Archive for December, 2022

At the last PhotoFair I was able to buy a Canon RF 800/11 IS very slightly used for great price. Yeah, you read it right both times… F Eleven! Canon introduced this lens plus a smaller RF 600/11 about a year or so ago. Some of you that follow the more modern gear may have noticed that Canon and to a lesser extent, Nikon are starting to release lenses with slower aperture values. Canon even has an L series lens with a maximum tele aperture of f/7.1.

These two RF lenses the 800mm and 600mm are not L series lenses. They are however ridiculously small for what they are. These are not reflex mirror lenses but actually refractor type lenses. Canon has introduced the third generation of their Diffractive Optics, a fancy name for a modern take on Fresnel lenses. These special optics allow for a more compact lens with simpler lens designs. The simple design allowed Canon to make the lens collapse into a very small carry package. When ready to use you simply twist a locking ring and extend the lens out to the shooting position. Even at the shooting position the lens is small for an 800mm. The lens is also rather light weight coming in at a mere 1260 grams which is lighter than the EF 70-200/2.8 L but heavier than the RF 70-200/2.8 L. 1260 grams may seen heavy but may I remind you this is an 800mm lens!

I was intrigued with the concept when Canon first brought these to market. These lenses do not have an aperture diaphragm so f/11 is it. Honestly you rarely need to stop down lower than f/11 anyhow. The lens features Canon’s optical image stabilizer which really helps you get crisp sharp images even when the speed slows down to 1/125th second. It offers 4 stops of correction but on Canon’s IBIS equipped cameras you get a few more stops as well. I actually got a sharp image at 1/8th second on my R5. That of course was at least a little bit lucky I don’t expect to get 1/8th second exposures consistently sharp.

As for the 600mm version of this lens I wish it were a tad faster say f/9.5 but all you really get for that lens is a smaller package. It also collapses to make it compact. If I have to deal with f/11 I want that lens as long as possible 😉 According to Canon and numerous reports by other reviewers, you can actually use Canon’s 1.4x and 2x teleconverters on this lens. That seems crazy to me. With the 2x you end up with a 1600mm f/22 lens.

I do not own the RF converters, I do own both EF converters, but those will not work on this lens. Honestly the lens is pretty good. It is not razor sharp but it is very sharp. I feel it is noticeably better than the first generation DO lenses which were a bit soft for the crazy money Canon asked for them. This lens however is not priced extremely high. The 800/11 has an MSRP of $999 but Canon has a $100 rebate going on for it right now. The 600mm is a couple hundred less.

The build quality is mid-level with a nice soft touch material around parts of the barrel and a decent overall feel. No weather sealing is present nor does it come with a factory lens shade/hood. The official Canon shade is kind of cheap and expensive. It does provide good shade however. There are a number of knock off shades as well for it.

One thing that is a little disturbing is that the AF area is severely restricted compared to other lenses. The R5 has AF zones that cover 100% of the frame, but this lens is restricted to a center area about 40% of the frame. The AF is fast, but not lightning fast like some of Canon’s other lenses. The eye detect and animal detect focus work perfectly within that restricted zone. The AF restriction does make the lens a little challenging to track subjects and definitely messes with any rule of thirds composition. I am hoping that Canon will eventually do a firmware update that lets the lens used the whole frame. I suppos this restriction is due to the dark f/11 aperture, but oddly it still autofocuses even with the converters. I think it should be able to full frame focus without the teleconverters but hey I’m a photographer, not an engineer 😉 Also some reviewers online have suggested that the AF zone is larger when using crop sensor bodies like the EOS R7 and R10 and also on the EOS R3?!? Hmm, yeah like I said, I’m no engineer.

Regarding focus another slight bummer is the fact that this lens has a minimum focus distance of almost 20 feet (6m). Sure at 800mm the idea is to get shots from long distance and I understand that, but small birds for example, sometimes need a focus distance a bit tighter. 15 feet would have been awesome. I know I am nitpicking, but it is a thousand dollars after all, it’s not like this is a $399 lens.

Optically I am impressed, of course the ISO has get bumped up to support shooting at f/11 but overall the images are more than acceptable. I made a few images below, a few had a smidge of subject movement blur which of course IS can’r resolve. But overall I am happy with this lens.

Humming Bird at the feeder from about 21 feet away, cropped in about 20% EOS R5, RF 800/11 ISO 1600 1/40th second
Crow on the shed EOS R5, RF 800/11 ISO 800 1/320th second about 50 feet away
The Moon, uncropped EOS R5, RF 800/11 ISO 3200 1/250th second
Mindy in the yard, about 20 feet away. EOS R5, RF 800/11 ISO 1600 1/40th second
Urban Textures EOS R5 RF 800/11 ISO 800 1/640th second

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