Canon (APS-C) DSLR Cameras & Lenses

What are the absolute best value Canon APS-C (“crop sensor”) DSLR cameras and lenses? I’ve narrowed it down to 3 cameras and 21 lenses.

Note: prices are in US Dollars based on recent eBay sales (exact prices will depend on your local area).

Best Value Cameras:

  • Canon 70D ($250 used):
    An all-around great camera for general photography. 20 MP, 7 fps, 19 AF points, Dual Pixel Autofocus (improved autofocus), weather resistant, articulated touchscreen, 1080p 30fps video (with microphone port).
  • Canon 80D ($500 used):
    Lots of improvements over the 70D (notably autofocus performance). 24 MP, 7 fps, 45 AF points, DPAF, weather resistant, articulated touchscreen, 1080p 60fps (with mic and headphone ports). Should cover 99% of beginner needs.
  • Canon 7D Mark II ($500 used):
    Get this one if you’re focused on sports / action / wildlife and need the very best autofocus performance. 20 MP, 10 fps, 65 AF points, DPAF, weather resistant, 1080p 60fps video (with mic and headphone jacks).
    The original 7D is also a great camera ($200 used), so for budget action/wildlife you could consider that one, too. 

Note: the 90D is a great camera, and I’d say even underrated. But it’s still expensive, and that extra money is best spent on lenses instead.

Best Value Lenses:

Note: you can use any Canon “Full Frame” EF lens on your crop sensor camera! I’ve included some popular Full Frame lenses below.

Prime lenses (fixed focal length):

  • Canon EF-S 24mm F2.8 STM ($75 used):
    This tiny, sharp, and feather-weight pancake lens is a perfect companion for street / travel photography, giving you a 38mm (24 * 1.6) equivalent full frame field of view. Lots of fun!
  • Canon EF 35mm F2 IS USM ($350 used):
    It’s expensive, but offers superb image quality and gives you a very versatile 56mm field of view. Full frame lens.
  • Canon EF 50mm F1.8 STM ($70 used):
    Incredible value – an easy recommendation for all Canon DSLR shooters. Becomes a short telephoto / perfect portrait lens on your APS-C camera (80mm field of view). Sharp, quick to focus, with decent bokeh. Full Frame lens.
  • 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 SP 90mm F2.8 Di Macro VC USD ($300 used):
    need stabilization? Grab this one. Otherwise, the Canon (below) is better value. Model #: F004. Full frame lens.
  • Canon EF 100mm F2.8 Macro USM ($250 used):
    A superb macro lens lens that will double as a portrait/headshot lens on your APS-C camera. Full frame lens.
  • 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. Pair it with the 7D Mark II and suddenly you’re shooting pro-level wildlife for $1000. Full frame lens.

Zoom lenses (wide):

  • Canon EF-S 10-18mm F4.5-5.6 IS STM ($150 used):
    Light, sharp, small, stabilized – an easy lens to recommend to all Canon shooters and incredible value for money. 67mm filter thread.
  • Tokina 11-16mm F2.8 AT-X PRO DX II ($200 used):
    Very sharp, solid construction, and a fast F2.8 aperture make this the budget astrophotography lens of choice. Note: this is the 2nd version of the lens (DX II). 77mm filter thread.
  • Tokina 11-20mm F2.8 AT-X Pro DX ($300 used):
    Even sharper than the 11-16mm, this is the preferred choice if you’re after top image quality. The extra 4mm on the long end really helps if you’re using it for interiors / architecture. 82mm filter thread.

Zoom lenses (mid-range):

  • Canon EF-S 15-85mm F3.5-5.6 IS USM ($180 used):
    A very versatile zoom range (24-136mm full frame equivalent field of view), sharp, and fast to focus. Some CA (Chromatic aberration), easily correctable in post-processing. The perfect travel / hiking / walk-around zoom lens.
  • Tamron SP 17-50mm F2.8 XR Di II ($90 used):
    Back in the day, this lens impressed with its “3D pop” and excellent colors/ rendering. Great for photojournalism / environmental portraits on a budget. Note: this is the non-VC model (A016).
  • Sigma 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM ($250 used):
    An excellent performer, and a popular upgrade over the kit lens. Features OS (Optical stabilization). Generally pleasing bokeh, and corners sharpen up nicely by F4.
  • Canon EF-S 17-55mm F2.8 IS USM ($350 used):
    Sure, it’s heavier and more expensive than the Tamron/Sigma options – but optically, this one will blow them away. Great resolution and contrast, and a bargain today on the used market.
  • Canon EF-S 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 IS STM ($40 used):
    Your basic entry-level kit lens, but considerably better than the numerous older variants of the 18-55mm. Don’t spend too much on this one – there are thousands of these floating around in barely used condition.
  • Canon EF-S 18-55mm F4-5.6 IS STM ($40 used):
    The last iteration of the 18-55mm kit lenses. 20% shorter than the other one (above), with better video autofocus. Same stabilization and focus speed. Doesn’t really matter which of these two 18-55mm you get – both are great value picks if starting out.
  • Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 XR Di Aspherical ($180 used):
    It’s an older design – and a “weird” range on an APS-C camera (45-120mm equivalent). But that makes it an interesting outdoor portrait lens on a budget – or a decent walk-around zoom. Model #: A09. Full frame lens.

So which one to get? Start with a cheap 18-55mm kit lens, then upgrade based on what you feel is “missing” from your kit lens. Need a wider range? 15-85mm. Need ultimate image quality? 17-55mm. Etc.

Zoom lenses (telephoto):

  • Canon EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM ($150 used):
    Incredible value. Even faster and quieter autofocus than the previous (non-STM) version. At these prices, might as well buy the best – this one.
  • 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 older horrible 75-300mm lens). This one has the little digital screen on the lens.

Zoom lenses (all-in-one):

Note: there are 3 versions of the 18-135mm. These two are recommended, and are almost identical optically. Neither will blow you away in terms of image quality – the point is ultimate versatility in a single lens (29-216mm full frame equivalent field of view).

  • Canon EF-S 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS STM ($180 used)
    This was the second iteration of the 18-135mm, with improved optics over the first version.
  • Canon EF-S 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS USM ($250 used):
    This is the newest iteration of the 18-135mm, and focuses the fastest.

Useful resources:

  • Magic Lantern (custom firmware). Warning: this is a deep rabbit hole, and is not necessary at all for beginners.

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