- FOCAL LENGHT & ANGLE OF VIEW: 70-200mm, 34°-12°
- LENS MOUNT(S): Canon RF full-frame
- APERTURE: f/2.8 to f/32, rounded 9-blade aperture
- STABILIZATION: Yes, Optical, 5 stops
- AUTOFOCUS: Yes, quiet Nano USM, two motors
- MANUAL FOCUS: Yes, electronically controlled, no focus markings
- OPTICAL CONSTRUCTION: 17 elements in 13 groups, Ultra-Low Dispersion element, Super-UD element, 2 aspherical elements, Air Sphere Coating
- MECHANICAL CONSTRUCTION: All-metal barrel, fully weather-sealed
- MAGNIFICATION & FOCUS DISTANCE: 0.23x, 70 cm (2.3″)
- FILTER THREADS & HOOD: 77mm, lockable, reversible hood w/ polarizer window
- SIZE: 146 x 90mm (5.75 x 3.54″)
- WEIGHT: 1.07 kg (2.35 lbs)
- PRICE: $2,699
Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS Review | Who Should Buy It?
As a high-end flagship lens, any photographer who buys this lens is going to be making a serious investment, in a realm where the competition is fierce. (If you use the EF DSLR adapter, that is.)
So, the question is not just which types of photography the lens is good for, (answer: virtually ALL types of photography!) …but, really, which types of photographers could actually benefit from the specific advantages this lens offers, that other 70-200’s don’t?
Weddings are the type of event where a photographer is likely to hand-hold a 70-200 for 8-12+ hours a day. While every wedding photographer has their own style, and some prefer primes, or wider focal lengths, having a 70-200mm f/2.8 in your bag is still an absolute necessity for most.
If you make almost all of your favorite wedding images with a 70-200mm f/2.8, then this one is likely going to be a delight to hand-hold all day long. Oh, and not only are the images gorgeous, but the low-light autofocus speed & accuracy is incredible, too, for those tough wedding reception dance floors.
If your favorite, most-used telephoto wedding lens is actually an 85mm or 135mm lens, though, you might opt to just stick with a cheaper DSLR 70-200mm f/2.8 on an EF-RF adapter, at least for now.
Portrait sessions don’t usually last as long as the average wedding day, however, a full-time portrait photographer might schedule multiple photoshoots in a day. Either way, you’ll likely appreciate the balance of this lens, whether you’re only holding it for 1-2 hours, or 8-12+ hours a day.
Also, I might add, if you’ve worked out a wireless or on-location backup system that allows you to shoot professional work on the ultra-lightweight Canon EOS RP, or the relatively light EOS R, then you’re in for a real treat as a professional portrait photographer; it will feel like you’re not even holding a full-frame setup! Having a smaller setup can also help put shy subjects at ease, too.
Fashion & Editorial Photographers
When hand-holding turns into tripod work, and shooting conditions become highly controlled & static, the image quality becomes one of the only things that matter.
We’ll get to the sample images in a little bit, but suffice it to say, this lens is clearly intended to compete with medium format digital, or the likes of the 61-megapixel Sony A7R IV. We’ll have to wait and see how many megapixels Canon’s future RF-mount bodies have, but judging from the results we’re seeing so far, it’s pretty clear that this lens is ready for the highest-end work you can throw at it.
Candid & Street Photographers
Personally, for candid and street photography, I’d rather have a few tiny primes. Whether your favorite focal length is 70-85mm, or 105-135mm, I feel like candid work is easiest when your camera isn’t an obnoxiously large, intrusive element in the more quiet, genuine moments of life.
I’m excited to see “tiny” lenses like Rokinon/Samyang’s new AF 75mm f/1.8 FE get turned into an AF 75mm f/1.8 RF as soon as possible, and I’m even more excited to see if Canon makes a non-L RF 85mm f/1.8, or a 105mm/135mm f/2 L These lenses could be even more portable than the RF 70-200 2.8!
If you do like zooms for candid & street work, though, this one makes a compelling argument, as it is indeed one of the most unobtrusive 70-200’s out there. (Especially if you leave that enormous hood at home; more on that later.)
Action Sports & Wildlife Photographers
We don’t have a flagship sports mirrorless RF-mount camera from Canon yet, but I can only imagine that an “EOS R1X”, when paired with a lens like this, would be a dream setup for action sports and wildlife photographers.
In the meantime, if the autofocus of the Canon EOS R is already up to the task of whatever type of action photography you do, then you won’t be disappointed with the reliable autofocus and stunning image quality of this lens.
Most landscape photographers spend their time at apertures such as f/8 or f/11, and in my opinion, an f/2.8 zoom is overkill, that is unless you also do low-light photography.
Having said that, how many landscape photographers don’t also love to photograph the occasional wildlife image or nightscape scene? If this sounds like you, then just know that the Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS will give you the sharpest, clearest, most vibrant landscape photos you’ve ever seen.
Only if you shoot nothing but traditional landscapes, and/or if you do a lot of hiking, then maybe you ought to stick with a 70-200mm f/4, or wait to see if Canon makes a mirrorless version that could be even more lightweight and portable. (Or, if weight isn’t a concern, but you do also shoot a lot of wildlife, you might want to see what Canon’s mirrorless 100-400mm eventually looks like, of course!)
Nightscape, Astro, & Timelapse Photographers
If you photograph not just traditional landscapes but also time-lapse photography, especially at sunrise or sunset, then f/2.8 does become a lot more useful for those day-to-night transitions.
Also, if you do general nightscape or astro-landscape photography, or dedicated deep-sky astrophotography, image quality at f/2.8-4 is likely all you care about. Good news: this is one of the best 70-200mm’s we’ve seen at these apertures. See below for our breakdown on things like resolution, vignetting and coma performance.
Videographers & Vloggers
While it would be a bit of a stretch, you could actually mount this lens on one of the larger, more powerful gimbals! Or, of course, on a monopod or a slider, you’ll still enjoy the balance of this lens.
Oh, and if you’re doing more 4K video, or you’re ready to do 8K video when the EOS R5 arrives, then you’ll need one of the sharpest lenses around. See below for image quality samples.
Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS Review | Pros
Here’s the quick-and-dirty overview of all the “Pros” in favor of the Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS: The image quality is incredible in every way. The flagship build quality is top-notch, and Canon’s move to shorten the traditional optical design significantly, although controversial to some, has paid off.
We’ve never seen more similar sharpness test crops from, well, pretty much any lens we’ve tested. From 70mm to 200mm, from the dead-center to the extreme corners, it’s amazingly sharp even at f/2.8. In fact, the extreme corners of this lens, at f/2.8-4, are sharper than most competitors EVER get at any aperture. Need we say more?
Canon is legendary for smooth bokeh, and this lens is no exception. Background blur is gorgeously smooth, and it stays smooth even in the nastiest conditions that portrait etc. photographers ought to avoid.
Colors & Contrast
Again, as with the other RF L-lenses, images out-of-camera are just more beautiful than other lenses. When your raw photos require less fine-tuning in post-production in order to look gorgeous, that’s a huge plus.
Vignetting & Distortion
Vignetting and distortion are pretty minimal, but then again they’re never a huge drawback on a 70-200mm, either. Distortion is perfectly corrected when the in-camera profile is turned on, and vignetting is either beautifully subtle and natural when un-corrected, and virtually nonexistent when corrected.
Sunstars & Flare
Flare is another thing that Canon L lenses handle beautifully, whether your aperture is wide open or stopped down. Sunstars look good at f/11-16.
Color Fringing, Aberration, Coma & Astigmatism
We weren’t able to get this lens out into the wild for any serious astrophotography, however, judging by the sharpness tests we performed in broad daylight, it’s safe to say that things like color fringing or aberration, and coma or astigmatism, are extremely minimal.
Macro & Close-Up Photography
70-200mm lenses aren’t exactly known for being “true macro” lenses, however, at their closest focusing distance, and especially at 200mm, they can create some beautiful close-up images even if they’re not real macro.
The problem is, even the best lenses can be a bit soft at their closest focusing distance, and some lenses will either limit their close-focusing distance to avoid the worst image quality, or they’ll just be unusable until you stop your aperture down to f/5.6 or f/8.
The RF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS suffers from neither shortcoming, with one of the shortest close-focusing distances of any 70-200mm at just 70cm, giving it a maximum magnification of 0.23x. (Most other 70-200mm’s are around 0.15x to 0.21x) And, even at this closest focus distance, sharpness at f/2.8 is still impressive, and by f/4 it is just as flawless as more normal focusing distances.
Needless to say, when focusing this close, background blur is just super “creamy”, by the way.
Design & Durability
Okay, moving on from image quality, let’s talk about the physical design, construction, and ergonomics of this lens. It’s a Canon L-class lens, so as you should expect, it’s made of all metal, with extremely smooth operation, and the weather sealing gaskets are the best in the industry.
It’s got all the control switches you might expect from a flagship lens. (Meanwhile, the lightweight competitor on Sony’s E-mount, the Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8, has no switches except a zoom lock switch.)
One design facet that I miss compared to the two most modern third-party flagship alternatives, from Tamron and Sigma, is an Arca-Swiss dovetail tripod collar foot. This is a really nice convenience, though not a necessity. It’s easy enough to just clamp a small Arca plate to the foot of any tripod collar.
The other thing about the physical build that is a huge plus for this RF 70-200mm is its hand-holding balance. The shortness of the lens makes it a wonderful experience when hand-holding, especially at 70mm; you can almost shoot one-handed without wrist fatigue.
Of course, the lens does extend when zooming to 200mm, but the balance doesn’t seem to change much. It becomes more beneficial to add your left hand to support the lens+camera combo, of course.
For virtually everything you would use a 70-200mm for, having powerful, accurate, and quiet autofocus motors is extremely important. Canon delivers the goods in this regard. L-class 70-200mm lenses have always had some of the most snappy, accurate autofocus around, and this lens is no exception.
Unfortunately, I have to wait and see how the lens performs on a flagship sports camera body before I speak about the most demanding autofocus conditions. But, I have every confidence that if Canon’s autofocus technology in their camera bodies can soon match the likes of the Sony a9, (or, their DSLR flagships like the 1DX III) …then this new 70-200mm will be up to the task.