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Products >> All Products In Focus: RF Lenses- Part 4

RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM: IS and Macro Capabilities for More Versatility

On 9 July 2020, Canon introduced the RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM, a new medium telephoto prime lens. Featuring a wide maximum aperture and the 85mm focal length popular for portrait photography, the lens is also equipped with a built-in Optical Image Stabilizer (Optical IS) and semi-macro close-up shooting capabilities, increasing the variety of scenes that it can be used in. Read on to learn more.

 

5 appealing facts about the RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM:

1. 85mm, f/2—great for portrait photography
2. 0.5x macro means you can use it in even more scenes!
3. Up to 8 shutter speed stops’ image stabilisation
4. Excellent image quality true to the RF mount
5. Compact with a wallet-friendly price

 

1. 85mm, f/2—great for portrait photography

One of the strengths of the EOS R system is its full-frame image sensor, which makes it easy to achieve a shallow depth of field and beautiful, creamy background bokeh that makes subjects stand out. And the genre that arguably makes the most use of these effects is portrait photography.

Background bokeh becomes more prominent at longer focal lengths and wider aperture settings. However, the longer the focal length, the more obvious the perspective compression effect; the shorter the focal length, the more exaggerated the perspective. Of course, these effects can be harnessed for creative impact, but in many situations, especially in portraiture and product photography, you want the shapes of your subjects to be captured as faithfully as possible.

A medium telephoto focal length like 85mm hits the sweet spot: it doesn’t distort shapes, and the compression effect is barely visible. Add to that the f/2 maximum aperture on the RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM, which is wide enough to create beautiful bokeh that separates the subject from the background, and you get an excellent portrait lens capable of high-quality images.

Chest-up portrait of girl

EOS R6/ RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM/ FL: 85mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/2.0, 1/60 sec, EV +0.3)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

 

Why 85mm is a popular choice for portraiture: it’s not just about distortion-free depictions!

In photography, your distance from the subject matters, more so when your subject is another person. Having to stand too close to the subject when shooting head shots and chest-up shots can feel awkward for both you and the subject. The 85mm focal length allows you to achieve the perfect framing for those shots from a comfortable distance away. With your subject at ease, it will be much easier to capture natural facial expressions!

Portrait of girl with head lying on table

EOS R6/ RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM/ FL: 85mm/ Manual exposure (f/2.0, 1/125 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

 

Did you know: Professional portrait photographers use f/2 more often than you think

You would think that to get a nice, creamy bokeh, you need an aperture setting as wide as f/1.2 or f/1.4. It’s good to have those options, but the truth is that the extremely shallow depth of field at these apertures means that things immediately in front of or behind your focal point will be out of focus. To avoid images from looking too soft, professional photographers often narrow their aperture settings a little to shoot at or near f/2, even if they are using an f/1.2 lens. In other words, f/2 is more than sufficient for most situations.

 

2. 0.5x macro means you can use it in even more scenes!

Portrait photography isn’t the only thing that the RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM is good for! It is Canon’s first 85mm lens to feature macro shooting capabilities. With its 0.5x maximum magnification and a 0.35m closest focusing distance, you can shoot subjects that are as close as 21cm away from the tip of your lens. That means more creative options when shooting flowers, food, products, and small objects. Pair it with the bokeh effect at maximum aperture f/2 and see what you can get!

Close-up of red and yellow flowers in glass vase

EOS R6/ RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM/ FL: 85mm/ Manual exposure (f/2.0, 1/8 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: 4300K

 

Fun fact: Macro shooting is great for baby portraits and beauty shoots, too

Newborn infants are unbelievably tiny. To get close-ups of tiny faces, hands and feet so that they fill the frame, you need a macro lens. It also applies for shooting close-ups of facial features on adults, such as in beauty or make-up photography. In this sense, the macro shooting capability of the RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM has increased the range of portraiture scenarios that it can capture—you can use it to photograph all humans, from infants to adults.

 

3. Up to 8 shutter speed stops’ image stabilisation

The RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM is equipped with a built-in Optical Image Stabilizer (Optical IS) that can correct camera shake by up to 5 shutter speed stops’ equivalent. (See what this means in:  Lens FAQ #3: How are Image Stabilisation Stops Determined?) It is Canon’s first 85mm prime lens to feature IS.

In general, it is said that you need a shutter speed that is not slower than 1/(focal length) of a second to prevent camera shake. For an 85mm lens, that means at least 1/85 seconds. But with Optical IS, the RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM is able to capture sharp images even when shooting as slow as around 0.5 seconds. This also means that you can take handheld shots in low light scenes without bumping up the ISO speed, whether you are shooting still life, macro, or portraits.

 

Hybrid IS corrects the shift-based camera shake that plagues close-up photography

During close-up and macro photography, shift-based camera shake, which occurs when the camera moves parallel to the subject, can become very obvious. On the RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM, this is corrected by up to 3 shutter speed stops’ equivalent by the Hybrid IS technology, allowing you to achieve sharp images even when shooting close -up at the 0.5x maximum magnification.

 

Combine with the EOS R5/EOS R6 for up to 8 stops’ equivalent IS

The EOS R5 and EOS R6 come with a sensor-shift In-Body IS system, which coordinates with the Optical IS on the RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM to realise an image stabilisation effect as powerful as up to 8 shutter speed stops’ equivalent!

 

4. Excellent image quality true to the RF mount

The design of the RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM takes advantage of the large RF mount diameter and short flange focal distance to place a large-diameter lens at the back. This not only ensures high corner-to-corner image quality, but it also allows for a smaller lens body. The lens also uses one UD lens element, which effectively corrects chromatic aberration. From deep landscapes focused to infinity to the close-up macro world, be assured that your shots will be of consistently high image quality.

Lens construction
Chest-up portrait of girl

A: UD lens element

 

5. Compact with a wallet-friendly price

A lot of effort and smart design tricks went into making the RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM smaller and lighter than Canon’s other 85mm lenses. These include keeping the maximum aperture at f/2 (which allows smaller lens elements to be used), using an STM unit for AF drive, and of course, harnessing the benefits of the RF mount. The result is an extremely slim lens body that weighs approximately 500g: around the same as a 500ml bottle of mineral water and 60% lighter than the RF85mm f/1.2L USM.

When attached to the EOS R6, the total weight is around 1,180g (including battery and memory cards). This is just a little over two bottles of water, and barely impacts on mobility.


Size and weight of RF85mm f/1.2L USM and RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM compared

The price of the lens is also reasonable.


With its ability to shoot 0.5x macro in addition to beautiful portraits, the RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM promises to be a viable option in a greater variety of scenes—not just for portraiture, but also for shooting small objects such as flowers or wedding rings, or even close-ups of details such the veins on dried leaves! If you are hoping to increase your range of photographic expression, it is a worthy option to consider adding to your kit.


Check out some macro lens shooting tips here:
Professional Composition Techniques (4): Using Special Lenses

 

 

 

RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM

RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM

Key specifications
Lens construction: 12 elements in 11 groups
Closest focusing distance: 0.35m
Maximum magnification: 0.50x
No. of aperture blades: 9 (circular blade)
Filter diameter: 67mm
Size: φ78 x 90.5mm
Weight: approx. 500g


Lens hood ET-77 (sold separately)

Lens hood ET-77

 

Sample images

Vertical 3/4 body portrait of lady

EOS R6/ RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM/ FL: 85mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/2.0, 1/60 sec, EV +0.3)/ ISO 200/ WB: Auto


Cat on chair

EOS R6/ RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM/ FL: 85mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/2.0, 1/250 sec, EV +1)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto


Close up of veins on leaves

EOS R5/ RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM/ FL: 85mm/ Manual exposure (f/2.0, 1/40 sec)/ ISO 800/ WB: Daylight

 


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