Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS Image Gallery
March 22nd, 2022
When the Canon EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS II released in the beginning of 2015 it effectively ended the question of what the best telephoto zoom in or around this focal length was. The 100-400L II was a clearly superior lens, with a fabulous build, some new innovative design elements, great autofocus, and amazing image quality. It released at a time when my own photography budget was much smaller, but I still found a way to buy one after reviewing it because it was so good. It has remained in my personal kit since that point even though I sold my last DSLR a few years back. I only own mirrorless camera bodies at this point but have kept the lens because it is excellent and adapts seamlessly to Canon’s mirrorless bodies like my Canon EOS R5. I’ve been wanting to get my hands on Canon’s new RF equivalent – the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS – for a long time, but here in Canada supply chain shortages have made loaners (and retail copies!) few and far between. The RF 100-500mm ups the ante in terms of zoom range (an additional 100mm) but at a physical cost ($2900 USD – $500 more than the EF lens) along with a maximum aperture cost (more on that in a moment).
Canon has managed to squeeze out a longer ratio (5x zoom) while reducing the weight of the lens (1365 vs 1650g), making this a truly manageable lens in terms of weight for a focal range like this. It’s unusual to get this degree of reach from such a (relatively) compact package, but Canon has accomplished this in part by allowing the lens to drift to a smaller maximum aperture than we saw on any Canon lens prior to the mirrorless era. All Canon lenses in the EF mount were constrained to a maximum aperture of F5.6 for the simple reason that this was the smallest maximum aperture that many camera could focus effectively at. There were a few cameras towards the end of the era that could focus at smaller maximum apertures, but Canon had to maintain compatibility with their whole camera lineup. The switch to mirrorless has unshackled Canon, though, as mirrorless cameras can autofocus with much smaller maximum apertures and they no longer had the need to ensure compatibility with legacy cameras. We quickly saw lenses with a maximum aperture of F6.3, and then F7.1, and even the quirky 600mm and 800m F11 primes. I will say that it seems very strange to type L after F7.1 (F7.1L); it feels a little sacrilegious. The image quality from the lens assures me that this is a genuine L series performer, however.
Let’s get the bad new out of the way: the new RF isn’t as “light efficient” as the older EF lens. It doesn’t hold the brighter apertures as long with one minor exception. The new RF lens does hold F4.5 a little longer (151mm vs 135mm) but doesn’t hold F5 or F5.6 nearly as long (the new lens is at F6.3 by 363mm, whereas the older lens was obviously at F5.6 until the end of the zoom range. The RF 100-500L doesn’t hit F7.1 until the last little bit (472-500mm). While the slower aperture is a bit disappointing, there is an alternate way to frame this. The EF lens required a 1.4x teleconverter to hit 560mm, whereas the RF 100-500L will hit 500mm with the bare lens. Adding the 1.4x to the F5.6 lens creates a maximum aperture of F8, so in a sense you gain 1/3 stop of light at 500mm. Nonetheless, this is is going to be a lens that works best with adequate light, though fortunately cameras and focus systems have gotten much better at dealing with lower light situations. There are limits, obviously, but this is a lens that performed well in the various situations I put it in.
This is an expensive lens, obviously, but it is also a very high performing lens that utilizes a dual Nano USM focus system to give even better autofocus results along with outstanding optical performance. It isn’t a lens that will fit everyone’s budget, but it may just be the lens that should be added to your wish list. To help you determine if this is a lens for you, check out my detailed video review or read the text review.
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Thanks to Camera Canada for getting me a loaner of the RF 100-500L. If you’re in Canada, check them out for a reliable online retailer. *The tests and the photos shown in this review have been taken on my 45 MP Canon EOS R5.
Photos of the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L Build and Handling
Photos taken with the Canon RF 100-500mm
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