Comparing three RF midrange zooms.

Optics Patent

Former Nikon (Changes to R5 upon delivery)
Nov 6, 2019
310
248
With the Canon CPS* program, I am evaluating three RF zooms, the f2, the f2.8, and the f4. I have found that the RF 35mm 1.8 is a fine everyday lens for family shots, and the RF70-200 is a gem that works for many purposes at 70 like a big normal lens. I have the RF 24-240 that came as a kit lens, but never warmed to it. But I'm ready to fill the gap with a mid-range zoom. Most of this is about ergonomics, and the aspects you can't evaluate looking at pictures and charts. I'm less concerned about comparative optical perfection from these excellent lenses. The one I enjoy using most will give more great pictures compared to one that isn't loved and doesn't get used.

1. 28-70 f2. Yes it's big. Really big. Silly big for an everyday lens that should be the most used. But it's not the size, it's the weight. The RF70-200 is less than 3/4 the weight of this lens. I put 1kg as my upper limit for an everyday hand-holding lens for walking around. I thought this might be my baby, but first impressions make me glad to test and probably rule it out. The short zoom range doesn't bother me. Step back at low end or crop at high end. Note that my loaner sample had some grittiness to the zoom. Also, I can't see buying this until I own an IBIS body.

2. 24-105 f4. I wanted to love this one. I have the RF35mm f1.8 for low light needs (I tested the pickle jar 50mm f1.2 and let that anchor go). So f4 would be fine. I loved the Nikon Z 24-70 f4 (except for irritating compact-but-not-ready mode) so this should be fine. Great value with all the $700 kit cast-offs means it's nearly a trade in for the 24-240. But, it's not THAT light or small. 695 grams is more than double the weight of the RF 35 1.8. And only 205 less than the 2.8 zoom below. This is not a compact lens, and the RF35 or a future pancake or light zoom might serve well when weight is the real concern.

Another complaint is that the three control rings are crowded, leading to clumsy errors. The zoom ring is rather narrow and far back, with no neutral zone before one's fingers dislodge the focus ring. It's hard enough for a decades-long Nikon shooter to convert to zooming the other way, without adding in this kind of challenge. The stretch to 105 from 70 does little for me given the image quality that enables cropping when stepping forward won't suffice.

Also, the zoom feels overly leveraged, requiring more force than one would expect - draggy and not slick. It felt like the rotation angle was too limited, but it looks like it's the same as the 2.8.

3. 24-70 f2.8. This one is "just right" as Goldilocks would say. Given that the lighter option doesn't solve that need for a handy lens, and the fast option is cumbersome, this is ideal. It's big, but under a kilo makes it handle fine - a familiar counterpart to the RF70-200 (and the ultrawide zoom). The zooming action is smooth and slick, and this just feels right. Balance is good, even with the little RF that serves fine until the presumed R5. There's a nice stationary dead spacer band on the barrel between the zoom ring and the focus/control that also steps up in diameter, making inadvertent changes unlikely. Same forward of the focus before the clicky control ring. This simply feels right, and looks right. Easy pick. No hurry and I'll watch for any discounts or deals.

I'll keep playing and should want to enjoy that amazing f2 for a few days but the prospect of toting it around makes it unappealing to mount up and use.

*Note that CPS has some lenses not listed on their site. One example is the 400mm f4 DO, which I'm going to test alongside the 300 f2.8 IS II.
 

Optics Patent

Former Nikon (Changes to R5 upon delivery)
Nov 6, 2019
310
248
My testing didn't change anything from this uncontroversial initial observation. 80% of the benefit of CPS is in simply holding the product as one would at a retailer. The 2.8 is the winner, but I'm content to wait. For convenience and grabbability, the new 24-105 (F7.1!!!) for $399 (less when kit lenses are cast off) might really do the job because the RF35 f1.8 can handle low light. I'll CPS that one when it comes, and might just defer the investment in this one until then.

The f2 was so heavy it became an irritant I was glad to pack up and send away. The RF50 f1.2 is a far more appealing solution when low light performance is needed at middle lengths. (Along with the RF35 f1.8).
 
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