It's Gigantic

lol

20190223 16 53 14 2

(Every image you see in this canon 28-70 f2 review was made with the 28-70 unless otherwise stated)

This review was originally posted to my patreon feed March 24th 2019

After a few months of use, I’m finally ready to review the new Canon 28-70 f/2.0 RF. I have a 10,000 image rule for any piece of gear that I review in depth. So naturally, this means that it takes a little longer than I’d like to get something written in the off season. I know everyone wants a review the week something gets released, but it just takes me longer to get a feel for any new piece of gear, and I hope you appreciate that insight.

But the time has come (a helicopter tour in Hawaii will push you over 10,000 images in no time!) for a discussion about the 28-70 f/2… a totally unexpected and revolutionary lens for the new mirrorless RF mount from Canon. Even if you don’t shoot canon, I think this review is wroth a read as I believe many more lenses like this will be coming along from all kinds of camera manufactures as mirrorless systems take over.

(The images of the 28-70 lens itself were made with the 50 1.2 RF – which I’ll also be wrapping a review for soon)

canon 28 70 f2 review sample 1

It’s not often that I remove a lens from the box and laugh out loud.

hand held 28 70 canon lens

This thing is big. It’s Heavy. It’s bigger and heavier than you think it’s going to be… and that’s a problem.

It’s even bigger when you zoom to 70mm as the front element protrudes:

lens comparison size 28 70 f2

Here’s something to give you perspective about the weight:

1 canon rf 28 70 weight scale comparison

2 canon rf 28 70 weight scale comparison

The weight is somewhere in between a 5D Mark IV w/ a 35 1.4, 50 1.2 L, and 24 1.4L and a EOS-R w/ 50 1.2L. A touch lighter than a 5d Mark IV w/ a 70-200 f/2.8.

But, can we take a second to appreciate how beautiful the lens elements look?

front lens element of canon 28 70 zoom lens 1

and the (now dirty) rear element for good measure:

1 8

The overall build quality is fantastic. I’m a big fan of the matte finish all the RF lenses are coming in. It’s grippy for your hands, but easy to slide in and out of any bag.

To simply bullet point the negatives about the size of this lens:

  • It’s not just that it’s heavy. It’s front heavy so it will kill your wrists in no time at all. Adding a battery grip to help center the gravity crosses an overall weight that really just makes everything worse. I’m actually really surprised they didn’t include a mount support on the lens itself the way they do on 70-200+ lenses.
  • Zooming in and out is really smooth, but the circumference of the thing is so big that there’s no comfortable way to really do that repetitively for more than a few minutes.

I think it comes close to the only thing needed during engagement shoots (how I fantasize about the day I can bring one body and one lens), but I find 28mm being the widest focal length far too limiting. I often want to go 24mm or as wide as 16mm for more creative work, and 28mm doesn’t come close to the same vibe, but it does keep everything flattering for most kinds of portrait work.

Still, having a range of focal lengths at f/2.0 does mean this lens is incredibly versatile. I suspect that 35mm & 85mm prime shooters could get away with replacing those two lenses comfortably…

 

Example Images

The below SOOC images are at f/2.0 w/ same settings across the board.

28mm:

1 9

70mm:

1 10

Even at f/2.0 it certainly has some fantastic bokeh magic happening – especially at 70mm. Also, it handles blacklight VERY well.

Take a look at this quick video example of bokeh at 28mm & 70mm focused macro and infinity.

But, here we are at f/22 and I can safely say I find the sunstar pretty boring. I much prefer the look of the Canon 24mm f/1.4.

1 11

For a zoom lens I find the distortion surprisingly irrelevant. Here are two uncorrected examples where it might be most problematic:

1 12 1

This one should give you a good sense of the natural vignette at f/2.0 (I love it):

distortion test 28 70 2

Now, how about some foreground bokeh?

RF28-70mm 70mm 1/320 sec at f/2.0:

28 70 review bokeh sample

RF28-70mm 28 mm 1/2500 sec at f/2.0:

1 15 1

RF28-70mm F2 50 mm 1/1000 sec at f/2.0:

1 16 1

RF28-70mm F2 28 mm 1/250 sec at f/2.0:

1 17 2

RF28-70mm 28 mm 1/80 sec at f/2.0 (photo cred Ryan Muirhead and @brittabug):

1 18 1

RF28-70mm F2 L 32mm1-800 sec at f – 2.0:

review sample images of canon rf 28 70 f2

RF28-70mm F2 L 28mm1-500 sec at f – 2.0:

couple in love engagement session

Bokeh Comparisons

On the extreme end let’s take the fabled 50mm EF L @ 1.0:

1 21 1

up against the RF28-70mm @ 50mm f /2.0 (same edit):

1 22

sidebyside (EF on left RF on right)

1 23 1

I’m not sure if it’s just the sharpness of the 28-70, but darn if I don’t prefer the look of it! This was the first series of images I made with the lens where I started to get a sense of the 3d look it can produce.

Let’s take it up against the 50 RF @ 2.0 (on the right) and 28-70 @ 50mm f/2.0 (on the left)

1 24

Sharpness & Fringing

Exact same settings for edits and I have to say I slightly prefer the skin tones of the 28-70!

Let’s touch on sharpness a bit. This lens is sharp, but don’t just take my word for it…

RF28-70mm F2 L USM28 mm 1/1000 sec at f /2.0:

1 25 1

1:1 crop:

1

annnnd 2:1 crop:

1 2

enough said.

But here’s a few more @ f/4.0 where this lens really starts to hit its sharpness stride.

RF28-70mm F2 L USM70 mm1-1600 sec at f – 4.0:

1 26

2:1 crop:

1 3

RF28-70mm F2 L USM36 mm1-800 sec at f – 4.0:

1 27 1

1:1 crop:

1 4

Random double exposure because, why not?

1 28 1

and lastly a great example of how it handles fringing:

1 29

1 30 1

Conclusion

Though it’s a stellar performer its proven really difficult for me to carve out a space in my bag for this lens. I’ve only photographed one wedding with it and I promptly put it away as most of the wedding day was in dark indoor light and nighttime… where f/2.0 just wasn’t going to cut it for me.

For me, it’s a second tier lens – not so much a workhorse. At $3,000 I’m having trouble justifying keeping it around (but for some reason I’m unable to find the will to return it). I suppose it is justifiable as a catch all backup in case one of my workhorse lenses dies on the job?

BUT I can image this being a perfect focal length for two consistently difficult parts of the day… ceremony recessional and reception entrances. That’s about it.

As mirrorless lenses are proving to be consistently more expensive than their DSLR counterparts I really can’t recommend this lens if your primary work is weddings. Elopments/portraits/anything else? Probably. But, only if it’s a tier one lens in your bag. For me, it’s a second tier lens. Unless you work in situations that don’t require you to actually have your camera in your hands for more than an hour at a time it’ll probably be second tier for you too.

Still, I find this lens incredibly exciting. It’s signaling that Canon (and by effect other mirrorless lens makers) is pushing the limits of what they can make a lens do… even if it is right up to the edge of ridiculousness (in terms of size). This lens just wouldn’t have been possible on a DSLR (I’m guessing) and I’m glad to see something new and innovative.

Ratings
  • Size & Weight - 2.1/10
    2.1/10
  • Value - 9.1/10
    9.1/10
  • Sharpness - 9.2/10
    9.2/10
  • Bokeh - 7.9/10
    7.9/10
7.1/10

If you’re interested in other reviews and technical write ups like this please take a look at my patreon feed!

Sam Hurd

Sam Hurd

Photographer
DC/NYC/Anywhere

Starting as a political news and celebrity portrait photographer in DC, Sam was instantly drawn to wedding photography as a space to promote more inventive ideas. Sam’s focus is on photographic techniques that are deceptively simple but have the potential to transform difficult or uninspiring shooting environments into one-of-a-kind opportunities for every photo made.

Most reviews, technical write-ups, and other photo nerd content is posted first, and exclusively, over on his patreon.