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

DxO Labs have analyzed the optical performance of over 130 models from both Canon and third-party makers, ranging from the uniquely wide, yet reasonably compact APS-C Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM through to the affordable 18-55mm ‘starter’ zooms and up to the new and not so accessibly priced full-frame EF 600mm f/4 IS II USM and EF 200-400mm f/4 IS USM Extender 1.4x models. While we still have gaps in our database, we are working hard to add the missing models as quickly as we can, however, this is still an extensive and valued resource for anyone looking to seek advice on lens choices for their new Canon EOS 70D. In this, the third and final part of a three-part series, we’ve graded the performance of the best wide-angle lenses with a focal length of 24mm or less and telephotos over 100mm, including both single focal length models and their zoom counterparts.

Best wide-angle primes:

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM 1550 22 13
Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM 800 20 13
Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 356 18 11
Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 2.8/15 ZE Canon 2950 17 12
Samyang 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMC Aspherical Canon 379 16 10
Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM 2249 15 10
Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM 514 14 10
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 18mm f/3.5 ZE Canon 1395 13 10

Neither Canon nor third-party lens makers have yet to offer wide-angle primes with a smaller image circle for APS-C bodies, perhaps fearing confusion in the marketplace when full-frame models already offer compatibility (albeit with a reduced angle of view). The downside is that users have to buy wider, ever more expensive models to compensate for the narrower field of view imposed by the smaller sensor. That tends to limit the number of options available.

While we’ve yet to analyze the Sigma 20/24/28mm f/1.8 EX DG Aspherical (all full-frame) lenses on the EOS 70D, Canon’s own models take the top three positions for best wide-angle primes. In first place is the highly regarded and equally expensive L-series EF 24mm f/1.4, closely followed by the new stabilized EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM. Canon’s film-era EF 24mm f/2.8 model is still a good performer, and at $356 the lowest price of those in the top eight models (listed above).

#1: Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM (best DxOMark score and best sharpness):

With highest DxOMarkscore and the highest sharpness score out of those analyzed, it’s perhaps unsurprising to see the highly regarded EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM, occupying the top slot. As a full frame model this lens isn’t quite so appealing on an APS-C body but it doesn’t stop it from delivering outstanding image quality. Thanks to a complex optical construction it has very good sharpness, low distortion and vignetting, while keeping chromatic aberration in check. Transmission is a little disappointing given the trumpeted maximum aperture.

#2 Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM (best sharpness score):

In second place this new stabilised Canon model rivals the faster, more desirable f/1.4 version in sharpness (if not quite in overall image quality) and yet boasts optical image stabilisation, a feature that may be high on the list of priorities for video enthusiasts. At $800, it’s not cheap exactly, but it’s substantially less than the f/1.4 version even if it’s 1.5 T-stops slower. Vignetting remains high, and it has slightly more noticeable distortion but it’s a solid choice for the EOS 70D.

#3 Canon EF 24mm f/2.8:

In third place is the model that’s likely to be superseded by the stabilised f/2.8 version above, although it may still available on some dealers’ shelves. It can’t quite match the new model for sharpness, and transmission, measured at 3.4T-stops is somewhat discouraging. However, the ‘trade-off’ is positive, with lower vignetting and distortion. It also has very low levels of chromatic aberration on the EOS 70D. At less than half the price of the newer lens it‘s good value, if you can find one.

Best Wide-Angle Zoom

Tokina AT-X 11-16 PRO DX Canon 659 16 11
Tokina AT-X 12-24 AF PRO DX Canon 400 16 10
Sigma 10-20mm F3.5 EX DC HSM Canon 649 15 10
Tokina AT-X PRO SD 11-16 F2.8 IF DX II Canon 655 14 10
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM 845 13 9
Sigma 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM Canon 699 12 9
Tamron SP AF11-18mm F/4.5-5.6 Di II LD Aspherical [IF] Canon 499 12 8
Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 EX DG HSM II Canon 1400 10 7
Sigma 12-24mm f4.5-5.6 EX DG Canon 840 9 5

While there are currently no wide-angle primes made specifically for APS-C DSLRs, that’s not the case with zooms. Third party maker’s offer a wide range to suit the EOS 70D and Canon has several models though they’ve yet to upgrade some of their more enthusiast-oriented models to keep apace with the independents. Although ‘standard’ zooms technically cover wide-angle focal lengths, we’ve concentrated on the ‘wider’ models.

#1: Tokina AT-X 11-16 PRO DX Canon (best DxOMark score and best sharpness):

With a DxOMark lens score of 16 points, the premium grade, high-speed Tokina AT-X 116 Pro DX (11-16mm f/2.8) is the highest scoring wide-angle zoom lens in our database. With a reasonably ‘fast’ f/2.8 constant maximum aperture this model (not to be confused with the similarly named DX II version) has a clear advantage for low light shooting over slower models and yet possess very good sharpness levels, at least on a par with the older EF 24mm f/2.8 lens.

Distortion and vignetting are low for a zoom like this, but chromatic aberration is high, and particularly so at the wider-end of the zoom range. At $659 priced comfortably beneath that of Canon’s quite highly regarded, yet non-stabilised EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM model.

#2: Tokina AT-X 12-24 AF PRO DX Canon(best DxOMark score):

Not to be confused with the new $449 AT-X 124 AF Pro DX II, the older (2004) Tokina AT-X 12-24 AF Pro DX (12-24mm f/2.8) is good performer on the EOS 70D, coming second out of all those in our database. While we await the new model for testing, if this original version can still be found, it offers good sharpness, low distortion over most of the range (with the exception of 12mm) and low vignetting. But, as with the wider AT-X 116 model, it has high levels of lateral chromatic aberration.

#3: Sigma 10-20mm F3.5 EX DC HSM Canon:

Of the two 10-20mm zooms Sigma offers for the EOS 70D, it’s the faster of the two with its constant f/3.5 aperture that performs best, and which comes third in our rankings. It comes very close to the Tokina but it can’t match it for sharpness, and although it’s similarly priced, the two vary in light transmission by one stop, not the two-thirds of a stop by focal ratio (f-stop) engraved on the barrel. In all other respects it performs well, though not leaps and bounds over those occupying fourth and fifth place in our league table (above).

Best Telephoto:

As you may have noticed, we’ve already discussed short-telephotos lenses in Part II with the best performing model being the Sigma 85mm f/1.4, achieving a DxOMark score of 25. More extreme focal lengths adopt some fairly intense prices, but it comes as little surprise to see the shorter focal lengths typically outperform them, and with that much more accessible pricing.

Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM 440 23 11
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM 6599 22 17
Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T 100mm f/2 ZE Canon 1840 21 12
Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM 1070 21 13
Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM 10499 21 15
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM 969 19 13
Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG Macro Canon 640 19 11
Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM 800 19 12
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM 6000 19 18
Canon EF 600mm F/4L IS II USM 11999 18 14
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM 536 17 12
Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Canon 969 17 11
Canon EF 500mm F/4L IS II USM 9499 17 13
Sigma 150mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro Canon 1099 16 11
Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM 1500 15 11
Canon EF 135mm f/2.8 Soft Focus 870 15 8
Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM 1269 13 9
Tamron SP AF180mm F/3.5 Di LD (IF) MACRO 1:1 Canon 690 12 6

#1: Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM(best DxOMark score):

While the best performing 85mm lens was the Sigma 85mm f/1.4, at $969 it’s a serious investment for a good many people. Canon’s 100mm f/2 USM, on the other hand, might not have same alluring ‘ultra-fast’ maximum aperture but at f/2 (actually T2.2) it’s not slow, has very good sharpness, particularly at full-aperture and has low distortion and vignetting and negligible chromatic aberration. With a price of around $440, it’s half the price of the Sigma.

#2: Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM (best Sharpness score):

Of the super-telephotos in Canon’s range, the new EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM is a very good deal sharper than the tiny 100mm (in first place) though that’s offset in the DxOMark score by the former’s superior light transmission when testing. It’s a pro-grade lens with zero distortion, low vignetting and negligible CA thanks to the adoption of fluorite elements.

Ultimately though the $6,599 price makes it inaccessible to all but the most wealthy enthusiasts and professionals. Users looking for better value, could consider the firms’ stabilised EF 300mm f/4 IS USM at $1,449 but with a DxOMark score of 13 it doesn’t feature in our Top-10 league tables (thanks to the high scores of the firm’s newer super-telephoto lenses).

Best Telephoto Zoom:

Unless you plan to use a telephoto lens regularly, telephoto zooms are much more versatile for a given focal length and as such, less likely to be left home. This group, perhaps more than any other, is populated with a diverse range models and a wide gamut of prices.

Models from Sigma and Tamron occupy the top two slots but Canon is represented in third place by their full-frame EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II USM, which although not quite four years old or so is already being surpassed by newer designs.

If budget is a concern, all three have a number of accessibly priced models up to 300mm in focal length albeit with slow variable apertures, though some are stabilised. Sigma’s EX range are designed for enthusiasts and professionals, much in the same way as Canon’s L-series and offer a good balance of performance and value.

Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 EX DC APO OS HSM Canon 999 20 15
Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Canon 1699 20 15
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM 2499 18 14
Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG APO HSM Canon 880 16 10
Tamron SP AF 70-200mm F/2.8 Di LD (IF) MACRO Canon 770 16 11
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM 1300 15 10
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM 1210 15 11
Sigma 50-150mm F2.8 EX DC APO HSM Canon 469 15 10
Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG APO Macro HSM II Canon 949 15 10
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM 1599 14 9
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM 1695 13 9
Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 APO-M DG Macro Canon 209 13 8
Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM 195 13 8
Canon EF 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6 II USM 230 12 9
Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS 250 12 8
Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD Canon 449 12 8
Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II 299 12 8
Sigma 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG APO OS HSM Canon 999 11 9
Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG OS Canon 359 11 6
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM 1330 11 7

#1: Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 EX DC APO OS HSM Canon (joint best DxOMark score and Sharpness score):

[Please note this model was also reviewed in Part II]

With the corresponding angle of view of an 80-240mm on the EOS 70D, this model performs well and is an attractive alternative to the full-frame 70-200mm f/2.8 models, which may appear a little ‘long’ by comparison. It has very high levels of sharpness through the zoom range at full aperture, though as with most zooms the performance is better at the shorter end. By f/4 sharpness across the field is excellent at all lengths.

Distortion is very low from 70mm onwards (it shows some barrelling at 50mm), and it has both low vignetting and low lateral chromatic aberration. At $999, it’s not exactly cheap given the lack of compatible with full-frame bodies but it’s an intriguing option nonetheless.

#2: Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Canon (joint best DxOMark score and Sharpness score):

In joint second place is the new Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VCD USD. This full frame lens, the equivalent of a 112-320mm on the EOS 70D achieved the same DxOMark score and Sharpness rating as the shorter Sigma. It’s a good performer but it doesn’t quite have the same uniformity through the range of focal lengths as the Sigma but it’s slightly faster at 3.1Tstops and has lower levels of vignetting. Distortion is negligible and Chromatic Aberration is within accepted levels.

#3: Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM:

In second place is the $2,499 Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II USM. Introduced in 2010, as the replacement to the EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS USM this new model featured both UD and fluorite glass to reduce CA and improve image quality. As a result the lens has extraordinarily low chromatic aberration and excellent sharpness throughout the zoom range. Distortion and vignetting are all very low, but the transmission score is a little disappointing. If brand loyalty is important then this lens is a good all-round performer.

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.