With the RF 70-200mm f4L, Canon’s once again shown how a new lens can match or exceed the performance of a popular classic while adding something different – in this case a much more compact design, at least when set to 70mm. Canon had a tough job on its hands as the earlier EF 70-200mm f4L Mark II was already one of the sharpest tools around and one that was updated only a couple of years previously – plus it’s cheaper and can of course be successfully adapted to the EOS R system.
The new RF version manages to match the EF model at long distances, while becoming slightly sharper at close range for portraits and even more so for macro. In my tests it also proved more consistent and accurate when focusing stills on the R5 than the EF lens, and a little smoother and more confident for video focus too.
What makes the RF lens really special though is its size, little larger than a 330ml can when zoomed to 70mm and considerably more portable than the EF version, particularly when the adapter’s fitted for EOS R bodies. The extending barrel is a double-edged sword though as it’s way too soon to know about long-term sealing. Like the RF 2.8 version, the optical design sadly rules out the use of RF teleconverters and also results in significant focus breathing where the magnification reduces at closer focusing distances – this in turn means even though it can focus almost twice as close as the EF model, the resulting image size is actually roughly the same. Some may also prefer the slightly smoother background rendering of the EF lens.
The bottom line is the older EF 70-200mm f4L Mark II remains an excellent lens and if you already have one, or less to spend, I’d stick with that model. But if you don’t already own a 70-200mm f4, the combination of superb optical quality, accurate focusing and a surprisingly compact design makes the RF version highly compelling and worth spending the extra. Event and portrait photographers will love its quality, confidence and portability, and it’s another lens that makes the EOS R system tempting for new buyers.Check prices on the Canon RF 70-200mm f4L IS USM at B&H, Adorama, WEX or Calumet.de! Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!