Small, Sharp, and Affordable: Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM Review

Kit lenses have a certain stigma attached to them, but the Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1 IS STM breaks the kit lens mold.

One of the biggest complaints we hear is that the cost of entry into Canon’s RF mount glass is too high. Canon has a plan to rectify this with more affordable RF lens options for those who don’t want to spring for premium L series glass. The Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1 IS STM was launched earlier this year, and it’s intended to be sold as part of Canon’s camera kit bundles. However, you can buy this lens separately from their camera bodies. At just $399, this versatile lens is a full $700 cheaper than the RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM, but is it worthy of your time? Find out in our full review.

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Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Very sharp
  • Nice color rendition
  • Lightweight and small
  • Good build quality
  • Very fast and quiet when focusing
  • Finds focus quickly in both good and low light conditions
  • The programmable control ring is a nice touch
  • Excellent image stabilization
  • A fun macro feature which works surprisingly well
  • Very affordable at just $399

Cons

  • A lens hood is not included
  • There’s a lot of distortion at 24mm (but easily fixed during post)
  • No weather sealing

Gear Used

We used the Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1 IS STM with the Canon EOS R6.

Tech Specs

All technical specifications have been taken directly from the official Canon website:

  • Focal Length & Maximum Aperture – 24-105mm, f/4-7.1
  • Lens Construction – 13 elements in 11 groups
  • Closest and Minimum Focusing Distance: During AF: 0.7 – 1.12 ft./ 0.2 – 0.34m, During MF: 0.43 – 1.12 ft./ 0.13 – 0.34m
  • Filter Size -67mm
  • Max. Diameter x Length, Weight – Approx 3.02 in, 76.6mm, Approx. 0.87 lbs. / 395g
  • Optical Image Stabilization – up to 5 Stops** of Shake Correction
  • Control Ring for Direct Setting Changes – Yes
  • 12 pin Communication System – Yes

“Thanks to its small size and lightweight body, the lens feels excellent. You can easily use this lens for long periods without it becoming overbearing.”

Brett Day -Gear Editor

Ergonomics

Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1

The first thing you will notice about the Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1 is just how tiny it is compared to other RF mount lenses. Measuring in at only 3.02 inches (when not extended) and weighing 0.87lbs, the Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1 feels nice in hand, and balances perfectly on the camera. Even when the barrel is fully extended (roughly 5.75-inches in length), the lens still feels great.

Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1

Flip the lens around to the left-hand side, and you will see the physical controls on the body. There is honestly not a whole lot going on, but here you can see the image stabilization on/off switch, and a control that switches the front ring between manual focus and control ring duties. Here you can also see the large zoom ring and the control/manual focus ring at the front of the lens.

Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1

Around the front, you will see that the Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1 IS STM takes 67mm filters, so if you plan on using this lens with filters, make a note so that you buy the right size. Overall the Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1 IS STM is a straightforward lens by design. Thanks to its small size and lightweight body, the lens feels excellent. You can easily use this lens for long periods without it becoming overbearing.

“The most significant departure from L lenses when it comes to build quality is that the Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1 IS STM does not have any weather sealing at all.”

Brett Day – Gear Editor

Build Quality

Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1

Usually, when you think of kit lenses, you think of cheap plastic and loose-fitting switches and controls: that’s not the case with the Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1 IS STM. The plastic body feels like it is made from the same materials as the more expensive Canon L glass, the rubber on the zoom ring is of the same high quality found on L lenses, and the control ring feels the same as the ones found on L designated lenses too. The switches on the side feel great and thunk into place when pushed, and the zoom and control/manual focus rings are smooth when turning.

The most significant departure from L lenses when it comes to build quality is that the Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1 IS STM has no weather sealing at all. If you hoped to use this lens in the rain or snow, you’re going to have to buy a separate weatherproof covering for it. I would like to be able to comment on the lens hood for the Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1 as well, but seeing as Canon cheaped out and doesn’t include one in the box, I can’t. In this day and age, not including the lens hood is ridiculous. What are you thinking, Canon? If you want an official Canon lens hood, you’ll have to fork over another $34.95. For shame, Canon. For shame.

For what this lens is, though, an affordable ‘entry-level’ variable aperture standard zoom lens built for the masses, the build quality is very good. Just remember you can’t play in the bathtub with it and you’ll be good to go.

“Once you have switched the lens into macro mode, you can manually focus on objects that are just one inch from the lens.”

Brett Day – Gear Editor

Ease of Use

Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1

The Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1 IS STM is mostly easy to use. Attach it to your camera, point, focus, capture, profit. There are a few small caveats, though. I think the biggest issue many new photographers will struggle with is the variable aperture, which dips down to f7.1! If you want to use this lens on the long end of things you’re going to need lots of light and to perhaps crank up the ISO, or you’ll need to have good enough techniques in regards to hand holding your camera at slower shutter speeds to make the most of the built-in lens stabilization.

I will say this though, on the new Canon EOS R6, the lens stabilization and the IBIS in the camera work together, and because of this, I have been able to handhold this lens for up to four seconds and get razor-sharp images. Now that’s impressive!

The Image stabilization on the Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 is great.

The variable apertures kick in quickly on this lens. At 24mm, you’ll be at f4, but as soon as you leave 24mm, the lens immediately drops down to f4.5. The second you leave 35mm, you drop to f5, leave 50mm, and you hit f5.6, and before you make it to 70mm, you’re at f6.3. From 80mm on, you’re at f7.1. If you know how to get the most out of your camera, you will be just fine with this, but newcomers who shoot with their camera in semi-auto or auto modes might wonder why their camera is boosting ISO levels to nuclear status. The fast-changing variable aperture would be why.

Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1
An external light source was used to light the coin while in the manual focusing macro mode.

Another great feature of this lens is a neat macro mode you can use when the lens is in manual focusing mode. Enable this macro mode by simply switching the focus mode to manual focus in the camera, and then set the focus/control ring switch to focus. Once you have switched the lens to macro mode, you can manually focus on objects that are just one inch from the lens.

Manual focusing macro mode. ISO boosted to 12,800 on the Canon EOS R6.

This sounds great, and it is, but it can be tricky to use. You are so close to the object that light becomes an issue, so you either have to set up some external lighting, or boost your ISO. The other problem is that only the very center of the lens will be in focus. You’ll need a tripod or very steady hands, and you’ll need to use focus peaking to make this work, but when it works you’ll be pleased with the results. The image of the coin above was taken with an external light source, and I boosted the ISO on the Canon EOS R6 to 12,800 to get the SD card image.

If you keep the limitations of this lens in mind, you will not have any issues with it. It focuses fast, it feels nice in hand, it zooms smoothly, the IS works like a treat, and the macro mode is fun to use. The Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1 IS STM is a versatile lens that is great for photo walks, events, landscapes, and more.

“The stepping motor in this lens does a great job, and it makes this zoom a pleasure to use.”

Brett Day – Gear Editor

Autofocus

Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1

When it comes to autofocus, you will have no issues at all. I have been incredibly pleased with the performance of this lens during my time with it. I have used this lens in every focusing mode you can think of from single shot, to continuous AF, eye and animal AF, to continuous and tracking, and it has been rapid and accurate in every instance.

I have tested the lens in great light and in low light/low contrast situations and the lens never hiccuped or stuttered. Take the image of the bird above, for example. This Heron took off from the bank of a lake and flew past me so fast I thought I would miss it. But in a flash, the lens acquired focus. Not only was the lens able to track the bird, but it also worked with Animal AF in the Canon EOS R6, and I was able to track the bird’s eye. Not only does the lens acquire focus quickly, but it also does it smoothly and quietly. The stepping motor in this lens does a great job, and it makes this zoom a pleasure to use. When it comes to autofocus, you will not have any issues with the Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1 IS STM.

“I have pixel peeped as hard as I could at the RAW files and not seen any green or purple fringing. Nicely done, Canon.”

Brett Day – Gear Editor

Image Quality

Straight out of camera JPEG

Overall, you’ll be delighted with the images from the Canon RF 24-105mm. Colors are beautiful and natural, images are very sharp, you can create some beautiful bokeh, and there’s not a hint of fringing or chromatic aberration. There is a problem with distortion when at 24mm, but it can be corrected in post. Let’s break things down a little further below.

Bokeh

Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1
Edited

The bokeh created with the Canon 24-105mm f4-7.1 IS STM can be quite lovely in the right situations. At the long end of the lens, you’re going to get some pretty smooth out of focus areas (see image above), while on the shorter end, your bokeh will be a little more chaotic. The variable aperture at each focal length is going to dictate what you can do in regards to bokeh, but if you can get close enough to your subjects, bokeh can be created.

Chromatic Aberrations and Distortion

Edited

The Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1 has absolutely no problems with chromatic aberrations. I have pixel peeped as hard as I could at the RAW files and not seen any green or purple fringing. Nicely done, Canon. It’s a different matter entirely when it comes to distortions, though.

Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1
Uncorrected image at 24mm

When you use the lens at 24mm you will see some significant distortion. While the center of the image is sharp, the corners suffer. The bowing can easily be corrected in post, but my goodness: I’m surprised Canon let the lens go out like this. Take a look at the image above. The building is significantly bowed, and you can see some vignetting in the corners.

Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1
corrected image at 24mm

The image above has been corrected in post to remove the distortion. As you can see, there is a considerable difference between the two pictures. The EOS R6 actually does an excellent job of removing the distortion from this lens in the JPEGS it produces.

Seeing as I tested this lens along with the EOS R6 for a month and used just JPEGS because CR3 RAW file support for the EOS R6 wasn’t available, I wasn’t able to see this. As soon as RAW support for the EOS R6 became available, and I was able to look at the RAW images. The distortion jumped right out. As soon as you move away from 24mm, the distortion improves significantly and is virtually gone by the time you hit 50mm. Don’t let it worry you too much; the distortion can be fixed easily during post.

Color Rendition

Unedited

The Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1 IS STM produces nice natural colors. You’ll notice that the colors aren’t very saturated at all. In fact, they are a little muted, which I prefer as I like to edit colors in post. Of course, if you shoot JPEG, colors will be rendered according to the color profile you have chosen in your camera. Overall, the colors are pleasing and there’s nothing to dislike about them.

Sharpness

Now, this is where the Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1 IS STM shines. Image sharpness is incredible with this lens. The rest of the staff here and I have been positively floored with the images produced with this lens. Wide-open at f4 the center is sharp, though corners do suffer just a little. But stop the lens down just a tad and your images will sing. For a ‘kit’ lens, the overall sharpness is exceptional and certainly much, much better than you would expect to see from a $399 lens.

Extra Image Samples

Below you will find a mixture of edited and unedited RAW files converted to JPEG, and a few straight out of camera JPEGS so that you can get a better idea of what to expect from this lens. Each image has been noted accordingly.

Edited
Unedited
Unedited
Unedited
Edited
Straight out of camera JPEG
Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1
Edited
Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1
Edited
Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1
Straight out of camera JPEG
Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1
Straight out of camera JPEG
Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1
Straight out of camera JPEG
Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1
Unedited
Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1
Straight out of camera JPEG
Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1
Straight out of camera JPEG
Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1
Straight out of camera JPEG
Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1
Straight out of camera JPEG
Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1
Straight out of camera JPEG ISO 10,000 EOS R6
Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1
Straight out of camera JPEG

“It’s the perfect lens for many types of photography thanks to its versatile zoom range, and its small size and low weight means you can carry it around on your camera without feeling like your back is going to break.”

Brett Day – Gear Editor

Conclusions

Likes

  • It’s so small and light you could use it all day with no issues
  • This is one sharp lens
  • Fast and quiet when autofocusing
  • The manual focusing macro manual mode is quite fun

Dislikes

  • Distortion, though correctable, is a little much at 24mm
  • Where’s the lens hood, Canon? Why would you do this?
  • No weather sealing

The Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1 IS STM has pleasantly surprised me. I will be honest and say I wasn’t expecting great things, but what you get for $399 is excellent. This is a well-built lens that focuses incredibly quickly. The lens produces nice natural colors, it’s beyond sharp, there’s no fringing, and it can be used as a makeshift macro lens. It’s the perfect lens for many types of photography thanks to its versatile zoom range, and its small size and low weight means you can carry it around on your camera without feeling like your back is going to break. Yes, there is distortion on the wide end of this lens, but thanks to software, it can be fixed quickly and easily. This lens is excellent overall and a far cry from Canon EF mount kit lenses.

The Canon RF 24-105mm f4-7.1 IS STM receives a solid four out of five stars from us. If you are looking for an affordable, do-it-all lens for your Canon EOS RP, EOS R, EOS R5 or EOS R6, look no further than this little gem. At $399, it’s hard to go wrong. Check out the latest prices on Amazon.