Appearing to be based on the existing RF 400mm f/2.8 and 600mm f/4 platforms respectively, Canon announced late May availability of a 800mm f/5.6 L IS USM lens alongside a 1200mm f/8 L IS USM. The two lenses are not significantly larger or heavier than the earlier RF supertelephoto releases, indicating that the additional focal length has been accomplished with optics akin to an internal teleconverter.
While it is nice to see the new 1200mm lens is not much larger or heavier than the recent lightweight supertelephoto lenses, there may not be much benefit to buying the 1200mm or 800mm lens over the shorter focal length versions unless there is some image quality improvement. The shorter focal length versions are quite good, and they have the ability to shoot both at their shorter focal lengths and – with teleconverters – at the identical longer lengths.
A B&H sales video published this evening indicated that the new lenses are indeed based on the recent RF releases, which were – in turn – based on the design of the EF Mark III versions. No image quality comparisons were made. Canon’s own video, made by a sports shooter, can be found here, but – as usual – it didn’t provide any comparative impressions.
The 800mm f/8 is only 17 inches long, more than an inch shorter than the old EF version. The new one also weighs only 70 percent the old EF model, at 7 pounds. These dimensions are hauntingly close to the length and weight of a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 III if it were to also add on a 2x teleconverter and an RF adapter.
The chart below shows the EF and RF lenses that share the basic guts of the new lenses, and the lengths and weights of the converters needed to render them the same focal length pair with an RF mount camera.
Ditto the 1200mm f/8, which matches up nicely to the weight, length and minimum focus distance of the EF 600mm f/4 III with an added teleconverter and RF converter.
One thing that might disappoint some is the lack of IS/IBIS integration, also a missing feature of the older, shorter focal length supertelephoto lenses. IBIS sensor movements don’t have the same effect with telephoto focal lengths, so this was not expected.
The lenses are not expected to be released to buyers until late May, so it will likely be June before lots of data will be coming back in terms of the utility of a 1200mm lens versus the RF 600 f/4.
The other detail controlling any ideas of upgrading is, of course, the price. The 800mm lens will cost $17,000. The 1200mm lens will cost 20,000. This is interesting because the RF 400mm f/4 lens and a 2x teleconverter together cost 12,600. So there should be $4,400 worth of better… something with that new 800.
The RF 600mm F/4 and the teleconverter together cost 13,600, providing a whopping $6,400 gap between that rig and the new 1200.