Canon RF 85mm f/2 STM IS macro - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (Full Format)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published April 2021


By now we know that Canon can produce superb L-class lenses but the photographic world isn't just about high-end R-mount gear and it's good that they've finally started to release some gear for the rest of us. One of the early examples is the Canon RF 85mm f/2 STM IS macro. Obviously, it's a medium-tele prime lens but with a little twist this time. Traditionally such lenses are slightly faster at f/1.8 but Canon decided to sacrifice a little bit of speed for macro capabilities. Regarding its max object magnification, it's not a true macro lens but this middle ground between a traditional 85mm f/1.8 and 100mm f/2.8 (1:1) macro lenses is surely an attractive value proposition for many buyers in this price segment. Speaking of the price - it can be yours for around $600USD / 700EUR. That's substantially more expensive than the old Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM and EF 100mm f/2.8 USM macro but we aren't in the 2000s anymore and at this point in time, the price tag can be considered as reasonable in the grand scheme of things.

The build quality is good but it's obvious that this lens doesn't target professional users. There is no weather-sealing, for instance. The inner lens tube extends when focusing towards closer distances which feels a little dated. The inner lens tube does also slightly wobble which is somewhat disappointing. The used materials are of good quality with some kind of plastics used for the lens barrel based on a metal mount. Canon doesn't supply a lens hood - albeit they never did for non-L lenses. The lens does retain the configurable control ring though. The broad, rubberized focus ring operates smoothly. It's also noteworthy that the RF 85mm f/2 STM IS macro is bigger than the EF 85mm f/1.8 USM - confirming once again that mirrorless lenses aren't necessarily smaller than their DSLR counterparts.

The cost-cutting measures continue with respect to the AF system. Rather than using a USM drive, Canon opted for the STM (Stepping motor) variant here. The AF speed is still very good but you will have to live with some high-pitch noise during AF ops. Manual focusing is possible via the usual "by-wire" system so you drive the AF motor when turning the focus ring. Interestingly, a 5 f-stop image stabilizer has been implemented thus its low light capabilities can often match and even surpass that of faster lenses. Combined with the EOS R5/R6, Canon even suggests a whopping 8 f-stop efficiency. As so often we'd suggest taking these f-stop claims with a sack of salt especially on the R5 with its high megapixel sensor.

Optical construction12 elements in 11 groups including 1xUD element
Number of aperture blades9 (rounded)
min. focus distance0.35m (max. magnification ratio 1:2)
Filter size67mm
Hoodbarrel-shaped (bayonet mount, optional)
Other featuresControl ring, focus distance switch, 5 f-stop image stabilizer