Eric L. Woods

More thoughts on the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 STM.

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Made this post after realizing I wrote two recent posts each about the RF 50mm f/1.8 STM and the RF 85mm f/2 STM Macro, but I had not written about the 35mm f/1.8 STM since 2019.

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There was a standalone post and I also wrote about it in a comparison with the Leica Q. Scoff if you must, but that post spelled the end for the Q.

Q and RP

So suffice it to say that I really liked this lens.

So why did I sell it? At the time I had a wedding shoot coming up that called for a back up Sony FE body. Could not swing both an RP and an A7II at the time so trade happened. And with the RP so the 35mm went also. Was not thrilled about it. Even with all of the other Canon RF bodies released at the same time and since the RP still hits the sweet spot for me bang for buck wise. More on this later, but the RF 35mm pretty much does not have any direct competitors in my book.

But I knew that if an opportunity opened up I would score both again. That opportunity came about with the release of the RF 50mm f/1.8 STM and an EOS RP showed up at my local shop used for a price I could not refuse.

Canon EOS RP

In those recent 85mm and 50mm posts I compared them to the Sigma 56mm and 30mm lenses for APS-C respectively. No such direct comparison here. I had the Sigma 16mm, but at a 24mm full frame equivalent they are not technically direct competitors. As I stated in my earlier RF 35mm post this lens puts up a strong showing as compared to other full frame mirrorless mount options. Even with newer 35mm options since not much changes. Updated list from that post below. I had left IS off of this list originally but will add it for this list since Canon has released bodies with IBIS since then.:

Nikon Z:

Nikon NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S

  • Larger
  • More expensive
  • No macro
  • No IS

Panasonic S1 (Leica SL):

Leica APO-Summicron-SL 35mm f/2 ASPH.

  • Slightly slower aperture
  • Larger
  • Nearly 10 times as expensive
  • No macro
  • No IS

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Leica L and (New) Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary

  • Larger (Not so for the f/2)
  • More expensive
  • No macro
  • No IS
  • Third party

Sony E (More choices so narrowed down to lenses f/2 or brighter w/ AF):

Sony Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA Lens

  • Larger
  • 3 times as expensive
  • No IS
  • No macro

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens and (New) Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary

  • Larger (Not so for the f/2)
  • More expensive
  • No IS
  • No macro
  • Third party

Samyang/Rokinon AF 35mm f/1.4 FE

  • Larger
  • Marginally more expensive ($30-$100)
  • No IS
  • Third party

(New) Samyang/Rokinon AF 35mm f/1.8 FE

  • Smaller and less expensive but…
  • Not built as well
  • No macro
  • No IS
  • Third party

(New) Sony FE 35mm f/1.8

  • Much more expensive
  • Not built as well.
  • No IS

(New) Viltrox 35mm f/1.8

  • Larger
  • Third party
  • No IS
  • Not enough of a cost savings to offset Viltrox’s lack of a track record

But back to APS-C Sigma. Similar to the Sigma 16mm the RF 35mm may be my favorite of the three. Why?

While the normal and portrait variants of each are very good these wider options create very pleasing images. So much so that I used these as much if not more than their, usually favorite of mine, normal lens mates. Will steer clear of comparing them too much focal length wise, but I will run through the same topics as before.

Size and weight.

Once again like the 50mm the RF 35mm is considerably smaller and lighter than the 16mm lens.

The Canon walks away with this one, especially considering that it is a full-frame lens.

Value

Based on price alone this is a draw. The regular price for these lenses are within $10 of each other. But once you consider the fact that the RF 35…

  • Is a macro lens.
  • Has image stabilization.

…the Canon pulls ahead.

Optical Specs

Differing focal lengths but I will say that f/1.4 works out to an f/2.14 full-frame aperture equivalent. Add that aperture advantage to the image stabilization and the Canon pulls ahead again.

Close Focus

The Sigma is no slouch,…

a6100

…but the Canon is a macro lens after all.

RF 35mm f/1.8 IS STM Macro

Canon for the win.

Bokeh

Get close enough and the Sigma delivers…

a6100

…but owing to it’s macro design…

Canon EOS RP

…and longer focal length…

Canon EOS RP

…the 35mm pulls ahead.

Sharpness and Colors

Check (Sigma)…

a6100

…and check (Canon).

Canon EOS RP

AF Speed and Accuracy

Both focus swiftly and accurately. Both are also silent while they are at it.

Low Light

Sigma did well.

a6100

Add IS and full frame and it is Canon for the win.

RF STM Lens Samples

And significantly both are capable for…

All Purpose Use

Sigma

a6100/Sigma 16mm f/1.4
a6100
a6100
a6100

Canon

rf 35mm f/1.8 STM Macro
Karen as shot by Graham at SE Camera
2 of 3 Crop 1
Canon EOS RP
Canon EOS RP
Canon EOS RP
Fire Trucks
Canon EOS RP
Canon EOS RP
Canon EOS RP
Canon EOS RP
Canon EOS RP

Video (Added category)

While I shoot stills the most I did use the 16mm for video. Neither the body or the camera had IS so it was limited to tripod use. I have found the RF 35mm IS combined with the EOS RP digital IS makes for a great video solution that can be used for tripod and handheld use. I shoot 1080p so the cropped 4K of the RP did not impact me. If 4K were my concern there are a host of other RF bodies that could accommodate. The same could be said about the RF 85mm as well, but I would be much more likely to use the 35mm for video.

So in the end while these are not direct competitors focal length wise given a choice between the two I would choose the RF 35m and adjust for the focal length. This is not a ding on the Sigma 16mm. It is still an excellent lens that I would highly recommend if you are already invested in the crop cameras that apply. But side by side the Canon is the clear winner for me here.

  • All other things being equal a factory lens is preferred.
  • Prices nearly equal the Canon is the better value with it’s macro capabilities, IS, and full-frame compatibility.
  • Hit rate. I had the Sigma for quite a while and I got some shots I really like. But the Canon is just a no effort keeper machine.
  • The Canon is lighter, smaller, and better built. Again, not that the Sigma is bad. The Canon just feels better to me with its less shiny surface that feels a bit more rugged.
  • And once again full frame. As mentioned above all things being equal I will take a full frame set up every time. The Sigma 16mm did make the most of the APS-C sensor offering amazing low light capabilities but in the end it cannot fight physics.

I still say that Sigma really delivered the prime lens goods for Sony crop cameras…

…and because of them I kept Sony crop cameras much longer than I would have otherwise. But I prefer the Canon STM lens trio that has replaced them since.

Back to the topic lens at hand. Like the RF 50mm when I purchased the Canon 35mm STM I expected to like it based on my past experience, and it sill performs beyond my expectations.

Well done Canon.

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