Review Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM

The Canon RF 85 mm F2 Macro IS STM is an affordable short telephoto lens for the EOS R camera system. The 85mm focal length and F2 brightness make the lens perfect for portraits, while a short 35cm working distance also allows close-up shots. Great specifications, but how does this newcomer perform?

Click on the lens for specifications, prices and test results.

TEST RESULTS Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM:

PROS

CONS

  • Bright for a macro

  • Image stabilization up to 8 stops

  • Not 1:1 but 1:2 macro

  • Not extra weather resistant

The Canon RF 85 mm F2 macro IS STM is a short telephoto with versatile applications.

A bright 85mm lens has traditionally been considered the ideal portrait lens for 35mm cameras, and the same applies to digital full-frame cameras. The focal length allows to keep some distance from the model, which prevents distortion. The high brightness then makes it possible to limit the depth of field, which separates the model from the background.

The Canon RF 85 mm F2 macro IS STM is a short telephoto that can be used for portraits as well as for macro photography. With a brightness of F2, it is only 1/3rd stop less bright than the F1.8 that we usually find today on 85mm lenses. With that F2, it is also a stop brighter than most macro lenses. Thanks to that relatively high brightness, this 85mm gives you a pretty blurry background when you shoot portraits at full aperture. And unlike most 85mm lenses, with this portrait you can also take portraits very close up, for very close up portraits or even only someone’s eye if you want to.

 Due to a minimum focusing distance of only 35 cm, it is usable for close-ups. The image scale of 0.5x means that at the full width of the sensor (36mm), an object of 72 mm is image-filling. F2, 1/125S, ISO 320

Of course, you can also use this short adjustment distance for product photography and reproductions, for example. You do have to take into account the fact that the Canon RF 85 mm F2 macro IS STM does not go up to 1:1, like the Canon EF 100 mm F2.8 L IS USM does. The 85mm only goes up to 1:2, like for example the Carl Zeiss ZE Macro-Planar T* 100mm F2.0. Compared to the Carl Zeiss, however, the Canon RF 85 mm F2 macro IS STM is a much more modern lens with autofocus and image stabilization. That stabilization in the lens is good in itself for a gain of 5 stops. But it can also work together with the stabilization of R cameras such as the EOS R5 and EOS R6 and should then yield a profit of up to 8 stops.

Users of a Canon R system camera get with the RF 85 mm F2 a third proprietary 85 mm with EOS RF lens mount, in addition to the high-quality but very expensive RF 85 mm F1.2L USM and RF 85 mm F1.2L USM DS.

There is also the Samyang AF 85 mm F1.4 RF, which is comparable in price to the RF 85 mm F2. Lenses with EF mount can also be used via adapters, such as Canons EF 85mm F1.8 USM and EF 85mm F1.2L II USM, or Tamrons 85mm F1.8 VC and Sigma’s 85mm F1.4 Art.

What distinguishes the new RF 85mm F2 from all these alternatives is the short minimum focusing distance of only 35 cm; for other 85mm lenses it is 80 to 100 cm. This allows you to use the lens for close-up shots. The magnification scale is 0.5x – not yet the same as real macro (1:1), but fine for detailed shots. Wedding photographers will probably immediately think of wedding rings or decorations on the wedding cake, but there are many meaningful applications to come up with.

In addition, the Canon RF 85 mm F2 macro IS STM also has built-in image stabilization (IS). This results in a profit of five stops according to Canon. In combination with the image stabilization in the EOS R5 and R6, this will even be eight stops, so that you can maintain longer shutter speeds. Image stabilization is also a big advantage for close-up shots; this often does not require a tripod.

 

Build

The Canon RF 85 mm F2 macro IS STM is a compact and light lens. It is 91 mm long and the diagonal is 78 mm. On the EOS R6, which I used for this test, it’s perfectly balanced. The thread on the front accepts 67 mm filters. Three switches are placed on the side. The upper one is the focus limiter with three positions: full range, 50 cm to infinity and 35 cm to 50 cm. The middle switch changes between autofocus and manual focus. The lower switch activates and deactivates the optical image stabilization. In the middle is a wide focus ring, and on the front is the adjustable Control Ring that all RF lenses have in common. The RF 85mm F2 is not dust- and splash-proof, such as more expensive L lenses.

You should therefore be careful in adverse weather conditions.

The lens has switches for limiting the focus range, switching between autofocus and manual focus and switching the image stabilization on or off. The optical design consists of 12 elements in 11 groups. And one of those lens elements is a UD (ultra low dispersion) element. That means that it is made of glass with a special refractive index. The diaphragm has 9 blades, and the filter size is a very common 67mm.

 The background is slightly busier than with the EOS RF 85mm F1.2L – but for those butter-soft backgrounds you pay a few times more. F2, 1/200S, ISO 100

Focus and autofocus

The Canon RF 85 mm F2 macro IS STM is very sharp in the center of the image, even at the largest opening. In the corners, the sharpness is slightly less at large openings. For portraits and close-ups, however, this will rarely interfere with slightly less corner sharpness. There is a slight pincushion-shaped distortion, but it is already corrected in the camera.

In RAW shots, it can be eliminated by applying the corresponding lens profile. The same applies for the vignetting, of which no trace remains after correction. The aperture of F2 creates a nice blur in the background, which at comparable distances seems a bit busier than the butter-soft background blur of the RF F1.2. Light points in the corners appear oval.

The RF 85mm F2 has an STM focus motor. This ensures fast and quiet autofocus, for both photography and film. The focus is even slightly faster than with the RF F1.2, where the actually faster USM focus motor has to move a larger lens element. The shortest setting distance is 35 cm and that provides a magnification of 0.5x. The focusing range can be limited. There are three modes: full, infinity to 0.5m and 0.5 – 0.35m.

The Canon RF 85 mm F2 macro IS STM was tested at the end of November, during a period when the sun was low. As a result, I was able to establish that the RF 85 mm F2 is sensitive to flare, noticeable at a lower contrast in backlight, and magenta and green reflections due to scattered light. It is a pity then that the ET-77 lens hood (€49.99) is not included as standard.

The Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM (third from left) is a nice new addition to the R system.

 

 Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM
 specifications
  
field of view (diag)28°
sensor formatfull-frame
min. setting distance35 cm
filter diameter67
diaphragm blades9
image stabilizeryes
dimensions (dxl)78×90.5 mm
weight500 gr
mountCanon R
particularsmacro to 1:2
importerCanon.nl
list price€ 719,99
  
resolution8
contrast9
chromatic aberration4
distortion4
vignetting4
autofocus4
flare3
finish8
  
final score8

ConclusiON: REVIEW Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM

The close-up options make it versatile.

The user of an EOS R camera has an affordable telephoto with the RF 85 mm F2. The close-up options make it versatile. The optical quality is not as amazing as with the expensive F1.2L lenses, but is still at a high level.