Pho­to­graph: Fer­gus Kennedy / canon.com

Slow­ly but sure­ly, Canon is ceas­ing to pro­duce lens­es for its SLR cam­eras: we have not seen new prod­ucts in the EF-series since 2018. But don’t wait for the “opti­cal” apoc­a­lypse, as RF lens­es for EOS R full-frame mir­ror­less cam­eras are get­ting more and more every year! In this arti­cle, we will review and eval­u­ate the best new Canon lens­es that are suit­able for var­i­ous gen­res of pho­tog­ra­phy.

Why RF Lens­es
What lens char­ac­ter­is­tics are impor­tant
Top 3 Trav­el and Nature Lens­es
Top 3 lens­es for land­scape and street pho­tog­ra­phy
Top 3 Por­trait Lens­es
Canon RF Lens Rank­ing Results

Why RF Lenses

Any sys­tem is only as good as its lens­es. Canon’s EOS R series of mir­ror­less cam­eras is quite young, with all mod­els com­pat­i­ble (using a spe­cial adapter) with the com­pa­ny’s exten­sive cat­a­log of old­er EF lens­es for DSLRs. But RF lens­es are grad­u­al­ly replac­ing their “reflex coun­ter­parts”. Why should all own­ers of new Canon cam­eras pay atten­tion to RF mod­els? Besides the obvi­ous fact that mir­ror­less sys­tems are the future, we have a cou­ple more argu­ments.

First, the RF lens­es were specif­i­cal­ly designed for the new sys­tem. Due to the absence of a mir­ror, the back of the lens can be placed clos­er to the sen­sor. This gives engi­neers more free­dom in lens design as well as improv­ing their opti­cal per­for­mance.

Sec­ond­ly, com­pared to EF glass­es, the data trans­fer rate between cam­eras and high-end RF lens­es has also increased. This improves the image sta­bi­liza­tion sys­tem and intel­li­gent aut­o­fo­cus algo­rithms.

There are still very few lens­es from third-par­ty man­u­fac­tur­ers on the mar­ket (none from Sig­ma and Tam­ron, which is espe­cial­ly sad) that would have been devel­oped specif­i­cal­ly for the EOS R. But Canon itself has released a lot of “glass­es” for dif­fer­ent gen­res of pho­tog­ra­phy: expen­sive and cheap , pro­fes­sion­al and ama­teur. Let’s take a look at the best Canon RF lens­es for trav­el and nature pho­tog­ra­phy, land­scape and street pho­tog­ra­phy, and por­traits.

What lens characteristics are important

We will eval­u­ate the lens­es includ­ed in this rat­ing based on four main cri­te­ria:

  • Com­pact­ness. We con­sid­er the dimen­sions and weight of the lens, tak­ing into account its class. A rel­a­tive­ly com­pact tele­zoom will get more points than a too-large “nor­mal prime”, even if the tele­zoom is larg­er and heav­ier in size.
  • Aper­ture. Here we also make adjust­ments for the lens class and pho­tog­ra­phy genre.
  • Pic­ture qual­i­ty. We take into account both the objec­tive side of the cri­te­ri­on (in par­tic­u­lar, sharp­ness) and the more sub­jec­tive aes­thet­ic (for exam­ple, beau­ti­ful bokeh).
  • Con­ve­nience and ver­sa­til­i­ty. We take into account how com­fort­able each lens is for the pho­tog­ra­ph­er at work, whether it is suit­able for a par­tic­u­lar type of shoot­ing, as well as for relat­ed gen­res.

Top 3 Travel and Nature Lenses

Trav­el pho­tog­ra­phers find them­selves in a wide vari­ety of sit­u­a­tions, so the more range of focal lengths their lens can cov­er, the bet­ter. Also of no small impor­tance is the size and weight of the “glass”, because no one wants to car­ry a few extra pounds with them. For those who often shoot nature and ani­mals, spe­cial empha­sis in pho­to­graph­ic equip­ment should be placed at long focal lengths, but com­pact­ness is also very impor­tant. In this mini-top, we’ve round­ed up ver­sa­tile zooms that can han­dle the tele­pho­to range, and at the end, we’ve giv­en a cou­ple of tips for those who need even longer tele­pho­to lens­es.

Canon RF 24–105mm f/4 L IS USM

The first lens with an RF mount is still in the top. Pho­to: canon-europe.com
  • Com­pact­ness — 4
  • Aper­ture — 4
  • Pic­ture qual­i­ty — 4
  • Con­ve­nience and ver­sa­til­i­ty — 4
  • Aver­age score — 4

This ver­sa­tile zoom was intro­duced at the same time as the announce­ment of Canon’s entire mir­ror­less full-frame EOS R sys­tem, and has remained one of the series’ most pop­u­lar lens­es ever since. No won­der, because it can take both wide-angle and tele­pho­to shots, which is suit­able for almost any sub­ject. At the same time, a con­stant aper­ture val­ue of f / 4 is main­tained through­out the zoom range, and the lens copes quite well with low light. In addi­tion, it is small for its class: 107 mm in length and weigh­ing 700 grams. Giv­en the ver­sa­tile range of focal lengths, good aper­ture and rel­a­tive com­pact­ness, this “glass” is per­fect for trav­el pho­tog­ra­phy, nature pho­tog­ra­phy (although with wild ani­mals it will be dif­fi­cult due to the lim­i­ta­tion at the tele­pho­to end) and videog­ra­phy. Like most oth­er zoom lens­es in the RF fam­i­ly, the Canon RF 24–105mm f/4 is equipped with an opti­cal image sta­bi­liza­tion sys­tem.

A sim­i­lar lens came out in 2020, the 24–105mm f/4.0–7.1. It’s much lighter (395 grams) and more than half the price ($400 vs. $1100*), but its aper­ture drops to f/7.1 as you zoom in. In addi­tion, it is not pro­tect­ed from rain and dust, which may not be very con­ve­nient for trav­el­ers. How­ev­er, if bud­get and com­pact­ness are your pri­or­i­ties, you should choose it.

Canon RF 24–240mm f/4–6.3 IS USM

With a 10x zoom, you can cap­ture just about any­thing. Pho­to: Youtube chan­nel Christo­pher Frost
  • Com­pact­ness — 4
  • Aper­ture — 3
  • Pic­ture qual­i­ty — 3
  • Con­ve­nience and ver­sa­til­i­ty — 5
  • Aver­age score — 3.8

The Canon RF 24–240mm cov­ers most of the focal lengths used by pho­tog­ra­phers. So if you want to take a sin­gle lens on a trip, the Canon RF 24–240mm is prob­a­bly the best option. At the tele­pho­to end, it is well ahead of the pre­vi­ous zoom, mak­ing it quite good for wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy. More­over, this zoom weighs only 50 grams more than the pre­vi­ous mod­el, which adds points for trav­el pho­tog­ra­phy. Of course, there is a sta­bi­liza­tion sys­tem (with such a gen­er­al zoom range and work at long focal lengths).

How­ev­er, the incred­i­ble vari­ety of focal lengths comes at the expense of some com­pro­mis­es in terms of image qual­i­ty.

Canon RF 70–200mm f/2.8 L IS USM

Canon has man­aged to make a real­ly cool tele­zoom that is suit­able for both wildlife and trav­el pho­tog­ra­phy. Pho­to: canon-europe.com
  • Com­pact­ness — 4
  • Aper­ture — 5
  • Image qual­i­ty — 5
  • Con­ve­nience and ver­sa­til­i­ty — 4
  • Aver­age score — 4.5

This zoom cov­ers medi­um tele­pho­to while main­tain­ing a con­stant aper­ture of f/2.8, mak­ing it an excel­lent wildlife lens. Com­pared to the old EF ver­sion for DSLRs, the RF 70–200mm f/2.8 has shed half a kilo and is 5cm short­er. This makes it a much more attrac­tive option for trav­el­ers. The lens is pro­tect­ed from adverse weath­er con­di­tions, so you can safe­ly go shoot­ing to the far cor­ners of the plan­et with it, with­out fear of being left with­out a work­ing “glass” at the most inop­por­tune moment. An image sta­bi­liza­tion sys­tem with an effi­cien­cy of 5 stops of expo­sure is also on board.

How­ev­er, the price of tele­zoom bites — be pre­pared to pay $ 2,700 *. Also, unfor­tu­nate­ly, the lens is not com­pat­i­ble with tele­con­vert­ers, so it will not be pos­si­ble to expand the range of focal lengths.

Our pick of the best lenses for travel and nature photography

Canon RF 24–105mm f/4 L IS USM Canon RF 24–240mm f/4–6.3 IS USM Canon RF 70–200mm f/2.8 L IS USM
com­pact­ness four four four
Aper­ture four 3 5
Pic­ture qual­i­ty four 3 5
Con­ve­nience and ver­sa­til­i­ty four 5 four
Aver­age score four 3.8 4.5

The Canon RF 70–200mm f/2.8, although the least ver­sa­tile of our trin­i­ty in terms of focal length range (it still has a large tele­pho­to skew), is still very good in terms of image qual­i­ty and aper­ture. At the same time, for a tele­zoom, it is also quite com­pact, so it can take pride of place in the back­pack of not only a wildlife hunter, but also a more ver­sa­tile trav­el pho­tog­ra­ph­er.

If you need longer lens­es, for exam­ple, for shoot­ing birds dur­ing a flight, you should pay atten­tion to the Canon RF 100–500mm f/4.5–7.1L IS USM pro­fes­sion­al tele­pho­to lens, which is not includ­ed in our rat­ing, and the rather orig­i­nal Canon RF 600mm f/11 IS tele­pho­to lens STM.

Top 3 lenses for landscape and street photography

Unlike trav­el pho­tog­ra­phers, land­scape pho­tog­ra­phers may car­ry a larg­er, heav­ier lens to improve image qual­i­ty. At the same time, both land­scape and street pho­tog­ra­phers usu­al­ly require wide focal lengths in order to cap­ture more details in the frame. In this top, we have col­lect­ed wider-angle and faster zoom lens­es that are equal­ly well suit­ed for shoot­ing both nat­ur­al land­scapes and urban scenes.

Canon RF 24–70mm f/2.8L IS USM

Three con­trol rings make the RF 24–70mm very com­fort­able to oper­ate. Pho­to: techradar.com
  • Com­pact­ness — 4
  • Aper­ture — 5
  • Pic­ture qual­i­ty — 3
  • Con­ve­nience and ver­sa­til­i­ty — 5
  • Aver­age score — 4.3

This stan­dard zoom lens for its ver­sa­til­i­ty could well be added to each of the tops of our rat­ing, but still land­scape and street pho­tog­ra­phers will need it more.

In addi­tion to a con­ve­nient range of focal lengths and a good con­stant aper­ture, this lens adds weath­er pro­tec­tion and built-in sta­bi­liza­tion (options that are espe­cial­ly rel­e­vant for street pho­tog­ra­phers).

In terms of image qual­i­ty, the Canon RF 24–70mm is quite good, although it some­times lacks sharp­ness in the cor­ners of the frame.

Below we look at a sim­i­lar glass, the 28–70mm f/2, where Canon sac­ri­fices 4mm of focal length (very impor­tant for wide-angle land­scape pho­tog­ra­phers) to offer unsur­passed qual­i­ty optics.

Canon RF 28–70mm f/2 L USM

The RF 28–70mm f/2 is a stan­dard zoom with flaw­less optics. Pho­to: canon-europe.com
  • Com­pact­ness — 3
  • Aper­ture — 5
  • Image qual­i­ty — 5
  • Con­ve­nience and ver­sa­til­i­ty — 4
  • Aver­age score — 4.3

The Canon RF 28–70mm is sig­nif­i­cant­ly larg­er than the pre­vi­ous lens, but the sharp­ness, aper­ture and over­all image qual­i­ty more than make up for this. In gen­er­al, a full-frame zoom with this aper­ture is a real uni­corn, although the size and lack of built-in sta­bi­liza­tion make it not very con­ve­nient for every­day shoot­ing. For those who pho­to­graph land­scapes using a tri­pod, all these prob­lems will not play any role, but excel­lent optics and pro­tec­tion from dust and mois­ture will become quite seri­ous argu­ments in favor. In the plus­es for street shoot­ing, it is worth writ­ing down fast aut­o­fo­cus, although you can’t call it silent.

Canon RF 15–35mm f/2.8 L IS USM

Super wide-angle star of the ruler. Pho­to: canon-europe.com
  • Com­pact­ness — 3
  • Aper­ture — 5
  • Image qual­i­ty — 5
  • Con­ve­nience and ver­sa­til­i­ty — 5
  • Aver­age score — 4.5

If you’re look­ing for the best wide-angle zoom for Canon’s full-frame mir­ror­less cam­eras, this is it. Excel­lent sharp­ness and a con­stant aper­ture of f/2.8 over the entire range of focal lengths, built-in sta­bi­liza­tion and pro­tec­tion against dust and mois­ture — all these are the undoubt­ed advan­tages of the mod­el. The lens cov­ers wide-angle focal lengths, which are per­fect for both street pho­tog­ra­phy and land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy. Its aut­o­fo­cus is fast and almost silent, so if desired, this “glass” is also suit­able for video shoot­ing.

How­ev­er, the lens has a weak side: for a wide-angle zoom, the mod­el turned out to be too bulky — 840 grams in weight and 127 mm in length. The high price ($2,300*) is also hard­ly a plus for this lens.

Our pick of the best lenses for landscape and street photography

Canon RF 24–70mm f/2.8L IS USM Canon RF 28–70mm f/2 L USM Canon RF 15–35mm f/2.8 L IS USM
com­pact­ness four 3 3
Aper­ture 5 5 5
Pic­ture qual­i­ty 3 5 5
Con­ve­nience and ver­sa­til­i­ty 5 four 5
Aver­age score 4.3 4.3 4.5

Once again, slight­ly more spe­cial­ized glass gets a high­er aver­age score: the Canon RF 15–35mm f/2.8 L IS USM wide-angle zoom is good for every­thing, except for the rather large size for its class (and, as usu­al, the price). The RF 15–35mm is a great replace­ment for the pop­u­lar Canon EF 16–35mm f/2.8L III USM, out­per­form­ing the DSLR mod­el in image qual­i­ty and sharp­ness.

Top 3 Portrait Lenses

In por­trait pho­tog­ra­phy, lens­es with focal lengths between 50mm and 100mm are com­mon­ly used, as they are espe­cial­ly good for shoot­ing faces. Aper­ture is anoth­er impor­tant fac­tor: wide-open aper­ture will accen­tu­ate your mod­el while blur­ring out dis­tract­ing ele­ments in the back­ground and fore­ground. A large aper­ture is also good for work­ing in less-than-ide­al light­ing, as you won’t always shoot por­traits in a stu­dio with mul­ti­ple pow­er­ful lights. In this mini-top, we have col­lect­ed three fast “fix­es” with excel­lent optics.

Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM

Large and heavy, but incred­i­bly beau­ti­ful por­trai­ture. Pho­to: thephoblographer.com
  • Com­pact­ness — 3
  • Aper­ture — 5
  • Image qual­i­ty — 5
  • Con­ve­nience and ver­sa­til­i­ty — 5
  • Aver­age score — 4.5

85mm is con­sid­ered by many to be the ide­al focal length for all por­trait and fash­ion shoots. The RF ver­sion of the 85mm lens is an excep­tion­al mod­el, out­per­form­ing both its EF pre­de­ces­sors and per­haps even all com­peti­tors. With an incred­i­ble f/1.2 aper­ture, you can shoot in low light more eas­i­ly and get beau­ti­ful bokeh. Sharp­ness and over­all pic­ture qual­i­ty are also top notch.

How­ev­er, the lens is hefty (1195 grams) and expen­sive ($2700*), but worth it.

If you want even more intense and smooth back­ground blur when shoot­ing wide open, Canon has released a spe­cial ver­sion of this lens, the RF 85mm f/1.2 L USM DS. He is the real “king” of bokeh, which is unlike­ly to have com­peti­tors in this aspect of por­trait pho­tog­ra­phy.

Canon RF 85mm f/2 MACRO IS STM

When you get tired of tak­ing por­traits, you can shoot flow­ers … or insects. Pho­to: dpreview.com
  • Com­pact­ness — 4
  • Aper­ture — 4
  • Pic­ture qual­i­ty — 4
  • Con­ve­nience and ver­sa­til­i­ty — 5
  • Aver­age score — 4.3

The max­i­mum aper­ture of this lens is not as large as the pre­vi­ous mod­el. How­ev­er, its 5‑stop hybrid sta­bi­liza­tion sys­tem makes this lens an even more ver­sa­tile option for low-light work. You can eas­i­ly shoot hand­held at slow shut­ter speeds indoors with a min­i­mum of light. In addi­tion, this is a very “sharp” lens, but at the same time with a pleas­ant “soft” bokeh.

Anoth­er advan­tage over a faster aper­ture option is com­pact­ness and rel­a­tive­ly low weight (500 grams). In addi­tion to all the fea­tures of a great por­trait lens, there is also a 1:2 macro lens. And since the Canon RF 85mm f/2 is near­ly silent in oper­a­tion, it can be used for video.

Canon RF 50mm f/1.2

Not every­one likes to shoot por­traits for fifty dol­lars. But if you want to add more atmos­phere to the frame around, this is a great lens option. Pho­to: www.pcmag.com
  • Com­pact­ness — 3
  • Aper­ture — 5
  • Image qual­i­ty — 5
  • Con­ve­nience and ver­sa­til­i­ty — 4
  • Aver­age score — 4.3

This fifty can be a bit wide for head­shots, but for por­traits in the envi­ron­ment, it is almost per­fect. It is by far the best “nor­mal” por­trait lens in Canon’s line­up today. Like the incred­i­ble RF 85mm f/1.2 L, this glass has a max­i­mum aper­ture of f/1.2, so it’s also good for low-light shoot­ing and cre­ates beau­ti­ful bokeh. In addi­tion, this lens has an incred­i­bly sharp pic­ture: it is one of the “sharpest” fifty dol­lars on the mar­ket. Anoth­er plus for street por­traits is that the lens is dust and mois­ture resis­tant.

As always, you have to sac­ri­fice some­thing for aper­ture ratio: here — size (con­sid­er­able 108 mm), weight (950 grams) and price (2500 dol­lars *).

If you don’t need crazy aper­ture, Canon’s line of full-frame mir­ror­less lens­es has anoth­er high-qual­i­ty fifty-fifty — Canon RF 50mm f / 1.8 STM. It is very light (160 grams), minia­ture (41mm) and costs only $200*, mak­ing this lens more than 10 times cheap­er than the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it does not have pro­tec­tion from bad weath­er, unlike its “fast broth­er”.

Our pick of the best lenses for portraits

Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM Canon RF 85mm f/2 MACRO IS STM Canon RF 50mm f/1.2
com­pact­ness 3 four 3
Aper­ture 5 four 5
Pic­ture qual­i­ty 5 four 5
Con­ve­nience and ver­sa­til­i­ty 5 5 four
Aver­age score 4.5 4.3 4.3

While the Canon RF 85mm f/2 MACRO IS STM has good aper­ture, it falls short of the top score for a por­trait lens. What can not be said about the oth­er two par­tic­i­pants in our mini-top. The Canon RF 85mm f/1.2 L USM and the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 are two super fast por­trait primes, one of the best in their class. Still, in terms of por­trai­ture, the 85mm is a slight­ly bet­ter focal length, so the RF 85mm f/1.2 is our win­ner.

Canon RF Lens Ranking Results

Place Lens Genre What is good Aver­age score
one Canon RF 70–200mm f/2.8 L IS USM Trav­el and nature pho­tog­ra­phy Com­pact fixed aper­ture tele­pho­to zoom 4.5
2 Canon RF 24–105mm f/4 L IS USM Trav­el and nature pho­tog­ra­phy Lens with a uni­ver­sal range of focal lengths and good aper­ture four
3 Canon RF 24–240mm f/4–6.3 IS USM Trav­el and nature pho­tog­ra­phy 10x zoom lens: from wide angle to tele­pho­to 3.8
one Canon RF 15–35mm f/2.8 L IS USM Land­scape and street pho­tog­ra­phy Wide-angle zoom with excel­lent pic­ture qual­i­ty 4.5
2 Canon RF 24–70mm f/2.8L IS USM Land­scape and street pho­tog­ra­phy Ver­sa­tile, weath­er­proof zoom 4.3
3 Canon RF 28–70mm f/2 L USM Land­scape and street pho­tog­ra­phy Lens with excel­lent optics and aper­ture 4.3
one Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM Lens Por­trait pho­tog­ra­phy Super fast lens with impres­sive sharp­ness 4.5
2 Canon RF 85mm f/2 MACRO IS STM Por­trait pho­tog­ra­phy Great for low light and macro pho­tog­ra­phy 4.3
3 Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 Por­trait shoot­ing Super-aper­ture fifty kopecks with a cool pic­ture 4.3
The range of RF glass­es already cov­ers all pop­u­lar focal lengths, but Canon is not going to stop. Pho­to: photar.ru

Full-frame mir­ror­less cam­eras are tak­ing over the world and Canon is nat­u­ral­ly not going to fall behind the com­pe­ti­tion. The com­pa­ny already has a fine col­lec­tion of full-frame EF mount lens­es that work with the new mir­ror­less cam­eras via an adapter. But with­out a high-qual­i­ty line of native “glass­es” it is sim­ply impos­si­ble to suc­cess­ful­ly com­pete with Sony and Nikon. There­fore, Canon decid­ed to focus on a new series of RF lens­es and has already released sev­er­al true mas­ter­pieces that every pho­tog­ra­ph­er dreams of (unless, of course, he is an adher­ent of some oth­er “Japan­ese sect”).

  • For trav­el­ers and wildlife pho­tog­ra­phers, Canon has a very com­pact (for its class) tele­zoom with a con­stant max­i­mum aper­ture of f/2.8. With it, you can shoot wild ani­mals and peo­ple on the streets of dis­tant cities, and at the same time you do not have to take a sep­a­rate piece of lug­gage on the plane espe­cial­ly for a long focal length lens.
  • If you’re more into cap­ti­vat­ing nat­ur­al land­scapes, puls­ing streets and city archi­tec­ture, Canon has got you cov­ered with a wide-angle zoom with incred­i­bly sharp images and a weath­er­proof body. A large max­i­mum aper­ture for hand­held shoot­ing in the evening is a sep­a­rate impor­tant bonus.
  • And final­ly, the real pearl of the entire RF line is the super-fast por­trait fix Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM. An incred­i­bly shal­low depth of field will help focus the view­er’s atten­tion on the nec­es­sary details, gen­tly but intense­ly blur­ring every­thing super­flu­ous in the frame. This lens has an amaz­ing com­bi­na­tion of cool bokeh and high sharp­ness.

Have you used any RF lens­es? We’d love to read about your expe­ri­ence in the com­ments.

*Man­u­fac­tur­er’s sug­gest­ed retail price