The Best Canon Lenses for Motorsport Photography
Your investment in Canon lenses for motorsport photography is far more important than the camera bodies you purchase.
Technology in Canon’s camera bodies is advancing at such a rate that they warrant being replaced every few years. But a good lens purchase will last you decades. In fact, if it wasn’t for Canon changing over to the RF mount with the switch to mirrorless technology, I’d still be using the lenses that I purchased well over a decade ago.
With that in mind, and the special considerations for purchasing lenses to enhance your motorsport photography, here are my recommendations for the best Canon lenses for motorsport photography on both the RF mount platform (mirrorless) and EF mount (DSLR).
The Best Canon RF Mount Lenses for Motorsport Photography
If you are new to motorsport photography and just starting to buy Canon equipment or have started to make the switch over to Canon’s mirrorless platform, then purchasing RF mount lenses makes the most sense. As I mentioned in the introduction, good-quality lenses last a long, long time. If you are going to spend the money on a good lens, then make sure it is something that you can continue to use as you build your skills and continue to upgrade your camera bodies.
Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM
As I mentioned in my which lenses do you need for motorsport photography post, the Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM is the very first lens you should look to purchase when looking to upgrade your gear to take better photos trackside. This lens is a staple for all sports photographers. The combination of its fast aperture and decent zoom range gives you the versatility to capture a range of shots of cars on track, even in low-light situations like night racing, while also allowing you to get good-quality photos of your favourite drivers around the garages and paddock without getting in the way.
For these reasons, it’s one of my go-to lenses every time I’m at the track.
Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM
Once you start to reach the limitation of the 70-200, it’s time to look for more reach. That’s where the Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM comes in handy. As Canon has continued to build up its selection of RF mount lenses, they’ve started to add some longer lenses to the range. Having tried a few of them, I keep coming back to the 100-500mm.
It’s by no means perfect; it certainly has some limitations, particularly in low-light situations like night racing. But in terms of bang for buck, versatility and being small enough to travel with easily, it’s worth the trade offs. That said, I am keeping a very close eye on Canon’s developments with big zoom RF mount lenses. As you can read here, I really liked the Canon RF 100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM, but if I’m travelling with a big lens, I’d like it to have a bit more reach.
Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
When it comes to a great all-rounder lens, it’s hard to go past the Canon RF 24-105 f/4L IS USM. Yes, Canon does have a few good RF lenses that could fulfil this role; however, for motorsport photography, when it comes to value for money, zoom range and size, this is the perfect lens.
For over double the price, it’s hard to justify the extra expense of either the RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM or the RF 24-105mm f/2.8L IS USM Z on the odd occasions that a wider aperture would be in handy.
Canon RF 14-35mm f/4 USM
It might not be immediately obvious, but wide-angle lenses come in handy for motorsport photography. There are times when being able to go wider than 24mm greatly enhances your photos which you will discover as you start to take your photography more seriously. This is why I recommend adding an RF 14-35mm f/4L IS USM to your kit bag.
The Best Canon EF Mount Lenses for Motorsport Photography
That all said, if you’ve already heavily invested in Canon’s DLSR range of gear or you are looking to pick up some good deals on second-hand EF mount glass to enhance your motorsport photography, here are my recommendations.
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM
Like I said in the RF mount section, the 70-200 is a staple for sports photographers. It’s just an extremely versatile lens, no matter which platform you are purchasing it for. The EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM was the last iteration of the lens developed for the EF mount before Canon switched to the RF mount, making it the ideal choice if you are still using DLSR bodies. That said, if you find a good second-hand deal on the version II model, that’s also a very good lens. Mine helped me create stunning photos for over a decade.
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
Before the 100-500mm in the RF mount, the Canon EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM was my go-to long zoom lens for all of the same reasons I mentioned above. If you are looking to buy one second-hand, stick to the upgraded version 2 model. The original 100-400mm wasn’t quite as sharp and had a unique push/pull zoom which was awkward to use.
Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM
In terms of a big lens for the EF mount, it’s hard to go past the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM. As with all big prime lenses, it was an incredibly good-quality lens. In fact, I know a lot of photographers have continued to use this lens with an EF to RF mount converter, after switching across to mirrorless bodies.
All of Canon’s big prime lenses for the EF mount were very expensive to purchase brand new. However, on the second-hand market, you can often find some very good deals on these big lenses. If you are looking for a very good EF mount lens, try to look out for a good quality second-hand EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM. Even the older version II model of the lens still holds up to this day.
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM
As per my recommendation for the RF mount, the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM is a very good, versatile lens, but just make sure you stick to the version II model. If you are looking for second-hand gear, you might notice that the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM is also very similarly priced. While it does have the benefit of a wider aperture, it doesn’t feature image stabilisation.
Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L III USM
In terms of wide-angle lenses in the EF mount, Canon has quite a few options to choose from, but in terms of best value, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L III USM.
Canon Lens Designations
What do those codes in Canon’s lens names mean? Let me decode them for you:
- IS – Image Stabilisation
- USM – Ultra Sonic Motor (Quieter Autofocus)
- II or III – Lens Version – For lenses that have upgraded over the years.
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I've been working as a motorsport photographer in Australia since 2012, building up my business InSyde Media. I am very fortunate that I have been able to work at all sorts of motorsport events including Supercars, F1 and WRC all over Australia and New Zealand. Also, check out my personal website where I document my travels and a few other things.
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