High Quality But at a Price


A 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is a must-have for any professional or serious amateur photographer and often among the most frequently used one. Shridhar Kunte reports on the latest Canon RF 70–200mm f/2.8L IS lens.

The Canon RF 70–200mm f/2.8 L IS USM is the company’s first professional grade telephoto zoom for its full-frame mirrorless camera systems, currently headlined by the EOS R5 and R6. Rumours surrounding the lens began in the early part of 2019 and was officially announced in October of the same year. By the looks of it, the lens comes with great optics for those who are involved in wedding, street photography, travel, environmental portraiture or even video.

The lens is the first serious professional grade zoom lens that offers a very common and versatile focal length at a fast and constant aperture of f/2.8. The lens can focus as close as 70cm and has a magnification ratio of 0.23x that is close to 1:5. The lens has nine aperture blades that translates into pleasing bokeh. For focusing, it has a dual Nano USM system that employs both a ring type USM and STM mechanism to achieve quick and accurate focusing that is smooth and nearly silent to suit both stills and video applications. This focusing system also affords full-time manual focus control when working in the one-shot AF mode.

The lens is constructed using 17 elements that are arranged in 13 groups. There are four noteworthy elements, two of which are aspherical and two are Ultra-Low Dispersion. The UD elements help to minimise chromatic aberrations and colour fringing to provide greater clarity and colour accuracy. The aspherical elements are used to correct spherical aberrations and distortion for improved sharpness and accurate rendering. Additionally, the elements are coated with Air Sphere Coating that reduces backlit flaring and ghosting for maintained light transmission and high contrast in strong lighting conditions. The front and rear element is applied with fluorine coating to protect it against fingerprints and smudges. In front of the focus ring, there is a configurable Control Ring that lets you adjust exposure settings, including ISO, aperture, and exposure compensation from the lens itself. As the elite member of the L-series, the lens has a weather-resistant design that protects against dust and moisture.

The overall construction is very good as it provides enhanced resistance to shock and vibration. Canon has made this lens with a mix of metal and polycarbonate materials for the barrel; the mount is finished in metal. For testing purposes, I used the lens on the Canon EOS R, and the combination was perfectly balanced in my average size hands.

The lens features a collapsible design. At 70mm, the overall length of the lens is just 150mm, and can very easily fit in an average camera bag. There is a switch to lock the lens to its 70mm position while storing or lugging it around. There are four switches embedded on the lens barrel. These can be easily reached by the left hand thumb while supporting the lens in the left hand palm. There are three rings on the lens. I found the control ring in the innermost portion to be very close to the camera body. I felt its prominence when using it to control functions other than aperture.

The lens comes with a lens hood that has a drawer like provision that helps to rotate the circular polariser when the lens hood is connected to the lens. Only extensive use will tell whether the extending barrel will suck in any dust or moisture.

The fast auto focus speed latched on to the subject and captured details very well, moreover the level of contrast along with colour is quite good. Exposure: 1/250sec at f/5.6 (ISO 800) Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

The center sharpness is excellent throughout the focal length from wide open. But at wide open, the corner sharpness takes a bit of a hit. At f/2.8, light fall off at the corners are visible, but when stopped down to f/4, there is a definite improvement at the edges in terms of sharpness and light fall off. The lens hits its peak performance at f/5.6. There is a small amount of fringing at the wider end but settles down from 135mm onwards. The images show excellent sharpness, good contrast and colour balance. I used the lens in various lighting conditions and found that it was able to track the subject consistently. The focusing speed was fast, and I was very happy with the bokeh along with the colours it rendered.

There is no other lens made for Canon’s mirrorless full-frame system that can match the price of this lens. Priced at Rs. 2,16,995, the RF 70–200mm f/2.8 is the costliest lens available in this segment. But if you own a Canon full-frame mirrorless, this is the only option available. However, the R system offers easy compatibility with Canon EF SLR lenses via an adapter. If you are on a budget, there are a few alternatives from Sigma, Tamron and Canon. But the overall performance, excellent built, size and IS performance of the RF 70–200mm f/2.8 L IS USM absolutely lives up to its bloodline.

This article originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of Better Photography.

Image stabiliser, lens hood with drawer
Effective IS, good edge performance when stopped down
Build Quality
Weather sealed, extending barrel
Lens control ring, compact size
Warranty & Support
Two year warranty, good service
MRP Rs. 2,16,995
Who should buy it? Canon users who enjoy shooting portraits, sports and street photography in available light.
Why? Apart from its excellent image quality, optics and build, there are no other worthy choices for the Canon EOS R system