Joshua Waller helps you find the perfect lens for your EOS R camera in our guide to the best Canon RF mount lenses to buy in 2023.
With the best Canon RF mount lenses, you can really start putting your Canon mirrorless camera to work. In the years since the system debuted, Canon has been hard at work putting out not just high-spec professional lenses, but also affordable optics suited to beginners and budget users. And given that we’re also starting to see cheaper EOS R cameras like the EOS R8 and EOS R50, as well as the professional flagships like the EOS R3, the EOS R system has an entry-point for everyone.
Picking the best Canon RF mount lenses only gets trickier as more and more come out, so we’ve made it easier by drawing on the experience of our review team for this guide. All the lenses included here have been tested and reviewed by our team, so you can be assured of their quality. We never recommend a lens we don’t think is worth its price tag, no matter whether it’s cheap and cheerful or a top-end professional optic.
If you’re also still in the market for a camera, check out our guide to the best Canon mirrorless cameras, and if you’re interested in using Canon’s DSLR lenses too (which you can on an EOS R camera), check out our guide to the best Canon EF lenses.
How to choose a Canon RF Mount lens?
Do you want a zoom or a prime? Zoom lenses give you much more versatility, while prime lenses offer superior optical quality. You’ll also want to consider if you want to get close images of distant subjects, and so will need a telephoto, or you want to create expansive views of large-scale scenes, in which case a wide-angle is your friend. You may also want a naturalistic view for day-to-day shooting, which will mean opting for a standard lens, the most common of which tends to be a 50mm lens, also referred to as a “nifty fifty”. See our complete guide to prime vs zoom lenses for more on this.
If you’re looking for the premium lenses from Canon, where image quality and build quality are top priorities, then look for a lens from the L series – which will have L in the name. These are the top-of-the-line lenses in terms of image quality, but as they are tilted towards professionals, they come at a premium cost.
One thing to consider is the lens’s maximum aperture. The wider this is (so the smaller the F-number), the more light your lens can take in, and the shallower depth of field it can create. An f/1.2 lens is much more effective in low light than an f/1.8 lens, but will generally come at a higher price, and be bulkier too.
You’ll also want to keep an eye on whether the lens has optical image stabilisation, which Canon calls simply “IS” and you’ll also find this in the name. This works in combination with the camera’s in-body image stabilisation (IBIS), which most Canon cameras feature.
So without further ado… here is our guide to the best Canon RF-mount lenses available:
Best RF macro: Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM
Price: $1,399 / £1,479
The Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM lens isn’t your standard everyday macro lens, with 1.4x magnification, and an innovative ‘SA Control’ ring, which is designed to let you adjust the spherical aberration, which gives your out-of-focus areas a different look to other lenses. In our review we found that build-quality and handling are both excellent, and as you’d expect for a premium RF lens, image quality is superb. With the SA Control, it can also give portrait shots a different look.
- Impressive 1.4x magnification
- Focuses fast and silently
- Useful SA control ring
- Quite bulky and heavy
- No focus distance display
Read our Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM review.
Best 70-200mm RF lens: Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM
Price: $2,799 / £2,599
The Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM is Canon’s 70-200mm F2.8 lens for RF mount cameras. It seems to be the the rule, that every full-frame camera has to offer a 24-70mm F2.8 lens, then a 70-200mm F2.8 lens, and this is Canon’s version. What’s special about this one though, is that when released it was the smallest and lightest 70-200mm F2.8 lens for full-frame cameras – impressive! When we reviewed this lens we found that it also offers excellent image quality as well as the high-quality build you’d expect from an L series lens.
A more affordable option would be the RF 70-200mm F4L IS USM (£1699) if you don’t mind the slightly slower aperture.
- Incredibly small and light
- Delivers the goods in terms of quality
- Tough and durable
- Zoom retraction pushes air towards sensor
Read our Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM review.
Best wide-angle prime: Canon RF 24mm F1.8 Macro IS STM
Price: $599 / £719
If you prefer a wider perspective for a walk-about lens, then the Canon RF 24mm F1.8 Macro IS STM should fit the bill rather well. It’s lightweight and easy to carry for long periods, and its minimum focusing distance of 14cm means you can get nice and close to subjects that catch your eye, separating them from the background with that nicely generous f/1.8 aperture. We found in testing that the RF 24mm delivers excellent sharpness even when used wide open (helped along by automatic profile corrections), and with little-to-no vignetting or chromatic aberration to speak of, it’s a reliable lens for plenty of situations. Just be aware that it isn’t weather sealed, and doesn’t come with a hood in the box.
- Good close-focusing ability
- f/1.8 great for shallow depth of field
- Sharp wide open
- Not weather-sealed
- No hood included in box
Read our Canon RF 24mm F1.8 Macro IS STM review.
Best RF wide-angle zoom: Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM
Price: $549 / £669
We were really quite impressed with this lens once we got it into the office for a full review. The Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM is small, lightweight and highly capable, a fantastic ultra-wide or EOS R cameras that also happens to be quite fairly priced. It’ll be of particular interest to landscape photographers, but we can also see vloggers appreciating its quick and silent focusing. Images look fantastic from edge to edge; the lens makes use of Canon’s correction profiles, and these are pretty essential at its widest end. They incur a little crop on the image, so make sure you’ve got them activated in-camera to gain an accurate sense of what your final shot is going to look like.
- Great value for money
- Small and portable
- Focuses fast and silently
- Correction profiles essential at wide end
- Not weatherproof
Read our Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM review.
Best budget RF lens: Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM
Price: $199 / £219
The Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM lens is an ultra-compact 50mm lens that is the cheapest Canon lens available for the RF Mount, being around £200. When we tested this lens, we found that it offers excellent sharpness in the centre of the frame when shooting wide-open, but corners are softer. Luckily this can be resolved by stopping down the lens if you want sharper corners. With a low price, and a compact design, this makes a great choice for anyone wanting to travel light, and could be a great option for the new Canon EOS R7 and R10.
- Very good centre sharpness
- Accepts small 43mm filters
- Soft corners when wide open
- No AF/MF switch
Read our Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM review.
Best telephoto zoom lens: Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM
Price: $2,899 / £3,119
The Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM lens offers a longer telephoto reach than your standard 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens. The lens has optical image stabilisation (IS) that works in combination with the camera body’s in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) on the EOS R5 and R6 cameras to help you get sharp shots even when using lots of zoom. Build quality is very good and includes weather sealing, and as expected, the lens gives excellent image quality. The lens weighs in at a respectable 1.37kg making it easier to take with you when needed.
- Extremely solidly built
- No zoom creep
- Spectacular centre sharpness
- Thick barrel
- Slows to f/7.1 beyond 400mm
Read our Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM review.
Best all-round RF lens: Canon RF 24-240mm
Price: $899 / £959
The Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens is designed to be an all-in-one super-zoom, going from 24mm to 240mm, meaning you can leave it on the camera and don’t have to think about changing your lens. This makes it a great option if you’re travelling and just want to have one lens with you, as long as you don’t expect the lens to deliver the same level of image quality as a prime lens. Another option is the 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM lens.
- Impressively broad focal range
- Effective five-stop stabiliser
- Well-engineered control ring
- No hood in the box
- Sharpness suffers at wide and tele ends
Read our Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM review.
Best RF telephoto zoom lens: Canon RF 100-400mm f5.6-8 IS USM
Price: $649 / £669
The Canon RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS STM lens offers a useful telephoto zoom range, from 100mm to 400mm, whilst being competitively priced, for just £699. This makes it great value for money, and it’s also the smallest, and lightest 100-400mm lens currently available. In our review we found that the sharpness provided was good, even when the lens is used wide open, and the in-camera lens correction does a good job of correcting for any optical issues.
- Exceptionally good value
- Autofocus performs well
- Very small and light for a 100-400mm
- Limited max apertures
- No tripod mount
Read our Canon RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM review.
Best budget RF lens for vloggers: Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM – 3 stars
Price: $299 / £319
The Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM gets your attention for three reasons: its wide focal length, its slender 165g weight, and its reasonable price. Providing a generous angle-of-view, it’s a lens that suits vloggers as it will allow you to film yourself with a camera at arm’s length. For photographers, it may appeal to those shooting architectural interiors or landscapes – but you do have to know what you’re getting into. At this size and price, compromises are inevitable, and in our review we found that the RF 16mm F2.8 STM does produce significant distortion and vignetting. It’s correctable in software, and less of an issue for video users who will be shooting in the 16:9 aspect ratio, but is worth being aware of.
- Very small
- And very cheap
- Severely compromised by distortion
- Significant vignetting
Read our Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM review.
What about APS-C RF lenses?
Currently, as of May 2023, there are three Canon RF-S lenses designed specifically for Canon’s APS-C RF-mount cameras, such as the Canon EOS R10, R50, and R7. These lenses are:
- Canon RF-S 18-45mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM
- Canon RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM
- Canon RF-S 55-210mm F5-7.1 IS STM
Beyond these, you’ll need to look at Canon’s full-frame RF-mount lenses, as highlighted above.
Text by Joshua Waller, with contributions from Jon Stapley.
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