Canon’s “Budget” RF primes are better than you think

Canon’s RF system has some impressive lenses such as Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM, Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM and Canon 28-70 f/2L USM, but they are very big, very heavy and very expensive.

There are also some relatively “cheap” (or “budget”) primes, namely Canon 16mm f/2.8 STM, Canon RF 24mm F1.8 IS STM, Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM, Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM and Canon RF 85mm f/2 Macro IS STM.

These “budget” primes are often contrasted with the f/1.2 primes and they seem to have quite bad reputation around the ‘net.

Are these “budget” primes really that bad?

In my personal experience, not really, at least for photography, as I don’t use them for video. They have their dark sides, like loud and rattling autofocus drive and occasional tendency of autofocus to go the wrong way of the 85(focus limiter solved this for me). But otherwise there is not much to complain. And they are much smaller, lighter and less expensive.

Canon RF 85 f/2 Macro IS STM

This is my favorite focal length. And while I often miss that f/1.4 aperture, this lens is still capable of delivering beautiful images.

Optical quality is pretty good. Autofocus (with R6 body) is very good – capable of following running kids. image stabilization can be helpful. And there is macro capability too.

I’ve made comparisons with very sharp Sigma Art 85mm f/1.4 DG DN on Sony A7IV with it’s very good 33Mpix sensor. Both lenses at f/2. I’ve printed similar images from both cameras at 24in x 16in / 60cm x 40cm and didn’t see any meaningful difference in resolution. This is impressive result for Canon.

This lens is also suitable for product photography, even hand held. These images were taken hand held under normal living room lighting on a home table and against a wall. Postprocessing is limited to basic adjustments in Lightroom and simple brush stroke around to make background white. Nothing more.

Obviously they could be better with proper background, lighting, tripod and focus stacking. But even now they are usable for some purposes (I’ve used them to sell my computer online).

Canon RF 35 f/1.8 Macro IS STM

This is very similar story to RF 85 f/2. Although I’d love to have f/1.4 aperture for better background separation, this lens shouldn’t be limiting factor in your photography. And it is really small and light.

Canon RF 16 f/2.8 STM

This is a specialty lens for people with specific need. Or, as with myself, it is great entry into ultra wide angle photography. It is great entry, because at this price level you don’t risk much and will not lose much, even if you decide ultra-wide is not for you.

I’ve found this lens very useful for family / vacation photos, especially in narrow or crowded spaces. It requires careful framing, to avoid deformations typical for wide angles, but that’s same with all UWA lenses.

This lens relies heavily on digital corrections (it has unusually high vignetting and distortion) but this isn’t really visible in final images. And the lens is very small and light.


If you are looking for one these focal lengths, look no more. Just get the lens and go take some pictures!