Canon RF 100-400mm f/5.6-8 IS USM: First Impressions

AlanF

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I ordered the Canon RF 100-400mm yesterday, it arrived this morning, and the lens now "Pre-order" status on the website. I had time for just a few tests and one or two shots only, so I'll give my initial impressions and follow up later with more. I do have the RF 100-500mm and an EF 100-400mm II (for a 5DSR), and they are my reference points.

The RF 100-400mm is just so light in comparison and in absolute terms. It weighs just 680g complete with hood, compared with 1700g for the 100-400mm II or 1610g for the 100-500mm. That kilo of weight, 2.2 lb, makes a huge difference. The little lens on the R5 is so comfortable to hold and so balanced when shooting, especially with the control ring towards the front, it is much easier for shooting and hiking with.

In terms of IQ with my standard charts at 20m, the bare lens is pretty close to the 100-400mm II at 400mm. With the RF 1.4x, it's not as sharp as the 100-400mm II at 560mm or the 100-500mm at 500mm. It's not nearly as good at 800mm as the EF lens with the 2xTCs or even remotely in the same league as the 100-500mm at 1000mm. It does focus noticeably closer than does the RF 100-500mm. The lens is probably best used without teleconverters.

It's not as good as my RF 100-500mm, but I can stroll around with it dangling from my hand rather than being a heavy item on a shoulder strap. It will be perfect for my wife who finds the white zoom lenses too heavy. And, it's also pretty inconspicuous when when walking around urban areas. So, it's a keeper for me, being good enough for much of my casual photography, and so easy to carry around or pack. It has the same nominal resolution on the R5 as the RX10 IV fully extended (f/4 220mm, 2.7 crop factor, 20 Mpx sensor) which I have liked
for casual convenience. But, the Canon is much sharper.

Here are my first two shots: a Great Tit flying off me feeder towards me, and a Stubble Rosegill mushroom.

309A9025-DxO_RF100-400mm_great_tit_flying_towards-sm.jpg
Stubble_Rosegill_Mushroom_top_side _sm.jpg
 

Jethro

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Thanks Alan - your initial comments are pushing me closer to ordering this lens. It's unlikely I would use it with TCs, so the fact that it seems to be sharp at the long end (and very lightweight) are massive positives.
 

Maximilian

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Thanks @AlanF.

Looks like Canon did a really good move with this lens for amateurs and people that prefer light gear.
Some of us gear geeks might moan over the f numbers but that's the compromise one has to take for the weight.

I'm looking forward to see more impressions.
 

AlanF

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There is less focus breathing and greater magnification at minimum focus distance with the RF 100-400 than the RF100-500mm, and EF 100-400mm II.

RF 100-400mm, mfd @400m setting = 1050mm, magnification = 0.41x, effective focal length 216mm
EF 100-400mm II, mfd @400m setting = 970mm, magnification = 0.31x, effective focal length 175mm
RF 100-500mm, mfd @500m setting = 1194mm, magnification = 0.33x, effective focal length 224mm

(The mfds are the measured ones - the Canon figures for mfd are sometimes for an intermediate focal length).
 
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unfocused

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Great. Now you've done it. I wasn't even considering this lens until you pointed out how light it is. So many times, I leave my camera at home when going for a walk in the prairie park by our house. Yesterday I saw a Great Blue Heron nail a 13-lined ground squirrel and of course no camera. While sharing lenses doesn't usually work too well for us, I think that this is one that my wife and I can share, since we both have the 100-500 for serious trips.

I checked the Best Buy website and it was in stock. So now it's supposed to arrive next week. Canon thanks you. My wallet doesn't. :)
 
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AlanF

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Great. Now you've done it. I wasn't even considering this lens until you pointed out how light it is. So many times, I leave my camera at home when going for a walk in the prairie park by our house. Yesterday I saw a Great Blue Heron nail a 13-lined ground squirrel and of course no camera. While sharing lenses doesn't usually work too well for us, I think that this is one that my wife and I can share, since we both have the 100-500 for serious trips.

I checked the Best Buy website and it was in stock. So now it's supposed to arrive next week. Canon thanks you. My wallet doesn't. :)
You will now need two, I am afraid. The weight difference is really noticeable.
 
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I wonder how the lens (a keeper, I'm sure) compares with the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM...it sounds to me, AlanF, that your intended usage for your newest lens is simlar to the way I use the 70-300 II.

I did check and the dimensions (length and weight) are roughly comparable.

I know this: I'm always very surprised at the high (as in good enough for me) quality of the images that result from the EF 70-300 II lens. I'll bet the RF 100-400 here is at least (tied for first) in this 'category'.

EDIT: same filter size as well (I think)
 

dcm

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A couple of American Widgeons. R6, RF 100-400. DxO PL4.

I had an enjoyable first outing with this lens at a local park. This combination works well and makes a great companion to the RF 800. My 12 liter Kenba Solstice holds the body and both lenses with some room to spare. Hardly noticed I was carrying it by hand and wrist strap with the RF 800 in the pack.

The weight/size alone makes it preferable for me over my EF 100-400L II for the 1DXII or EF 70-300L which I primarily use with the M6II. The image quality seems to stand up well. I like the shorter MFD which has sometimes been a problem with the EF 100-400L II. The lack of a tripod foot doesn't seem an issue - it sits fine on a body mounted to the tripod. And the light weight worked well tracking DIF (ducks in flight).

DMR67615.jpg

DMR67625.jpg

DMR67663.jpg
 

EricN

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Aug 10, 2021
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A couple of American Widgeons. R6, RF 100-400. DxO PL4.

I had an enjoyable first outing with this lens at a local park. This combination works well and makes a great companion to the RF 800. My 12 liter Kenba Solstice holds the body and both lenses with some room to spare. Hardly noticed I was carrying it by hand and wrist strap with the RF 800 in the pack.

The weight/size alone makes it preferable for me over my EF 100-400L II for the 1DXII or EF 70-300L which I primarily use with the M6II. The image quality seems to stand up well. I like the shorter MFD which has sometimes been a problem with the EF 100-400L II. The lack of a tripod foot doesn't seem an issue - it sits fine on a body mounted to the tripod. And the light weight worked well tracking DIF (ducks in flight).

View attachment 200908

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It's sharper than I guessed!
 

Jethro

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I checked and I did have several DxO features turned in my preset, including sharpening and deepPrime noise reduction. Here they are with nothing but the camera rendering.
I'm almost more impressed than I was before. It's good!
 
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BBarn

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Just stepped outside for first shots with the new lens on an R5. Was surprised that Av with auto ISO chose ISO 100 and a 1/10 shutter. I thought, how can that be sharp at 1/10 & 400mm?. But I focused on a point near the trunk and am now most impressed with the IS/IBIS. JPG SOOC.

BBR50019.JPG
 
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AlanF

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I like the shorter MFD which has sometimes been a problem with the EF 100-400L II. The lack of a tripod foot doesn't seem an issue - it sits fine on a body mounted to the tripod. And the light weight worked well tracking DIF (ducks in flight).
The RF 100-400mm has a longer mfd at 400mm of 1.05m than the EF 100-400mm II, which is 0.97m (measured by me and TDP).
 

AlanF

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I wonder how the lens (a keeper, I'm sure) compares with the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM...it sounds to me, AlanF, that your intended usage for your newest lens is simlar to the way I use the 70-300 II.

I did check and the dimensions (length and weight) are roughly comparable.

I know this: I'm always very surprised at the high (as in good enough for me) quality of the images that result from the EF 70-300 II lens. I'll bet the RF 100-400 here is at least (tied for first) in this 'category'.

EDIT: same filter size as well (I think)
It takes the same lenshood as well, the ET-74B. It has an outrageous price of £76 in the UK. Fortunately, as the 70-300mm II has been around a few years, there are plenty of knock-off ones at £10-12. As a matter of principle, I am not spending £76 on a piece of black plastic that will likely need to be repalced after a few knocks.
 

dcm

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The RF 100-400mm has a longer mfd at 400mm of 1.05m than the EF 100-400mm II, which is 0.97m (measured by me and TDP).
My mistake. For some reason I thought it was more like 3 meters. Should have checked the facts before I posted.
 
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AlanF

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My mistake. For some reason I thought it was more like 3 meters. Should have checked the facts before I posted.
Have you noticed the battery life of the R5 with the RF 100-400? My first impressions are that the battery life is lower than with the 100-500mm.
 

dcm

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Have you noticed the battery life of the R5 with the RF 100-400? My first impressions are that the battery life is lower than with the 100-500mm.
Not much to report on battery life yet - I was only shooting for about 20 minutes on an R6. The battery info. menu says 73% with a shutter count of 126 a few days later on an LP-E6NH. I haven't been out for an extended shoot yet.

I can shoot all day ranging from 100-450 images on the R6 with a single charged battery, no matter what lens. I haven't yet resorted to turning off the rear LCD or other battery saving measures. I can't remember the last time I did a battery swap while shooting, but I still carry a spare just in case.

Still waiting for some announcements before I decide on R5, R3, or R?. There is o hurry, I'm pretty busy except for the summer and the R6 has been fine for my needs so far.
 

unfocused

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Received mine today. Went for a brief walk in the park and I can't say enough about how light the combination of this lens and the R5 are. Exactly what I was hoping for -- something that I can take along when I'm getting my steps in without feeling weighed down. It's no 100-500, but at a fraction of the cost and weight it's a lens that I am likely to bring along "just in case."
 

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AlanF

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Received mine today. Went for a brief walk in the park and I can't say enough about how light the combination of this lens and the R5 are. Exactly what I was hoping for -- something that I can take along when I'm getting my steps in without feeling weighed down. It's no 100-500, but at a fraction of the cost and weight it's a lens that I am likely to bring along "just in case."
I've changed my requirements steadily over the years, looking for lighter and better lenses for serious nature photography, with the 400mm DO II plus extender as my upper weight limit for walking and hand holding. I've been constantly looking for lighter alternatives. The 100-400mm II on the 5DSR has proved to be more than good enough for general use, and for the year before last the Nikon 500 PF on the D500 and D850 my preference as they are really where Canon should have taken the DO technology and 7DII and 5DIV. In the last year, the 100-500 on the R5 has been my first choice. Looking for lighter lenses still on the 5DSR, I tried the Sigma and Tamron 100-400mm f/6.3s but they were not up to what I wanted. The RF 100-400 is just so much better than the Sigma and Tamrons, with excellent AF and IS that they didn't have. So, I have transitioned from having the 400mm DO II + extenders on the 5DIV or 5DSR as my heavier top alternative and 100-400mm II as my lightweight good enough alternative, to the 100-500mm being my heavier top class gear with the RF 100-400mm being the lightweight good enough that I take on my daily walks.