On 9 July 2020, Canon announced two new super telephoto prime lenses for the RF mount. Unbelievably compact, lightweight, and wallet-friendly, the RF600mm f/11 IS STM and RF800mm f/11 IS STM are set to bring the joys of super telephoto photography to more people than ever. Let’s zoom in on their features.
Impressive close-up shots, made more accessible than ever
Up to now, super telephoto lenses have hardly associated with the words “compact”, “lightweight”, and “affordable”, but this is set to change with the RF600mm f/11 IS STM and RF800mm f/11 IS STM. Designed to make the joy of super telephoto photography more accessible to enthusiast photographers, these lenses are set to be the new must-haves especially for those who love photographing wild birds, wildlife, airplanes and sports!
At 600mm or 800mm, you will be able to capture close-ups of candid facial expressions on cautious wild animals, raw emotions on the faces of athletes at the peak of sporting action, or even airplanes flying high in the sky.
3 keys to an affordable, compact, lightweight design
“Affordable”, “lightweight”, and “compact” are usually the last words anyone would use to describe a super telephoto lens. How did Canon manage to achieve them not one, but two lenses?
There are two important base features that laid the groundwork for these radical new lenses:
- The characteristics of the RF mount: The large mount diameter and short flange focal distance maintain image quality at a high level.
- The retractable lens barrel design (which includes a locking mechanism): Users extend the lens barrel to shoot, and retract it for storage.
Building on these fundamentals, the Canon lens developers took advantage of three different features to make a smaller, lighter lens design possible. As a result of their efforts, both the RF600mm f/11 IS STM and the RF800mm f/11 IS STM are around 70% lighter than the existing EF counterparts, and are substantially shorter and smaller even when fully extended.
Key #1: Aperture fixed at f/11
f/11 is capable of excellent photos in many scenes
It makes the lens so much more portable, you’d use it more than you think!
A maximum aperture of f/11 might sound narrow. However, the larger the maximum aperture, the bigger and heavier it makes the lens.
On a DSLR camera, an f/11 lens would make the OVF image dark and hard to see. However, on an EVF like those on EOS R system cameras, the viewfinder gain ensures that you get a bright view of the scene in front of you—yes, even at f/11. And the exposure simulation makes it even easier to adjust your exposure settings and get your ideal exposure.
With a narrower maximum aperture, you will find yourself shooting with a higher ISO speed more frequently. But the excellent noise reduction capabilities of the EOS R system ensure that high ISO speed image noise is nearly non-existent.
While you wouldn’t be able to adjust the aperture setting to change the depth of field, in actual use, f/11 is sufficient for many scenes, especially when paired with the excellent low light capabilities of the EOS R cameras. In fact, the benefits of a fixed f/11 aperture outweigh the cons: no aperture adjustment mechanism means you get a lighter, smaller lens that is much easier to carry around.
EOS R/ RF800mm f/11 IS STM/ FL: 800mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/11, 1/125 sec)/ ISO 1600/ WB: Daylight
At f/11, not only you can capture your subject in sharp detail, it is also perfectly possible to achieve a beautiful, creamy background blur.
* As the aperture is fixed at f/11, when shooting in Av, Tv, P and Fv modes, the camera will not be able to adjust the f-number to compensate for other exposure settings. Use ISO AUTO mode to achieve the correct exposure via ISO speed adjustment.
Key #2: Autofocus is (still) possible at f/11
Yes, you still can enjoy fast, accurate autofocusing
Super telephoto lenses, by nature, have a shallower depth of field. It gives you beautiful bokeh even at f/11, but also means that you will be grateful for any autofocus (AF) help that you can get!
When using the RF600mm f/11 IS STM and RF800mm f/11 IS STM, phase detection AF is possible over 40% × 60% (horizontal × vertical) of the image area. This is also thanks to the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system on the EOS R system cameras, which can acquire focus even at f/11. It is no exaggeration to say that Canon has achieved an f/11 lens design that is truly viable.
The lens’ AF mechanism is driven by lead-screw type STM, which realises fast, accurate focusing during still image shooting as well as smooth, seamless focus tracking during video shooting.
Key #3: The capable, multi-tasking DO lens element
Streamlining optics with one lens element that can do the work of at least three
The RF600mm f/11 IS STM and RF800mm f/11 IS STM incorporate a gapless dual-layered DO lens element made from new materials. DO stands for “Diffractive Optics”, and contains the optical properties of aspherical lenses along with chromatic aberration correction capabilities that surpass that of fluorite and UD lenses.
As one DO lens has the same corrective effect as multiple lenses, it reduces the number of lens elements needed to achieve excellent image quality, hence realising clear, high-quality images with beautiful contrasts within a lighter design.
EOS R/ RF600mm f/11 IS STM/ FL: 600mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/11, 1/400 sec)/ ISO 1600/ WB: Daylight
Fulfil your dream of sharp handheld images on a super telephoto lens
Smaller, lighter, image-stabilised—and all ready to capture a wide variety of scenes!
When shooting with a super telephoto lens, the slightest movement of the camera or lens can cause visible blurring from camera shake in the image. This makes shooting without a tripod rather difficult. However, in addition to their smaller, lighter builds that make handheld shooting easier, the RF600mm f/11 IS STM and RF800mm f/11 IS STM come with a powerful Optical Image Stabilizer (Optical IS) that aids shooting by hand, making it possible to handle a wider range of scenes.
Image stabilisation effect
RF600mm f/11 IS STM: Up to 5 shutter speed stops’ equivalent
RF800mm f/11 IS STM: Up to 4 shutter speed stops’ equivalent
RF800mm f/11 IS STM (IS OFF)
RF800mm f/11 IS STM (IS ON)
The lenses make an excellent pairing with the EOS R system cameras—when your lens and camera are both lightweight and compact, it is so much more comfortable to hold them. Look forward to long hours of happy, fatigue-free shooting where you capture shutter opportunities never before possible.
Also see: How are Image Stabilisation Stops Determined?
Numerous features designed for your convenience
So that you will love using the lens so much, it truly becomes bang for the buck
The control ring, which has become an iconic feature of RF lenses, is silver, and can be assigned to intuitively control exposure compensation, ISO speed, or shutter speed.
While the lenses are small and lightweight, balance may still be an issue when the camera is mounted onto a tripod. The built-in tripod mount, made from metal for extra reliability, lets you attach an extra tripod to further stabilise the setup.
Switch panel, as viewed from the top
- Focus limiting switch
AF range: 12m-∞（RF600mm f/11 IS STM)
AF range: 20m-∞（RF800mm f/11 IS STM)
- AF/MF switch
- IS ON/OFF switch
A: Control ring
B: Tripod mount
C: Lock ring
Reach even further with the new RF extenders
The RF600mm f/11 IS STM and RF800mm f/11 IS STM are both compatible with Canon’s new extenders, the Extender RF 1.4x and Extender RF 2x.
Regardless of which extender is attached, AF and IS are both possible.
Focal lengths and maximum apertures
||Extender RF 1.4x
||Extender RF 2x
|RF600mm f/11 IS STM
|RF800mm f/11 IS STM
EOS R/ RF600mm f/11 IS STM + Extender RF 2x/ FL:1200mm/ Manual exposure (f/22, 1/250 sec)/ ISO 800/ WB: Daylight
RF600mm f/11 IS STM
A: DO lenses
Lens construction: 10 elements in 7 groups
Closest focusing distance: 4.5m
Maximum magnification: 0.14x
Filter diameter: 82mm
Size: φ93 x 269.5mm (when shooting)/199.5mm(retracted)
Weight: approx. 930g
Lens hood: ET-88B (sold separately)
RF800mm f/11 IS STM
A: DO lenses
Lens construction: 11 elements in 8 groups
Closest focusing distance: 6.0m
Maximum magnification: 0.14x
Filter diameter: 95mm
Size: φ93 x 351.8mm (when shooting)/281.8mm(retracted)
Weight: approx. 1,260g
Lens hood: ET-101 (Sold separately)
EOS R/ RF600mm f/11 IS STM/ FL: 600mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/11, 1/800 sec)/ ISO 1000/ WB: Daylight
EOS R/ RF800mm f/11 IS STM + Extender RF 2x/ FL:1600mm/ Manual exposure (f/22, 1/10 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight
EOS R/ RF600mm f/11 IS STM / FL: 600mm/ Manual exposure (f/11, 1/160 sec)/ ISO 1600/ WB: Daylight
This article was originally published in Canon SNAPSHOT