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

LogicExtremist

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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).

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Which gives the better image quality, the Rf 800 f/11 or the RF 100-400mm? Thanks
 

LogicExtremist

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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.
You mentioned that the Rf 100-400mm has better AF and IS than the Sigma and Tamron 100-400mm f/6.3s, was that the reason they didn't suit your needs? Was the image quality better or worse. I'm trying to decide between the Canon RF 100-400mm and the Ef mount Sigma 100-400mm, any recommendations or advice would me much appreciated, thanks! :)
 

AlanF

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You mentioned that the Rf 100-400mm has better AF and IS than the Sigma and Tamron 100-400mm f/6.3s, was that the reason they didn't suit your needs? Was the image quality better or worse. I'm trying to decide between the Canon RF 100-400mm and the Ef mount Sigma 100-400mm, any recommendations or advice would me much appreciated, thanks! :)
See: https://www.canonrumors.com/forum/threads/100-400mm-canon-vs-tamron-vs-sigma.34124/#post-699943

Sigma might have updated the firmware to improve the IS, but the original was pretty bad.
 
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dcm

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Which gives the better image quality, the Rf 800 f/11 or the RF 100-400mm? Thanks
I have not used the RF 100-400 enough to form that kind of opinion. My initial impression is that both are good enough for my purposes. I’ve had the 800 long enough and shot in a wide variety of situations to confirm my initial impression. They both pair well with my R6 and fit in a small backpack for a lightweight carry. I won’t speculate on results with an R5 - see @AlanF.

That’s a bit of an apples to oranges comparison anyway. These lenses serve different focal lengths/purposes for me. I am generally not a pixel peeper so test charts will not matter much to me. Comparing a cropped 400mm photo to an 800mm photo doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I don’t plan to get the RF 2X extender so a head to head comparison is not important either. I won’t bother comparing the RF 100-400 with the EF 100-400 L II, many others will do that and confirm what we already expect. Maybe someone will compare an EF 800 with the RF 800 someday. They can all take great photos.

I bought the R6 and these lenses for size/weight considerations. The 1DXII and L glass are getting a bit heavy to lug around all of the time as I get older. Most of my everyday shooting had switched to the smaller/lighter M series, but it lacks telephoto options. The R6, RF100-400, and RF800/RF1.4x addresses this need much better than adapting EF lenses to an M body and gives me more capabilities than I had before. And it costs a lot less the the EF 600 L that I considered a few years ago, but never pulled the trigger due to size/weight.

I still use my EF glass on the R6. I shot with the EF 11-24 earlier this week. The 1DXII is my backup body for now while I wait to see what new R bodies are on the horizon.
 
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LogicExtremist

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I have not used the RF 100-400 enough to form that kind of opinion. My initial impression is that both are good enough for my purposes. I’ve had the 800 long enough and shot in a wide variety of situations to confirm my initial impression. They both pair well with my R6 and fit in a small backpack for a lightweight carry. I won’t speculate on results with an R5 - see @AlanF.

That’s a bit of an apples to oranges comparison anyway. These lenses serve different focal lengths/purposes for me. I am generally not a pixel peeper so test charts will not matter much to me. Comparing a cropped 400mm photo to an 800mm photo doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I don’t plan to get the RF 2X extender so a head to head comparison is not important either. I won’t bother comparing the RF 100-400 with the EF 100-400 L II, many others will do that and confirm what we already expect. Maybe someone will compare an EF 800 with the RF 800 someday. They can all take great photos.

I bought the R6 and these lenses for size/weight considerations. The 1DXII and L glass are getting a bit heavy to lug around all of the time as I get older. Most of my everyday shooting had switched to the smaller/lighter M series, but it lacks telephoto options. The R6, RF100-400, and RF800/RF1.4x addresses this need much better than adapting EF lenses to an M body and gives me more capabilities than I had before. And it costs a lot less the the EF 600 L that I considered a few years ago, but never pulled the trigger due to size/weight.

I still use my EF glass on the R6. I shot with the EF 11-24 earlier this week. The 1DXII is my backup body for now while I wait to see what new R bodies are on the horizon.
Agreed, they're totally difefrent focal lengths, and as Alan has pointed out, the FOV will be different, so a on-for-one comparison isn't valid. I probably didn't explain myself, I was thinking more from a practical perspective in terms of final output, framing a subject and taking the photo. More interested in how people would rate the final output, a photo of a bird for example. I'm aware that if I bought the RF 100-400 rather than the RF 800 I would have to get twice as close to the bird to fill the frame, but it would be easier to get closer shots due to the much shorter minimum focus distance. Perhaps what I'm asking is that if I were to only choose one as a general purpose wildlife lens, which would be the better buy? Would be great to hear your opinion once you've had more time with the lens, thanks!
 

dcm

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Agreed, they're totally difefrent focal lengths, and as Alan has pointed out, the FOV will be different, so a on-for-one comparison isn't valid. I probably didn't explain myself, I was thinking more from a practical perspective in terms of final output, framing a subject and taking the photo. More interested in how people would rate the final output, a photo of a bird for example. I'm aware that if I bought the RF 100-400 rather than the RF 800 I would have to get twice as close to the bird to fill the frame, but it would be easier to get closer shots due to the much shorter minimum focus distance. Perhaps what I'm asking is that if I were to only choose one as a general purpose wildlife lens, which would be the better buy? Would be great to hear your opinion once you've had more time with the lens, thanks!

I shoot a wide range of wildlife from birds to moose at home, natural areas, and national parks. Sometimes I can get close, sometimes not. I tried the first Tamron 150-600 but was never pleased with the lens. After that I got the EF 100-400 L II and use it with the 1DXII or R6. But I really wanted to go longer. I considered great whites with extenders, but could not convince myself to pull the trigger as I get older and look to lighten the load.

The RF 800 is what I'd been looking for. The R6/RF800/RF1.4x has been great addition. It allows me to get photos that were not possible before. It took a while to get comfortable using it at f/11 and f/16, but after a short learning curve I found I could achieve great photos with it.

I wasn't considering the RF 100-500 and didn't think the RF 100-400 would interest me since I already had the EF version. But the price/size/weight made me take another look and it seemed like too good of deal to pass up. I expect a learning curve with RF 100-400 before I get it dialed in. I expect I will be as happy with it as I am with the 800.

I've only been out once and just don't have the mileage yet as you noted - shooting or post processing. But the answer would the same. Get both for exactly the reasons you mentioned. It's only a matter of when. You just have to decide which one to get first.
 
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LogicExtremist

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I shoot a wide range of wildlife from birds to moose at home, natural areas, and national parks. Sometimes I can get close, sometimes not. I tried the first Tamron 150-600 but was never pleased with the lens. After that I got the EF 100-400 L II and use it with the 1DXII or R6. But I really wanted to go longer. I considered great whites with extenders, but could not convince myself to pull the trigger as I get older and look to lighten the load.

The RF 800 is what I'd been looking for. The R6/RF800/RF1.4x has been great addition. It allows me to get photos that were not possible before. It took a while to get comfortable using it at f/11 and f/16, but after a short learning curve I found I could achieve great photos with it.

I wasn't considering the RF 100-500 and didn't think the RF 100-400 would interest me since I already had the EF version. But the price/size/weight made me take another look and it seemed like too good of deal to pass up. I expect a learning curve with RF 100-400 before I get it dialed in. I expect I will be as happy with it as I am with the 800.

I've only been out once and just don't have the mileage yet as you noted - shooting or post processing. But the answer would the same. Get both for exactly the reasons you mentioned. It's only a matter of when. You just have to decide which one to get first.
Thanks, I'm wanting mine for the same purpose as you use yours, so this really helps! looks like the two make a very good lightweight combination! :)
 

AlanF

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Thanks, I'm wanting mine for the same purpose as you use yours, so this really helps! looks like the two make a very good lightweight combination! :)
I have all three: the RF 100-500mm, RF 100-400mm and RF 800 f/11. The combination of RF 100-400mm and RF 800 does make the more affordable way of spanning 100-800mm with excellent quality, albeit at a bit of a gap between 400-800mm, and does give the really nice choice of taking out one lightweight lens or the other. If I go out and want the wider gamut of focal lengths, I'll take the 100-500mm on the R5 and the RF 2x in my pocket or in a small bag around my waist. There's not much difference in weight between taking the RF 100-400mm + RF 800 f/11 vs 1000-500mm + RF 2x, but the RF 100-500mm outresolves the 100-400mm, and at 1000mm the 800mm, and the combination is more shower proof and much easier to carry when hiking. But, that zoom and the 2xTC are very expensive.
 

LogicExtremist

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I have all three: the RF 100-500mm, RF 100-400mm and RF 800 f/11. The combination of RF 100-400mm and RF 800 does make the more affordable way of spanning 100-800mm with excellent quality, albeit at a bit of a gap between 400-800mm, and does give the really nice choice of taking out one lightweight lens or the other. If I go out and want the wider gamut of focal lengths, I'll take the 100-500mm on the R5 and the RF 2x in my pocket or in a small bag around my waist. There's not much difference in weight between taking the RF 100-400mm + RF 800 f/11 vs 1000-500mm + RF 2x, but the RF 100-500mm outresolves the 100-400mm, and at 1000mm the 800mm, and the combination is more shower proof and much easier to carry when hiking. But, that zoom and the 2xTC are very expensive.
Cool, you have both the budget and the premium combinations for the task! The 100-500mm with a teleconverter is a very versatile, albeit expensive combo for wildlife. If I had the money I'd get one! :)

What amazes me is how far affordable long tele lenses have come since the original EF 100-400 series I lens, which is not considered that sharp these days!
 
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AlanF

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Cool, you have both the budget and the premium combinations for the task! The 100-500mm with a teleconverter is a very versatile, albeit expensive combo for wildlife. If I had the money I'd get one! :)

What amazes me is how far affordable long tele lenses have come since the original EF 100-400 series I lens, which is not considered that sharp these days!
The original EF 100-400mm had serious copy variation. The one I had was appalling, but I once tried another that was far better. Canon lenses now have good consistency from one copy to the next, but still do vary and you really do need to test the copy you buy before buying.
 

reefroamer

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I put the RF 100-400 on my wife's RP and weighed the combo on my scale at 2.66lbs. My R6+adapter+EF 100-400 II weighed in at 5.62lbs, more than twice the RP combo and nearly 3lbs more. That’s quite a difference. The RP combo is an especially portable solution for many situations. I’m a bit envious.
 

AlanF

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I put the RF 100-400 on my wife's RP and weighed the combo on my scale at 2.66lbs. My R6+adapter+EF 100-400 II weighed in at 5.62lbs, more than twice the RP combo and nearly 3lbs more. That’s quite a difference. The RP combo is an especially portable solution for many situations. I’m a bit envious.
The more I use the RF 100-400mm, the more I like it. It's very sharp and just right for me for casual hikes. When I need a longer lens that takes extenders well, it's the RF 100-500mm, which although a kilo heavier is still easily manageable.
 
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LogicExtremist

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I put the RF 100-400 on my wife's RP and weighed the combo on my scale at 2.66lbs. My R6+adapter+EF 100-400 II weighed in at 5.62lbs, more than twice the RP combo and nearly 3lbs more. That’s quite a difference. The RP combo is an especially portable solution for many situations. I’m a bit envious.
Can you please take a smaple photo or two with each setup and post them up?

I'm sure many people would be curious what kind of images are possible with a camera-lens combo that is half the weight and price! Thanks :)
 

AlanF

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Can you please take a smaple photo or two with each setup and post them up?

I'm sure many people would be curious what kind of images are possible with a camera-lens combo that is half the weight and price! Thanks :)
Go to the Bird Portraits thread and you’ll see some of mine. Start at end and work back.
 
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LogicExtremist

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Go to the Bird Portraits thread and you’ll see some of mine. Start at end and work back.
Thanks, here the link if others are interested - https://www.canonrumors.com/forum/threads/show-your-bird-portraits.1280/

I just wish more people added the EXIF data or specified what lenses they used, like you do in your posts there, as that's most helpful.

It's a great thread for appreciating the photographic skills of the people posting there and the amazing bird life, but it's kind of frustrating when you're trying to figure out what quality to expect from certain gear in some instances. I love seeing images shot on $12,000 lenses but I know that no gear that I can afford will ever look like that. What's inspiring is seeing photos like the Eurasian Robin you took with the RF 100-400mm, that tells me that the lens is capable of that quality on the R5, and the limiting factor for new bird photographers is developing the skill to make shots like that. :)
 
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mpphoto

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Alan (or anyone who has the RF 100-400mm), how does the AF compare with the EF 100-400mm II for tracking moving objects? The TDP review and test charts had me wary of the image quality from this lens, but after reading Alan's comments and seeing Christopher Frost's review, I'm starting to come around. The size and weight are attractive, and the f/8 at 400mm doesn't bother me.
 

AlanF

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Alan (or anyone who has the RF 100-400mm), how does the AF compare with the EF 100-400mm II for tracking moving objects? The TDP review and test charts had me wary of the image quality from this lens, but after reading Alan's comments and seeing Christopher Frost's review, I'm starting to come around. The size and weight are attractive, and the f/8 at 400mm doesn't bother me.
I haven't really put it through its paces directly comparing it with, say, the 100-500 for extreme BIF. I did some seagulls in flight early afternoon today and it was very good.
 
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AlanF

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Now I have had the lens for 3 weeks, I think every one should have one! I've worked my way through an EF 100-400mm, EF 100-400mm II, Tamron 100-400mm f/6.3 (and tried out the Sigma version), Tamron 150-600mm, Sigma 150-600mm C, RF 100-500mm and now the RF 100-400mm. The best is the 100-500mm. The most fun is the RF 100-400mm, and it beats into the ground the Tamron and Sigma 100-400mms for AF, and it's pretty close to the 100-400mm II in the centre for IQ. It's a steal.