Canon reveals four RF telephoto lenses and two teleconverters – first look
July 9, 2020
Newly-announced Canon RF optics at a glance:
- Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM
- Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM
- Canon RF 600mm F11 IS STM
- Canon RF 800mm F11 IS STM
- Canon Extender RF 1.4x
- Canon Extender RF 2x
Along with the EOS R5 and R6, Canon has released a slew of new optics, including a pair of extraordinary and innovative ultra-telephoto primes that are both lightweight and affordable. There’s also a pro-spec telezoom, backed up by a pair of teleconverters, and a very attractive-looking portrait/macro lens.
Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM
Starting at the top-end, the RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM is a long telephoto zoom that was previously revealed on Canon’s 2020 lens roadmap, alongside the 1.4x and 2x RF Extenders. At 94 x 208mm and weighing 1530g, it’s only a little larger than the firm’s 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 for DSLRs, despite its extended range. It’s also only 1/3 stop slower at the 400mm setting (at f/6.3).
The lens features a conventional extending design, with a slim rotary collar that adjusts the tension of the zoom ring’s action from sooth to tight, just like on the current EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 L IS II USM.
The 100-500mm also sports the expected set of controls for a Canon L-series telezoom. A set of switches on the side of the barrel between the zoom and focus rings control the autofocus and image stabilisation systems. Canon’s usual programmable control dial is found behind the tripod foot, close to the mount.
It features optical stabilisation that’s rated to 5 stops, along with a fast, silent ultrasonic motor for autofocusing. A minimum focus distance of 1.2m, 77mm filter thread and weather-sealed construction round of the spec of this £2,900 optic.
Canon Extender RF 1.4x and Canon Extender RF 2x
To extend the 100-500mm’s range even further, Canon has announced 2x and 1.4 Extenders alongside, which will cost £700 and £560 respectively. With the 1.4x teleconverter onboard, you get a 140-700mm F6.3-10 optic, while with the 2x attached, it becomes a 200-1000mm F9-14.
This might sound impossibly slow in aperture terms, but it’s important to understand that mirrorless cameras will still autofocus perfectly happily and show a bright viewfinder image. You will, of course, often have to use very high ISO settings, but again the quality of modern full-frame sensor means this isn’t necessarily a problem. Both extenders also work with the firm’s new 600mm and 800mm lenses, but unfortunately, users of the superb RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM will find that they’re not compatible.
Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM
At a relatively affordable price point of £650, the RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM provides half life-size magnification at its minimum focus distance of 35cm. It’s sure to become an extremely popular lens.
At 91mm long and 500g, it’s noticeably more portable than the firm’s EF 100mm f/2.8 macro offerings. Its optical stabilisation is rated for 5 stops benefit, and the lens uses 67mm filters.
Canon RF 600mm F11 IS STM and Canon RF 800mm F11 IS STM
Finally, the Canon RF 600mm F11 IS STM (£750) and Canon RF 800mm F11 IS STM (£980) are very similar lenses that exploit diffractive optics and a sliding, collapsible barrel design to deliver ultra-telephoto reach in eminently hand-holdable packages.
Unusually the lenses feature fixed apertures, with the diaphragm omitted presumably to help keep the size and price down. This makes perfect sense on such long lenses, as you’d rarely if ever want to use smaller apertures anyway. Instead, the shutter speed is used to control the exposure, with high ISOs likely to be required for most applications.
The large rotating collar just behind the control panel is used to unlock the barrel for extending and collapsing the lens. A silver control ring is found in front of the manual focus ring, and there’s a simple tripod / monopod mount underneath the barrel.
Such lenses simply wouldn’t be practical on DSLRs, but again, the firm has imaginatively exploited the ability of mirrorless cameras to autofocus at smaller apertures while providing a bright viewfinder image.
The 600mm measures just 20cm long when collapsed and weighs a mere 930g, while the 800mm is 282mm long and weighs 1260g. Both lenses are even compatible with the 1.4x and 2x extenders, with fully working AF. Perhaps the biggest limitation lies with their decidedly long minimum focus distances: 4.5m for the 600mm, and 6m for the 800mm.
Canon RF telephotos: First Impressions
Canon has regularly been accused over the past few years of resting on its laurels, and providing little real innovation. But this round of releases sees it thinking right outside of the box, with the two long telephotos in particular taking full advantage of the opportunities provided by mirrorless technology to build useful lenses that wouldn’t be workable with DSLRs.
Meanwhile the 100-500mm is an interesting re-think of the traditional 100-400mm, providing extended range without dramatically increasing in size and weight. It’s sure to be popular among sports and action shooters. But the really big seller is likely to be the smallest of them all, and the Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM may well become an essential addition to EOS R users’ kit bags. Exact details of when all these lenses will go on sale are yet to be revealed.