This review covers everything you need to know about the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L, one of the first four lenses ever made for Canon’s EOS R mirrorless system. It’s the spiritual successor of the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L Mark II from 2016 (and the original version from 2005), and it has been fully redesigned for Canon’s more flexible mirrorless lens mount.
Red-ringed 24-105mm f/4 lenses are a ubiquitous sight among Canon photographers, and it’s been that way for many years. Canon has sold more 24-105mm f/4 lenses than almost any other full-frame glass in the last decade, apart from perhaps the 50mm f/1.8. It’s just that popular of a lens – and for good reason. The combination of useful focal lengths, a relatively bright (and constant) f/4 maximum aperture, fast focusing, good optical quality, and price are hard to resist. It’s no wonder that this is considered Canon’s signature kit lens.
The term “kit lens” is misleading, though, since the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L bears the “L” designation only found on Canon’s top lenses. The lens is built to a high standard with a polycarbonate lens barrel and internal seals against dust and water. The complex optical design consists of 18 elements in 14 groups, including three aspherical and one UD glass element. The RF 24-105mm f/4L relies on Canon’s fast and accurate Nano Ultrasonic Autofocus Motor and also has an optical image stabilization system with up to five stops of performance.
All of this is characteristic of a high-end piece of glass – and so is the price. The Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L costs $1300, which makes it one of the more expensive f/4 midrange zooms available today. That said, buying it as part of a kit with one of Canon’s full-frame mirrorless cameras will lower the price to roughly $1000-1100, with the exact price dependent upon the camera that you pair with it.
Considering that this is a “must-have” lens for many photographers starting the EOS R mirrorless system, I wanted to make sure that it was one of the first Canon RF lenses that we reviewed at Photography Life with full lab data. After testing four copies of the lens between three members of our team, I present to you this hands-on review of the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L.
The Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L is part of Canon’s L series, which comes with a certain expectation of build quality. And indeed, the lens is very solid and features extensive weather sealing, allowing you to use it even in adverse conditions without issue. I’ve used this lens in windy, sandy conditions, and the rear gasket blocked all the sand from entering the camera chamber.
There’s really just one downside to the lens’s build quality, and that’s the fact that it is an externally-zooming lens. In and of itself, this is not unusual for a midrange zoom – almost all of them are external zooms. However, the telescoping inner barrel of the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L does have a bit of wobble to it when extended to 105mm, more than what I’ve experienced with the Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G or Nikon Z 24-120mm f/4 S. I estimate it to be about one millimeter of wobble in any direction, which isn’t enough to affect the lens’s optical performance, but it does allow for the ingress of dust and grit over time. (To that point, using the lens in sandy conditions over several months was enough to make the zoom mechanism a little rougher.)
In terms of size and weight, the lens is nice and portable. It has a pretty wide diameter, but it’s nice and short for a 24-105mm f/4 zoom. However, the lens is a bit on the dense side, and the total weight of 700 grams / 1.54 pounds is a little more than similar lenses from other companies, such as Sony’s FE 24-105mm f/4 G (663 grams) or Nikon’s Z 24-120mm f/4 S (630 grams).
The Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L handles very well. The zoom ring is nicely located behind the focus ring, so it is unlikely that you will accidentally bump focus when trying to zoom the lens. A zoom-locking switch helps keep the focal length of the lens in place, although the lens is already well-damped, and I never found myself needing to use this switch.
There are three different rings on this lens: the usual zoom and focusing rings, plus a customizable ring at the front of the lens. This control ring allows you to quickly access many different settings, including aperture, ISO, and exposure compensation. The control ring clicks when spun, which is useful for knowing how many 1/3 stops you have gone, but note that it is audible when recording sound through the camera. If this bothers you, Canon actually has a service where you can send in the lens and pay $80 to have them de-click it.
The Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM has two switches on the left-hand side of the lens barrel. The first is a simple AF/MF switch, while the second is an On/Off switch for the lens-based Image Stabilization system. All of these controls are welcome sights in an era where lenses are becoming increasingly minimalist.
Canon DSLR users switching to mirrorless may be surprised that Canon changed the design of the rear lens cap when introducing the RF 24-105mm f/4L, and subsequently has used it on all of their other mirrorless lenses. To be specific, you need to properly align the rear lens cap when attaching it, or it won’t lock into place. Just line up the notch on the rear cap with the red dot on the back of the lens, then twist. It’s not too bad once you’re used to it, but it’s still a little awkward. The upside is that this new design is tighter and more dust-resistant than before.
Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L Specifications
- Full Name: Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
- Mount Type: Canon RF
- Focal Length Range: 24-105mm (4.4x zoom)
- Maximum Aperture: f/4
- Minimum Aperture: f/22
- Lens (Elements): 18
- Lens (Groups): 14
- Compatible Format(s): Full Frame and smaller
- Image Stabilization: Yes
- Diaphragm Blades: 9
- Aspherical Glass Elements: 3
- UD Glass Elements: 1
- Autofocus Motor: Nano USM
- Internal Focusing: Yes
- Internal Zooming: No
- Minimum Focus Distance: 17.7 inches (0.45 m)
- Maximum Magnification: 0.24x (1:4.2 magnification)
- Control Rings: Three (zoom, focus, custom)
- Custom Buttons: None
- Switches: AF/MF, stabilization On/Off, zoom lock
- Filter Size: 77mm front filter
- Dimensions (Length x Diameter): 107 x 84 mm (4.2 x 3.3 inches)
- Weight: 700 g (1.54 pounds)
The next page of this review covers the optical characteristics of the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L, including focusing performance and sharpness tests in the lab. Click the menu below to go to “Optical Performance”:
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