Optically speaking, 2021 was a bright year when it came to new lenses for professional photographers. Just as we saw some impressive new pro camera bodies being released, lens manufacturers continued to grind out exciting new glass for photographers. The difference this year from years past is that the seven new lenses we’ve chosen as the best of 2021 are all exclusively for mirrorless cameras. This is not a surprising trend as we’ve seen DSLR production continue to shrink while mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras take over.
That doesn’t mean that new pro lenses are lacking in variety. In fact, in our list of the seven best lenses of 2021, we’ve chosen everything from an intriguing macro lens for Canon’s full-frame cameras to a versatile workhorse zoom from Sony to a fast prime lens for Fujifilm’s medium-format line.
If you don’t see something that suits your needs in our best lenses round-up for 2021, check out our comprehensive pro lens guide from last year with many more options. And if you’re in the market for new photography gear, read our lists of the seven best cameras and the seven best photo printers of 2021.
Canon RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM
The RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM ($1399) was somewhat of a surprising lens introduction by Canon, but we like it. The lens is not only the company’s first RF lens designed specifically for macro photography, it’s the world’s first medium telephoto macro lens with a maximum magnification of 1.4x. This is pretty unique in that most full-frame macro lenses offer 1x maximum magnification while the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS shoots close-ups that are 1.4 times the size they are in real life. Minimum focusing distance at 1.4x is 10.2 inches while the working distance is just 3.4 inches. The result is you can capture intimate shots of flowers, insects or static subjects such as food or jewelry that pop off the screen (or printed photo) with detail. Also unique to the Canon RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is the spherical aberration (SA) control ring on the lens barrel that lets you change the look of the background blur, aka bokeh, to produce a range of creative effects. Other features we like are the Optical Image Stabilizer that offers up to five stops of shake correction, and up to 8 stops of correction when combined with newer Canon EOS R camera bodies that have 5-axis in-body image stabilization. Meanwhile, Hybrid IS adjusts for angular and shift camera shake during macro shooting, while the smooth, quiet and fast autofocus with dual nano USM won’t scare away shy subjects. With the Canon RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, macro lovers can add a powerful optical tool to their kit.