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Is Canon's Unique 800mm f/11 Lens Worthwhile?

When Canon announced their RF 600mm f/11 IS STM and RF 800mm f/11 IS STM lenses, they raised a lot of eyebrows. No doubt, the lenses are unusual, but they also offer ultra-long levels of reach at highly affordable prices, especially compared to other lenses that reach such focal lengths. How do they hold up in practice? This great video review takes a look at the 800mm f/11 and what you can expect from it.

Coming to you from Christopher Frost Photography, this excellent video review takes a look at the Canon RF 800mm f/11 IS STM lens. No doubt, the 800mm f/11 is one of the more unusual lenses to come along in the last few years, offering extreme reach at an impressively affordable price with the tradeoff of a very narrow maximum aperture. The consequence of this is that it limits the situations you will be able to shoot in; certainly, this is a lens meant for shooting outdoors on days with abundant available light, but if those are the scenarios you will primarily be using it for, it looks like a great option that provides good image quality. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Frost.

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18 Comments

Lawrence Huber's picture

What an awesome lens for us mere mortals. Price is right for a real Canon 800mm lens and for most shooting looks to be superb. I see this as a boon to hikers who can now have a real lens for wildlife while in the wild. As the video says a 10,0000 dollar lens is worthless if it stays home because you can not carry it with you. As the video also says, a good reason to drop other systems for Canon besides Canon's already superior AF to all others.
Way to go Canon, you hit a home run with this awesome lens. Thank you.

Spy Black's picture

It does look like a great useful lens. It's similar to how shooting long has been for a long time with MFT lenses, but with better sensors.

I've never felt a need to switch to any system from any other system. If you like this arrangement for instance but have a Z whatever, if you really want this arrangement there's no reason why you can't enjoy both. ;-)

Billy Paul's picture

The sensors are not particularly better than MFT. When the number of photons hitting the whole sensor is limited by how much glass you can afford to buy and lug around (and this 800mm f11 is a fine example of not much buying and lugging) the size of the sensor makes no difference to noise. The only real advantage is the ability to cope better with very high dynamic range scenes.

Spy Black's picture

As I said, better sensors. Full frame sensors are miles ahead of MFT sensors. That can't be denied. I still love my MFT camera tho.

Billy Paul's picture

Say it as much as you like it doesn't make it true. Current MFT sensor technology isn't much behind any FF technology, Sony with BSI is maybe a bit more advanced. When you can't take advantage of the extra sensor area there isn't a lot of difference.

Everyone drivels on about FF IQ without saying or knowing what they are talking about. The same people moan about the IQ of phone cameras with their tiny sensors destroying the photographic industry.

Spy Black's picture

You're free to believe what you like, it doesn't make it true. I own MFT and FF cameras, I see the difference. That doesn't stop me from using MFT cameras, even though their sensors are inferior in comparison.

William Faucher's picture

I don't disagree, it's great to have such a long lens that can fit in a small backpack! However that f/11 is going to be a real pain to work with when shooting wildlife. Animals tend to come out in the wee hours of the morning, or after sunset, when light is scarce. The silver lining here is that sensors nowadays can practically see in the dark so maybe it's moot.

Eric Robinson's picture

I agree but with f11 the ability for background separation which often helps to make the shot is greatly reduced.

Never Mind's picture

DoF is really shallow at these focal lengths anyway. The DoF of an 800mm f11 lens focused at 20m/65ft is just 40cm/16inches.
When focusing 5m away, just 2cm/1inch. You want it any shallower really?

I see important, however, that as the OP mentioned, birds and atmospheric conditions usually require shooting early in the morning. That is the main reason I often think I need wider apertures. However weight is also a limiting factor when one walks or climbs 10 hours to do a shooting.

Eric Robinson's picture

Are you serious? Remember this is an f11 lens. What happens when the light is fair to poor? or when you really want to get that crucial separation between subject and background? Why do you think most serious wildlife photographers swear by their f2.8 lenses? I'm not one of them I do with an f5.6/6.3 which just about manages...but f11!

VINICIUS YUZO ZUCARELI's picture

I guess you're thinking about 7 figures a year wildlife photographers. Those can, and should, buy 20 thousand dollars worth of equipment.

But anyone else? This lens is perfect. I wouldn't mind having to shoot at 12800 ISO. Wildlife for me is a hobby.

Eric Robinson's picture

The lens I was referring to, the one I use, is the Sigma 150-600 which is just over the £1000 mark which is a long way off from the 20K lenses you were on about.
It depends what you find acceptable, shooting at a fixed aperture of f11 no matter how you want to cut it is very limiting and is certainly not perfect.

VINICIUS YUZO ZUCARELI's picture

You did mention f2.8 telephoto primes.

But whatever. No one mentioned the lens to be perfect, on the contrary everyone told you about the shortcomings but weighted the benefits more. Don't know why you have to be on a personal cruzade to convince others that this lens sucks but you do you

Billy Paul's picture

So you just about manage with say the $13,000 4.5kg 800mm 5.6 Canon then?

More likely you have never used an 800mm lens and don't know what you are talking about.

Eric Robinson's picture

That’s not what I said. I never mentioned the make, you just knee jerked it. With a 1.4 extender on my 600mm it gives me 840mm! So no I’ve never used an actual 800! Though I’m not sure what point your attempting to make. While focal length and the reach it gives is important so it’s the speed of the lens. Any lens with a fixed f11 aperture has very limited use, would you not agree? If not why not?

John Rus's picture

I don't see the point of it, you can get the 150-600mm f/6.3 for around a grand used or new for $1500. And that is a VASTLY superior option!!!! You might complain about weight, but really. Do you not realize the use for these lenses? You are typically sitting out in a blind for hours or sneaking up on your subject for hours. You are in anything but a comfortable walk in the park for the images this lens is gonna be shooting at, birds and wildlife.

Sports, well I cringe at the thought of sports with a lens like this. Much better off with a shorter and faster lens for which there are many decent options.

Yeah a landscape photographer might like it, but even then. You are carrying a tripod anyway for thinks like precise composition, HDR's, long exposures, low light, sunsets ect. A tripod is hugely beneficial even if you have IS, or using a tripod in conjunction with IS us hugely helpfull when it is slightly less stabe or slightly windy ect.

To me it's such a niche lens it just becomes a "Why"? I know they will sell oodles of them just because of it's extreme focal length. But I forsee lots of them on the used market. Because like the 150-600mm. You will quickly get disappointed with your results with a lens like this because you can't just go to a walk in the park and take NAT GEO pics right out the gate. Or even very good looking pics. Just doesn't work like that. A lens like this demands some level of involvement/commitment and you will be rewarded with some killer shots!

Lawrence Huber's picture

600mm isn't 800mm. Also portability. Canon was brilliant with this lens and I bet most complaining are not Canon users.
Speaking of worthless lenses the hyper expensive Nikon noct Z lens is heavy and not versatile at all. I can use the f11 800mm all day long for birds at my feeders, while walking all over the AZ or SW during the day and not wear out.
Try that with ANY other 800mm or 600mm with a 1.4 TC. No tripod allowed either. You can't.

Spy Black's picture

You just sound like a Canon fanboy, looking for any excuse to rip Nikon no less.