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

Introduction

The RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM is a super-telephoto zoom lens for Canon’s range of full-frame mirrorless cameras that’s ideal for capturing sport, wildlife and aviation.

It’s equipped with an optical Image Stabilizer that offers 5 stops of built-in stabilisation, or 6-stops when used with the EOS R5 and EOS R6 cameras.

It supports Dual Pixel CMOS AF when paired with a Canon EOS R System mirrorless camera.

There’s a configurable control ring on the lens barrel which allows you to quickly change the exposure compensation, shutter speed, aperture and ISO settings.

The RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM has a minimum focusing distance of 0.90 at 100mm / 1.2m at 500mm and a maximum magnification ratio of 0.33x.

Optically the lens is constructed from 20 elements in 14 groups, including one Super UD element and six UD elements to help reduce chromatic aberrations and color fringing throughout the zoom range.

The Dual Nano USM auto-focusing system uses both a ring type USM and an STM mechanism to deliver fast, nearly silent autofocus performance with full-time manual focus override in the one-shot AF mode.

The rotating zoom ring features torque adjustment for fine-tuning the feel of the lens or for preventing zoom creep.

As with all L-series Canon lenses, the RF 100-500mm has a weather-resistant design that protects it against dust and moisture.

This lens is compatible with the new RF 1.4x and 2x extenders, but only when it’s used within the 300-500mm focal range.

The Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM is available now priced at £2899.99 / $2699.99 in the UK and US respectively.

Ease of Use

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

Given the large focal range of 100-500mm that’s on offer, the RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM is still a surprisingly compact and relatively lightweight lens.

It weighs in at 1530g and measures 207.6mm in length when set to its “stored” retracted position, making it lighter and more compact than a comparable DSLR lens.

Rather surprisingly it doesn’t feel too unbalanced when using it with a relatively small camera like the EOS R that we tested it with, even without a battery grip fitted.

The lens extends further by an additional 9cms to 297.6mm when fully zoomed out to 500mm.

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

The RF 100-500mm is ever so slightly longer than the popular EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM, but crucially its actually 200g lighter than its DSLR cousin.

At the base of the lens is the slim control ring. As on most other Canon RF lenses, this can be used to control certain key camera settings (TV, AV, ISO and exposure settings).

The manual focusing ring is fairly narrow but it is ridged to help you to get a firmer grip on it.

There are also no hard stops at either end of the ring to help you know when the minimum or maximum focusing distance has been achieved.

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

There are four switches on the left hand side of the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM lens.

From top to bottom, there’s a focus limiter switch with Full and 3m-Infinity settings, a switch for choosing between auto-focusing and manual focusing, a switch for turning image stabilisation on or off, and a fourth for selecting one of the three stabilisation modes.

The built-in 5 stops of image stabilisation are important when hand-holding such a long lens, and the system thankfully works very well, ensuring that you can shoot at slower shutter speeds than 1/500th and still get sharp results (obviously depending on your technique).

This is especially important on the older EOS R and RP cameras, which lack the additional in-body stabilisation offered by the newer EOS R5 and R6, which therefore further enhance the RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM’s own stabilizer.

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

Next is a rotating ring for setting the torque adjustment of the zooming mechanism, with two extremes, Smooth and Tight. This can be for fine-tuning the feel of the zoom or for preventing zoom creep.

The zoom ring itself is very large, with a 90-degree turn to go from 100mm to 500mm.

Around the base of the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM lens is a tripod collar with a knurled knob to lock it into position.

This is very useful when using the lens with a tripod to help keep it as steady as possible, something that you may want to do more often than not given the size and weight of the lens.

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

The tripod collar is both movable and removable, so you can easily rotate the lens into the portrait position or remove it altogether if you wish.

A large, lockable, circular lens hood (ET-83F) is included to help to prevent flare.

It has a side window to allow for the easier adjustment of rotating filters, such as polarizers, while the lens hood is still attached.

This large hood can also be reversed and attached to the lens to make it smaller when transporting it.

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

There’s also a soft case (LZ1328) as well as front and rear caps provided in the box.

Auto-focusing with the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM and the EOS R camera proved to be quick, quiet and accurate for the majority of the time.

The lens is also very quiet, making it ideal for discreet situations, such as on safari or for birding, as well as for use while filming videos.

Focusing is internal, meaning the front element of the lens doesn’t move when focusing or zooming.

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

You can therefore easily use it with filters, the front thread being a reasonable 77mm in size.

As befits an L-series lens, the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM is fully weather-proof, which should please its intended audience.

It also boasts a heat shield coating for consistent operation in high temperatures, although Canon don’t specify how high.

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

Focal Range

The Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM’s focal range provides an angle of view of 24 degrees at 100mm and 5 degrees at 500mm.

Canon 35mm F1.4 DG HSM

100mm

Canon 35mm F1.4 DG HSM

500mm

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as purple or blue fringes along contrasty edges, are only conspicuous by their almost complete absence from our Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM test shots.

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

Light Fall-off and Distortion

With the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM lens set to its maximum aperture, there is some light fall-off in the corners, which you’ll need to correct in post-processing.

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

100mm

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

500mm

Pin-cushion distortion is not at all evident at either end of the focal range.

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

100mm

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

500mm

Macro

The Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM certainly isn’t claimed to be a macro lens, with a minimum focusing distance of 0.90 at 100mm / 1.2m at 500mm and a maximum magnification ratio of 0.33x.

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

Bokeh

Bokeh is a word used for the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth / creamy / harsh etc.

In the RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM lens, thanks to 9 rounded aperture blades, a very pleasing bokeh can be achieved.

We do realise, however, that bokeh evaluation is subjective, so we’ve included several examples below for your perusal.

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

Sharpness

In order to show you how sharp the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following pages.


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