Canon’s DSLRs come in a huge range of prices, from the $400 EOS Rebel T5 to the $6,000 EOS-1D X Mark II. One of the factors that determines price is the size of the sensor. Canon’s top cameras use a sensor about the size of a 35mm film frame in old cameras. However, most of Canon’s DSLRs use a smaller sensor, with the jargony name Canon APS-C. (It’s 38 percent the size of a full-frame sensor, but still huge compared to what your cellphone has.)

Credit: Junko Kimura/Getty

Credit: Junko Kimura/GettyThe camera’s sensor size determines how images look. For any given lens, cameras with larger sensors capture wider-angle images; those with smaller sensors capture more zoom. Here’s how that works and what it means for the lenses you buy.

MORE: Best DSLR Cameras

How sensor size determines zoom

In Canon cameras with a full-frame sensor, the lens projects the full width of what it captures onto the sensor. But it can project only the center portion of what it captures onto a smaller APS-C sensor. It’s as if you took the full-frame image and cropped off the edges, thereby zooming in to the narrower portion in the center of the image.

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The zoom you get when using a smaller sensor is called the crop factor, calculated as the diagonal measure of the full-frame sensor divided by the diagonal of the APS-C sensor. For Canon cameras, this comes out to 1.60. So, switching a lens from a full-frame to an APS-C Canon camera is like zooming in 60 percent more.

The red frame indicates the crop factor from Full frame to ASP-C sensor. Credit: CanonThe red frame indicates the crop factor from Full frame to ASP-C sensor. Credit: Canon

MORE: How many megapixels do you really need?

Crop factor and lenses

The amount of zoom a lens provides depends on its focal length. Measure, in millimeters, from the sensor to a key portion of the lens (which is rather technical to get into here). The longer the focal length, the more zoom you get. Let’s start with a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera. This provides roughly the same view on the world that your own eyes do. Go down to 35mm focal length, and you get a wider view than you would on your own. Go up to about 200mm, and things look much closer than in real life — which comes in handy for photographing wildlife without getting hurt.

Now, put the same lenses on a Canon DSLR with the smaller sensor that produces a 1.6 crop factor. Your 35mm lens acts like a 56mm lens (35mm x 1.6 crop factor). Now, a 35mm lens is the one that approximates how you see the world. Meanwhile, that 20mm lens is acting as if it were a 32mm lens on a full-size sensor. For any given lens, you will always get a wider-angle image on a full-frame sensor camera, but you will always get more zoom on a camera with a smaller sensor. That 200mm lens acts like a 320mm lens when you go to a smaller sensor.

The red frame indicates the crop factor from Full frame to ASP-C sensor. Credit: CanonThe red frame indicates the crop factor from Full frame to ASP-C sensor. Credit: Canon

What lenses should I buy?

Your first decision in shopping for Canon gear is to consider your budget. Canon cameras with the smaller, APS-C sensors start at $400. Those with full-frame sensors range from about $1,500 to $6,000.

Canon’s “EF” series lenses, which include all of its premium models, fit both DSLR types. However, Canon also makes a line of lenses called “EF-S” that are smaller and cheaper but fit only the cameras with smaller sensors. If you upgrade to a full-frame camera and all you have are EF-S lenses, you’ll have to start all over again.

So what should you do? Canon’s budget cameras typically come with a big discount on its “kit” lens for small sensors — the EF-S 18-55mm f4-5.6 IS STM lens. It’s quite good for the price and worth getting for a starter lens. As you expand your collection, you can start with some great budget EF lenses that fit both DSLR types. These include the EF 50mm f/1.8 II, known affectionately as the “nifty-fifty,” which sells for about $125. Another favorite is the EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Telephoto Zoom selling for $600 or so.

If you are on a budget (and who isn’t?) and new to DSLRs, start with the 18-55mm kit lens to get a feeling for what and how you like to shoot, and how much money you’ll be prepared to invest. Then, you can think about if, and how, you’d like to grow your gear collection.

Canon Lenses: Crop Factor Conversion Chart

Lens Full-frame focal length APS-C
Focal length
Aperture Lens Type Price
EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM 8-15mm 12.8-24mm f/4 Ultra-Wide Zoom EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM ($1,249 on Amazon Marketplace)
EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM 10-22mm 16-35.2mm f/3.5-4.5 Ultra-Wide Zoom EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM ($500 on Amazon Marketplace)
EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM 10-18mm 16-28.8mm f/4.5-5.6 Ultra-Wide Zoom EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM ($279 on Amazon)
EF 11-24mm f/4L USM 11-24mm 17.6-38.4mm f/4 Ultra-Wide Zoom EF 11-24mm f/4L USM ($2,699 on Amazon)
EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM 14mm 22.4mm f/2.8 Wide-Angle EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM ($2,099 on Amazon)
EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM 16-35mm 25.6-56mm f/2.8 Ultra-Wide Zoom EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM ($1,999 on Amazon)
EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM 16-35mm 25.6-56mm f/2.8 Ultra-Wide Zoom EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM ($1,701.28 on Amazon Marketplace)
EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM 16-35mm 25.6-56mm f/4 Ultra-Wide Zoom EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM ($999 on Amazon)
EF 17-40mm f/4L USM 17-40mm 27.2-64mm f/4 Ultra-Wide Zoom EF 17-40mm f/4L USM ($749 on Amazon Marketplace)
EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM 15-85mm 24-136mm f/3.5-5.6 Standard Zoom EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM ($339 on Amazon Marketplace)
EF-S 18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM 18-55mm 28.8-88mm f/4-5.6 Standard Zoom EF-S 18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM ($199 on Amazon)
TS-E 17mm f/4L 17mm 27.2mm f/4 Tilt-Shift TS-E 17mm f/4L ($2,149 on Amazon)
EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM 17-55mm 27.2-88mm f/2.8 Standard Zoom EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM ($829 on Amazon)
EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM 17-85mm 27.2-136mm f/4-5.6 Standard Zoom EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM ($125 on Amazon Marketplace)
EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II 18-55mm 28.8-88mm f/3.5-5.6 Standard Zoom EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II ($199 on Amazon)
EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM 18-55mm 28.8-88mm f/3.5-5.6 Standard Zoom EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM ($249 on Amazon)
EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS 18-135mm 28.8-216mm f/3.5-5.6 Standard Zoom EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS ($335.98 on Amazon)
EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM 18-135mm 28.8-216mm f/3.5-5.6 Standard Zoom EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM ($349.99 on Amazon)
EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM 18-135mm 28.8-216mm f/3.5-5.6 Standard Zoom EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM ($599 on Amazon)
EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS 18-200mm 28.8-320mm f/3.5-5.6 Standard Zoom EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS ($699 on Amazon)
EF 20mm f/2.8 USM 20mm 32mm f/2.8 Wide-Angle EF 20mm f/2.8 USM ($539 on Amazon)
EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM 24mm 38.4mm f/2.8 Wide-Angle EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM ($154.59 on Amazon)
EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM 24mm 38.4mm f/2.8 Wide-Angle EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM ($569 on Amazon)
EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM 24mm 38.4mm f/1.4 Wide-Angle EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM ($1,549 on Amazon)
TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II 24mm 38.4mm f/3.5 Tilt-Shift TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II ($1,899 on Amazon)
EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM 24-70mm 38.4-112mm f/2.8 Standard Zoom EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM ($1,568 on Amazon)
EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM 24-70mm 38.4-112mm f/4 Standard Zoom EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM ($899 on Amazon)
EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM 24-105mm 38.4-168mm f/3.5-5.6 Standard Zoom EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM ($599 on Amazon)
EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM 24-105mm 38.4-168mm f/4 Standard Zoom EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM ($1,099 on Amazon)
EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM 24-105mm 38.4-168mm f/4 Standard Zoom EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM ($999 on Amazon Marketplace)
EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM 28mm 44.8mm f/2.8 Wide-Angle EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM ($499 on Amazon)
EF 28 f/1.8 USM 28mm 44.8mm f/1.8 Wide-Angle EF 28 f/1.8 USM ($509 on Amazon)
EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM 28-135mm 44.8-216mm f/3.5-5.6 Standard Zoom EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM ($478.95 on Amazon)
EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM 28-300mm 44.8-480mm f/3.5-5.6 Telephoto Zoom EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM ($2,449 on Amazon)
EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM 35mm 56mm f/1.4 Wide-Angle EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM ($1,699 on Amazon)
EF 35mm f/2 IS USM 35mm 56mm f/2 Wide-Angle EF 35mm f/2 IS USM ($597.48 on Amazon)
EF 35mm f/1.4L USM 35mm 56mm f/1.4 Wide-Angle EF 35mm f/1.4L USM ($1,249 on Amazon)
EF 40mm f/2.8 STM 40mm 64mm f/2.8 Standard and Medium Zoom EF 40mm f/2.8 STM ($179 on Amazon)
TS-E 45mm f/2.8 45mm 72mm f/2.8 Tilt-Shift TS-E 45mm f/2.8 ($1,399 on Amazon)
EF 50mm f/1.8 STM 50mm 80mm f/1.8 Standard and Medium Zoom EF 50mm f/1.8 STM ($154 on Amazon)
EF 50mm f/1.2L USM 50mm 80mm f/1.2 Standard and Medium Zoom EF 50mm f/1.2L USM ($1,349 on Amazon)
EF 50mm f/1.4 USM 50mm 80mm f/1.4 Standard and Medium Zoom EF 50mm f/1.4 USM ($352.74 on Amazon)
EF 50mm f/1.8 II 50mm 80mm f/1.8 Standard and Medium Zoom EF 50mm f/1.8 II ($154 on Amazon)
EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro 50mm 80mm f/2.5 Macro EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro ($199.99 on Amazon Marketplace)
TS-E 50mm f/2.8L Macro
50mm 80mm f/2.8 Tilt-Shift, Macro TS-E 50mm f/2.8L MACRO ($2,199 on Amazon)
EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II 55-250mm 88-400mm f/4-5.6 Telephoto Zoom EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II ($144.99 on Amazon)
EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM 55-250mm 88-400mm f/4-5.6 Telephoto Zoom ($299 on Amazon)
EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM 60mm 96mm f/2.8 Macro EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM ($399 on Amazon)
MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo 65mm 104mm f/2.8 Macro MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo ($1,049 on Amazon)
EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM 70-200mm 112-320mm f/2.8 Telephoto Zoom EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM ($1,949.00 on Amazon)
EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM 70-200mm 112-320mm f/2.8 Telephoto Zoom EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM ($1,249 on Amazon)
EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM 70-200mm 112-320mm f/4 Telephoto Zoom EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM ($599 on Amazon)
EF 70-200mm f/4L USM 70-200mm 112-320mm f/4 Telephoto Zoom EF 70-200mm f/4L USM ($635.38 on Amazon)
EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM 70-300mm 112-480mm f/4.5-5.6 Telephoto Zoom EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM ($1,399 on Amazon)
EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM 70-300mm 112-480mm f/4-5.6 Telephoto Zoom EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM ($499 on Amazon)
EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM 70-300mm 112-480mm f/4-5.6 Telephoto Zoom EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM ($899 on Amazon)
EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM 70-300mm 112-480mm f/4-5.6 Telephoto Zoom EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM ($449.99 on Amazon)
EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III 75-300mm 120-480mm f/4-5.6 Telephoto Zoom EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III ($87.88 on Amazon)
EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM 75-300mm 120-480mm f/4-5.6 Telephoto EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM ($87.88 on Amazon)
EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM 85mm 136mm f/1.2 Standard and Medium Zoom EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM ($1,899 on Amazon)
EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM 85mm 136mm f/1.4 Standard and Medium Zoom EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM ($1,599 on Amazon)
EF 85mm f/1.8 USM 85mm 136mm f/1.8 Standard and Medium Zoom EF 85mm f/1.8 USM ($349.99 on Amazon)
TS-E 90mm f/2.8 90mm 144mm f/2.8 Tilt-Shift TS-E 90mm f/2.8 ($1,399 on Amazon)
EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM 100mm 160mm f/2.8 Macro EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM ($599 on Amazon)
EF 100mm f/2 USM 100mm 160mm f/2 Standard and Medium Zoom EF 100mm f/2 USM ($499 on Amazon)
EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM 100mm 160mm f/2.8 Macro EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM ($599 on Amazon)
EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM 100-400mm 160-640mm f/4.5-5.6 Telephoto Zoom EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM ($1,799 on Amazon)
EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM 100-400mm 160-640mm f/4.5-5.6 Telephoto Zoom EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM ($875 on Amazon Marketplace)
EF 135mm f/2L USM 135mm 216mm f/2 Telephoto EF 135mm f/2L USM ($999 on Amazon)
TS-E 135mm f/4L Macro 135mm 216mm f/4 Tilt-Shift, Macro TS-E 135mm f/4L Macro ($2,199 on Amazon)
EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM 180mm 288mm f/3.5 Macro EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM ($1,399 on Amazon)
EF 200mm f/2L IS USM 200mm 320mm f/2 Telephoto EF 200mm f/2L IS USM ($5,699 on Amazon)
EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM 200mm 320mm f/2.8 Telephoto EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM ($749 on Amazon)
EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x 200-400mm 320-640mm f/4 Super Telephoto EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x ($10,999 on Amazon)
EF 300mm f/4L IS USM 300mm 480mm f/4 Telephoto EF 300mm f/4L IS USM ($1,349 on Amazon)
EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM 300mm 480mm f/2.8 Telephoto EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM ($5,799.95 on Amazon)
EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM 300mm 480mm f/2.8 Telephoto EF 35mm f/2 IS USM ($597.48 on Amazon)
EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM 400mm 640mm f/4 Super Telephoto EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM ($6,899 on Amazon)
EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM 400mm 640mm f/2.8 Super Telephoto EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM ($9,999 on Amazon)
EF 400mm f/5.6L USM 400mm 640mm f/5.6 Super Telephoto EF 400mm f/5.6L USM ($1,179 on Amazon Marketplace)
EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM 400mm 640mm f/4 Super Telephoto EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM ($6,899 on Amazon)
EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM 500mm 800mm f/4 Super Telephoto EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM ($8,999 on Amazon)
EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM 600mm 960mm f/4 Super Telephoto EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM ($11,499 on Amazon)
EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM 800mm 1280mm f/5.6 Super Telephoto EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM ($12,999 on Amazon)

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