Fstoppers Reviews the Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L Mirrorless Lens

I find a 70-200mm lens one of the most versatile lenses available. It is a perfect lens for different types of photography. Canon released the 70-200mm lens for its mirrorless camera system at the end of 2019. I was able to use this lens for a while, and these are my findings.

The 70-200mm lens was the first lens I bought next to my kit lens when I switched over to digital photography. And even long before that time, I had a 70-200mm lens in my camera bag. Through the years that have passed, I found out it is one of the most versatile lenses available. It is perfect for portraits, and you can use it for landscapes and semi-macro. It is perfect for shooting concerts, sports, domestic animals, and even wildlife, although you will agree the latter will often benefit from a longer focal length.

The RF Version of the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L at Last

Up until the end of 2019, users of Canon mirrorless cameras were limited to the old EF versions of the 70-200mm lens together with one of the three available EF-RF adapters. It made the lens a bit longer in a way, and the setup became somewhat out of balance. After all, the EF 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses are very long and heavy. Although it works, it is far from perfect.

Canon released the RF version of that versatile lens, and it has become a very different lens compared to the EF versions. Instead of a zoom mechanism that is built inside the lens barrel, keeping the lens the same length while zooming, the RF will change in length when zooming.

Canon has used this design for the EF 100-400mm f/4-5.6L II already, and now it has found its way to the RF 70-200mm f/2.8L and even the new RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS lens. You might think it has become the new standard for the white tele zoom lenses.

The release of the RF 70-200mm f/2.8L lens makes it possible to use this zoom lens on the Canon mirrorless camera without the need for an EF-RF adapter. It is something a lot of users were waiting for. The new design makes the lens also very compact, easy to carry with you, and it fits much more easily inside a camera bag compared to the old EF 70-200mm f/2.8L lens.

Design of the RF 70-200mm f/2.8L Lens

The lens is a real piece of art, especially when compared to the old EF versions. The finish is beautiful, with a nice bayonet ring, very robust buttons, and a good grip. The control ring has a distinct feel to it, making it stand out from the zoom and focus rings.

The tripod collar can be removed without removing the lens from the camera. This is a huge benefit, making it easier to switch. If you remove the tripod collar, the lens keeps its great appearance. There is no indication anything is removed. Although it doesn’t change the way the lens performs, I think it is a great detail.

The lens offers no big surprise concerning the buttons. You can find a focus limiter, the AF/MF switch, the stabilizer, and the three stabilizer modes. Canon claims a five-stop stabilization. There is a zoom locking switch also, preventing the lens barrel from extending.

Using the Lens

At the time I was offered to review the lens, the Canon EOS R and EOS RP were the only two mirrorless cameras available. I had to use a Canon EOS R for this review.

The RF 70-200mm f/2.8L is 56 mm shorter compared to the EF versions, and it weighs over 400 grams less. Because of this, the lens feels perfectly in balance on the Canon EOS R body. It becomes longer when zooming, reaching the same length as the EF version, but the center of gravity stays almost in the same place. If you are used to the EF versions, you need to get used to the new position of the zoom ring. Now it is located in the front, the place where you might expect the focus ring. 

The RF 70-200mm f/2.8L has a control ring, just like every other RF lens. I used it for changing the aperture. But I found the control ring in a most inconvenient position. It is located close to the lens bayonet and thus not easy to use when holding the camera and lens. I felt the lens to be out of balance when I wanted to use the control ring. Perhaps that is something personal and something to get used to.

The autofocus of the RF 70-200mm f/2.8L works almost instantly. It is silent also, thanks to the Dual Nano USM focus motors. I didn’t have a lot of problems keeping a running dog in focus, although I had a strong impression it could perform better on a more capable sports camera. Now that I have used the Canon EOS R5, I think this lens is built for that kind of camera. 

My Impressions

I used the RF 70-200mm f/2.8L for landscapes, a few portraits, and some casual action shooting. Although I rather would have a lens with an internal zoom, I became rather fond of this design. It is lighter, smaller when zoomed in, and the finish is so much better compared to the EF version.

Unfortunately, the Canon EOS R5 wasn’t released when I reviewed this lens, and I think the Canon EOS R was unable to use the full potential of this lens. Now that the Canon EOS R5 is available, I don’t hear a lot about this lens, which is a pity. If you have chosen a Canon EOS R5, or perhaps a Canon EOS R6, I think this lens is worth the investment, if you have the money, that is. Because one of the things I don’t like too much is the high price.

Things I Like

  • Only 1,070 gram (the EF 70-200L III weighs 1,480 grams)
  • Only 146 mm long (the EF 70-200L III is 199 mm long)
  • 5-stop image stabilization
  • The minimum focus distance is 700 mm
  • Dual Nano USM focus motors, the first of its kind
  • Autofocus is fast and quiet
  • Tack-sharp images from f/2.8, with a slight improvement at f/4
  • No petal-shaped lens hood and it’s white
  • Lens firmware can be updated through the camera
  • Tripod collar can be removed without removing the lens from the camera
  • Superb finish

Thinks I Didn’t Like

  • The control ring is located too close to the camera
  • The clicking sound of the control ring can only be switched off by a Canon Service Center
  • Price is a bit high

You can pick up your copy here: RF 70-200mm f/2.8L.


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