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Best Canon RF lenses in 2021: the best lens for the Canon EOS R system

Best Canon RF lenses
(Image credit: Canon)

Although we're billing these as the best Canon RF lenses, the fact of the matter is that almost every RF lens is pretty darned good – particularly the first-party optics from Canon, which are uniformly stunning.

Thankfully it's no longer the case that the very best Canon RF lenses come with eye-watering price tags, as a number of budget options have been released in the past year that makes the Canon EOS R ecosystem appealing to every pocket.

So whether you're looking for the highest image quality when shooting with the high-res Canon EOS R5, tele and super tele lenses to capture action with the Canon EOS R6, something sleek and street-worthy for the svelte Canon EOS RP, something suitable for astro on the Canon EOS Ra, or you're looking ahead to pro-quality performance on the Canon EOS R3, there's something here for you. 

The RF mount has rapidly matured, and the last few gaps are being plugged; Canon has finally announced a native macro lens in the form of the Canon RF 100mm f/2.8 Macro IS USM (with up to 8 stops of stabilization, 1.4x magnification and bokeh control) that will be the RF equivalent of the trusty Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM. And on top of the brilliant 600mm f/11, we're also getting the Canon RF 600mm f/4L IS USM and Canon RF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM to satisfy our pro telephoto requirements. 

So without further ado, here are the best Canon RF lenses on the market right now, and for convenience we've split these into zoom lenses and primes, with the shortest focal lengths first and working up to the longest.

Best lenses for Canon EOS R cameras

Canon RF zoom lenses

(Image credit: Canon)

1. Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM

This fast wide-angle zoom is currently the only native RF choice

Mount: Canon RF | Autofocus: Nano Ultrasonic | Stabilizer: 5-stop | Min focus distance: 0.28m | Max magnification: 0.21x | Filter thread: 82mm | Dimensions (WxL): 89x127mm | Weight: 840g

Super-wide viewing angles
Removable hood
Very expensive
Corner-sharpness could be better

If you want a native RF lens that goes wider than a standard zoom, this is currently the only own-brand Canon choice. Great for everything from landscape to architectural and travel photography, the lens is also brilliant for close-up sporting action, thanks to its super-fast Nano USM autofocus system. Especially at the short end of the zoom range, you can really exaggerate the perspective between foreground and background areas, although corner-sharpness drops off a bit when shooting wide-open at 15mm. 

The f/2.8 aperture, which remains constant throughout the zoom range, combines with a 5-stop image stabilizer to enable great handheld performance under low-lighting conditions. Unlike with some ultra-wide-angle lenses, another bonus is that the hood is removable, so filters can be easily fitted via the 82mm attachment ring.

• Read more: Our comprehensive review of the Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM 

(Image credit: Canon)

2. Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM

The standard trinity zoom tackles almost any situation

Mount: Canon RF | Autofocus: Nano Ultrasonic | Stabilizer: 5-stop | Min focus distance: 0.21m (at 24mm) / 0.38mm (at 70mm) | Max magnification: 0.3x (at 32mm) | Filter thread: 82mm | Dimensions (WxL): 88.5x125.7mm | Weight: 900g

Superb stabilization
No focus breathing
Very pricey
Average edge sharpness

Canon’s most important RF mount trinity lens is here to proselytize the benefits of the EOS R system – and it will have most users singing 'Hallelujah' all the way to the nearest camera store. It’s snappy, it’s sharp, it’s stabilized and it even suppresses focus breathing… but it's a little rough around the edges, literally, and at this price point that's enough to stop it short of greatness.

Depending on your usage, the issue of middling edge sharpness may not be a factor. Portrait photographers will likely have no problem with unrefined corners, but those intending to put this to general-purpose use for things like landscapes may be a little less forgiving. That's really more a reflection of the price than the performance, though. In all other respects, this is a lens that anyone – on any system – would be proud to have in their kit bag. It feels snappier and more responsive than its EF predecessor, and the addition of image stabilization is a real game-changer for non-stabilized EOS R bodies.

(Image credit: Canon)

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

Best standard zoom: the RF reinvention of a classic

Mount: Canon RF | Autofocus: Nano Ultrasonic | Stabilizer: 5-stop | Min focus distance: 0.45m | Max magnification ratio: 0.24x | Filter thread: 77mm | Dimensions (WxL): 84x107mm | Weight: 700g

Versatile zoom range
Constant f/4 aperture
A bit on the large side
‘De-click’ only available as a service option

Not only an ideal ‘kit’ lens to buy with an R-series camera body, this is an excellent optic in its own right. Typical RF attractions include a customizable control ring, in addition to the zoom and focus rings, which can be ‘de-clicked’ for step-less control. That’s preferable when shooting video, but you’ll have to send the lens away to a service centre to have the work carried out. L-series attractions include comprehensive weather-seals and up-market build quality. 

The Nano USM autofocus system is super-fast for stills, while also delivering smooth, near-silent focus transitions for movie capture. Typical of RF-mount ‘IS’ lenses, the stabilizer has 5-stop effectiveness. Physically, it’s slightly smaller and lighter than the equivalent EF 24-105mm L-series lens for SLRs but still feels a bit chunky, especially when mounted on an EOS RP body. Money no object, Canon’s fully pro-spec RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM and RF 28-70mm F2L USM are the most exotic options but this f/4 lens is the sensible buy.

• Read more: Canon RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM review

(Image credit: Canon)

4. Canon RF 24-105mm f/4-7.1 IS STM

Best budget standard zoom: incredibly compact and lightweight

Mount: Canon RF | Autofocus: Pulse (stepping motor) | Stabilizer: 5-stop | Min focus distance: 0.2-0.34m | Max magnification: 0.21-0.4x | Filter thread: 67mm | Dimensions (WxL): 77x89mm | Weight: 395g

Compact, lightweight build
Center focus macro facility
‘Slow’ aperture at long zoom settings
No separate focus and control rings

Especially well suited to the EOS RP, Canon’s latest RF 24-105mm takes downsizing to the extreme and makes a perfect travel companion. It’s little more than half the weight of its sibling RF 24-105mm f/4 L-series lens and much more compact. 

Unlike some ‘compact’ standard zooms, it achieves its diminutive size without having a retractable design, so it’s always ready for duty. Handling is refined although, to help keep the size to a minimum, there aren’t separate control and focus rings, rather one ring with a switch for swapping the function. 

A novel extra is the ‘centre focus macro’ facility, which enables focusing down to a distance of just 13cm at the centre of the image frame, with 0.5x magnification.

• Read more: Canon RF 24-105mm f/4-7.1 IS STM review

(Image credit: Canon)

5. Canon RF 24-240mm f/4-6.3 IS USM

Best all-in-one: Cut your kit down to size by taking just one lens

Mount: Canon RF | Autofocus: Nano Ultrasonic | Stabilizer: 5-stop | Min focus distance: 0.5m | Max magnification: 0.26x | Filter thread: 72mm | Dimensions (WxL): 80x123mm | Weight: 750g

Monster 10x zoom range
Small and lightweight for a full-frame superzoom
Long-zoom aperture is fairly slow
Slight compromise in image quality

So-called ‘superzoom’ lenses are often popular on APS-C format cameras, where they enable everything from wide-angle coverage to serious telephoto reach, without the need to swap lenses on the body, or to carry additional lenses with you. For full-frame cameras, they’re less prevalent because the larger size and weight reduces the benefit. 

This RF lens manages to keep its dimensions and weight to easily manageable proportions, making it perfectly viable as a travel lens or for anytime you want to keep your walkaround kit to a minimum. Typical RF attractions include fast and highly accurate autofocus performance and 5-stop stabilization. As always with a superzoom lens, there’s some compromise in image quality but sharpness is nevertheless impressive and aberrations like lateral chromatic aberration and distortions are taken care of with in-camera corrections.

• Read more: The full Canon RF 24-240mm f/4-6.3 IS USM review

(Image credit: Canon)

6. Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM

Best telephoto lens: pro-grade prowess in clever compact form

Mount: Canon RF | Elements/groups: Dual Nano Ultrasonic | Stabilizer: 5-stop | Min focus distance: 0.7m | Max magnification: 0.23x | Filter thread: 77mm | Dimensions (WxL): 90x146mm | Weight: 1,070g

Super-fast autofocus
Triple-mode 5-stop stabilizer
Quite weighty
Expensive

Canon’s RF lenses are often criticized for feeling big and heavy on mirrorless bodies, but this one remains reasonably slim and svelte. Compared with the latest EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS lens for SLRs, it’s significantly smaller and only about two-thirds of the weight. 

Unlike the EF lens, the RF edition has an extending inner barrel rather than a fixed physical length. Autofocus is amazingly rapid, based on dual Nano USM actuators, and it beats the EF lens for stabilization, with 5-stop rather than 3.5-stop effectiveness. Three switchable modes are on offer static and panning shots, plus a third option which applies stabilization only during exposures. This makes it easier to track erratically moving objects in the viewfinder, or via the camera’s rear screen.

• Read more: Our hands-on review of the Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM

(Image credit: Canon)

7. Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM

A powerhouse, if premium priced, performer

Mount: Canon RF | Autofocus: Nano Ultrasonic | Stabilizer: 5-stop | Min focus distance: 0.9-1.2m | Max magnification: 0.33x | Filter thread: 77mm | Dimensions (WxL): 93.8 x 207.6mm | Weight: 1530g

Stellar build and image quality
Versatile focal range
Narrow maximum aperture
Works best on R5 and R6 bodies

The Canon RF 100-500mm is a superb addition to the rapidly expanding range of RF-mount lenses for Canon's EOS R-series cameras. It combines Canon's legendary L-series build quality with premium optical performance that's up there with the very best Canon zoom lenses we've tested. 

There is, however, a catch: to really get the most from the autofocus system, especially for accurate action shots, you’ll need to pair it with the amazing AF and IBIS on the R5 or R6. Shoot with this lens on the older EOS R or RP and you can expect AF to be noticeably more sluggish, which is somewhat disappointing when you've just dropped big money on a lens like this.

• Read more: Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM review

Canon RF prime lenses

(Image credit: Canon)

8. Rokinon/Samyang MF 14mm f/2.8 RF

Best budget wide-angle lens, but manual focus only

Mount: Canon RF | Autofocus: None | Stabilizer: None | Min focus distance: 0.28m | Max magnification: 0.08x | Filter thread: None | Dimensions (WxL): 87x120mm | Weight: 800g

Ultra-wide viewing angle
Relatively inexpensive
Noticeable barrel distortion
No filter attachment thread

Most of us use a standard zoom lens for most of our shooting. To go wider than a focal length of 24mm, one (very expensive) option is to go for the RF 15-35MM f/2.8L IS USM, which stretches to 15mm while giving a fair bit overlap in zoom range. However, many photographers end up only using ultra-wide-angle zooms at or near their shortest focal length. 

This manual prime lens for RF mount cameras gives a similarly wide viewing angle as the Canon lens at its shortest zoom setting, but for only about a seventh of the cost. 

It’s a fully manual lens, so requires manual focusing and you need to set the aperture with the lens’ ring rather than from the camera body. Other downsides are that it has a built-in hood, and therefore no filter attachment thread, and barrel distortion is clearly noticeable with no in-camera corrections being available. Other aspects of image quality are impressive, however, and it’s a fun lens to use.

• Read more: Samyang MF 14mm f/2.8 RF / Z review

(Image credit: Canon)

9. Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM

Best-buy prime lens: this 35mm is more versatile than it sounds

Mount: Canon RF | Autofocus: Pulse (stepping motor) | Stabilizer: 5-stop hybrid | Min focus distance: 0.17m | Max magnification: 0.5x | Filter thread: 52mm | Dimensions (WxL): 74x63mm | Weight: 305g

Small and lightweight
Relatively inexpensive
0.5x macro with hybrid stabilization
Lacks zooming convenience
Autofocus isn’t particularly speedy

If you’re only going to buy one own-brand prime lens for your Canon R-series camera, this is the one to go for. It’s wonderfully compact and lightweight, as well as only costing about a fifth of the price of Canon’s bulky f/1.2 lenses. Indeed, the relatively small and inexpensive build enabled by the more modest aperture rating makes you wonder why Canon hasn’t made more f/1.8 RF primes yet. 

The 35mm focal length is perfect for street photography and gives an entirely natural viewing perspective that works well for landscape and architectural photography, as well as for environmental portraits where you want to include a person’s surroundings. The versatility doesn’t end there, as the lens has a short 0.17m minimum focus distance that enables 0.5x macro shooting, complete with a hybrid 5-stop stabilizer that corrects for x-y shift in addition to the more usual angular vibrations.

• Read more: Our in-depth Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM lens review

(Image credit: Canon)

10. Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM

Canon's new nifty-fifty is priced perfectly for EOS RP users

Mount: Canon RF | Autofocus: Pulse (stepping motor) | Stabilizer: No | Min focus distance: 0.3m | Max magnification: 0.25x | Filter thread: 43mm | Dimensions (WxL): 69.2x40.5mm | Weight: 160g

Same size & weight as EF version
… but not as plasticky!
Impressive image quality
Very affordable
Not weather sealed

The Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM is everything you want a nifty fifty to be. It's cheap, compact and capable, delivering great image quality (on par in some areas with the RF 50mm f/1.2L, which costs over ten times as much!) in a truly pocket-sized lens. The smallest optic for the EOS R system, it's a fantastic everyday lens that pairs well with any RF boy – and is particularly perfect with the Canon EOS RP if you want a sleek, street-friendly setup.

• Read more: Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM review

(Image credit: Canon)

11. Canon RF 85mm f/2 Macro IS STM

Does double duty close-ups for people and small things

Mount: Canon RF | Autofocus: Stepper motor | Stabilizer: 5-stop | Min focus distance: 0.35m | Max magnification: .5x | Filter thread: 67mm | Dimensions (WxL): 78x91mm | Weight: 500g

Super sharp image quality
Stabilized 2:1 macro magnification
Compact and lightweight
Not 1:1 reproduction

Right now this is as close as it gets to the classic Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro USM, at least in terms of a Canon macro lens with autofocus (the Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO actually offers a 1:2 reproduction ratio if you don't mind manual focus). 

Beyond its 2:1 macro, however, the RF 85mm f/2's primary party trick is as a portrait lens – and it's a very, very good one, offering sharpness that actually outclasses the powerhouse Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM (which costs a couple of grand more). The f/2 aperture isn't quite as bokehlicious as an f/1.2 or even f/1.8 optic, but it still delivers sublime subject separation – and used on the R5 or R6 it offers a whopping 8 stops of stabilization! 

Read more: Canon RF 85mm f/2 Macro IS STM

(Image credit: Canon)

12. Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L

Best portrait lens for the R system – and possibly ANY system

Mount: Canon RF | Autofocus: Yes | Stabilizer: None | Min focus distance: 0.85m | Max magnification: 0.12x | Filter thread: 82mm | Dimensions (WxL): 103.2 x 117.3mm | Weight: 1195g

The nicest portrait lens we've ever used
Breathtaking bokeh and blur
It's enormous and heavy
Breathtakingly expensive

If price is no object, then the RF 85mm f/1.2L is the ultimate lens for portraiture. A showcase optic for the EOS R system, it is probably the finest portrait optic we've ever used. It boasts piercing center sharpness even wide open, and that ludicrously fast f/1.2 aperture delivers sublime subject separation and truly beautiful bokeh and buttery background blur.  

The trade-off is its size; this lens is a real beast, at almost 1,200g with a 103.2 x 117.3mm frame. Being such a front-heavy setup makes it less suited to the EOS R and RP, and more at home on the R5 and R6 where the in-body image stabilization will help you keep everything steady. 

And of course, it's extremely expensive – if you're a pro this lens will justify its place in your bag, but otherwise the standard RF 85mm f/2 still gives you beautiful images (and pairs better with the R and RP, thanks to its in-lens stabilization). 

(Image credit: Canon)

13. Canon RF 600mm f/11 IS STM

This is the best wide-angle prime for video, with ‘zero-distortion’

Mount: Canon RF | Autofocus: Yes | Stabilizer: 5-stop | Min focus distance: 4.5m | Max magnification: 0.14x | Filter thread: 82mm | Dimensions (WxL): 93 x 200mm (collapsed; 270mm extended) | Weight: 930g

Powerful telephoto reach
Collapses to a super compact size
Fixed f/11 aperture
Not weather sealed

While the RF mount has carved a reputation as the home for Canon's suped-up lenses with premium price tags, it's also home to one of the most unconventional and affordable megzooms on the market. The RF 800mm lens is a fixed aperture f/11 optic that has a collapsible barrel – both of which make it an incredibly cheap, compact and lightweight lens. 

Most photographers using DSLRs wouldn’t find a 600mm f/11 remotely attractive, but it works very well on R system cameras thanks to their live view focusing assists, cutting-edge AF performance and high ISO tolerances. With its impressive image quality, fast and accurate autofocus, and high-performance stabilization, it’s certainly not short on performance – and if you want something longer on reach, the Canon RF 800mm f/11 IS STM is just as good.

• Read more: Canon RF 600mm f/11 IS STM review

Read more:

• The best Canon telephoto lenses in 2021: from budget zooms to pro lenses
• The best Canon standard zoom lenses for EOS DSLRs in 2021
• The best macro lenses in 2021: get closer to your subjects than ever before!
• These are the best mirrorless cameras you can get right now
• Looking to turn pro? We check out the best cameras for professionals

More lens buying guides:
The best close-up filters
The best 50mm lenses
The best 70-200mm lenses
The best budget telephoto lenses
The best 150-600mm lenses
The best fisheye lenses

Matthew Richards

Matthew Richards is a photographer and journalist, that has spent years using and reviewing all manner of photo gear. He is Digital Camera World's principal lens reviewer – and has tested more primes and zooms than most people have had hot dinners! In an earlier life he was a broadcast engineer at the BBC, and the editor of PC Guide.