Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM Review

October 29, 2020 | Mark Goldstein |

Introduction

The RF 85mm F2 Macro is a fast short telephoto prime lens for the Canon EOS R full-frame mirrorless camera system.

The Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM lens features a bright f/2 maximum aperture and a STM stepping motor for smooth, precise and quiet continuous auto-focusing.

It has 9 rounded diaphragm blades for smoother bokeh and built-in image stabilisation offering a claimed 5-stop advantage, which increases to 8-stops when using the EOS R5 and EOS R6 cameras.

The Canon RF 85mm F2 is a useful macro lens with a minimum focusing distance of 0.35m and a maximum magnification ratio of 0.5x, providing 1:2 macro shooting capability.

There's also a Super Spectra coating on the lens elements to minimize ghosting and flare and a configurable Lens Control Ring on the lens barrel.

The Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM is priced at £649.99 / €769.99 / $599.99 in the UK, Europe and the USA respectively.

Ease of Use

Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM

The Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM is a pretty small and compact portrait prime lens, weighing in at 500g and measuring 9cm in length.

This makes it less than half the weight and 2/3rds the length of the RF 85mm f/1.2L USM lens.

When mounted on the EOS R5 mirrorless camera that Canon sent us for testing, the RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM feels well-balanced and suitable for both two-handed and one-handed use.

Build quality is very good. The Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM feels solid in your hand, even if it is mostly made out of plastic.

Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM
Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM

Sadly it isn't weather-proof, though, unlike the similar RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM lens. You'll need to step up to the Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM to get that feature. Having said that, we did use it in a heavy shower with no adverse effects.

The Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM boasts Image Stabilisation which Canon claims offers an advantage of up to 5 f-stops over lenses without a stabilizer.

Even better, if you pair this lens with the newer EOS R5 or R6 cameras and their in-body stabilisation systems, the amount of total stabilisation on offer increases to a whopping 8-stops.

This is activated via the Stabilizer On/Off switch on the side of the lens.

Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM
Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM

If the camera body supports it, Canon's IS technology is also able to detect intentional panning movement and automatically switch from the Normal IS mode to the Panning IS mode.

There is a focus mode switch with the usual AF/MF settings. Note that this lens usefully offers full-time manual focusing even when AF is selected.

There's also a focus limiter switch with 3 settings that toggles between Full, 0.5m-Infinity and and 0.35m-0.5m settings to help speed-up the auto-focusing system when required.

The Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM lens has a fairly narrow focus ring with a ridged, rubberised grip band. There are no hard stops at both ends of the range, making it more difficult to set focus at infinity.

Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM
Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM

Polariser users should be pleased that the 67mm filter thread doesn't rotate on focus.

When it comes to auto-focusing, the Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM is a fairly quick performer, taking around 0.15 seconds to lock onto the subject when mounted on the Canon EOS R5 camera that we tested it with.

We didn't experience very much "hunting" at all, either in good or bad light, with the lens accurately focusing virtually all of the time.

Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM
Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM

Being an STM lens, it has a stepper motor that is designed for quick and smooth autofocus, something which videographers may find particularly appealing.

The focusing mechanism is very audible, though, making this lens less well-suited to video recording.

A now standard feature for most Canon RF lenses is the Lens Control Ring at the end of the lens barrel, which can be used to control certain key camera settings (TV, AV, ISO and exposure settings).

The lens ships with a large round lens hood (ET-77) with a lock button, but there's no case included.

Focal Range

The Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM's focal length provides an angle of view of 28º 30'.

Canon 35mm F1.4 DG HSM

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as purple or blue fringes along contrasty edges, are only conspicuous by their almost complete absence from our Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM test shots.

Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM
Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM

Light Fall-off and Distortion

With the Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM lens set to its maximum aperture, there is some light fall-off in the corners, which you'll need to correct in post-processing.

Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM

Pin-cushion distortion is not at all evident.

Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM

Macro

The Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM usefully doubles up as a good macro lens, offering a minimum focusing distance of 0.35m and a maximum magnification ratio of 0.5x.

Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM
Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM
Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM
Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM

Sunstars

The Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM is capable of producing quite nice sunstars when stopped-down to f/22 or f/29, as shown below, although flare does occur when shooting directly into the sun.

Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM

Bokeh

Bokeh is a word used for the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth / creamy / harsh etc.

In the Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM lens, thanks to 9 rounded aperture blades, a very pleasing bokeh can be achieved.

We do realise, however, that bokeh evaluation is subjective, so we've included several examples below for your perusal.

Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM
Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM
Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM
Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM
Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM
Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM
Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM
Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM
Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM
Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM

Sharpness

In order to show you how sharp the Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following page.