|Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L|
Wildlife (Long Telephoto)
For wildlife photography, you often want to have your subject large in your frame while keeping your distance to avoid spooking it. This means you frequently need long telephoto lenses. You also want the lens to focus quickly so that you can get sharp photos of the animal before it moves, or while it's moving. On the one hand, you can buy long prime lenses at 400mm and longer with large maximum apertures, but these are so expensive that they are prohibitive for many photographers. But on the other hand, consumer grade zooms (like 100-300mm zooms) are often simply not sharp enough to give you excellent results consistently. They work, but you won't be able to crop as heavily to make your subject larger in the frame. I think there are two great options, though, for wildlife photographers who can't spend much more than $1200.
|Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L|
Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS. Many wildlife photographers swear by this lens, especially when adding a 1.4x tele-converter, which makes this effectively a 420mm f/5.6 IS (roughly equal to the 400mm lens above). The drawback here is that by adding a tele-converter, the lens will be less sharp and focus a little more slowly. But on the upside you get IS, so you can get sharper photos at slower shutter speeds. NOTE: a reader just reminded me in a comment below that this lens has a shorter minimum focusing distance than the 400mm lens (about 5ft v. 11.5ft)--this makes it easier to use your 300mm lens for closeup photography.
There no one right choice between these two lenses. The choice really depends on what's most important to you. If you need IS, the 300mm option is better. If you want a lens that's a little sharper and faster than the 300mm + 1.4x combo, then go with the 400mm lens. I opted for the 400mm lens because it was given to me, but I'm happy with this lens. Wildlife tends to move, and IS only helps stabilize camera movement, not subject movement. So even with IS, you need faster shutter speeds to get sharp images of moving subjects. IS is a definite advantage, but the advantage is not as great when your subject is moving. To compensate for the lack of IS, I set my ISO to give me the shutter speed I need. And when shooting stationary subjects in low light situations, I use a tripod or wish I had the 300mm + 1.4x combo.
Flowers & Bugs (Macro)
With macro photography, you are much closer to your subject, but the same principle applies here as in wildlife photography. Especially with insects and other creepy crawly wonders, you want to stay far away from your subjects to avoid spooking them. So I prefer longer telephoto macro lenses.
|Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L|
It's a myth that landscape photography requires wide angle lenses. You can photograph landscapes with any lens in your camera bag. Nevertheless, landscapes are where zoom lenses reign. I like to stand where I can get the shot and use the zoom to give me the composition I need. Your biggest concerns with zoom lenses are sharpness and distortion, especially at wider angles. Wide angle lenses tend to distort straight lines (like the horizon), and they also lose sharpness around the edges of the frame. I have two zoom lenses that cover most of my needs for landscape photography.
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5. This is simply a fantastic wide angle lens. The distortion levels are very low. Adobe Lightroom can almost eliminate distortion from this lens. And it's a joy to use. If I can use this lens for the composition I want, I do.
Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS. This is easily my weakest lens, especially near 17mm. But for the cost, I really can't complain. It does what it's supposed to do well. It's a good, inexpensive all-around nature photography lens. If you want a longer zoom, you may consider the Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS. If you can spend more money on higher quality glass, or if you need an EF lens for a full-frame camera, consider the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS.
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS. I don't own this lens, but I have borrowed it a few times. It's so much fun to use. You can save a little cash if you buy the version of this lens without IS. Some photographers can't imagine going into the field without this lens. But personally, I haven't felt the need for this zoom range. When I need to get longer than 85mm and shorter than 400mm, I can usually make the 180mm work for me. My shooting preferences make this lens less necessary, but for others, it's indispensable.
|Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5|
|Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS|
|Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L|