Canon's New Lenses Are Just as Exciting as Their New Cameras

Canon's New Lenses Are Just as Exciting as Their New Cameras

The new Canon EOS R6 and the R5 in particular have generated loads of excitement with their powerful feature sets. However, Canon also announced four new lenses alongside the cameras, and I think those are just as much reason to be excited.

No doubt, the Canon EOS R5 is one heck of a camera and a good reason to be excited. But along with the EOS R5 and R6, the company also introduced four new lenses: the RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 L IS USM, 600mm f/11 IS STM, 800mm f/11 IS STM, and RF 85mm f/2 Macro IS STM. These lenses are just as exciting for a variety of reasons. 


So far, Canon's RF lenses have been lauded for their image quality and performance, but they have also been very expensive, even by professional standards. While a lot of professionals might embrace them, there are plenty of reasons why photographers (both amateur and professional) might prefer to opt for a cheaper lens.


This is probably the most common reason. A lot of us (particularly given the financial insecurity caused by the pandemic) simply cannot afford to shell out $3,000 for every lens in their bag. Having affordable options as Canon transitions into a mirrorless world is crucial for a wide range of photographers. Furthermore, the 600mm and 800mm give photographers the chance to explore extreme focal lengths at a more affordable price than ever, aside from something like a mirror lens. 

Good Enough

A lot of professionals look at gear from a purely business standpoint, meaning they look to maximize their return on investment. If a photographer does not challenge their lenses to the absolute max in terms of autofocus performance, aperture, sharpness, or weather-sealing, then from a business perspective, it makes much more sense to invest in a more affordable option.

Secondary Options and Backup

Certain genres necessitate carrying backup lenses, but that does not mean a photographer necessarily has to or even should duplicate their kit one-to-one. Often, it is better to have a more affordable option in reserve just in case; after all, it does not always make financial sense to have multi-thousand dollar lenses in your bag for the rare emergency situation. Better to carry something that can bridge the gap competently without breaking the bank until your primary kit is back in commission.

A More Complete Range of Price Levels

Lenses like the RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 L IS USM help to fill out the middle range of price levels. Traditionally, there are normally roughly three levels of pricing when it comes to long telephoto lenses. First, there are budget lenses, where you will find anything from kit-level lenses, such as the EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM ($377), to lenses made for serious hobbyists, such as the ever-popular Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 ($1,199). In this range, there are also narrow-aperture lenses that begin to grace the bottom of the super-telephoto focal length range, such as the EF 300mm f/4L IS USM ($1,349) and EF 400mm f/5.6L USM ($1,149). 

At the other end of the range are the stratospherically priced wide-aperture super-telephoto primes. These are lenses like the EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM ($11,999). This is the sort of glass owned by specialist photographers in the most demanding environments who need top-end performance and quality: professional sports photographers, wildlife photographers, etc.

Then, in the middle range ($2,000-3,000), we have probably the most versatile range for a lot of professionals. These are lenses like the ever-popular 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 design (normally around $2,300 from a first-party manufacturer).

The RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 L IS USM ($2,699) is the direct analog to that design. Some have lamented the maximum aperture of f/7.1 at the long end, but it's important to remember that that puts it probably at f/6.3 at 400mm, only a third of a stop slower than f/5.6, a negligible difference, especially for the 100mm gain in overall focal length. Of course, we do not have analogs of the upper tier yet, but that being said, autofocus performance with Canon brand adapters is generally just as good as the native EF mount, and surely, RF versions will be on the market eventually. 

Great Secondary Lenses

Lenses like the RF 600mm f/11 IS STM and RF 800mm f/11 IS STM also make fantastic lenses for secondary work. By that, I mean either a genre outside a photographer's primary work or a lesser-used lens for primary work. This could be a landscape photographer who likes to capture shots of the occasional wildlife or birds while out shooting landscapes. Or it could be that same landscape photographer who also wants a long telephoto for the occasional abstract shot along with the more standard wide angle photos. 

More Portable

Once you get into super-telephoto territory, there is no such thing as a light lens; that's just a consequence of the glass necessary to reach those extremes. Still, there are a range of weights from monopod necessary to reasonable to handhold and carry in a backpack all day. Tipping the scales at a little over 2 lbs (about a kilogram), the new 600mm and 800mm lenses can be hiked with all day without feeling the effects of the bulk in one's muscles. Even better is that they retract to make them easier to store, a clever design by Canon, given that supertelephoto lenses often have a lot of empty space between their elements. 


Along with the retractable design, Canon also saved on bulk through the use of their diffractive elements in the 600mm and 800mm, seen before in a few lenses, which uses special elements that bend light to a more significant degree than normal elements, allowing for the use of less glass, resulting in less length and weight. All four lenses offer the Control Ring feature, which allows the photographer to assign a parameter like ISO for easy adjustments. The RF 85mm f/2 Macro IS STM offers a wide aperture and 1:2 macro capabilities at the classic portrait length along with image stabilization and a very affordable price ($599). This could make it a fantastically versatile lens for people like wedding photographers, giving them a nice portrait option along with macro capabilities for detail shots.


No doubt, the new EOS R5 is highly exciting, but I think Canon's new lenses are just as exciting, and even if they don't fit your personal needs, they show a future highlighted by innovation. Are you excited for them?

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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I guess different people get excited about different things. I'm thinking "interesting" is a better word.

Not a fan of the turtle head lens design. If you want to use the 70-200 with a rig it changes things.

The 85 f/2 IS STM looks really interesting for that price point.The next generation after 85 f/1.8, now with IS. Let's see the reviews.

I believe I read that the 100-500 is actually still at 5.6 at 400mm, just like the EF 100-400 at that focal length. So essentially you are just getting an extra 100mm of zoom to use in a package that weighs a little less than the 100-400. Sounds pretty great to me.

The white always was a big turn off ... same with the Sony’s...

Do you mean the actual color of the lens? The color of the paint on it? How does that matter in a practical sense?

Yep... mostly I don’t like the look of having my gear in black and then one white lens - the biggest of all - on a black camera

In practical manner I feel like I’m screaming “look at my big fat lens” mostly. Also I’m pretty sure white would add to the cost of the lens not that it would make a big difference on a $2-3k lens.

And also - if I was shooting wildlife it seems rather silly to have white on a lens... it’s just that I don’t find it particularly “sensible” to use white, which is obviously and merely a marketing gimmick with no functionality, for a professional community who, I bet you $100, would rather have a black version if they could buy one.

Is it the end of the world?

No of course not.

There is some small technical benefit to white for sports photographers. All day out in bright summer sunlight, a black lens will get very hot which over the course of years could change its performance for the worse. I loathe the "big whites" though which is why I shot the 80-200mm f2.8 Magic Drainpipe in black when I was a Canon shooter. Shoot sports on Nikon now and enjoying black life.

Black Lenses Matter??

Oh no you diin't! :D

I thought about it before clicking on "POST" but then remembered, I don't care. ;-)

I did not think of the heating side of things ... at least it gives me other reason, apart from marketing, why white could be of benefit in some situations... thanks

Still a turnoff for me too

The 100-500 could be a nice lens with a great reach. A little bit slow on the tele end but that doesn't matter for me. But at €3150 it's to expensive. Sigma should fill the gap.

The 85mm isn't a real macro. It isn't capable of 1:1. €720 for a macro lens that can't shoot macro: no go.

The 600 and 800 could be something really special that got me into Canon R. F11 isn't a problem for me and how I would use this lenses. At €820 and €1070 the price seemed reasonable. But Canon also blew this one. Fixed aperture, dust pump design, awkward to handle and no weather sealing? No weather sealing on a wildlife lens? Come on Canon....

So what's to exited about these lenses? I think Canon blew it big time. And don't mention the absurd price of the R6. €2740. Both Nikon and Sony do better if you want to go FF.

I think a lot of people are going to like the 800mm. f/11 won’t be as limiting on an R6 as some are thinking. You’ll probably be able to get solid images at 6400 ISO or even a little higher.

Can any of the Canons autofocus at f/11?

Yes(*). Apparently they can even autofocus at f/22 when using the new 2x extenders on the new 600 & 800mm lenses. At least R5 and R6 can with the Dual Pixel II. I'm not sure if the older Canons can too?

(*) Though not in 100%x100% frame area. AF should work in an similar sized area as an DSLR are typically able to focus.

I’m a bit confused and quite possibly missing something. What would you intend taking photographs of using a f11 800 mm lens? Statues? Dead animals or creatures like Sloths? Ok so it’s light weight, so what? What’s the point of a light weight lens if the situations/subjects where you can use it are pretty limited? Even on a cloudy day to achieve a reasonable shutter speed the ISO is going to have to be pretty high. While Topaz can achieve remarkable results with noise reduction, there are limits.

I take thousands of bird photos every year at f11 and smaller. I have a big Sigma 300-800mm f5.6, but many times I want a lot of depth of field, so I stop way down for environmental portraits and the like. I also have a Canon 100-400mm v2, and I use that a lot at f11 and beyond.

Not sure why you think that most wildlife photography would demand larger apertures ..... that just isn't the case at all.

I took this photo a couple weeks ago at f14 in ambient light and at 3200 ISO. Seems like it was the perfect aperture to give me proper depth of field and also allow a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the wings of a bird in flight.

I don't understand what you say about f11 only being good for photographing Sloths and dead animals and statues. Are you speaking from actual experience at small apertures, or just thinking stuff up?

I wonder if the demand for longer lenses is linked to the way photographers are making photographs during a pandemic?

There is a major caveat to the 600mm and 800mm lenses that almost nobody seems to be talking about, or even realize.

With these f11 lenses, you can ONLY shoot them at f11. There isn't an adjustable aperture. You can't stop down to f13 or f16 or f22. Just f11 - that's all you have available to you.

So one would think that these would be great lenses for people who like to get a lot of depth of field in their telephoto images, but that is not the case at all.

An example of a situation in which this inability to stop down would be a real problem:

If two birds briefly land on the same perch, but one is 8 inches further from you than the other, there is no way you can stop down to get them both in sharp focus. You would have to have time to focus on one bird, take the image, then focus on the other bird, and take that image, and then make a composite on your computer. Many times the birds just sit there for a second or two, so there is no time to do all that. Plus, there are many photographers who do not have the software or the editing/computer skills to figure out how to combine images in post. Focus stacking is not for everybody.

There are many times that I shoot bird and wildlife photos at f11. But there are also many, many times when I stop down to f14 or f16 or f22 because I need the additional depth of field.

With these new 600mm and 800mm Canon lenses, having a maximum aperture of f11 wouldn't bother me that much. But being permanently stuck at f11 ..... that just might be a deal-breaker.

I'm not sure who'll be buying these lenses but there's a good chance they shoot fully auto anyway.

I hope the lenses don't get as excited and start overheating like the cameras...

Exciting lenses? A super telezoom f/7.1 at 500mm long end? Even Tamron and Sigma produced f/6.3 at 600mm. So did Sony on their mirrorless dedicated lens 200-600mm. On top of it, the Canon lens is the priciest among all the above.

And who will be interested in the f/11 super telephoto prime lenses??? No front line manufacturer ever made an f/11 telephoto lens, perhaps they never will. It's an issue of prestige. Only Rokinon and Opteka make such lenses and offer those at around 100 dollars each. Is Canon competing against them now?

For those who trashed micro four thirds because the lens equivalents were too slow. Really! A fixed f-ELEVEN?

This won't end well LOL!