The best Canon RF lenses for shooting video

With leading technologies including smooth and powerful AF motors, superior image stabilisation and electronic focus breathing correction, Canon RF lenses have much to offer today's filmmakers. But which are the best RF lenses for video?
Seen from above, a photographer uses a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens to film a cricket on a leaf.

Teaming the Canon EOS R5 with the Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens allows macro photographer and videographer Oliver Wright to capture 8K video at 1.4x magnification. "From a macro perspective, it means I can produce a 4K output at much higher magnifications," he says. "It opens up different types of video opportunities."

Canon's mirrorless EOS R System has been designed with the needs of videographers and filmmakers in mind right from the start. From the groundbreaking Canon EOS C70 and EOS R5 C Cinema EOS cameras to revolutionary RF lenses such as the Canon RF 5.2mm F2.8L DUAL FISHEYE for 180° VR productions, the advanced RF lens mount at the heart of the design unlocks new opportunities for innovative video cameras and lenses.

"The high-speed communication between the lens and the camera is a big advantage," explains Canon Europe Senior Product Specialist Mike Burnhill. "One of the benefits is that we are able to use electronic focus breathing suppression to prevent the angle of view from changing as you focus.

"A normal cinema lens tends to be relatively large because it incorporates a mechanical mechanism to help overcome focus breathing. But the RF mount and the use of Nano USMs and floating focusing groups means that we can do that electronically, enabling a very compact lens design."

Another aspect of RF lenses that's been specifically developed for video is the aperture mechanism. All RF lenses enable the aperture to be adjusted in 1/8 stop increments, which is much more precise than the 1/3 stops used for stills photography. "Changing the aperture in 1/3 stop increments while you're filming creates noticeable step changes in brightness," says Mike. "But with 1/8 stop adjustments, that change is extremely smooth and imperceptible."

The range of Canon CN-R Prime lenses expands the RF mount further into professional video production. With their refined optical performance, accurate colour reproduction and fast T-stops, the RF Cine Primes give filmmakers and videographers incredible control over the look of their footage.

A technician wearing white gloves cleans the sensor of a Canon camera.

Do you own Canon kit?

Register your kit to access free expert advice, equipment servicing, inspirational events and exclusive special offers with Canon Professional Services.

"They share the same image quality characteristics as our full-frame CN-E Primes," says Ram Sarup, Canon Europe Product Marketing Specialist. "This means they have a very sharp and clean optical performance, which makes them perfect for 8K, 4K and HDR productions. The compact, robust build of the CN-R Primes is designed to withstand the rigours of professional video production, and all the lenses in this series benefit from the advanced communication capabilities offered by the RF mount."

These are just a few of the features that make RF lenses great for video, but which of the growing range of RF zooms and primes offers the most creative features for filmmakers? Here is a selection of the best Canon RF lenses for video to consider, to pair with the RF mount models among the best Canon cameras for video.

The Canon CN-R Prime lineup, pictured with a Canon EOS R5 C camera.

Canon's CN-R Prime lenses are the first dedicated cinema lenses for RF mount cameras, offering the outstanding image quality and precise control that professional filmmakers working in drama, documentary, indie film and music videos require.

A Canon CN-R Prime lens mounted on an EOS R5 C alongside a CN-Prime lens and a Sumire Prime lens.

"The design of the CN-R Primes is consistent with the CN-E and Sumire Primes," says Ram. "The filter diameter is identical, so you can utilise the same filters or matte box, and they share a consistent 300° focus ring rotational angle – which is important for people who are follow focusing and want to ensure the same focus throw from one lens to another."

1. CN-R Primes

Best Canon RF lenses for cinematic productions

"Canon cinema lenses are engineered to meet the high standards of cinematographers and video production," Ram explains. "The focus and iris rings have longer rotation for more precise adjustments than photography lenses, they have reduced focus breathing, and their gearing enables you to use a variety of third-party manual and wireless follow focus accessories, enabling versatile control and operation regardless of the production size.

"The CN-R Prime lenses have all the capabilities of our CN-E Primes, but with the added benefits that come with the RF mount. When you're looking at it from a video perspective, the biggest asset is the speed at which lens information can be output to the camera. Metadata is vital for visual effect workflows and virtual productions, which have increased so much in recent years."

Canon CN-R Primes

Designed for professional filmmakers, these high-performance cinema lenses offer exceptional image quality and versatility.

Optical quality is exceptional. Each of the CN-R Primes is equipped with an 11-blade iris – a distinctive feature that sets them apart from RF photography lenses. "That adds to the character of the lens," adds Ram. "Especially in terms of the bokeh, the halation and sun stars."

Build quality is equally as impressive. The lenses are constructed to the same high standards as the CN-E Primes and Sumire Primes, but the extended length of the RF mount cinema lenses and the knurled design of the mounting ring provides an extra level of comfort when changing lenses and shooting handheld.

For Canon EOS C70 and EOS R5 C users who have been using EF mount lenses on their RF mount cameras via an EF-EOS R adapter, the ability to have a dedicated video lens is a big advantage, suggests Ram. "One thing that's true for any adapter that you buy from any manufacturer, is that eventually you could start to see some play between the adapter, the lens and the camera body – especially if you're frequently changing lenses, using large and heavy lenses, or working on a production where cameras are mounted on vehicles and constantly being whipped around. The RF mount gives you a more rigid and reliable connection between lens and body."

Filmmaker Ivan D'Antonio stands behind a tripod, on which sits a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM lens.

Filmmaker Ivan D'Antonio paired the Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM lens on a landscape shoot in the Abruzzo region of Italy. The lens's remarkable performance in low light proved invaluable when the weather worsened. © Remo Leonzi

2. Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM

Best standard full-frame Canon RF lens

"In the video world, it's not always about being super sharp or resolving an amazing level of detail," explains Mike. "It's mainly 'the look' that's important to the DoP. This is a lens that ticks every box. It's super-sharp, with incredible resolution and fast focusing – but it also has that stunning look."

Having the widest available maximum aperture in the Canon EOS range means that the Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM lens is not only a consummate low-light performer, it also enables you to isolate the subject in an incredibly cinematic way. A 10-blade aperture and both UD and aspherical lens elements have been incorporated into the design, giving a signature blend of outstanding sharpness and beautiful blur.

The Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens.

Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM

This prime lens is ideal for supreme sharpness, plus remarkable low-light performance.

"With the RF 50mm F1.2L USM lens attached to your camera, you can turn any space into a stunning location," adds Mike. "It also produces flattering skin tones and has a natural perspective on a full-frame camera, making it a great choice for filming people."

A model in a pale pink dress with a ruffled collar stares into the camera. The lights are blurred in the background.

Canon Ambassador Félicia Sisco was one of the first photographers to put the Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM DS lens to the test. The lens's DS coating turned dazzling lights into soft-edged bokeh discs, delivering a sophisticated, cinematic look. Taken on a Canon EOS R at 1/160 sec, f/1.2 and ISO800. © Félicia Sisco

3. Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM DS

Best Canon RF lens for bokeh

The Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM DS lens uses the same mechanics and optical formula as the Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM, but it has a special Defocus Smoothing (DS) coating on a couple of the elements that further blurs the background.

"It gives you a totally unique look that's unachievable by anything else on the market," Mike explains. "The background looks like it's been shot with a 1930s cine lens, but the foreground looks like it's captured in 2020s 8K resolution. You can essentially create two feelings in one image. If you love shooting at f/1.2 and you love soft bokeh, this lens adds that extra level of performance on top of what is already a cutting-edge product."

A Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM DS lens.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM DS

A lens that delivers uncompromising sharpness and exceptional performance and reliability – plus a special optical coating for silky smooth bokeh.

The bokeh-enhancing DS effect is really only beneficial at apertures larger than f/2.8, so this is a lens that almost certainly requires ND filters when shooting video. "One thing to bear in mind, though, is that the DS coatings reduce the light transmission value to T2.2 when shooting at f/1.2, so the standard version of the lens might be a better option if you're shooting in low light," Mike suggests.

A close-up of a crested gecko, its tongue curled around the top of its mouth.

Macro specialist Oliver Wright captured the detail in a crested gecko's eye and the motion of its tongue. "With the Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM having Dual Nano USM actuators and a near-silent focusing system, I'm going to be able to shoot macro videos unlike anything I've been able to do in the past," he says. "Videos of hoverflies using their front legs to wipe dew off their eye that's held there with surface tension look amazing if you can get that on a macro clip." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens at 1/160 sec, f/4.5 and ISO3200. © Oliver Wright Photography

4. Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM

Best macro Canon RF lens for video

Macro photographer Oliver Wright used this lens to film tiny insects and lizards in a tropical butterfly house. "Using the Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM with the Canon EOS R5 is really exciting and allows me to do a whole raft of new things," says Oliver, who shot 8K video and 4K slow-motion clips of a snake's tongue moving by teaming the camera's high resolution with the RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM's 1.4x magnification.

"Previously, to get to those types of higher magnifications, I would have had no focus system," he says. "If your subject moves in any way, you have to recompose your shot. With this lens, you can go all the way up to 1.4x magnification and it's super sensitive on the focus tracking and near-silent on the focusing."

Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM

The world's First1 AF macro lens with an incredible 1.4x close-up magnification. A Spherical Aberration Control ring lets you vary the bokeh, making this an exquisite portrait lens too.

The RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM's Dual Nano USM actuators drive this powerful and quiet autofocus, which is ideal for shooting video. The lens design also suppresses focus breathing for smoother transitions when changing the point of focus – whether you're using it for macro subjects or for portraits or weddings and events.

The RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM also has a variable Spherical Aberration Control to adjust the look of the bokeh both in front of the subject and behind it along with a flattering soft focus effect. This innovative technology makes the lens an exceptionally versatile choice for a wide range of creative needs.

A man filming a cyclist with a Canon camera with a Canon RF 24-105mm F2.8L IS USM Z lens attached.

"The Canon RF 24-105mm F2.8L IS USM Z is a hybrid lens concept that blends characteristics from other areas of Canon's lineup," John explains. "The lens name has a letter 'Z' at the end to indicate that it is compatible with the latest Power Zoom accessories."

Hands holding a Canon camera with a Canon RF 24-105mm F2.8L IS USM Z lens and Canon Power Zoom Adapter PZ-E2B attached.

The Canon RF 24-105mm F2.8L IS USM Z, pictured here with the Canon Power Zoom Adapter PZ-E2B, is designed for use with supported RF mount cameras," explains John Maurice, Canon Europe Senior Product Marketing Manager. "The ideal pairings will be with mid- to higher-tier cameras such as the EOS C70 and EOS R5 C from the Cinema EOS lineup, and the EOS R3, EOS R5 and EOS R6 Mark II."

5. Canon RF 35mm F1.4L VCM

Best Canon RF prime lens for shooting hybrid

The Canon RF 35mm F1.4L VCM is a notable addition to the EOS R System line-up. Its lightweight design and hybrid features make it an outstanding prime lens choice for both photography and videography.

Despite its impressive f/1.4 aperture, this lens is noticeably lighter and more compact compared to the EF lenses of the past. This is good news for hybrid shooters looking to achieve that ‘cinematic’ look with a smaller camera rig while also allowing more accessibility with freehand filming without the fear of fatigue.

RF 35mm F1.4L VCM

Canon RF 35mm F1.4L VCM

This prime lens is ideal for both stills and video, plus has remarkable low-light performance.

This impressive performance is made possible by the lens’s advanced optical design, which includes two each of Aspherical and UD lenses. The curvature of the aspherical lenses mean light rays can converge to a single point creating a sharper image. Similarly using UD (ultra-low dispersion) glass means an overall better performance due to its low refractive index and low dispersion, two elements that naturally produce better quality images.

Some prime lenses are best for stills, and others are best for video but Canon’s RF 35mm F1.4L VCM provides the best of both worlds. From cinematic capabilities to having a dedicated iris ring, these features give this lens a competitive edge and making it a must-have for videography and photography.

Its bright aperture, which opens to f1.4, is incredibly useful when shooting in low-light conditions, allowing for a more artistic blur to isolate your subject from the background.

Professional photographers and videographers often face challenging conditions in the field. Canon's RF 35mm F1.4L VCM is designed to answer these challenges by having a water and dust resistant design, which combined with Nano USM focusing makes this lens almost silent, making it ideal for shooting everything from intimate interviews to skittish wildlife.

Hands holding the Canon RF 35mm F1.4L VCM  camera in soft light.

Designed for the needs of filmmakers and videographers, Canon's RF 35mm F1.4L VCM is a solid prime lens choice. Lightweight and hybrid, it allows for variety.

6. Canon RF 135mm F1.8L IS USM

Best Canon RF lens for talking head interviews

If you need a lens that will give your interviews an edge, then the flattering, cinematic look produced by this L-series prime more than delivers. The narrow field of view and fast maximum aperture make it easier to separate the subject from the background compared with an 85mm lens.

"The Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM lens is a legendary portrait lens," says Canon Europe Product Specialist Mark Fensome. "It is highly regarded for being tack-sharp. Thanks to the capabilities of the RF mount, however, we've been able to make some significant additions to its RF successor, the Canon RF 135mm F1.8L IS USM, especially for video.

RF 135mm F1.8L IS USM

Canon RF 135mm F1.8L IS USM

A fast, high-quality telephoto lens that blends sublime sharpness and beautiful blur to create richly cinematic images.

"If you're filming run-and-gun style or simply shooting handheld, then the lens's 5.5-stop Image Stabilizer is a big advantage. If it's paired with a camera that has In-Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS) then up to 8-stops of coordinated image stabilisation is possible.

"There's a Nano USM autofocus motor which enables smooth and virtually silent operation, and the lens supports electronic focus breathing correction and Eye AF when it's used with a camera that offers these functions."

While the EF 135mm f/2 L USM has a reputation for sharpness, the Canon RF 135mm F1.8L IS USM provides enhanced image quality. A nine-blade aperture gives an improved starburst effect with specular highlights too, as well as producing attractive bokeh. "It's a great lens for creating low-light, 'dreamy' looking shots," adds Mark.

A man taps the vari-angle screen on a Canon EOS C70 camera fitted with a Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM lens.

Pairing the Super 35mm Canon EOS C70 with a Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM lens gives the equivalent angle of view of a standard zoom. The IS systems in both the lens and body work together to eliminate camera shake. © Fergus Kennedy

Hands holding a Canon camera with a Canon RF 10-20mm F4L IS STM lens attached.

"STM motors such as the one inside the Canon RF 10-20mm F4L IS STM lens use linear drive motor technology, and are excellent for video recording," says Mike. "They are not very powerful, though, which is why they have not previously been used in L-series lenses, which have a large focusing group. The RF mount has allowed us to go back to the drawing board and design a true 10-20mm lens with a single element focusing group and new STM."

7. Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM and RF 10-20mm F4L IS STM

Best ultra-wide Canon RF lenses for video

With their outstanding image quality and robust, weather-sealed construction, these two professional RF zoom lenses enable you to capture creative new angles.

The Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM lens's optical design includes three aspherical and two UD elements, along with SubWavelength structure Coating (SWC) and Air Sphere Coating (ASC) for exceptional contrast and edge-to-edge sharpness. Nano USM autofocus and a highly effective optical Image Stabilizer further enables you to make the most of the lens's clarity.

A Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM lens

Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM

Ultra-wide and super sharp thanks to L-series optical quality and 5-stop image stabilisation for dynamic angles even in tight spaces.

The Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM lens follows on from the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM, although the extra millimetre at the wide end gives a notable gain in the angle of view. And it's not just filmmakers using full-frame EOS R System cameras that benefit.

"For the Super 35mm Canon EOS C70 user, this lens gives the equivalent angle of view of a standard zoom," explains Mike. "The camera's electronic stabilisation works co-operatively with the lens's Image Stabilizer as well, giving you an enhanced level of stability."

When you need to go wider on the EOS C70, reach for the Canon RF 10-20mm F4L IS STM. This groundbreaking professional ultra-wide zoom is the widest full-frame lens with a fixed aperture. It's also the first zoom of its kind to offer either autofocus or image stabilisation. The RF 10-20mm F4L IS STM opens up new opportunities for shooting video in confined spaces or adding impact to exterior shots, particularly when paired with a full-frame camera such as the EOS R5 C.

"To achieve this extreme focal length in the past, you would have had to use a retrofocus system and place all the optics further from the sensor," says Mike. "But the RF mount allows us to position the optics closer to the sensor, so we don't have to bend the light as much. The basic formula is much simpler in design, and most of the complex optics we've added are there to deal with the aberrations that often happen with such wide-angle lenses.

"There's only a single element focusing group, which means that we've also been able to use an STM [Stepping Motor] for the first time in an L-series lens. STM technology is very good for video because it's so smooth and quiet. The STM unit in the RF 10-20mm F4L IS STM is more advanced than those in our entry-level lenses, so, rather than having to recalibrate, the lens stays at the same focusing distance when you turn the camera off and back on again. It also supports Full-time Manual focusing override.

"Another benefit for filmmakers is the new type of Image Stabilizer that we have developed for this lens," Mike adds. "Peripheral Coordinated Control IS is designed to reduce the wobble that can sometimes be seen in the corners of a wide-angle video shot on a camera with IBIS. That wobble is caused by perspective shift – the same effect that you get if you look up and down at a tall building. We've been able to combine the IS systems in the camera and the lens to fix that."

 A man with a Canon EOS C70 camera films a woman reading by the light of a window.

Every photography RF lens has a control ring that can be assigned with a key camera function, allowing you to change settings while you film. © Fergus Kennedy

8. Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM

Best multipurpose Canon RF lens for video

It might not have the bright maximum aperture of the other zooms in this RF video lens roundup, but the Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens's strength is its versatility. "This lightweight 10x zoom covers a large range of focal lengths, which is fantastic for those filming situations where you need one lens to do it all," Mike says. "It's a great option for broadcast and entertainment use, where you need to cover a lot of shots quickly."

Mike also highlights the lens's control ring as an advantage for video. "The control ring on this lens also doubles up as the focus ring, so it is by nature de-clicked. This gives you the opportunity to change settings silently if you need to."

A Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens.

Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM

A versatile 10x zoom for the EOS R System, offering huge flexibility in a single portable lens.

The lens doesn't have the electronic focus breathing suppression of the Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM lens, but it is armed with a 5-stop Image Stabilizer and Nano USM for rapid, quiet autofocus and smooth pull-focus effects.

A man with his arm outstretched holds a Canon EOS C70 camera with no lens attached.

The RF mount has allowed Canon to rip up the lens design rulebook. "Thanks to the large mount, the short flange back and the high-speed communication, we are able to achieve more in a smaller package and create brand new lenses that were impossible or improbable with a traditional mount," says Mike. © Fergus Kennedy

9. Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM

Best Canon RF lens for travel video

This high-performance L-series lens combines the stunning image quality of a set of prime lenses with the convenience of a zoom. Factor in the large f/2 maximum aperture, and you've got an RF lens that offers incredible creative control.

When the Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM lens is attached to a Canon EOS R5 or EOS R6, you can also take advantage of the camera's in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) for sharp handheld recording. In fact, as Mike reveals, the unique design of this lens means it's capable of reducing the effects of camera shake more effectively than some stabilised lenses.

A Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM lens.

Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM

Super-fast and bright 28-70mm f/2 L-series lens gives stunning results even in low light.

"One of the core functionalities of the RF mount is the wide diameter and short flange back, which allows us to design lenses with very large image circles. With a large image circle, you can move the camera sensor around more and correct for much larger amounts of vibration.

"The Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM lens has a large image circle, which means you can actually get 8-stops of stabilisation (in stills terms) with the IBIS of the EOS R5 and EOS R­­­­­­6. This is a big lens with no image stabilisation, but it's now able to outperform many lenses from other systems that have built-in stabilisation. You're able to achieve gimbal-like performance without a gimbal."

Martin Bissig uses a Canon EOS R5 and RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM lens to film a skateboarder.

Martin Bissig was one of the first pros to put the filmmaking capabilities of the EOS R5 to the test. "Even shooting with the Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 200mm, fully handheld, there was no camera shake. Combined with the IBIS, the performance was amazing," he says. © Martin Bissig

10. Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Best telephoto zoom Canon RF lens for video

Although considerably smaller and lighter than the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses that have gone before it, the Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM packs a substantial upgrade in performance. With aspherical and Super UD elements, SWC and Super Spectra coatings and a 9-blade aperture, it offers incredible optical quality. Weather-sealing, fluorine coatings and a 5-stop Image Stabilizer ensure that the lens continues to perform in challenging conditions, too.

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

An essential lens in the professional trio of zooms, the RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM is the perfect companion for news, sport and travel.

The Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM lens is the first RF lens to feature dual Nano USMs. As Mike explains, these are integral to the lens's outstanding suppression of focus breathing. "The optical design features a floating lens group that can be controlled independently. You normally have four to five elements in a focusing group, and they move together, but in this case, the floating group can do other things. That's why we have two Nano USMs for this lens, so you can control two different lens groups working independently.

"Another benefit of being able to move the floating focus group is that you can increase the focusing distance internally, so it focuses much closer than the EF version – right down to 70cm.

"The EF version of the RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM was such a popular lens for video; it has a versatile zoom range, it's built like a tank and the f/2.8 aperture is ideal for some level of control over the background," Mike says. "But now you've got the 1/8 stop aperture adjustment, even faster focusing and the floating system inside to compensate for the focus breathing."

Marcus Hawkins
  1. For an interchangeable autofocus lens, for full-frame mirrorless cameras. Based on Canon’s internal survey as of 13 April 2021.

Related articles

Get the newsletter

Click here to get inspiring stories and exciting news from Canon Europe Pro