Canon’s list of R series cameras is growing. With the R5 and R6 shipping dates nearing, you might be preparing to switch to mirrorless. If you already have a Canon R series camera or you’re going to purchase one, you might be wondering what the best Canon RF lenses are on the market. In this article, you’ll find some of the top lenses with something for every photographer’s needs.
The Best Canon RF Lenses in 2023
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1. Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8
This is a durable lens made to withstand the elements. For landscape shooters who want stunning images, this is a lens not to be missed.
If you’re a landscape photographer, this lens is sure to please. Offering the perfect focal length and a generous maximum aperture, you’re bound to get some great shots of sweeping landscapes with this lens.
The image quality offered by the Canon RF 24-70mm is pretty good, though there are some issues with sharpness at the edges. If you can sacrifice 4mm on the lower end of the focal length range, the 28-70mm f/2 lens offers unparalleled image quality and is guaranteed to get you pleasing shots each time. We picked the 24-70mm lens over the 28-70mm lens for a number of reasons but mostly due to the fact that the little extra focal length can make all the difference for landscape photographers shooting on the wide-angle side.
In terms of the overall build quality, this lens is pretty robust without weighing a ton. It offers dust and weather resistance, which is a must for many landscape photographers. And while we wouldn’t recommend taking it out in a torrential downpour, it should be able to withstand a significant amount of battering from the elements.
If you’re a landscape photographer who shoots with a tripod, this next feature isn’t really going to matter all that much. But for those who prefer to hand-hold, the addition of built-in image stabilization will be welcomed. Offering 5 stops of image stabilization, this lens should still get you crisp shots with a bit of shake on your behalf – as long as your shutter speed isn’t ridiculously low!
If you’re not familiar with the design of Canon’s RF lenses, all of the lenses to date have a control ring that can be programmed to control a specific setting of your choosing. Canon has really gone above and beyond in this regard to ensure ultimate usability. This lens also has big focus and zoom rings which make for a pleasant handling experience and offer maximum control.
2. Canon RF 85mm f/1.2
For professional portrait photos, this is the lens to have in your kit bag. Offering beautiful images with a dreamy bokeh, portrait clients will love photos with this lens.
Canon offers two RF lenses that are virtually identical, the standard 85mm f/1.2 and the 85mm f/1.2 DS. The DS model offers advanced defocussing technology, which can make for some stunning bokeh. But given the additional price and the overall specificity of this lens, we chose the standard Canon RF 85mm lens instead.
The maximum aperture offered by this lens is perfect for some really stunning background bokeh in your shots. If you’re really hoping to achieve a perfect bokeh this lens will not disappoint in the slightest!
As a fixed prime, it doesn’t offer the versatility of a zoom lens, but this is the perfect lens for portrait photographers. This prime is no exception to the general consensus that primes typically offer superior image quality when compared to zoom lenses. The optics offered by this lens are stellar across a range of apertures. If you’re a professional portrait photographer, this is definitely a lens for your gear bag.
That being said, for photographers who handhold, or do long periods of shooting, this lens might be a push too far in terms of its weight. Its a heavy lens. I’d recommend the lens for photographers who use a tripod, change lenses often in a shoot, or only do short shoots. Otherwise, you’re just going to get tired of lugging this lens around. And if you’re trying to make your models comfortable by opting for a smaller mirrorless body, this lens completely takes away from that. Its so bulky.
Another drawback, which can be a deal-breaker for some is the lack of image stabilization. With this sort of weight, you’re not going to want to shoot in low light with slower shutter speeds since blur would be inevitable.
3. Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro
This 35mm lens is perfect for a bit of everything. Thanks to its macro specialty, you can get up close and personal and capture some incredible shots too!
This is Canon’s only dedicated RF macro lens to date and while it isn’t a true macro lens (offering a 1:2 ratio), it isn’t a bad lens, and its a really good price too!
Believe it or not, this lens can do a bit of everything and more. But given its slightly wider focal length, it might not be the best lens for portraits. But everything else is game.
This 35mm lens is one of the lightest lenses you can get your hands on in the current RF lens line up, making it great for travel photographers, street photographers, and those who love to do a bit of walk-around photography causally.
Due to its small size, some photographers may find handling this lens more difficult than some of the lenses with larger focus rings but it’s still a pretty generous offering and shouldn’t be too bad to work with.
In terms of image quality, the lens performs relatively well but does have some issues with chromatic abberation which you may want to be mindful of.
But with all that being said, this is a really good, low-cost lens offered by Canon.
4. Canon RF 24-105mm f/4
This lens should cover all the bases a casual photographer might need. If you want stunning images but don’t want to fork out for lenses, this is a great option.
For those looking for a low-cost zoom lens that can be used virtually all the time, this is one of the best Canon RF lenses that fits the bill.
While it isn’t an all-star lens, this certainly isn’t a bad lens either. It offers a decent standard of image quality across the zoom range, which should be more than enough for most photographers who shoot for pleasure and want a nice lens they can just use whenever they feel like it. You’ll specifically find a decrease in sharpness across the frame as you increase the aperture. Unfortunately, this is a common problem with zoom lenses with a large focal length range.
That being said, the lens does redeem itself thanks to some welcomed features. The first of these is image stabilization, which is great for photographers who love to shoot hand-holding and don’t want to lug a tripod around all the time.
Another thing photographers will appreciate is the robust design of this lens. As an L series lens, you’d expect premium build-quality and this lens does not disappoint. With sealed components, to ensure weather and dust-proofing and a polycarbonate barrel, this lens is able to withstand a fair amount of rough and tumble.
All in all, this is a great roundabout lens for those on a budget who want something that will cover all their bases.
5. Canon RF 50mm f/1.2
This is a versatile lens that will serve you well no matter what you shoot. It offers crisp optics and a great maximum aperture for stunning bokeh.
No list of the best lenses would be complete without the addition of nifty-fifty. But this nifty-fifty is far from the bargain buys you often find when looking for a 50mm prime.
Despite the cost, this lens makes it to the list because it really is an impressive 50mm prime. It offers the stellar image quality you’d expect from this type of lens and the maximum aperture is perfect for getting some stunning bokeh in the process. While it wouldn’t typically be used for portrait headshots, it could make for some really nice environmental photos and the focal length is just a great all-round option.
Sure, the focal length isn’t ideal for if you want really close shots but if you’re willing to move around a bit and don’t mind getting up close and personal, this lens could even be used for some floral or nature close-ups.
Similar to the 85mm discussed previously, the lens is on the bigger side – especially for a 50mm prime, but it shouldn’t be too big and heavy that you can’t make use of it just through some handheld shooting.
As with a number of lenses on the market, this is another lens that lacks image stabilization. However, given the size, this shouldn’t be such a big deal and you can still get crisp shots in good lighting or with a wide-open aperture.
6. Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8
This is a great lens for people who want to capture professional images using a telephoto lens. The image quality is superior and all-round performance will not disappoint.
The final lens on this list covers an area that can be vital for some photographers–the telephoto range. Sure, this lens doesn’t take you way into the telephoto focal length but its more than enough for most photographers and even offers something a little bit extra, making the option more appealing to the likes of travel photographers.
Compared to Canon’s previous lenses of this focal length range, the overall size of this lens is significantly smaller. For people who don’t want big bulky lenses, this can be a game-changer. For travel photographers, it means they get the opportunity to capture close up shots which they may not have previously had the opportunity to do. The lens is still big, it’s just not huge.
Overall, the image quality on this lens is exceptional. It really does shine and will not disappoint. And the max aperture is perfect for getting some stunning bokeh in your images. This really is an exceptional lens.
Unfortunately, this lens costs a ton which potentially just pits it for the pros. But it is still definitely a worthy mention for those looking for some telephoto options.
An Alternative for Canon EF Lens Owners: The Canon EF-EOS R Adapter
This adapter massively enhances your options for your EOS R camera. With the adapter, you can attach old EF lenses to the new mirrorless system.
For dedicated Canon shooters who’ve already developed quite the collection of EF-mount lenses, or even people looking to save some money whilst still getting high-quality gear, the EF-EOS R Adapter is a great investment. This adapter allows you to use most of Canon’s EF mount lenses with your R series camera by attaching them to a simple adapter on your camera body. Dependent on the adapter you get, this could give you some serious savings. You have the option to buy a number of great EF lenses on the used market, or brand new at a lower price than the RF lens equivalent.
The Best Canon RF Lenses: Conclusion
Despite the RF line up being a lot smaller than Canon’s EF mount line up, there are a number of great RF lenses. Whatever it is you plan to shoot, hopefully, this article has provided you with some good insight into what the best Canon RF lenses are for your needs. If there’s a lens you think we missed off the list, please let us know in the comments below!
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