Canon RF 600mm / 800mm f11 review - Verdict

Verdict

The Canon RF 600mm and 800mm f11 are relatively light and affordable super-telephoto lenses for the full-frame EOS R mirrorless system. They exploit mirrorless technology and stripped-down designs to achieve their compact size without overly compromising performance. An aperture of f11 may ring alarm bells on older cameras, but the EOS R bodies can autofocus at f11 – or even at f16 and f22 when using tele-converters – in all but the dimmest conditions, while the brightness of their viewfinders automatically increase to avoid the dim image you’d get with a DSLR. Meanwhile a non-adjustable aperture, lack of weather-sealing, and a fixed tripod foot rather than a rotating collar are all downsides but allow weight and costs to be kept low.

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In practice both lenses proved remarkably usable, delivering sharp results and successfully tracking birds in flight or various sports in good to fair conditions, while also proving more than capable for aviation or lunar photography. The f11 aperture does however prove limiting at dus or in shaded areas, inevitably bumping you up to the highest sensitivities while also delivering modest blurring on closer backgrounds.

If you want a shallower depth-of field or to maintain faster shutters or lower ISOs in dim light, Canon has plenty of options: the EF 600mm f4 and EF 800mm f5.6 are three and two stops brighter than these RF versions, but they’re twice as long, three times heavier and roughly 15 times more expensive.

The RF models are not designed to compete with either of them, but to provide lighter and much cheaper alternatives. They won’t deliver the shallow depth-of-field of expensive super-teles nor work as well in low light, but equally they won’t break your back or the bank.

Ultimately there are plenty of long telephotos for Canon owners, including the native RF 100-500, a selection of big zooms from Sigma, or perhaps a second-hand EF 400mm f5.6, but few offer the reach, portability or affordability of the RF 600 and 800. I love that they’re exploiting modern camera technologies to provide something genuinely new. They may not suit high-end wildlife photographers, but for the rest of us open up a World that until now was literally out of reach.

Which model to buy depends on the subjects you want to capture. I personally found the RF 600mm f11 the more flexible of the pair, suitable for large birds, and more sports and landscapes, while the shorter focal length and better stabilisation made it easier to aim and film; I also preferred its greater portability. But if you’re photographing smaller or more distant wildlife, Sea sports or the Moon, no lens is too big and the RF 800 will be your preferred choice. Both share similar image quality and come Highly Recommended so long as you understand and can work with their limitations.

Check prices on the Canon RF 600mm at B&H, Adorama or WEX or check prices on the Canon RF 800mm at B&H, Adorama or WEX! Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!
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Canon RF 600 / 800mm f11

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