So you̵7;re thinking of buying (or just buying) one of Canon’s EOS R full-screen cameras? Good shout! Mirrorless cameras are not the future – they are the present. But a camera is just the beginning; now you also need the right lenses. Here’s which Canon RF lens to buy first.
While the mirrorless camera lens situation is not as complicated as for DSLRs, there are now enough options to make it difficult to know which Canon lenses to buy first. Let’s look at the best options for starting your collection, depending on whether you’re a landscape photographer, portrait photographer or just starting out.
Affordable all-round: Canon RF 24-240mm f / 4-6.3 IS USM
With the new RF lens mount, Canon can make lenses like it never could before – like the RF 24-240mm f / 4-6.3 IS USM. With 24 mm you can take fantastic landscapes, street photos, group portraits and whatever you want, while zooming in all the way to 240 mm gives you close enough to take sports and nature photos – using the built-in image stabilization. This is really do anything, bring anywhere lens.
24-240mm is surprisingly compact for such a ridiculous focus area. At least it’s only 4.8 inches long – although it still weighs 1.65 pounds. But it saves you from bringing an extra lens, which would weigh even more. With Canon EF lenses, you need to bring a 24-70 mm and a 70-200 mm lens (or similar) and switch between them to have the same option.
The only real disadvantage of 24-240 mm is its relatively narrow maximum aperture. Fully open at 24 mm, f / 4 is good for landscape photos but a bit dense for astrophotography or low light situations. Throughout the zoom range, it will have poorer performance in low light (and not give you a blurred background [bokeh] for portraits) as some of the more expensive options that Canon offers.
All-round zoom is the RF mount’s most stacked category, so you have a few options. RF 24-105mm f / 4-7.1 IS STM is a bit cheaper, but its aperture mode is even more limited – and it does not have the same crazy magnification. RF 24-105mm f / 4L IS USM is a bit more expensive and has a maximum aperture of f / 4 throughout the range, so it is a good option if the aperture means more than zoom.
RF 24-70mm f / 2.8L IS USM is much more expensive, but with its aperture of f / 2.8 even at 70mm, it is the professional’s choice. Finally, the RF 28-70mm f / 2L USM is a completely ridiculous lens – with a suitably large price tag. If money is not an object, it is the Holy Grail, but not the option for most people.
A standing choice: Canon RF 85mm f / 2 Macro IS STM
The super cheap “Nifty Fifty” EF 50mm f / 1.8 STM has long been the standard recommendation for a portrait lens for Canon’s DSLR. Unfortunately, it does not yet have any direct compensation. RF 50mm f / 1.2L USM is intended for professionals and costs over ten times as much as a Nifty Fifty and an EF to EOS R adapter (although that setting has its own trade-offs).
At the moment, the RF 85mm f / 2 Macro IS STM (due in early November 2020) is the cheapest RF portrait lens for Canon’s mirrorless cameras. With the aperture fully open for f / 2, you get the beautiful blurred background you expect with advanced portraits. And 85mm is also a really nice focal length for headshots and other close-ups. It’s really flattering for your subjects.
Because it is a macro lens, it can also focus on objects as close as 14 inches away. Although it is not necessary for portraits, it is a nice bonus to have. If you have some cash burning a hole in your pocket, the RF 85mm f / 1.2L USM DS and RF 85mm f / 1.2L USM are serious portrait upgrades – with serious price tags.
An easy walk around: Canon RF 35mm f / 1.8 IS Macro STM
Sometimes the most important quality that a lens can have is that it is comfortable to carry. Canon has some incredible RF lenses available, but many of them are absolute monsters. The mentioned RF 85mm f / 1.2L USM above? It is 2.63 pounds, while the RF 28-70mm f / 2L USM tips the scales to over 3 pounds.
So if you want a lens that you can throw on the camera and easily take with you, Canon’s cheapest RF prime lens, RF 35mm f / 1.8 IS Macro STM, is for you. It is only 2.93 x 2.47 inches and weighs less than 11 ounces. Compared to the rest of Canon’s RF range, it is positively minimal.
Even better, 35mm is a good everyday focal length. It’s right in the sweet spot for street, travel and other types of lifestyle photography. Sometimes you may need to zoom in by going closer to your subjects, but you will rarely get a shot you want. And with a maximum aperture of f / 1.8, it is excellent in low light.
Actually, 35mm is in a class of its own. No other RF lens is smaller or lighter. Your only option would be to carry your all-zoom and accept extra weight and bulk.
Limited (dedicated) landscape options
Canon is rapidly expanding the range and range of available RF mirror-free lenses, but it will be a long time before each niche is covered. There are currently no affordable wide angle lenses for amateur landscape photographers. RF 15-35mm f / 2.8L IS USM is perfect for professionals, but it has a professional price tag.
Currently, our recommendation is to stick to your all-zoom for landscape photos.