Out of all the RF lenses to recently emerge, the Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM is one of the most significant. The RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM and the RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM are the standards for the shorter focal lengths, while the 70-200mm f/2.8 is the de facto standard for a fast telephoto zoom.
This lens is also the first ‘white’ RF telephoto zoom. Giving a definite stamp of pro lens approval for the mirrorless market. As the lens is for a completely new camera body, the lens design has completely changed. Some bits for the better, some for the worst, which we will dig into next.
It’s immediately apparent that the new Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM has been completely reworked for the latest generation. The new lens is much shorter and slightly fatter than the EF version. The lens barrel also extends when zooming in and out, which is going to feel weird at first for regular 70-200mm users.
The thinking behind the extending lens barrel is to essentially cut down on size and weight. This version weighs in at 1,070g, compared to the EF version at 1,480g. The new lens is also 27 percent shorter and 28 percent lighter than before, which should mean a more compact and portable solution with the same level of optics. Anything that reduces size and weight in your camera gear is a good thing, however, it will take a little getting used to.
The lens barrel itself has a multitude of switches for control over various aspects of the lens. Going top-down, there’s the focus limiter switch, the AF/MF switch, stabilizer on/off switch and stabilizer mode switch. There’s also a lock switch for clamping down the lens barrel at a given focal.
The switches are pretty self-explanatory, except for the stabilizer mode switch, which can be set to mode one for general shooting, mode two for panning and mode three for engaging the IS when the shutter button is released.
Three rings surround the lens barrel, with the one nearest the front used for manual focus, which is rubberized and ridged. The second is the zoom ring, which has a slightly different feel and lastly a more textured control ring that can be programmed to control anything from ISO to exposure compensation.
Like the rest of the RF lenses, the distance scale has been ditched, instead, providing that information in camera. The front filter also comes in at 77mm, is nonrotating and can fit the included large white lens hood.
As per the usual L-series build quality, the lens is fully weatherproofed and definitely feels as rugged as past models. Inside the lens are 17 elements arranged in 13 groups, along with one UD (Ultra-Low Dispersion) element and one Super UD element.
An Air Sphere Coating (ASC) has been applied to the lens element to reduce ghosting and flaring, along with a fluorine coating on the front and back elements for general protection. There’s also a nine-blade rounded diaphragm with a constant aperture of f/2.8-f/32.
At this stage of the game, apart from the smaller dimensions and extending lens barrel, the Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM feels like a worthy alternative to the EF version.
The Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM in Use
First up is the image stabilization system. The system on the EF lenses worked great and the story follows with the Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM. Roughly five stops of compensation make images and video easier to shoot when handheld and also makes AF accuracy better.
There is a slight audible sound when the system is working, but not enough to be picked up by microphones when filming. The three different modes of stabilization are also dependent on your shooting situation.
Mode one for general purpose shooting, mode two uses just one axis of stabilization for panning shots, while mode three activates when the shutter is released. The culmination being you can get shutter speeds down to 1/6 of a second at 200mm and possibly beyond.
When it comes to overall sharpness, at 70mm and f/2.8, the corners are ever so slightly soft, but clear up very well by f/5.6. Center sharpness at f/2.8 is very good and looks extremely good from f/4 to f/11, tailing off after f/16.
At 100mm the results are largely the same, with center sharpness looking good at f/2.8 and the best at f/4. At 200mm, the edges and center exhibit some softness at f/2.8, looking the best from f/5.6 to f/11. From f/16 upwards, things start to tail off due to diffraction.
The AF workings comprises of the Dual Nano USM system, which takes the best bits of the USM and an STM motors to provide the quickest and quietest functionality. This works great in reality and tripped up a few times when in very low light conditions.
As for lens anomalies, chromatic aberration is almost non-existent and any flaring exhibited only crops up when shooting directly into the sun.
How Does It Compare?
The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM is the obvious comparison lens here. But, to be used on a mirrorless body, you will need an adapter. This EF version is a fine example of the breed and the go-to lens for Canon users.
If you’re still using a DSLR body, then this is the lens to use. On the mirrorless platform, a native lens is the way to go, which makes the new version the de facto standard.
Both lenses have similar features, such as image stabilization and comparable optics. So, the comparison is more for peripheral knowledge than anything else.
|Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM||Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM|
|Optics||17 elements / 13 groups||23 elements / 19 groups|
The only real anomaly with the Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM is slight softness when shooting at 200mm at f/2.8. In all other respects, this lens is a great all-round performer and the extending lens barrel is no issue in the real world.
The autofocusing system is both quick and accurate and linked with the image stabilization, which makes the lens useful in many situations. Add into the equation the programmable control ring which makes the whole setup a worthy next step from the EF version.
At this stage, prices are still expensive, but considering the Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM is smaller and lighter than the EF version, it’s going to be the lens of choice if you go for mirrorless. In total, an excellent lens worthy of being the next step in the evolution of the 70-200mm.