Having said that, if you don’t want to read through the entire discussion and want to skip to the best part right away, then this is the list of the best Canon RF lenses for video:
- Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8 L IS USM
- Canon RF 50mm F/1.8 STM
- Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8 ‘L’ IS USM
- Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 L USM
- Canon RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM
- Canon RF 24mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM
- Canon RF 14-35mm f/4 (Top choice for shooting videos)
- Canon RF 16mm f/2.8 STM
If you’re interested in learning about the top Canon EF lenses, you might want to check out this comprehensive guide.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Videography Lens
The first thing that you have to keep in mind is the focal length. The most common focal length for shooting videos is between 20mm and 80mm. That covers the focal length for shooting landscape scenes, portraits, and several vlogging styles for social media content creators.
This range may not be ideal for more niche videography genres such as macro videography, but the 20 to 80mm focal length should be more than enough for most everyday uses.
Many lenses tend to ‘breathe’ when you adjust the focus. This changes your composition by altering the field of view. Cheaper lenses are often more prone to focus breathing than better-made and more expensive lenses. If you’re choosing lenses for shooting videos, this is something to look out for, as it creates false focusing effects and is difficult to correct during editing. If you do purchase a lens with this problem, I would suggest locking the focus before you start filming to avoid focus breathing.
Internal Focusing and the Non-Rotating Front Element
Another aspect of some lenses that you must keep in mind is that the lens’s front element shouldn’t rotate or move back and forth. This is a common feature of many lenses and is especially unfavorable in the case of video shoots. If the front element rotates heavily and extends and retracts as the lens focuses, it may impair the use of circular polarizers and ND filters, while also making noise that could affect your video quality.
Choose Parfocal Lenses
When zooming with some lenses, you will find that the lens hunts for focus with each adjustment. As you can imagine, this could be detrimental to the quality of your videos. A property of parfocal lenses is that they tend to hold their focus even when zoomed in or out, making them ideal for videography purposes.
Manual Focusing Design
A lot of modern lenses use what is known as focus-by-wire technology. This means the manual focusing ring you turn isn’t connected to the focusing elements via gears. Instead, when you turn the manual focusing ring, an electronic motor inside the lens passes the information to the focusing elements and moves them. Many videographers find this design to be frustrating, as it provides no feedback and can feel less controlled.
With older lenses, the manual focusing ring is connected to the gear mechanism controlling the lens’s focusing elements. This gives precise feedback when you’re turning the manual focusing ring and is the preferred design for many videographers.
Image stabilization allows you to leave behind the tripod and shoot hand-held. This can be incredibly liberating if you’re a nature and wildlife documentary filmmaker.
With IBIS (In-body image stabilization) now becoming the new normal with mirrorless cameras like the Canon RF mount bodies, filmmakers are increasingly leaving the tripod behind. This sensor-shift image stabilization system often comes with five or more stops of compensation and ensures that filmmakers can negate hand-shake when filming. Some IBIS systems work in tandem with lens-based image stabilization and offer increased image shake correction.
Weather sealing is a requirement if you plan on shooting outside and don’t want to postpone production any time the weather changes. Not all lenses will come with this feature and some lenses may only feature partial weather sealing. It’s always best to confirm that the lens is weather-sealed and not merely weather resistant using the official lens specifications. This feature saves critical time and ensures your gear is safe when shooting outside.
The Best Lenses for Shooting Videos
1. Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8 L IS USM
I picked the Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8 L IS USM as our first lens because the focal length range from 24mm to 70mm is excellent for various video-making (and photography) purposes. This camera is great for shooting landscape and nature shots, filming portrait-length scenes, and shooting everyday videos. The constant aperture of f/2.8 ensures the lens can maintain the same exposure across the focal length. I would say that the Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8 L IS USM is suitable for both casual vloggers and serious filmmakers.
Overall, the lens is very fast when shooting stills and videos. The camera’s autofocusing is powered by a Nano USM system that uses a combination of ring-type USM technology and an STM mechanism to deliver precise autofocusing performance. Video autofocusing is a bit slower (understandably) compared to still autofocusing. Of course, there is a full-time manual focusing override on the lens.
However, one issue I have noticed is that the lens makes a peculiar shooshing sound when autofocusing in video mode. This is noticeable enough to be picked up by the camera if you’re using the mic to record sound. I would recommend using an external sound recorder/mic to record audio. In any case, while filming, you would be using the manual focusing ring to lock focus, so this may not be a deal breaker.
The rubberized manual focusing ring is a focus-by-wire design. As I have mentioned above, this system does not directly connect with the focusing mechanical gears inside the lens. Instead, it passes on the information to the electronic motor inside the lens, moving the focusing elements. I am not a big fan of this technology – at least not for video work or macro photography.
When zoomed in at 70mm, the Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8 L IS USM shows no focus breathing. This is excellent when shooting videos at the portrait focal length. However, zoom out, and at the widest focal length (24mm), the lens shows distinct signs of focus breathing.
Image stabilization is another important feature that I stressed at the start of this discussion. The Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8 L IS USM comes with five stops of image shake correction (Canon calls it IS). In real-life situations, the lens performs excellently when IS stays activated. This negates the need for carrying a tripod when shooting on difficult terrain or working in tight spaces where a tripod may not be feasible.
2. Canon RF 50mm F/1.8 STM
If you’re using a full-frame EOS R series camera like the EOS R6 or the EOS R5, you will want a 50mm prime lens sooner rather than later. Let’s dive right in and learn more about our pick from the perspective of shooting videos.
Unfortunately, the Canon RF 50mm F/1.8 STM does not come with image stabilization, which will probably weigh on your mind when shooting videos. With a fast f/1.8 aperture, however, you can use the body-based image stabilization of your full-frame EOS R mount camera, and it will offer 5-axis image stabilization without any issues.
The lens mount is made of metal and feels solid. The lens’s construction uses a fair bit of plastic and does not include weather sealing, but the lens is lighter than competitors as a result.
Unlike other RF lenses, which come with a dedicated control ring apart from a focusing rig, the Canon RF 50mm F/1.8 STM comes with just one ring. A toggle switch on the barrel switches the function between a dedicated manual focusing ring and a control ring for any other function (exposure, aperture, etc.). I’m not a fan of this, as I often forget to flip the switch back to manual focusing mode and then struggle to get the perfect shot in a pinch. I am sure many other filmmakers (and still photographers) will agree with this. But at the end of the day, this is subjective.
The STM autofocusing motor technology used in this lens is optimized for video making rather than still shooting. The autofocusing is precise. However, there is one aspect that I don’t like – the buzzing sound that the lens makes when the autofocusing motor engages. If you’re recording the audio via your camera, it’s bound to pick that up. I strongly recommend an external mic or an external sound recorder for audio recording.
The lens’s fast aperture allows for beautiful shallow depth-of-field shots, but focus breathing is an issue. If you can work around this issue, like not changing focus while shooting, locking the focus, and not rocking focus back and forth while recording, you can still make use of this feature within your videography.
3. Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8 ‘L’ IS USM
This lens’s focal length is ideal for shooting landscapes, nature, street videos, weddings, and other events. The 35mm is a standard focal length that works in a diverse variety of situations.
I like that the lens has a constant aperture of f/2.8 across the focal length. As you rock the zoom back and forth and change your composition, your exposure won’t change, and that’s a significant advantage for a video maker.
Autofocusing on the lens is powered by a Nano USM focusing mechanism. This system doesn’t create too much noise, but may still be a hindrance to some filmmakers. Ideally, you would use an external sound recorder or at least a second mic when shooting videos. The lens has a full-time manual focusing override. The focusing speed in video mode is excellent and very accurate.
When compared to the disastrous focus-pulling effect of the Canon RF, 28-70mm f/2 L USM when zoomed in to 70mm, the Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8 ‘L’ IS USM does not have nearly the same amount of focus breathing. But that said, focus breathing is present at both the tele-end and the wide-end. Focus breathing is more apparent when zooming out to 15mm and not as much as when shooting at 35mm. However, as a video maker, this is something that you have to keep in mind when looking at this lens as an option.
The image stabilization is a selling point for this lens. The built-in image stabilization offers up to five stops of image shake correction. This comes in handy when shooting hand-held videos.
The build quality of the lens is decent. The lens comes with a fluorine coating at the front of the lens, making it easy to clean in case smudge, fingerprints, or dust accumulates on the front glass element.
4. Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 L USM
The Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 L USM is a standard prime lens designed for the Canon full-frame EOS R mount camera systems. Being a standard prime lens means the lens captures a perspective that’s similar to the human eye.
The bright wide aperture is handy when shooting in low-light conditions. It’s great for capturing a shallow depth of field and blurring the background.
The build quality for an expensive lens like this isn’t the best in the business. A lot of plastic has been used in the lens construction, which I suppose has been done to keep the weight of the lens down to something manageable. Even then, this is a big lens weighing 950 grams. The significant front element of the lens ensures that the lens can collect a lot of light and the 77mm filter thread specification is a testimony to that.
The lens features Canon’s ring-type ultrasonic motor autofocusing technology. The autofocusing performance of the lens is very reliable. In video mode, the performance is a bit slower than when it’s autofocusing in the stills mode, but this is normal for video shooting. The lens does make a bit of a whooshing sound when the AF motor is engaged. It’s not very loud, but the camera’s internal mics pick it up. I would recommend, again, that you use an external mic to get better quality audio.
The manual focusing ring is electronically connected to the focusing motor, so the feedback isn’t the best. That said, you will get used to this over time. Almost all new Canon RF lenses come with this new electronically coupled manual focusing ring.
Focus breathing remains an issue with this lens. I recommend that you lock your focus before you begin shooting so that the focus breathing issue is not captured in your recording.
5. Canon RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM
The 24-105mm is a popular focal length that almost all major lens makers manufacture. Canon’s original EF 24-105mm f/4 is a very popular lens with its full-frame DSLR users. The RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM fills this space in the RF mount lineup.
The best thing about this lens is the focal length. This is extremely versatile, which makes it valuable for a wide variety of shooting situations. This lens is optimized for the larger image circle of full-frame cameras, so the field of view is larger. Therefore the 24mm wide-angle focal length is ideal for shooting landscape, nature photography, and other wide panoramic scenes.
You can also shoot weddings using the standard 35mm and 50mm focal lengths. Plus, as the lens extends to 105mm, it also serves as a medium telephoto lens. You can shoot interviews with this lens or try to zoom in on a subject at a distance and play around with the depth of field.
The constant aperture of f/4 isn’t the best in the business. But for landscape and nature video work, you would ideally work with a larger depth of field, which means a larger aperture isn’t always necessary.
As mentioned in this discussion, image stabilization is handy when shooting stills and videos. Even though most filmmakers and social media content creators use some stabilizer to steady their footage, it becomes imperative that the camera or lens body also has some image stabilization.
This lens’s image stabilization alone is very capable. It’s rated at up to 5 stops and can quickly correct any shaky movements of your hands when shooting videos (and stills). The stabilization system can detect panning and tilting movements as well. When image stabilization is turned on, you can quickly pan and tilt without the lens-inducing jerk movements. This comes in handy when shooting videos.
If you’re using an RF mount camera with IBIS, it will work with this lens-based image stabilization system to impart additional stops of image stabilization. This is an incredible advantage when shooting hand-held.
Canon’s Nano USM technology powers the autofocusing. This technology combines the benefits of an ultrasonic motor and a stepping motor to ensure faster autofocusing performance.
6. Canon RF 24mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM
A macro lens is a rare choice for filming, but might just be the right one to create unique content. That said, this isn’t an actual macro lens, as the maximum magnification offered by this lens is 1:2, or half the real-life size of the subject. What I like about this lens is that it’s inexpensive, has image stabilization, and is portable. Plus, the lens is versatile, being suitable for close-up shots and everyday filming.
Being a 24mm lens designed for the full-frame camera system of EOS RF mount, the field of view offered by this lens is 84 degrees. That ensures you can capture much of the scene in front of the camera. Ideal for nature and landscape video shooting, this lens offers an interesting perspective you cannot get using telephoto lenses.
The fast f/1.8 maximum aperture comes in handy when shooting in low-light conditions. You can easily capture bright exposures in most kinds of lighting. The f/1.8 aperture also lets you blur out the background for an interesting out-of-focus effect.
The lens features optical image stabilization. This is one of the most critical features that I feel is necessary for a lens, other than superior autofocusing and sharp video quality. The Canon RF 24mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM features five stops of image stabilization. When paired with a camera with IBIS, the total stops of image shake correction becomes 6.5, which is an incredible advantage, as noted above. You can easily handhold this lens for shooting videos.
All that said, I find the lens’s true utility to be in product footage. Being a semi-macro lens, you can get very close perspectives that you cannot get with any other lens. So, you will love this lens if you’re a commercial video maker or someone who shoots product videos. Of course, the lens’s focal length versatility means you can also use it for nature and landscape shooting assignments.
7. Canon RF 14-35mm f/4
This is an excellent lens for both professionals and beginners looking to create stunning video content. Several factors make this lens my top choice, so let’s dive right in to find out more about the Canon RF 14-35mm f/4.
First up, the focal length of the lens. The 14-35mm focal length is excellent for shooting a range of diverse situations. The wide-angle focal length between 14 and 28mm works perfectly for shooting videos of landscapes and nature shots. If you’re already shooting nature photography, you would love the lens’s performance in this regard.
The constant f/4 aperture promises consistent performance across the focal length, meaning you won’t have to adjust the ISO during filming.
Autofocusing on the lens is powered by Canon’s Nano USM technology. This technology, as mentioned before in this discussion, utilizes two different technologies – ring-type USM and STM, which are great for both still shooting and videos.
The lens features a full-time manual focusing override as well. For video work, I would recommend this lens because it has very little, if any, focus breathing. This is the one lens I can bank on for shooting videos while shifting the zoom. As you’ve likely noticed, this is a rare feature.
The optical image stabilization on the lens is 5.5 stops, but the overall correction is seven stops when combined with an image-stabilized camera, resulting in dependable video quality in all environments.
Nature photographers and videographers often head out in inclement weather. They require equipment that can withstand the vagaries of Mother Nature. The Canon RF 14-35mm f/4 is weather-resistant, which means it can handle dust, moisture, and other elements. For the best results, though, I recommend using a clear filter. The front filter thread specification of the lens is 77mm.
8. Canon RF 16mm f/2.8 STM
This is an inexpensive wide-angle prime lens. It has a fast wide open aperture, a reliable autofocusing motor, and works in various shooting situations.
One look at this lens and you might think that this is the Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM (reviewed above). Canon seems to have cut some corners by repurposing one of their other famous lens bodies for this lens. In terms of ergonomics, quality, and visuals, these lenses are remarkably similar.
The Canon RF 16mm f/2.8 STM does have serious focus breathing issues. The lens will zoom in and out as you rock focus back and forth. For videographers, that’s a no-no. However, there is a workaround. One of the things that I don’t often do when shooting videos with an ultra-wide angle lens is shift focus too much. I’d rather have my focus locked before I start the shoot. So, if that’s what you do, you wouldn’t have any issues working with the Canon RF 16mm f/2.8 STM as a video lens.
The lens has a single control ring that toggles between a general-purpose ring and a dedicated focusing ring. You can toggle the options using a flicking button, just like the RF 50mm f/1.8 STM above. I have already mentioned that I have my reservations about this. Presumably, Canon has been forced to resort to this because of the thin profile of this lens (and the other one mentioned above).
The maximum aperture of f/2.8 ensures that the lens can gather a lot of light in most lighting conditions and create stunning bokeh. To achieve great bokeh, however, you must get close to the subject and fill the frame. That said, I would suggest not using this lens for portrait shots, as distortion with wide and ultra-wide angles can make faces appear warped.
There is no image stabilization on this lens, which leaves the videographer reliant on camera stabilization or tripods.