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Products >> All Products Key Features of RF Lenses- Part

RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM: Unprecedented Telephoto Versatility

2023-04-20
25
9.22 k

Released on 20 April 2023, Canon’s new top-of-the-line telephoto zoom lens is a ground-breaking reimagination of a much-beloved classic, engineered to complement the EOS R system and take it into the new era of photography. Read on to find out more.

RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM cover image

In this article:

Introducing the RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM

New era, new lens: A new incarnation of the 300mm f/2.8L

For decades since the era of film cameras, Canon’s 300mm f/2.8L lenses were a much revered and trusted classic frequently found in the kits of many sports and wildlife photographers. Besides telephoto close-ups at 300mm, the large f/2.8 maximum aperture presented many benefits: it not only enabled photographers to use fast shutter speeds to freeze action, but also aided precise autofocusing by allowing more light to enter and reach the AF sensors on SLR and DSLR cameras.

However, the new era of photography, and with it, the EOS R mirrorless system, has brought about new requirements for lenses. They now need to:
- Complement the mobility of lightweight and compact mirrorless cameras
- Support faster continuous shooting speeds
- Support faster, more precise AF performance to cater to the denser Dual Pixel CMOS AF image plane phase detection system
- Have better electronic control
- Cater to video shooting needs

Canon’s lens development team brainstormed on the ideal form that an EOS R system version of the 300mm f/2.8L would take. The result: the RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM.

Learn more about the development story in:
7 Untold Stories of the RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM

RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM with tripod collar pictured with EOS R3


From prime to zoom: Newfound versatility, new possibilities

As its name indicates, the RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM is far more than an RF mount version of the classic 300mm f/2.8L prime lens. It is a complete redesign in the form of a constant aperture zoom lens, offering a focal range that goes as wide as 100mm while allowing users to harness f/2.8 speed and bokeh capabilities over the entire focal range. At the same time, it delivers superior optical quality that rivals professional prime lenses.

The new zoom capabilities enhance the versatility of the lens, providing greater flexibility even in locations with limited space and mobility. Users can now achieve with one lens what used to require two or more lenses to do. Sports and wildlife photographers, traditionally the main users of 300mm f/2.8 lenses, aren’t the only beneficiaries—the RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM promises new creative possibilities for anyone who needs speed, bokeh, versatility, and greater reach.

You may also be interested in:
Prime Lens or Zoom Lens: Which Should I Buy?

Size and weight

Size and weight: One lens that does the work of a few

Less gear, more shots, more action

The RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM is 75.4mm longer and weighs approximately 240g more than the EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM. However, it adds a 3x zoom range along with the f/2.8 constant maximum aperture, which previously would have required an extra lens or two to achieve.

The lens remains compact and lightweight due to careful optimisation of materials and lens configuration. Great care was taken to ensure balance with the camera for easier handling especially during handheld shooting.

Comparing size and weight of EOS R3 + RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM with EOS-1D X Mark III + EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM

When combined with the EOS R3, the RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM forms a combination that is 186g lighter than the EOS-1D X Mark III and EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM.

Lenses Camera Total weight
RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM
(approx. 2,590g)
EOS R3
(approx. 1,022g)
approx. 3,612g1
EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM
(approx. 2,360g)
EOS-1D X Mark III
(approx.1,448g)
approx. 3,798g2
EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x
(approx. 3,620g)
Nil Lens only:
approx. 3,620g

1Including eyecup ER-h, battery LP-E19 and 1 CFexpress card
2Including eyecup Eg, battery LP-E19 and 1 CFexpress card

f/2.8 constant aperture

A new option for your f/2.8 zoom trinity

Large aperture + telephoto = uniquely creamy bokeh

Portrait shot on RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM at 100mm, 200mm, and 300mm showing bokeh and crop

Before the RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM, Canon’s longest telephoto zoom lens with an f/2.8 maximum aperture was the RF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, which reaches up to 200mm. For more reach, the fastest zoom option was the RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM, whose maximum aperture is f/4.5 even at the 100mm wide end.

In comparison, the RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM provides a focal range of up to 300mm with a constant maximum aperture of f/2.8 all throughout. The shallow depth-of-field at f/2.8 enhances the bokeh at long focal lengths such as 300mm, creating unique results suitable for portraits, weddings, and fashion photography.


Sports and action: The speed to freeze action in low light

The lens’ maximum aperture of f/2.8 gives you extra freedom to set faster shutter speeds without taking the ISO speed to extremes. But when combined with the high ISO speed capabilities of the EOS R system cameras, the possibilities are taken to new heights. It’s now possible to freeze action while maintaining image quality even when shooting indoor sports, concerts, or wildlife in dim twilight.

With the ability to zoom out to 100mm, following the ball or that elusive wild bird is just a matter of turning the zoom ring, even if they start flying towards you. It’s now easier to keep subjects in the frame while maintaining your ideal composition!

RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM

Table tennis action photo, sharp

300mm @ ISO 6400, f/2.8, 1/2000 sec

RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM

Table tennis action photo with motion blur

300mm @ ISO 6400, f/5.6, 1/500 sec

At 300mm on the RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM (second image), the maximum aperture is f/5.6, requiring a shutter speed of no faster than 1/500 seconds: too slow, resulting in motion blur. At f/2.8 on the RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM (first image), the much faster shutter speed of 1/2000 sec achieves a sharp, motion blur-free shot of the same movement.

Extender compatibility

Extender compatibility: L-lens-worthy performance all the way to 600mm

Or 960mm on an APS-C camera

For situations that require a longer reach, the RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM is compatible with both the Extender RF1.4x and Extender RF2x, which transform it into a super telephoto lens with minimal addition to length and weight. Canon’s lens engineers worked to ensure high image quality and AF performance worthy of an L-lens even when an extender is attached.

When combined with… The lens’ focal range is…(full-frame equivalent)
Extender RF1.4x on a full-frame camera 140-420mm f/4
Extender RF1.4x on an APS-C camera 224-672mm f/4
Extender RF2x on a full-frame camera 200-600mm f/5.6
Extender RF2x on an APS-C camera 320-860mm f/5.6


Focal length coverage by RF24-105mm f/4L IS USM, RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM, Extender RF1.4x and Extender RF2x

Get the entire range from 24 to 960mm with just two lenses—the RF24-105mm f/4L IS USM and RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM—and two extenders. Maximum range, minimal gear: perfect for maximising the EOS R system’s mobility.

Image stabilisation

Up to 6 stops’ image stabilisation* through Coordinated Control IS

Up to 5.5 stops native IS at 300mm end; IS modes 1 to 3

For scenes where you want to shoot a little slower by hand, the RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM is equipped with a built-in Optical Image Stabilizer (Optical IS), which provides up to 5.5 shutter speed stops’ equivalent image stabilisation at the 300mm end. When used on a camera body with In-Body IS, such as the EOS R3, the lens supports up to 6 stops’ image stabilisation through Coordinated Control IS.

*According to CIPA standards. Yaw/pitch direction.

Fashion portrait at 1/25 sec, sharp (IS On)
Fashion portrait at 1/25 sec with camera shake (IS Off)

Both images: EOS R3/ RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM/ FL: 300mm/ Manual exposure (f/6.3, 1/25 sec)/ ISO 100


IS Modes 1 to 3: Choose the mode that suits your intentions

Like the professional grade RF super-telephoto prime lenses, the RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM has three image stabilisation modes optimised for different usage scenarios.

Mode 1: Corrects camera shake in all directions. Best for static subjects.
Mode 2: Does not correct camera shake that occurs in the direction of any panning detected. Best for panning shots.
Mode 3: Image stabilisation is active only during exposure. Provides an easier view through the viewfinder when following subjects with unpredictable movement.

AF control

Excellent AF control that also improves optical quality

Dual Nano USMs; improved electronic floating focus control system

Besides increased mobility, one other strong advantage of the EOS R mirrorless system is its highly precise image plane phase-detection AF system, which contributes to faster continuous shooting speeds. The RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM maximises this advantage, adopting two tiny but fast and precise Nano USMs (Ultrasonic Motors) to drive the focusing group instead of Ring USM, which was used in most EF lenses. They ensure quick and accurate focus acquisition and tracking, which is crucial for effective high-speed continuous shooting.

At the same time, the Nano USM is also capable of smooth yet precisely controlled movement. The latter particularly benefits video shooting, ensuring seamless AF transitions during subject tracking and steady, consistent focus during zooming.

The RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM also incorporates focus breathing correction, which digitally corrects the unwanted changes in angle-of-view that occur during focus transitions. It is a lens that is made to cater to the needs of not only action photography at the highest levels but also professional video production and filmmaking.

The new floating focus control system on the RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM, driven by dual Nano USMs.

The benefits of dual Nano USMs
Using two Nano USMs enables the focusing and floating lens groups to be driven independently of each other in an improved electronic floating focus control system. A new control algorithm allows the driving ranges of the focusing and floating lens groups to overlap, providing greater lens positioning flexibility. With this, the lenses can be moved into the most effective position for the zoom position and focusing distance, contributing to better image quality.

Photographer with finger on the lens function button, holding the grip.

Customisable buttons for intuitive AF control
The RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM is equipped with ample controls that aid reflexive AF operation. Three customisable lens function buttons allow you to assign functions such as AF stop for easy access regardless of lens or camera orientation. A new lens function/focus preset button, whose function is selectable by a switch on the side of the lens, is located within easy reach of your right hand even while it is holding onto the camera grip.

Buttons, switches, and rings on the RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM

The flexibility of a zoom, the optical quality of a prime

The flexibility of a zoom, the quality of an L-series prime lens

Enjoy outstanding image quality throughout the entire zoom range

Ensuring consistently impeccable image quality is more challenging on a zoom lens than on a prime lens. After all, there is now an entire focal range to account for. At the same time, the RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM is benchmarked upon the EF300mm f/2.8L series, which was well-acclaimed for its optical quality among other aspects. It has high expectations to meet, and was engineered accordingly: image quality is on par with L-series professional-grade prime lenses throughout the entire zoom range.


Lens construction

RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM lens configuration

A: Fluorite lens elements / B: UD lens elements / C: Aspherical lens / D: ASC
Smudge-resistant fluorine coating on the front lens surfaces

The lens configuration includes:
- 1 fluorite lens and 4 UD lenses optimally placed to correct chromatic aberration
- 1 large diameter glass-moulded aspherical lens in the rearmost lens group to minimise colour bleeding all the way from the centre of the image to the edges.
- Air Sphere Coating (ASC), which controls ghosting and flaring especially in scenes with a strong light source in the frame.

Professional-grade durability and reliability

Professional-grade durability and reliability

A design befitting Canon’s revered big white lenses

Heat shield coating

Close up of RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM lens mount

The lenses bear the iconic white heat shield coating that gives Canon’s professional telephoto lenses their “big white” nickname. The coating keeps image quality from deteriorating due to heat buildup inside the lens when shooting outside on a hot day.

To improve optical performance and durability, the lens has no drop-in filter.

Dust- and drip-resistant design

Dust- and drip-resistant sealing on the RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM

The lenses are designed to prevent dust and water droplets from entering, with weather-sealing on the rings, switches, and other joints and controls. This further increases durability and reliability.

Key specifications

RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM: Key specifications

Lens construction: 23 elements in 18 groups
Closest focusing distance: 1.8m
Maximum magnification: 0.16x
No. of aperture blades: 9 (circular blades)
Filter diameter: 112mm
Size: φ128×323.4mm
Weight: approx. 2,590g 

 

Bundled accessories

Lens Hood ET-124

Soft Lens Case LS100-300
A lightweight, soft-type case for easier handling.

Sample images

Sample images

Swimmer shot with RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM

EOS R3/ RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM/ FL: 270mm/ Manual exposure (f/2.8, 1/1600 sec)/ ISO 6400/ WB: 4300K


Table tennis player with eye on ball and foreground bokeh, shot on RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM

EOS R3/ RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM + Extender RF1.4x / FL: 420mm/ Manual exposure (f/4, 1/2000 sec)/ ISO 8000/ WB: 5200K


Vertical fashion portrait shot in low light

EOS R3/ RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM/ FL: 100mm/ Flexible-priority AE (f/2.8, 1/500 sec, EV -1)/ ISO 200/ WB: 5500K


Horizontal bridal portrait with bokeh

EOS R5/ RF100-300mm f/2.8L IS USM/ FL: 300mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/2.8, 1/640 sec, EV +1)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto


You may also be interested in:
Why Is a Super Telephoto Lens Necessary for Sports Photography?
RF Lenses vs EF Lenses: What's the Difference and How to Decide?

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