Review: Canon RF 16mm f/2.8 STM by Christopher Frost

Canon Rumors Guy

EOS-1D X Mark III
CR Pro
Jul 20, 2010
9,309
2,079
Canada
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One of my favourite lens reviewers Christopher Frost has completed his review of the brand new Canon RF 16mm f/2.8 STM.
The review showcases all of the strengths and weaknesses of Canon’s new $300 prime lens for the RF mount. Keep realistic expectations for this little lens, it is $300 after all.
Interestingly, you cannot turn off distortion correction in your EOS R body with this lens. Canon has decided to use the camera body to make up for optical weaknesses, which is probably just fine for most applications.
Canon RF 16mm f/2.8 STM Key Features

First ultra-wide-angle, fixed focal length RF lens
High image quality and bright, fixed f/2.8 maximum aperture
A stepping motor (gear-type STM) that provides smooth & quiet continuous AF during video recording
Supremely lightweight and...

Continue reading...
 
Mar 15, 2018
88
104
United States
Canon has decided to use the camera body to make up for optical weaknesses

Wasn't the RF mount supposed to allow easier engineering of better designs without these optical weaknesses? Watching this review, the way the focus sounds like the original nifty fifty... It feels like they just slapped this together for lowest possible cost.

Meanwhile, I'm kicking myself. Two years ago I had a chance to purchase a 24-70 F/4 for $550, and I thought... meh, that's kinda pricey. Now it's going for $1200 on ebay from reputable places. The 16-35 F/4 is also skyrocketing. Maybe supply disruptions are a part of this, but there's still so much demand in good EF lenses, and they're optically no worse than the RF versions. Is Canon leaving money on the table?
 

Andy Westwood

EOS R6
CR Pro
Dec 10, 2016
173
282
UK
Christopher is also one of my favourite lens reviewers along with Dustin Abbott. This review is kind of what I was expecting on this compact cheap lens, no wow’s but still a nice little bit of glass.

My pre-order is in-store now, I’ll be picking it up on Thursday this week. I didn’t expect this lens to compete with my Sigma 14-24 f/2.8 but for a cheap compact wide lens that you’ll hardly know you have on your camera and isn’t going to put your back out when using it, I can live with its spots and pimples.
 

neuroanatomist

I post too Much on Here!!
CR Pro
Jul 21, 2010
26,112
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Wasn't the RF mount supposed to allow easier engineering of better designs without these optical weaknesses? Watching this review, the way the focus sounds like the original nifty fifty... It feels like they just slapped this together for lowest possible cost.
Well, $300 is a pretty low cost, relatively speaking. I really do think Canon is planning on launching a sub-$800 FF EOS R, and the RP is now $1000. Having an inexpensive FF body with only costly lenses for it is not a recipe for success. But consider – the combination of the RF 16/2.8, RF 24-105 non-L, and RF 100-400 gives a user a very large focal range for a $1350 outlay.
 

InchMetric

Switched from Nikon. Still zooming the wrong way.
CR Pro
Jun 22, 2021
159
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Wasn't the RF mount supposed to allow easier engineering of better designs without these optical weaknesses? Watching this review, the way the focus sounds like the original nifty fifty... It feels like they just slapped this together for lowest possible cost.
No. They make some very fine and expensive lenses for the nerds who are allergic to corrections, and they make some lenses that perform nicely as an engineered system for people who want to take great pictures with a light and inexpensive lens.

Then again, those $100,000 Mercedes S-class sedans drive like crap with all the computerized traction control systems turned off. Can't Mercedes design a decent car anymore? I also hear the U.S. Air Force has some planes that won't even fly without computers ensuring stability. Talk about a step backward! Why can't they all be as smart as me and design things right?
 

gbc

EOS M6 Mark II
Oct 19, 2018
75
93
This was the first lens I ever pre-ordered as soon as it was available and didn't think twice. Got it last week and took it to a concert, and I am pretty pleased. I've been using a Tokina 11-16 2.8 for about 10 years now, even as I moved to full frame and could only use it as a 16mm prime for the most part, so I've been on the lookout for a replacement for quite some time. Not having to use the RF adapter and having a 16mm that is 1/3 the size and maybe 1/5 the weight... it's a revelation. And the images so far have been pretty good. Like the review says, it's dead sharp in the middle, which for my purposes is all I need, since i use it in situations when the subject is up close and I just want a wide frame. for $300 this is a no brainer.
 

AJ

EOS RP
Sep 11, 2010
760
177
There are huge big heavy expensive super-corrected lenses, and then there are small, simple lenses like this 16/2.8. There is a purpose for each. The 16/2.8 will be a perfect travel/backpacking lens. I will be getting one. The pre-corrected barrel distortion doesn't bother me at all. I think it is quite a clever trick actually. If it helps reduce size, weight and cost, then I'm all for it.
I do hope Canon develops more lenses in this spirit. For example, it'd be nice if they made an R-mount version of the classic 50/1.4 with double-gauss design rather than the big heavy Sigma 50/1.4 versions. All that would be needed is a modern AF motor, improved coatings, and perhaps a tweak to the optical formula. Yes I know we already have a 50/1.8 in R mount but 1.4 would be nice.
 

AJ

EOS RP
Sep 11, 2010
760
177
Well, $300 is a pretty low cost, relatively speaking. I really do think Canon is planning on launching a sub-$800 FF EOS R, and the RP is now $1000. Having an inexpensive FF body with only costly lenses for it is not a recipe for success. But consider – the combination of the RF 16/2.8, RF 24-105 non-L, and RF 100-400 gives a user a very large focal range for a $1350 outlay.
Let's call it the unholy trinity, shall we? Or evil trinity?
 

entoman

wildlife photography
May 8, 2015
466
515
UK
Wasn't the RF mount supposed to allow easier engineering of better designs without these optical weaknesses?
Yes, and we’ve already seen plenty of evidence of this with lenses such as the 28-70mm F2 and the 100mm macro. But they are expensive optics, and when the original R was launched there were endless complaints that Canon didn’t cater for the budget end of the market.

Now they have a near-complete set of exotic L glass AND an excellent selection of budget glass covering everything from 16mm to 800mm. And some people still complain…:rolleyes:

Watching this review, the way the focus sounds like the original nifty fifty... It feels like they just slapped this together for lowest possible cost.
This is a $300 lens, it’s pretty unrealistic to expect it to be as smooth and quiet in operation as an L lens.

It’s designed to be a *cheap* and pocketable lens that can be carried at all times and takes up virtually no space in a camera bag.

Sure, they could easily have put a few more elements in the lens and avoided the need for computational aberration correction, they could also have put in a better focus motor, and included optical stabilisation. But if they did it would weigh 5 times as much and cost 5 times more.
 

stevelee

FT-QL
CR Pro
Jul 6, 2017
2,178
886
Davidson, NC
No. They make some very fine and expensive lenses for the nerds who are allergic to corrections, and they make some lenses that perform nicely as an engineered system for people who want to take great pictures with a light and inexpensive lens.

Then again, those $100,000 Mercedes S-class sedans drive like crap with all the computerized traction control systems turned off. Can't Mercedes design a decent car anymore? I also hear the U.S. Air Force has some planes that won't even fly without computers ensuring stability. Talk about a step backward! Why can't they all be as smart as me and design things right?
My Audi at half that price has the four wheels under so much computer control that I don’t think you can turn much of it off, mostly just for driving in ice or something. The feel that the computer control gives when going over hilly, twisty roads is great, as if I knew what I am doing. You can set various components of that control to suit for a custom setup, and not just a choice for everything at once between Sport and regular Drive modes.

I am glad that my G5X II doesn’t have the extra pound of glass it would take to correct the little lens to an acceptable level without software corrections. I bet the owners of the little 16mm lens will feel the same way.
 
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mccasi

EOS M50
Oct 24, 2019
44
62
I have the lens too and I’m quite happy for my use cases.


For selfie I don’t care about corner sharpness, but all other aberrations are perfectly controlled.


For astro I won’t use the lens corrections but light frames to deal with vignetting .. no one cares about straight lines for Milky Way photography so I actually get sharpness and contrast where I need it. Coma is fairly okay, worst case I have to stop it down to f4 .. still better then the EF 16-35mm f4L for Milky Way I reckon, it had more aberrations traded for better corner sharpness.


Big plus for the smooth bokeh and close focusing distance!

most annoying is actually the lack of weather proofing, despite its small size I’d like to leave it out for Astro for a couple of hours and don’t have to take it down during a small drizzle.
 

entoman

wildlife photography
May 8, 2015
466
515
UK
Christopher is also one of my favourite lens reviewers along with Dustin Abbott.
Yes, Christopher Frost is an excellent unbiased reviewer, as are Gordon Laing and Dustin Abbott.

It’s nice to listen to people who can produce a video without jumping up and down shouting “BREAKING NEWS!” like Tony Northrup, and without jabbering at 20 words per second, waving their arms all over the place and talking nonsense like Kai.

Having said that, I do find Jared Polin to be very informative and entertaining, and I have a soft spot for Chris and Jordan on dpreview.
 

dlee13

Canon EOS R6
May 13, 2014
251
142
Australia
WWW.photosbydlee.com
I’ve had this lens for a week now and I really love it. The only complaint I would make would be the distortion but it’s easily fixed in post and with in body corrections so it’s not a real issue.

The size and weight of this means when I travel it can come everywhere and just be used when something is too wide for the RF 35mm!
 
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Frodo

EOS RP
Nov 3, 2012
429
109
For astro I won’t use the lens corrections but light frames to deal with vignetting .. no one cares about straight lines for Milky Way photography so I actually get sharpness and contrast where I need it. Coma is fairly okay, worst case I have to stop it down to f4 .. still better then the EF 16-35mm f4L for Milky Way I reckon, it had more aberrations traded for better corner sharpness.
@mccasi , you make an interesting point about not correcting the barrel distortion for astro. Can you post raw or large jpegs of astro photos at f/2.8 and 4 (or links to them)? I'm interested is seeing what corner sharpness is when uncorrected but cropped to about 14mm.
Thanks
 
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jam05

R5, C70
Mar 12, 2019
536
346
Wasn't the RF mount supposed to allow easier engineering of better designs without these optical weaknesses? Watching this review, the way the focus sounds like the original nifty fifty... It feels like they just slapped this together for lowest possible cost.

Meanwhile, I'm kicking myself. Two years ago I had a chance to purchase a 24-70 F/4 for $550, and I thought... meh, that's kinda pricey. Now it's going for $1200 on ebay from reputable places. The 16-35 F/4 is also skyrocketing. Maybe supply disruptions are a part of this, but there's still so much demand in good EF lenses, and they're optically no worse than the RF versions. Is Canon leaving money on the table?
 
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jam05

R5, C70
Mar 12, 2019
536
346
You can find them everywhere from $799. $1200 is way too much. Especially for an f4 lens
 

Czardoom

EOS RP
Jan 27, 2020
355
750
Just looking at the image quality comparisons at the-digital-picture.com and the corrected lens results actually look pretty good in the corners (as well as everywhere else). I guess it depends on what you expect - plus I think some anti-auto correct bias happening. In the corners, it's a lot better than the EF 17-40 L lens, for example. And at f/4 only a very slight (negative) difference (at least to my eye) with the EF 16-35 f/4 in the corners. Very slight. The corners are, of course, softer corrected than uncorrected, and this is causing a lot of negativity, in my opinion.
 

vangelismm

EOS 90D
Jul 28, 2015
142
88
There are huge big heavy expensive super-corrected lenses, and then there are small, simple lenses like this 16/2.8. There is a purpose for each. The 16/2.8 will be a perfect travel/backpacking lens. I will be getting one. The pre-corrected barrel distortion doesn't bother me at all. I think it is quite a clever trick actually. If it helps reduce size, weight and cost, then I'm all for it.
I do hope Canon develops more lenses in this spirit. For example, it'd be nice if they made an R-mount version of the classic 50/1.4 with double-gauss design rather than the big heavy Sigma 50/1.4 versions. All that would be needed is a modern AF motor, improved coatings, and perhaps a tweak to the optical formula. Yes I know we already have a 50/1.8 in R mount but 1.4 would be nice.
And there are small great lens just like EF 40mm 2.8 and EF-s 24mm 2.8.
This one is not good.