6 Best Canon Lenses For Concert Photography in 2024!

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Best Canon Lenses For Concert Photography

Concerts are one of the most challenging venues a photographer can work with. There is no one set concert style, rather the very nature of concerts, plays, performances, and all the other creative venues photographers can wander into are as unique as the action taking place on stage. Finding the best Canon lens for concerts is why we’re here.

Concerts can be in huge metropolitan stadiums, city parks, barns, on hillsides, or even in a controlled lighting indoor theater (though those weren’t going to get mentioned didn’t you?)

Even indoor venues can vary across the entertainment spectrum. If you’ve been to a concert in a historic venue like Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. it doesn’t quite have the same ambiance as the Omni, or Carnegie Hall.

What is happening on stage is the second half of the challenge, the first being familiar with the physical constraints you’re working with.

Dim lights, mixed with explosions, stage lights that are green tinted one second and red the next, and that always challenging solo artist who is suddenly illuminated in a 5,000-lumen spotlight while the rest of the band is now in total darkness.

Yes, it can be a challenge. Part of the challenge is finding the best Canon lenses for concert photography, lenses that work with the settings on your Canon camera body.

We’re here to help with that. We’ll look at a few lenses that work at faster or slower shutter speeds, that are small enough to handle the constraints of the photo pit, and that generate image quality at professional levels.

Here are Our Top Canon Lenses for Concert Photography in 2024!

1

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

BEST CHEAP LENS FOR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

Canon

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2

Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens, Black - 2963C002

BEST CANON RF LENS FOR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY

Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens

Canon

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3

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras, White - 3044C002

BEST CANON ZOOM LENS FOR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM III Telephoto Zoom Lens

Canon

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4

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens, Telephoto Zoom Lens, 3792C002

BEST CANON RF ZOOM LENS FOR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens

Canon

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5

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens

BEST CHEAP ZOOM LENS FOR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens

Canon

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6

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 is STM Lens, Lens Only

BEST CANON WIDE-ANGLE LENS FOR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 is STM Lens

Canon

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Best Canon Lenses for Concert Photography Rationale

Finding the best Canon lenses for concerts requires understanding the type of concert photography you’re going to work with.

Outdoor venues like Red Rocks west of Denver present a very different challenge than a local performance at your local high school auditorium. They both deserve your best effort, but you’re not going to use the same lens for both.

At Red Rocks, you could be a hundred yards from the stage, while sitting in the first row or working the wings at your local high school is easy to achieve.

In a concert lens, you’ll require a long, clear zoom for distance work at outdoor concerts. A lens that can handle filters is a plus as well. Shooting with the long afternoon light in Central Park can produce spectacular images, but you’ll require a lens that can handle the harsh contrast of those long shadows, and high contrast in that long, natural light. It takes more than just a long focal length to get good images.

The changing lighting indoors will have you scrambling for lenses unless you find one that can zoom in or out, and that has a wide range of aperture settings. Contrasting light and dark are the biggest challenge in indoor concert photography.

Shooting from darkness, into a well-illuminated stage can be difficult, sometimes impossible as shadows from overhead lighting obscure the faces of the performers.

Finding a lens that can compensate for these conditions, and the ability to manually adjust ISO, aperture, light balance, and shutter speed while working in the dark are just a few of the many challenges you’ll face.

Things to consider in a Canon lens for concerts.

  • Long focal length
  • Large to small aperture range
  • Wide angle options
  • Manual setting options
  • Knowing your venue
  • Having three lenses that can do everything you’ll face

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

Best Cheap Lens For Concert Photography

Why buy the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

The best answer to this question is in reverse, why not buy the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8? This is the most versatile lens you can own, and everyone (or nearly everyone) already has one. Why should you buy it if you don’t have one?

The rationale for a 50mm lens is that it has the same magnification as the human eye. As such, it’s a classic case of “what you see is what you get.”

The 1.8 F-stop brings in ample light even in dim concert settings, and the ease of adjustment from F-1.8 to F-22 is quick, simple, and effective when light changes as is always the case with rock or heavy metal concerts. Even country music now comes with laser shows, exploding fireworks, and I’m sure, flaming guitars as the genre evolves.

This lens will work for all of those settings, and it won’t cost you a lot of money.

What you’ll love about the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

If you’re a novice, you can quickly learn the ins and outs of a 50mm lens. The Canon EF 50mm is a great one to start with, and it has so many quality features that venerable professional photographers still rely on it for a multitude of applications.

Some photographers flaunt their extremely long, very heavy lenses at concerts, and others suffer from what many call, “lens envy,” but the truth is that a 50mm lens in the hands of a pro will deliver more quality images than the clumsy efforts of an amateur with the most expensive 400 to 800mm zoom that Canon can offer.

You’ll also love this lens for its portability. If you’re trying to capture the violence in mosh pit with a longer, heavier lens you might knock somebody out as the bodies fly in the pit. With this light lens, you can shoot and still take part in the action.

You’re going to love the price tag; this is a lens that anyone can afford.

What you won’t love about the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

While it is versatile, you’re just not going to bring in distant shots with it, and you’re not going to get high-quality wide angles shots either. These two ends of concert photography spectrum require specialized telephoto lenses, or short 10 to 16mm wide-angle lenses to do those jobs.

The light gathering is good, but not top of the scale with this short 50mm lens. Other 50mm lenses have greater light-gathering qualities with apertures that open to 1.2mm, but those come at a substantially higher cost.

Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens

Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens, Black - 2963C002

Best Canon Rf Lens For Concert Photography

Why buy the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens

If you’re looking for the best Canon RF zoom lens for concert photography, look no further than this one. The Canon RF 24-105mm covers the gamut of mid-range concert photography requirements. The 24mm aperture offers wide-angle shots, and the fully extended 105mm focal length provides a full two times the magnification of the human eye.

In between is where you’ll be able to earn a little money from your next concert.

Mechanically the lens offers three aspheric and one UD lens element to lower aberrations, distortion, and astigmatism. The lens delivers sharp, dynamic images with good detail from 24 to 105mm. The nine-blade circular aperture offers the ability to add soft backgrounds to your shots.

The price may be a deal breaker for some photographers, but the versatility of this lens makes it one of the few that can come close to a single lens that delivers in all possible concert settings.

What you’ll love about the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens

You’re going to love the F-4 setting that stays in place from wide 24mm shots to tight, telephoto zooms at 105mm. You may not enjoy the learning curve that comes with this style of lens, but it’s not that hard to master, and when you do, your images will reflect your newly discovered skill, and hopefully demand a little more in payment when you sell your photos.

The weight is solid, at one-and-a-half pounds, and the lens is long enough to use as an offhand stabilizer for steadier shots. Many photographers enjoy a little heft in their lenses, both for control and because that extra weight reflects the higher volume of glass in the construction of the lens.

Though it’s not the best Canon RF prime lens for concert photography since it has a zoom feature, it’s still very competitive when locked in at one focal length to the best prime lenses that Canon can offer.

What you won’t love about the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens

The range will eventually frustrate you. It is great for all-around mid, to close-range photography, but it doesn’t have a true wide-angle option, and the zoom, while good for short-range subjects, just isn’t powerful enough to get clear images of the lead guitarist on stage from your position in Row N. You’ll need a true telephoto zoom for that style of photography.

You won’t like using the locked F-4 aperture at first as you work through the zoom at different focal lengths. It takes time to master, it’s just a grab-and-go style of lens.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM III Telephoto Zoom Lens

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras, White - 3044C002

Best Canon Zoom Lens For Concert Photography

Why buy the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L is III USM Telephoto Zoom Lens

This is one of the lenses for concert photography you’re going to find. With a variable focal length of 70 to 200mm, you won’t have to be on stage to get great shots. If you’re stuck in the C-level photo pit, a long way from the action that the people in Pit A can get directly under the stage, you can compensate with this high-quality telephoto lens, and better yet, the low 2.8 F-Stop makes it arguably the best Canon lens for low light concert photography. It may not grab as much light as a prime lens with a much wider aperture, but it will get the job done, and in one lens.

A concert photographer doesn’t always know the challenges they’re going to face when the band hits the stage, especially in a new concert venue. If you shoot the same stadium frequently, you’ll soon know where to stand, what settings to choose, and which lens to take with you, but that’s not always the case.

The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L is III USM Telephoto Zoom Lens will give you a lot of options once the show begins. Think of it as the Swiss Army knife of concert photography.

What you’ll love about the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L is III USM Telephoto Zoom Lens

It won’t take long for you to realize that this might be the best Canon lens for concert photography. No, it won’t shoot wide-angle shots, and in extreme darkness, it doesn’t have the light-grabbing power of a lens with an aperture of F-1.2 or even F-1.8, but at 2.8, this is a multi-usage lens that can work in dimmer settings while still have the telephoto option of a moderate range zoom lens.

You may not love the moderate to high price of this lens, but it won’t break the bank either, and when you consider the cost of purchasing two to three lenses that are often required to do the work of this one, you’ll appreciate the lower cost of this standalone lens versus hauling several in a camera bag as you’re bounced around in front of the stage.

It is a hefty full-frame lens, weighing in at just under six pounds, and it’s a wider lens at 77mm so standard filters work well with it when you’re compensating for that laser light spinning across the sky in front of the state.

What you won’t love about the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L is III USM Telephoto Zoom Lens

Some users won’t like the almost six-pound weight. It can be a bit much for lighter hands, and in a concert venue, a tripod, or even a monopod is rarely an option.

The price is not exorbitant, but it might be out of the price range for a beginning photographer or someone beginning a second career as a part-time concert photographer. These are all options to consider when purchasing this lens.

If you have a Canon full-frame mirrorless camera [EOS R, EOS RP, EOS R5, EOS R6] you will do better with a suitable lens designed for the EOS R full-frame mirrorless camera system, the Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens.

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens

Best Cheap Zoom Lens For Concert Photography

Why buy the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens

Call this zoom telephoto the discount option to the EF 70-200mm zoom telephoto described above. This is a much more affordable lens, coming in at about a fourth the cost of the higher-end 70-200mm variety, but it doesn’t have the same functionality.

Yes, the zoom is wider, beginning just above the “Nifty Fifty” rating at 55mm and extending to 250mm, but the aperture is substantially smaller and the F-Stop has a tight range of 4 to 5.6. While 5.6 is a great all-around setting, and F-4 is good at light gathering, these are well in the middle of light settings and could be frustrating.

These sound like reasons not to buy this lens, but they’re not if you’re a novice. If you just want to try concert photography for the first time as a novice, or you’re experiencing in another form of photography, perhaps portraits or sports, this is a lens you can purchase for a low price, and that will allow you the flexibility to see if this is a venue worth pursuing. Not every Little Leaguer needs a glove designed exclusively for Nolan Arenado for this first practice as a seven-year-old none of them do. Think of this lens as a good first choice in trying something new.

What you’ll love about the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens

You’re going to love the price, period, that’s the drawing point of this lens. You’ll enjoy the 55-250mm zoom as well. This zoom level equates to being able to magnify images gradually from actual size to five times magnitude. That’s a respectable zoom range and a range that can get you “up close and personal” in almost every concert venue.

The 4-5.6 F-stop isn’t fabulous, but it’s adequate, especially for outdoor concerts, or for light-controlled concerts without a lot of pyrotechnics. This lens will handle the standard red, green, and blue stage lighting and still produce clear images. It will even work well with that soloist in the spotlight and the band and backup singers dimly lit just outside the light circle.

The lens is light, at less than a pound, that’s a plus for some photographers who don’t enjoy, or simply can’t work with heavier equipment.

The standard doesn’t always have to be the highest professional grade when you’re starting, and this lens gets the job done without emptying your bank account.

What you won’t love about the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens

This isn’t the “varsity” option. There are many more lenses out there at much higher costs that deliver clearer images, wider ranges of zoom options, and have apertures from 1.2 to 22. The ability to gather light in all settings is limited with the tight 4-5.6 range of this lens. You will be frustrated at times, especially when shooting in auto-focus. Your shutter won’t fire at times as the camera works to get the image in focus, but it will have problems since there is not much range for it to adjust with this lens. In manual mode, you’ll fire the shutter as needed but your images may come out blurry since the lens can’t bring subjects into focus as they’re moving on stage.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 is STM Lens

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 is STM Lens, Lens Only

Best Canon Wide-Angle Lens For Concert Photography

Why buy the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 is STM Lens

Beginning photographers often think in terms of “how big is the telephoto?” While this is a good question if you’re sitting in the upper deck at the US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis trying to get a clear image of Elton John on his 17th “Final Tour” it isn’t an option for most photographers, especially those with valid press credentials.

A wide-angle lens can create some truly remarkable images, images that stand out among the mundane face shots and tight full-stage imagery we often see.

You’ll find wide-angle shots taken from the roof structure above the stage in indoor stadiums that bring in the scope of the performers and audience better than any standard lens is capable of.

A wide-angle lens can create unique images that set your work apart from that of other photographers.

You might balk at the F-4.5 to 5.6 range of this lens, but how often do you need a wide-open aperture for a wide-angle shot? Seldom is the answer, they just aren’t created for dimly lit use.

The 10-18mm zoom seems tight in comparison with telephoto zooms, but in a wide-angle lens, even one mm is noticeable when you change settings.

What you’ll love about the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 is STM Lens

You’re going to love the versatility of this very short lens. If you’re into videography, using your Canon camera in video mode the zoom function on this wide-angle beauty offers tremendous creative opportunities.

Think of using Google Earth as you move your mouse to progressively close in from the view at 30,000 feet to the view directly above your house. You’ll be able to create those effects with this lens. Start at the 10mm setting and slowly increase the focal length to 18mm and watch as your image tightens.

The best part is that as the image tightens, the crispness of the image remains the same. There is little pixelation with this technique.

This is a lens for the experimenter, the photographer who sees things no one else does and who likes to work on the fringe.

A final great feature of this lens is the low price. You’re not going to spend much, and you’ll have a lot of creative applications waiting at a moderate price.

What you won’t love about the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 is STM Lens

This is a wide-angle lens, there just aren’t that many applications that require wide-angle photography at concerts. But in fairness, those haunting images from upstate New York at Woodstock are examples of quality photographs that come with a wide-angle lens.

Another thing you may not like about this lens is the zoom feature. Zooms are always thought of as a more versatile lens, but in a wide-angle setting, they can sometimes give you too many options, lowering the quality of your image by providing different levels of scale.

With a wide-angle lens, it’s all about staging before taking the photograph. This isn’t “point and shoot” photography.

Frequently asked questions:

Is a 50mm lens good for concerts?

You bet. There are few applications aside from distance photography where the 50mm isn’t a great choice. If you find one with an aperture under 2.0, and we’ve listed one here at F-1.8, you have a lens that works well in almost any level of visible, ambient light.

The focal length isn’t great, but the magic of this size lens is that it fits your eye. If you can see it, your 50mm lens will reproduce exactly what you’re looking at.

What ISO is best for concerts?

That’s like asking if you want your million-dollar prize in hundreds or fifties. There is no best ISO for concerts since concerts have a full gamut of lighting.

The ISO for a daytime concert in the stark Nevada desert is vastly different than taking photos at your dimly lit local dinner theater. There is no single setting, and ISO is a function of the camera, not the lens so find one that can be manually set on a wide level.

In the digital age, we’re not locked into ISO as we were in the days of film.

How can I make concert photos look better?

The easy answer isn’t easy at all. You need to practice. Start with local high school production, marching band festivals, or community concerts.

Post them on social media, and have a thick skin since there are plenty of social justice warriors who live to complain about the work of others. Ignore the insults, but look at what they’re nitpicking about, it will improve your work.

But always practice with live concerts until you catch on.

How do you take professional photos at a concert?

Practice your craft. Get the best seating or observation point you can and buy a lens that fits your position at the venue. Professional quality photographs are a combination of art and science you don’t find in many other fields.

Knowing your camera, and your lenses and understanding how they all fit together must be done before you hit the concert.

Related article: Best Nikon Lenses for Concert Photography

Conclusion

There is no single, “best lens” when it comes to photographing concerts with your Canon camera. The variables of light, distance, and background are just too great for one lens to capture images in all these settings.

Hopefully, the information presented above will provide a starting point for you in the quest to find a lens or lenses that will get the job done for you. Finding the best lenses for concert photography Canon can offer should be part of the fun.

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Hey there, my name is James and I am the creator and editor of this site. I have been photographing for the past 20 years and my mission is to simplify this misunderstood art of taking and processing photographs I love. I invite you to say “hey” on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

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