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For almost four years, I have been a very happy user of the Canon RF 100-500MM F4.5-7.1 L IS USM telephoto lens. To me, it’s an almost perfect lens and because of that, I have used it for roughly 90% of my camera photography since I purchased it. Whether it’s wildlife or landscapes, it covers almost all of my photographic needs. Before we dive in, I wanted to share that this blog is by no means a super technical review of the Canon RF 100-500mm. I will, for example, not be comparing images at 400% crop to check sharpness as I do not believe that’s important at all.

What do I love so much about the Canon RF 100-500mm and is there something Canon could improve on to make it even better? Let’s find out!

Full disclosure: This is not a sponsored review. I am not being paid to write this review nor did Canon get any input or preview. All opinions are my own and I purchased this lens with my own money.

Review - Why I Love My Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM

I started out very actively using the Canon RF 100-500mm during the 2021 volcanic eruption in Geldingadalir.

Review - Why I Love My Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM

The Canon RF 100-500mm is my go-to lens these days and I use it for almost all of my camera photographs. I couldn’t imagine ever being without it.

Why Did I Get The Canon RF 100-500mm?

Coming from the heavier Canon EF 100-400mm II, the Canon RF 100-500mm felt like a breath of fresh air. It offered a lot of compelling updates to me compared to its EF predecessor. My main argument to switch over to the RF counterpart of an already excellent lens was the fact I would have a considerably lighter setup, which matters a lot when you shoot handheld a lot like I do. The Canon Canon RF 100-500mm is not only 331 grams lighter but because I also didn’t need the EF-RF adapter anymore, I shaved off another 121 grams. Together that makes a big difference, especially when using this lens all the time. Other arguments included the increased reach (100mm more) and the much improved image stabilisation in combination with EOS R cameras with IBIS, such as the Canon EOS R6 and Canon EOS R5, which I have both used in combination with that lens.

Having such reach in a lightweight package means I can easily photograph extreme close-ups without having to crop. This photograph of a leopard seal in Antarctica is taken uncropped at 500mm.

Even at the maximum reach with a teleconverter, a whopping 1000mm, it’s easy to handhold this lens.

What I Love About The Canon RF 100-500mm

It’s pretty obvious that I love using my Canon RF 100-500mm but what is it that I love about it?

Build Quality

Firstly, the build quality is terrific. Even though it’s made out of a kind of plastic material, it feels very sturdy and well-built. That plastic has one big advantage to it: it’s light weight. I can easily handhold this lens at the longest end, and even with the Canon RF 2x Teleconverter I have no issues shooting handheld at even 1000mm. But there’s another advantage to the plastic exterior: it doesn’t absorb the cold outside temperatures, which we experience a lot in Iceland during winter, as easily as the all-metal exterior of its EF predecessor. For me, that means it’s easier to handhold in colder temperatures too. The Canon RF 100-500mm is weather-sealed as you can expect from all Canon L lenses. I have put the weather-sealing to the test many, many times and it holds up very well. Not even in the harshest downpour have I encountered issues. In all honesty, this has become extremely important to me. I would never want to use another lens without weather-sealing again.

Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove in Greenland.

I have taken this lens all over the world and put it through some pretty rough situation, such as -35 degrees Celsius in West Greenland. It has always held up fine!

When capturing this portrait of an Atlantic Puffin, I was lying in wet grass while a pretty big downpour came over. My entire camera setup got absolutely soaked. The weather-sealing really held up!

Focal Range & Image Stabilisation

The Canon RF 100-500mm also comes with that extra 100mm of zoom range compared to my previous telephoto lens, which I have found to be very useful. This has been especially true when using my Canon EOS R6 which has limited megapixels compared to most mirrorless cameras. Having that extra reach means I need to crop less, still retaining a decent resolution for printing.

Additionally, one of the advantages of the RF system in combination with the new RF lenses, is the superb image stabilisation. In darker situations, or when shooting at the longest end which has an aperture of F7.1, I have had no issues handholding longer exposures. Although these days, I tend to shoot at much higher ISO ranges due to the superb noise reduction technology which has been included in software such as Adobe Lightroom.

The lens has three different stabilisation modes: one for still subjects, one for panning and one for irregular movement. It’s also good to know that the third stabilisation mode does not engage until you begin focusing. Choosing the right stabilisation mode is vital to get the best stabilisation performance. The image stabilisation in the lens works perfectly in tandem with the IBIS of your camera, if it has that functionality.

Having that extra range is so important in the many places I travel to. Often, I can simply not get closer to what my subject is because getting closer could mean putting yourself in danger.

Penguin in front of a glacier in Antarctica.

Having great image stabilisation is super important on a lens with a maximum focal length of 500mm. Especially when you are using it on moving vehicles and boats.

Image Sharpness

Another important aspect of this lens is of course the image sharpness. It’s safe to say that the Canon RF 100-500mm has absolutely no issues in that regard. In fact, it is probably the sharpest lens I own. I won’t delve into pixel-peeping comparisons here but the images below I believe speak volumes.


The autofocusing abilities of this lens are stellar thanks to the dual Nano USM autofocusing motors. Especially when you combine the Canon RF 100-500mm with the super-fast Dual Pixel Autofocus (DPAF) abilities of modern Canon bodies and the excellent eye-autofocus detection you can find on camera bodies such as the Canon EOS R5 and Canon EOS R6. For wildlife photography, it’s also important that the focusing motors are quiet, which is the case on the Canon RF 100-500mm.

Even in situations where everything is going very fast, the lens has no problem grabbing focus very quickly.

It gets tricky when you’re on a wobbling zodiac, moving closer to the subject, while it’s snowing. But the Canon RF 100-500mm has no problems extremely quickly adjusting focus.

Minimum Focus Distance

Finally, one of the big advantages of using the Canon RF 100-500mm is that its minimum focusing distance is only 90 centimetres, which is short compared to most telephoto lenses with such a long range. I find that many photographers tend to overlook this important feature to telephoto lenses. It may not matter if your subjects are always far away, but when you photograph wildlife close-up (for example: when I photograph puffins) it’s extremely important.

Bird photography workshop in Iceland

When photographing certain, easily-approachable wildlife, you need to take into account the minimum focusing distance of your lens. With only 90 centimetres, the Canon RF 100-500mm has a very good minimum focusing distance.

What Can Be Improved About The Canon RF 100-500mm

Now, not all is perfect about this lens and there are definitely a few things that could be improved in a second iteration in my opinion.

One of the biggest issues is that the knob that twists & locks the tripod collar ring in place, does not allow the tripod collar to clamp down firmly on the lens. Even though it’s locked, I can still move the tripod collar around. I would also love for Canon to adopt a clicking mechanism on every 90 degrees the tripod collar turns. That way you’re guaranteed a levelled photograph if you levelled the tripod.

Another annoyance is that the ring that controls how tight the zoom ring is, is fairly loose too. On my Canon EF 100-400mm II the zoom ring could be made so tight, it couldn’t accidentally slide out. This isn’t the case on the Canon RF 100-500mm. Even when the zoom ring is maximally tightened, it still feels quite loose.

The Canon RF 100-500mm has a Control Ring, as found on all RF lenses. However, the placement of the Control Ring is really poorly thought out in my opinion. It sits right next to the lens mount, which makes it counterintuitive to turn it as you need to move your supporting hand closer to the camera body. When doing this, you lose stability which is a big problem on a telephoto lens. For that reason, I never use the Control Ring on this lens. I wish the Control Ring was placed more towards the centre of the lens so you barely have to move your supporting hand.

Finally, there is the price. At an MSRP of almost 2500USD, this is definitely not a cheap lens. However, investing in a lens that will last you many more years than a camera body ever will, makes this money well-spent. What I have found over the years is how much truth there is in ‘buy cheap, buy twice’. Every cheap lens I have ever bought, has been replaced while my high quality, more expensive lenses have always remained in my possession. Finally, if you work as a professional photographer, this shouldn’t really be an issue for you.


Even though I love my Canon RF 100-500mm, there are few shortcomings which I hope Canon will fix in a second iteration.

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When using the tripod collar of the Canon RF 100-500mm, I have found that it’s too easy to turn the lens even though you locked the collar completely.


The Canon RF 100-500mm telephoto lens is my all-time favourite lens and for a first RF version, it’s more-than-solid. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t small things that could be improved on a second iteration. While the issues I have encountered over the last four years are minor, they could take this lens from excellent to perfect.

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Thank you for considering!

Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove

Jeroen is an award-winning Belgian photographer based in Iceland. The past years, he dedicated his photography to the Central Highlands & volcanic eruptions. Most recently, he received international attention for his work at the Fagradalsfjall volcano.


  • Bruce McClelland says:

    Jeroen, if I haven’t told you already, I switched from the EF 100-400 L to the RF 100-500 before I came to Iceland, pretty much because of your recommendation. Although I can’t claim to take photographs as brilliant as yours, I agree with pretty much everything you have to say about this lens, including your negatives (the control ring). I don’t have as much difficulty with the collar, but it may be the case that I don’t need that firmness as much as you do. Suffice it to say, I am happy with this lens, which supplements my 24-105 for walk-around everyday shooting (my every day is a lot different from yours) and my Sigma 14 f/1.8 for night photography. Thanks for the updated recommendation, and for including some great images.

    • Hi Bruce, good to hear from you! It is such a terrific lens isn’t it?! I am glad to read you also enjoy it! I also wonder if the tripod collar is a bit faulty on my model. I managed to get my hands on one of the first ones just weeks after release.

  • Jon Ames says:

    Well, you’ve been going on about this lens for as long as I’ve known you. Hey, the best picture (ever!) of me was taken with your Rf 100-500. Eventually I caved and bought one a couple of months ago. Well, it was what I grabbed this morning while drinking coffee in our garden. The results? Fabulous! Have I become a wildlife photographer? Well, no (as my results show, although some of the polar bear shots aren’t so shabby), but hey, at least now I can dabble.

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