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Canon RF 28-70 2.0L | A Hands-On Lens Review

By Jay Henington on February 6th 2019

The Canon RF 28-70 2.0L is the newest wide-mid zoom lens offered by Canon for the EOS R mirrorless camera system. It’s also a revolutionary lens in that it offers the widest aperture of any zoom lens in its focal range. This makes it a truly special lens and I’m excited to have had the opportunity to test it out.

When I got my hands on the Canon RF 28-70 2.0L, it blew me away. It wasn’t its beautiful design or incredible aperture, but rather its insane size and weight. This thing is huge, as you’d perhaps expect from a 28-70 zoom lens with a 2.0 aperture, but nonetheless, this thing rivals some 70-200’s in size and weight. This is also one of the most expensive zoom lenses Canon offers retailing for $2999.

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That said, as with the new Canon RF 50 1.2L, if it can deliver incredible images, the lens’ size and weight don’t matter all that much to me. But can it deliver? I’ve tested it now for the last few weeks and I’m ready to render my verdict.

Design of the RF 28-70 2.0L

As with all of the new RF lenses Canon has released to date, the RF 28-70 2.0L is a gorgeous lens to look at and hold. With the same plastic matte black finish as you find on the RF 50 1.2, and the brushed metal attachment ring, you’ll be turning heads every time you whip this lens out of the bag.

Those head turns, however, might just be because this thing is huge. Yes, I’ll say it again. It’s big and heavy. The lens’ dimensions are 4.09 x 5.50″ and it weighs a solid 3.15 lbs. That may not seem that big or heavy, but by comparison, the Canon 24-70 f/2.8L II is 3.48 x 4.45″ and weighs 1.77 lbs. And if you’ve ever used it, you’ll know it’s a big heavy lens in its own right. The RF 28-70 2.0L is over an inch longer, half an inch wider, and DOUBLE the weight. When attached to the front of the EOS R, it feels very front heavy and you almost need two hands on it at all times to keep from dropping it. So is all that extra size and weight worth it? We’ll see.

Image Quality of the RF 28-70 2.0L

The RF 28-70 2.0L takes beautiful images with great color and excellent handling of barrel distortion at the wider end of the lens.

I wasn’t that impressed, however, with the sharpness of this lens at f/2.0. While it’s sharp enough to create usable images, pixel peepers will likely find the results a bit softer than expected. Perhaps I’m asking too much from a f/2.0 wide-mid zoom lens, but while the RF 50 1.2 is incredibly sharp at f/1.2, this $3000 lens is just sharp enough at f/2.0. It’s very sharp at f/2.8, though, and extremely sharp as you close down.

The first image below is shot at f/2.0 and the second was shot at f/2.8. You can see from the cropped image in both that the image shot at f/2.0 is noticeably softer than the image shot at f/2.8. Am I being nitpicky? Well yes, but that’s my job.

That said, as the first zoom lens in the wide-mid focal range to give us an f/2.0 aperture, Canon should be commended for their innovation. It lets in a full stop more light and gives you a little bit more bokeh to work with than you’ve ever had on a zoom lens in this range before.

This lens also produces beautiful bokeh, especially when shooting at 70mm and f/2.0.

Canon EOS R | RF 28-70 f/2.0L | 70mm | 2.0 | 1/800 | ISO 125

Bokeh

With an aperture of f/2.0, everyone is naturally going to ask about the bokeh. I’m happy to report that the bokeh on this lens is absolutely spectacular, especially at 70mm, f/2.0. Out of focus elements are creamy and smooth and bokeh balls are nice and round thanks to the rounded 9-blade diaphragm. The Canon RF 28-70 2.0L has hand-down the best bokeh of any wide-mid range lens in its class. That 2.0 aperture really delivers!

Focus Speed of the RF 28-70 2.0L

This lens is also absolute lightning at focusing. When set to infinity, the RF 28-70 2.0L can focus on an object at the nearest focusing distance faster than I’m able to time it. It focuses throughout the full focusing range nearly immediately with very minimal hunting. It’s also whisper quiet. So you won’t have to worry about interrupting a special moment with this lens. No one will ever hear you!

Who Should/Shouldn’t buy the RF 28-70 2.0L?

This is a great lens for wedding and landscape photographers who want the versatility of a zoom lens, but also need a fast aperture for shooting in low light or creating portraits with a shallow depth of field. Likewise, sports photographers and photojournalists will love this lens for its quick focusing speed and overall excellent image quality.

On the other hand, if you’re a street photographer or someone who needs to be a bit more inconspicuous when shooting, this probably isn’t the lens for you. Or if you’re a landscape photographer who doesn’t need the low light ability of a f/2.0 aperture, there are cheaper options out there for you.

That said, if you’re a photographer of any kind who likes shooting with zoom lenses, this is the best wide-mid range zoom you can buy.

Cost of the RF 28-70 2.0L

The Canon RF 28-70 2.0L is really expensive. At $2999, it’s nearly twice the cost of the Canon EF 24-70 2.8L II. This price would be justifiable if it did something way better than the 24-70 2.8L II, but the additional cost is basically just because it has a slightly wider 2.0 aperture and is new. You’re paying a premium for the novelty of having the first 28-70 f/2.0 lens. If this lens were $2000 I’d recommend it enthusiastically. But at $3000, I think it’s probably a niche product for those who want the absolute best wide-mid zoom lens money can buy.

Conclusion

Is this lens worth the cost, size, and weight? That depends who you are. If you own an EOS R and absolutely don’t want to use an adapter, or if you really love using zoom lenses and want the extra stop of light, extra bokeh and you have $3000 in the budget, then I’d recommend this lens to you. It’s probably the best lens in its focal range ever created.

That said, if you use anything other than the EOS R (obviously), or have an EOS R but you want a wide-mid zoom lens that is incredibly sharp while not needing the extra stop of light of the 2.0 aperture, I’d recommend the Canon 24-70 2.8L II instead. It retails for $1699, is much lighter, a little smaller, and takes images that are just as good.

In the end, the Canon RF 28-70 2.0L is a great lens, but it’s a little soft at f/2.0, and while it’s great at 2.8 and above, it doesn’t offer much that the Canon 24-70 2.8L II doesn’t. So while this lens is good enough, probably the best lens in its class, it’s likely not good enough to justify its $3000 price tag for most photographers. But if you’re looking for the best wide-mid range zoom lens ever made, this is it.

Pros

  • Well built and beautifully designed
  • Fast f/2.0 aperture
  • Quick focus speed
  • Great image quality

Cons

  • Big and heavy
  • A little soft at 2.0
  • Very expensive

Sample Images

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I’m a Chicago-based photographer and co-owner of Henington Photography. I photograph weddings with my better half, Larissa. When I’m not taking pictures, I’m most likely playing with our two boys, editing, eating chips and salsa, or writing for SLR Lounge.

Website: Henington Photography/Larissa Boudoir
Instagram: @heningtonphotography

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