Best lenses for the Canon EOS 70D

By Kevin Carter - Friday August 30 2013

Lens Recommendations
Introduction | Part 1: STM series | Part 2: Best performing Primes and Zooms | Part 3: Best performing wide angle and telephoto lenses

Best primes:

 
Sigma 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Canon9692513
Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM A Canon8992515
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM8502514
Canon EF 85mm F1.2L USM15992414
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM18692312
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM14202313
Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM4402311
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM3852212
Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Canon4992211
Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Aspherique IF Canon2852211

With equal ranking,the best performing primes include the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM and the newer Art series 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM as well as the new Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM. While it may be somewhat embarrassing that two out the three of the best optical performers for the Canon EOS 70D are made by Sigma,

Canon are well represented in the ‘Top 10’. Note though, it is dependent on focal length; you won’t see any ultra-wide angle lenses or extreme telephotos in this list as it’s lot easier to design and manufacture a lens with fewer aberrations in the 35-85mm range.

#1: Sigma 35mm f/1.4DG HSM A 

When taking the highest DxOMark score and the highest sharpness scores into account, the $899 Sigma 35mm f/1.4DG HSM A once again takes the top slot as the highest performinglens in our database when mounted on the Canon EOS 70D. Although a big and heavy lens (it weighs 665g / 23.05oz), as the equivalent to a 56mm on the EOS 70D it’s still an attractive option, and especially useful if you already have access to a full-frame Canon body. While a 15P-Mpix score for sharpness puts the Sigma ahead of the rest, distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberration are all low, vignetting especially, due to smaller sensor of the EOS 70D body.

At maximum aperture, the Sigma 35mm f1.4 is sharp centrally and quite usable whereas the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM good as it is lacks the same bite and never quite matches the Sigma for uniformity at other settings

#2 Canon 35mm f/2 IS USM

If it wasn’t for the price being so close to the Sigma 35mm f/1.4, the $849 Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 IS would be an easy choice to make for the Canon EOS 70D. Although quite large physically, it’s not particularly heavy at 335g and makes a good match in terms of balance and handling. While a stop ‘slower’ at maximum compared to the Sigma model it has a 4-stop stabiliser and very good sharpness centrally at full-aperture, though closing down to f/4 improves sharpness in the outer field. There’s some vignetting noticeable at full aperture but transmission, distortion and chromatic aberration are all excellent.

At full aperture, the Canon 35mm f/2 IS USM is an excellent performer but it’s still not quite a match for the faster Sigma until stopped down one stop to f/2.8 where uniformity is excellent.

#3 Sigma 85mm f1/4 EX DG HSM

While the optics and mechanics have yet to be upgraded in line with the firm’s new Art series lenses, the current Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM model is an excellent performer optically.  This full-frame model, equivalent to a 135mm on the EOS 70D, is a sharp lens but this particular imaging characteristic isn’t everything, especially in a portrait lens.

Indeed, at maximum aperture, acutance is a bit low and it’s not really sharp until stopped down to f/2. Edge to edge sharpness begins two stops down from full aperture, which gives the photographer some control at least. Vignetting and chromatic aberration are both very low in a ‘high-speed’ lens like this, and there’s no measurable distortion. Transmission at 1.7TStop is a little disappointing but it’s not unexpected. At $969 it is not inexpensive, but it’s still some $900 less than the Canon EF 85mm f1.2L.

Sharpness may be a little on the low side at maximum aperture but uniformity is good, compared with theCanon 85mm f1.2L II USM at f/1.2 which is slightly sharper centrally but less so in the outer field.

Best Zoom

Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM A Canon7992715
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM22992114
Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 EX DC APO OS HSM Canon9992015
Tamron SP 24-70mm F2.8 Di VC USD Canon12992011
Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Canon16992015
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM24991814
Sigma 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM Canon6691710
Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM10461611
Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG APO HSM Canon8801610
Tokina AT-X 11-16 PRO DX Canon6591611

There’s no denying that zooms are more flexible than primes but they’re usually heavier and bulkier to work with. Combine that with a slower maximum aperture and it’s no wonder that primes are making a comeback. That said, if video is important then a zoom makes a lot of sense. Sigma recently bucked the trend for ‘slow’ zooms by introducing the world’s fastest standard zoom for APS-C DSLRs in the form of the $799 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM A. Although not small or light in weight the 29-56mm equivalent also happens to be one of the best performing models on the Canon EOS 70D. It out performs both the full-frame Canon and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 models and matches the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 EX DC APO OS HSM and new Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 for sharpness. 

#1: Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM A

With a DxOMark lens score of 27 points, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 is the best performing zoom lens in our database, and with a score of 15P-Mpix the lens compares with many high-end primes. Sharpness is higher and more uniform across the field at 18mm, but even when zoomed to 35mm the center of the field is excellent at full aperture, while edge-to-edge sharpness is achieved by f/2.8. If there’s a shortcoming to the design it’s that vignetting is a little high at -1.1 EV, but chromatic aberration is very well controlled and distortion is quite mild.  Transmission, an important consideration for video makers, is excellent at 1.8Tstop. The range of focal lengths isn’t particular wide, as the equivalent to a 29-56mm, but at $799 it’s excellent value.

Compared with the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM, the obvious choice for the EOS 70D, the new Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 has homogenous sharpness across the field at all apertures at 18mm, with a slight fall off in sharpness in the outer field wide open at 35mm. Please click here for the results at other settings.

#2: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

Our previous best performing standard zoom offers a wider range but as it’s a full frame lens it’s the equivalent to a not quite as appealing 38-112mm on the Canon EOS 70D. It has excellent sharpness and uniformity at just about every focal length and aperture setting it has very good transmission, low distortion and well controlled vignetting. Chromatic aberration is a little high when compared to the Sigma, but it’s still low in general. If you have a full-frame camera then this lens would serve double duty, but at $2,299 it’s not inexpensive when compared with the new Sigma.

With a slightly wider and longer range of focal lengths than the Sigma, the Canon EF24-70mm f/2.8 is a, similarly, excellent performer but it’s a pricey option for APS-C users.

#3: Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 EX DC APO OS HSM

The next best performing zoom on the EOS 70D is yet another Sigma model. As the equivalent to a 70-200mm, this lens doesn’t have a direct ‘high-speed’ counterpart in Canon’s range and may explain why this model consistently performs well in tests. It has excellent sharpness and uniformity when stopped to f4 at all focal lengths but at full aperture the performance is a little sketchy at 150mm. In all other respects it is a first class lens with negligible distortion from 70mm onwards (it shows some barrelling at 50mm), low vignetting and equally low lateral chromatic aberration, which are all unusual in a ‘high-speed’ telephoto-zoom like this. At $999, it’s good value when compared with full-frame models but bear in mind it is designed for APS-C bodies only.

Not exactly a like for like comparison, but some focal lengths overlap.From 70mm onwards and set tofull aperture, the Sigma is sharper centrally than the Canon. Stopped down, the performance is similar.

A decade of improvement in Canon image quality:

In our recent review of the Canon EOS 70D, the new 20.2-MPix ‘Dual Pixel CMOS AF’ sensor achieved a DxOMark Sensor score of 68 points.

It’s a pretty good score, but as a benchmarking exercise, we noted at the time it was really only a slight increase in performance over the earlier Canon EOS 60D. And, neither did it perform that closely when compared with the rival Nikon D7100 or with the Sony SLT Alpha 77.

DxOMark sensor score and the individual use case sensor scores don’t tell the whole story, and only reflect part of the sensor’s capabilities. (see our DxOMark sensor score documentation)

By analysing the data from the camera/sensor and lens together, as we do in our DxOMark lens scores, we can take the both the acutance of the combination into account.

If we take that a step further, assessing the same lens on different camera/sensor combinations we can see the improvements gained by increasing pixel count.

Even if the DxOMark lens scores appear to increase marginally between models, when assessed with cameras that are over 10 years or more old we can there has been significant improvement for Canon users over the past decade.

 
Canon EOS 70D 20.2 27
Canon EOS 100D 18 26
Canon EOS 700D 18 25
Canon EOS 7D 18 24
Canon EOS 500D 15.1 22
Canon EOS 50D 15.1 21
Canon EOS 40D 10.1 20
Canon EOS 450D 12.2 20
Canon EOS 30D 8.2 19
Canon EOS 20D 8.2 19
Canon EOS 350D 8 18
Canon EOS 400D 10.1 18

Canon APS-C cameras mounted on the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8: A decade or more improvement in APS-C sensor performance.

In part 3 of this guide, we’ll be looking at the best performing primes and zooms covering standard, wide-angle and telephoto focal lengths for the Canon EOS 70D.

If you have a Canon EOS 70D and a favorite lens, we would very much like to hear from you. Please leave a comment below, stating what lens it is and why you like it.