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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
Canon EOS R5 R6 RF lenses

Left to right: Canon Extender RF 1.4x, Extender RF 2x, RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM, RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM, RF 800mm F11 IS STM, Canon RF 600mm F11 IS STM, with Canon EOS R6 and R5 at front.

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).

Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM on the Canon EOS R5

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 lens extends considerably on zooming to its full telephoto position.

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.

Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM

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.

Canon Extender RF 1.4x and Extender RF 2x

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.

Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM

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.

Canon’s new telephotos are really compact when collapsed. This is the RF 600mm F11 IS STM

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.

Both lenses employ a retractable sliding barrel; here’s the 600mm extended for use.

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.

Both lenses feature tripod sockets

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.

With the 2x Extender attached, the 800mm becomes a 1600mm F22 lens.

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.

Even the 800mm f/11 is easily used hand-held

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.

Canon RF 800mm F11 IS STM; Canon RF 600mm F11 IS STM; Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM; Canon Extender RF 1.4x; and Canon Extender RF 2x

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.

Read more:

Canon EOS R6 review: Hands-on First Look

Canon EOS R5 officially released

Canon EOS R5 First Look