Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Review

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens

The Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens features a highly desirable ultra-wide-angle focal length in an ultra-light, ultra-small body. The price is ultra-affordable, and the image quality is remarkable considering all those other factors.

  • Useful focal length, including for landscapes and architecture
  • Wide aperture
  • Affordable
  • Tiny
  • Ultralight
  • 0.26x maximum magnification
  • Strong barrel distortion requires correction
  • Moderately soft corners
  • Noticeable lateral CA
  • Strong focus breathing
  • Audible AF
  • Shared focus and control ring
In-Depth Review

The Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens is a great idea. Featuring a highly desirable ultra-wide-angle focal length in an ultra-light, ultra-small body with an ultra-affordable price and good image quality, the Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens launched to the #2 best-selling mirrorless lens position at B&H.

I usually have an ultra-wide-angle zoom lens with me, and until recently, that lens had a 16-35mm focal length range. While I use the zoom lens's entire range at times, I most frequently find the zoom ring set to the widest focal length available — 16mm. Additionally, a general-purpose zoom lens that includes about half of the ultra-wide-angle zoom lens's focal length is frequently in my bag.

You see where I'm going with this. What if you could take a compact prime lens to cover the widest angle needs with the general-purpose zoom lens handling the rest? The space, weight, and cost savings are enormous, and with an f/2.8 aperture, the Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens gives up nothing in this regard relative to the fastest UWA zoom lenses. So was the RF 16 the lens to kick the ultra-wide-angle zoom lens out of the bag?

Approaching lens selection from another angle: Canon now has wide-aperture, consumer-grade 16mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm prime lenses available in the RF mount. This set of prime lenses creates a solid, lightweight, and affordable general-purpose kit.

Let's dig into what the Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens is all about.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens on Tripod

Focal Length

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The ultra-wide 16mm angle of view is the first reason to purchase this lens or select it for use. Focal length drives subject distance decisions for subject framing considerations, and the selected distance determines perspective.

When moving back is not an option, 16mm may be a great choice. With even modestly longer focal lengths, you can't move back far enough to fit everything in the frame that 16mm takes in. When you want a foreground subject emphasized, rendered large relative to other subjects in the frame, 16mm is probably a great choice.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Landscape Sample Picture

The 16mm focal length finds frequent use in architecture, real estate, landscape, and night sky applications.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Church Sample Picture

Architecture subjects are frequently large, and fitting large subjects in the frame often requires an ultra-wide-angle focal length. Therefore, photographers chasing architecture will likely find it mandatory to have the 16mm focal length covered.

Real estate is also large, and in the real estate world, larger generally means increased value. With an ultra-wide-angle lens, you can make real estate appear larger, using perspective to push the background deeper in the composition, a technique that hopefully generates more walk-throughs that sell more properties. The latter point is what gets both realtors and photographers paid.

In a sense, real estate and architecture are products, and 16mm is useful for some product photography applications, such as vehicle and aircraft interiors.

Extreme wide angles can differentiate your work from the crowd, but care must be taken to create compelling extreme wide-angle compositions. An ultra-wide-angle of view pushes the background away, making it considerably smaller in the frame relative to close foreground subjects. Ideal compositions will incorporate an interesting close foreground subject and a complementary midground and supporting background to complete the composition. The 16mm focal length is extremely useful for landscape photography, and implementing the attractive foreground subject against a beautiful background concept creates stand-out imagery.

The 16mm focal length combined with an f2.8 aperture qualifies this lens for quality night sky image making. The wide angle of view takes in a vast portion of the visible milky way, and the deep depth of field at this focal length encourages the inclusion of foreground elements, a differentiating factor for a starry night image.

All focal lengths are useful for photographing people, but don't let this lens's ultra-wide-angle of view tempt you to get too close as it will enlarge noses via perspective distortion. Also, remember that a person closer to the camera can appear much larger than a person farther away. Although this effect may sometimes be desired, use caution when photographing groups at 16mm.

Wedding photographers will love how this lens enables the capture of the entire venue. For example, photograph the bride and groom coming down the aisle, large in the frame, with the rest of the ceremony small in the frame behind them.

This lens is an excellent option for attaching to a remote sports event camera, capturing the start of a race, capturing the finish of a race, covering the goal, mounted over the basket, etc. This lens will also capture the big image of the arena and will work for the overhead shot of the MVP sports figure being mobbed for interviews after a big game. Canon suggests vlogging and self-recording as good uses for 16mm.

The 16mm angle of view promises to spur your creativity, and this focal length can produce interesting when used for movie recording.

The following images illustrate the 14-35mm focal length range:

Canon RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM Lens Focal Length Range Example

14mm | 15mm | 16mm | 17mm | 18mm | 20mm | 24mm | 28mm | 35mm

The 15, 16, 17, and 18mm focal lengths are not marked on the Canon RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM Lens used to capture these examples, but the EXIF data reported the focal lengths matching the labels. At ultra-wide angles, a small change in the focal length imparts a big angle of view change.

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. When used on an APS-C format camera, this lens will show a full-frame angle of view equivalent of 25.6mm. While not as ultra-wide angle on the small format imaging sensor, this angle of view works great for landscape use and has increased portrait photography benefits.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Front View

Max Aperture

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The lower the aperture number, the wider the opening, the more light a lens can allow to reach the imaging sensor. Each "stop" in aperture change (full stop examples: f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6) increases or decreases the amount of light reaching the sensor by a factor of 2x (a substantial factor).

Wide aperture lenses, allowing more light to reach the sensor, permit freezing action and handholding the camera in lower light levels and can also enable the use of lower (less noisy) ISO settings. In addition to allowing more light to reach the sensor, 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 important is that low light AF performance is improved by an increased amount of light reaching the imaging sensor.

A narrow aperture's advantages are especially related to reduced lens element size and include lower overall size, weight, and cost. Right, everyone loves those factors.

Because the aperture is measured as a ratio of lens opening to focal length, the focal length must be taken into consideration when assessing how wide a lens's aperture can open. At 400mm, f/2.8 is a massive opening, mandating a huge overall size. Despite the RF 16 STM having small size, light weight, and low-cost advantages, f/2.8 is still relatively wide for the 16mm focal length. Few lenses wider than 20mm have an aperture wider than f/2.8, though even zoom lenses covering 16mm offer this opening.

Especially in the ultra-wide-angle zoom focal length range, wide apertures are not always needed. Still, having them available is an advantage.

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 to deliver sharp results, free of subject or camera motion blur.

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, will especially appreciate the f/2.8 aperture. At the same time, many of the uses for a 16mm lens mandate a narrower 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/2.8 option.

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 in size, keeping the background subjects more recognizable (and potentially distracting). Still, this lens's relatively short minimum focus distance can make a background blur happen, adding artistic advantages to this lens's list of highly-desired features.

The following examples, captured at this lens's minimum focus distance, illustrate the maximum blur this lens can create at the indicated aperture opening.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Aperture Comparison Example

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 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Top View

Image Stabilization

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The Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens is not image stabilized. However, when used on a Canon EOS R-series camera with in-body image stabilization (IBIS), up to 5.5 stops of correction are available (EOS R5 spec), potentially dramatically improving handheld image quality.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Angle View

Image Quality

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One aspect we never want compromised is the image quality produced by a lens. Still, those low cost, light weight, and small size issues come into play. How does the small, light, affordable Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens perform optically?

Until the lens arrived, the Canon theoretical MTF chart provided a glimpse into this it's expected optical performance.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens MTF Chart

The chart lines, referencing the 10 and 30 lines per mm measurement, illustrate the performance at f/2.8. These results are quite high in the center of the frame (the left side of the chart), tapering off to still reasonable in the periphery of the image circle.

With the lens now in hand, let's answer the image quality question with real world results.

In the center of the frame, this lens produces sharp imagery, even wide open at f/2.8. Stopping down produces little noticeable change in the center of the frame, and no change is needed. The results are excellent.

Moving out to 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 that is the case with this lens. While the enhanced resolution test chart results show rather impressive corner performance (aside from the strong lateral CA), the outdoor examples captured at longer distances show the corners rendered more softly. Improvement shows as the aperture is narrowed, but the corners are still slightly soft at f/11.

Taking the testing outdoors, we next look at a series 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 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Sharpness Comparison Example

f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0

The examples shared here were captured from short through long distances, and the results are always the same. This lens is impressively sharp in the center of the frame.

The resolution chart is brutal on image quality, but as indicated, this lens's corner results from the chart are not bad, aside from strong lateral CA, which is often easily correctable via the check of a box. Unfortunately, the outdoor-captured results do not seem quite as kind to this lens. Next, we'll look at a comparison showing 100% extreme top-left corner crops (the distant mountain crops are top-right 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. That said, this lens is difficult to focus in the corner due to the soft corner rendering at f/2.8, requiring greater effort to obtain the best-possible results.

The results shared here were captured at increasing distances, with the last two sets being repeats with lateral CA correction applied.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Corner Sharpness Comparison Example

Samples taken from the outer extreme of the image circle, full-frame corners, can be counted on to show a lens's weakest performance. The corners are soft at f/2.8, with the sharpness pushing out nicely as the lens is stopped down. The f/5.6 and f/8 corners are relatively good for a 16mm lens, especially for one at this price point. At longer distances, subject details become smaller, and the blur seems a touch stronger. Again, these are extreme corners, and the image quality improves deeper into the image circle.

As mentioned in the resolution chart test results discussion, lateral CA is an issue in the corners. To see the impact of this defect, the last two rows of results repeat previous examples with the lateral CA correction box checked. This improvement is nice.

Corner sharpness does not always matter, but it does matter for many disciplines involving the 16mm focal length, including landscape photography. When I'm photographing landscapes and architecture with corner sharpness desired, I'm probably using f/8 or f/11 to obtain enough depth of field for in-focus corner details, and this lens works well for these purposes. When shooting at wide apertures, the corners are often intentionally out of focus. Videos captured at typical wide-aspect ratios also avoid the use of corners.

This lens does not exhibit focus shift, the plane of sharp focus moving forward or backward as the aperture is narrowed (residual spherical aberration or RSA).

When used on a camera that utilizes a lens's entire image circle, peripheral shading can be expected at the widest aperture settings. Wide-angle, ultra-wide aperture lenses tend to show strong peripheral shading wide open, and this lens has about 3-stops of shading at f/2.8. While the three stops are noticeable, this amount is relatively good for this focal length and opening.

At f/4, about 2 stops of corner shading remain. Unfortunately, little reduction is seen at narrower apertures, and just under 2 stops of corner shading is present even at f/16. However, while this amount is rather strong, it is not unusual for this focal length at narrow apertures.

APS-C format cameras using lenses projecting a full-frame-sized image circle avoid most vignetting problems. In this case, if the RF mount becomes supported by APS-C cameras, the just-over one-stop of shading showing at f/2.8 may be visible in some images, especially those with a solid color (such as a blue sky) showing 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 worst-case example. The image below is a 100% crop from the extreme top left corner of an EOS R5 frame showing diagonal black and white lines.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Lateral Chromatic Aberration Example

Only black and white colors should appear in these images, with the additional colors indicating a strong presence of lateral CA, as discussed earlier in the review.

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.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Spherical and Axial Aberration Example

A minor amount of color separation shows in the f/2.8 example, but it resolves quickly as the aperture is narrowed.

Bright light reflecting off of 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 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. On this lens, Canon utilizes Canon SSC (Super Spectra Coating) to combat flare. Additionally, a low 9-element count is helpful in this regard.

Even with the sun in the corner of the frame and the aperture narrowed to f/16, this lens shows minor flare effects.

Flare effects can be embraced or avoided, or removal can be attempted. Removal is sometimes challenging. High flare resistance is a welcomed trait of this lens.

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 image below is a 100% crop taken from the top-left corner of an EOS R5 image.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Coma

While the stars in most of the frame appear well-formed, things fall apart in the corners.

To keep your opinion unbiased, an important aspect of this lens was withheld until this point in the review.

In the Canon RF 16 press release is the statement "Long gone are the days of optical corrections ..." Apparently, that statement indicates that software correction has replaced optical correction. This lens has significant barrel distortion, an amount approaching fisheye lens proportions, with software processing dropping that designation need from the name. Canon opted to force correction of the severe barrel distortion in camera and in DPP, regardless of the lens corrections settings.

The RF 16 distortion test results shared in the site's distortion tool were processed outside of our standard to avoid the correction. Here is an uncorrected example.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Distortion Example

The squares in the test chart filled the R5 viewfinder during capture. Obviously, correction can be avoided. However, the full angle of view being significantly wider than the viewfinder view makes composition challenging.

The full RF 16 images captured using a long focus distance can be usable without distortion being corrected, but at short focus distances, mechanical vignetting is a problem even at f/16, as illustrated below.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Distortion Example

geometric distortion correction requires stretching as some portion of the image must be stretched or the overall dimensions reduced.

Here is a corrected example.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Distortion Corrected Example

As seen earlier in the review, it is easy to illustrate the amount of 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/8 (for diaphragm blade interaction) examples.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Bokeh Example

f/8 | f/8 | f/8

The first example shows defocused highlights being smoothly filled, with the 7 aperture blades beginning to turn the circles into a polygons (heptagons). The second two examples show outdoor blur looking nice.

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, and that is the shape we're looking at here. This is an upper-left quadrant of an f/2.8 image:

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Cat's Eye Bokeh Example

The misshapen circles seem to correlate with the distortion corrected area of the frame.

A 7-blade count diaphragm will create 14 point sunstars from point light sources captured with a narrow aperture. In general, the more a lens diaphragm is stopped down, the larger and better-shaped the sunstars tend to be.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Sunstar Effect Example

Wide aperture lenses tend to have an advantage in this regard, and this lens is capable of producing attractively shaped stars, as illustrated below. The example above was captured at f/16.

The design of this lens, featuring one Aspherical element, is illustrated below.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Design

Especially for the price, this lens produces remarkable image quality. There is no avoiding the severe barrel distortion, lateral CA is strong, and the peripheral shading is noticeable, though not unusually so. The center and mid-frame areas of the image are especially sharp, and using software corrections provides really nice image quality overall.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Side View


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The Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens features a stepping motor-driven autofocus system (the "STM" in the name). At review time, this is the economical AF system of choice.

The Canon EOS R-series cameras are impressively accurate-focusing, the most important AF aspect, and the RF 16 f/2.8 STM Lens exemplifies that performance.

This lens focuses fast. As usual, focusing in low light is slower, but the f/2.8 aperture is wide, enabling this lens to focus in dark conditions.

Autofocusing is relatively quiet, with a click and, during longer focus distance changes, a quiet buzz. You can expect the camera's mic to pick up these AF sounds. The camera focuses this lens smoothly, a benefit for video recording. Also, note that the aperture adjusts quietly and smoothly, ideal for movie recording where lighting can change.

This lens uses a front-focusing design, extending the front lens elements as the focus distance decreases.

The RF 16mm f/2.8's knurled plastic focus ring is relatively small though quite usable. The ring has a nice resistance and turns smoothly with a long 180° of rotation between focus extents. The smoothness and rate of rotation are assets for precise manual focusing, but the somewhat coarse adjustment steps made by the stepping motor combined with a scene shift when the focus ring direction is changed reflects a lower grade design. The rate of focus change is linear, not variable with rotation speed.

The RF 16mm f/2.8 has a focus-by-wire or electrical manual focus system (vs. a direct gear-driven system) common for STM lenses. The manual focus ring electronically controls the focus of the lens. FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported in AF mode with the camera in One Shot drive mode (if electronic manual focusing is enabled in the camera menu), but the shutter release must be half-pressed for the focus ring to become active. For manual focusing, select MF in the camera's AF/MF menu (there is no switch for this feature), set the Control/Focus switch to the Focus setting, and awake the camera meter.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Angle View

Normal is for subjects to change size in the frame as the focus is pulled from one extent to the other, referred to as focus breathing, a change in focal length resulting from a change in focus distance. Focus breathing negatively impacts photographers intending to use focus stacking techniques, videographers pulling focus, and anyone critically framing while adjusting focus. This lens produces a rather strong change in subject size through full extent focus distance adjustment.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Focus Magnification Example

With a minimum focus distance of 5.1" (130mm), the RF 16mm lens has a relatively high 0.26x maximum magnification spec that allows big perspective size differences to be captured (close subjects appear large relative to background subjects). The site's database is lacking in direct comparisons to the Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens, but I'll add a selection of lenses to create a chart.

ModelMin Focus Distance "(mm)Max Magnification
Canon RF-S 10-18mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens5.5(140)0.23x
Canon RF 10-20mm F4 L IS STM Lens9.8(250)0.12x
Canon RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM Lens7.9(200)0.38x
Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM Lens7.9(200)0.15x
Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens5.1(130)0.52x
Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens11.0(280)0.21x
Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens5.1(130)0.26x
Canon RF 24mm F1.8 Macro IS STM Lens5.5(140)0.50x

A subject measuring approximately 4.1 x 2.7" (104 x 69mm) fills a full-frame imaging sensor at this lens's minimum focus distance.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Maximum 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). With some lenses, image quality takes a hit at the minimum focus distance, but the RF 16 produces minimum focus distance image quality similar to that from longer focus distances.

Remember that the minimum focus distance is measured from the imaging sensor plane with the balance of the camera, lens, and lens hood length taking their space out of the number to create the working distance.

Need a shorter minimum focus distance and higher magnification? Mount an extension tube behind this lens to dramatically decrease and increase those respective numbers. 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 otherwise function as normal.

That said, all but the shortest extension tubes behind this lens are likely to decrease the focus distance too much to be usable. Canon does not offer RF mount-compatible extension tubes, but third-party options are available as of review time.

This lens is not compatible with Canon extenders.

Build Quality & Features

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The Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens is similar in design to the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM Lens.

Canon RF 16mm and 50mm STM Lens Comparison

Without reading the numbers, you will struggle to differentiate between them. Sharing essentially the same size and weight, these lenses can be rapidly swapped on a gimbal without rebalancing.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Product Images

MFD |    Rotated   Compare »

Front-focusing lens designs usually extend while focusing, and this lens reaches its maximum 0.52" (13.1mm) extension at the minimum focus distance. Enable the "Retract lens on power off" setting in the camera menu to ensure that the lens is fully retracted after use. However, know that the lens will not retain its focus distance if the camera goes to sleep when that setting is enabled.

Unusual behavior occurs when pushing the lens cap on while the lens is focused near infinity and the camera is on and awake. The lens retracts slightly under the light pressure while the AF motor attempts to push the lens barrel back out. Pushing against the motor cannot be good from a durability perspective, so be gentle with the cap installation.

Canon's metal RF mount is attractive and is nicely shaped for mounting and dismounting the lens. Utilizing engineering plastic construction, the RF 16mm f/2.8 lens's slightly textured exterior barrel looks and feels nice, as does the straight exterior diameter of this design.

The RF 16 F2.8's knurled plastic ring is dual purposed, useful for manual focusing and also as a control ring. This ring is configurable for fast access to camera settings, including aperture, ISO, and exposure compensation. Note that the control ring is unclicked.

The focus/control ring switch is flush-mounted with just enough raised surface area to be easily used, even with gloves. Remember that switching between AF and MF mode requires selecting a menu option, considerably slower than moving a switch.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Mount

This lens is not weather-sealed and does not have fluorine coating, respectively increasing the chance of dust and moisture penetration and increasing the cleaning difficulty.

This is a small and light lens that takes up little space in the bag and requires little effort to carry and use. Those aspects increase the joy of use, with reduced fatigue increasing the photographer's sharpness — an image quality factor.

Again, the RF 16 has no directly comparable lens, but I'll select some other models you might find interesting for a chart.

ModelWeight oz(g)Dimensions w/o Hood "(mm)FilterYear 
Canon RF-S 10-18mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM Lens5.3(150)2.7 x 1.8(69 x 44.9)492023
Canon RF 10-20mm F4 L IS STM Lens20.1(570)3.3 x 4.4(83.7 x 112)n/a2023
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 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 14mm f/2.8L II USM Lens22.8(645)3.1 x 3.7(80.0 x 94.0)2007
Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens5.8(165)1.6 x 2.7(40.1 x 69.2)432021
Canon RF 35mm F1.8 IS STM Macro Lens10.8(305)2.9 x 2.5(74.4 x 62.8)522018
Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM Lens5.6(160)2.7 x 1.6(69.2 x 40.5)432020
Rokinon SP 14mm f/2.4 Lens27.9(791)3.7 x 4.3(95.0 x 109.4)2016
Rokinon AF 14mm f/2.8 Lens17.1(485)3.6 x 3.8(90.5 x 95.6)2018
Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Milvus Lens33.4(947)4.0 x 3.9(102.3 x 100.2)952016

For many more comparisons, review the complete Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Specifications using the site's lens specifications tool.

Here is a visual comparison:

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens
Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
Canon RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM Lens
Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens

Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens to other lenses.

A tiny lens typically takes tiny filters, and that is the case with the RF 16. The 43mm filters that fit this lens are inexpensive but not popular, used by only four other lenses in our database — the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM Lens and three Canon EF-M lenses.

Distortion corrected images will show little additional vignetting when a standard thickness circular polarizer filter is mounted, but uncorrected images will show a noticeable corner shading increase. A slim filter model such as the Breakthrough Photography X4 is recommended.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Angle View with Hood

As with most Canon non-professional series lenses, the RF 16mm f/2.8 lens hood is optional. I highly recommend using lens hoods, primarily for the impact protection and light-shading properties they provide. However, Canon charges a significant amount for something with a low production cost that should be included in the box. The Canon EW-65C Lens Hood is a semi-rigid plastic petal-shaped hood with a smooth, matte interior surface. This hood provides good protection from bright, flare-inducing light and also from impact. A petal-shaped hood such as this one is easier to align for installation (simply learn the petal orientation — small petal to the top), while a rounded hood can better enable the lens to stand on its hood.

Also excluded from the RF 16mm f/2.8 lens box is a case. Lens cases are generally not expensive, and this one does not need a large model. Canon suggests their Lens Case LP1014, 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 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Cap

Price, Value, Compatibility

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Hitting the streets with the second-lowest Canon RF lens price strongly advantages the Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens in terms of value. The good overall performance solidifies this designation.

As an "RF" lens, the Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens is compatible with all Canon EOS R-series cameras. Canon USA provides a 1-year limited warranty.

The reviewed Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens was online-retail sourced.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens on Tripod


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Did the Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens kick the Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens out of my bag? No, but it makes a case to do so at times and for some. It especially makes a great case to join the bag of those on a tight budget.

In the image quality comparison, the prime lens competes strongly with the zoom lens in the center of the frame. The 15-35 has a modest sharpness advantage in the periphery, including at narrow apertures. The RF 16 has less peripheral shading throughout the aperture range. The RF 15-35 has dramatically less barrel distortion and lateral CA.

The Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens vs. Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens comparison shows the prime lens to be dramatically smaller and lighter than the zoom. Correspondingly, the RF 16 uses smaller filters (43mm vs. 82mm) and has a higher maximum magnification (0.26x vs. 0.21x). The RF 15-35 has image stabilization, an AF/MF switch, separate control and focus rings, and a high-end Nano USM AF system. You can buy an RF 16mm lens for each member of an eight-person family for the same price as one RF 15-35mm lens, and that is a significant differentiator for many.

Use the site's comparison tools to create additional comparisons.

Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens Front View on Camera


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Any lens reaching the #2 best-selling mirrorless lens position at B&H has, by definition, been found highly attractive by a large number of people.

While the RF 16mm f/2.8 lens has extreme barrel distortion, strong lateral CA, and a budget AF system, the image quality this lens produces is consistently quite good. Factor in the ultra-low size, weight, and price, and this lens becomes a great deal. That value proposition is reflected in the high popularity this lens immediately garnered.

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Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens
Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM Lens
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