Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Review

January 20, 2020 | Mark Goldstein |

Introduction

Introduced in October 2019, the new 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM lens for the Canon RF mount used on its mirrorless cameras is the third addition to its F2.8L trinity series of professional zoom lenses. The other two lenses are the RF 15-35mm f/2.8 and the 24-70mm f/2.8.

Optically, the lens design is comprised of 17 elements in 13 groups, including one Super UD element and one UD element to help minimize chromatic aberrations and color fringing and two aspherical elements to correct spherical aberrations and distortion.

As this is an L series lens, Canon says it also boasts the highest possible build quality, which includes weather-sealing and fluorine coatings on both the front and rear elements to guard against water droplets and dust.

An Air Sphere Coating (ASC) has been applied to lens elements to reduce backlit flaring and ghosting.

An Optical Image Stabilizer helps to minimize the appearance of camera shake by five stops, with three different IS modes on offer.

The lens has a configurable Control Ring which can be used to adjust a variety of exposure settings, including aperture, ISO, and exposure compensation.

It also features a Dual Nano USM auto-focusing system incorporating both a ring type USM and an STM mechanism, fast, nearly silent autofocusing with full-time manual focus override, a 9-blade aperture for more attractive out of focus areas, and a removable rotating tripod collar.

At the time of writing, the Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM lens is priced at £2,699.99 / $2699.99 in the UK and US respectively.

Ease of Use

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

The RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens is officially the World's shortest and lightest 70-200mm lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 for full-frame cameras, weighing in at 1,070g and measuring 146mm in length.

Note that it does gradually extend as you zoom from 70mm to 200mm, eventually reaching its longest length of 212mm when set to the 200mm focal length.

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

We’ve been testing it with the diminutive Canon EOS RP, but it would probably be much better balanced with the bigger Canon EOS R, which is of course more likely to be used by the advanced enthusiasts and professional users who are drawn to this lens in the first place. You’d achieve an even better balance by attaching the optional battery grip for the Canon EOS R, too.

As you'd expect, the lens feels very well built, with the weatherproofing giving you confidence that you can shoot using this lens in all kinds of different conditions. The lens mount is a high-quality metal construction, which again feels very strong and secure.

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

In order to attach the lens to the camera, you’ll see that there is a red line on the rear of the lens, which matches up to a similar red line on the camera body itself. Line the two up, and twist to lock the lens into place.

On the left-hand side of the lens there are four switches. At the top is a Focus Limiter switch with two settings, Full or 2.5m to Infinity.

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Next is the AF/MF switch which sits just above an image stabiliser switch, which can be set to either on or off. Underneath that is the Stabilizer Mode switch, which has three settings marked 1 / 2 / 3.

Around the Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM lens there are three different rings to take note of. Towards the front of the lens, you’ll find the largest ring, which controls the zoom of the lens.

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Finally, at the rear of the lens there’s a ring which you can use for different settings which you can customise from the camera body. Depending on what you want to do, you can use it to change aperture, shutter speed, ISO or exposure compensation. You can also turn it off.

It is marked with four different focal lengths to help quickly jump to the focal length you want - it is marked with 70, 100, 135 and 200mm. The zoom ring is ridged to help you get a good grip on it, and like the rest of the lens feels very sturdy and high-quality.

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Just behind the four switches, you’ll find the manual focusing ring ring which is about a third of the size of the zoom ring. It is similarly ridged to the zoom ring, but feels slightly different - if you’re not looking at the lens, you should be able to feel the difference in textures quite easily.

The focusing ring has just enough give to it to make fine tuning manual focus nicely precise, without being too tight or too loose.

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

This ring has another different texture to the other two rings so again you can find it easily without looking at the lens. It’s worth noting that this lens clicks as you rotate it - that’s helpful for hearing or monitoring as you change a setting, but is less useful if you’re shooting video rather than stills.

At the very front of the Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM lens, you’ll see the distinctive red ring which adorns all Canon L series “professional” lenses. It doesn’t do anything, but it marks out the lens as belonging to the high-end range.

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Around the base of the lens is a moveable and removable tripod collar/foot. This is not only useful when using the lens with a tripod, but also when handholding the lens to keep it as steady as possible. You can move the foot around the lens to whichever position you need, giving you good flexibility to move your camera.

A high-quality lens hood (ET-83F) is included in the box. It's easy to attach the hood to the lens, as a red dot on the hood matches up to a red line on the lens itself. The lens hood can also be reversed for ease-of-transport.

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

There’s also a lens pouch (but sadly no hard case), as well as front and rear caps, provided in the box.

Auto-fcusing proved to be extremely quick, quiet and accurate for the majority of the time. The hit rate when using it in conjunction with the EOS RP camera was very high, making it ideal for capturing exactly the right moment during sports and action photography.

The autofocusing is also very quiet, making it ideal for discreet situations (such as wildlife photography), as well as for use while filming videos. Focusing is internal, meaning the front element of the lens doesn’t move when focusing or zooming. You can therefore use it easily with filters, the thread being 77mm in size.

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Focal Range

This is a lens which is designed for full-frame cameras only, which makes the 70-200mm focal length exactly what you get. If you engage crop shooting mode on either the Canon EOS R or the Canon EOS RP, the equivalent focal length needs to be multiplied by 1.6x, giving you an equivalent range of 112-320mm.

At the 70mm focal length the angle of view is 34 degrees.

Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM70mm

At the 200mm focal length the angle of view is 12 degrees.

 Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM200mm

Chromatic Aberrations

Usually seen as purple or blue fringes along high-contrast edged in a photograph, chromatic aberration can be a problem for some lenses. With the Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM lens however it is extremely well-controlled, to the extent that it's very difficult to find examples of any kind of fringing occurring at all. An extremely impressive performance.

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Light Fall-off

When shooting at the maximum aperture of f/2.8, you can see some light vignetting at 70mm. It’s not hugely noticeable when shooting normal subjects, but you can see it when photographing a white wall. The effect is much more minimal when shooting at 200mm. Throughout the focal lengths, the problem almost completely disappears when you close down the aperture to f/5.6.

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM70mm

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM200mm

Macro

The Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM is not a designated macro lens, but you might want to engage it for typical macro subjects, such as flowers, especially at the telephoto end of the lens.

The closest focusing distance is 70cm at either end of the lens, and the maximum magnification available is 0.23x.

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Bokeh

Bokeh is the word used to describe the out of focus areas in an image. It is usually described in qualitative terms such as creamy, smooth, pleasing and so on.

With a wide maximum constant aperture of f/2.8, 9 aperture blades and a high-quality construction, we’d expect the Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM to produce great bokeh, and we have not been disappointed.

With attractive rounded bokeh, it’s a great lens for throwing the background out of focus. Since opinion on the quality of bokeh is generally subjective, we’ve included some examples below for you to have a look for yourself.

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Sharpness

In order to show you how sharp the Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following pages.