One of the major benefits of being a Canon shooter is the incredible lens selection available for Canon cameras. In my opinion, while Canon falls behind in the features race to companies like Sony and Nikon, their lens selection is far superior to the likes of Sony and Nikon (don’t talk to me about Leica…) That’s why I haven’t abandoned the Canon ecosystem for the greener pastures of those other guys. If you’re starting to get paid gigs and are wondering which professional level prime lenses you should get first, this article is for you!

In this article I’ll provide my recommendations for the prime Canon DSLR lenses you should get if you’re a burgeoning professional photographer looking to create incredible photos with the best equipment. I’ll write another article in the future for Canon mirrorless, so if you’re wondering where the Canon RF 50 1.2 lens is in this article, don’t worry. It’ll be in a future article.

Canon EF 50mm 1.2 L

Best Prime Lenses for Canon DSLR

 

The Canon EF 50mm 1.2 L is one the first professional level prime lenses I bought and I still use it almost every day. The lens is actually not as sharp wide open as one might hope. It doesn’t have image stabilization or some other fancy feature. What it does have though is character, lots and lots of character. Wide open, the bokeh from this lens is sublime. The look of images taken with this lens is also really pleasing to the eye. It’s hard to describe but you can see it in photos. Stopped down to f/4 and beyond and it’s plenty sharp for mid-range portraits, landscapes, or whatever you can think  to use this lens for. One of the best features of this lens is the quality of its lens flare. As you can see in the image below, it creates gorgeous light flares right in camera.

Best Prime Lens for Canon Cameras

Best Lens for Pro Canon Shooters

Pros:

  • Gorgeous Bokeh
  • Character
  • Well built
  • Quiet Auto-Focus
  • Beautiful lens flare
  • Small compared to other pro-level prime lenses
  • Weather-sealed

Cons:

  • A bit too soft at wider apertures
  • Auto focus could be faster

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Adorama | B&H | Amazon

Sigma 35 1.4 DG HSM Art

 

The Sigma 35 1.4 ART is the best 35mm lens I’ve used. It’s sharp, it takes gorgeous photos (character), and it’s cheap compared to the competition. At $699, its hard to beat this lens even for professional use. It also had very little distortion. So while it’s wide, you can take a portrait with this lens if you need to. You can also put your subject in the outside edges of the frame without them warping. The auto focus on the Sigma 35 is fast and extremely quiet. (While I haven’t used it yet, I’ve heard the new Tamron SP 35 1.4 is pretty incredible. Click here to read our latest review.)

Pros:

  • Excellent sharpness
  • Lots of character
  • Quiet auto focus
  • Well built
  • Minimal distortion

Cons:

  • No weather sealing
  • Some people have complained about inconsistent auto focus (I haven’t had an issues)

Best Lens for Pro Canon Shooters

Best Lens for Pro Canon Shooters - 35mm

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Adorama | B&H | Amazon

Canon EF 85mm 1.2 L II

The Canon 85 1.2 L is one of this most incredible lenses I’ve ever used. If you like bokeh, this lens is the undisputed master of bokeh. I love almost every photo I’ve taken with this lens. It’s plenty sharp wide open. The images this lens produces are also incredibly unique. For portraits, you’d be hard pressed to find a better lens. The auto focus can be a bit slow, but it’s as quiet as a whisper and very accurate. But for all the goodness of this lens, you’re going to pay a hefty price ($1899). Is it worth it? That depends what your budget is, and how badly you want the absolute best. If you can’t afford this lens, you could settle for something like the Canon EF 85 1.8, a lens I still use and love.

Pros:

  • Unreal bokeh
  • Sharp
  • Quiet auto focus
  • Unique look
  • Solid build quality

Cons:

  • Slow auto focus compared to other lenses
  • Expensive

Best Lens for Pro Canon Camera - 85mm

Best Prime Canon Lenses for Pros

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Adorama | B&H | Amazon

Conclusion

With each of these lenses you get something different to add to your creative toolbox. If you’re getting started doing professional work, and you shoot Canon, these are the prime lenses I’d recommend starting with. Of course there are so many other options out there. If you haven’t shot with any professional prime lenses yet, I’d recommend that you rent a few and give them a whirl. The lenses I recommended above can help you open the door to creative possibilities. But of course, without the skills to unlock the potential of these lenses, they are just tools in the box. The most important thing you can do is educate yourself! For that, I shamelessly recommend the SLR Lounge Workshops.