It can be challenging to photograph in low light conditions. In order to produce pictures that are sharp and in focus, without excessive background noise, you have to strike the right balance between the various camera settings. A Canon low-light lens is one of the best ways to improve your low-light shooting experience.
The lenses listed in this guide will enable you to take amazing low-light photos. Our Canon mounts cover every Canon mount, from M-mounts to EF-mounts.
Choosing the Best Canon Lens for Low Light
The following is a detailed buying guide and checklist that you should read before jumping into the lens choices. You should now be able to pick out the best Canon lens for low-light photography and proceed to take some excellent shots. It is ideal for Canon lenses to have:
- f/2.8 or larger is a fast, large aperture
- Choosing the right focal length for your photography style
- Choose a focusing system that is appropriate for your low-light photography needs
- Consistently sharp and clear optics
A lens’ maximum aperture (also known as low f stop) is one of the most important factors for low-light photography. It is ideal to have a lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or greater.
Low-light photos with fast, large apertures generate less digital noise thanks to lower ISO settings. The ideal ISO setting for taking photos is 1600 or lower. Darker areas will have more background noise above this.
This also means that shutter speeds can be increased. This should result in sharper photos with no motion blur. With faster shutter speeds, lenses can also be used handheld more easily, so tripods are less likely to be used.
It is also extremely important to consider the focal length of the lens. Before taking photos, you should decide what type you want.
How about capturing the wonders of nature at night or the sprawling urban landscapes at night? Is astrophotography something you’d like to try? You may desire a low-light lens to take pictures indoors where the ambient light is lower. Here are some examples of common focal lengths and their uses:
- For astrophotography and night sky photography, 16mm is an ultra-wide angle
- Landscape, cityscape, and street photography with the 24mm lens
- Street photography, interiors, and wider-angle portraits require 35mm
- Low-light portrait photography is ideal with a 50mm lens
- A 70mm+ lens is ideal for low-light telephoto shots
The purpose of focal lengths and their differences can be seen in the table above. A fixed focal length prime lens is the best Canon lens for low light. If you wanted to use different lenses for different purposes, you would have to buy multiple lenses.
There are also multi-zoom lenses that are excellent for low-light photography, as you will see below. The advantages of these types of cameras are that they provide greater flexibility and make taking photos easier. Sometimes, however, they are softer than primes.
AF vs MF – Focusing Methods
It is also crucial to consider the focusing method. Manually focusing the lens is possible, or you can use the autofocus motor built into the lens.
Autofocus is at least desirable in most cases. Focusing becomes much easier and more accurate this way.
Taking pictures of different subjects and scenes while constantly moving also benefits from autofocusing. It would be extremely difficult to use manual focus if you were exploring a city at night, for example.
It is especially useful when the scene does not have much contrast, or when it is stationary. Astrophotography and night sky photography, for example, often use manual focus. In low-contrast scenes, autofocus motors have difficulty focusing properly.
An autofocus lens would be ideal, but if you prefer manual focusing, then an autofocus lens would be best.
Last but not least, optical quality plays a significant role as well. Your low-light photos are directly affected by the lens construction.
Lenses should feature a variety of special features that minimize ghosting, flare, and sharpness loss while boosting contrast, clarity, and sharpness. Aspherical, low dispersion and extra-low dispersion are some common lens elements to look for. Many Canon lenses use this technology, which greatly improves the quality of the base image.
The quality of third-party lenses is often comparable to the best low-light lens for Canon, but they are often cheaper than Canon lenses.
Many of Canon’s best low-light lenses are now third-party lenses. Just because a lens does not have “Canon” on the label does not mean you should disregard it.
Reviews of the best low-light lenses for Canon
For Canon cameras, the following lenses are ideal for low-light photography. There should be something for everyone in terms of price points, focal lengths, maximum apertures, and more.
1. Canon EF 16–35mm f/2.8L III
In spite of its relatively high f/stop number, Canon’s EF 16–35mm f/2.8L III offers some of the best low-light features among the selections we made. Because of its f/2.8 aperture, it allows in adequate light without being too bright for taking pictures.
Having the smallest focal length compared to the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 may seem insignificant, but it makes a big difference. With its ultrawide angle, it will provide dramatic and well-lit photos for landscape and real estate photographers.
The unit also features image stabilization, which allows it to capture details in tight spaces. The precision and stability are commendable when shooting quickly changing action or too close to the subjects.
The unique nature of this unit lies in the fact that Canon does not have many excellent ultrawide angle lenses for full-frame cameras. As an example, their Canon 14mm f/2.8 has a limited range of focal length and poor image quality.
With our best low-light lens for Canon, you’ll get great features and versatility on top of supporting low-light photography.
- Capture many details with an ultra-wide angle
- Images with sharpness
2. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II
With the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II being our second-most expensive option, you might be interested in learning more about it.
Except for the Sigma 18-35mm F1.8, it has a similar aperture distance as all our low light zoom lenses for Canon. While letting in much light and providing fast, shorter speeds, it is still impressive, making it feasible to capture nightscapes and record videos at night.
At f/2.8, the center of the image is superb, but the corners are blurry. Even though f/4 offers a better edge definition than f/2.8, it isn’t the best. The image is quite clear at f/5.8, however.
In addition to its zoom range of 24-70mm, this lens can be used for wide angles, close-ups, and even portraits. In dimly lit situations, the lens can serve various niches, such as architecture shots or portraits.
The price isn’t the only thing that can put you off, the lack of image stabilization makes quick capturing difficult. For handheld videography, its huge size and weight are deterrents.
- A wide zoom range allows for versatility
- Precision of images
- Flaring and chromatic aberration are minimal to nonexistent
- Stabilization is lacking
- Oversized lens hood and heavyweight
3. Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8
You will notice the compactness and light mass of the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 immediately.
Our favorite thing about this pancake lens is how light it is at 125g. The other lens can be carried on the camera if you don’t want to carry a bag.
However, how does it perform in low light? We have a Canon EF 16–35mm f/2.8L in our top pick for our best option. The final picture quality is affected by much more than how much light it lets in.
There is a little less sharpness at f/2.8, while it is quite impressive at f/5.6.
With a focal length of 24mm, it has a wonderful wide-angle range. This lens allows you to see a bigger picture without losing focus on your main subject by not being too wide.
Photography can be done with it for a wide range of purposes, not only for architecture and scenery.
Canon’s APS-C cameras can only use EF-S lenses because they are less expensive. Low-light photography requires a pair of glasses that suit your budget while getting a little more.
There was no image stabilization, which was our biggest disappointment. Shooting handheld and at a fast pace may not suit you.
- Lightweight and small
- Full-frame cameras cannot be used with it
- Handheld photography is not ideal without optical stabilization
4. Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L
Its aperture game has been taken up a notch with the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L. This lens has the broadest maximum aperture of our top two picks at f/1.4.
Aside from letting in tons of light, it also corrects for chromatic aberrations.
You might not get the best sharpness at f/1.4. Use f/2.8 for overall sharpness in dim light. The corners are very sharp at f/4, even in low light.
24mm is a huge angle on a full-frame camera. There’s a good chance the subject will recede into your picture, emphasizing the background. On APS-C cameras, however, the length offers a standard wide angle.
This lens fits APS-C and full-frame cameras, unlike the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8. For camera collectors, this is a great choice to carry more cameras. It’s a little pricey, though.
It’s pretty heavy and tedious when you’re doing extended handheld photography, but you can change between cameras. There’s also no image stabilization, so handheld shooting may be a challenge.
- Cameras with APS-C and full-frame sensors can be used
- Bright pictures require a wide maximum aperture
- Preventing precision errors due to chromatic aberration
- Stabilization is lacking
5. Sigma 18-35mm F1.8
Sigma’s 18-35mm F1.8 breaks up our otherwise monotonous Canon lineup. The unit features multiple impressive specifications and punches above its weight in some top Canon rivalries.
Its f/1.8 aperture, a first among zoom lenses, immediately draws your attention. Our top zoom lens for Canon has the widest aperture, but it’s not the widest on our list.
With its fast aperture, the camera can shoot in low light conditions indoors and record high-quality video. A lens with an aperture of f/1.8 allows twice as much light as a lens with an aperture of f/2.8. This can be useful in low-light conditions.
In order to achieve better video quality, you can use a lower ISO with an aperture of f/1.8.
There isn’t much zoom range with the 18-35mm lens, so you should not expect to shoot far-off subjects with it. However, this wide-angle is an absolute goldmine for landscape and real estate photographers.
Those shooting portraits may also benefit from the f/1.8 aperture, which features twice the amount of bokeh as its f/2.8 counterpart.
A mid-range lens, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 is designed for APS-C cameras. Sadly, even at 35mm you will experience a lot of vignetting when using it with a full-frame camera.
- Brightness is enhanced by a large aperture
- A wide-angle zooming feature allows you to cover a large area
- Ideal for far-flung subjects
- Full-frame cameras have excessive vignetting
6. Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8
Canon EF 16–35mm f/2.8L offers a standard wide-angle in this case. The Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 may be a better choice on an APS-C camera.
As the unit has the second-largest zoom range on our list, it offers more flexibility. For architectural and landscape images, you can zoom out completely. Out-of-focus backgrounds can be very attractive when using the 55mm range for portraiture.
As a result of the camera’s wide zoom range, the f/2.8 aperture provides ample illumination for night photography. In spite of varying focal lengths, the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 maintains impressive brightness levels.
The image centers of this lens are sharp at f/2.8, as is typical for most lenses. Aside from some chromatic aberration, the edges are not too blurry. At f/4 and f/5.6, sharpness increases progressively, but aberration remains.
The lens includes image stabilization, such as the Canon EF 16–35mm f/2.8L. Handheld videography is easier with this lens.
As with the highly affordable Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8, it is only suitable for APS-C cameras, so it won’t fit full-frame cameras. However, the lens is very heavy and large, especially when compared to smaller alternatives like the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8.
- Clarity is enhanced by image stabilization
- Flexible zoom range
- Big and heavy
- Has chromatic aberrations
7. Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4
With the exception of a few lenses such as the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II, the Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 is a reasonably priced lens. The lens is our second most affordable prime lens, so if you are interested in low-cost prime lenses, you may want to try it out.
On our list, the Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 shares the top spot with the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L as the widest aperture. Getting pleasantly blurred backgrounds at night is highly convenient with this device.
32mm is the equivalent of 51mm on a full-frame sensor, so you get a standard focal length. This lens captures the bigger picture while remaining narrow enough to emphasize the subject slightly.
We found this lens to be very compact and ergonomically sound, even though it is not as light as the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8.
It doesn’t have image stabilization, so be aware. For videography, you’d need a tripod.
- Light is let in adequately through a wide aperture
- Convenient minimalist design
- Stabilization of images is forfeited
We recommend the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III as the best choice, though the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II offers a more versatile option.
We believe that you can still choose from the remaining options after you have viewed the comprehensive comparisons.