What’s the Best Canon Lens for Low Light? [2022]

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We know that it can be difficult to take high-quality low-light photos. If you do not have the right lens, your images can be blurry, out of focus, and have noticeable background noise. This is why having a dedicated Canon lens for low light photography is beneficial.

With a dedicated low-light lens, you can comfortably take low-light photos. This could include nighttime landscapes, astrophotography, and nighttime cityscapes. It could also include indoor photos where there is less ambient lighting.

If this is something you feel you can benefit from, then this article will help. I have used my experience with Canon cameras and lenses to select nine suitable lenses from among the best low light lenses that will perform fantastically in various low-light compositions.


best canon lens for low light
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The Best Canon Lens for Low Light – Top 3

Best Full Frame Lens

  • Aperture control directly on the lens
  • Fantastic image quality
  • Excellent value for money

Best EF-S Lens

  • Light and compact
  • Fast max aperture
  • Versatile

Best R Lens

  • Fast, quiet autofocus
  • Wide max aperture
  • High build quality

Canon Low Light Lens Comparison Table

Lens

Camera Format

Pros

Cons

Check Price

 

[Best Canon Lens for Low Light]

Canon Full Frame (EF)

Super wide aperture; Excellent value for money

Fully manual lens

Canon Full Frame (EF)

Fast and accurate - great for portraits

Plastic-y lens

Canon Full Frame (EF)

Super wide angle ideal for star photography

Manual focus only

Canon Crop Sensor
(EF-S)

Lightweight, compact and versatile

Not the most durable lens

Canon Crop Sensor
(EF-S)

Versatile focal length; Wide constant max aperture

Basic Hypersonic AF motor

Canon Mirrorless Full Frame (R)

Fast, wide angle lens

Distortion and vignette in image corners

Canon Mirrorless Full Frame (R)

Perfect for portraits

Image edges not as sharp

Canon Mirrorless Crop Sensor (M)

Compact and lightweight

STM focusing motor can be slow

Canon Mirrorless Crop Sensor (M)

Large max aperture; Weather-proofed

Big and heavy


How to Pick the Best Canon Low Light Lens

Before jumping into the lens choices, I have compiled a comprehensive buying guide and checklist. This should ensure you can pick the right lens and continue on to take some superb low-light photos. The best Canon lenses for low light should ideally have:

  • A fast, large maximum aperture of f/2.8 or larger
  • An ideal focal length for the types of photography you want to create
  • A suitable focusing system for the types of low-light photography you intend to take
  • Great optics for consistent sharpness and clarity

Maximum Aperture

canon low light lens aperture

One of the most important features that make a lens great for low-light photography is the maximum aperture (otherwise known as low f stop). Ideally, you want a lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or larger.

A fast, large aperture means that you can use lower ISO settings and thus create low-light photos with less digital noise. Ideally, you want to be able to take photos with an ISO setting of 1600 or less. Anything above this and you will start to see more background noise in the darker areas.

Also, it means that you can use faster shutter speeds. As a result, you should be able to take sharper photos with no motion blur. Using faster shutter speeds also means that the lens should be easier to use handheld and thus reduce your reliance on a tripod.

Focal Length

canon low light lens focal length

The focal length of the lens is also highly important. You should first consider what type of photos you want to take.

Do you want to capture amazing natural nighttime landscapes or sprawling urban cityscapes? Perhaps you want to try your hand at astrophotography? Maybe you want a low-light lens for indoor photography where there is less ambient light? With this in mind, I have listed some of the common focal lengths and what they are suitable for:

  • 16mm – ultra-wide angle for astrophotography and night sky photography
  • 24mm – wide-angle for landscapes, cityscapes, and street photography
  • 35mm – for street photography, interior shots, and wider-angle portraits
  • 50mm – ideal for low-light portrait photography
  • 70mm+ – for any type of low-light telephoto photography

As you can see, there are some clear distinctions between focal lengths and what they are useful for. Most of the best Canon lenses for low light are prime lenses with a fixed focal length. This means that you would have to purchase multiple lenses for different purposes.

Alternatively, as you will see below, there are some multi-zoom lenses that also excel at low-light photography. These give greater flexibility and mean you can take a wider range of photos. However, they can sometimes be softer than their prime counterparts.

Focusing Method – AF vs MF

canon low light lens autofocus

The focusing method is also highly important. You can focus manually, or using the lens’s built-in autofocus motor.

In most instances, you at least want the option to use autofocus. This makes focusing simple and takes away much of the guesswork and trial and error.

Autofocusing is also highly beneficial when you are constantly moving and are taking photos of different scenes and subjects. For example, if you were exploring a city at night, using manual focus would be incredibly tedious and reduce your effectiveness.

Manual focus can be useful for stationary situations, and situations where there is virtually no contrast in the scene. For example, manual focus is often used for astrophotography and for taking photos of the night sky. This is because autofocus motors can struggle to focus properly in these low-contrast scenes.

If preferable, you want a low-light lens that has an autofocus motor, but also gives you the option for manual focusing if desired.

Optical Quality

low light Canon picture

Lastly, the underlying optical quality is also important. The lens construction directly impacts the quality of your low-light photos.

Ideally, the lens should feature a range of special elements that help reduce things like ghosting and lens flare, while also boosting sharpness, contrast, and clarity. Common lens elements to look out for include low dispersion, aspherical, and extra-low dispersion. These are used in many Canon lenses and will greatly boost the base image quality.

It’s worth thinking about third-party lenses here, which can often match Canon-made lenses in terms of pure optical quality, but come with a much lower price tag.

Just because a lens doesn’t have “Canon” on the label, doesn’t mean that you should ignore it – many of the best low light lenses for Canon are now third-party lenses.


Reviews of the Best Low Light Lens for Canon

Now that we have discussed what to look for in a low-light lens, we can look at our top picks. I have included lenses for Canon full-frame, Canon APS-C, Canon RF, and Canon EOS M cameras to give you the full potential range.

Canon Full Frame Lenses for Low Light

My Top Pick<

1. Rokinon AE 35mm f/1.4

Rokinon AE 35mm f/1.4

The Rokinon AE 35mm f/1.4 is a versatile low light lens and is available for Canon EF cameras. It has numerous features that mean you can easily create high-quality shots in low-light situations.

Firstly, it has an excellent, fast maximum aperture of f/1.4. This low aperture gives you much more control for nighttime photos.

Secondly, it has a special Auto Exposure chip and aperture control motor. This means improved exposure compensation, and you can actually change the aperture using a control ring on the lens. As a result, you can react to changing light conditions quicker.

The lens also benefits from special multi-coating surfaces and has excellent edge-to-edge sharpness. The lens construction includes 2x high-refractive elements and an aspherical element. This helps reduce things like flare and ghosting.

The only downside is that this is a manual focus lens. It does not have an autofocus motor and thus focusing in low-light situations could be trickier when there is less contrast, although this is much less of a problem on modern Canon cameras.

In terms of value for money, you won’t find better than this at this price – Canon’s own brand f/1.4 lenses are significantly more expensive, without any real advantages in terms of optical quality.

Whether you are interested in astrophotography or indoor portraits, the Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 is my pick as the best Canon lens for low light.

  • Pros:
  • Has an aperture control motor so that you can control the aperture for quick settings changes directly from the lens.
  • Also has a superior lens construction with a range of glass elements used to boost image quality while reducing optical imperfections.
  • Excellent value for money.
  • Cons:
  • A full manual focus lens: It does not have an autofocus motor and thus some people may find it trickier to use.
Rokinon AE 35mm f/1.4

2. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

If you want an official Canon lens for a budget price tag that has excellent low-light performance, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is a top choice. For less than $150, you get a reliable, well-built native lens with a versatile focal length and fantastic maximum aperture.

At f/1.8, this prime lens is incredibly fast and means you can use lower ISO levels in nighttime and low light compositions. As a result, you can create low-light images that are still sharp but have less background noise.

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM also has a fast and accurate STM autofocus motor. This means that you can focus even in low-contrast situations and use the lens handheld where a tripod may typically be needed.

At 50mm, the focal length of this prime lens is also great for different low-light compositions. For example, it makes an excellent choice for indoor portrait photography and nighttime street photography, and even works well on APS-C cameras like the Canon Rebel T6.

  • Pros:
  • Incredibly fast f/1.8 maximum aperture which is great for indoor and nighttime compositions
  • Fast and accurate STM autofocus motor which helps focus in low-contrast low-light situations
  • Great quality and sharpness for a relatively budget price
  • Cons:
  • The lens construction may not be as durable as L-series Canon lenses and can feel a little cheap
  • 50mm isn’t ideal for wide-angle nighttime compositions or things like interior real estate photography
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

3. Rokinon FE 14mm f/2.8

Rokinon FE 14mm f/2.8

The Rokinon FE 14mm f/2.8 is another excellent low-light lens for Canon EF full-frame cameras. It is also relatively inexpensive and another great budget option like the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM.

The first thing to note is the ultra-wide-angle focal length of 14mm. This makes this Rokinon lens perfect for nighttime landscape photos, nighttime cityscape photos, real estate shots, and even specialist things like astrophotography. You can really capture amazing detail from your photos using this 14mm lens.

This is aided by the maximum aperture of f/2.8. It may not be as fast as some other lenses on this list, but it still offers great versatility for low-light photos. 

The lens construction is also fantastic and delivers the consistent quality and sharpness you would expect from a Rokinon lens. Like the Rokinon AE 35mm, this lens also only offers manual focusing via a manual focus ring which some people may not like.

You can also get this lens with an AE chip to improve its performance, but this isn’t really necessary with a specialist lens like this, as you are most likely to use this for long exposures in full manual mode.

  • Pros:
  • The ultra-wide-angle focal length makes this lens ideal for astrophotography and night sky photography
  • Excellent lens construction with two ED elements and one aspherical element for excellent sharpness and minimum distortions
  • Cons:
  • Only has a manual focus ring which means that it may be better suited for stationary use with a tripod as opposed to a “walking around” lens
Rokinon FE 14mm f/2.8

Canon EF-S (Crop Sensor) Lenses for Low Light

1. Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM

Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM

For Canon APS-C cameras, the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM is one of the best low light lenses. It is also a great lens for walking tours at night – for example, if you want to explore a city at night and take some interesting nighttime street photos.

This is because it is a pancake lens and incredibly small and lightweight. It weighs only 4.4oz / 125g and has a small footprint when attached to your APS-C camera. As a result, you can comfortably move around with the lens attached.

For low-light versatility, this lens also has a great maximum aperture of f/2.8. This means you can use lower ISO settings and experiment with your shutter speed more.

The 24mm focal length is also ideal for wide-angle nighttime landscape photos, and wide-angle nighttime street photography. You could also use it for interior shots where there is less natural light.

Just remember that it has an equivalent focal length of 38mm when used on a cropped-sensor camera.

  • Pros:
  • This lens benefits from a lightweight, compact design that makes it ideal for nighttime tours and nighttime exploration
  • Has a fast maximum aperture of f/2.8 which allows for greater versatility and settings changes in low-light situations
  • Cons:
  • It may not be the most durable lens and although it has a metal mount, it can feel a little cheap
Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM

2. Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM | Art

Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM | Art

The Sigma Art range of lenses is known for providing superior quality at affordable prices. The Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM | Art is no exception. This multi-zoom lens is ideal for Canon APS-C camera owners who want versatility in their low light lens.

The varied focal length of 18-35mm allows you to take a range of different photos. For example, at 18mm, you have wide-angle capabilities for nighttime landscapes. Alternatively, you can zoom in at 35mm for tiger-cropped photos such as portraits and nighttime street photography. On APS-C Canon cameras, this equates to an effective focal length of 27-52mm.

One of the best features, however, is the constant f/1.8 maximum aperture. You can use this aperture from 18mm through to 35mm. As a result, you have amazing versatility for low-light shots and ISO settings regardless of the focal length.

  • Pros:
  • Brilliant constant maximum aperture across the entire 18-35mm focal length
  • Versatile focal length range for multiple types of low-light photography
  • Special materials in the lens construction mean a lighter and smaller chassis
  • Cons:
  • Only has a basic Hypersonic autofocus motor
Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM | Art

Canon R (Full Frame Mirrorless) Lenses for Low Light

1. Canon RF 16mm f/2.8 STM

Canon RF 16mm f/2.8 STM

The Canon RF 16mm f/2.8 STM is one of the first ultra-wide-angle lenses for EOS R cameras. It is an excellent prime lens and offers some suitable features for low-light photography.

At 16mm, you can capture superb detail from your low-light compositions. However, you may notice some barrel distortion and vignette at the corners. These issues can easily be rectified in post-processing, however.

The 16mm lens also has a decent maximum aperture of f/2.8. Therefore, it is fast, and you can have greater flexibility in your camera settings.

If you want a lightweight lens for epic nighttime landscapes and cityscapes, this is a top choice.

  • Pros:
  • Compact and lightweight design for easy portability
  • The maximum aperture of f/2.8 is great for low-light situations
  • Fast, quiet, and accurate STM stepping motor for autofocusing
  • Cons:
  • There can be noticeable lens distortion and vignette at the corners
Canon RF 16mm f/2.8 STM

2. Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM

Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM

Canon RF camera owners also have an excellent low-light portrait lens in the Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM. This prime lens is an absolute steal and a great budget option for those who want a versatile portrait lens that can also be used in low-light situations.

At 50mm, this lens excels at portraits and could be ideal for things like indoor weddings or events photography where there is less natural and ambient light.

This is complemented by the f/1.8 maximum aperture, and the fast and accurate STM autofocus motor. The lens also looks great, and despite its cheap price, it still has a metal lens mount.

  • Pros:
  • Great for indoor portrait photography and events photography
  • Fast f/1.8 maximum aperture
  • Durable build with a metal lens mount
  • Cons:
  • It may not be as sharp at the edges as L-series RF lenses
Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM

Canon M (Crop Sensor Mirrorless) Lenses for Low Light

1. Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM

Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM

The best low-light lens for Canon EOS M cameras like the EOS M50 Mark II is certainly the EF-M 22mm f/2 STM. This is an excellent all-around lens and can be used in many situations.

At 22mm you have brilliant wide-angle capabilities and this lens is great for nighttime landscapes. This is complemented by the fast maximum aperture of f/2. You have far greater control over your ISO and shutter speed settings as a result.

The lens is also compact and weighs virtually nothing. If you don’t want to pack a range of heavy lenses for your nighttime adventures, this is a great choice.

  • Pros:
  • Compact and lightweight design that adds virtually nothing to your camera footprint
  • Fast f/2 maximum aperture for greater low-light control
  • The optics result in consistently sharp images from corner to corner
  • Cons:
  • The STM focusing motor can sometimes be a little slow
Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM

2. Sigma 16mm f/1.4 AF DC DN

Sigma 16mm f/1.4 AF DC DN

If you want even more wide-angle capabilities than the 22mm, the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 AF DC DN is a great alternative. This ultra-wide-angle lens allows you to easily take stunning low-light landscape shots and could be used for night-sky photography too.

It also has a better maximum aperture of f/1.4. This gives you far greater control in low-light situations compared to the EF-M 22mm. 

The downside is that the lens is much larger, longer, and heavier than the EF-M 22mm. However, it has excellent optical performance and also features a waterproof and dustproof casing.

  • Pros:
  • Has a larger maximum aperture of f/1.4 which gives better low-light flexibility
  • Ultra-wide angle focal length of 16mm for superb landscape photos
  • Durable design with a waterproof and dustproof exterior
  • Cons:
  • Much heavier, longer, and bulkier than the EF-M 22mm
Sigma 16mm f/1.4 AF DC DN

Final Thoughts on Canon Low Light Lenses

I hope you now have a clear idea of the best Canon lenses for low light photography. Having a dedicated low-light lens will give you greater flexibility and the ability to create stunning low-light photos in a variety of situations, with minimum digital noise.

If you want a lens for wide-angle shots like nighttime landscapes, nighttime cityscapes, and astrophotography there are several top choices. The Rokinon FE 14mm f/2.8, Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM, and the Canon RF 16mm f/2.8 STM for example.

Alternatively, if you want tighter-cropped photos for things like indoor portraits, suitable options include the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM, Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Art, and the Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM.

Best Full Frame Lens

  • Aperture control directly on the lens
  • Fantastic image quality
  • Excellent value for money

Best EF-S Lens

  • Light and compact
  • Fast max aperture
  • Versatile

Best R Lens

  • Fast, quiet autofocus
  • Wide max aperture
  • High build quality

Read More:

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Canon 50mm 1.4 vs 1.8 comparison

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