The only benefit to the RF 70-200 f/4L is the Size

After the announcement of the RF version of one of my favorite lenses, I couldn’t help but be incredibly excited about the prospect of further improvements on an already excellent zoom. It seemed like it took an eternity, but with the recent shipment of some of these, there are finally reviews starting to pop up like the one below:

And all I can say is… eh. The image quality looks remarkably similar to the EF f/4L IS II that I already use. When comparing sharpness, the most important property of a lens for me, I could barely tell a difference in the video. Sometimes, there would be a bit of an edge favoring the RF model, but in general the EF zoom is already a superb lens.

All this said, the main benefit to this new model is the form factor. In other words, the collapsible design. It would be convenient to add this zoom range to a small camera bag and have those focal lengths covered. The current EF model is very light, which is nice (the RF 70-200 f/4L is 1.5 lbs while the EF f/4L IS II is 1.7 lbs), but it still has the fully internal zoom mechanism, keeping the design longer than the retracted RF model. There is also the concern of the external zooming design introducing potential for dust introduction or lesser weather sealing properties… both are quite strong negatives for someone like me who is often outside in poor weather (sand at the beach, rain in the woods, etc).

The full “length” is the only possible negative point against this otherwise outstanding lens!

I typically choose between either my EF 70-200 f/4L IS II or 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II depending on what I intend to photograph. Given the overlap of these two options, I defer to the 70-200mm when weight is a bigger priority than reach. In any given day, I lean towards the 100-400mm probably 75% of the time. That’s only because reach has been a bigger priority recently, as both lenses are equally strong performers.

If I were starting fresh in landscape photography today with no lenses and a new Canon R5, R6, or R model, then I might choose this over the EF version. The RF is only $400 more than the EF version, and if you need an adapter the cost benefit drops to $300 or even $200… not substantial in the long run. Then there’s also the limited supply of EF to RF mount adapters.

But for anyone that has an EF 70-200mm, particularly the version II, I’m not sure it makes sense to upgrade unless space really is a concern. There’s little discernible image quality difference and minimal weight savings. It looks like an excellent lens, but so is the EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II. It’s one of my all time favorites, and I’m not convinced that new is worth it in this case! You’ll just have to decide if the ability to retract this zoom is worth $400. For me it isn’t.

Have you tried the RF version? List your thoughts and experiences with this lens below! Happy to hear contrary opinions.

Happy shooting,

Brian

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