What are the absolute best value Canon Full Frame DSLR cameras and lenses? I’ve narrowed it down to 4 cameras, 16 prime lenses, and 16 zoom lenses.
Note: prices are in US Dollars based on recent eBay sales (exact prices will depend on your local area).
Best Value Cameras:
Note: while I love the output from the original 5D (aka the “5D Classic”), it’s hard to find one in good condition. But if you can snag a good one under $180 or so, it’s a lot of fun.
- Canon 6D ($400 used):
An excellent entry door into modern full frame. 20 MP, 4.5 fps, 11 AF points. For still subjects, this is all the camera you need. Shooting lots of moving subjects (need better autofocus speed and performance)? Go for the 5D Mark III. Fixed LCD, Mic port, 1080p 30fps video. Single SD card slot.
- Canon 5D Mark III ($650 used):
Considerably better autofocus speed, focus, and features than the 6D. 22 MP, 6 fps, 61 AF points. Fixed LCD, Mic and headphone ports, 1080p 30fps video. The best camera for Magic Lantern (video) if you’re willing to play around with custom firmware. Dual card slots (CF, SD).
- Canon 6D Mark II ($800 used):
It may not be as rugged as the 5D series, but it’s objectively a better camera (for most people) than the 5D Mark III. Improved 26 MP sensor, 6.5 fps, 45 AF points. Articulated touchscreen, 1080p 60fps video, Mic port. Single SD card slot.
- Canon 5DS R ($1200 used):
It’s the Canon 5DS without the anti-aliasing (AA) filter: more detail at the expense of potentially higher moiré. The headline: it’s a 51 megapixel beast – very useful if you’re planting to print big. 5 fps, 61 AF points, 1080p 30fps video. Dual card slots (CF, SD). 99.9% of users will be better served by one of the other cameras on the list.
Tip: whatever you do, don’t blow your whole budget on the camera! Lenses are more important – make sure you have enough for quality glass.
Best Value Lenses:
Important: buy EF mount lenses for your camera (not EF-S: those are for APS-C “crop sensor” cameras).
TL;DR: first prime lens? Just grab the 40mm STM or 50mm STM and have some fun! Need an all-around zoom? 24-105mm (either version) gets it done.
Prime lenses (wide):
- Rokinon 12mm F2.8 Fisheye ($200 used):
Do you need a fisheye? Probably not. But the super wide angle makes this a fun one for unique shots (esp. night landscapes).
- Rokinon 14mm F2.8 IF ED ($120 used):
Manual focus, doesn’t take filters, and prone to sample variation. Still – there’s no better astrophotography lens on a tight budget.
- Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art ($400 used):
Sharp and contrasty, with great colors and bokeh… at a much lower price than Nikon’s 35mm F1.4. A bit lighter and smaller than the Tamron, and with lower distortion. Some may prefer the bokeh on this one, too.
- Tamron 35mm F1.8 Di VC USD ($300 used):
Sharp, great bokeh, stabilized, and solidly built. Great value, although hard to recommend unconditionally as the excellent Canon 35mm F2 exists for just $50 more. Especially popular for video work.
- Canon EF 35mm F2 IS USM ($350 used):
Offers superb image quality while taking up barely any space. IS (Image Stabilization) is a nice bonus, too.
Prime lenses (normal):
- Canon EF 40mm F2.8 STM ($75 used):
This tiny pancake lens instantly turns your camera into a street / travel machine. Sharp, weighs almost nothing, and fast autofocus.
- Canon EF 50mm F1.8 STM ($70 used):
Incredible value – an easy recommendation for all Canon DSLR shooters. Sharp, quick to focus, with decent bokeh. Great for basic street, portraits, travel. What about the 1.4? In my opinion, you’re better off skipping the Canon 50mm F1.4 USM entirely (poor autofocus).
- Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM Art ($500 used):
Yep, it’s expensive. But plenty of pro shooters agree: this is actually the best 50mm for portraits on the F-mount. A “buy once, cry once” lens – and ideal for low light shooting.
- Canon 50mm F1.2 L USM ($750 used):
You’re thinking: how could a $750 prime lens be great value? The 50mm 1.2 is no joke – it’s a true professional lens, and the results speak for themselves. Even if you don’t buy it, it’s worth borrowing/renting one for a day of portrait shooting.
- Helios 44-2 58mm F2 ($50 used):
Want to play around with fun, swirly bokeh? Grab this old school Soviet M42 mount lens and a cheap M42 to EF adapter ($15) and have some fun! Very popular for video (vintage look).
Prime lenses (telephoto):
- Canon EF 85mm F1.8 USM ($250 used):
It was already great value when bought new (back in the day). Today? It’s practically a steal. Sharp, quick autofocus, and beautiful bokeh (out of focus areas). Perfect as a headshot lens on crop sensor cameras. Full frame lens.
- Tamron 85mm F1.8 Di VC USD ($400 used):
Very popular with video shooters for the VC (stabilization). Otherwise, a very sharp lens – perfect for portrait work. Model #: F016.
- Canon EF 100mm F2 USM ($250 used):
Does it get much better than this? Yes, see the lens below. Otherwise, this is an incredible bargain for a professional portrait lens. Also great for indoor sports / action if 100mm reach is enough.
- Canon 135mm F2 L USM ($550 used):
Canon’s “L” lenses (denoted with a red ring around the lens barrel) are their best. And this is known as the “Lord of the [red] Rings.” Fast, sharp, with bokeh out of this world. At this price, it’s a steal.
- Canon EF 400mm F5.6 L USM ($600 used):
Yep, it’s big and heavy. But you won’t find a better 400mm F5.6 anywhere else – and especially not at this price.
Prime lenses (specialty/macro):
- Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 II L ($1200 used):
Loved by professional real estate and architecture pros the world over – a high quality Tilt-Shift, and a significant improvement over the first version. At this price, it’s a bargain.
- Canon EF 100mm F2.8 Macro USM ($250 used):
A superb macro lens that doubles as a portrait lens.
Zoom lenses (wide):
- Canon 16-35mm F4 L IS USM ($550 used):
If you’re after a quality wide angle zoom, look no further. Perfect for landscapes, architecture, you name it. Image Stabilization is a nice bonus, too.
- Tamron SP 17-35mm F2.8-4 DI OSD ($180 used):
Light and very sharp, with minimal CA/flaring. Some distortion (easily correctable). Perfect for travel. Model #: A05.
- Canon EF 17-40mm F4 L USM ($300 used):
Quality “L” glass on a budget – not as good as the 16-35mm (above), but more than enough for most needs.
Zoom lenses (mid-range / standard):
- Canon EF 24-70mm F2.8 L USM ($650 used):
This is the first version of the lens – and it’s excellent. Truly professional grade, and now available at a bargain price. the 2nd version does offer significant improvements – just be ready for the higher price.
- Tamron 24-70mm F2.8 Di VC USD G2 ($750 used):
Competes directly with Canon’s offerings, and gives you image stabilization too. Autofocus is a bit slower than Canon (and tends to hunt).
- Canon EF 24-70mm F4 L IS USM ($450 used):
Superb optics, with stabilization, in a (relatively) compact package. If you don’t need faster than F4, you should seriously consider this one.
- Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS USM ($350 used):
The standard recommendation and a Canon classic: covers a very useful zoom range; perfect for travel, general use, landscapes, etc. A bit older, so make sure you buy one with the option to test and/or return (there are some well worn copies out there).
- Canon EF 24-105mm F4 L IS II USM ($600 used):
One of the most versatile lenses you can buy: Should you get the older/cheaper v1? This one is optically similar, but fixes some small issues that the v1 had (e.g. lens creep).
Zoom lenses (telephoto):
- Canon EF 70-200mm F4 L USM ($400 used):
One of Canon’s best telephoto zooms – now available for a bargain price. If you don’t need the constant F2.8 aperture, just grab this one and be done with it.
- Tamron SP 70-200mm F2.8 VC Di G2 ($700 used):
Competes directly with Canon’s 70-200mm offerings – and does it all at a much lower cost. A bargain if you need the F2.8.
- Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS II USM ($900 used):
Truly pro-level glass. This is the v2 (improvements over v1: faster AF, better contrast, image stabilization). Definitely worth the price increase.
- Canon EF 70-300mm F4-5.6 IS II USM ($300 used):
A great, sharp telephoto on a budget (some sample variation – best if you buy with a return policy). Beware: this is the v2 with “Nano” USM technology (not to be confused with the v1 or even worse, the horrible older 75-300mm). This one has the little digital screen on the lens.
- Canon EF 70-300mm F4-5.6 L IS USM ($600 used):
One of Canon’s best zooms – an optical marvel, especially for the price. Not to be confused with the non-L variants (this one is white, with a red ring around the barrel).
Zoom lenses (super telephoto):
- Canon EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 L IS II USM ($1200 used):
One of the best value wildlife lenses out there. A significant improvement over the v1 of this lens. Very sharp, great bokeh, fast autofocus, and 4 stops of image stabilization.
Tamron SP 150-600mm F5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 ($700 used):
It’s big, it’s heavy, but you won’t find better reach at this quality for the price! Sharp, with great stabilization. Note: this is the (improved) G2 version of the lens.
- Magic Lantern (custom firmware). Warning: this is a deep rabbit hole, and is not necessary at all for beginners.