RF 100-500mm vs EF 100-400mm II vs 400mm DO II on R5

AlanF

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One of the questions asked about the RF 100-500mm is whether it’s worth upgrading to it from an EF 100-400mm II plus adapter. The consensus so far is that if you are starting from scratch, then it makes sense to buy into the RF system but if you already have the excellent EF lens then there is not that much to be gained by discarding the excellent 100-400mm II. Although the RF is back-ordered everywhere in the UK, some copies appeared on the European Canon site and I couldn’t resist one. The 100-500mm arrived Thursday afternoon and I managed to get some preliminary analysis when it hasn’t been raining from the point of view of someone who likes a lightweight lens for hiking and taking photos of birds, perched and in flight, close up and distant, and dragonflies and butterflies close up.

I have compared it on the R5 with the EF 100-400mm II f/5.6 and 400mm DO II f/4 with and without a 1.4xTCIII, in particular. In general, all three are spectacular for AF, both for latching on to fast flying birds and the eyes of closer ones. As for IS, I don’t see much of an R improvement in my hands when looking for pixel level sharpness and I needed to get down to 1/160s for 50% absolutely tack sharp at the pixel level at 20m.

The websites that report on lens sharpness usually do so at just one undefined distance. I want to know how sharp a lens is close up, mid distances and further away. So, I have done some tests using a UK £10 note at 3 and 6m, and black and white resolution charts at 12 and 20m. The RF 1.4xTC is arriving next week and I’ll report on the lens at 700mm then.
 
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AlanF

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1. For birders and wildlife photography

Chart 12m
100-500mm has somewhat better resolution than 400mm DO II with more pixels on target but not quite as contrasty. It has better resolution than the 100-400mm II, and similar resolution to but better contrast than the 100-400mm II at 560mm with a 1.4xTCIII. The 100-500mm is outresolved by the 400mm DO II at 560mm with 1.4xTCIII or a Nikon 500mm f/5.6 PF on a D850.

Chart 20m
100-500mm somewhat better resolution than the 400mm DO, outresolves 100-400mm, and similar resolution to the 100-400mm II at 560mm but slightly better contrast. The 100-500mm is outresolved by the 400mm DO II at 560mm and 500mm PF.

Conclusion
The RF 100-500mm basically gives you the range of the 100-400mm II at 100-560mm without the need to use an extender and with slightly better performance at 500mm and f/7.1 in terms of resolution than the EF at 560mm and f/8.
 
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AlanF

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2. Close up for dragonflies and insects

I have been using the Nikon 500PF for this purpose as well as birds because it is spectacularly sharp at its minimum focal distance of 3m and short distances. I found the 100-400mm II softish close up. So how does the 100-500mm compare. The £10 note has a wide range of colouring, shading, embossing and sharp lines. I have just to illustrate the sharpness here used crops of Britannia from the bottom left, which has some useful concentric lines, and the head of our Queen, which is in grey but with some colouring on here face made up of alternating grey and white squares that merge as distance increases or as contrast is lost by the lens.

£10 note at 3m
100-500mm much better than 140-560mm and 100-400mm, not as good as the 500mm PF gold standard but getting there.

£10 note at 6m
100-500mm again much better than 140-560mm and 100-400mm, not as good as 500mm PF, but better than 400mm DO II and about same as 560mm DO II.

You can see all this from the crops in the next post, looking at Britannia’s rings and lines and the Queen’s face grey colouring. (I didn't correct the white balance here).

Conclusion
The RF 100-500mm is a real improvement over the 100-400mm II at close distances if you need high resolution and cropping. For me, this makes the RF lens worthwhile as I can use a single lens for a trip photographing insects and birds.
 
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AlanF

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The site has compressed the attachments so I have chopped them in two, the top pair at 3m, the bottom at 6m. Each part of the collage is a 100% crop (1 pixel of crop = 1 pixel of original image without resizing) taken on an R5.

Collage_3m_ann copy.jpg
Collage_3m_ann copy 2.jpg
Collage_6m_ann copy.jpg
Collage_6m_ann copy 2.jpg
 
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Joules

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if you already have the excellent EF lens then there is not that much to be gained by discarding the excellent 100-500mm II. Although the RF is back-ordered everywhere in the UK, some copies appeared on the European Canon site and I couldn’t resist one. The 100-500mm II arrived Thursday afternoon and I managed to get some preliminary analysis
Think you got some numbers jumbled up there - unless you've ordered a lens from the future :p

Excellent testing, thanks for sharing! Could you maybe confirm which camera these images were taken with on the Canon side of things? You mention the R in your OP but based on the resolution I would have guessed to look at R5 pictures? And also confirm that the size differences in your images arise from the fact that you have cropped to the same relative image section, but without applying any resizing?
 
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AlanF

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Think you got some numbers jumbled up there - unless you've ordered a lens from the future :p

Excellent testing, thanks for sharing! Could you maybe confirm which camera these images were taken with on the Canon side of things? You mention the R in your OP but based on the resolution I would have guessed to look at R5 pictures? And also confirm that the size differences in your images arise from the fact that you have cropped to the same relative image section, but without applying any resizing?
Thanks Joules for helping me make it clearer. I have corrected the typos and added "Each part of the collage is a 100% crop (1 pixel of crop = 1 pixel of original image without resizing) taken on an R5."
 

usern4cr

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Thank you very much, AlanF, for these great posts. As a Canon newbie, I got the R5 and RF 100-500 f4.5-7.1L and it has quickly become my favorite lens. The zoom range is great for mild telephoto to long telephoto (my favorite) which can give an enormous background blur with proper separation for flowers/cats etc. I *really* like the adjustable tension ring, and wish the RF 70-200 f2.8L had it.

One minor suggestion: Some of us newbies (like me) might not know the f# of the other lenses you mentioned, so it'd be good if you mention that at the beginning so we know what they are without having to look elsewhere to find them. - Thanks, again!
 
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AlanF

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Thanks for review. I ended up selling Sigma EF 60-600 and bought RF100-500 and RF800 instead. Now I pick one or occasionally both when needed.
You have posted some great shots with the 60-600mm. It’s a too-heavy lens for me. The RF 800 is a great lens but you do need a shorter lens to go with it and so yours is a route that is very sensible. I'm in a slightly different position as I have a 400mm DO II that with a 2xTC at f/8 is very sharp. I’m very intrigued to see how the 100-500mm performs with the 1.4xTC at 700mm. My guess is from the Canon MTFs it will be good but I’ll know in a day or two. I have found the attached collage useful. Whatever anyone writes, the new Canon MTF charts do have some bearing in reality, but individual copies of lenses do vary and performance does depend on distance to the target.


100-400_100_500_DO400Ann_.jpg


600_800_f11-2_00x.jpg
 

YuengLinger

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Do we know how the 100-500 is protected from damage when the zoom barrel bottoms out against the tele-extender?
 

HenryL

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Alan, thank you so much for this information. In my short time on this forum, I've come to trust your straightforward analysis and well considered opinions.

I purchased the 100-400II 15 months ago, at the time I had no intention of jumping to mirrorless. It now remains one of two remaining EF lenses in my kit, and your careful analysis makes it a simple decision for me to pick one up before the Osprey return and sell the 100-400II and also the 100L Macro that I have rarely ever used. Thanks again, heading over to the Buy/Sell forum. :)
 

bhf3737

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You have posted some great shots with the 60-600mm. It’s a too-heavy lens for me. The RF 800 is a great lens but you do need a shorter lens to go with it and so yours is a route that is very sensible. I'm in a slightly different position as I have a 400mm DO II that with a 2xTC at f/8 is very sharp. I’m very intrigued to see how the 100-500mm performs with the 1.4xTC at 700mm. My guess is from the Canon MTFs it will be good but I’ll know in a day or two. I have found the attached collage useful. Whatever anyone writes, the new Canon MTF charts do have some bearing in reality, but individual copies of lenses do vary and performance does depend on distance to the target.

Sigma 60-600 was a great lens and I miss it a little but it was quite heavy. It was heavier than the RF100-500 and RF800 combined.
Thanks for the charts. I actually used them as the base of my decision when you posted them earlier. For me, the 1.4x extender on RF100-500 could produce very good and acceptable results but I was not impressed with the RF 100-500 with 2x extender's IQ.
With the RF 1.4x extender: aperture is between f/8 to f/10 and effective focal length is 420mm to 700mm.
With the RF 2x extender: aperture is between f/11 to f/14 with effective focal length of 600mm to 1000mm.
For those who want one long lens the RF100-500 +1.4x extender would be an excellent choice. But I use the range of 100-400mm a lot and I was hesitant to put extender on the 100-500 lens, but then missed loner longer focal lengths. I guess RF800 fills that gap. With my kit, I have full access to 100-500mm range natively and occasionally 800mm when needed.
 
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mikekeck

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One of the questions asked about the RF 100-500mm is whether it’s worth upgrading to it from an EF 100-400mm II plus adapter. The consensus so far is that if you are starting from scratch, then it makes sense to buy into the RF system but if you already have the excellent EF lens then there is not that much to be gained by discarding the excellent 100-400mm II. Although the RF is back-ordered everywhere in the UK, some copies appeared on the European Canon site and I couldn’t resist one. The 100-500mm arrived Thursday afternoon and I managed to get some preliminary analysis when it hasn’t been raining from the point of view of someone who likes a lightweight lens for hiking and taking photos of birds, perched and in flight, close up and distant, and dragonflies and butterflies close up.

I have compared it on the R5 with the EF 100-400mm II f/5.6 and 400mm DO II f/4 with and without a 1.4xTCIII, in particular. In general, all three are spectacular for AF, both for latching on to fast flying birds and the eyes of closer ones. As for IS, I don’t see much of an R improvement in my hands when looking for pixel level sharpness and I needed to get down to 1/160s for 50% absolutely tack sharp at the pixel level at 20m.

The websites that report on lens sharpness usually do so at just one undefined distance. I want to know how sharp a lens is close up, mid distances and further away. So, I have done some tests using a UK £10 note at 3 and 6m, and black and white resolution charts at 12 and 20m. The RF 1.4xTC is arriving next week and I’ll report on the lens at 700mm then.
The site has compressed the attachments so I have chopped them in two, the top pair at 3m, the bottom at 6m. Each part of the collage is a 100% crop (1 pixel of crop = 1 pixel of original image without resizing) taken on an R5.

View attachment 194477 View attachment 194478 View attachment 194479 View attachment 194480
Thanks, Alan. I can't stop looking at that Nikon image. I'm a Canon user, but I have to ask: Why would you use the 100-500 for bird photography when you have that Nikon available?
 
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AlanF

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Thanks, Alan. I can't stop looking at that Nikon image. I'm a Canon user, but I have to ask: Why would you use the 100-500 for bird photography when you have that Nikon available?
My favourite kit for bird photography used to be a 5DIV or 5DSR plus 400mm DO II plus TCs. However, for recent safaris I took just the 100-400mm II for lightness and zoom versatility at the sacrifice of some IQ. Then, the 500PF came out but was back-ordered worse than the 100-500 is now but I got a used one cheap. I bought first a used D500 and then a D850 and was blown away by the AF of the Nikons, their fps and the IQ from the 500PF and the 45 Mpx sensor or its equivalent on the D500. I took photos of birds during lockdown in flight or with such detail, and similarly dragonflies and butterflies, that during lockdown I couldn’t do as well with Canon. So, I would have taken the Nikon for our post-COVID trips. Then comes along the R5, which is a game changer with its eyeAF. A really sharp zoom zoom with it would be very convenient for those safaris travelling light. So, I now have a delightful choice of what superlative kit to take. I’ll be comparing both extensively as the weather improves but I know I would be happy with either.
 

FramerMCB

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My favourite kit for bird photography used to be a 5DIV or 5DSR plus 400mm DO II plus TCs. However, for recent safaris I took just the 100-400mm II for lightness and zoom versatility at the sacrifice of some IQ. Then, the 500PF came out but was back-ordered worse than the 100-500 is now but I got a used one cheap. I bought first a used D500 and then a D850 and was blown away by the AF of the Nikons, their fps and the IQ from the 500PF and the 45 Mpx sensor or its equivalent on the D500. I took photos of birds during lockdown in flight or with such detail, and similarly dragonflies and butterflies, that during lockdown I couldn’t do as well with Canon. So, I would have taken the Nikon for our post-COVID trips. Then comes along the R5, which is a game changer with its eyeAF. A really sharp zoom zoom with it would be very convenient for those safaris travelling light. So, I now have a delightful choice of what superlative kit to take. I’ll be comparing both extensively as the weather improves but I know I would be happy with either.
Thanks Alan for sharing this info - good to know. I have a brother that shoots with a D750 and the PF 200-500mm f/5.6 VR lens. He gets very nice results.
 
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AlanF

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The RF 1.4x extender arrived at lunchtime between some meetings and I was able to test it using the damn chart at 12m and 20m, and comparing with the 400mm DO II at f/8, the 100-400mm II at f/11 with the 2xTC on the R5 , and the D850 with the 500mm PF at 700mm. In a nutshell, the DO II is a very narrow winner, closely followed by the 700mm PF, with the 100-500mm at 700 a very respectable 3rd. The 100-400mm II at 800mm and 12m is far behind. At 20m, you can see it's putting more pixels on target than the 700mm but the contrast is much lower. These results are not in line with the charts on the-digital-picture site. In particular, as I have pointed out before, Bryan's 400mm DO II must be a very bad copy - it is soft wide open and needs to be stopped down. Both copies I have looked at are very sharp wide open as is found on other test sites.
So, if my lens and extender are typical, the RF + 100-500mm is very usefully augmented by the RF 1.4 extender. If I require the sharpest lightweight telephoto set up with the R5, I'll take the 400mm DO II plus extenders (not too heavy rather than light). If I need to travel lighter and with a zoom, it will be the 100-500mm and 1.4 extender.
 
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usern4cr

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The RF 1.4x extender arrived at lunchtime between some meetings and I was able to test it using the damn chart at 12m and 20m, and comparing with the 400mm DO II at f/8, the 100-400mm II at f/11 with the 2xTC on the R5 , and the D850 with the 500mm PF at 700mm. In a nutshell, the DO II is a very narrow winner, closely followed by the 700mm PF, with the 100-500mm at 700 a very respectable 3rd. The 100-400mm II at 800mm and 12m is far behind. At 20m, you can see it's putting more pixels on target than the 700mm but the contrast is much lower. These results are not in line with the charts on the-digital-picture site. In particular, as I have pointed out before, Bryan's 400mm DO II must be a very bad copy - it is soft wide open and needs to be stopped down. Both copies I have looked at are very sharp wide open as is found on other test sites.
So, if my lens and extender are typical, the RF + 100-500mm is very usefully augmented by the RF 1.4 extender. If I require the sharpest lightweight telephoto set up with the R5, I'll take the 400mm DO II plus extenders (not too heavy rather than light). If I need to travel lighter and with a zoom, it will be the 100-500mm and 1.4 extender.
Thanks for the post, AlanF. Is there any way you can do a 1.4x crop of the RF 100-500 so that you can compare it with the same lens & RF 1.4x TC? That would be a wonderful thing to see (even better if on the R5) as that might help many of us who wonder if they should get a TC or crop their 100-500 for extra reach.
 
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