Lens Showdown: Canon RF 100-400mm vs Canon RF 100-500mm

4 September 2023

Just like their DSLR big brothers, Mirrorless cameras give us the opportunity to piece together a photography kit that best suits our style and needs; this is thanks to the availability of camera accessories and camera lenses, the latter of which we are discussing today. While this choice is excellent for helping us develop our own photographic character, it can be daunting for beginners when it comes to pulling the trigger on a lens purchase.

The two lenses being discussed today, the Canon RF 100-400mm IS USM and the Canon RF 100-500mm L IS USM lenses are compatible with Canon EOS R mirrorless cameras, and being telephoto zooms, people buy these with the specific need of framing subjects that are some way off in the distance.

With such an important role, which one do you choose? Let’s see if we can get to the bottom of that.

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

  •  Maximum aperture: f5.6-8
  • Fast USM AF motor
  • Compact & Lightweight Build
  • High-quality optical design: One Ultra Low Dispersion element and one Aspherical Lens Element
  • Image Stabilisation

The Canon RF 100-400mm lens offers a great amount of zoom that gets you a nice tight crop of subjects from a distance. While traditionally a lens with this zoom range would be large and bulky, the key selling point of this lens is its portability. This RF 100-400mm is lightweight and surprisingly suitable for being handheld, so for long days of shooting, it is the perfect option.

The lightweight nature of this Canon zoom lens makes it easy to keep steady, which combines with the highly effective image stabilisation system to drastically reduce the occurrence of camera shake.

Not only is this lens suitable for still photography but also video, the RF 100-400mm lens features exceptionally quick and quiet autofocus performance. This is great for video recording, but it also comes in handy when photographing sensitive wildlife, which you don't want to spook - this can cause them to be startled and run away, which ruins your shot!

Lens Showdown: Canon RF 100-400mm vs Canon RF 100-500mmLens Showdown: Canon RF 100-400mm vs Canon RF 100-500mm

The Canon RF 100-400mm is compatible with Canon teleconverters, so it is possible to achieve a focal length of up to 800mm! It includes Canon’s wonderful customisable control ring, so users can assign a key shooting setting for fast and easy access, which is excellent for developing a workflow that best suits each individual user.

Second Contender: Canon RF 100-500mm f4.5-7.1 L IS USM

  • Maximum aperture: f4.5-7.1
  • Fast USM AF motor
  • Dust and Moisture-sealing & protective fluorine coating
  • Image Stabilisation

We'll start this off by stating the obvious, this RF 100-500mm lens offers a full 100mm extra zoom when compared to the last lens we discussed, making this a handy 5x optical zoom lens. While compact compared to traditional telephoto lenses, this lens is considerably larger than the RF 100-400mm, both in length and weight.

Why has this lens been made larger than the 100-400mm option? Firstly, it offers more zoom and secondly, it includes better build quality. As a member of Canon’s famous L-Series, the RF 100-500mm features a rugged build and it is also weather-sealed, so if you spend time working in the great outdoors, it is a great option. Also of note is the faster maximum aperture range, so it can deliver better subject isolation - this means background blur is easier to achieve.

Like all L-Series members, this lens includes a premium optical design, so throughout the long zoom range, users can expect high levels of sharpness and detail.

Lens Showdown: Canon RF 100-400mm vs Canon RF 100-500mmLens Showdown: Canon RF 100-400mm vs Canon RF 100-500mm

Just like the 100-400mm lens, this 100-500mm lens offers fast and quiet autofocus, as well as advanced image stabilisation, while this lens takes support one step further with the inclusion of a removable tripod mount. This mount makes it easier to attach the lens to a tripod or monopod, for more balanced and sharper shooting.

So, which one should I Choose?

Hopefully, by this stage, you have a better understanding of the differences between these two fine Canon zoom lenses. We'll go over the key points one more time to keep it fresh in your mind.

If you are looking for a telephoto lens that is easy to manage for long days of shooting, and you would like to keep your mirrorless kit as portable as possible, the RF 100-400mm is the easy choice.

Lens Showdown: Canon RF 100-400mm vs Canon RF 100-500mmLens Showdown: Canon RF 100-400mm vs Canon RF 100-500mm
Sample Image Captured with the Canon RF 100-400mm
Lens Showdown: Canon RF 100-400mm vs Canon RF 100-500mmLens Showdown: Canon RF 100-400mm vs Canon RF 100-500mm
Sample Image Captured with the Canon RF 100-500mm

If traditional telephoto shooting is important to you, which means a longer zoom range, sturdy build and premium optical quality; it's hard to go past the premium RF 100-500mm.

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