The New Cheap Canon RF Lenses Look Enticing — for Dry Photography

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Canon’s early RF mount lenses focused on pro rather than budget photographers. But, the company’s latest glass expands Canon’s list of under $700 mirrorless lenses. The Canon RF 16mm f2.8 STM is a lightweight pancake lens (sort of) that’s priced at $299.99. The new RF 100-400mm f5.6-8 IS USM, meanwhile, offers a lot of zoom for under $700. Despite Canon’s budget RF cameras like the Rp being weather-sealed, however, both of the newest cheap Canon RF lenses are not made for rain.

Canon RF 16mm f2.8 STM

Key specs:

  • Maximum and minimum aperture: f2.8 to f22
  • Lens construction: 9 elements in 7 groups
  • 7 aperture blades
  • No stabilization
  • STM focus motor
  • Minimum focusing distance: 5.1 inches
  • Weighs 5.8 ounces
  • Lens hood is sold separately

The Canon RF 16mm f2.8 STM is a compact, lightweight lens. With the same basic chassis, it’s almost the same size as Canon’s 50mm f2.8. Like similar small lenses from Canon, the focus dial can be switched to a control dial using a switch.

Canon isn’t calling it a budget lens. But, it’s missing the red ring of the brand’s high-end optics and has a list price of $299.99. Canon’s likely attempting to disband the concept that pros and high-end users can’t enjoy a budget lens sometimes. At $299, I think the word budget is appropriate here. We’ve tested similar “budget” lenses in the past. The RF 35mm f1.8 STM we called almost worthy of the L line except for the build. The RF 50mm f1.8 STM similarly had few complaints.

The biggest feature that’s missing is weather-sealing. Canon’s budget-friendly bodies like the EOS Rp have weather-sealing. The sealing isn’t as robust as high-end models, but if you don’t have a weather-sealed lens you might as well not have a weather-sealed camera. Wide-angle lenses like 16mm are great for both indoor and outdoor use. Weather-sealing could significantly expand the ways to use this lens, even if it raised the cost by $50 or $100.

Canon RF 100-400mm f5.6-8 IS USM

Key specs:

  • Max aperture: f5.6 (200mm) – f8 (400mm)
  • Minimum aperture: f/32 (200mm) – f45 (at 400mm)
  • 5.5 stops of image stabilization (6 with IBIS)
  • 9-blade aperture
  • Constructed from 12 elements in 9 groups
  • Nano USM focus motor
  • Minimum focusing distance: 34 inches at 200mm
  • Compatible with the RF 1.4 and RF2 extenders
  • Weighs 1.49 pounds
  • Lens hood sold separately

Like the RF 16, the new telephoto is designed as both a more affordable and lightweight option. The Canon RF 100-400mm f5.6-8 IS USM has a narrower aperture. But, the $649.99 lens still includes stabilization. It’s rated to 5.5 stops or six with in-body stabilization. That’s a must-have for telephoto and nice to see on a lower-priced optic.

The lens weighs in at just under a pound and a half. It incorporates a control ring as well as an auto-to-manual focus switch, giving it more controls than the pancake-like 16mm. Again, however, the lens is not weather-sealed. It’s going to need a cover for shooting sports or wildlife in the rain. And, like the 16mm, it doesn’t ship with a hood.

The 70-300mm is a more common focal length for budget-friendly telephotos. That extra 100mm at the long end, however, may be more usable for photographers who are considering a lens like this. It’s going to be enticing for photographers that can’t afford the extra $2,050 for the Canon RF 100-500mm f4.5-7.1 L IS USM.

Both lenses are expected to start shipping next month.

Hillary Grigonis

Hillary K. Grigonis is a photographer and tech writer based in Michigan. She shoots weddings and portraits at Hillary K Photography. A mother of three, she enjoys hiking, camping, crafting, and reading.