Canon RF 14-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens Review: Feels Good, Shoots Great

Canon’s RF 14-35mm F/4L IS USM ultra-wide-angle zoom lens is now available. The impressive zoom range of 14mm to 35mm in full-frame L-series lenses is remarkable. We haven’t even begun.

Quality Construction and Design

The RF14-35mm F/4L is a thick and slim lens that looks absolutely stunning. It measures 3.3 inches (8.4 cms) wide and 3.9 inches (9.9 cms) long at its shortest. The lens is flush at 22mm, but it extends at both the 14mm and 35mm ends. The lens measures in at 35mm is 4.25 inches (10.80 cms). It feels strange that I don’t just collapse the lens by moving it all the way up to the end of the focal range when I pack it back into my bag. It takes me a while to locate 22mm on the markings.

The exterior is made of matte plastic. However, it has a lot of cover with the zoom ring and focus ring as well as the control ring. Each ring is different in texture. However, I was unable to sense the difference between them on my fingertips during testing. It doesn’t matter which ring you are turning once it is in motion, as each ring has different properties. Although the zoom ring is a bit stiff for me, it has the advantage of not being easily knocked out of its place. The focus ring can be adjusted using just one finger and is fluid and very nice. The control ring is similar to an aperture ring but has steps and feels great.

The lens is 1.2 pounds (0.5 kgs) in weight, which was surprising considering its size. The build quality is excellent. It was able to withstand a brief rain shower, and the mount, switches and all three rings were weather-resistant.

Image Quality

The RF 14-35mm F/4L contains 16 elements in 12 groups. These include three ultra-low-dispersion elements, three aspherical components, and one ultra low dispersion aspherical component. The aperture has nine circular blades that can still produce a beautiful sun star.

It’s easy to attract ghosting flare with the lighting source within the frame. However, this can be controlled. This is not surprising considering that lens elements are coated with Canon’s super spectra and sub-wavelength structures coatings as well as air sphere coatings.

Tests of the lens’ sharpness revealed that the same results can be obtained at all focal lengths.

Center sharpness is a measure of how sharp the image is. I noticed that reducing to f/5 was a significant improvement. But it will only be f/9 that will give you peak sharpness. It retains the same sharpness at f/16 as wide open at F/4, and then it starts to decrease. Although f/22 is considered the most soft, it can still be used, thanks to post-sharpening and the fact that no one will be pixel-peeping the images. Peak sharpness at the corners is slightly different with f/10. If landscape photographers are looking for the best sharpness, I recommend starting with f/9 and f/10.

The RF 14-35mm F/4L is great for out-of-focus areas. When shooting wide open, the bokeh balls appear circular and have only the slightest edge. Out-of-focus objects don’t stand out with hard edges or busy lines, but they create soft gradients. The bokeh balls can become lopsided near the corners but it is difficult to see in a full-size image.

Although you may not believe that the bokeh feature would be much in play with an ultra-wide-angle zoom lens such as this, it is. This lens excels at its minimum focus distance. It can focus almost on any object in its focus range. Although it may not touch the subject exactly, the front element can focus on any object within its range of vision.

Canon provided me with the EOS RP camera to review this lens. Autofocus capabilities are not easy to determine due to the low-end body. However, it is still very fast and quiet to move from one point to the next. The focus moves from point A to B quickly at 14mm, while 35mm focuses at the endpoint and bounces back before it settles (but this is likely just a camera issue). Tracking is a problem with the EOS RP. It works well for subjects approaching, but it seems to struggle to track subjects moving away. The camera fails to keep up in these situations and it seems to completely blur the focus to infinity, even though nothing is in focus at all.

Feels good, Looks good

This is my first time using the Canon full-frame mirrorless camera system. Despite being given a budget camera, I am impressed. Although I don’t know what it is like to shoot the kit lens for EOS RP I can tell you that the 14-35mm F/4L makes the images look great. The sharp zoom lens is well balanced and can be used in all situations. It has a range of 14mm to 35mm, with an aperture constant at f/4. It’s lightweight and cute design are my favorite features.

What are the Alternatives?

The Canon RF15-35mm f/2.8L is USM, which costs $2,400. This lens is $700 less than the 14-35mm F/4L and offers an additional stop of light, while still maintaining many of its great features. It’s half a pound more heavy, an inch longer and overall larger than the 14-35mm f/4L, as it uses 82mm filters instead of 77mm.

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