Canon RF 35mm F1.8 Macro IS STM

Canon has gone down the big, expensive route for many of its RF lenses, but not everyone wants a heavy, pricey F1.2 prime attached to their camera. More affordable lenses like the RF 35mm F1.8 Macro IS STM ($499.99) are there if you prefer a smaller, lighter, and more affordable prime. We like its optical performance, built-in stabilization, and overall value, but wish Canon didn’t cut as many corners when it came to fit and finish—the lens omits weather and fluorine protection, features included in EOS R5 and R6 cameras.

Light and Compact

The RF 35mm F1.8 is one of the lightest and smallest native lenses available for the RF system. It measures 2.5 by 2.9 inches (HD), weighs just 10.8 ounces, and supports svelte 52mm front filters. Canon doesn’t give you anything aside from front and rear caps. There is an optional hood available, the EW-52, priced at $45—I used the lens without a hood and didn’t find myself missing it, but would have preferred to see it included.

Canon RF 35mm F1.8 Macro IS STMTamron SP 35mm F1.8, offer these upmarket features, but you’ll need to reach for an adapter to use them—at press time, third-party support for the RF mount is mostly absent.

There are two control rings on the barrel. The large manual focus ring does just what you’d expect. It’s an electronic focus system, and you can set it for a typical response, which ramps up focus speed when you turn the barrel more quickly—it’s a good choice for macro work as slow turns allow for very fine adjustments to focus. Switch to linear (accessible via the camera menu) for video—a linear response means you can rack focus from one point to another by turning the focus ring a set distance, which is the same regardless of how quickly or slowly you turn it.

Sample ImageEF-M 28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM for its more consumer-friendly APS-C mirrorless system. I won’t call the omission surprising, but it is disappointing. The light comes in very handy when using the EF-M 28mm and I was hoping to see it in more Canon macro lenses.

Sharp, but Slightly Distorted

I tested the RF 35mm with the 45MP EOS R5 and Imatest software. The pair delivers resolution in our very good range for the high-resolution R5, around 4,000 lines, at f/1.8 and f/2. There’s slight improvement at f/2.8 (4,350 lines), just shy of what we consider excellent with the R5, and that level of detail holds through f/8.

Sample ImageSee How We Test Cameras and Lenses

The field of focus isn’t entirely even, though, and the lens shows a bit of barrel distortion (1.8 percent) without the aid of in-camera corrections. You’ll want to use the f/4 through f/8 range for any sort of technical reproduction work. If you’re working in JPG mode, or editing Raw photos in Adobe Lightroom, you can take advantage of automatic distortion and vignette correction.

Sample ImageA Good Macro Option

The Canon RF 35mm F1.8 Macro IS STM isn’t the flashiest or most ambitious lens Canon offers. It doesn’t have the premium fit and finish of an L-series lens—Canon makes you pay more for weather protection and fluorine coating. But it also doesn’t carry the price tag that typically comes with L glass.

Sample ImageCanon RF 35mm F1.8 Macro IS STM Specs

Dimensions2.5 by 2.9 inches
Weight10.8 oz
Filter Thread52 mm
MountCanon RF
Focal Length (Wide)35 mm
Optical StabilizationOptical
Focus TypeAutofocus

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August 31, 2020
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