Which Canon RF wide angle lens to choose?
While I already wrote much about lenses for Sony cameras, I’m now starting to write more specific articles about Canon RF mount lenses. The link above will give you the opportunity to have a look at all the lenses currently available for this RF mount. Today, I’m going one step further to give you a comprehensive guide to the best Canon RF wide angle lenses that are out there.
At the time of writing this article, the choice is fairly limited, and few third-party brands currently offer wide-angle lenses for this RF mount, both for Canon RF full-frame cameras and Canon RF APS-C bodies. The two links above will give you everything you need to know if you are unsure about which Canon camera you should choose, both for Full Frame and APS-C. You will get details about all current cameras.
In this article, I won’t talk about wide-angle lenses for Canon APS-C cameras, knowing that they have just been released (Canon R7 and Canon R10) at the time of writing, and that available lenses for these cameras can be counted on the fingers of one hand. However, I am confident that Canon will hurry the launch of RF-S wide angle lenses as well, in the near future. As soon as this is the case, I will of course mention them here as well.
In this article, I will detail which wide-angle lenses I consider the best for a full frame Canon RF camera. For the time being, these have mainly been Canon lenses, as few third-party brands have able to create this kind of lenses for the Canon RF mount. Let’s wait and see when Canon accepts other brands like Sigma or Tamron.
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Best Canon RF wide-angle lenses
Here are, in my opinion, the current lenses that can be considered as the best-in-class. The table below summarizes what you should know about each of these lenses.
|Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS||Amazon B&H|
|Canon RF 14-35mm f/4 L IS US||Amazon B&H
|Canon RF 16 mm f/2.8 STM||Amazon B&H|
|Canon RF 15-30mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM||Amazon B&H|
|Canon RF 24mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM||Amazon B&H|
Here are the details of the lenses (click on the relevant link):
- Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS
- Canon RF 14-35mm f/4 L IS US
- Canon RF 16 mm f/2.8 STM
- Canon RF 15-30mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM
- Canon RF 24mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM
Specific features of these lenses are detailed in the table below.
1 – Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8 L IS
While Canon was limited to a 16mm focal length on their 16-35mm f/2.8 EF mount (DSLR), they took advantage of the new mount and offer a 15mm focal length with a 110° angle of view, all with a stabilized lens (IS) and a f/2.8 aperture, which was not the case for the DSLR version. Combined with the recent full frame RF stabilized cameras, you can get (according to Canon) up to 7 stops of stabilization. For those who own one of the first Canon cameras (R, RP) without sensor stabilization, this is also very good news although the benefit is not as important. The all-weather lens is also sold with a pouch and a lens hood (small in size but enough to protect against falls).
This Canon lens, which stretches a bit as you zoom in, does not have a curved front element, which allows you to install 82mm screw-in filters. The lens is nonetheless quite bulky, standing at 840g and 12.6cm long. The build quality, like all L-series lenses, is outstanding. The minimum focusing distance is 28cm. Fluorine coating for the front and rear lenses limits dust and facilitates cleaning. There are 3 rings on the lens: a wide zoom ring that works very well, a manual focus ring and a customizable control ring to control aperture, exposure compensation, and other functions. There are 2 switches on the barrel: one for AF/MF, and another to enable / disable IS.
Image quality is excellent, even if the shortest focal lengths at full aperture are a bit behind. At medium or longer focal lengths (from 24 to 35mm), the image quality is superior and closing to f/5.6 further improves sharpness. Optical defects are the most disturbing point with a huge vignetting at full aperture (5 stops) and a strong barrel distortion at 15mm which changes to a pincushion one at 35mm. Both can be corrected quite well, either directly through the camera or with a processing software. Flare resistance is given as correct without being exceptional. The autofocus is very good, according to the reviews.
At the end of the day, Canon offers a very nice lens: sharp, stabilized, tropicalized, but the price will surely discourage some (even though it is within the same range as the same lenses from Nikon or Sony). The lens is still ideal for landscape photography, journalism, wedding and even astrophotography. However, the lens is not perfect as there are some flaws. Those who have a smaller budget and do not have the interest of a large aperture will certainly be interested in the following lens.
2 - Canon RF 14-35mm f/4 L IS US
In June 2021, Canon announced the release of a long-awaited lens: a cheaper version of the very expensive Canon 15-35mm f/2.8 L IS, with a smaller aperture. This f/4 version is the equivalent of the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS -the lens I bought when I was using DSLR-. However, Canon went even further by offering 2mm less for an even wider field of view at 14mm (114°). The stabilization, combined with the recent Canon RF cameras is a plus and will allow you to shoot at slower shutter speeds than if you owned a non-stabilized Canon RF camera (R, RP). This is the “cheap” option to the f/2.8 version mentioned above.
This tropicalized lens does not have a curved front element either, thereby allowing landscape photographers to use “oh so beloved” ND or polarizing filters (CPL). The lens, of a remarkable build quality, is approximately 10cm long for 544g. Clearly, this is much lighter and shorter than the f/2.8 version. As with the 15-35mm, the fluorine coating of the lenses will always be a plus. The lens has the same 3 rings as the 15-35mm while also lengthening slightly when zoomed in (1cm). The control ring is clickable but can be made silent with a (paid) visit to Canon’s service centre. The magnification ratio is 0.38x which allows (proportionately) to shoot close-ups. The 2 classic switches AF/MF and IS are also available.
As far as image quality is concerned, there is nothing to complain about since sharpness is excellent from full aperture onwards and on all focal lengths (sharpness improves from 20mm onwards). Closing at f/5.6 only slightly improves sharpness. Surprisingly, pictures shot at 14mm are suffering from strong vignetting since the lens doesn’t cover the whole sensor which is actually wider than 14mm. In JPEG, the camera corrects it (inevitably, you won’t even notice it) by cropping the image. You will realize this, however, when you shoot in RAW and notice the black corners of the image… This kind of thing is becoming the norm as brands impose mandatory corrections to JPEGs in the camera, even if Canon takes it here to the extreme. Vignetting and distortion are still very important at 14mm at full aperture. Things get better at longer focal lengths, of course. Several reviews and the “MTF” comparison give a sharpness fairly close to the one you get with the 15-35mm f/2.8. Bokeh is good, knowing that you can get close enough to your subjects to do close-ups. Flare and chromatic aberrations are globally well handled.
In conclusion, Canon delivers a very nice, sharp, and tropicalized lens, offering a very good build quality. The price tag is a little high compared to both the DSLR version and the competition’s 14-30mm and 16-35mm f/4, but it remains much cheaper than the 15-35mm. If you don’t need a large aperture (as is often the case with a wide-angle lens), then this lens could be just the right one for you!
3 - Canon RF 16 mm f/2.8 STM
Late 2021, Canon surprised everyone by releasing this low-priced ultra wide-angle lens. While Canon has since released an RF 15-30mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM lens, this one doesn’t really play in the same league. As third-party brands are not available for Canon, this is currently the only option if you’re looking for a lens with a wide angle of view and a large aperture without having to spend more than 1500€ for the 14-35mm f/4. So, this is a very nice release for people with on smaller budget. When you say “cheap”, you obviously think of compromises which we are about to detail. Obviously, this is not the L series, and you will not get a carrying pouch or lens hood with it.
The lens is, in many ways, similar to the Canon 50mm f/1.8 RF, which clearly shows the compactness of the lens even if only offering a f/2.8 aperture. The lens is almost identical to the 50mm in terms of weight and size, with a 7cm length for only 165g. The lens is not stabilized nor all-weather and has a 43mm filter diameter. The build construction is obviously more plastic than what you find with L series lenses, but still correct. There is only one ring on this lens, the well-known ring with the classic Canon RF lens “diamond” texture. There is only one button on the side of the lens, for Focus and Control. The “focus” option will let you choose between AF/MF and the “Control” option will let you choose the functionality of the ring. Finally, the minimum focusing distance is 13cm, which means that you will be very close to the subject (6cm). The AF is said to be good, but not as fast as the 14-35mm / 15-35mm which have a nano USM motor.
Image quality is stunning at the center, at full aperture (f/2.8), average on the edges, and well behind on the extreme corners. Closing to f/4 improves things overall in terms of sharpness and provides a more homogeneous image. Closing to f/5.6, extreme corners are still far from the quality obtained in the center. However, optical defects are there. Vignetting and distortion are huge (worse than the two zooms mentioned above) and so much so that uncorrected images almost look like images shot with a Fisheye lens! However, everything is properly fixed in JPEG in the camera and in software post-processing for RAWs. Chromatic aberrations are strong and visible, especially on the angles, but can be corrected once again. Flare is globally well managed!
In the end, this Canon RF 16mm is a nice package, offering good value for money. The lens is very compact and light, and image quality is very good at the center but it gets worse towards the edges which could be a problem if you are looking for a very homogeneous image. Admittedly, the lens is neither stabilized nor tropicalized and has major optical defects, but these can be corrected -with Lightroom for example-. For the price, I would recommend this lens to anyone on a small budget, looking for a wide-angle lens. Mounted on a Canon R7 (RF APS-C), it feels very well balanced and offers, for example, a slightly more homogeneous 24mm equivalent since the APS-C sensor will be focused on the center of the lens. It is a good entry-level lens and not a bad choice while waiting for wide angle lenses for Canon RF APS-C.
4 - Canon RF 15-30mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM
In August 2022, Canon decided to release a new, but more modest, stabilized wide-angle zoom lens. This Canon RF 15-30mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM follows in the footsteps of the Canon 16mm RF in terms of range, compactness, and price. This wide-angle zoom offers a solution for anyone looking for this type of lens, but unwilling to spend more than 1500€ for a Canon RF 14-35mm f/4. Of course, its aperture is reduced, but this won’t be a problem depending on the type of subject. With a price of 700€, the lens is sold as a stand-alone, without a lens hood, nor a storing pouch.
This Canon RF 15-30mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM has a good build quality, similar to the 16mm. It is obviously not from the L range. As fare as the rings are concerned, there is a wide zoom ring that works well, and a focus ring that can be customized through the ” Focus/control ” switch located on the lens barrel. Also note that there is a button to enable/disable stabilization (IS). The lens extends when zooming and has a very good AF (STM engine). The lens, which has a classic 67mm filter diameter, is compact with only 390g and a 7.6cm lenght. The minimum focusing distance is 0.28m and the magnification ratio is 0.16x (0.5x in MF at 15mm).
Image quality is very good in the center, on the shortest focal lengths. Quality on the edges and extremes are below, and reviews show a difference in quality with the Canon RF 14-35mm f/4 L IS (I hope so!). Closing at f/5.6 and then f/8 further improves sharpness. The longer focal lengths tend to show less sharpness. As far as optical defects are concerned, the same can be found on the Canon RF 14-35mm, with a default correction fixed by Canon on JPEGs (this says a lot about the level of correction one has to perform to get a proper image). When opening a RAW on Dxo for example, you can notice the huge barrel distortion at the shortest focal lengths, as is usual with wide-angles. The barrel distortion turns into a light pincushion one at longer focal lengths. Vignetting is important at full aperture (more than 3 stops), and does not really disappear. But this problem can be managed during post-processing. Same goes with chromatic aberrations which are visible but manageable during post-processing.
In the end, Canon offers a very interesting lens for people wishing to shoot very wide angles, without breaking the bank. Obviously, with such a small aperture, you will be limited in your artistic possibilities, especially when wanting to blur your background, for example (although we rarely buy a wide-angle lens for that). However, at 700€, this is an affordable lens to consider if you’re on a smaller budget.
5 - Canon RF 24mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM
Let’s end this article, for the moment, with the last one that can be considered as a wide-angle lens on a full frame camera, namely, the Canon RF 24mm f/1.8. This lens, stabilized (5 stops) but not tropicalized, is advertised as a macro lens even if it is not quite true as it only reaches a 0.5x magnification ratio (not 1:1). This 24mm is in the same range as the existing 35mm, 50mm and 85mm f/1.8-2 Canon RF. Of course, at list price, you can forget about the lens hood and the carrying pouch.
If we look at build quality, it is on par with the entry-level 16, 35, 50 and 85mm. It is a rather well built (but plastic) lens, obviously not as polished as the L series. The lens is very compact with only 270g and a 6,3cm lenght. Focusing distance is 14cm, which allows to get very close to your subjects. As far as build construction is concerned, it’s the classic 2 switches-AF/MF and another one to turn on/off the stabilizer (IS)-, a rather soft-focus ring, and a notched control ring with the brand’s classic diamond texture. The latter is customizable through the body. It’s worth pointing out that the lens extends slightly when focusing at very close range. It also has a special coating to reduce flare.
Image quality is excellent at full aperture and in the center of the image. However, it is less so, around the edges and the extremes. Closing at f/2.8 and then at f/5.6 provides fully homogeneous images. As with the Canon 16mm, 14-35mm and others, don’t be fooled by the editing imposed by Canon’s body which automatically corrects optical defects. Vignetting and distortion are huge, much stronger than with the lenses mentioned above. In JPEG, it will be managed by the camera but in RAW, it must be corrected. The results for macro appear to be quite good and allow for nice details of close subjects. AF is good without being exceptional, particularly if subjects move too fast.
All in all, Canon offers an interesting somewhat all-purpose lens, which will allow for a lot of creativity with its macro aspect and its large aperture. The image quality at the center is very good and most of the optical defects will not be of concern, thanks to the software corrections, especially if you don’t often shoot using the largest apertures. In my opinion though, listed at 750€, the lens is not a bargain.
The table below summarizes the main features of these lenses.
|Lens||Focal length||Max. aperture||Filter||D/L||Weight||Min. focus distance||All-weather construction||Stab.||Best Price|
|Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8 L IS||15-35mm||f/2.8||82mm||88.5 x 126.8mm||840g||28cm||YES||YES||Amazon B&H|
|Canon RF 14-35mm f/4 L IS US||14-35mm||f/4||77mm||84.1 x 99.8mm||540g||20cm||YES||YES||Amazon B&H|
|Canon RF 16 mm f/2.8 STM||16mm||f/2.8||43mm||69.2 x 40.2mm||165g||13cm||NO||NO||Amazon B&H|
|Canon RF 15-30mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM||15-30mm||f/4.5-6.3||67mm||76.6 x 88.4mm||390g||28cm||NO||YES||Amazon B&H|
|Canon RF 24mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM||24mm||f/1.8||52mm||74.4 x 63.1mm||270g||14cm||NO||YES||Amazon B&H|
If you still have a Canon DSLR camera, you can obviously use the lenses you have as they will be compatible with this RF mount through the EF – RF adapter ring. By the way, I keep an updated page with all current Canon EF (DSLR) lenses.
Wide-angle lens alternatives for the Canon RF mount?
I will deliberately not mention the two 14mm f/2.8 AF/MF Samyang/Rokinon lenses that were released. Although these lenses were available for a while, at first, they are now almost nowhere to be found as Canon is determined to start a war with Samyang on this release…
So as far as I know, you don’t have any other choice when it comes to autofocus wide-angle lenses if you own an RF mount camera. However, there are a few third-party lenses with manual focus. Most of them are from Laowa or TTArtisan. You will find all these alternatives on our page dedicated to lenses that fit the RF mount bodies.
Reminder - How to choose a wide-angle lens?
As usual, I’ll end this article with some tips to consider when choosing a wide-angle lens. If you want to know more about it, you can also read our article explaining how to choose a camera lens.
This will depend on what you want to shoot. For a full frame sensor, we can get an ultra wide-angle lens with a focal length below 16mm and a wide-angle lens between 16 and 35mm. Obviously, for an APS-C sensor, you will have to apply a 1.6x crop factor from Canon to find the equivalence. But between you and I, this is irrelevant for the moment as Canon has not yet released a wide-angle lens for their new APS-C digital cameras (Canon R7/R10).
As for the choice of focal length, beware! Be sure you visualize what a 14 or a 15 mm focal length will get you, because distortions are significant on this type of focal length. You can also use my article explaining how to choose between a prime and a zoom lens with the zoom lens still being the most versatile.
I will soon change my 20mm Tamron to a wider focal length range (the Sigma 16-28mm f/2.8 DG DN) so I can capture more subjects with the same lens (or to diversify my shots at the very least).
As is often the case with photography, there are no easy answers. Everything will depend upon your use, habits and very often, your budget. Most people use wide-angle lenses for landscape photography, architecture and for wide interior shots, for example. Thus, the point of having a large aperture depends on multiple factors.
As a reminder, you should know that having a larger aperture will allow you to:
- Shoot faster (going from f/4 to f/2.8 will allow you to shoot twice as fast),
- Limit motion blur in low-light conditions (even if, in reality, for landscape or architecture, you will often use a tripod),
- Blur your background/foreground in a better manner (admittedly, it’s all relative with this type of short focal length because you have to get very close to the subject for that),
- Reduce your depth of field (related to the point below, but obviously shooting with f/2.8 will allow you to have a shorter area of focus on your subject than shooting with f/4).
In my case, I often use a wide-angle lens for landscape photography which means an aperture between f/4 and f/8, for example. So, the appeal of having a large aperture for landscape shooting in the middle of the day, appears limited. However, it could be useful should you want to play with the depth of field, and thus isolate a piece of the subject with landscape behind, for example, or blur a background of limited interest.
Finally, in low-light conditions, it will be more interesting to have a stabilized lens which will allow you to gain 3 to 4 stops of speed, rather than having a lens that opens a little more. If shoot on a tripod, the question does not even arise. I know that I personally use my (relatively) wide aperture Tamron 20mm f/2.8 for landscape photography when I am in the middle of a forest with low light. Shooting with full aperture (f/2.8) helps me avoid too high an ISO and keep a good image quality.
Keep in mind that a lens with a larger aperture will be more expensive, heavier and more cumbersome.
As I said above, the point of having a stabilized lens depends on you shooting in low-light conditions, allowing you to take pictures at very low shutter speeds. It could also be interesting should you have a non-stabilized Canon RF camera.
Use of filters
I used to always have a section on this subject when I owned a DSLR because it was important to me and to many landscape photographers who use filters (polarizing, GND or ND). However, nowadays, with recent mirrorless cameras, and for all Canon wide-angle RF lenses mentioned in this article, you will always be able to use screw-in filters. So, you don’t have to take this point into account anymore.
I’m reaching the end of this article on current Canon RF wide-angle lenses. Obviously, you have a limited choice, especially when compared to other brands. However, until Canon decides to accept third-party brands, things won’t get any better on this side of things.
In the meantime, I invite you to read our summary of the best current Canon RF lenses, which includes some of the lenses mentioned in this article as well as standard, macro and telephoto lenses. I will continue to write about this RF mount, because while choice is still limited, depending on the desired type of focal length, things are progressing at quite a fast pace…
See you soon,