Usually we find at least six options for you on any given lens comparison article. That was our intention here. But when something is brand new, the latest and greatest, there’s a period of transition.
That’s the case when discussing lenses for the Canon EOS R. For this reason, we’re going in a little different direction today.
The universe of native RF mount lenses with their cutting edge mirrorless technology is still small. Rest assured that these four native choices for the Canon EOS R can be supplemented with your existing gear bag full of EF and EF-S Canon lenses with the use of three different types of Canon adapters. We’re giving you the info on those in this article, too.
A caveat to keep in mind is that the RF mount is new. The R body was only introduced in September 2018. That means if you want to put your third-party lens on this body with a Canon adapter, it’s not yet clear if all functions will work properly.
Top 7 Lenses for Canon EOS R
|Ranking||Lens||Best For||Focal Length||Aperture||Weight||Review||Price|
|#1||Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM||Street, daily, outdoors, general utility||24-105mm||F/4||1.54 lbs||Read Review||See Price on Amazon|
|#2||Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM||Landscapes, people in events, portraiture||28-70mm||F/2||3.15 lbs||Read Review||See Price on Amazon|
|#3||Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM||Nifty Fifty, low light, portraiture||50mm||F/1.2||2.09 lbs||Read Review||See Price on Amazon|
|#4||Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS STM Macro||Close ups, low light, action, food, plants, bugs, birds||35mm||F/1.8||.67 lbs||Read Review||See Price on Amazon|
|#5||Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R||Mount only – no added control rings||N/A||N/A||.24 lbs||Read Review||See Price on Amazon|
|#6||Canon Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R||Mimic RF control rings||N/A||N/A||.29 lbs||Read Review||See Price on Amazon|
|#7||Canon Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R (with ND filter OR with CP filter)||Controls with ND or CP filter||N/A||N/A||.31 lbs||Read Review||See Price on Amazon|
Native Lenses vs. Third Party
A little background can help us explain why the only RF lenses available for the Canon EOS R are the ones Canon offers. Native lenses, those built by the same manufacturer as the camera body, are the first to come out with any new technology. When something’s as new as the R system and RF lens mount, it will be some time before others catch up.
Third-party manufacturers buy the new technology and reverse engineer it. They figure out how it works and come up with their own models.
In the end, they want to offer a well-functioning alternative to the brand name. They want it to sacrifice none of the features but not necessarily at the same price point (or potentially optical quality).
Yes, that means some design and build differences exist. Often, it’s a difference in the materials used and efficiencies in bulk manufacturing processes.
Production lines need to be designed and set up, testing verified, and cost effectiveness built up to make this worthwhile. So don’t expect to see third-party RF mounts any time soon.
Why Canon RF Lenses are Special
If you’re reading this article, you already know the Canon EOS R body is the first professional level mirrorless camera offered by Canon. It is a redesign of past Canon mirrorless systems. It has a completely new type of lens on mount.
This RF mount system is wider at 54mm. It is loaded with functions not found in the past.
Before you sigh in frustration about the bags of lenses you already own and the fact that they won’t fit, Canon has you covered with adapters for those EF and EF-S lenses.
There are so many exciting features about the new lenses’ optics, though. So buying them is worth serious consideration if you’re a mirrorless enthusiast or want to be. What Canon embraces with this lens-up redesign may well be the way many mirrorless cameras will go in the future.
That being said, Canon wants to make sure those of us with a big Canon lens investment aren’t discouraged. That’s why they made adapters to allow us to use our existing lenses. But would you want to? Let’s take a look at what makes the RF different and so exciting.
RF Lenses – Differences
Canon notes their new RF mount has been redesigned to offer ‘optical excellence’ today and into the future. But what’s different about it? Going through the features, you’ll find people love the advances. They consider it revolutionary in full frame mirrorless technology.
What’s the biggest improvement in RF design?
Canon has long been known for their lenses. Many say their optical quality and control surpasses any competitor. The RF lenses are no different in this regard. When it came time (over the past few years) to develop the new mirrorless technology, optics is where they began.
Most applaud this. They note that while Canon can’t necessarily compete in other build features, their glass is superb.
Lighter weight, smaller size and enhanced features mean the RF lenses function in new and interesting ways. It leaves us wondering why it hasn’t happened before.
From the 12 connection pins to the seemingly limitless (actually 5,655 you can select) autofocus (AF) points, resulting images become sharper and clearer while achieving this faster. There is no need to make manual adjustments.
Huge AF coverage means improved sharpness, too. Wider apertures equate to faster lenses with greater sensitivity in lower light shooting situations. That makes these innovations something everyone else will mimic in years to come.
Why is the lens shorter and wider?
This is probably the difference most people will notice right away. There is an overall shortening of the lens and its wider 54mm. Moving the focusing distance closer to the full frame sensor while maximizing the optical diameter is said to produce sharper images.
An added benefit is a reduction in materials needed for manufacturing. That allows for an upgrade in the quality of the optics at roughly the same professional lens price point.
Overall, these lenses are faster and lighter than their EF mount comparatives. That being said, your handling will change when you have less in your palm. The R body comes with a full size grip, but if you’re used to holding the lens as well in your focusing process, it’s going to feel different for a time.
Why are there so many controls on the lenses?
Did you ever frame your shot, only to recognize the need to change a setting that means you drop the body away and fiddle around for a bit? Once you frame again, things aren’t quite what they were before, and you’ve lost shooting time, as well. This might be the biggest change that gets you excited.
It will probably come down to shooting style preferences for many people. Control rings on the lens means you don’t need to move your hands away from prime positioning to change settings. You can now adjust your exposure compensation, shutter speed, aperture and ISO without removing your hand from the lens.
The other side of this, though, is the readings of the settings themselves. That happens in the camera, so if you’re used to glancing at your lens’ exterior to adjust them, you’ll need to re-educate yourself. It’s all inside now.
Are all focal lengths represented in the RF lenses?
Unfortunately, no, you’ll be picking and choosing, though your choices are unique and exciting. Yes, there’s a Nifty Fifty but with a new zing on wide aperture, plus a macro prime and two medium range zooms. The biggest hole is in the medium to super tele end.
The good news is that with the adapters, you can now use EF lenses to achieve new effects. For example, you can add filters for your ultra-wide zoom close ups and focus faster and more effectively for distance wildlife work. That’s a great selling point by itself, when coupled with the mirrorless technology and other Canon EOS R body improvements.
What do the adapters do?
Canon makes three types of adapters as of this writing, all designed to allow you to use your existing EF and EF-S lenses on the new mirrorless body without giving up on the R controls that make it special.
Early reports expanded this list to other third party mounts as well, though reviewers have been largely silent on testing results on this. Until the adapters are more widely used, it’s tough to say if they work as well with third party lenses already designed for EF and EF-S use.
Early Canon press releases included compatibility with TS-E and MP-E mount lenses as well. However, later information does not list these mounts and no reviewers or users mention testing them on tilt-shift or macro lenses from previous Canon lines (or third parties). Test your adapter on these lenses in your sling bag before you schedule a critical photo shoot with their use in mind.
Are the lenses worth the cost?
In my decision-making lexicon, I consider it along the lines of an investment strategy. I wouldn’t pay for the excellence of a sports car and put bald tires on it. Keep in mind that all Canon lenses are not professional level glass. If you want to stay in the professional range, look for lenses with the ‘L’ designation in the Canon line.
I have nothing against third-party lenses, either, and I own a few of those too. If you have some that work with EF and EF-S mounts on your other Canon bodies, this would be an opportunity to buy the adapters and test them out. Post what you learn too, because listening for the buzz on this question amounts to counting the chirps of crickets in a snow storm.
How effective are RF lenses for videography?
Here’s another place where RF lenses will become the new standard. Because of their sharpness and speed of adjustment, they keep up with your subjects even when they’re moving fast. Their light weight and compact build make them easier for handheld shooting, too.
Criteria for Lens Comparisons
Lens-wise, we’re listing the four RF lenses, recognizing that many of you have EF lenses zooms to fill in the range at the edges. We’re noting the features on the three types of adapters Canon offers to use your EF and EF-S mount lenses as well.
The criterion serves as a reminder about why you’d generally select a lens with this focal range and aperture in terms of shooting style or type.
Unless you only shoot one style or genre and do nothing else, you’re eventually going to want to cover the gamut of focal length capabilities with your gear. Prime lenses have a single focal length (##mm) while zooms cover a range (##-##mm).
You’ll notice these RF lenses have greater capability at the low light end of their ranges, which mean higher aperture values (lower f-stop numbers, considered wide). This also means that with an adapter, you can gain a little more breadth from your existing EF lenses, since it also relates to the distance to the sensor. In some cases, there are no comparables in existing Canon lenses in terms of these aperture values.
The Canon EOS R does not have image stabilization (IS) in the body. If you’re shooting in situations where steadying with a travel tripod is not a likely choice and you’re shooting slow or in low light, having IS in your lens is a plus.
The Canon EOS R body weighs in at a svelte 1.45 lbs. The RF lenses are similarly light in weight when compared to their EF and EF-S compatriots. How much can you hold for handheld work?
Best RF Lenses and Adapters and Why to Buy Them
Canon RF mount lenses do a good job of providing coverage under many shooting styles, other than medium to super tele. Since there are over 130 million Canon EF/EF-S lenses around the world, we know some of you have comparable models in your bag. You might want to fill in the holes in your selection rather than start over.
Note, though, that RF lenses cannot be adapted to EF or EF-S body Canons.
- Best For: Street, daily, outdoors, general utility
- Focal Length: 24 – 105 mm
- Aperture: f/4
- Image Stabilization: Yes
- Weight: 1.54 lbs.
If you need a utility lens for a variety of shooting situations, this zoom will be it, and that’s why Canon has been shipping this lens in a kit with the R body. In addition to being shorter and lighter than comparable EF models, it has enhanced optical IS to extend your shooting capabilities in low light. It is weather sealed for outdoor use and light enough for extended periods of handheld shooting, with superb results in both uses.
The 24-105mm is equipped with a new Nano USM small-chip AF ultrasonic motor which increases its speed of focus, precision, and silent operation. It still has full time manual focusing too for those cases where you want some artistic play. With its f/4 aperture, it will function best as a fast and bright lens at the tele end of your needs.
Reviewers consider this lens to be slow at the wide end (remember its aperture). It extends while focusing, a drawback to some. Other than the zoom setting on a lens ring, all other readings appear in the camera, which is frustrating for some users.
- Best For: Landscapes, people in events, portraiture
- Focal Length: 28 – 70 mm
- Aperture: f/2
- Image Stabilization: No
- Weight: 3.15 lbs.
This selection will become known for its wide aperture, the widest available at the time of release for a standard range zoom. It also earns its designation as a very fast lens at both wide and tele ends. Users have noted a marked improvement in speed and sharpness over what they used to consider the best in this category before, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM.
This lens is weather-sealed, making it a good choice for outdoor use with your Canon EOS R (also environmentally sealed). It creates an amazing bokeh effect contrasting the super-sharp subject with a dreamy background. AF using its ring-type ultrasonic motor is both fast and silent.
Reviewers call this lens heavy in both weight and price. They are also not fans of the lens’s extension while focusing. It does not have IS, and since the R body does not either, handheld shooting in some situations might be more difficult.
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- Best For: Nifty Fifty, low light, portraiture
- Focal Length: 50 mm
- Aperture: f/1.2
- Image Stabilization: No
- Weight: 2.09 lbs.
Ultra-wide is Canon’s term for this Nifty Fifty, and we have to agree. We can see many uses for this lens in low light human events, such as places of worship and other interiors where shadows and light can be uncertain and dappled. Weather sealing makes it a choice for random street photography in the great outdoors too.
Another great feature is the ultrasonic motor AF system, quiet to the point of silence. It’s also so accurate that you may never again need to manually focus before shooting (though it has full time manual focusing). Canon has applied a special technology known as Air Sphere Coating (ASC) to reduce flares and ghosting too.
So far, there haven’t been any complaints other than price about this lens. Depending on your shooting style, you might not like the total lack of settings on the lens exterior (readouts and settings in the camera). It does not have IS, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue because it is so fast and flexible.
- Best For: Close-ups, low light, action, food, plants, bugs, birds
- Focal Length: 35 mm
- Aperture: f/1.8
- Image Stabilization: Yes
- Weight: .67 lbs.
Macro images are usually one of the last bastions of photography considered in new lens production lines, but here Canon again surprises its customers. With a maximum shooting magnification of 0.5x, it will be the go-to lens for those of us in love with close-up work. Despite the lack of pro-level ‘L’ designation, its optics are judged to be superb with terrific light sensitivity.
The innovation in this lens is the Hybrid IS system, working to compensate for both angular and shift shakes of your camera and making it great for handheld shooting. The stepper motor AF system is quiet, so it won’t scare off your sensitive subjects. Full time manual focusing is also available.
This is the only RF lens that is not weather-sealed, which to date has been the only complaint. Some users might not like the lack of settings on the lens (all internal to the camera).
- Best For: Mount only – no added control rings
- Focal Length: N/A
- Aperture: N/A
- Image Stabilization: N/A
- Weight: .24 lbs.
This adapter ring makes any Canon EF or EF-S mount lens compatible with your Canon EOS R mirrorless camera. It works effectively as a straight-across connection of the lens to the R body and even pairs with Canon Extenders to increase your tele range. You’ll find no degradation in AF capability, metadata or IS (if your lens is equipped with it) when used with your older lenses.
The connection creates a dust and water resistant connection on par with the weather sealing in your lenses. A number of users have remarked that this adapter appears to make their EF lenses work faster (autofocus and other adjustments). One reviewer noted that it automatically cropped images for his EF-S lens to mimic APS-C sensor results without any issues.
In early press information, Canon also included TS-E and MP-E mount lenses in addition to EF and EF-S lenses, though this has not been confirmed. Because there are so few reviews of this product, it is difficult to objectively verify that it works with third party lenses with EF mountings. Users note that if you plan to use your older lenses, it’s best to buy the control ring, the next item in our gear listing.
- Best For: Mimic RF control rings
- Focal Length: N/A
- Aperture: N/A
- Image Stabilization: N/A
- Weight: .29 lbs.
This ring adapts your EF or EF-S mount lens to your Canon EOS R camera with a dust- and water-resistant connection. Its added value is in mimicking the lens-based controls of the new RF lenses on your older EFs through the use of assignable rings. Users recommend that if you’re buying an adapter, this is their preference over the plain mount adapter to gain that flexibility.
You select which of the following you want to set on your adapter ring for fingertip use – aperture, shutter speed, ISO and exposure compensation. A number of users have remarked that this adapter has appears to make their EF lenses work faster (autofocus and other adjustments).
There are few reviews or user postings available about this adapter’s ability to work with third-party lenses. Reviews that do list a lens brand are all Canon as of this writing. Be cautious about expectations on lenses from non-Canon brands because there is no guarantee they will work as stated.
In early press information, Canon also included TS-E and MP-E mount lenses in addition to EF and EF-S lenses, though this has not been confirmed by objective reviewers.
- Best For: Controls with ND or CP filter
- Focal Length: N/A
- Aperture: N/A
- Image Stabilization: N/A
- Weight: .31 lbs.
In addition to connecting your EF or EF-S lens to your Canon EOS R camera with the same control capabilities as the Control Mount Ring, this adapter holds drop-in filters. It ships two ways, with a circular polarizing filter and with a variable neutral density filter.
Some kind of filter must be in the slot to shoot accurately with this adapter; some users say they purchased a Canon clear filter to fulfill that purpose.
Another greatest benefit for this adapter appears to be its ability to add ND and CP capability to EF and EF-S lenses that previously had none, like the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM, expanding the potential for your existing lenses collection.
The same caveats apply when using this adapter with non-Canon lenses.