Hello, fellow shutterbugs! Today, we’re diving deep into the world of telephoto lenses, and boy, do I have a treat for you. We’re taking a close look at the Canon RF800mm F11 IS STM, a lens that’s been causing quite a stir in the photography community. So, grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and let’s get into it!
For Canon’s full-frame mirrorless cameras, the RF 800mm F11 IS STM is a super-telephoto fixed focal length prime lens.
It’s the world’s lightest autofocus lens with a focal length of 800mm.
How does it achieve this?
It has a fixed f/11 maximum aperture which you can’t go above or below.
The RF 800mm F11 IS STM also has a clever retractable barrel structure that makes it more portable when not in use, making it ideal for travelling (relatively) light.
Canon have also employed Diffractive Optics lens elements in the RF 800mm, which they’ve previously used before on a few DSLR lenses, basically to make them smaller and lighter than comparable lenses without any negative effect on image quality.
The combination of the lens’ fixed aperture with no diaphragm blades means that it produces a perfectly circular bokeh, with the large focal length enabling photographers to blur the background sufficiently when photographing subjects in the distance.
It’s equipped with an optical Image Stabilizer that offers 4 stops of built-in stabilisation and it supports Dual Pixel CMOS AF when paired with a Canon EOS R System mirrorless camera.
Canon RF800 f11 – First Impression
When you first lay eyes on the Canon RF800mm F11 IS STM, you might be taken aback by its size. This lens is a beast, but don’t let that intimidate you. It’s surprisingly lightweight for its size, thanks to Canon’s innovative use of a Diffractive Optics (DO) element. This lens is designed to be portable and hand-holdable, making it a fantastic option for wildlife and sports photographers who are always on the move.
The build quality is excellent, as we’ve come to expect from Canon. It feels solid and robust, yet it’s not so heavy that it becomes a burden during long shooting sessions. The lens extends when in use, but it collapses down to a more manageable size when not in use, making it easier to pack and carry.
Focal Length: 800mm???
While this lens has some nice features, it is the 800mm super-telephoto focal length that should especially grab your focus. For the lens to be useful, the angle of view provided by the focal length must work for you. Note that, despite the small size and low cost of this lens, the RF 800 provides the same angle of view as all the other 800mm lenses (though there are not many). Primarily making this 800mm lens uncommon is the size, weight, and cost typically required to achieve this focal length. With this lens addressing those issues, what is the 800mm focal length’s very narrow angle of view commonly used for?
When you need to frame a subject tightly and can’t get closer, due to:
- physical barriers (streams, cliffs, fences, etc.)
- legislated barriers (lines on a field, property boundaries, etc.)
- a subject that does not tolerate closer photographers (skittish birds, for example)
- impacting subject behavior (such as the natural activity of wildlife)
- safety reasons (dangerous wildlife, high-speed vehicles, etc.)
- stealth requirements (such as for law enforcement missions)
- a requirement to avoid being a viewing obstruction (such as getting in front of the audience at a venue)
you might need an 800mm lens, and, if this lens’s f/11 aperture suits your need (more about that later), the RF 800mm lens might be the right choice.
When you want to capture a compressed look from a distant perspective, you might want an 800mm lens. When you want to create a strong background blur, isolating a subject from an otherwise-distracting background, an 800mm lens might be just right.
Canon RF800 f11 – Technical Details
Before we dive into the image quality and performance, let’s take a moment to appreciate the technical marvel that is the Canon RF800mm F11 IS STM lens. This lens was introduced in 2020 and is designed to mount on full-frame cameras. It’s constructed with 11 elements in 8 groups, providing an angle of view of 3°05′ diagonally, 2°35′ horizontally, and 1°40′ vertically.
The aperture range is fixed at f/11, which might seem limiting at first, but as we’ll discuss later, it’s surprisingly versatile in practice. The lens features an STM (Stepping Motor) type autofocus motor and offers full-time manual focus. The focus ring rotation is a substantial 440°, giving you fine control over your focus.
The lens has a specified minimum focus distance of 31.49” (800mm), and it offers a maximum magnification of 0.14x. It’s also compatible with extenders, giving you even more reach if needed.
In terms of size and weight, the manufacturer’s specifications list the lens as being 4 x 14.24” (101.6 x 361.8mm) and weighing 44.5 oz (1260g). However, in practice, the lens measures 4 x 11.44” (102 x 290.7mm) and weighs slightly less at 44.1 oz (1249g). The lens extends to a maximum length of 14.13” (358.9mm) when in use.
The lens does not come with a tripod ring or lens hood included, but these can be purchased separately. The lens is not weather-sealed, so you’ll need to take care when using it in adverse weather conditions. It does, however, feature image stabilization with up to 4 stops of correction.
Canon RF800 f11 – Image Quality
Now that we’ve covered the technical details, let’s get back to the image quality. As I mentioned earlier, the Canon RF800mm F11 IS STM produces sharp, clear, and detailed images. The fixed F11 aperture might seem like a limitation, but in practice, it works remarkably well, especially in good lighting conditions.
The lens’s 11 elements in 8 groups work together to minimize chromatic aberration and ensure high-resolution, high-contrast images. The use of a Diffractive Optics (DO) element helps to reduce the overall size and weight of the lens without compromising image quality.
One thing to note is that the lens does not have a rounded aperture, which can affect the quality of the bokeh (the aesthetic quality of the out-of-focus areas of an image). However, given that this lens is primarily designed for wildlife and sports photography where you’ll typically want your subject in sharp focus against a blurred background, this is not a significant issue.
Performance in the Field
In the field, the Canon RF800mm F11 IS STM truly shines. The incredible reach of this lens allows you to capture stunning close-ups of wildlife from a safe distance. The autofocus is quick and accurate, locking onto subjects with ease. The STM motor ensures that autofocus operation is smooth and quiet, which is particularly useful when you need to maintain silence to avoid disturbing wildlife.
The image stabilization system is a standout feature of this lens. With up to 4 stops of shake correction, you can shoot handheld in a variety of lighting conditions without worrying about camera shake. This is particularly useful when you’re tracking moving subjects, as it allows you to keep your camera and lens steady for sharp, blur-free images.
The fixed F11 aperture does limit your options in low light, but this lens is designed to excel in outdoor, daylight shooting scenarios. With a bit of planning and the right camera settings, you can work around this limitation. For example, you might choose to increase your ISO setting to maintain a fast shutter speed in lower light. However, keep in mind that increasing the ISO too much can introduce noise into your images, so it’s always a balancing act.
One of the things that surprised me most about the Canon RF800mm F11 IS STM was its portability. Despite its impressive reach, the lens is surprisingly lightweight and compact when not in use. This makes it a fantastic option for wildlife and sports photographers who need to move quickly and often. The lens’s design allows it to collapse down to a more manageable size when not in use, making it easier to pack and carry.
In terms of handling, the lens feels well-balanced on the camera body, even when fully extended. The focus ring is smooth and responsive, allowing for precise manual focus adjustments. The lens also features a focus limiter switch, which can be useful for speeding up autofocus performance in certain situations.
During my field testing, I found that the lens performed exceptionally well in a variety of shooting scenarios. Whether I was photographing birds in flight or athletes on the field, the Canon RF800mm F11 IS STM consistently delivered sharp, clear images with excellent detail.
Comparison with other lenses
It’s worth noting that the Canon RF800mm F11 IS STM is a unique lens in many ways. Its combination of extreme telephoto reach, compact size, and relatively affordable price point sets it apart from other lenses on the market.
For comparison, Canon’s EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM lens offers a wider maximum aperture and is a favorite among professional wildlife and sports photographers. However, it’s significantly heavier, larger, and more expensive than the RF800mm F11 IS STM. For amateur photographers or those on a budget, the RF800mm F11 IS STM offers a more accessible entry point into the world of super-telephoto photography.
On the other end of the spectrum, Canon’s RF 600mm F11 IS STM lens offers similar features to the 800mm version but with a shorter focal length. It’s even more compact and lightweight, making it a great option for those who prioritize portability. However, if you need the extra reach, the 800mm version is the way to go.
The good, the bad, the missing
– Brilliant new ultralight and inexpensive ultratele; created expressly for mirrorless to do what has never been possible on DSLRs.
– Collapsible telephoto.
– Super sharp in a tiny and inexpensive package.
– Image Stabilization, rated and actually giving 4 stops improvement so I get perfect sharpness most of the time at 1/60!
– Easily hand-holdable, even with the RF 2× extender.
– Separate focus and control rings.
– Tripod socket.
– Collapses for stowage.
– Works great with teleconverters.
– Ultra light.
– Doesn’t focus as fast as shorter lenses, which is to be expected.
– Having an f/11 maximum aperture means only about the central 20 × 20mm section of your image will have autofocus. Good news is this same area also works even with the Canon RF 2× extender.
– No diaphragm; always shoots at f/11.
– ET-101 hood not included (not needed, either).
– No case included
- Super sharp in a tiny and inexpensive package
- Great Image Stabilization
- Easily hand-holdable
- Separate focus and control rings
- Tripod socket
- Collapses for easier packing
- Works great with teleconverters
- Ultra light
- Doesn’t focus as fast
- No diaphragm; always shoots at f/11.
- ET-101 hood not included
- No case included
Who is this lens for?
The Canon RF800mm F11 IS STM is a specialized lens that’s perfect for wildlife and sports photographers. Its incredible reach allows you to capture stunning close-ups of distant subjects. Whether you’re photographing birds in your local nature reserve or athletes on the sports field, this lens gives you the ability to get in close without disturbing your subject.
However, this lens isn’t just for wildlife and sports photographers. Even landscape photographers will find value in its incredible reach and sharp optics. The ability to isolate distant elements of a landscape can open up new creative possibilities.
My opinion about the Canon RF 800 DO f11
In conclusion, the Canon RF800mm F11 IS STM is a game-changer for wildlife and sports photography, both for the serious hobby photographer as for the pro photographer. It offers incredible reach, excellent image quality, and a host of useful features, all in a package that’s surprisingly portable and user-friendly. It’s not without its limitations, but with a bit of practice and the right approach, this lens can help you capture stunning images that were previously out of reach, and all that for a reasonable budget.
So, if you’re a photographer looking to take your wildlife or sports photography to the next level, I highly recommend giving the Canon RF800mm F11 IS STM a try. You won’t be disappointed! I know I’m not!
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