Canon EF vs. EF S Lenses – Everything You Need To Know

Depending on the circumstances, many professional photographers carry several lenses. This allows them to capture all the possibilities and in the best light possible.

If you own a Canon camera, you must be on the lookout for some lens choices. Well, canon EF versus EF-S is the biggest battle that’s still doing the rounds.

Canon EF vs EF-S Lenses

Canon EF lenses are professional standard lenses designed to work majorly with full-frame camera bodies. They are exceptionally built in terms of quality and performance.

canon ef vs ef s

EF-S lenses, on the other hand, run on small sensor Canon cameras.

EF simply stands for “electro focus” which is a motor inside the lens that locks on the subject you are trying to capture. The S in EF-S stands for “small,” a factor that depicts EF-S’s limited functionality. 

Gold nuggets for beginners: At first, it sure will look like a prudent decision to go with crop sensor lenses (EF-S). Even as a beginner photographer, you’ll soon realize that these cameras have serious limitations that curtail your efficiency. 

So, you are going to want to upgrade to full-frame EF lenses-and when you do, all those EF-S lenses are going to be left behind. Such a loss. But if you opt for full-frame lenses, you can shoot on multiple cameras. 

Plus, if you take good care of EF lenses and decide to ditch your video or photography career someday, you can resell them easily and at a good price.

Understanding a Lens Mount

It’s imperative to understand lens mounting in order to buy the right choice.

A lens mount is a point where lenses attach to the camera. Both the camera and the lenses carry a section of the mount and are meant to interlock with each other perfectly. 

Most brands have different mount setups. A Nikon lens mount is different from Canon’s. And a Sony lens mount differs from that of Nikon and so on.

It’s also common for the same manufacturer to make lenses that come with unique mounts-possibly for different models like the mirrorless camera.

Comparing Angle of View on EF and EF-S

At the risk of overstating the obvious, Canon EF-S lenses have a smaller image circle which means their field of view will always be narrow. Even when you switch them to full-frame cameras. 

Now, because of the small sensor that doesn’t fully fit bigger frames, you will notice that the corner of the image will be dark (heavy vignetting). See the dark edges on the image below? That’s vignetting.


Full-frame EF lenses give you a wide, 100% field of view that captures all the details you would want in your picture or video. Speaking of the field of view, let’s learn a bit about the crop factor.

Focal Length Multiplier/Crop Factor

The idea behind the focal length multiplier emanates from smaller sensors, usually <35mm. for EF lens, the sensor outputs the image as is captured (because crop factor is 1, i.e. both sensor and lens are full-frame and equal)

However, the image gets cropped in smaller sensors (because the lenses are full-frame while the sensor is not). You got that, right? Good. Therefore, focal length multiplier (also crop factor) refers to how much of an image size remains after some of it has been cut out.

The Best Uses of EF Lens

canon ef versus ef s lens

If you do bird, sports, or wildlife photography, owning an EF lens would give you greater success. This is because they deliver best-in-class wide-field views.

Pros of EF Lenses

EF lenses are built with professionals and advanced amateurs in mind. As such, they are top grade and withstand the rigors of extended sessions. They are also the best for anyone that loves ultra-wide angles.

Furthermore, you use EF lenses on both small sensor cameras and full-frame models. This is a convenient feature for professionals that crave versatility.

Cons of EF Lenses

The durability and remarkable performance of EF lenses come at a dear price. This may be a drawback for cash-strapped beginners but for the pros, the trade-off is well worth it. 

The Best Uses of EF-S Lens

canon ef versus ef s compared

EF-S excels at providing wide-angle lenses. Hence, they are a top choice for travel, landscape, and architecture photography.

Pros of EF-S Lens

EF-S lenses are a cost-effective solution for both beginners and intermediate camera users. It’s the core reason people prefer them. They are also smaller and lighter making them ideal for those who move around a lot.

Cons of EF-S lenses

The biggest downside to buying EF-S lenses is that you can only use them on Canon EOS cameras.

These cameras have a small sensor and can be identified by two things: a white square and a red dot on the lenses’ mount.

You must be wondering, can I use EF-S lenses on a full-frame camera? Yes, you can but you are going to get a heavy vignette.

The solution to this problem, however, can be cropped out during post-production. In this case, you’ll only lose two things- editing time and a few pixels.

Is Canon Still Producing EF Lenses?

Multiple reports indicate that it could be the end of the road for the long known and used EF lenses.

The company itself cites that the EF series they are killing are those that already have multiple versions available. They are calling this process, series optimization.

The company promised unwavering support for the remaining EF lenses-which is hinted to end around 2027.

They went ahead to promise that they can produce many more should the market demand. However, many people feel they are just saying so to soften the blow. 

At the moment, Canon’s efforts seem to lean more towards the latest RF lenses. Full disclosure, their shots are magical.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of EF and EF-S lenses so you know what to go for.

Other Canon Lenses

Canon also produces EF-M and RF lenses besides EF and EF-S. EF-M lenses mount on mirrorless cameras (specifically Canon APS).

They were introduced in the industry in 2012—the same time as interchangeable mirrorless cameras.

Like EF-S, EF-M lenses can be identified by a white dot and have a 1.6x crop factor. Examples of these lenses are Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM lens, Canon EF-M 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 lens, and Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 lens.

RF lenses are Canon’s latest addition. They were introduced in the markets in 2018. These lenses work with EOS RP and EOS R full-frame mirrorless camera systems. They have a small red line to serve as a mounting guide. 

Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM and Canon RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM are stellar examples of Canon RF lenses.

How Does EF/EF-S Compare with EF-M/RF?

All these Canon lenses were designed to work with interchangeable lens camera bodies.

The major difference between all of them is the “Flange Focal Distance.” This is the distance between the camera’s sensor and the far end of its mounting ring (or rear element in the case of mirrorless systems).

Many mirrorless camera bodies have a shorter flange distance. There are advantages to that.

First, the image comes out sharp. Secondly, there are fewer lens elements and thirdly, the need for image correction reduces significantly.

Also, note that RF lenses are fairly pricey and heavier compared to EF and EF-S.

The Most Common Canon’s DSLR Sensors for EF and EF-S Lens

There are three common choices when it comes to DSLR sensor sizes:

  • 1.6x (22.5mm x 15mm) crop sensor
  • 1.3x (28.7mm x 19.1mm) crop sensor
  • 1.0x (36mm x 24mm) Full frame

Let’s put that into an image so you can see the field of view sizes.

Mostly, 1.6x viewfinders are small and will produce 95% of the image. 5% gets cropped. The outer rectangle, on the other hand, represents full-frames where the image captured is 100%. 

Note that some full-frame like Canon EOS 5D Mark II can provide less than 100% FOV. Nevertheless, you get decent performance (image).


u003cstrongu003eIs Canon EF and EF-S the same?u003c/strongu003e

Canon EF and EF-S may share a few similarities but they are not the same. EF is designed for full-frame cameras while EF-S is for crop sensor cameras. Also, the latter delivers the best wide-angle shots than the former.

u003cstrongu003eHow do you tell if a Canon lens is EF or EF-S?u003c/strongu003e

Many Canon lenses come with an inscription that shows if they are EF or EF-S. If that’s not available, then check for the red dot and white square marks. The lens with both is an EF-S model while that with only a red dot is an EF model.

u003cstrongu003eWhat does RF stand for in Canon lenses?u003c/strongu003e

RF stands for Re-Imaged Focus. RF lenses are Canon’s newest invention with better autofocus, contrast, and image stabilization. They perform way better than EF and EF-S models and are a tad pricier.

u003cstrongu003eCan I use EF-S lenses on a full-frame camera?u003c/strongu003e

You can use EF-S lenses on both full-frame and crop sensor cameras. This is only possible for compatible mounts. In cases where the lenses extend far back, using them could damage the camera mirror.

u003cstrongu003eCan mirrorless camera bodies use EF and EF-S?u003c/strongu003e

This is usually a case of mount compatibility. But with an adapter, EF and EF-S lenses can be properly fitted on mirrorless camera systems.

Final Thoughts

Canon EF versus EF-S is a comparison that opens your eyes to both the pros and cons of each choice. If you are on a lean budget and all you want to do is to get started, EF-S becomes a sensible choice.

But if you are a pro photographer and video marker, EF is a sound choice. Its versatility and effectiveness not only make your work easier but exceptionally appealing as well.

All in all, the type of Canon camera you already own will dictate the kind of lens you should go for, right? Of course.

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