Canon RF 100-500mm f4.5-7.1L review - Verdict

Verdict

The RF 100-500mm continues Canon’s approach of adding something new to classic EF lenses rather than simply rebuilding them with a similar spec and a native mount. The RF 70-200 2.8 is impressively shorter than the EF version, the RF 15-35mm zooms wider than the EF 16-35 while also including IS, and now the RF 100-500 reaches further than the EF 100-400 while occupying much the same space in your bag and actually weighing a bit less. In each case, the previous EF models remain excellent performers, but by adding something new to the RF versions, Canon compensates somewhat for their higher prices.

In my tests the RF 100-500mm delivered sharp results across the frame, throughout the focal range and with the aperture wide-open. Sure, it wasn’t sharper than the EF 100-400 Mark II in my tests, but that’s a stellar lens and the new model maintains this standard while reaching 25% longer. I love that you’re getting this boost in reach with a lens that’s barely longer and actually lighter, while the rubber-tipped lens hood, fully removable tripod collar, and of course the custom control ring are also nice additions.

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What’s not to like? Teleconverters will only work when the zoom is set between 300 and 500mm which is inconvenient for transportation. The f4.5-7.1 focal ratio isn’t going to deliver the shallowest depth-of-field effects, but the rendering is fine and again similar to the 100-400. The closest focusing is beaten by the 100-400 at the long-end, but compensated by the longer focal length. And issues reported by some early owners regarding an IS wobble under certain conditions appear to have been resolved with a firmware update. The biggest issue beyond the teleconverters is the price.

Compared to the EF 100-400, you’re getting similar quality but with the benefits of zooming 100mm further, having slightly faster and more confident focusing, a fully removable tripod collar, custom control ring and slightly lighter weight. On the downside it’s also around $400 more expensive and can’t zoom between 100 and 300mm if you have a teleconverter fitted. If you don’t already own the EF 100-400, I’d say it’s worth spending the extra on the RF model, but existing owners will probably remain satisfied with what’s already an excellent lens.

If you’re looking for a cheaper option, there’s a number of alternatives. In the native mount, you can reach further with Canon’s RF 600mm and RF 800mm which may be optically dimmer at f11, but you could buy them both and still save $1000 over the 100-500. If you’re happy to adapt, you could look out for a second-hand EF 100-400, or consider one of the many third-party options like the Sigma 100-400mm that’s around one third the price of the RF 100-500. There’s lots of options, although I’d love it if Canon also considers producing a more affordable 200-600 model like Sony in the future as that’s a great length for sports and wildlife.

Ultimately the RF 100-500mm becomes the best overall long telephoto zoom for the EOS R system, and will delight sports and wildlife photographers. Like other RF lenses, it’s unapologetically high-end with a price tag to match, but brings genuine advantages over the already excellent EF 100-400. If your budget will stretch it comes Highly Recommended, especially to owners of the latest EOS R bodies who can use it to really exploit their improved autofocus and burst capabilities.

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Canon RF 100-500mm f4.5-7.1L

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