Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8 Wide Angle Zoom Lens Review
Sharp and versatile, the Canon 15-35mm f/2.8 has plenty to offer. Find out our full review with pros and cons, pricing, sample images and more.
By Marc Bergreen
When I first tried out the Canon R5, the Canon 15-35mm f/2.8 was the lens of choice. This is my favorite focal length for capturing big landscapes and environmental portraits.
I like the versatility of this focal length and what it allows me to capture.
At 15mm you can capture the whole scene and make people feel immersed in the wide open views.
Meanwhile, at 35mm you can capture a beautiful undistorted portrait of a scene that feels similar to the human eye perspective.
I use this focal length range a lot and have created many of my favorite images in this range.
As a photographer who documents action sports and weddings, this is an excellent Canon lens and I was very impressed with the combination of quality and features.
Read on to find out what I do and don’t like about the Canon 15-35mm f/2.8.
Canon 15-35mm f/2.8 Review | Specs
- Excellent image quality
- Rugged build
- Great focal range
- Very sharp
- Customizable control ring
- Focal Length: 15-35mm
- Maximum Aperture: f/2.8
- Minimum Aperture: f/22
- Number of blades: 9
- Optics: 16 Elements in 12 Groups
- Minimum focus: 0.28 m (11 in)
- Weight: 1.85 lb / 840 g
- Dimensions: 3.5 x 5″ / 89 x 127 mm
- Filter thread: 82mm
- Optical Stabilization: Yes
Build & Ergonomics
The Canon 15-35mm f/2.8 RF lens balances extremely well on the Canon R5. I really enjoyed the build quality on this lens as well as the ergonomics. It has a very high-end feel to it and all the rings are firm and smooth.
This is the flagship wide angle zoom for Canon full-frame mirrorless and it claims to go a step above previous DSLR full-frame lenses. In this case, it offers one extra mm of zoom, 15mm instead of the typical 16mm.
It also has a third rotating control ring toward the front of the lens that can be programmed to a variety of controls.
It comes standard with a gentle click but can be de-clicked if sent back to the manufacturer.
The lens does extend slightly when zoomed out to 15mm. The extension is not very much – a good thing, since it’s preferable to have a more compact lens when zoomed in to 35mm.
Sometimes I get very close to subjects at 35mm so having a huge lens in their faces can be intimidating.
The image stabilization can be switched on and off on the side of the lens. It works very well to capture stable video footage or shoot handheld at very low shutter speeds.
Image stabilization has been a game changer in camera technology allowing us to capture stable crisp footage easier.
Lastly, an auto/manual focus switch allows selectable focus. This is very nice for things like shooting time-lapse or interviews when you don’t want focus to drift.
Overall, the build of this lens rates highly in my book.
As expected, the autofocus on this lens is top-notch. I think it might be the fastest-focusing mirrorless lens I’ve used, it’s simply excellent!
Paired with the Canon R5 or R6, this lens will nail focus almost every time. It also tracks subjects extremely well and smoothly transitions focus when shooting video.
The full-time manual focus override can allow you to manually control focus. This will work but it depends on how you have your camera set up.
The focus motors are also essentially silent which is great for video shooting. If you put your ear up to the lens you may hear some sound but it is very quiet.
Overall, the Canon 15-35mm f/2.8 is one of the best focusing lenses I’ve used.
You tend to get what you pay for in terms of photography equipment. The Canon 15-35mm f/2.8 RF lens is no exception. Therefore, as Canon’s flagship wide angle zoom lens you can expect top-notch image quality.
The sharpness is also top of the line as the Canon 15-35mm f/2.8 produces very sharp images at all apertures and focal lengths. Therefore, if your images aren’t sharp with this lens, I’d first check to make sure you’re nailing the focus and using a high enough shutter speed.
Distortion and chroma are minimal and mostly corrected with the lens profile applied in Lightroom.
Bokeh on this lens is not really a significant characteristic because the only practical way to see it is to get uncomfortably close to your subject at 35mm. This creates pretty bokeh but is not a very realistic use case for this lens.
This lens really shines when shooting big landscapes. Everything more than a short distance from the front of the lens will be sharp. As a result, I love the image quality of landscape images I take with this lens as they’re nice and sharp with good contrast and color.
If you want the best wide angle lens for Canon RF mount, the 15-35mm f/2.8 is it.
Canon 15-35mm f/2.8 Sample Images
Here are some sample images taken with the Canon 15-35mm f/2.8, using a Canon R5.
Alternatives to the Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8
Because the Canon RF mount was released in 2018, there are not as many options when it comes to lenses.
The only direct alternative to this lens is the Canon 14-35mm f/4 which is less expensive and smaller but only offers a minimum aperture of f/4. This may be a good option for photographers less concerned about low light performance.
Additionally, there is a Canon 35mm f/1.8 prime lens and a Canon 16mm f/2.8 prime lens. These two combined provide a similar zoom range but don’t cover the middle focal range of the Canon 15-35mm f/2.8.
When it comes to alternatives, it really depends on what your priorities are for a wide angle lens. Regardless, you definitely can’t go wrong with the Canon 15-35mm f/2.8.
The only downside is the high price tag. So let’s talk next about value.
Value for Money
In terms of value, you can expect the flagship wide angle mirrorless zoom lens from Canon to be expensive. At around US$2,400, this lens is far from budget conscious.
However, it’s hard to debate the value of this lens because there just aren’t any good alternatives.
Yes, this lens is very expensive but it does deliver top-of-the-line quality.
If you were to buy the two prime lenses mentioned above, you’d spend around US$750 which is much less than the price of this zoom lens – but there is a sacrifice in quality and convenience. Professionals will want to strongly consider the Canon 15-35mm f/2.8.
As the Canon RF lens platform continues to develop, I think more manufacturers will begin making less expensive alternatives that will change the conversation of value. Until then, this is the best and only lens in its class.
Canon 15-35mm f/2.8 Review | Conclusion
The Canon 15-35mm f/2.8 is excellent. I really enjoyed using it, and despite it being quite heavy and having a big price tag, it delivers on all the other aspects I’m looking for in a lens.
Since mirrorless is the future of cameras, my guess is that this lens will likely have a spot in almost every Canon photographer’s bag. At least until there are more high-quality alternatives to choose from.
As I’ve mentioned, this is a highly useful focal length that I use very often, making it essential for me. When it comes to the value of the lens, how much you use it is going to play a big part in if it’s worth getting.
If you are a Canon shooter and can stomach the price tag, I’d definitely recommend checking this lens out.
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