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RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM & Two RF Extenders: A New Super Telephoto Era

On 9 July 2020, Canon officially unveiled the RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM, its first super telephoto zoom lens for the EOS R system, along with two new extenders, the Extender RF 1.4x and Extender RF 2x. The lens is the first lens for EOS cameras in its class to cover the 100mm to 500mm focal range, and it boasts the outstanding image quality, AF, and image stabilisation performance befitting the professional L series. When paired with the EOS R5 or EOS R6, which boast huge improvements to AF performance, the lens and extenders promise professional-level super telephoto images on an extremely compact, mobile shooting system.

1. Size, weight and coverage
2. AF capabilities
3. IS
4. Optical design
5. Durability and operability


1. Weighs less, reaches further 

To date, Canon has released two telephoto zoom lenses for the EOS R system: the RF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM and the RF24-240mm f/4-6.3 IS USM. However, users who want to shoot professional-quality images in genres such as outdoor sports and wildlife have probably been longing for something with much more reach. The wait is over with the RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM, highly anticipated since its development announcement.

Close-up of bald eagle shot on the RF100-500mm

EOS R5/ RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM/ FL: 500mm/ Manual exposure (f/7.1, 1/4000 sec)/ ISO 800/ WB: Daylight

While the new lens is an L-series super telephoto zoom lens just like the much-beloved EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM, it features a reach that is 100mm longer but also weighs 205g lighter.

Comparison of size and weight of EF100-400mm on EOS 5D Mark IV vs RF100-500mm on EOS R5

RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM φ93.8×207.6mm approx.1370g
EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM φ94×193mm approx.1570g

*Not including tripod mount


Portability and performance: Made possible by the EOS R system

One of the main factors that allowed the lenses to be made lighter is the f/7.1 maximum aperture at the telephoto end. With the electronic viewfinder (EVF) on the EOS R series cameras, viewfinder gain enables a brighter view of the scene even when the maximum aperture is relatively narrow and “dark”, and exposure simulation tells you when your exposure settings are too dark so that you can adjust accordingly. The higher light sensitivity of the cameras also means that there are no limits to AF performance even at f/7.1. 

These factors reduce the necessity of a large maximum aperture even at 500mm, which would have made the lens very big and heavy. You can say that the resulting balance between lweight, portability, high image quality, and performance was possible because the lens was tailored to work with the EOS R system.

24mm to 1600mm coverage with RF24-105mm, RF100-500mm and RF extenders


Pair with an extender for even better versatility

The reach of the lens can be increased by attaching one of the new RF extenders. Taking into consideration how the zoom position of the RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM needs to be at 300mm or above for the extenders to be attached, the with-extender focal ranges will become:
- With the Extender RF 1.4x (1.4x): 420-700mm
- With the Extender RF 2x (2.0x): 600-1000mm

This enables serious super telephoto shooting, AF support included.

Know this: Three pieces of gear for 24mm to 700mm coverage

Do you travel frequently to photograph current affairs, birds, or natural landscapes? You would probably want to minimise your carry-on luggage. Take with you the RF24-105mm f/4L IS USM standard zoom lens, the RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM, and the Extender RF 1.4x to ensure seamless coverage of the 24mm to 700mm angles of view. 

Tip: On the 45-megapixel EOS R5, shooting in the 1.6x crop mode gives you a 17.3-megapixel resolution. Use it to extend your focal length up to as much as 1600mm.


2. With RF 2x, AF is possible even when shooting at 1000mm @ f/14!

Just like the RF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, the RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM uses an electronic floating focus control system driven by two Nano USM units. The Nano USM is a tiny chip-type ultrasonic motor with powerful torque. Capable of both fast movement and fine movement, it can acquire focus extremely quickly during still shooting, and also track subjects smoothly and seamlessly during video shooting. The dual Nano USM units allow the floating lenses and the focusing lenses to be controlled independently. This streamlines the mechanical design of the lens and makes it lighter while achieving high image quality.

The RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM can be used on any EOS R system camera, including the first-generation EOS R and the new EOS R5 and EOS R6, without limiting the camera’s AF system. When either of the RF Extenders is attached, the AF area becomes only just a bit narrower, but other than that, the AF functions are mostly the same.

AF area when using RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM with an RF extender


(1) With RF 1.4x at f/10: 80%×80%
(2) With RF 2x at f/14: 40% (horizontal)×60% (vertical)


(1) With RF 1.4x at f/10: 80%×80%
(2) With RF 2x at f/14: 80%×80%

On other camera systems, a narrow maximum aperture will usually greatly reduce the number of usable AF points, but with the EOS R system, that is no issue: the large-diameter RF mount, which allows sufficient light to reach all the way to the corners of the image sensor, and the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, which can obtain phase detection information from all the image pixels, together ensure near-instant AF.


3. Up to 6 stops’ image stabilisation when combined with In-Body IS

Three Optical IS modes to cater to different shooting situations

The in-lens Optical Image Stabilizer (Optical IS) on the RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM is capable of up to 5 shutter speed stops’ equivalent image stabilisation. It has three IS modes:
- IS Mode 1: Corrects camera shake when shooting stationary subjects.
- IS Mode 2: For panning. Doesn’t correct the blurring that occurs in the direction of the pan.
- IS Mode 3: Computes for camera shake upon shutter button half-press, and moves the IS unit only upon full press.

IS Mode 3 stabilises the viewfinder image when shooting subjects with irregular movement, such as ball sports like soccer. This mode makes the lens well-equipped for professional sports photography.

Coordination with In-Body IS for stronger image stabilisation

When the lens is attached to the EOS R5 or EOS R6, which are equipped with a sensor shift-type 5-axis In-Body IS system, Coordinated Control IS, which coordinates the Optical IS with the In-Body IS, is performed, correcting camera shake by up to 6 shutter speed stops’ equivalent* at 500mm. When shooting videos, movie digital IS can also be used together with Combination IS, ensuring steadier footage even when shooting handheld while walking.

*Based on CIPA testing standard. Attached to the EOS R5 at focal length 500mm. When using the EOS R5 with its firmware which will be released in late August.

EOS R5: IS Off

Focal length: 100mm
Shutter speed: 2 sec


Focal length: 100mm
Shutter speed: 2 sec


4. Its optical design makes full use of the latest simulation technology

Telephoto and super telephoto lenses are prone to colour fringing. To suppress this, the RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM uses 6 UD lens elements and 1 Super UD lens element. It also incorporates Air Sphere Coating (ASC), which reduces ghosting and flaring. This design, together with the large mount diameter and short flange focus distance of the RF mount, achieve the renowned L-lens high image quality over the entire zoom range.


RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM IS STM lens construction

A: Super UD lens elements
B: UD lens elements

Smudge-resistant fluorine coating on the front lens surfaces

The use of the latest optical simulation technologies when designing the lens also helped the Canon lens designers to effectively prevent colour blurring in the areas with bokeh in defocused parts of the image. This results in beautiful, seamlessly creamy bokeh even at f/7.1 on the 500mm telephoto end.

Telephoto macro flowers with bokeh

EOS R5/ RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM / FL: 500mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/6.7, 1/180 sec, EV +0.5)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight


5. High durability and operability

Heat-shield coating; dust and drip resistant

The RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM inherits the white heat-shield coating that has become a signature of Canon’s L-series telephoto zoom and super telephoto lenses. This coating reduces the temperature rises inside the lens that occur when shooting in hot weather, and hence ensures that image quality is not affected. Just like other Canon L lenses, the RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM also features a dust and drip-resistant construction, improving the lens’ endurance in a wide variety of shooting environments.

Control ring; adjustment ring to change the zoom ring operational feel

The iconic RF lens control ring is located at the back of the lens, near the mount. Highly customisable, it can be assigned to control aperture, shutter speed, ISO speed, or exposure compensation, allowing the faster, easier adjustment of exposure settings.

A: Zoom ring
B: Adjustment ring (To adjust the operation feel of the zoom ring to any weight from “Smooth” to “Tight”)
C: Focusing ring (electronic)
D: Control ring (Can be assigned to control aperture, shutter speed, ISO speed, or exposure compensation)


Extending lens barrel

The front end of the lens extends and retracts when zooming. Turning the adjustment ring to “Tight” to prevents zoom creep when the lens is held pointing downwards.

Dust and drip resistant design

The joints and switch panels of the lens are sealed to prevent water droplets and dust from entering the lens. Smudge-resistant fluorine coating on the lens’ front element allows dirt, oil, and moisture to be easily wiped off.


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

Key specifications
Lens construction: 20 elements in 14 groups
Closest focusing distance: 0.9m (wide-angle end)
Maximum magnification: 0.33x (telephoto end)
No. of aperture blades: 9 (circular)
Filter diameter: 77mm
Size: φ93.8 x 207.6mm
Weight: approx. 1,370g (not including tripod mount)

Lens hood ET-83F (WIII) (bundled)

RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM IS STM with Lens Hood ET-83F (WIII)


RF extenders

Extender RF 1.4x

Lens construction: 7 elements in 4 groups
Size: φ71.2 x 20.3mm
Weight: approx. 225g

Extender RF 2x

Lens construction: 9 elements in 5 groups
Size: φ71.2 x 39.3mm
Weight: approx. 340g

Slim and simple, the Extender RF 1.4x and Extender RF 2x feature the white heat-shield paint that blends well with the RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM, as well as a dust and drip-resistant design. They can also be used with the RF600mm f/11 IS STM and RF800mm f/11 IS STM. 


Sample images

Golf swing close-up

EOS R5/ RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM / FL: 451mm/ Manual exposure (f/7.1, 1/1250 sec)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto

Super telephoto shot of sakura trees

EOS R5/ RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM / FL: 223mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/6.7, 1/400 sec)/ ISO 200/ WB: Daylight

Close up of bird

EOS R5/ RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM + Extender RF 1.4x/ FL: 700mm/ Manual exposure (f/10, 1/800 sec)/ ISO 2500/ WB: Auto


The following articles contain images shot with the EF100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM. The tips still apply, but the RF100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM on the EOS R system promises even more possibilities!
Magical Winterscapes: When Diamond Dust Becomes Sun Pillars
Composition Tips for Making Mist Pop
Step-by-step Guide to Capturing Splashing Waves at Fast Shutter Speed Settings
How I Nailed the Shot (3): Tips for Stunning Images of Airplane Smoke Trails


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