually identical in every way. These lenses are made out of the best quality components so they are tough, durable and pretty much bullet proof. The image quality of both of these lenses is awesome and both are capable of capturing stunning shots that will impress.
The Canon 400mm lens is a favourite with bird photographers, and when you see what it is capable of it is easy to see why. The 400mm lens is not only great for bid photography but for all wildlife including foxes, deer, rabbits and all other mammals.
I have the Canon 400mm f5.6L and it is an awesome lens, and one I highly recommend. The reason I bought the 5.6L and not the F4L is because it gives the biggest bang for the buck. After doing a fair amount of research, as well as going to my local camera shop and taking some test shots with both of the lenses I found out the 5.6L has the same build quality, the same image quality but is cheaper to buy. Okay, there are times when I would prefer an F4 over an F5.6 but simply compensate by pushing the ISO to keep the shutter speeds up.
It is easy to see that there is no one best prime lens for Canon cameras and the lens choice depends on what and where you are shooting. Hopefully the above synopsis has identified the best prime lenses for the subjects you like to shoot.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.