OpticalLimits reviews the Canon EOS RF 16mm F2.8 STM

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OpticalLimits is one of my favorite review sites, and they recently completed their review of the Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM.
First, let’s face facts, the Canon RF 16mm is the cheapest ever full frame 16mm that has ever been produced by an original camera manufacturer.  Ever.   There are going to be some compromises to its performance.

There are usually three main contributors to lens design;

Cost
Size / Weight
Quality

Each one of these factors affects the other.  In the case of the RF 16mm F2.8 you have a small, light, and cheap 16mm ultra-wide prime.  Quality is going to suffer.
If any of you have been following my patent application commentary over the years at CanonNews – you’ll know that I’ve been very outspoken about Canon’s trends on making the image circle smaller on lenses. It isn’t an uncommon thing in Canon’s patent applications.  However, while doing...

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Oct 31, 2020
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Got my first copy and sold it within weeks. Did regret it though and so I got a second copy. Looking at IQ, I do get tears because there is something missing. Looking at Canon other UWA options I do get tears because I would have to sacrifice a very decent vacation So, I'm keeping it.

I do actually get some use out of it:
- hikes (so so light weight)
- class field trips --> group shots and interesting angles
- casual city trip

But at one point, I'll need a serious landscape/ nightscape/ astro capable UWA option.
 
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entoman

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"if you own an EOS R3 or R6, it’s a decent ultra-wide prime lens – because, at 20 megapixels, even a Coke bottle is sharp enough. Well, almost. While on an EOS R5 and 45 megapixels, you don’t really want to look at the image corners."
What a great quote!
 
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Jethro

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And Klaus' final word (which should always be remembered in relation to low-cost options):

"Overall, you may argue that you get what you pay for but this isn't really true. A 16mmm f/2.8 for this kind of money is an insane bargain even with the mentioned limitations. Just don't expect Mercedes quality for a Lada price tag."
 
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AlanF

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And Klaus' final word (which should always be remembered in relation to low-cost options):

"Overall, you may argue that you get what you pay for but this isn't really true. A 16mmm f/2.8 for this kind of money is an insane bargain even with the mentioned limitations. Just don't expect Mercedes quality for a Lada price tag."
Mercedes came 23/28 in terms of reliability according to US Consumer reports with a score of 34 compared with Lexus, Mazda and Toyota in the 70s. So maybe you do get Lada quality for a Mercedes price tag.
 
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AJ

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I'm glad to see that Opticallimits now analyzes after (compulsory) corrections. They really struggled with this when they reviewed the RF 24-105/4-7.1
The coke bottle comment seems a little over-the-top to me. This lens is considerably sharper than the old EF 17-40 f/4 L which used to be very popular and well regarded in its heyday.
It is similar in sharpness to the EF 16-35/2.8 L mk2
But the EF 16-35/4 L IS is sharper:
In short, this lens does have some compromises. The corners are a little bit soft. But "pixel soup" seems melodramatic.
 
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entoman

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May 8, 2015
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In short, this lens does have some compromises. The corners are a little bit soft. But "pixel soup" seems melodramatic.
Ultra-wides are typically used for:

Landscapes, which usually require sharpness right into the edges and corners.
Architecture, which requires high sharpness across most of the field, and freedom from aberrations.
Astro, which requires very high sharpness and freedom from distortion and aberrations.

Even at the more forgiving 20MP resolution of an R6, it would seem highly unsuitable for any of the above.

I see this as a lens for experimenters - people who want to "play" with ultra-wide just to see how they get on with it, but who aren't remotely interested in forking out the kind of dosh needed for an L optic. The cost is so low that it will tempt many people who would otherwise have steered clear of such short a focal length.

It will sell extremely well, and those who find that they enjoy ultra-wide shooting, will end up upgrading to an L of similar focal length, so yet again it's a win-win for clever old Canon!
 
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Feb 21, 2022
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I own this lens from day one preordered. Love it for video purpose with digital stab ON 1.1X crop gets rid of the nasty edges and corners just about enough. Without considering pricetag, I gave it 4out of 5 star for its compactness, fast af, 43mm front filter and F2.8 bright aperture. If price is included in the equation, this lens is groundbreaking one of a kind, never seen before, best out of best, 6 out of 5 star. With current level of inflation, $299 barely buys you a CPL, a lens cap and hood, where Canon sells an Ultra wide prime F2.8 with AF for this little change. No other lens manufacturer has anything remotely close to it, not even Samyang let alone Sigma Tamron or Sony Nikon. Samyang 14mm RF is over twice the price, 3 times the size and 3 times the weight. 18mm FE is optically inferior and narrower. Tamron 20mm FE has even worse distortion and nowhere near as fast AF for tracking, not to mention 67mm filter for a tiny front glass. Sony Nikon 20mm both excellent but we talk about $900 vs $300. And 20mm is not 16mm
 
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AJ

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Sep 11, 2010
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Ultra-wides are typically used for:

Landscapes, which usually require sharpness right into the edges and corners.
Architecture, which requires high sharpness across most of the field, and freedom from aberrations.
Astro, which requires very high sharpness and freedom from distortion and aberrations.

Even at the more forgiving 20MP resolution of an R6, it would seem highly unsuitable for any of the above.

I see this as a lens for experimenters - people who want to "play" with ultra-wide just to see how they get on with it, but who aren't remotely interested in forking out the kind of dosh needed for an L optic. The cost is so low that it will tempt many people who would otherwise have steered clear of such short a focal length.

It will sell extremely well, and those who find that they enjoy ultra-wide shooting, will end up upgrading to an L of similar focal length, so yet again it's a win-win for clever old Canon!
I'm planning to buy this highly unsuitable lens and use it for all three of those applications you listed. ;^)
I hike to get landscape shots. I travel to get architecture shots. Astro, both of those. For hiking and traveling, small is a real bonus.
My goals are to have files suitable for display on a 4k screen and for printing 13"x19" coffee-table books. I don't need huge gallery-style prints. This lens should easily do that.
 
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[email protected]

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I own a copy of this lens, and for an ultra-wide, it's pretty decent, and fantastic for the price. I use it on remote cameras left out in the woods for weeks at a time, often at the entrance of a den. It's up in the snow right now monitoring a shrew hole. It's attached to a beat-up RP found used and slightly broken on eBay. Perfect sort of lens to pair with a rig that might get chomped by a curious mammal. Lost a beater 6D to a bear last year. I'm reticent to put my Sigma 14mm f/1.8 out there, so the 16mm lens means the rig spends much more time in the woods than otherwise.
 
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Frodo

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Nov 3, 2012
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When I bought my RF16, I found it was visibly sharper than the other one the shop had. Sample variation could explain some negative reviews.
It is far from useless uncorrected. I love the look in forest photos without vertical and horizontal lines and the accentuation of the centre of the image, once the extreme borders are cropped.
The Lightroom profile is significantly wider than the in-camera or DPP profile.
I do some astrophotography and compared it to me Samyang 14/2.8. The Samyang is sharper, but at f/4 the RF16 is close. A critical distortion is coma and dissppointing that Optical Limits didn't look at this. At f/4, the RF16 is okay.
Landscape astrophotography means having interesting landscapes and good stars. The RF16 has come hiking with me, when the Samyang stayed home. I sold the Samyang and am happy with the decision.
 
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AlanF

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I'm glad to see that Opticallimits now analyzes after (compulsory) corrections. They really struggled with this when they reviewed the RF 24-105/4-7.1
The coke bottle comment seems a little over-the-top to me. This lens is considerably sharper than the old EF 17-40 f/4 L which used to be very popular and well regarded in its heyday.
It is similar in sharpness to the EF 16-35/2.8 L mk2
But the EF 16-35/4 L IS is sharper:
In short, this lens does have some compromises. The corners are a little bit soft. But "pixel soup" seems melodramatic.
The EF 16-35mm f/4 is one of the EF lenses I'm keeping. Not small enough just to have your pocket but on the camera it gives a useful range and very sharp.
 
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Bonich

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Apr 29, 2019
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This lens is unique: Ultra compact and better than 1/4 max magnification.
This opens perspectives you never can do with any of the RF/EF15-35 or so.

This lens is fun to use.
 

Blue Zurich

SL,UT
Jan 22, 2022
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I tried it,
When I bought my RF16, I found it was visibly sharper than the other one the shop had. Sample variation could explain some negative reviews.
It is far from useless uncorrected. I love the look in forest photos without vertical and horizontal lines and the accentuation of the centre of the image, once the extreme borders are cropped.
The Lightroom profile is significantly wider than the in-camera or DPP profile.
I do some astrophotography and compared it to me Samyang 14/2.8. The Samyang is sharper, but at f/4 the RF16 is close. A critical distortion is coma and dissppointing that Optical Limits didn't look at this. At f/4, the RF16 is okay.
Landscape astrophotography means having interesting landscapes and good stars. The RF16 has come hiking with me, when the Samyang stayed home. I sold the Samyang and am happy with the decision.
I did the opposite (although it's the RF 14 2.8 AF Samyang. Maybe my 16 was a bad copy)
 

Shellbo6901

EOS M50
Jan 16, 2015
47
10
I have the r and use the ef 17-40 for real estate. Would it in any way be a bit better or should I stick with the EF. Im slowly trying to move all my lenses to RF, but dont want to shell out for the other RF options if the 16 would be alright.
 

koenkooi

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CR Pro
Feb 25, 2015
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I have the r and use the ef 17-40 for real estate. Would it in any way be a bit better or should I stick with the EF. Im slowly trying to move all my lenses to RF, but dont want to shell out for the other RF options if the 16 would be alright.
My copy of the RF16mm is better in the corners (after correction) than my copy of the EF17-40mm. And it's much sharper in the center. But I do miss the ability to zoom, 16mm is too wide for most of the things I use it for, but 45MP gives me more than enough pixels to crop in post :)

I don't know how your copy of the 17-40 compares to mine and how important corner performance is for your work, so take the above with a grain of salt.
 
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Del Paso

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Aug 9, 2018
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Mercedes came 23/28 in terms of reliability according to US Consumer reports with a score of 34 compared with Lexus, Mazda and Toyota in the 70s. So maybe you do get Lada quality for a Mercedes price tag.
Do you know how to improve your Customer Reports ranking?
An European brand was about number 50, one year later number 15, without any technical change.
How did they achieve this? By paying every customer a phone call, asking about satisfaction and what they could do for them...
I'd take such "reports" with a heap of salt...
Yet, I agree that Lexus fully deserves their ranking, but I'd lots more skeptical (in Europe) about the other two, huge diesel issues (4D4) or sometimes extreme corrosion. Mercedes payed a high price for a very (too?) sophisticated engine technology and electronics, and, maybe, arrogance. Lada is far from being as bad as many believe...
 

AlanF

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Aug 16, 2012
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Do you know how to improve your Customer Reports ranking?
An European brand was about number 50, one year later number 15, without any technical change.
How did they achieve this? By paying every customer a phone call, asking about satisfaction and what they could do for them...
I'd take such "reports" with a heap of salt...
Yet, I agree that Lexus fully deserves their ranking, but I'd lots more skeptical (in Europe) about the other two, huge diesel issues (4D4) or sometimes extreme corrosion. Mercedes payed a high price for a very (too?) sophisticated engine technology and electronics, and, maybe, arrogance. Lada is far from being as bad as many believe...
It was a joke response, but based on fact. These are not the crap feedback reports you get on the internet based on random reporting. The Consumer Association in the UK "Which" has a proper ratings procedure based on their members reporting how often their cars went back for for repairs etc etc. Mercedes did badly in that too. I have had 3 Mercedes, including an upmarket cabriolet, and my own personal experience is that they are unreliable. Mercedes went down the reliability drain when they had their ill-fated merger with Chrysler, and decided their earlier legendary reliable models were over-engineered. My current Toyota is in a different league. "Which" is highly reliable and the reports are available in detail only to paid up subscribers, one of which I am, and I wouldn't pay for them and then pay more for a pinch of salt.