The Complete Guide to Canon RF lenses

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The Complete Guide to Canon RF lenses

If you’ve chosen a Canon EOS R camera then you’ll also need to pick out the best Canon RF lenses to go with it. No matter whether you’re using a top-flight full-frame model like the EOS R5, or a smaller, beginner-friendly APS-C camera like the EOS R50, there are plenty of choices in the expanded RF lens range to suit you and whatever kind of shooting you like to do.

EOS R users have a lot of choice when it comes to lenses – not only can they use native RF lenses, but it’s also simple to adapt Canon’s EF-mount DSLR lenses with the EF-EOS R adapter and enjoy full functionality of features like autofocus and stabilisation. See our full guide to using Canon EF lenses with EOS R bodies for more on how this works, and feel free to drop us a comment if you have any questions. 

For this guide, we’ve focused purely on native RF lenses to give you a thorough grounding in what’s available. We’ve kept this guide up to date with all the latest releases, and have ordered the lenses by focal length from wide to telephoto to make it easier to navigate. Before we get into it, let’s take a closer look at the RF-mount itself…

Differences between RF-mount and EF-mount

Canon’s RF-mount for its EOS R system uses a 12-pin connection system, as opposed to the 10-pin connection on EF mount. This allows for much faster communication between lens and camera, which enables all sorts of useful features. Not only is RF autofocus faster, but the image stabilisation is much more effective (up to eight stops with the right combination of lens and camera), and it also allows cameras to store and use correction profiles for the characteristics of specific lenses, making distortion a thing of the past.

The RF mount also has a significantly reduced flange distance (i.e. the distance between the lens mount and the sensor) compared to Canon’s EF mount, due to the fact that the bodies don’t need to house a reflex mirror mechanism. This helps further reduce aberration and light fall-off, allowing for larger maximum apertures in smaller lenses.

Our guide to Canon RF lenses

We’ve divided our guide up into sections. First we deal with RF prime lenses, which offer excellent sharpness and large maximum apertures at a fixed focal length. After that, we have a section for all the various RF-mount zoom lenses. In both cases, the price tags of the lenses vary considerably, and we’ve included everything from budget beginner lenses to top-class optics for professionals, in some cases carrying five-figure price tags. 

After that, we have a dedicated section for Canon’s RF-S lenses, which are designed specifically for the beginner-friendly cameras in the EOS R line-up that use a smaller APS-C sensor. There aren’t many lenses in this section just yet – we’re hoping Canon fills it out soon. 

Bear in mind that these lenses are cross-compatible across sensor sizes – any RF or RF-S lens will work with any EOS R camera. However, a full-frame RF lens may not balance very well on a smaller camera like the EOS R50 or EOS R10, and the 1.6x crop factor means you’ll only be using a smaller portion of the image circle. Using an RF-S lens on a full-frame EOS R camera will cause it to switch to crop mode.

Lastly, we have a section for Canon’s RF-mount teleconverters, which allow you to extend the reach of a lens, at the cost of reducing the maximum aperture. Bear in mind though that Canon’s RF teleconverters are only compatible with certain lenses – see Canon’s website for the full current list

So, without further ado, let’s get into our complete guide to Canon RF lenses…

Canon RF prime lenses

Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM

Blending speed and 1:2 macro capability, this wide-angle prime lens is a great choice for documentary photographers and macro shooters alike. Weighing in at 305g, it’s a good choice for those who like to travel light, and a construction of nine elements in nine groups ensures that images are pin-sharp from corner to corner. The inclusion of a 5-stop image stabiliser isn’t bad either!

Best for: Architecture, documentary, macro

Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM

No one can argue with a nifty fifty! The Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM is a shining example of this all-purpose focal length, as implied by that “L” tag, which any Canon-head knows is the mark of the firm’s best lenses. The RF 50mm F1.2L USM delivers outstanding quality and sharpness right to the edges of the frame, with a professional-grade f/1.2 aperture and USM autofocus, and that L-series build means it’s a pro-spec lens inside and out.

Best for: All-purpose street shooting, everyday professional use

Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM DS

A portrait lens designed for those who want the ultimate in sharpness, this large-aperture lens has been treated with Canon’s DS coating – “DS” stands for “Defocus Smoothing”, and is specifically designed to modulate out-of-focus highlights when the lens is used wide open, rendering them smoother and more pleasing. This coating is used on two elements in the lens, the overall effect being that this is one of the finest, sharpest, most aesthetically pleasing portrait lenses around.

Best for: Portrait shooters demanding uncompromising sharpness

Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM

The slightly stripped-back version of the DS lens, this is still a fabulous portrait optic in its own right, just without the Defocus Smoothing coating. Equipped with a wide f/1.2 aperture and a  ground aspheric lens element designed to eliminate the spherical aberrations such a wide aperture typically causes, as well as Blue Spectrum Refractive (BR) optics to deal with colour aberrations, this is a sublime portrait lens.

Best for: Portrait shooters

Canon RF 85mm F2 MACRO IS STM

A portrait lens that’s significantly more affordable than the F1.2 optics, the Canon RF 85mm F2 MACRO IS STM also provides the added bonus of being a 1:2 macro lens. Weighing just 500g and packing an optical construction of 12 glass elements in 11 groups, the RF 85mm F2 can focus at close distances of down to 35cm, so you have real versatility in terms of subject position.

Best for: Portrait shooters on a budget; macro and close-up photographers

Canon RF 600mm F11 IS STM

The first of a duo of new telephoto primes for RF-mount, the Canon RF 600mm F11 IS STM raised eyebrows on announcement. A fixed aperture of f/11, that you can’t go above or below?! This may seem bonkers, but it’s a choice with many practical upsides – the lens is incredibly lightweight for a super-telephoto at 930g, and the fixed aperture also allows the lens to produce perfectly circular bokeh. It’s an intriguing concept, and available at a really impressive price. 

Best for: Wildlife or sports photographers looking for a light setup


Canon RF 800mm F11 IS STM

The second of the super-telephoto RF duo also sports the fixed f/11 aperture, and as such is impressively light for an 800mm lens at just 1,260g. Equipped with a four-stop image stabiliser that works with both stills and video, this is an amazing lens for bringing distant wildlife into sharp focus. 

Best for: Super-distant safari-shooting on a budget

Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8L DUAL FISHEYE

A specialist lens designed for producing VR content, the RF 5.2mm F2.8L DUAL FISHEYE uses two forward-facing fisheye lenses to deliver a 190° field of view. It’s designed to be mounted on full-frame cameras such as the EOS R5, and then used with Canon’s EOS VR Utility to create images suitable for VR viewing. Two UD elements help correct for aberrations, and Canon’s weatherproof L-series build allows the lens to be used outdoors.

Best for: virtual reality

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM

While it’s definitely on the cheaper side, this dinky little lens punches above its weight as far as optical performance goes. The Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM weighs just 165g, and can easily be slipped into the side-pocket of a kit bag to give you a wider perspective when you need it. Canon recommends it for vloggers, as they do basically everything, though it’s also great for architecture, interior and cityscape photography.

Best for: urban shooting on a budget

Canon RF 24mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM

The Canon RF 24mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM is not technically a ‘true’ macro lens, delivering a magnification of 0.5x rather than 1.0x. However, with a reasonable price tag, sharp optics and close focusing distance of 14cm, it’s a solid choice for EOS R photographers who want to get up close and creative with their subjects. Whack the lens wide open to f/1.8, and the nine-bladed circular aperture allows you to create appealing bokeh in the defocused areas of your images. Find out more about the Canon RF 24mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM.

Best for: shooting close-ups on a budget

Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM

From the moment the EOS R series was announced, we knew it’d be a matter of time before this came along – an RF counterpart to Canon’s famous cheap-and-cheerful EF 50mm f/1.8 for DSLRs. Like any good cover version, it takes what made the original great and builds on it, once again providing a fantastic walk-around lens that adds barely any weight to the camera, but with redesigned optics for impressive sharpness. The maximum aperture of f/1.8 gives the user flexibility in low light and with creating shallow depth of field. Arguably, this is a much better starter lens than the kit zooms with which entry-level cameras tend to be packaged.

Best for: beginners, street and documentary shooting

Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM

Optically, this lens is almost exactly the same deal as the Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM DS, only it lacks the “Defocus Smoothing” coating, meaning you don’t quite get the same ultra-smooth bokeh when you use the lens wide-open. The other key difference is that this version is more than £400 cheaper. It’s worth emphasising that the optical difference between the two is only really apparent at the widest apertures, so if you’re not fussed about ultra-smooth bokeh at f/1.2, get this one and save some cash.

Best for: low-light shooting

Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM

Pin-sharp and beautifully built, the Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM delivers an outstanding max magnification of 1.4x. This means you can render the tiniest subjects on your sensor in glorious detail, aided by the generous telephoto focal length of 100mm (which also makes this a highly credible portrait lens). Canon’s interesting Spherical Aberration Control was introduced on this lens – using the control ring, you can change the shape and character of the bokeh in your images to produce soft, dreamlike results.

Best for: high-quality close-ups

Canon RF 135mm F1.8L IS USM

The Canon RF 135mm F1.8L IS USM is a capable tele prime designed for picking out fine detail. It works virtually silently thanks to its Nano USM autofocus motor, making it a good choice for wedding photographers to keep within reach. It’s got up to 5.5 stops of built-in image stabilisation, and this can be upped to 8 stops when the lens is paired with a compatible EOS R body, meaning that challenging indoor lighting situations become much less of a problem.

Best for: weddings, events, portraits

Canon RF 1200mm F8L IS USM

Feeling strong? This 3.3kg lens requires a fair bit of heft just to lift, though if it’s any consolation, your wallet will be much lighter once you’ve bought it. Still, you can’t argue with results, and the RF 1200mm F8L IS USM delivers absolutely sublime optical performance across an incredible distance. For wildlife photographers it’s a dream, with the robust L-series design protecting the lens from the elements. Helping out with the f/8 aperture is the 4-stop Image Stabilizer, allowing you to keep using the lens for longer when light levels start to drop.

Best for: professional wildlife and sports

Canon RF Zoom Lenses

Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM

Fast, ultra-wide, well-stabilised and portable – this wide-angle zoom really has it all. It’s an ideal optic for when you need to shoot in cramped or difficult spaces, thanks to its slim form factor, and the nano USM motor inside means the autofocus is smooth and practically silent! Shoot wide scenes in any weather conditions with this highly capable and weather-sealed lens.

Best for: Documentary work, landscapes, architecture

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM

Any pro worth their salt knows the value of a 24-70mm standard zoom, and Canon has come up with a great example of the genre for RF mount. The RF 24-70mm f2.8 is part of a trilogy with the aforementioned 15-35mm lens and Canon’s RF 70-200mm lens (more on which below), the idea being that almost any pro shooter with these three lenses will be covered for all situations.

Best for: Documentary, close-up work, day-to-day shooting

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

Alternatively, if you don’t fancy shelling out for a trio of lenses, this wide-ranging zoom is a good everyday all-in-one lens for the roaming photographer or videographer. More affordable than many of the flashier L series lenses, this optic is built for travel, balancing versatility with toughness. Want flexibility? This is your one-stop-shop.

Best for: Travel, single-lens setups

Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM

If you’re a new user to the EOS R series, this is the place to start. The most affordable lens in the catalogue, the RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM is very similar to the above 24-105mm lens, sacrificing the constant aperture and the Nano USM motor in favour of a much more friendly price tag. You still get plenty of the EOS R system features like 5-stop image stabilisation, and the handy 13cm close focusing distance really expands your shooting flexibility.

Best for: Beginners, newbies to the system, travellers on a budget

Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM

If 24-105mm just isn’t enough zoom range for you, why not try this on for size? Canon’s RF 24-240mm is a 10x optical zoom, the broadest-range native zoom currently available for the system. Weighing an impressively slender 750g, this is a travel photographer’s dream come true, offering sharp performance throughout the zoom range, and also has clickless aperture control, which comes in handy when shooting movies.

Best for: Travel shooting, travelling light, shooting movies on the go

Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM

Canon promises that this mid-range zoom sets new “standards” in photography (do you get it? Eh?) and while that’s a question for the historians, from our vantage point we can say this is an excellent standard zoom lens for all sorts of applications. Having f/2 opens up all sorts of possibilities, particularly in wedding photography and journalism, and with the ring-type USM motor present and correct, autofocusing is quick and quiet.

Best for: Weddings, travel, reportage

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

The standard workhorse – no lens selection would be complete without a 70-200mm! Completing the aforementioned trilogy with the 15-35mm and 24-70mm, the RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM forms part of a setup that practically any working pro would be more than content with! The five-stop image stabiliser really comes into its own with this type of lens, and the fact that the lens works in near-silence does wonders for the user’s professional versatility.

Best for: Everyday professional use

Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM

More and more pro photographers are discovering the wonders of 100-400mm lens for all sorts of work – see our interview with Times photographer Richard Pohle [article url tk] to discover why he rates them so highly – but Canon went one better for the RF mount and produced this amazing 100-500mm optic! With professionally-grade performance in a lightweight body, this is a superb lens for pros of all stripes.

Best for: Professional shooting, events, sports photography

Canon RF 14-35mm F4L IS USM

Choosing a lens is always a balancing act –weighing up the features you want, figuring out which ones you prioritise highest, and making a selection accordingly. The Canon RF 14-35mm F4L IS USM is a lens designed for those who want a high-quality optic but also prefer a lightweight build, and don’t mind sacrificing a little maximum aperture in order to get it. It’s particularly good for landscapes – where you’re unlikely to be shooting wide open anyway – delivering razor-sharp performance right across the frame.

Find out more about the Canon RF 14-35mm F4L IS USM 

Best for: landscape, architecture, interiors

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM

An affordable rough equivalent to the RF 14-35mm F4L (above), the Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM is a great little lens for all-purpose shooting from a wider perspective. It packs in a decent number of features, including optical image stabilisation that delivers 5.5 stops of effective compensation. It can also close-focus at distances as short as 12.8cm – with magnification of 0.52x, it makes for a decently credible macro lens.

Best for: landscapes on a budget

Canon RF 24-50mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM

This ultra-light, ultra-cheap zoom is an ideal choice for travel. The 24-50mm focal length covers a fairly naturalistic field of view, which is excellent for general-purpose and street photography. The lens includes a customisable control ring which can be set to adjust your preferred settings – most people will probably choose aperture, but other options are available. With an STM motor for focusing and a 4.5-stop optical stabilisation system, the Canon RF 24-50mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM acquits itself well in a broad range of shooting situations.

Best for: travel, everyday shooting

Canon RF 70-200mm F4L IS USM

Another lens for those who prioritise a lightweight build, the Canon RF 70-200mm F4L IS USM is smaller and more compact than its f/2.8 counterpart. If you’re comfortable with surviving at f/4, which is available all the way through the zoom range, you’ll find you’ve got yourself an impressive telephoto, with speedy autofocus driven by Dual Nano USM motors. The nine-blade diaphragm creates smooth bokeh, and the fact that this is an L-series lens means you can rest assured the build quality is robust, with extensive weather-sealing and heat-resistant paint.

Best for: travel, wildlife photography

Canon RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM

For wildlife and birding on a budget, you can’t beat the Canon RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM. The lens already gives you impressive telephoto reach, and it’s also compatible with Canon’s 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, allowing you to push things even further. You can still enjoy full use of the autofocus and stabilisation with the converters attached. By itself, the lens weighs just 635g, and it measures just 16.7cm on its longest edge, making it easy to slip into a camera bag for a day’s shoot.

Best for: wildlife and bird photography on a budget, travelling light

Canon RF-S lenses

Canon RF-S 18-45mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM

This little lens for APS-C mirrorless cameras delivers an equivalent focal range of around 29-72mm. This plus its light weight make it a good everyday lens to pair with smaller EOS R cameras like the EOS R10 or the relatively recent EOS R100. It’s nice and sharp too, certainly sharp enough for pretty much anyone’s day-to-day photography. You also get a clutch of useful extra features like a minimum focusing distance of 15cm, and a stabilisation system that delivers up to four stops of effective compensation. Just be aware that there’s no stabilisation activation switch on the lens itself – you have to root through the menus to activate it.

Best for: everyday, travel and family photography

Canon RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM

Buying a superzoom can be a risky business – sure, you get all that flexibility for a knock-down price, but sometimes the compromises made on sharpness are just too great to be worth it. Canon’s RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM, however, acquits itself well for the price, and if you can live with the slow maximum aperture, having an equivalent range of 28.8-240mm is fantastic for travel. It produces images of good quality throughout the range – there’s some corner softness as you’d expect with a lens like this, but central sharpness is consistently excellent.

Best for: travel and wildlife on a budget

Canon RF-S 55-210mm F5-7.1 IS STM

Somehow, this effective little telephoto lens weighs just 270g. It’s pretty slimmed down all around, with very few manual switches, a plastic mounting plate and a maximum aperture of just f/5 at the wide end (and it drops fairly fast once you start zooming). As long as you’re aware of the limitations though, you can get an 88-336mm equivalent zoom range in a tiny lens at a low price, and that is nothing to be sniffed at. The autofocus is snappy too, and having effective optical stabilisation helps control for camera shake when you’re working at the tele end. 

Best for: travel, action photography on a budget

EOS R Teleconverters for RF Lenses

Extender RF 1.4x

A useful way to give your RF lenses a little extra reach, the Canon  Extender RF 1.4x is a good tool to have in your back pocket for sports and reportage photography, just in case your setup doesn’t quite get you close enough. The extender controls for curvature of field and chromatic aberration, and also uses advanced lens coatings for superior light transmission. Its exterior is even coated with the same white heat shield coating as used on the RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM and RF 70-200mm lenses, allowing it to be used in high temperatures.

Extender RF 1.4x

Extender RF 2x

Extend your reach even further with this teleconverter, which doubles your effective focal length without compromising image quality. Built just as tough as the 1.4x converter, the Extender RF 2x has also been made with the same level of care and attention to image quality, so you can shoot away at distance without worrying about your images being sub-par.

Extender RF 2x


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2 Responses

  1. Correct me if I’m wrong but the RF Extenders aren’t compatible with the RF 70-200 as far as I’m aware, the trade off for the lens being so small?

    1. Jonny Helm

      Hi Luke, that is right, the compact design of the RF 70-200mm brings the rear element too close to use with either teleconverter. The RF teleconverters are currently compatible with the RF 100-500mm, 600mm and 800mm lenses.

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