Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Review

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens
Verdict

The Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens is a lightweight, compact, affordable option for coverage of the important ultra-wide angles.

Pros
  • Great ultra-wide to wide zoom range
  • Affordable
  • Compact
  • Lightweight
  • Quiet optical image stabilization
  • 0.52x maximum magnification
Cons
  • Narrow apertures
  • Strong wide end barrel distortion requires correction
  • Obvious lateral CA
  • Shared focus and control ring
In-Depth Review

An ultra-wide-angle zoom lens is one of the most important members of the kit, and the Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens arrives as the lightweight, compact, affordable option for that role.

This lens may look familiar.

Canon RF 15-30mm and 24-105mm IS STM Lens Front View on Camera

The RF 15-30mm and Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM Lens appear nearly identical and fill similar roles in their respective focal length range. Together, they provide for a wide range of uses with the same overall lightweight, compact, and affordable characteristics emphasized.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Top View

Focal Length Range

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The focal length range is the first consideration for zoom lens selection. The focal length drives subject distance choices that determine perspective.

Often, one cannot back up far enough to get a large subject or vast scene in the frame, and in that case, an ultra-wide-angle zoom lens is the right choice. When a foreground subject is to be emphasized, rendered large in relation to a vast background (potentially in sharp focus), moving in close with an ultra-wide-angle zoom lens is the right choice.

The 15-30mm range complements the range provided in most general-purpose lenses, including that in the just mentioned Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM Lens.

What subjects are this ultra-wide-angle zoom lens ideal for? Creating that complete list is beyond the scope of this review, but let's discuss a few of the genres most photographed by this lens class.

Landscape photography is an extremely popular use of the ultra-wide-angle field of view. The 15-30mm focal length range is a great choice for capturing the beauty of our planet or your yard. This lens gives us reason to enjoy the great outdoors.

Another type of photography this angle of view range is ideally suited for is real estate photography (someone else's yard). The 15-30mm range is a good interior and exterior choice for this use. Directly related to real estate photography is architecture photography. This lens will take in massive structures even when a short working distance is available.

Usually, the structures we photograph are built for people, and people are also a good subject for this focal length range.

However, avoid getting too close to people when this lens is mounted. While a close-up perspective can look amazing in a wide-angle landscape scene, it is generally to be avoided when a person is the primary subject. We do not typically look at a person from really close distances, and if we do, that person becomes uncomfortable with us being in their personal space (and even more so when a camera is in hand). When we look at photos of people captured from close distances, certain body parts (usually the nose) start to look humorously (to some) large.

Unique portrait perspectives can be fun, but this technique quickly becomes overused. Instead, get the telephoto lens out for your tightly framed portraits.

Still, wide-angle focal lengths can be an excellent choice for photographing people. Simply move back and include people in a larger scene, creating environmental portraits.

The 30mm focal length provides a natural perspective and is a good choice for full-body portraits. The 15-30mm focal length range also works well for small to large groups. Note that group photography requiring an ultra-wide-angle focal length to fit everyone in the frame often leaves those in the front row appearing considerably larger than those in the back row (the subject distance varies by a significant percentage). Instead, back up or move the subjects closer together (front to back) to reduce the multi-row perspective issue.

The 15-30mm focal length range is a great option for the wide work at weddings, family gatherings, and other events and for photojournalism and sports photography needs.

Videographers will find the 15-30mm focal length range equally useful as still photographers.

This lens, including the focal length range, size, and weight, is an ideal candidate for self-recording (vlogging).

The following images illustrate the 15-30mm focal length range:

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Focal Length Range Example

15mm | 20mm | 24mm | 28mm | 30mm

Utilizing a smaller portion of the image circle means that APS-C sensor format cameras see a narrower angle of view, with 1.6x being the multiplier (FOVCF) for Canon's lineup. An APS-C imaging sensor will see a 24-48mm full-frame angle of view equivalent from this lens. While not as ultra-wide angle on the small format imaging sensor, this range continues to work great for landscape photography, and it is advantaged for portrait photography.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Front View

Max Aperture

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The lower the aperture number, the wider the opening, and the more light the lens can provide to the imaging sensor. Each "stop" in aperture change (full stop examples: f/1.4, f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0) increases or decreases the amount of light by a factor of 2x (a substantial amount).

Because aperture is measured as a ratio of lens opening to focal length and because this lens's maximum opening does not increase sufficiently with focal length increase to maintain the same ratio, this lens has a variable max aperture, ranging from f/4.5 to f/6.3 as the focal length range is increasingly traversed.

While the aperture change is continuous, narrowing as the focal length increases, the camera rounds the EXIF-reported aperture to the nearest 1/3 or 1/2 stop. Here are the focal length ranges for the Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens's reported 1/3 stop apertures.

15mm = f/4.5
16-21mm = f/5.0
22-26mm = f/5.6
27-30mm = f/6.3

Yes, that single focal length reaching f/4.5 qualifies this lens for that max opening. The max aperture gradually reduces to a dark f/6.3 by 27mm.

The additional light provided by wider aperture lenses permits freezing action and handholding the camera in lower light levels and allows lower (less noisy) ISO settings. In addition, increasing the aperture opening provides a shallower DOF (Depth of Field) that creates a stronger, better subject-isolating background blur (at equivalent focal lengths). Often critical is the improved low light AF performance availed by a wide-aperture lens.

A narrow aperture's advantages are related to (often significantly) reduced lens element size and include smaller overall size, lighter weight, and lower cost.

Because the aperture is measured as a ratio of lens opening to focal length, the focal length must be considered when assessing how wide a lens's aperture can open. At 600mm, f/4 is a massive opening. In a 15-30mm lens, f/4.5 is relatively narrow, and f/6.3 is dark. However, the small size, light weight, and lower cost advantages are defining for this lens.

Wide apertures are not always needed, especially at ultra-wide-angle focal lengths.

Motion blur is caused when subject details cross over imaging sensor pixels during the exposure. Although this lens can be used with a close subject rendered large in the frame, lenses such as this one are often used at normal (or even long) subject distances. The low magnification means those subjects' details more readily stay in their pixels, enabling the longer exposures required to compensate for the narrower aperture still deliver sharp results, free of subject or camera motion blur.

Many uses for this lens require a narrow aperture, such as f/8 or f/11, to keep everything in the frame sharp, and photographers concentrating on landscape, architecture, real estate, etc., may seldom use the f/4.5 option.

Still, this lens's widest f/4.5 aperture reduces its capabilities modestly relative to the f/2.8 zoom lens options available in this class. Those photographing moving subjects, such as at sports events or under the night sky where light levels are so low that the earth's rotation becomes a source of camera motion, may prefer a wider aperture lens over the increased ISO setting alternatively required.

It is hard to diffusely blur the background with the low magnification provided by an ultra-wide-angle lens. Such lenses render the background details small, keeping the background subjects more recognizable (and potentially distracting). Additionally, the narrow max aperture opening prevents the depth of field from becoming shallow.

The exception here is this lens's ability to focus extremely closely at 15mm. These examples illustrate the maximum blur this lens can create:

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Maximum Blur Example

Usually, a lens produces its strongest blur at its longest focal length. However, that is not the case with this lens, with a nice amount of blur seen in the 15mm example and not so much blur in the 30mm sample.

When recording video, only 1/60 second shutter speeds (twice the framerate) are typically needed (assuming you're not capturing high framerate slow-motion video), and wide apertures are not often required for 1/60 second rates in normally encountered ambient lighting.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Angle View

Image Stabilization

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Improving the RF 15-30mm lens's low light capabilities is image stabilization. While image stabilization is not useful for stopping subject motion, it is incredibly useful for stopping camera motion, and this feature extends the versatility of this lens. Having a still image presented to the AF system also enables it to be more precise.

The Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens's IS system features an impressive CIPA 5.5-stops of assistance rating, and coordinated IS with a camera having IBIS allows for up to 7 stops of correction.

This IS system is extremely quiet, with a barely perceptible "hmmm" heard only with an ear next to the lens. Image stabilization provides a stabilized view to the electronic viewfinder, with no image jumping or drifting occurring. Stabilization remains smooth during panning, an especially useful attribute for video recording.

The On/Off switch on the lens conveniently controls the lens and in-body image stabilization systems simultaneously.

When you need/want to leave the tripod behind, IS is there for you, helping to ensure sharp images and adding significant versatility to this lens. When vibrations, such as those caused by wind, are present when using a tripod, IS can save the day, enabling image capture not otherwise possible.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens on Tripod

Image Quality

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One aspect we never want to be compromised is the image quality produced by a lens. Still, low cost, light weight, and small size issues are in play. How does the small, light, affordable Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens perform optically? Let's find out.

Throughout most of the frame and over most of the focal length range, the Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens produces good sharpness, a combination of contrast and resolution, and stopping down the aperture produces little change. Of course, the softening effects of diffraction quickly come into play when stopping this lens down. At 30mm, a wide-open aperture (f/6.3) results in slightly softer images, with f/8 bringing this focal length's results up to the rest of the range.

In the periphery of the image circle, where light rays are refracted to a stronger angle than in the center, lenses typically show decreased sharpness, and this lens's corner image quality is mildly reduced and impacted especially by lateral CA and peripheral shading. Only mild improvement is seen by f/8.

Here are several sets of center-of-the-frame 100% resolution crop examples. These images were captured using an ultra-high resolution Canon EOS R5 with RAW files processed in Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP) using the Standard Picture Style with sharpness set to 1 on a 0-10 scale. Note that images from most cameras require some level of sharpening, but too-high sharpness settings are destructive to image details and hide the deficiencies of a lens.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Sharpness Comparison Example

15mm: f/4.5 | f/5.6   f/4.5 | f/5.6   f/4.5 | f/5.6
22mm: f/5.6 | f/8.0   f/5.6 | f/8.0   f/5.6 | f/8.0
30mm: f/6.3 | f/8.0   f/6.3 | f/8.0   f/6.3 | f/8.0

Be sure to find details in the plane of sharp focus for your evaluations. While I won't call these results outstanding, they are decent. Again, stopping down to f/5.6 or f/8 has little effect on sharpness.

Next, we'll look at a series of comparisons showing 100% resolution extreme corner crops captured and processed identically to the above center-of-the-frame images. The lens was manually focused in the corner of the frame to capture these images. The first set of images in each focal length is from the bottom left corner. The next set is from the top left, and the last set is from the top right.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Corner Sharpness Comparison Example

15: f/4.5 | f/5.6 | f/8.0  f/4.5 | f/5.6 | f/8.0  f/4.5 | f/5.6 | f/8.0

Samples taken from the outer extreme of the image circle, full-frame corners, can be counted on to show a lens's weakest performance. At 15mm and 22mm, the corner image quality is soft wide-open and improved somewhat at f/8. The 30mm corners are good at f/6.3 and still better at f/8 and f/11.

A relevant question is, does corner sharpness matter? Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. Landscape and architecture photography are two photographic disciplines that have frequent scenarios requiring sharp corners. I always prefer my lenses to be razor sharp in the corners in case that feature is needed, but each of us must consider our applications to answer this paragraph's question, and if no better option is obtainable, any limitations present must be accepted.

Images from this lens are not affected by focus shift, the plane of sharp focus moving forward or backward as the aperture is narrowed (residual spherical aberration or RSA).

A lens can be expected to show peripheral shading at the widest aperture settings when used on a camera that utilizes a lens's entire image circle. This lens has wide-open aperture shading ranging from about 3.5 stops at 15mm to just under 3 stops at 30mm. While these amounts are not unusual from a wide-open aperture, they are obvious in an image. At f/8, the shading range is 2.5 to 2 stops, and little change is affected by stopping down to f/16, where a still strong over 2 stops of shading is present over the range. The exception is at 30mm, where the amount is slightly lower — just under 2 stops.

APS-C format cameras using lenses projecting a full-frame-sized image circle avoid most vignetting problems. In this case, the about 1.5 stops to just under 1 stop of wide-open corner shading may be visible in select images, primarily those with a solid color (such as a blue sky) in the corners.

One-stop of shading is often used as the visibility number, though subject details provide a widely varying amount of vignetting discernibility. Vignetting is correctable during post-processing, with increased noise in the brightened areas being the penalty, or it can be embraced, using the effect to draw the viewer's eye to the center of the frame. Study the pattern shown in our vignetting test tool to determine how your images will be affected.

Lateral (or transverse) CA (Chromatic Aberration) refers to the unequal magnification of all colors in the spectrum. Lateral CA shows as color fringing along lines of strong contrast running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii), with the mid and especially the periphery of the image circle showing the most significant amount as this is where the most significant difference in the magnification of wavelengths typically exists.

With the right lens profile and software, lateral CA is often easily correctable (often in the camera) by radially shifting the colors to coincide. However, it is always better to avoid this aberration in the first place.

Color misalignment can be seen in the site's image quality tool, but let's also look at a set of worst-case examples. The images below are 100% crops from the extreme top left corner of EOS R5 frames showing diagonal black and white lines.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Lateral Chromatic Aberration Example

15mm | 20mm | 24mm | 30mm

Only black and white colors should appear in these images, with the additional colors indicating a modest presence of lateral CA. Somewhat unusual is the lateral CA strength consistency over the focal length range.

A relatively common lens aberration is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA, which causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light. More simply, different colors of light are focused to different depths. Spherical aberration along with spherochromatism, or a change in the amount of spherical aberration with respect to color (looks quite similar to axial chromatic aberration but is hazier) are other common lens aberrations to observe. Axial CA remains somewhat persistent when stopping down, with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing. The spherical aberration color halo shows little size change as the lens is defocused, and stopping down one to two stops generally removes this aberration.

In the real world, lens defects do not exist in isolation, with spherical aberration and spherochromatism generally found, at least to some degree, along with axial CA. These combine to create a less sharp, hazy-appearing image quality at the widest apertures.

The examples below look at the defocused specular highlights' fringing colors in the foreground vs. the background. The lens has introduced any fringing color differences from the neutrally-colored subjects.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Spherical and Axial Aberration Example

15mm | 20mm | 24mm | 30mm

The color separation shown here is not especially strong for wide-open apertures.

Bright light reflecting off lens elements' surfaces may cause flare and ghosting, resulting in reduced contrast and sometimes interesting, usually destructive visual artifacts. The shape, intensity, and position of the flare effects in an image are variable, dependent on the position and nature of the light source (or sources), selected aperture, shape of the aperture blades, and quantity and quality of the lens elements and their coatings. Additionally, flare and ghosting can impact AF performance.

This lens features Canon SSC (Super Spectra Coating) to prevent flare and ghosting and produced only few flare effects in our standard sun in the corner of the frame flare test at wide-open apertures. However, the flare effects become moderately strong at narrow apertures from 15mm through 24mm.

Flare effects can be embraced or avoided, or removal can be attempted. Removal is sometimes challenging.

Two lens aberrations are particularly evident in images of stars, mainly because bright points of light against a dark background make them easier to see. Coma occurs when light rays from a point of light spread out from that point instead of being refocused as a point on the sensor. Coma is absent in the center of the frame, gets worse toward the edges/corners, and generally appears as a comet-like or triangular tail of light which can be oriented either away from the center of the frame (external coma) or toward the center of the frame (internal coma). Coma clears as the aperture is narrowed. Astigmatism is seen as points of light spreading into a line, either sagittal (radiating from the center of the image) or meridional (tangential, perpendicular to sagittal). This aberration can produce stars appearing to have wings. Remember that Lateral CA is another aberration apparent in the corners.

The images below are 100% crops taken from the top-left corner of Canon EOS R5 images captured at the widest available aperture.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Coma Example

15mm | 22mm | 30mm

With narrow max apertures, this lens is not a first choice for photographing the night sky, but the stars still tell part of the image quality story. Here we see the corner of the frame stars modestly stretched out of round, though the 30mm shapes are not bad.

To keep your opinion unbiased, an important aspect of this lens's image quality was withheld until this point in the review: this lens has dramatic barrel distortion at the wider focal lengths.

The geometric distortion is strong enough that Canon forces the correction in camera and in DPP, regardless of the lens corrections settings. Processing the distortion test images for this lens with third-party software results in off-the-chart framing that shows the true image captured.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens 15mm Distortion

For reference, the squares in the test chart filled the viewfinder during capture. At 15mm, there is a LOT of extra subject in the frame, and the straight line at the top of the chart is rendered as a strong curve — akin to what a fisheye lens would produce. The geometric distortion is reduced as the focal length increases until slight pincushion distortion shows at 30mm.

Although today's distortion correction algorithms are good, geometric distortion correction requires stretching which is detrimental to image quality.

Does the strong distortion correction matter? At least psychologically, it still does for me. An image captured from a non-distorted lens can similarly be up-sized to even higher resolution using the same AI, potentially giving it an advantage. That said, did you notice any corner image quality issues until this point in the review? Let that answer be your guide.

As seen earlier in the review, it is easy to illustrate the strongest blur a lens can create, and wide-angle lenses are inherently disadvantaged in this regard. Due to the infinite number of variables present among all available scenes, assessing the bokeh quality is considerably more challenging. Here are some f/11 (for diaphragm blade interaction) examples.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Bokeh Example

f/11 | 15mm | 30mm

The first example is a 30mm 100% crop showing defocused highlights filled relatively smoothly with relatively strong concentric rings on the periphery. This lens's rounded aperture blades need not close far to create f/11, and the shape remains nicely rounded.

The next examples show full images reduced in size and looking normal.

Except for a small number of specialty lenses, the wide aperture bokeh in the frame's corner does not produce round defocused highlights, with these effects taking on a cat's eye shape due to a form of mechanical vignetting. If you look through a tube at an angle, similar to the light reaching the frame's corner, the shape is not round. That is the shape we're looking at here.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Cat's Eye Bokeh Example

15mm | 20mm | 24mm | 30mm

The first two examples are upper left quadrants, and the second two samples are full images. The wide-open aperture shapes show only slight impact, and as the aperture narrows, the entrance pupil size is reduced, and the mechanical vignetting absolves with the shapes becoming rounder.

A 7-blade count diaphragm will create 14-point sunstars (diffraction spikes) from point light sources captured with a narrow aperture. Generally, the more a lens diaphragm is stopped down, the larger and better-shaped the sunstars tend to be. Unfortunately, a narrow max aperture lens does not afford much stopping down before reaching apertures where diffraction causes noticeable softening of details, and these lenses typically do not produce the biggest or best-shaped sunstars.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Sunstar Effect Example

The examples above were captured at f/16.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Design

The design of this lens is illustrated above. Highlights include two UD (Ultra-low Dispersion) glass elements and one aspheric element.

In summary, expect RF 15-30mm lens images to have good sharpness over most of the frame. Peripheral shading is strong, lateral CA is noticeable, and the widest angle corner sharpness is not great due to the corrected extreme barrel distortion. While the Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens does not produce the ultimate image quality, it outperforms the combination of its price tag, size, and weight.

Don't forget that APS-C format cameras utilize only the optimal central portion of the image circle.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Side View

Focusing

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Critical for most images is accurate focus, and most of us rely on autofocus for that task. Canon's EOS R-series cameras have been outstanding performers in this regard, accurately focusing with everything I mount on them. The RF 15-30mm IS STM Lens is not an exception.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Stepping Motor

Driven by a leadscrew-type stepping motor (referenced by the "STM" in the moniker), this lens autofocuses quite fast. The focus is internal and quiet, with only a faint buzz heard during long focus distance changes.

As a rule, wide aperture lenses enable AF systems to perform their best in low-light environments. This lens lacks the wide aperture feature, but it is still impressive to see the R5 lock this lens's focus on adequate contrast in a dark environment — at 15mm. The R5 requires more light than usual to lock focus at 30mm where f/6.3 is the widest opening. As usual, AF slows in low light.

Canon's STM AF systems focus smoothly, a highly desired trait for movie recording. Also, note that this lens's aperture adjusts quietly and smoothly, ideally suited for video recording under changing lighting conditions.

FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported in AF mode with the camera in One Shot Drive Mode, but the shutter release must be half-pressed for the focus ring to become active. Note that FTM does not work if electronic manual focusing after One Shot AF is disabled in the camera's menu. The lens must be in "MF" mode, and the camera meter must be on/awake for conventional manual focusing to be available.

With no AF/MF switch, this feature is inconveniently controlled using the camera's menu system — unless the camera provides an AF/MF switch.

The 15-35 STM's control ring serves dual purposes, acting as a manual focus ring when switched to that functionality. From a focus ring perspective, this tactilely distinct knurled plastic ring is compact and positioned in front of the non-extending portion of the lens, where it is easy to find.

This ring turns smoothly, has a light resistance, and smoothly adjusts the focus distance at a comfortable rate for precise focusing. Fully describing that rate is somewhat complicated, in part because this is a variable response MF ring (if that feature is enabled in the camera). Additionally, this lens has an extended close-up range only available to MF at the widest focal lengths, with a much slower focus adjustment rate within this close-up range.

At 15mm, a full extent focus distance change requires 300° of rotation when turning the focus ring quickly. Turn the ring slowly, and 100° of rotation covers the normal range, with an additional 500° covering the extended close-up range. At 30mm, 230° and 150° are the approximate slow and fast rotation amounts.

The special close-up focus range is fully available at 15mm, diminishing to unavailable at 20mm. This range is available only to manual focusing.

Note that AF cannot be enabled in the camera when the lens is focused to within the close-up range. Remember this fact to avoid having to call Canon. In this case, zoom the lens to 20mm, where the close-up focus range is fully diminished, and the Focus mode menu option becomes enabled.

It is normal for the scene to change size in the frame (sometimes significantly) as the focus is pulled from one extent to the other. This is focus breathing, a change in focal length resulting from a change in focus distance. Focus breathing impacts photographers intending to use focus stacking techniques, videographers pulling focus (without movement to camouflage the effect), and anyone critically framing while adjusting focus. This lens produces a modest change in subject size through a full extent focus distance adjustment.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Focus Magnification Example

15mm: Far | Close   30mm: Far | Close

Non-cinema lenses usually require refocusing after a focal length change. As illustrated in the 100% crops below, the reviewed lens does not exhibit parfocal-like characteristics, though subjects focused on at 30mm remain in sharp focus throughout some of the focal length range. When focused at 30mm, zooming to wider focal lengths results in focus blur.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Parfocal Example

30mm | 24mm | 20mm | 15mm

Especially with the Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens being so highly optimized for video recording, it seems that Canon should electronically adjust the focus distance during the focal length adjustment. The 30mm example provides another look at the wide-open center-of-the-frame image quality this lens produces.

If you adjust the focal length, re-establish focus. This rule usually applies.

In AF mode, the RF 15-30 STM has a minimum focus distance of 11" (280mm), with a mediocre maximum magnification of 0.16x at 30mm. Switch to MF mode to enable the additional close-up range, and the wide-angle minimum focus distance decreases to a mere 5.1" (130mm), with an exceptional 0.52x maximum magnification possible at 15mm. Very few non-macro lenses have max magnification specs close to this one.

ModelMin Focus Distance "(mm)Max Magnification
Canon RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM Lens7.9(200)0.38x
Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens11.0(280)0.21x
Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens5.1(130)0.52x
Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM Lens9.8(250)0.25x
Canon RF-S 18-45mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens7.9(200)0.26x
Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens9.8(250)0.25x
Canon RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM Lens6.7(170)0.44x
Canon EF-M 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM Lens9.8(250)0.31x
Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM Lens5.2(131)0.50x
Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM Lens19.7(500)0.26x

At 15mm, a subject measuring approximately 2.4 x 1.6" (61 x 40mm) fills a full-frame imaging sensor at this lens's minimum focus distance. At 30mm, a 7.5 x 5" (191 x 127mm) subject does the same.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Focus Magnification Example

The USPS love stamps shared above have an image area that measures 1.05 x 0.77" (26.67 x 19.558mm), and the overall individual stamp size is 1.19 x 0.91" (30.226 x 23.114mm).

That 15mm half size 1:2 reproduction ratio is impressive. However, the working distance required to obtain 0.52x is minuscule.

The minimum focus distance is measured from the imaging sensor plane with the balance of the camera, lens, and potentially lens hood length taking their space out of the number to create the working distance. At 30mm, there is plenty of working distance at the minimum focus distance (5.2" / 132mm), but at 15mm, where this lens generates the big magnification number, the plane of sharp focus is only 0.3" (76mm) in front of the lens without a hood installed. Lighting the subject at that distance is extremely challenging, and the lens shadow is obvious in the sample image despite the broad lighting used.

While the frame's center is nicely sharp at minimum focus distance, the image periphery is soft, especially at 15mm. Lateral CA is strong in the extended close-up range at 15mm.

Need a shorter minimum focus distance and higher magnification? Mount an extension tube behind this lens to decrease and increase those respective numbers significantly. Extension tubes are hollow lens barrels that shift a lens farther from the camera, allowing shorter focusing distances at the expense of long-distance focusing. Electronic connections in extension tubes permit the lens and camera to communicate and function normally.

You can forget about decreasing the 15mm focus distance, as that is not going to work. However, the 30mm focal length might accommodate short extension tubes. As of review time, Canon does not offer RF mount-compatible extension tubes, but third-party options are available.

This lens is not compatible with Canon extenders.

Build Quality & Features

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Especially for a lens priced and featured as an affordable consumer zoom lens, the Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens seems nicely constructed with tight tolerances achieved.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Product Images

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This lens features a quality plastic external construction. With smooth external dimensions, the Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens is comfortable to hold and a pleasure to use.

The ribbed, rubberized zoom ring is large, easy to find, and smooth in function.

The knurled Control Ring can be configured for fast access to settings that include aperture, ISO, and exposure compensation. Move the Focus/Control switch to the Focus position, and this ring functions as the focus ring. Both cannot be used at the same time, but there is one less ring to cause confusion. Note that this control ring turns smoothly — it is not clicked.

The RF 15-30 extends 0.28" (7.1mm) when zoomed to 30mm, where the extended inner lens barrel has slight play. An extension lock switch is not provided and is not needed.

The Focus/Control and IS switches are flush-mounted and low-profile, raised just enough for easy use, even with gloves. These 2-position switches snap crisply into position.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Mount

This lens is not weather sealed, and the front and rear elements are not fluorine-coated to repel dust and water drops and to facilitate cleaning.

At 3.0 x 3.5" (76.6 x 88.4mm) in size and 13.8 oz (390g) in weight, this is a compact and lightweight lens.

ModelWeight oz(g)Dimensions w/o Hood "(mm)FilterYear 
Canon RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM Lens19.1(540)3.3 x 3.9(84.1 x 99.8)772021
Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens13.8(390)3.0 x 3.5(76.6 x 88.4)672022
Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens29.7(840)3.5 x 5.0(88.5 x 126.8)822019
Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM Lens4.6(130)2.4 x 1.8(60.9 x 44.5)492015
Canon RF-S 18-45mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens4.6(130)2.7 x 1.7(68.9 x 44.3)492022
Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens7.4(210)2.4 x 2.4(60.9 x 61.0)522012
Canon RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM Lens10.9(310)2.7 x 3.3(69.0 x 84.5)552022
Canon EF-M 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM Lens10.6(300)2.4 x 3.4(60.9 x 86.5)552016
Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM Lens13.9(395)3.0 x 3.5(76.6 x 88.8)672020
Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM Lens26.5(750)3.2 x 4.8(80.4 x 122.5)722019

For many more comparisons, review the complete Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Specifications using the site's lens specifications tool.

Here is a visual comparison:

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens
Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM Lens
Canon RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM Lens

Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens to other lenses.

This lens uses relatively small and affordable 67mm front filter threads.

A standard-thickness circular polarizer filter will increase peripheral shading slightly. Therefore, a slim model such as the Breakthrough Photography X4 is recommended.

Canon EW-65B Lens Hood

You may have noticed the lack of lens hoods in the product images in this review. Canon does not provide the lens hood in consumer-grade lens boxes, and the Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens's EW-73E hood was unavailable during the evaluation. The EW-73E is a relatively shallow, plastic, petal-shaped hood.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Angle View with Hood

Also excluded from the lens box is a case. Canon suggests their Lens Case LP1116, a drawstring pouch that adds dust and minor impact protection (the bottom is well-padded). Consider a Lowepro Lens Case or Think Tank Photo Lens Case Duo for a quality, affordable single-lens storage, transport, and carry solution.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Cap

Price, Value, Wrap Up

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The relatively inexpensive consumer-grade RF 15-30mm IS STM Lens is designed to be a high-value lens. This lens provides good utility and lots of fun for a low price.

As an "RF" lens, the Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens is compatible with all Canon EOS R-series cameras. Canon USA provides a 1-year limited warranty.

The reviewed Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens was online-retail sourced.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Extended Top View

Alternatives

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At review time, the Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens has no equivalent alternative in the Canon RF Lens lineup. However, a couple of professional-grade RF L lens options cover the 15-30mm focal length range, and assessing the differences between lens grades has value.

Let's first look at the most affordable L lens option, the Canon RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM Lens.

In the image quality comparison, the 14-35 produces noticeably sharper results. The L lens has less peripheral shading, fewer flare effects, and less geometric distortion (though it too has strong barrel distortion).

The Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens vs. Canon RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM Lens comparison shows the 15-30 smaller and lighter. The 15-30 uses 67mm filters vs. 77mm and has a higher maximum magnification, 0.52x vs. 0.38x. The L lens is better built, including weather sealing, has fluorine coating, has Nano USM AF vs. STM, has a wider aperture, has 9 aperture blades vs. 7, and has a wider and longer focal length range. The 14-35 is a much better lens but costs nearly 3x more.

The Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens has been my go-to lens since it first hit the streets. In the image quality comparison, the 15-35 produces noticeably sharper wide-open results. The L lens has less peripheral shading at equivalent apertures and considerably less geometric distortion.

The Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens vs. Canon RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM Lens comparison shows the 15-30 significantly smaller and half as heavy. The 15-30 uses 67mm filters vs. 82mm, has a higher maximum magnification, 0.52x vs. 0.21x, and has 5.5-stop-rated IS vs. 5. The L lens is better built, including weather sealing, has fluorine coating, has Nano USM AF vs. STM, has a much wider aperture, has 9 aperture blades vs. 7, and has a longer focal length range. The 15-35 is a much better lens, but it costs 4x more.

Use the site's tools to create additional comparisons.

Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Front View on Camera

Summary

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The Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens fills the previously open affordable, compact, ultra-wide-angle zoom lens position in the RF lens lineup. Most will find an ultra-wide-angle zoom lens to be one of the most important members of their kit, and the well-featured Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens is a good option for that role.

Is this the highest-performing ultra-wide-angle RF zoom lens available? No. Is this the smallest, lightest, and most affordable ultra-wide-angle RF zoom lens available at review time? Yes, and the Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens is the right choice when those factors are the most important.

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Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens
Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens
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