There are loads of articles, blog posts and journals listing the Canon lenses you should buy but there are aren’t any listing the Canon lenses you shouldn’t buy, are there? Surely we should be aware of the Canon lenses that, on the face of it look really good but in reality are a total waste of money? Over the years I have wasted quite a bit of money on Canon lenses that seemed to be a great purchase at the time but turned out to be damp squibs. I did manage to off load these lenses, by trading them in against the Canon lenses I should have bought in the first instance, but I did lose quite a bit of money in the process, which really bites.
I don’t want other people wasting their money like I did, and I want other people to learn from my mistakes, so I thought I would let everyone know about the Canon lenses I have bought in the past that were a total waste of money, and what lens you should invest in instead.
Canon lenses you shouldn’t buy - Canon 50mm f1.4
When I wanted a fast 50mm prime lens for a Canon 5d I owned I dismissed the f1.8 because it seemed too cheap (i.e. rubbish?) and I didn’t think an f1.8 aperture was wide enough. I dismissed the Canon f1.2L because it was too big, too heavy and also too damn expensive. This left the mid-range Canon 50mm f1.4, and this is what I ended up buying.
The Canon 50mm is tough, durable and well made. It is a nice lens to use and the image quality is very good. This all sounds pretty positive, right, so why is this lens a waste of money? Well, the Canon 50mm f1.4 is a waste of money because it is considerably more expensive, but has the same image quality as the Canon 50mm f1.8. Okay, the f1.4 has a wider maximum aperture but when you shoot this lens wide open it is pretty damn soft, which is not good. If you close the aperture to 1.8 is get sharper but to the same extent as the 50mm f1.8 lens used wide open.
Okay, the Canon 50mm f1.4 is tougher, more durable and better made than the Canon 50mm f1.8 and it feels more like professional lens than a child’s toy but you can buy several 50mm f1.8 lenses for every one 50mm f1.4. Besides, the Canon 50mm f1.8 will provide years of trouble free service if you look after it.
Even though the Canon 50mm f1.4 is a god lens it is a total waste of money, and rather than splashing out the extra bucks you’re better off saving your cash and buying the Canon 50mm f1.8 instead, where you’ll be able to get the same type of images.
The Canon 50mm f1.8 is the lens to buy
Canon lenses you shouldn’t buy - Canon 180mm macro
I wanted a macro lens to take close up photos of insects therefore I needed the macro lens with the biggest working distance to give me the best possible chance of not spooking them and scaring them off. Looking at the specs of the Canon 180mm macro lens it should be perfect, what with the constant f3.5 aperture, 180mm focal length (which is the longest of all Canon macro lenses) and L series construction and optics. Yep, on paper it is the perfect macro lens for insect photography, and I planned to use it to take macro and close up photos of other subjects to.
When I bought the Canon 180mm macro lens the first thing I noticed was the build quality, which like all L series lenses was bullet proof. The next thing that became apparent was the size and weight of the lens. It was so damn heavy I needed to get to the gym and lift weights to make sure I could hold it steady enough for sharp shots. Okay, many people use tripods for macro photography, which is fine but not when your scrabbling around on your hands and knees looking for insects out in the wild.
Basically, the Canon 180mm macro lens was too big, too bulky and too heavy for carrying it around and taking hand held shots of insects. The ambient light levels had to be good to keep the shutter speeds up, and any reduction in light made things difficult to the point where it was a waste of time because it was almost impossible to get a sharp shot. When light levels were sufficient the lens was sharp and the overall image quality was exceptionally good. It’s a real shame the keeper rate was so low. The Canon 18mm macro lens is stupidly expensive, and is Canon’s flagship macro lens, and a total waste of money to boot.
When I chopped in the Canon 180mm macro lens I bought the Canon 100 f2.8L IS macro lens, and this is far better. The 100mm macro doesn’t have the same working distance as the 180mm macro lens, but the keeper rate is so much higher, and this is what matters. I mean, what’s the point in being able to stand far away from the insects if you can’t get a sharp shot? The Canon 100mm f2.8L IS lens is top quality, tough and durable. The image quality is exceptional and it is tack sharp, and easily the sharpest lens I own. This lens also has image stabilization, which is very effective. The best thing about the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens is that it is a fraction of the cost of the 180mm macro lens, and in my opinion, so much better.
The Canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens is the one to buy
Canon lenses you shouldn’t buy - Canon 70 – 200 f2.8L
Next on the list of Canon lenses you shouldn’t buy is the Canon 70 – 200 f2.8L lens. There are four Canon L series 70 – 200 lenses available, and whilst I would have liked the flagship f2.8L IS version it was out of my price range and I couldn’t justify dropping that much money on a 70 – 200 zoom lens.
The f2.8L version was a little more expensive than the f4L IS lens, but not too much, and given I thought (at the time) the wider maximum aperture would be more useful I ended up buying the f2.8L version, and what a mistake it was.
Even though the Canon 70 – 200 f2.8L lens is strong, robust (i.e. “bullet proof”) and the image quality is very good, it is just too big and heavy and you have to keep the shutter speeds up to avoid camera shake. I was disappointed with how fast I had to have the shutter speed to get sharp hand held photos, but after telling my buddies down the local camera club about it seems it is quite a common thing. It seems that many people have the same issues and the only way around it is to spend the extra and buy the Canon 70 – 200 f2.8L IS version (i.e. the uber expensive flagship model) or buy the f4L IS version instead obviously at the expense of the wider aperture.
It was clear there are inherent issues with the Canon 70 – 200 f2.8L lens and I needed to change it. I still couldn’t justify the cost of the Canon 70 – 200 f2.8L IS (although I would have liked one) so I purchased the f4L IS version instead, and what a lens it is.
The Canon 70 – 200 f4L IS lens is, like all L series lenses, tough, durable and well made. The optics are spot on, resulting in excellent image quality (just as good as the 70 – 200 f2.8L), and the four stop image stabilisation means tack sharp handheld shots at slower shutter speeds. I thought I would miss the 2.8 aperture, and whilst there are times when it would be nice to shoot a little wider, on the whole f4 is sufficient.
The Canon 70 - 200 f4L IS lens is the one you want
Canon lenses you shouldn’t buy – Canon 16 -35 f2.8L
The Canon 16 – 35 f2.8L lens is considered the flagship 16 – 35 wide-angle lens, and there was a time when in was, however I am not so sure it still is. The Canon 16 – 35 f2.8L lens is an exceptional lens, but given it is an L series lens this is to be expected. This lens is tough, durable and very well made. The image quality is superb and the images it can capture are stunning. The downsides to this lens is the price (it is stupidly expensive) and its size (it is big and heavy).
Rather than buying the Canon 16 – 35 f2.8L the better alternative is the 16 – 35 f4L IS version, and this is what I now have. The build quality of this lens is just as good as the f2.8L version, the image quality is better, it is smaller and lighter, and it is way cheaper. Okay, the maximum aperture isn’t as wide but given the 16 – 35 is typically used for landscape photography does it matter? I mean, when was the last time you shot a landscape at f2.8? I never have and I don’t recall ever having gone wider than f11. The Canon 16 – 35 f4L IS lens has four stop image stabilisation technology (the f2.8 version doesn’t have IS) which isn’t useful for landscape photography but it is when photographing other subjects. The Canon 16 – 35 f4L IS lens is the best 16 – 35 lens available for Canon cameras and there really is no need to spend the mega money required for the f2.8L version.
The Canon 16 - 35 f4L IS lens is the one you want
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.
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