Which Three Canon RF Lenses Should You Buy First?

If you’re eyeing up an EOS R5 or R6 or perhaps considering one of Canon’s older mirrorless models, you might also be wondering which lenses to splash out on first. Here’s photographer and videographer Tony Mellinger to give you some solid advice.

Canon’s RF glass tends to command some fairly high prices, but more affordable options are emerging, such as the recently announced RF 85mm f/2 Macro IS STM that’s available to order for a mere $599. This is a notably more affordable alternative to the two other RF 85mm lenses that are both just under $3,000.

Mellinger’s suggested three lenses are a mix of high-end and affordable options to give you a good foundation and a reliable setup, especially for covering events such as weddings. Those on a budget can be strategic with where they want to drop the cash, but if you need a telephoto zoom, expect to spend some money.

Catching the eye of those lucky folks for whom money is not a barrier, Canon’s trinity of fast zooms — 15-35mm f/2.8, 28-70mm f/2, and 70-200mm f/2.8 — looks truly phenomenal, but that tasty trio will set you back well in excess of $10,000 once taxes are included. Time to start saving up.

What would be your first three RF lenses? Leave a comment below.

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Adam Lee's picture

Whatever zoom trinity Tamron eventually releases. :P

Euan Gray's picture

Whichever ones encourage you to sell your L series EF lenses so I can buy them cheap :-)

Felix Reyes's picture

This, but with bodies. I will probably have another decade on the ef system as I’m still on the 1Dx and have the mark ii and Mark iii as potential upgrades.

Eric Mazzone's picture

I have the RF-35 Macro, the RF 50mm L, and the RF 85mm L DS. I'm waiting for a RF 100mm L macro and a RF 35mm L to complete the set.

Eric Mazzone's picture

Well, having said THIS, I'm now strongly considering returning the 50 and 85 as Canon decided to redirect the shipment to my local shop to a camera rental company leaving ZERO R5 bodies delivered to my shop. The shop says they MIGHT get a shipment in this next week, but IF that doesn't come in, or is significantly delayed, or worse, redirected yet again, I WILL be dumping Canon for Sony.

Robert Nurse's picture

I mostly use my EF 70-200mm and 16-35mm. Those are the lenses that I’ll upgrade for now. I’ll use the adapter with the others.

Dillan K's picture

I'll keep using EF glass, thanks. It didn't go bad now that I have an EOS R. To be honest, Canon gas made some stellar glass for the RF mount, but I can't afford any of the ones I want. Hmmm. Maybe if I sold the all and bought an RF 50mm f/1.2.... Maybe....not.

Patrick Rosenbalm's picture

Same here. My EF glass works just fine on my R with the adapter. I'll eventually get some RF lenses for it. Probably a pancake prime if they make some and probably the 24-240 for a good walk around when I don't want to tote several lenses and don't need L quality.

Leopold Bloom's picture

Yeah, a nice pancake like my beloved 40mm would be great.

Patrick Rosenbalm's picture

Oh yeah! I have that lens as well as the 24mm EF-S pancake and 22mm EF-M pancake. They are outstanding for what they deliver for their size and cost. I bought the 40 and 24 refurbished off of Canon Direct several years ago for $100 USD each. I got the 22 at B&H photo for $99 in 2014. That was when Canon decided to pull the EOS M from the US market and everything "M" was dirt cheap. Got the EF to EF-M adapter for $42 somewhere online st the same time too. Can't find em that cheap anymore. At least not new.

Leopold Bloom's picture

The combo EOS M6 + 22mm pancake is a great setup I often use when size and/or weight is a limiting factor. Fantastic for hikes for example.

Juan Isaias Perez's picture

Same here. When you compare the performance of high quality EF lenses on an 5Ds R vs RF glass on an R the EF glass does better: it out resolves the more expensive new lenses. This means our beloved R is the limiting factor on this environment and I am OK with that. 30 MP is more than enough. I have 4 EF lenses, all adapted. They have never performed better. I plan to add an R6 for Xmas and zero RF glass.

If you plan to own an R5, by all means pare it with RF glass. That is the level where I think it finally makes it worth it.

Vincent Quantinet's picture

My first three lenses would be the 24-105mm f/4 for general purposes, RF 85 f/1.2 for studio and portraits and the RF 15-35 f/2.8 for landscape and urban work.

Richard Kralicek's picture

Yes, the RF 24-105/4 is a great lens, IS works pretty well, it blurs the background nicely at fast apertures when focusing on close subjects. It's not as sharp as the 24-70/f2.8 ii at f4, but sharp enough, and the extra zoom range is nice to have.

Robert Huerbsch's picture

I had several copies of the EF 24-105 and the single RF version I got is significantly better. Definitely don’t count it out.

Marek Stefech's picture

Prime "L" lenses looks like ovekill to me i had expirience with 35mm 1.8 and it was good enough

Daniel McAvoy's picture

I've owned an EOS R for nearly a year but still haven't got any RF lenses. The prices are ridiculous. I already have a Sigma 35 1.4 so felt no need to get the RF 1.8 version.

I'm 100% getting the RF 85 F2 Macro once it's out though. Literally my ideal lens. Also considering a 15-35 but may hold off until Tamron/Sigma have some options too.

C H's picture

I am happy with my trinity; 15-35, 28-70, 70-200 ; and for an extra the 35mm for the lols (or small family trips)

Tom Reichner's picture

I don't think any of the three lenses you mention in the article would be useful to me. I very rarely shoot anything at less than 100mm, and I had a 70-200mm f2.8 years ago, but I sold it because I hardly ever used it.

Over 99 percent of my photography is done at 100mm thru 800mm. I like zooms in favor of primes, because if the flexibility it affords in composing images from a fixed position, when I cannot get closer to or further from the subject, which happens regularly with the kind of photography I do.

So my first Canon R mount lenses would be long supertelephoto zoom lenses, such as the 100-500mm f6.3 that they recently released. I would also look for a much longer zoom lens - something similar to the Sigma 300-800mm lens that I currently use as my everyday lens.

If Canon doesn't make something like a 300-800mm in the R mount, then I will just adapt my Sigma when I switch to Canon R bodies.

John S.'s picture

Got the RF 35 and RF 15-35...only because I didn't have EF equivalents. Hanging onto my existing EF glass. Curious to see how well the R6's IBIS works with my non-stabilized EF 70-200. :)

Rick Rizza's picture

Yes, people, please migrate now and sell you EF L lenses. I will surely harvest them. My 25 years old 50 f/1.0 works just fine with my EOS R

Marek Stefech's picture

Can you share few pics from Canon 50mm f1.0 L