Was very, very wrong about the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM

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Tried the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM once in-store and was not impressed initially. In retrospect, I was not giving it a fair shake. Was so smitten with the EF 50mm f/1.8 I already owned that worked so well with the adapter on the EOS RP that I was not willing to give the RF prime a fair shake. It also sounded too good to be true. I mean:
  • 35mm
  • Relatively small
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Brighter than most smallish and/or macros at f/1.8
  • Macro
  • USM and STM for fast. smooth, and silent focusing
  • On-body AF/MF and IS on/off switches
  • Configurable control ring
With all of that logic and experience dictates that IQ or something must suffer. Right? Ugly bokeh, cheap build, slow focus, not sharp wide open, awful corner sharpness, or something. If it were great they would price gouge, correct? But no. This thing is sharp wide open, has beautiful bokeh, corners are sharp, so on and so forth.
What the heck Canon?
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I could be wrong, but I can think of no other reasonably priced/sized, strong performing, full frame, mirrorless lens with modern tech for anywhere near this price point.
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(Not listing IS as a factor since mounts listed below sport in body IS.)
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Nikon Z:
  • Larger
  • More expensive
  • No macro
Panasonic S1 (Leica SL):
  • Slightly slower aperture
  • Larger
  • Nearly 10 times as expensive
  • No macro
  • Larger
  • More expensive
  • No macro
  • Third party
Sony E (More choices so narrowed down to lenses f/2 or brighter w/ AF):
  • Larger
  • 3 times as expensive
  • No macro
  • Larger
  • More expensive
  • No macro

Samyang/Rokinon AF 35mm f/1.4 FE

  • Larger
  • Marginally more expensive ($30-$100)
  • Third party
  • No macro
  • Update: I ended up trading the RP along with this lens when the A7II went on sale for a one mount kit. The Samyang/Rokinon became a part of this kit when it also went on sale. I like sales. The Canon lens reviewed here and the RP together are still an excellent value. If I did not prefer the A7III over the EOS R this could have easily gone Canon’s way.
As an aside let me state that I am very happy that so many companies have joined the consumer full frame mirrorless jamboree.
Now let’s look at size alone including a couple of crop contenders. Used brighter lenses for cropped cameras.
So the (inhales) Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM is quite the performer, compact package, and feature rich deal at $499 when so many listed cost well into 4 figures. Kudos to Canon.
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There is only one other lens I can think of that hit so many boxes for me in the past, the Pentax 100mm f/2.8 macro. And as much as I enjoyed that lens’ performance, beyond reasonable price, and stellar waterproofed build it was too long to be as versatile, too slow to be as useful in low light, and slow to focus and useless for video given the screw drive focus tech. While both the Pentax and the Canon would benefit from a focus limiter switch it has proven much less of an issue with the Canon. Especially considering that you can grab the focus ring and override AF when you want to without switching off AF.
Some would accurately point out that 0.5x is not true macro. But in real world use I have never thought, “I wish this focused closer.”
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This may be a sleeper lens. Especially impressive when you consider that even when combined with the Canon EOS RP I recently reviewed you can get both out of the door for quite a bit less than any other combo listed. Made a spreadsheet about it.
Canon
EOS RP $1,299.00
35mm f/1.8 $499.00
$1,798.00
Fujifilm – Crop Adjusted
X-T3 $1,499.00
23mm f/1.4 $899.00
$2,398.00
Olympus – Crop Adjusted
OM-D E-M1 Mark II $1,599.00
17mm f/1.2 PRO $1,199.00
$2,798.00
Nikon
Z6 $1,996.95
35mm f/1.8 S $846.95
$2,843.90
Sony
A7 III $1,998.00
35mm f/1.4 ZA $1,498.00
$3,496.00
Panasonic – Sigma Option
S1 $2,497.99
Art 35mm $899.00
$3,396.99
This just unseated my previous full frame body and lens combo multipurpose bargain combo, the A7III and Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8. Beats that combo price by a little more than a grand.
Well done Canon.
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Happy shooting.
-ELW

 

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