The Canon RF 35 mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM is an ideal lens for the compact Canon EOS R and RP cameras. It fits in perfectly with the theme of small and handy, and it is also relatively inexpensive. The fact that this bright 35mm has macro means that you can use it for many kinds of photography.
Small, light and macro: Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM
The Canon RF 35 mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM has everything needed to become a very popular lens. The 35mm focal length is loved by street and documentary photographers. You get just a little bit more in frame with it than with a 50 mm standard lens, while the perspective is just as natural. A 35 mm is counted among the wide angles, but it lacks that real stretched wide-angle effect that you get with a 24 mm, for example. And that is precisely the strength of a 35mm. This Canon RF 35 mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM also offers the ability to photograph up to 1:2 with it. With that you (just) move into the macro area. With this 35mm, you can thus get small subjects pretty big in the frame. Canon has also provided this lens with image stabilization, so that you can work well with longer shutter speeds. The combination of high brightness and image stabilization ensures that you can take sharp photos even in very little light with this lens, as long as your subject remains sufficiently still, of course. And if those are not enough arguments in favor of the Canon RF 35 mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM, then a look at the specifications might be. This is (for the time being) the smallest, lightest and least expensive RF lens. That makes it an ideal lens for the new Canon EOS R and RP. Those cameras distinguish themselves from their SLR relatives with their compact dimensions and their low weight.
BUILD AND autofocus
The Canon RF 35 mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM is small and light. Put this 35mm on a Canon EOS RP, hang it over your shoulder, and you might just forget that you have a camera with you. At the same time, you have a quality lens with this 35mm. The finish is the same as on the more expensive RF lenses, with the typical Canon RF mount and the multifunctional setting ring on the front. This ring can be programmed for, for example, setting an exposure compensation or changing the aperture. Towards the middle is the wide focus ring. The grooves have a different pattern, so that you can keep the two rings apart by feel. Focusing is not done internally. The lens extends out a little, but fortunately, not much. The shortest setting distance of this 35mm macro is 17 cm, and you still have a fair amount of space between your subject and the front lens left over at that distance. The autofocus is fast, but not completely silent, despite the STM motor. You mainly hear that during photography. With video, you have fewer problems with it. The lens then focuses in small, quiet steps, and you hardly hear that. There are two switches on the lens. One is for turning the autofocus on and off, and the other does the same for image stabilization. There is no switch for limiting the autofocus range, which we often find on lenses that actually go to 1:1 macro. There is also no indication for the set focus distance. In practice, the autofocus is so fast and accurate that you won’t miss that too much.
The image quality of the Canon RF 35 mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM is excellent. There is a slight gradient from the center to the corners at all apertures, and in RAW, the largest aperture is just a fraction less good than the next one. The best results are achieved with f/4 and f/5.6, but the differences are relatively small. If we look at the jpegs, we see that after applying the camera corrections, the results are more even. If you need f/1.8, you can use that aperture just fine, and your shots will look good.
With a bright wide angle, you always expect to find some vignetting. The Canon RF 35 mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM is no exception. In RAW, the vignetting is about a stop or two at full aperture, and if you don’t correct that, you will definitely see that in your pictures. In jpeg, it’s reduced to 1.2 stops at full aperture and – surprisingly – still more than one stop at f/2.8. Only at f/4 do you no longer see any of it in practice. There are quite a few photographers who like a bit of vignetting in their shots, so we don’t immediately find this a downside.
The Canon RF 35 mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM also has some distortion. You can only see that if you photograph in RAW and process the shots in a program that does not automatically correct that. If you work in something like Lightroom, for example, or shoot jpegs, the lens profiles already provide the necessary corrections, and the distortion in practice is virtually 0. That is also what you see in the viewfinder, and that is one of the strengths of a mirrorless system.
Canon launched the RF system with four lenses. Two of them have image stabilization. And one of these is this Canon RF 35 mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM. This image stabilization is important, since the Canon EOS R and EOS RP do not have it built into the body. Thanks to image stabilization, you can take sharp photos with much longer shutter speeds than would be the case without image stabilization. Canon claims a profit of about 5 stops. If we assume the rule of thumb of 1 divided by the focal length, then you should be able to take sharp photos at 1/30th of a second without stabilization. Five stops of profit would then be 1 second. We did not quite achieve that, but 0.5 seconds should work, with some goodwill, and that’s also a good result.
Curious about the performance of the Canon RF 35 mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM in practice? Click on the button below and visit our renewed web gallery with sample images. The images can be downloaded in full resolution to be viewed at 100%.
ConclusiON: REVIEW Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro @ Canon EOS R
The Canon RF 35 mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM is very well-rounded, suitable for street photography, documentary, macro and shooting in low light.
The Canon RF 35 mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM is the smallest, lightest and most affordable lens that you currently have available for the Canon EOS R and RP cameras. That will probably change in the near future, but until that time, this lens is actually not a crazy choice as the first lens for anyone who buys an EOS R or RP. The other obvious choice is the RF 24-105 mm f/4 IS. That lens offers the flexibility of a zoom, but lacks the handiness and brightness of the 35 mm. The Canon RF 35 mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM is also a macro, and that makes it extra versatile. The image quality is excellent, the auto focus is fast, and the stabilization works well. The Canon RF 35 mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM is very well-rounded, suitable for street photography, documentary, macro and shooting in low light.