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Best Canon RF lenses: the best lens for Canon EOS R and EOS RP in 2020

Best Canon RF lenses: the best lens for Canon EOS R and EOS RP in 2020
(Image credit: Canon)

Looking for the best Canon RF lenses for the EOS R or EOS RP? Then you are in the right place.

The Canon EOS R and EOS RP brought full-frame mirrorless cameras to Canon’s legendary camera line-up. One of the principle advantages is that they feature the brand-new EOS RF lens mount. While the diameter of the flange remains the same as in the EF mount for SLRs, the distance between the flange and the sensor is cut to less than half. This enables enhanced optical design, with the rear elements of the lens having a wider diameter. Other RF benefits include enhanced data communication between the lens and camera body, especially in terms of autofocus and image stabilization.

Unlike Nikon, Panasonic and Sony, Canon stuck to its long-held belief that optical rather than in-camera image stabilization is the best option, where it can be tailored to each specific lens. However, the upcoming EOS R5 represents a significant U-turn. Either way, many of Canon’s RF lenses feature 5-stop image stabilization that’s available with any Canon R-series body, while also working in tandem with the sensor-shift stabilizer of the R5.

A convenience plus point of mirrorless system cameras over SLRs is that they tend to be smaller and more lightweight. The flip-side is that many of Canon’s RF-mount lenses are premium wide-aperture f/1.2 primes and zooms with a constant f/2.8 or even f/2 aperture, which are comparatively big, heavy and hugely expensive.

It pays to set your sights a little lower. Lenses that are lighter and more compact look and feel a better balance on the new mirrorless bodies. And they’re much more affordable. Most of them still deliver excellent image quality and highly impressive all-round performance, making them better value overall. Here’s our pick of the best buys on the market right now.

• Read more: The Canon RF lens roadmap

Best lenses for Canon R cameras

(Image credit: Canon)

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

Best standard zoom: This new L-series lens is the 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 the full Canon RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM review

(Image credit: Canon)

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

Best budget standard zoom that's 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: Our in-depth Canon RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM review

(Image credit: Canon)

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

Best telephoto lens: Pro-grade telephoto prowess comes to the RF line-up

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)

4. Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM

There’s no budget RF telephoto zoom yet but this is the next best thing

Mount: Canon EF (via EF-EOS R) | Autofocus: Nano Ultrasonic | Stabilizer: 4-stop | Min focus distance: 1.2m | Max magnification: 0.25x | Filter thread: 67mm | Dimensions (WxL): 80x146mm | Weight: 710g

Impressive image quality
Multi-mode info display
Requires an EF-EOS R mount adaptor
‘Only’ 4-stop stabilization

There’s still no native RF mount budget telephoto zoom on the horizon. That’s a shame if you’re hankering after a traditional 70-300mm lens, which wraps generous telephoto reach into a relatively compact and lightweight package. However, fit an EF-EOS R mount adapter to your R-series camera and you have full access to Canon’s back catalog of EF mount lenses. From those, we’d pick the latest EF 70-300mm IS II USM. It has many of the same attractions as RF lenses, including super-fast Nano USM autofocus, and comes pretty close in terms of stabilization, with 4-stop effectiveness. 

Image quality is very good overall, with impressive sharpness throughout the zoom range. A neat digital enhancement is the multi-mode LCD display which can cycle through information like focus distance, focal length and severity of camera shake at the press of a button.

(Image credit: Canon)

5. 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)

6. 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)

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

Best-buy prime lens – the RF 35mm is amazingly versatile for a 'prime'

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)

8. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

Best macro lens, but you’ll need an EF-EOS R mount adapter

Mount: Canon EF (via EF-EOS R) | Autofocus: Ring-type Ultrasonic | Stabilizer: 4-stop hybrid | Min focus distance: 0.3m | Max magnification: 1.0x | Filter thread: 67mm | Dimensions (WxL): 78x123mm | Weight: 625g

Full 1.0x macro magnification
Hybrid image stabilizer
Not a native RF lens
Pricey if it’s just for occasional use

There’s no sign of a 1.0x macro lens yet in native RF mount, capable of reproducing objects at full life-size on the image sensor. Currently, the best option for full macro photography is to use an EF-EOS R mount adapter and to go for Canon’s EF 100mm Macro IS USM lens. 

It has a minimum focus distance of 0.3m, enabling a comfortable working distance for macro shooting, and features a hybrid 4-stop stabilizer. As in the 0.5x macro native RF 35mm lens, this corrects for side-to-side and up-down movement in the x-y planes, as well as for the more general angular vibration that’s taken care of by conventional in-lens optical stabilization systems. Even so, the stabilizer is no real substitute for a tripod in extreme close-up shooting.

(Image credit: Canon)

9. Rokinon/Samyang MF 85mm f/1.4 RF

Best budget portrait lens with a classic focal length and a fast aperture rating

Mount: Canon RF | Autofocus: None | Stabilizer: None | Min focus distance: 1.1m | Max magnification: 0.09x | Filter thread: 72mm | Dimensions (WxL): 78x99mm | Weight: 730g

Fast f/1.4 aperture rating
Nice image quality
No autofocus
No electronic communication with camera

Unless you’re a full-time professional portrait photographer, you’ll find it hard to justify splashing out on Canon’s RF 85mm f/1.3 lens or the even pricier ‘DS’ edition with its bokeh-enhancing coating. This manual lens costs just a tenth of the price, but is capable of highly impressive results with good sharpness where you want it, and a creamy smooth look to defocused areas. 

• Read more: Our full Samyang MF 85mm f/1.4 RF / Z review

As with most manual-focus lenses, the focus ring has a long rotational travel that enables precise adjustments, aided by the option of a focus peaking display in R-series cameras. However, it’s a fully manual lens with no built-in electronics, so the aperture also has to be set via the lens’s aperture ring and won’t be recorded in the EXIF data of images.

(Image credit: Canon)

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

Go large on viewing width but stay small on outlay with this best budget wide-angle lens

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. 

• Read more: Our in-depth Samyang MF 14mm f/2.8 RF / Z review 

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’s aperture 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.

(Image credit: Venus Optics)

11. Laowa 15mm f/2 Zero-D

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

Mount: Canon RF | Autofocus: None | Stabilizer: None | Min focus distance: 0.15m | Max magnification: 0.25x | Filter thread: 72mm | Dimensions (WxL): 77x82mm | Weight: 500g

Negligible barrel distortion
‘De-clickable’ control ring
No electronic communication with camera
Pricey for a fully manual lens

Despite combining a generously wide viewing angle with a fast f/2 aperture rating, this Laowa lens is impressively compact and lightweight. 

Like similar Samyang/Rokinon lenses, it’s a fully manual affair so there’s no electronic communication with the host camera body. You’ll therefore need to shoot in Manual mode and set the focus and aperture on the lens itself. 

• Read more: A comprehensive review of the Laowa 15mm f/2 Zero-D

On the plus side, the focus ring has silky smooth operation with a long travel that enables good precision as well as smooth focus transitions when shooting video. 

Better still, there’s a ‘de-click’ facility for the aperture ring, enabling similarly smooth aperture transitions during video capture. Further good news is that the 15mm focal length enables a natural perspective in 4K video settings, despite the aggressive crop factor of EOR R and RP cameras. Image quality is very good overall and the lens pretty much lives up to its zero-distortion claims.

Read more:

• The best Canon telephoto lenses in 2020: from budget zooms to pro lenses
• The best Canon standard zoom lenses for EOS DSLRs in 2020
• The best macro lenses in 2020: 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

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