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The Best Canon EF Lenses for Shooting Film

The Canon EF system has been largely discontinued by Canon. But there are still lots of film shooters out there that want to use old film lenses. Luckily for them, we’ve reviewed loads of lenses for the Canon EF mount. So we dove into our reviews index to find some of the best Canon EF lenses for shooting film. Load your camera up with Kodak Portra, CineStill or something else, and get ready to enjoy the photos and tests we’ve done.

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The Phoblographer’s various product round-up features are done in-house. Our philosophy is simple: you wouldn’t get a Wagyu beef steak review from a lifelong vegetarian. And you wouldn’t get photography advice from someone who doesn’t touch the product. We only recommend gear that we’ve fully reviewed. If you’re wondering why your favorite product didn’t make the cut, there’s a chance it’s on another list. If we haven’t reviewed it, we won’t recommend it. This method keeps our lists packed with industry-leading knowledge. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Pros Tips on Using Canon EF Lenses with Film Cameras

These lenses have all been independently tested by us over the years. Here are some tips:

  • The lenses in this roundup were tested on the Canon EOS Elan 7 at some point or another. However, the image samples aren’t necessarily photos that were shot on film. They still will give you an idea of what the final images will look like.
  • Canon EF lenses can be adapted onto other systems easily.
  • So what makes these the best Canon EF lenses for shooting film? A combination of the quality and how the autofocus will work on older film cameras is a big part of it all. 
  • Film photographers will really enjoy using these lenses for portraiture and a bunch of other applications.
  • The Canon EF system tends to be heavier. So always keep that in mind.

Canon 85mm f1.4 L IS USM

Character Analysis: This is by far, Canon’s sharpest lens made for the EF mount. It also boasts image stabilization, weather sealing, and fast autofocus. Pair it with Kodak Portra or T-Max for some nice sharpness.

In our review, we state:

“The Canon 85mm f1.4 L IS USM exhibits beautiful image quality overall. Combine this with the image stabilization built into the lens and you’ll get an even higher chance of getting better photos. The bokeh, the sharpness, and the overall look the Canon 85mm f1.4 L IS USM delivers are nice. Professional photographers who go for this lens won’t be disappointed at all. While their f1.2 lenses for EF mount suffer from a few problems according to lab results, we can’t find anything that a lab would hate in particular about the Canon 85mm f1.4 L IS USM. Granted, we don’t do lab tests.”

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Canon 35mm f1.4 L USM II

Character Analysis: The cool thing about this lens is the blue light refractive element that’s in there. But even besides that, it has a really gorgeous look to it.

In our review, we state:

“So what should you know about this lens? It’s sharp, not very contrasty, fairly saturated, excellent with skin tones, has very nice bokeh and like many other lenses performs at its sharpest when a flash is used.”

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Tamron 85mm f1.8 Di VC USD

portrait lenses

Character Analysis: The cool thing here with Tamron’s lenses is that this comes from an era when their colors really started to shine through on their own.

In our review, we state:

“For what it’s worth, the Tamron 85mm f1.8 Di VC USD wipes the floor with everyone else’s lenses except for the newest offerings from Zeiss. It doesn’t have micro contrast but instead it has a couple of things that have made me change my editing workflow. I generally don’t need to do anywhere as much of a clarity increase and instead what I tend to do when working with this lens is work with the shadows and the individual color channels.”

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Zeiss 135mm f2

Character Analysis: This lens was very sharp back in the day. There are surely sharper lenses these days. But if it was sharp for the 5D Mk II, it’s going to be sharp enough for film. And we think it will look really nice here.

In our review, we state:

“Professionals everywhere will totally digg the results that you’ll get from this lens and the fact that the images yielded from it are so good combined with the fact that you’ll be slowing down your shooting process to concentrate on creating better images is a win/win situation. You probably may end up shooting less images than you would with an autofocus lens.”

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