Canon RF 70-200mm F4L IS USM Review

February 22, 2021 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


While the outstanding F2.8 version understandably steals the limelight, not everyone needs or wants such a fast, inevitably heavy lens, which is where the new RF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM enters the stage.

Weighing in at 375g lighter, measuring 2.5cm shorter and costing a cool £$1000 less, this is arguably the 70-200mm zoom that the majority of Canon EOS R-series camera owners should buy - it's literally a better fit for the smaller R-series bodies than the F2.8, whilst costing considerably less.

Sure, you can't achieve quite the same bokeh effects when shooting at f/4 instead of f/2.8, but happily it otherwise gives very little away in terms of optical performance to its bigger brother. It offers fantastic sharpness and image quality at the centre and edges of the frame throughout both the zoom and aperture ranges, from the widest aperture of F4 to the longest telephoto length of 200mm.

Chromatic aberrations are almost non-existent and flare is only ever an issue when shooting directly into the sun or if you choose not to use the large lens hood. The only real optical issues of note are slight pincushion distortion and some vignetting when shooting wide-open at f/4 at the 200mm focal length - otherwise this lens is a stellar performer.

Auto-focusing proved to be very quick, accurate and reliable on the Canon EOS R6 camera that we tested the lens with, while the very effective optical image stabilisation system that's worth up to 5-stops on its own worked even better when paired with the R6.

Compared to the DSLR version of this lens, the EF 70-200mm F4L IS II USM, the new RF 70-200mm F4 is shorter thanks to its retractable design and because you have to use an adapter with the EF version. It also offers even better image quality, a much closer focusing distance and more responsive auto-focusing.

On the flip side, the EF version is £400/$300 cheaper when bought new, has hard stops and a distance scale, features a mechanical-assist manual focus ring, can be used with both 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, and has a fixed internal zoom mechanism which some users may prefer to the new RF 70-200mm extending design.

So if you already own the EF 70-200mm F4L IS II USM or can pick one up cheaply, it's still a great lens in its own right and well worth using with an adapter on the new EOS R cameras.

Overall,though, the more than holds it own against both the faster RF 70-200mm f/2.8L and the DSLR EF lens that it effectively replaces for the future in the Canon range. F4 speed lenses are typically seen as the bridesmaids, with the flagship F2.8 being the blushing bride, but the new RF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM is more than good enough to warrant your close attention.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 5
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 5
Value for money 4