Now that Canon has had a few years to expand its RF-mount mirrorless system, the brand has developed a well-rounded portfolio of lenses capable of handling nearly any situation you’d like to photograph. Coupled with the development of several cameras, ranging from the advanced R5 and R3 to the sleek and approachable R7 and R10, you can dial-in your camera-lens kit to address a variety of specific shooting styles, ranging from a sleek and portable landscape shooting kit to the more robust and speed-minded professional setup. Here’s a quick guide to some RF lens combos for different shooting needs.
Typically characterized by wide-angle fields of view and benefited by smaller, lightweight designs, landscape photography is a genre that you can also make your own and add your personal touch to the scene by varying your lens choice.
The RF 16mm f/2.8 STM excels for landscapes because of its inherent traits: it’s portable and sleek and the ultra-wide-angle field of view will handle the most impressive scenes you’re bound to encounter. While not the fastest in the RF lineup, the f/2.8 design is beneficial in the landscape genre because it saves you precious space and weight if you’re hiking to get that epic shot.
For a bit more versatility, there’s the RF 14-35mm f/4 L IS USM, which goes a touch wider than the 16mm and then zooms into a general 35mm-wide field of view for broad field flexibility. What you gain in zoom versatility you concede in size and weight compared to a prime; but it’s also worth noting that this lens has image stabilization and is an L-series lens, indicating higher-quality optics and improved weather sealing.
And finally, arguably the most versatile lens in the RF lineup, there’s the RF 24-240mm f/4-6.3 IS USM zoom, which might appeal to the traveling landscape photographer looking for a lens that can hit the comfortable 24mm wide-angle position but also has some reach to make more selective compositions and isolate distant subjects. It’s slower than the f/2.8 lenses but does incorporate image stabilization for some handheld insurance.
Wildlife and Sports
Despite the distinct subject types, wildlife and sports photographers often look for the same attributes when selecting lenses—namely length, speed, and focusing performance. Both genres tend to revolve around photographing moving subjects from a distance, which is why the most traditional lens choices for sports and wildlife tend to be telephoto zooms and super-telephoto primes.
An ideal entry into the realm of telephoto zooms, this lens meshes versatility and reach with a compact form factor that makes it equally well-matched for travel shooting. If you’re looking for a more advanced option, in terms of optics, speed, and weather sealing, check out the RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 L IS USM—an L-series zoom that makes for a great upgraded pick.
If you need more reach, such as for bird photography, then prime lenses will be the way to go, and something like the RF 600mm f/11 IS STM is a unique entry into the world of super-telephotos. Decidedly slow, this lens makes up for it with an impressively compact and lightweight design that’s easily handholdable. The same can’t be said for the RF 600mm f/4 L IS USM, which gains several stops in speed and features a more advanced all-around design for professional sports and wildlife applications. The RF 600mm f/11 is a lens for the casual and curious wildlife shooter, working in bright conditions, and the RF 600mm f/4 is a cutting-edge optic that would be at home on the sidelines of major sporting events or used to photograph the next wildlife magazine cover.
A traditional portrait lens will have a focal length between a normal and mid-telephoto field of view, along with a fast maximum aperture. The normal-to-long focal length offers a flattering, slightly selective perspective and the bright design lets you control your depth of field and isolate your subject with selective focus.
At the essential end, a lens like the RF 85mm f/2 Macro IS STM comprises everything you really need in a portrait lens. The 85mm focal length is versatile for headshots and full body shots, and the f/2 maximum aperture is bright enough to separate your subject from a busy background. If you’re looking for something a bit wider, possibly for group portraits, then a lens like the RF 50mm f/1.8 STM is a solid choice, as well.
Moving up to the L series in this genre will give you the RF 85mm f/1.2 L USM—one of the fastest lenses Canon has ever produced with a handful of specialized optics to add character and clarity to your imagery. And if this lens isn’t specialized enough, there’s also the RF 85mm f/1.2 L USM DS, where DS stands for a Defocus Smoothing coating that helps to soften and smooth the bokeh quality when working at the widest aperture settings.
If you want a bit more versatility than a prime without sacrificing speed, Canon offers the unique RF 28-70mm f/2 L USM zoom. An impressive feat to sport a constant maximum aperture faster than f/2.8, this ultra-bright zoom goes wider than your conventional portraiture lens but, when zoomed in, is right in the sweet spot for lifestyle applications.
Vlogging and Content Creation
A burgeoning field in its own right, vlogging, streaming, and content creation is a popular genre whose lens requirements are truly personal, but often include the need to be able to record selfies along with day-in-the-life footage. Versatility is king here, which often relates to wider fields of view and zoom designs for ease of use.
Besides excelling as a landscape lens, the RF 16mm f/2.8 STM doubles as a great prime lens option for the vloggers out there. Great for full-frame or APS-C, the ultra-wide field of view, close minimum focusing distance, and lightweight design make it perfect for one-handed shooting and arm’s-length selfies.
Another wide-angle lens that’s great for these applications is the RF 15-30mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM, which has the versatility of a zoom along with the ultra-wide focal length that’s great for selfie shooting and easily including yourself in the frame. The zoom design offers a bit more room to modify compositions and is a great single lens for switching between documenting subjects and places and then transitioning into handheld single person takes.
Looking at two more prime lenses for this genre, the RF 24mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM and RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM are interesting options, specifically for the vloggers out there who dabble in product review videos. Both have a 1:2 macro capability, which offers excellent potential for tight detail shots, but the wide-angle focal lengths mean they can also be used for everyday broad perspective shooting, including being a suitable for webcam usage.
Everyday Shooting and Travel Photography
Many times, the type of shooting you’re looking to do doesn’t necessarily fall under a specific genre. Like when you’re traveling, and you spend part of the day walking city streets and the rest of the day watching an event from the sidelines. Or even if just meandering around your hometown on a photo walk or when bringing your camera along “just in case,” a compact and versatile single lens can be the go-to for variable shooting needs like the everyday adventure.
If you’re an APS-C shooter, two optimized zooms, the RF-S 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM and the RF-S 18-45mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM, will be great choices that give you focal length versatility and a portable form factor. Both could be considered ideal travel lenses with as they’re light enough for carrying all day long and have both a wide field of view for the photographing monuments and buildings and zoom in for picking out smaller details or photographing distant subjects.
And for full-frame shooters, the RF 24-105mm f/4-7.1 IS STM checks off many of the boxes for what makes a good travel or all-arounder lens: versatile focal length range, compact stature, and lightweight design. It’s a great everyday carry option, especially if relegated to a single lens for a day of shooting, and suits everything from the handheld selfie to the zoomed-in portrait.
The f/2.8 Trinity
Closing out this tour of Canon’s RF lens lineup is a trio of lenses that indicate a certain “professional worthiness,” if you will. The f/2.8 trinity is indicative of a lens system being suitable for professional use. Whether the working shooter is a journalist, portrait photographer, events shooter, wedding photographer, or something in between these, the f/2.8 zoom is a key ingredient in many pros’ bags.
At the wide end there is the RF 15-35mm f/2.8 L IS USM, covering ultra-wide to general wide-angle with a bright design that suits working in difficult lighting conditions. Like all three lenses, this L series lens touts a robust weather-sealed barrel and advanced optics to handle any type of shooting situation.
Next in line is the RF 24-70mm f/2.8 L IS USM; a lens that’s commonly referred to as the workhorse of the system due to its perfect mixture of focal-length range and speed. Covering wide angle to portrait length, this is one of those lenses that many pros use for a majority of their shoots—anything from street and landscapes to portraits and events.
Finally, there’s the RF-70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM, the longest of the trio and the go-to lens for events, fashion, and close-range sports shoots. The RF version of this classic zoom sees a notably sleeker and lighter design that makes all-day use much more of a realistic possibility.
Combined, these three lenses take you from 15mm up to 200mm with an f/2.8 maximum aperture throughout. Consistency, clarity, and reliability are all accurate descriptors for these zooms and define why working photographers routinely turn to these three lenses to accomplish a great percentage of their shoots.
Do you have a favorite Canon RF lens? What are your favorite lenses for the types of shooting you do? Let us know your thoughts, in the Comments section, below.