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Best RF Lenses for Video

With the release of the Canon EOS R5 & R6 video shoots of all loyalties are jumping ship to the new Canon RF system for their awesome video specs. But when it comes to choosing the best RF Lens for video there are a few that clearly stand out.

The ULTIMATE Canon RF Lenses for Video are:

1. Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L is USM

2. Canon RF 28-70mm f/2 L USM

3. Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM 

Let me explain why….

Canon RF 15-35 f2.8

For any serious video shooter switching to the Canon EOS R/R5/R6 the RF 15-35mm is an incredible lens. Edge to Edge sharpness, detail & color rendition this lens performs extremely well. In fact it might actually have some of the best wide angle optics I have ever used. And in a zoom! Make no mistake, this lens is a HUGE jump up from the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III.

This lens is perfect for Real-Estate Videos, Vloggers, Documentaries, Landscape Stock Footage, or anything that involves tight spaces.

A few of my favourite things about this lens:

  • 82mm screw on filter on a 15mm!
  • Sharp even down to f2.8
  • Completely Weather Sealed
  • Image Stabilisation Built in with on lens switch (up to 5-stops of stabilisation & up to 8-stops with IBIS)
  • The right weight/length ratio
  • Control Ring for extra functionality
  • Extremely versatile being able to get from 15mm to 35mm
  • 35mm works really well for everything up to a Mid-Shot
  • Very pleasing bokeh for a wide-angle lens

Canon RF 28-70 f2

This lens is a marvel, a unicorn, an anomaly that defies the limitations of what we thought was possible. To create a full-frame, constant f2 lens rom 28-70 is a serious deal. This could, hypothetically, stand in for 3 or 4 prime lenses, a 28mm f2, 35mm f2, 50m f2 & 70mm f2.  But how does it actually perform in real-word uses?

Really well for video shooters!

The issue that most photographers have with this lens is the weight, to get a 28-70 constant f2 lens you need some BIG optics. 1.4KG with a 95mm filter size kinda big. For photographers carrying this lens in hand, this can definitely weigh on you, but for us video shooters who will be rigging out cameras on tripods, shoulder rigs, dolly’s & jibs, this is a non-event.

A few of my favourite things about this lens:

  • 82mm screw on filter on a 15mm!
  • Sharp even down to f2
  • Completely Weather Sealed
  • Control Ring for extra functionality
  • Can replace 4 prime lenses making your bag lighter & possibly save you some money
  • Steller bokeh

Things to be wary of about this lens:

  • 95mm screw on filter is larger than most and can be very expensive.
  • No Image Stabilisation
  • Makes the camera very front heavy for handheld shots
  • This is not a cine-lens, therefore focus breathing is a real thing

Canon RF 70-200 f2.8

When it comes to the telephoto range, the classic 70-200mm f2.8 is an obvious choice for most video shooters for conferences, wildlife documentaries & sports. For a lot of people, myself included I questioned is it worth the extra money for this lens over the EF 70-200 f2.8? But after a deeper dive there are some key improvements that warrant the premium price tag.

Why you would purchase the RF 70-200 f2.8 over the EF 70-200 f2.8:

  • When zoomed in the RF is half the length of the EF version, this is HUGE… or tiny, depending on how you look at it.
  • Control Ring for extra functionality on the RF which is not on the EF
  • The RF version has slightly superior optics and marginally faster AF on your EOS R camera.

If you were to ask me would I recommend the RF 70-200 f2.8 to a Canon EOS R video shooter? My answer would be a confident yes. The difference in size alone is worthy of the upgrade to me, being in a public space and not have a MASSIVE lens that draws everyone’s attention is killer for a 70-200.

Why video shooters should be buying native RF lenses

Personally, I have adapted lenses since my first BlackMagic Pocket camera 7 years ago and I think most video shooters would agree that, for the most part, adapting lenses is less of a taboo thing for video shooters than photographers. When compared to cine-lenses that do not have any auto-focus most of us that have adapted lenses up to now have been happy to switch off AF and just use manual focus.

However, there are 3 main reasons why I believe if you are getting a Canon EOS R/R5/R6 for video you should really get native lenses:

  1. The auto-focus: The AF in the new EOS R cameras, specifically in the R5 & R6 is so good for video that it is actually a tool we can trust professionally & these native lenses are going to deliver the absolute best results. Something else I noticed is how quiet the RF lenses are at auto-focusing comparatively to their EF counterparts. The focus does not hunt, it pulls smoothly, quietly & at a natural speed.
  2. The Control Ring: The control ring allows you to bring back the ability to Iris (aperture) pull on the go. Being able to pull the iris while moving through rooms or as the sun disappears behind a cloud is one of the most missed features when I moved away from cine-lenses and towards photography style lenses. And the best part is that now the EOS R cameras allow you to change your aperture in 1/8th increments, this allows for a seamless iris pull.
  3. Shorter Flange Distance: A shorter flange distance provides so many advantageous. Because of the shortened back focus (distance between the rear element of the lens and the sensor) there is less refraction, resulting in better image quality, less aberrations, less flaring and ghosting and higher specced lenses in more compact lens designs. It is important to say here that if you were to simply adapt EF lenses instead of purchase RF glass, you would not see these benefits.

Are RF lenses really better then EF lenses?

I know what you’re thinking, adapting EF lenses to an EOSR body is pretty much ‘native’… right? Are the RF lenses really better?

Short answer, yes. Let’s break down the key reasons that the RF lenses are better then EF lenses:

  1. RF lenses use 12-pin connection compared to 8-pins on the EF lenses.

This means faster data transfer, lightning-fast autofocus and enhanced image stabilisation all thanks to better communication between the camera and lens. A boost in general optimisation of image quality can also be seen because of the ‘on the fly’ corrections.

2. The DLO (Digital Lens Optimizer)

DLO takes use of the lens’s built-in memory capacity to allow it to store specific data on any aberrations that occur. This coupled with the fast data transfer between the lens and camera body means that it can instantaneously and automatically correct these aberrations in the future.

3. Revolutionary image stabilisation 

Using a new dual gyro sensor system to detect inadvertent movement, this information is sent through those lightning fast 12-pins to the DIGIC 8 processor. While this is all happening, the sensor is noticing all and any blur that is caused by movement, and sending this data to the processor. This is giving the camera a real-time analysis of the camera motion and the ability to correct on the fly.