The Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM was the first affordable prime lens to hit the market for Canon’s RF mirrorless cameras. It’s was a far departure from the expensive L series lenses that came before it. Still, this lens was welcomed with open arms by those who needed affordable lenses to make Canon’s mirrorless platform more accessible.
Budget-friendly 35mm primes are popular on every camera platform for good reasons. They’re great for street photography, documentary photography, event work, portraits, landscapes and more. Sigma, Sony, Tamron and others have raised the bar when it comes to affordable 35mm primes lately. So, how does the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS STM stack up? Let’s find out.
- Small and light
- Very sharp
- Good overall autofocus performance
- Nice color rendering
- Decent macro capability (1:2)
- Under $500
- No lens hood in the box
- Chromatic aberration, vignetting, and ghosting
- No weather sealing
- The STM motor is noisy
Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM — Technical specifications
All technical specifications have been taken directly from the Canon website:
- Construction: 11 elements in 9 groups
- Diagonal angle of View: 63°00′
- Focus adjustment: AF with full-time manual
- Closest focusing distance: 0.56 ft. / 0.17m
- Filter size: 52mm
- Max. Diameter x length: Φ2.93 x 2.47-inches (Φ74.4 x 62.8mm)
- Weight: 0.67lbs (305g)
Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 — Ergonomics and build quality
In terms of design, the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro is fairly straightforward. On the left of the lens, you’ll find the auto and manual focus switch and controls to enable and disable image stabilization. At the front of the lens, you’ll see that this lens uses 52mm filters. Just behind the front element is the control ring, which can be assigned to control many different functions. Behind it is the manual focus ring. It’s a nice size and it’s easy to grip and use.
One of the great things about the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS STM is just how compact and light it is. This lens weighs just over half a pound and it’s only 2.5 inches long. It’s a delight to walk around with for long periods. I used it on the Canon EOS R5 and barely even knew it was attached to the camera.
When it comes to its build quality, the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS STM is OK. It feels a little cheap compared to 35mm offerings in this price range from other manufacturers. However, the composite plastics feel tough. The switches click into place nicely. The manual focus ring spins smoothly and the control ring feels nice too. Unfortunately, there’s no weather sealing. So you can’t use this lens out in inclement weather.
Overall the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS STM is a well-designed lens. It won’t become burdensome on long shoots thanks to its low weight. The textured plastic along with the rubber grips feel nice in the hand. It balances perfectly on the EOS R5. So, this will be the same story on all current Canon RF mount cameras.
The biggest kicker is the lack of weather sealing. If Tamron can make a 35mm prime for less than $300 with weather sealing, then you can put it in this lens, Canon. Competitor’s affordable 35mm primes do feel nicer than this one from Canon, Still, it should stand up to the rigors of (dry) daily use.
Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 — In the field
This lens from Canon is an easy one to use thanks to its manageable size and weight. While it’s small, there’s still plenty of room to use the control and manual focus rings easily. The built-in lens stabilization and the IBIS in the newer Canon mirrorless cameras combine to give you an impressive seven stops of stabilization. This makes hand-holding this lens at ridiculously low shutter speeds very easy.
Overall, the autofocus performance of the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM is very good. In good light, the lens is snappy and very accurate, I didn’t encounter any problems when using single point, expanded areas, and zones. The lens performed well when tracking as well. The focus speeds do drop a little and hunting does increase in low light situations, however, the lens retains its accuracy.
The STM motor does a good job. However, the particular STM motor used is quite noisy. You’re going to notice it, so I wouldn’t recommend using this lens for video work. However, for stills, autofocus performance is more than acceptable. It’s accurate, it works well with both human eye AF and animal tracking, and it’s speedy.
While the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM isn’t a true macro lens, it does offer a nice close focusing distance of 6.7 inches. At this distance, you’ll be able to create images with a 1:2 magnification ratio. You can capture an impressive amount of detail in objects at this distance.
The autofocus works well when shooting macro images as well, though the smooth turning manual focus ring comes in handy here. Overall, this mode is great and it adds another layer of versatility to this affordable prime.
Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 — Characteristics
Overall, the Canon RF 35mm F/1.8 IS STM produces nice images. However, compared to 35mm primes from other manufacturers that sit in this price range, the Canon RF 35mm does have a few issues. Let’s break it down.
Distortion control and vignetting
The Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 does a pretty decent job at controlling barrel distortion. As you can see in the image above, with profile corrections turned off there is a small amount of pin-cushion distortion and vignetting. However, these are easily corrected by leaving profile corrections turned on.
In terms of vignetting, this lens has a fair amount when shot wide-open at f/1.8. However, it disappears when you reach f/4. There’s nothing too crazy to worry about here.
Chromatic aberration, flares and ghosting
Unfortunately, the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM suffers from more chromatic aberration, fringing, and ghosting than many other 35mm primes in this price range.
You can see around the whip and the arms of the statue, there’s a significant amount of purple fringing. Green fringing around the face is also hard to ignore. There’s purple fringing in the chrome of the motorcycle too. These images are after editing with chromatic aberration correction applied. I also tried to remove the CA manually, however, I was not very successful.
The lens also struggles with ghosting and flaring. Flares and ghosting can, of course, be used creatively. However, if you don’t want to deal with it, you’ll need a lens hood. However, Canon being Canon, decided to exclude the hood from the box. The hood for this lens (model EW-52) will set you back another $42! For shame, Canon, for shame.
The Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM held up well to the 45-megapixel sensor in the EOS R5. Images are impressively sharp. Wide-open, the corners are a little soft, but by f/4, you’ll have corner-to-corner and edge-to-edge sharpness. Shoot, be happy and enjoy the excellent performance.
The Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 does a nice job with out-of-focus areas. With the minimum focusing distance of 6.7 inches, you can create images where the background simply melts away. The bokeh is nice and creamy. Bokeh balls are slightly catseye, still, they’re nice. If you’re shooting portraits, doing product photography or macro work, you’ll be pleased with the bokeh.
We all know that Canon cameras and lenses produce some of the best colors. So, it should come as no surprise that the colors the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS STM produces are gorgeous.
The colors are natural without being oversaturated. They don’t lean one way or the other when it comes to taking on warm or cool tones. No, they strike a nice balance. Skin tones are fantastic as well. No matter what you’re shooting, the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM will capture the colors perfectly.
Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS STM — Final thoughts
The Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM is a good entry in the Canon mirrorless lens lineup. However, lenses in this price range on other platforms like those from Sigma, Tamron, Sony, et al, do outperform this offering from Canon. They also feature varying levels of weather sealing where this lens from Canon has zero.
The Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM is a bit of a mixed bag. Images are sharp, but they take a hit in quality because of distortion, vignetting, ghosting, and chromatic aberration. The lack of an included lens hood hurts as well.
At just under $500, the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM does give those looking for an affordable lens a way to get started with the Canon RF platform. It’s not a bad lens at all. No, it’s pretty good. Still, it could have been so much better. If you need an affordable 35mm prime for your EOS RP, EOS R, EOS R5, EOS R6 or EOS R3, this one will do a decent job for you.
Canon RF 35mm F/1.8 IS Macro STM
The Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM offers an affordable way to get into Canon’s mirrorless camera system. The lens is sharp, renders pleasing colors, and produces nice bokeh. The Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 also has a very handy macro mode. If you need a versatile 35mm prime for your Canon mirrorless camera that won’t break the bank, this lens will serve you well.