The 35mm focal length is highly regarded for its general purpose utility and a wide aperture along with image stabilization and 0.50x (1:2) macro capability greatly extend that utility. Good AF performance and sharp image quality are two more reasons to like this lens.
Note that you will need an RF-mount camera (the EOS R-series) to use the RF 35mm f/1.8mm lens on.
I already mentioned the general purpose utility of the 35mm focal length and that is a great reason for selecting this lens – or any 35mm lens as the angle of view should be shared across all models. The focal length determines the angle of view and the angle of view in turn determines the distance required (perspective) for the desired subject framing.
The 35mm focal length is a great choice for capturing a natural perspective. It is wide enough to capture the big scene but not so wide that people and other subjects are readily distorted by the close perspective invited by ultra-wide angles.
Photojournalists often make the 35mm focal length their first choice. Portrait and wedding photographers love the 35mm focal length for full to mid-body portraits and for group portraits. Landscape photographers have plenty of use for the 35mm focal length
Sports photographers able to get close to their subjects (such as basketball shot from over or under the net) or wanting to capture a wider/environmental view of their events appreciate this focal length. Parents love 35mm lenses for capturing their indoor events. 35mm is also very popular with videographers, especially for creating documentaries.
Regardless of the focal length, that this lens has macro/close-up capabilities vastly extends the usefulness of the 35mm focal length, with food, tiny products, rings, flowers and a wide range of additional small-to-large subjects easily covered. Note that most insects would prefer you to have a longer focal length when photographing them as they find close lenses scary. All kinds of flowers are excellent 35mm macro subjects.
Not sure what to do with all of the artwork your kids (or grandkids create)? Photograph it. Then you can mentally rest as you file the precious work of art, either in the long-term storage archive box or in the circular file. Either way, you will appreciate having the memories saved for easy viewing at a later time. As the artwork improves, this Rembrandt-ready lens stands ready to capture artistic impressiveness.
Want to pick a lens to walk around looking for images to be made with? This one raises its hand as subjects for it abound.
I’ve only scratched the surface of the list of uses here.
To visualize where 35mm fits among other common focal lengths, I’ll borrow a focal length range example from the Canon EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens review.
At review time, this lens is not compatible with any APS-C (1.6x FOVCF) format cameras. Should that scenario change in the future, or should an R-series cameras’ 1.6 crop mode be used, the full frame angle of view equivalent becomes 56mm. The 56mm angle of view is close enough to 50mm to be used for all applications this extremely popular “normal” focal length is used for. Those uses coincide with most uses of the 35mm focal length with slightly tighter framing or slightly longer perspective for the same subject framing being the difference.
The basics: the lower the aperture number, the more light the lens will allow to reach the sensor. Each “stop” in aperture change (examples: f/2, f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6, f/8, f/11) increases or reduces the amount of light reaching the sensor by a factor of 2x (a big deal).
Important is that allowing more light to reach the sensor permits freezing action, handholding the camera in lower light levels and/or the use of a lower (less noisy) ISO setting. Lenses with wider apertures generally outperform narrower aperture lenses in regards to autofocus, especially in low light situations.
The advantages of a narrow aperture, because the lens elements can be reduced significantly in size, include lighter weight and lower cost, two things that we all can appreciate.
While this lens does not have the widest aperture in the 35mm prime lens class, f/1.8 is still rather wide. F/1.8 is a huge 2 1/3 stops wider than the original EOS R kit lens, the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens. The RF 35mm f/1.8’s f/1.8 max aperture is also 1/3 stop wider than the slightly larger but still compact Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens. Even with its broad aperture opening, this lens avoids the size, weight and cost penalties.
Also valuable is that increasing the opening permits a stronger, better subject-isolating background blur (at equivalent focal lengths) via shallower depth of field.
Here is an aperture/depth of field comparison:
Note that larger resolution images more-readily show depth of field differences (blur is magnified), but a takeaway here is that, despite having a wide f/1.8 aperture, a 35mm lens is not going to completely erase the background unless the subject is really close and the background distant. This is an example of the about-maximum background blur this lens can produce:
The Canon RF 35mm f/1.8mm f/1.8 IS STM Macro Lens is a good choice for low light photography needs.
Making the RF 35mm f/1.8mm an even better choice for many low light needs is image stabilization. While image stabilization is not useful for stopping subject motion, it is incredibly useful for stopping camera motion and this feature greatly extends the versatility of this lens. Having a still image presented to the AF system also enables it to be more precise.
The Canon RF 35mm f/1.8mm f/1.8 IS STM Macro Lens’ IS system features an impressive CIPA 5-stops of assistance rating and also features Hybrid IS which compensates for both angular and shift camera motion
To test the real-world-for-me image stabilization assistance amount, I set the camera to Tv mode and capture a solid number of handheld test images at increasingly-long exposures, ranging from most-are-sharp through all-are-blurry settings. I then go through all of the images, marking those that are sharp, those that are close to sharp and those that are not. Usually, I can identify shutter speeds where there is strong drop in the sharpness rate for reporting in a review. I struggled with this round of testing.
Some of my 1/4 seconds images are blurry and about 1/3 of my 1.3 second exposures are sharp. Perhaps I was improving my technique as the test went on, but … that rate for crazy-long 1.3 second handheld exposures is really good. Most images captured at longer than 1/3 second were blurry, so a bit of a wall was encountered at that point. While I would like to have seen better results at the shorter exposures, the results at the longer exposures were quite impressive.
The RF 35mm f/1.8’s IS system is very quiet, with a barely audible “hmmm” heard only with an ear close to the lens (a slightly-reduced sound is audible even when IS is switched off). When the camera is powered on/awake, this this lens’ IS is also on (unless turned off via the switch) and that means when the electronic viewfinder is on IS is at work, in this case providing a very nicely stabilized view. No jumping or drifting occurs and stabilization while panning the camera remains smooth, an especially useful attribute for video recording.
Notable is that, at review time, Canon has only one image stabilized lens with an aperture wider than this one, the EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM Lens.
I like to consider the max native aperture a lens would need to have to match the handholdability of an IS lens. An aperture 5 stops wider than f/1.8 is … just crazy. The size, weight and price of such a lens would be even crazier.
Whether you need to leave the tripod behind or just want the speed and freedom afforded by handholding, the RF 35mm f/1.8’s image stabilization is there for you.