Nearly everyone needs a general-purpose zoom lens — also referred to as a standard/normal zoom lens or a walk-around lens.
Typically, this is the most important lens in your kit. You leave this lens on your camera for everyday needs. With this lens, you photograph your family and all of life. You capture events with this lens. You travel with this lens. You hike with this lens. This lens is responsible for the preservation of your most precious memories.
Because this lens will probably be your most-used, because this lens will capture what is most important to you, and because the quality of the lens makes a huge difference in your photographs, I highly recommend buying the highest quality standard zoom lens you can afford.
A critical factor in lens selection is the focal length range, and I consider the heart of the general-purpose focal length range to the angles of view provided by the approximately 28-70mm focal length range on a full-frame camera or 18-45mm for an APS-C format mirrorless camera with the 1.6x FOVCF involved. Since these two focal length ranges are quite different, and because some APS-C lenses are not compatible with full-frame format cameras, the recommendations are separated below. Read on for the Canon full-frame general-purpose mirrorless lens recommendations or jump ahead for the APS-C recommendations.
Here is the 24-105mm focal length range illustrated by a full-frame camera:
The Entire Package: Impressive image quality and Overall Performance, Wide Aperture, the Right Focal Lengths, Image Stabilization, Pro-Grade Build
The Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens is my go-to general-purpose zoom lens. This lens is the right choice for a very high percentage of photography needs, from landscapes to portraits and from night skies to weddings, with most needs between covered.
Few want to compromise image quality, and this L-series lens delivers greatness in that regard. Fast and accurate AF? That box is checked. Pro-grade, weather-sealed build quality? Ruggedness is built in. High-performing image stabilzation is there for you when the tripod is not.
Great Focal Length Range, Excellent Image Quality, Relatively Light Weight, Modest Cost, Moderately Wide Aperture, Image Stabilization, Pro-Grade Build
The focal length range is a strong criterion for general purpose lens selection, and the 24-105mm range is superb. While this range is long, it is not so long that image quality to becomes compromised, and the RF 24-105 F4 L IS produces stellar image quality.
Like the RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS, this rugged pro-grade, weather-sealed lens has fast and accurate AF and is image stabilized. While the f/4 lens can allow only half as much light to reach the imaging sensor as f/2.8 models, the f/4 lens weighs less and costs considerably less.
The 10x Zoom Range is Awesome, Relatively Compact and Light, Image Stabilized
The focal length range is always the top reason to get a superzoom lens, and that is indeed a good reason to get this one. With the angles of view of two normal zoom lenses, this lens has an extremely high convenience factor.
While this lens's image quality shows some impact from the extreme range, the impact is not too bad. The overall lens size and weight is modest as is the price.
Economical, Compact, Light, Image Stabilized, Great Focal Length Range
The little RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM Lens was a long awaited model, finally providing an entry-level lens option for the Canon R-series cameras. This lens is not the highest-performing, but it arrived as the lightest and most afforable general-purpose Canon RF mirrorless camera lens. If your budget stops here, this is your lens.
5. Adapt a lens from The Best Canon General-Purpose DSLR Lens List
Huge Selection, Excellent Options
APS-C General-Purpose Focal Length Range
Huge Focal Length Range, Surprisingly Good Image Quality, Reasonable Price, Image Stablization, Extremely Convenient
It is not often that I recommend a lens with a near-10x zoom range as my first choice general purpose lens, but this one has excellent image quality despite the long focal length range, leaving few reasons not to make this the number 1 choice. The EF-M 18-150 is a bit longer than some other options, but it is essentially two lenses in one, saving the time and effort required by lens changes. Image stabilization adds to the convenience.
Tiny, Light, Inexpensive, Image Stabilization
The EF-M 15-45mm lens is frequently bundled with EOS M-series cameras. While this lens offers a relatively short focal length range, the important angle of views are covered. Everyone loves this lens's tiny size, light weight, and low price. The EF-M 15-45 performs well, and includes image stabilization for on-to-go shooting.
Very Sharp Lens, Ultra-wide Aperture, Compact, Light, Not a Zoom Lens
I usually recommend a zoom lens for a primary general-purpose use, but the Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM Lens is a remarkable performer with a focal length that invites such use. Thus, the EF-M 32 begs to be included on this best list.
The ultra-wide aperture means freezing motion in low light and a relatively strong background blur are on the EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM Lens's capabilities list. Few lenses are as sharp at f/1.4 as this one. This little lens alone is a good reason to buy an EOS M-series camera.
4. Adapt a lens from The Best Canon General-Purpose DSLR Lens List
Huge selection, though most are not optimally sized for EOS M-Series cameras
Other Important General-Purpose Mirrorless Camera Lenses
While the general purpose/normal/standard zoom lens is going to get the most use by the typical photographer, a kit of lenses will work best for most. Here are the most-recommended next-lenses: