Canon EF vs. EF-S

Photography is more of a hobby nowadays than it is a profession. People are always clicking pictures with their phones or cameras. Whether it’s a selfie to upload online or the picture of a landscape they might admire later, you can find this group of people who are always looking for ways to capture the perfect moment. Since smartphones came into the market, photography as a hobby has skyrocketed in numbers. Mobile photography is quite popular since it’s easier to afford a smartphone than a camera. But still, a camera brings a certain quality in the pictures, especially a DSLR.

Canon is the go-to brand for a lot of photographers. It doesn’t matter whether you are a novice or a professional, you can always count on Canon lenses to provide the picture you want. Here, we are going to talk about the two lenses, EF and EF-S. Let’s get into the details and figure out which one would be the best for you.

Lens Mount and Lenses

Lens mount is where you connect the lens with the camera body. Lens mounts can differ depending on the manufacturer. If you look at a Canon mount and a Nikon mount, you would notice the difference. One manufacturer can produce different types of lenses. The lenses are designed in such a way that it would fit similar camera mounts.

Canon makes both EF lenses and EF-S lenses. EF lenses are designed to fit into a camera that can cover a full-frame sensor (35mm). These lenses have been used not just in DSLR cameras, but SLR ones as well.

The EF-S lens is similar to an EF lens but has a smaller image circle. It cannot cover full-frame camera sensors. You would need an APS-C camera mount to fit an EF-S lens.

EF Lenses

EF means 'Electro-Focus'. Canon introduced their EF lenses back in 1987 for their SLR cameras. The lens comes with an integrated motor that allows the lens to focus automatically. Since then, Canon has been using the EF lens as a standard lens in many of their camera setups. Canon uniquely designed their DSLR cameras so they can fit the old-fashioned EF lenses. That's why the lens is still widely used despite being so old.

EF lenses are used in the professional L-series (which is the luxury camera lineup) Canon cameras now. Many professional photographers depend on an EF lens to help earn their living.

EF-S Lenses

In 2003, the EF-S was released by Canon as a later version of the EF. The EF-S lens was made to go with the new DSLR cameras Canon manufactured. An EF lens and an EF-S are almost similar in their output except for the S in EF-S which stands for 'Small Image Circle'. The EF-S has a smaller image circle than an EF one.

You can mount EF lenses on a camera that is made for EF-S lenses but you cannot mount an EF-S lens on a camera built for an EF lens. If you use an EF-S lens on a full-frame circle camera, you would end up with black shadows covering the corners since the smaller lens cannot fully cover the larger sensor.

Lens Mount and Lenses

Why Get an EF Lens?

We already mentioned that EF lenses can be used on a camera with a smaller image circle. EF lenses are more durable since they are built for professional use. EF lenses can undergo extreme pressure and not falter in performance. With an EF lens, you would get narrower view coverage on a small sensor camera (APS-C) than an EF-S lens.

If you are a wildlife or sports photographer, then you should consider getting an EF lens since the narrow viewing angle is better for these kinds of pictures since it helps get a better focus. If you use an EF lens on a full-frame camera, you would get a very wide viewing angle which is perfect for landscape photography.

EF lenses and camera setup would cost more but the end result is definitely. Besides, EF lenses are designed by keeping professional-grade cameras in mind. So you can only imagine the pictures they would provide.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

Compact and lightweight—an outstanding walk-around lens Canon's EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is a great entry into the world of EOS prime lenses.

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Canon EF

Why Get an EF-S Lens? 

The EF-S is an equivalent but a more affordable version of the EF lens. It has a lighter build than the EF and costs much less. So if your budget is a little tight, you should go for an EF-S lens and save the money that you would have spent on the EF one. An EF-S lens is also more compact than an EF lens. So you can have a smaller carrying bag and not get tired easily.

EF-S lenses are mostly for people who are into photography but cannot afford a high-end camera setup. They look for ways to cut the budget without compromising with the quality much. Most people who choose EF-S lenses see photography as a hobby rather than a profession. They would pay what is needed to get a quality picture but not invest too much.

With an EF-S lens, you cannot use a full-frame camera body. The smaller image circle of the EF-S would leave behind black shadows on the corners. You need a smaller camera sensor, preferably the APS-C. This camera setup is perfect for shooting portraits. EF-S lenses are designed to provide true wide-angle coverage which is perfect for capturing any subject.

Canon EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 Lens

For photographers and videographers looking to add versatility and range to their lens collection, the new Canon EF-S 55–250mm telephoto zoom lens is a dream come true.

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Canon EF-S

EF or EF-S: Which One to Buy?

Now that you have a better idea about each of the lenses, you may be wondering which one you should actually buy. That depends entirely on what you need. If you already have a camera body and are just looking to buy the lens, then consider the lens that would be perfect for your camera mount.

We already cleared that EF lenses are suitable for both full-frame cameras and crop sensor cameras. So if you get an EF lens, you can use that with almost any camera body. However, if you have a crop sensor camera already, then an EF-S might be a better choice since you get a perfect wide-angle view.

If you have the camera setup for an EF-S lens but wish to upgrade in the future, don't go headfirst into buying a lens for a full-frame setup. We already mentioned the problems you would face. Just purchase the ones that would fit your setup right now. When you do upgrade, you can get great resale value for an EF-S lens.

If you wish to purchase an entirely new camera setup, then consider factors like the subjects you capture, your budget, and portability. Then you can focus on the lenses depending on what you wish to achieve from your setup.


Can an EF lens be used on an EF-S camera?

Yes, it can. EF-S lenses are designed to be used for crop-sensors which is basically a slightly smaller image circle than an EF one. So, you can use an EF in the place of an EF-S but you cannot do it the other way around since the EF-S lenses might get damaged if you try to fit them into an EF camera.

What type of lens to buy?

That depends on your preferences and budget. If you have a moderate budget, then go for an EF-S lens that would be perfect for any type of photographer. If you have a big budget, then you can consider an EF lens that would fit a full-frame camera. Just make sure whatever lens you pick, it matches your shooting style.

How to tell between an EF lens and an EF-S lens?

You can tell which lens is mounted on your camera as you remove the lens from the camera body. If the lens has a red dot that lines up with the camera, then it is an EF lens. If you see a white square along with the red dot, then the lens is an EF-S one.

Can an EF lens be used on an EOS camera?

Yes, it can. All EF lenses are compatible with every EOS (electro-optical system) camera that you can find on the market. The EOS camera is basically an autofocus SLR (single-lens reflex) camera which is mirrorless as well. It was first introduced in 1987 by Canon. An EF lens can be used on both full-frame and APS-C camera mounts.

Is the crop factor affected by lenses?

No, lenses do not affect the crop factor since it has nothing to do with it. The crop factor of a camera depends on the sensor. Crop factor shows the difference between the camera sensors with a traditional frame no matter which lens you choose.

Final Thoughts

Photography is a lot of things to a lot of people. Some people choose this as a profession so it can be their source of bread and butter. Some people pursue this as a passion and discover new ways to capture the perfect moment. No matter what photography is for you, this debate between lenses should help clear things about camera equipment and properly guide you into picking the right lens.

8 thoughts on “Canon EF vs. EF-S”

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