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.
Read more: PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine
The RF mount has rapidly matured, and the last few gaps have been plugged; Canon has finally given us 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). 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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Canon's RF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM is easily the shortest and lightest 70-200mm f/4 in the world. Side-by-side it's only slightly larger than a soda can when the lens is fully collapsed, while it's shorter and lighter than the f/2.8 variant above. It doesn't compromise on performance though, delivering an impressive 7.5 stops of stabilization (on an EOS R6 or R5 at least), making it incredibly versatile for a range of shooting situations. Optically and center sharpness is fantastic as well, even at 200mm, though corner sharpness can be a little disappointing. Somewhat frustratingly though the lens is not compatible with teleconverters, while it's very pricey compared to the EF version, which admittedly isn't quite as advanced. Though issues aside, this is a cracking lens for R-series shooters.
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
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
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
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 body – 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
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
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).
The Canon RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM takes everything that was great about the EF version of this lens and makes it even better. Magnification? Boosted to 1.4x. Stabilization? Upped to 8 stops (on the EOS R5 and R6). Bokeh? Even more beautiful, thanks to a control ring that shifts the lens elements. Focus and breathing? Faster and more controlled than ever. It's a superb standalone portrait lens as well, with pin-sharp rendering and a flattering focal length. If you want to photograph close-ups of small things and large things alike, you've just found your next purchase! Start saving...
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
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