EOS R5 with RF 100-500mm Lens

Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens Review (Podcast 717)

Canon continues to improve on perfection and the new RF 100-500mm lens is no exception. See how it faired in the field in this comprehensive review.

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Martin Bailey
Martin Bailey is a nature and wildlife photographer and educator based in Tokyo. He's a pioneering Podcaster and blogger, and an X-Rite Coloratti member.
34 Comments
  • John Gambriel
    Posted at 21:02h, 01 September Reply

    Thanks for this great review. I have an R5 on order that I should see the last week of September and am eager to pair it with my 60-600mm Bigma and 1.4 extender. Currently shooting with a 7D M2, I don’t use the extender too much now, but am hopeful it will make up for the change in “reach” the R5 will introduce. I was intending to rent the 100-500mm with one of the new extenders to see if the truncated range combined with the extended form factor was too cumbersome. I shoot almost all my wildlife from a kayak, so space can be an issue. I am a CaptureOne user as well and was happy to see they have caught up with processing for the R5 raw files.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 21:36h, 01 September Reply

      Hi John,

      You’re very welcome. Thanks for stopping by.

      You know, the extra megapixels would allow you to crop down to an image the size that you were getting with your 7D Mark II and you’d still have a better quality image, but if you use a 1.4X Extender, you wouldn’t miss the range at all. It’s a great match and overall nothing I would consider cumbersome, especially compared to the Bigma! 🙂

      Great to hear that you use Capture One Pro too. It’s very nice now that raw files just work straight out of the camera. That first month is always a little awkward.

      All the best!

      Martin.

  • Dan Dill
    Posted at 21:11h, 01 September Reply

    Martin, I am very grateful for all of this detailed information, so quickly assembled. The video is stunning. Was the Moon image hand-held? I ask because the image at the top part of the terminator seems sharper than that at the bottom of the image.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 21:38h, 01 September Reply

      Hi Dan,

      Thanks for stopping by. The moon shot was made with a tripod. I don’t see the softness that you mention, but it could be from the haze. To the naked eye, the moon was in a big white halo with the humidity in the air. The exposure cut through that, but it may have left its mark on the image to a degree. Note too though, that if there were any problems due to hand-holding, it would be unfiform across the entire image, not just over a limit area.

      Cheers,
      Martin.

  • David Naylor
    Posted at 15:35h, 02 September Reply

    Hello Martin,
    Many, many thanks for your podcasts – they are an absolute treasure.
    I am a Canon 1DXII/300 f2.8/600f4 user and like you, I have been holding off jumping ship to Sony or buying the 1DXIII in the hope that Canon did exactly what they have done – bring out the R5 and 100-500 lens with full animal and eye AF.
    I have both on order but am told it will be “months” before they come, but I can wait.
    My biggest concerns though are a) battery life and b) Bokeh at F7.1 upwards. When I have been away on trips (Safari’s or Golden Eagle in winter in Sweden) I can take over 1,000 images per day (even 2,000 on one day). When I was in a hide at -15 deg C in Sweden the 1DXII battery performance deteriorated significantly. I also just love the background being thrown out on the 600 f4 to make the image pop.
    Do you have any concerns ref battery life when doing your Winter trips? What are your thoughts on Bokeh on the 100-500
    Best regards David

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 15:48h, 02 September Reply

      Hi David,

      Thanks for the kind words! 🙂

      I waited on ordering my second R5 and I’m told months now too, but at least I have my first, so I’m in a better position than many people. Sorry that you still have to wait.

      Thanks for asking about the battery use. I had meant to mention that but forgot. :/ I have found battery use to be slightly on the heavy side, probably due to both the increased frame rate and in-body stabilization, but I didn’t have to change batteries in the field on either of my ventures out, although they were not very long, but did result in a few hundred images each day. I have bought two spare batteries, and keep them with me, and I think I’ll probably by one more to be safe, but that will be for when I am out on full days. I think if you have a couple of spares you’ll be fine.

      600mm at f/4 is nice for single subjects, but if the subject is relatively close, even at 7.1 or smaller there is still a lot of nice bokeh to be had. These days I tend to shoot wildlife at f/10 to f/14 anyway because I want more of the subject sharp, so it’s not a concern for me, but you may miss that slightly, but my guess is not as much as you might think.

      I don’t have any concerns about the batteries on my winter trips. The batteries these days work great in the cold. I don’t really see a reduction compared to using them in regular temperatures. I don’t even really take care to keep the batteries in a warm pocket etc. any more. I don’t think you’ll have anything to worry about.

      Cheers,
      Martin.

  • Anthony Martin
    Posted at 20:32h, 02 September Reply

    Well, your review sure did a lot to settle my concerns on buying this lens, given its cost and the fact that I already own the 100-400 mk2 and two other big whites. I am going to sell off the 100-400 mk2 toward this one. I have my r5 and the battery grip but there are so few birds around now that I feel I have not been able to give it a real shake down. Standing around for hours waiting for some action to happen can be painful.

    I just want to comment that I have had my r5 since August 1 and have been shooting with the original NH battery that came with it. I now have a total of 4 of them but I am finding that with the grip, I rarely have more than 50% total drain once I return home, and I find stuff to take lots of images of (butterflies, dragons, bugs, etc). I have gotten 3000+ images on a single battery on a single outing with no grip. I do find that the grip is not “smart” in that it will allow the battery in slot 1 to drain to less than 70% and then the FPS of the camera will slow, while that second battery will be at or near 100%. A quick swap of the batteries in the slots will restore the 12 FPS speed. Note that I had this happen to me on back-to-back days using the 500 mm f/4L mark 2 with the Canon control-ring adapter. I don’t know if this is something that can be addressed in firmware, but I wish Canon had taken action to keep the FPS up for a long as possible without a battery switch like this. I still like the grip because of how it feels in my hands with a long lens on, but the button locations on it could also stand some additional attention, in my opinion. Oh well…we can’t get perfect, I guess.

    Thanks for the great review!

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 21:16h, 02 September Reply

      Hi Anthony,

      Glad to be of help. Thanks for stopping by.

      You raise some good points about the battery grip, although I personally have decided not to use the battery grip anymore. I used to prefer it as you do, but now I’ve gotten used to working without them I actually quite like it. I do miss the extended battery life, but not enough to go back to the grip.

      Cheers,
      Martin.

  • Doug Sturgess
    Posted at 18:37h, 07 September Reply

    Hi Martin. Thank you for your review. I’m awaiting my R5, 100-500 & 28-70 so it was nice to listen to your hands on experience. Just one question. With the EF series, I think it was known that the 1.4x gave better, sharper results than the 2x. What is your experience with the RF versions? Thanks.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:19h, 08 September Reply

      Hi Doug,

      The EF 2X Extender Mark III was marginally softer than the 1.4X But I cannot detect any real difference between the two RF Extenders. Of course, the longer focal lengths means you’ll need faster shutter speeds to avoid camera shake or subject movement, but as far as image quality is concerned it looks great across the range. Note though, as I showed in my test shots, there is a little bit of chromatic aberration that starts to creep in in the corners, but if you see it in your images you can remove it easily with lens correction in post.

      I hope that helps!

      Regards,
      Martin.

  • Tom SUllivan
    Posted at 10:08h, 09 September Reply

    Hi Martin,
    Thanks for the nice review and the very cool video of the moon. Got to get my 600mm with the 2.0x and RF to EF adapter and try that out with my R5! Not sure if you or anyone has tried this. My question is today I use the RF to EF adapter, I can put the 1.4 or 2.0x on say my 600mm all attached after the adapter. Have you tried to put the RF 1.4 or 2.0x on first and the RF to EF adapter, Is that even possible? If so, better or worse than just using the old 1.4 or 2.0x with the adapter as described above?

    Thanks, Tom

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 11:33h, 09 September Reply

      Hi Tom,

      You’re welcome, for the review, and I’m pleased you enjoyed the Moon video. If you are referring to the EF Extenders, then yes, that will work. Unfortunately, the RF Extenders cannot be attached to the RF to EF Adapter, so that will not work in the case of RF Extenders. I tried it when I got the RF Extenders to see if I could use the EF 100-400mm lens with it, and the protruding rubber cylinder and lens element won’t go inside the RF to EF Adapter.

      Regards,
      Martin.

  • Richard Ball
    Posted at 07:13h, 10 September Reply

    R Martin – What a great bunch of photos to show the capability of the R5 plus the 100-500mm lens. The first dragon fly looks a lot like the Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax Longipennis) here in broad areas of the US. I believe the Canon R cameras have focus bracketing capability. Dragonflies that perch generally hold still for quite sometime. If they are disturbed they often return to the same spot after a short period. Could you have focus bracketed that dragonfly and focus stacked the photos?

    The dragon flies in flight are great. It really shows the the AF capability of the camera. I have tried with both my Olympus and Canon gear to get a photo of a dragon fly in flight and failed – badly. I congratulate you on a couple of great “wing shots”.

    Rich Ball

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 20:51h, 10 September Reply

      Thanks Rich!

      I could have focus bracketed on some of them, but with the temperatures up at 38°C or 100°F and sweat running off my hat like a hose, I had all on to get the video that I did, and my main goal was to shoot a Kingfisher, hopefully in flight, so I got into my little spot of shade under a tree quite quickly. I’m actually not a huge fan of focus bracketing anyway. The traditionalist in me enjoys the limitations of a single frame. 🙂

      I’ve never been able to get a dragonfly flight shot either, until now. This system is very exciting!

      All the best!

      Martin.

  • Richard Ball
    Posted at 00:16h, 11 September Reply

    Martin – I understand your single frame preference. That is where my head is as well. Given the size of an average dragon fly and the difficulty getting one in the right position a focus bracket is valid technique. I have yet to get one where I can see the segmented eye. Insects are a fun type of wildlife photography. You might go in search of a relative of the dragon fly – damsel flies. They are smaller and harder to fill the frame with.

    With respect to kingfisher photos – I hope the kingfisher species in Japan is not as hyperactive as the belted kingfisher in the US. They fly really fast, seldom hold still for more than a few seconds and are nearly impossible to get close to.

    Please take care of yourself in the heat! Heat exhaustion can sneak up on you very quickly. Especially if the humidity is high.

    Rich

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:06h, 11 September Reply

      Hi Rich, I’ve seen a dragonfly devouring a damselfly here, and figure that they are the more successful predator, making the damselfly somewhat scarce. I have rarely seen them alive.

      Kingfishers flying straight from A to B are just blue streaks, but I was thinking more of something like the photo from the middle of this post (https://mbp.ac/341) shot eight years ago when I was reviewing the 1D-X. I was standing on the same platform recently hoping for another chance. I was incredibly lucky the first time, so it was always unlikely to happen again. I’ll keep going back as time allows though.

      Hundreds of people die each year here from the heat, as yes, our humidity is usually high too, at 70 to 80% most days throughout the summer. I do try to leave a little before my body tells me I need to, but thank you. I will continue to be careful.

      Cheers,
      Martin.

  • Dan Dill
    Posted at 07:37h, 14 September Reply

    Martin, following your reply to my question about the Moon photos, I went ahead and purchase the 2x extended, and I am very, very happy with the results. So, thank you again.

    https://photos.app.goo.gl/KwqZH6d1Uo9eceDN7
    ƒ/14 1/25 1,000mm ISO500

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 23:50h, 17 September Reply

      Hi Dan,

      Great to hear that you are happy with the Extender. Great shot too! I’m pleased to have been of help.

      Regards,
      Martin.

  • FintanMcTiernan
    Posted at 00:53h, 25 September Reply

    Hi Martin, I enjoyed reading your in depth review of the Canon RF 100-500. I recently traded a 5DSR and a EOS R in order to afford the Canon R5 and boy am I delighted I did so. I ordered it well before it was released and Canon delivered to the outlet on time. I absolutely enjoy using the camera ever time I take it out. I use it for sport and wildlife, wildlife being my main passion in relation to photography. I would be very interested to hear from you, how far you are willing to push the ISO up to while using the lens for wildlife action and have you had an opportunity to use the camera in poor light. In relation to static wildlife, at what shutter speed can you go to in order to get a sharp image using all the image stabilization that both the lens and camera (R5) have to offer ? I also have the EF 100-400 IS II and would be trading it against any planned purchase of this lens and like what you said, I would not be happy about the EF one going but getting the new RF would make up for it I have no doubt. Do you have any link where you have sample images for general viewing ?
    Thank you.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 17:38h, 25 September Reply

      Hi Fintan,

      Thanks for the comment and great questions. Congratulations on your R5 as well! I’m really pleased you like it.

      I haven’t really pushed the ISO much yet, but from past experience, I can tell you that I will take the ISO as high as 25600 if necessary, although it’s important to ensure that you are exposing to the right when you do that. By that I mean that you need to expose your images so that the image information is close to the right side of the histogram, even if it’s low light. You are better off exposing it brighter than necessary, even if it means pushing the ISO even higher, and then darkening the image back down in post if necessary. This will give you cleaner images than if you allow the camera to record the image data in the middle of the histogram or lower. That will give you very grainy images at high ISOs. 25600 is pushing it a bit though. I will go to 6400 without thinking about it. 12800 when necessary and only to 25600 if I have to, but I have some shots at 25600 that are fine.

      For wildlife, I generally try to keep a reasonably fast shutter speed, if the subject is moving around, just to ensure that I get a sharp shot, but for absolutely static subjects, I would be willing to try going down to around a quarter of the focal length if necessary. So, if I was shooting at 400mm, I’d go down to around 1/100 of a second if necessary. Panning is a different game, of course. When panning, I’ll go down to between 1/25 and 1/50 of a second.

      I haven’t shared any full-sized images, but the review does contain 100% cropped images, so you can see the image quality if you open them up in the Lightbox and ensure that your browser is wide enough for them to display at full size.

      Regards,
      Martin.

  • Diane Miller
    Posted at 02:36h, 09 October Reply

    I just got an R5 and the 100-500 and the IS on the lens doesn’t seem to be working. Switching in on doesn’t seem to stabilize the image in the viewfinder any more than when it is off. Does it make a sound, like I’m used to with Canon EF lenses? Also, the menu item for IBIS says it isn’t available with that lens. Thanks for any information!

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 14:47h, 09 October Reply

      Hi Diane,

      I can’t say for sure that it isn’t a faulty lens, but I think it’s probably fine. The IS on the 100-500mm and all RF lenses is pretty much undetectable. It doesn’t make a sound, and you can hardly see it working in the viewfinder. The only way to tell that it is doing something is to look through the viewfinder and focus on something, then swing the lens from left to right then back again pretty quickly. You should see a very slight lag as you stop and go back the other way. I can’t tell that it’s working any other time.

      As for the notice about IBIS not being available with that lens, it’s misleading, but the option you are looking at only becomes active in Video mode. If you press the mode button then press the Info button to switch to Video mode you should see some options under that menu. Ideally, the message should say “Not available in stills mode” or something like that.

      If you still can’t notice any lag or don’t see options in Video mode, you may need to take the lens to a service center to have Canon look at it, or take it back to the store where you bought it and have them check.

      Let me know either way though. I’m interested to hear how you get on.

      Regards,
      Martin.

  • Ron Hoare
    Posted at 05:38h, 24 October Reply

    Hi Martin

    Thank you; I really enjoy and get benefits from your real world use of this camera. I’ve just got my R5, RF 24-105 and RF 100-500 and so far the daunted / amazed equation is about 50/50.

    Daunted – a big learning slope for a previous Nikon user. For instance, why can’t I just use the joystick to move the focus point like I can with Nikon?

    Amazed – first snaps (i.e. it took about 20 seconds to set my focus, ISO etc.) with the 100-500 produced the best I have yet of the Grey Wagtails in Canary Wharf.
    Amazed – the incredible dynamic range of some hand held night time stuff from my balcony across the river to the Dome in London.

    There is clearly a ton I need to understand about how I want to use this camera to determine set up, so your information is helpful. One thing that concerns me is that there is no zoom lock on the 100-500. I use the Peak Design system that is brilliant at supporting long lenses and keeping them safely by your side facing down until you need to take a picture. Every lens I have ever had would extend to maximum without a lock; do you have any thoughts?

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 23:56h, 26 October Reply

      Hi Ron,

      You’re welcome, for the review. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. You can Go to the Customize function 3 (C.fn3) screen and select Customize buttons, then scroll to the bottom of the list to the Multicontroller icon and change the default OFF to direct AF Point Selection. Voila! Direct access. Press the Multicontroller to send it back to the center too.

      There is a kind of zoom lock on the 100-500mm lens too. Rotate the narrow knurled ring in the middle of the lens to the far right. That will stop the lens from extending as you walk around. By the way, I use the Peak Design straps too, and I put one strap loop on the base of the camera and the second on the lens tripod foot. That way both components have a strap attached, and the camera lays horizontal by my side. I sling it with the lens pointing behind me, and the camera grip falls into my hand ready to swing up to my eye. Works very well, so maybe you can give that a try. It also reduces the risk of the lens extending as you walk around.

      Regards,
      Martin.

  • Rahul
    Posted at 23:37h, 22 December Reply

    Hi Martin

    Thanks for the review. Did you have a chance to use this lens on the EOS R? Any impressions on how that combination works? Many thanks for your guidance!

  • Derek
    Posted at 04:14h, 10 March Reply

    I found out that R5 with new 100-500 image stabilizer is not working properly on slower shutter speeds while I am panning the subject. If I try 1/200 or slower, like 1/100, 1/60 sec
    it simply never gets even one sharp image out of 20-30 shots. When I use older 100-400mm with adapter I can get 7-10 decent sharp pictures out of 30 burst. Something is wrong with ICIS working with new lens IS at slower shutter speed, I tried electronic, mechanical shutter, IS mode 2, mode 3, nothing works, it is unusable for slower shutter panning. To say at least I am very disappointed. Martin, can you check it on your kit? I tested two bodies and two lenses, it is bad. Any ideas or setting I missed?

  • Derek
    Posted at 04:34h, 10 March Reply

    BTW, Panning test were done on the airplanes at 400-500mm, flying straight, not even something unpredictable like birds or dragon flies… lol

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 14:12h, 10 March Reply

      Hi Derek,

      I haven’t done any slow panning shots in the field yet, but just tested with my wife walking back and forth, and was able to get some sharp shots at 1/60 of a second. It’s a somewhat unnatural test though, so I really need to do some slow bird shots etc. before I can say for sure that I don’t see the issue. I’ll try this soon and get back to you, but I would recommend that you talk to Canon about it as well. There may be something wrong with your lens and/or camera, that I’m sure you’d like to rule out.

      Regards,
      Martin.

  • Derek
    Posted at 00:36h, 11 March Reply

    That’s why I replaced body and later the lens and didn’t see any improvement/difference, I will upload some pictures and post the link to better show the issue

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 14:17h, 12 March Reply

      Hi Derek,

      I understand that, but also consider that although replacing the equipment helps you to rule out a bad copy, it doesn’t help Canon to understand that there is an issue. It’s better to work with Canon so that they can provide professional help and work towards fixing the cause if that’s possible.

      I’m going to make time to find a subject to test this on myself as well, and I’ll get back to you. I hope there is no issue, but if there is, I agree it’s a very serious one. Fingers crossed that we can figure it out or get Canon to remedy it with a firmware upgrade.

      Regards,
      Martin.

  • David Mattner
    Posted at 21:04h, 26 April Reply

    hello Martin

    that footage of the Moon slowly crossing the frame with the music u choose was beautiful. it has inspired me to look skyward. congratulations on such a ‘less is more’ view of our Moon.

    out of interest which camera bag are u using for the R5 + 100-500mm lens ?? i’m tossing up between the ThinkTank Glass Limo and the ThinkTank Streetwalker.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 10:10h, 28 April Reply

      Hi David,

      Thanks for the kind words. I’m really pleased that you like that. I actually played the music and recorded it in one take specifically for that video. It isn’t perfect, but I think it matches the mood well enough.

      For camera bags, if I’m carrying my full kit with additional things like my Rollie film camera I am still using the Bataflae 18L that I showed here: https://mbp.ac/482

      Quite often though, I’m reaching for the lower profile MindShift Gear Photocross 15 that I shared in this post: https://mbp.ac/665

      That little MindShift bag is actually a great fit for my mirrorless system as it’s considerably downsized compared to a few years ago. For ease of access, I still prefer the Bataflae, but the MindShift is also less conspicuous as a bag, so it’s a good choice, especially when going through airport security etc.

      Both of the ThinkTank bags you’re looking at seem perfect. Personally, I like a bag to have a laptop pocket, as some international travel requires everything to be in one carry-on, but if that’s not a requirement, I’d say you won’t go wrong with either of them.

      Regards,
      Martin.

  • John Juby
    Posted at 11:55h, 09 July Reply

    Thank you Martin.

    I have an R6 and just cashed in my EF 70-200 2.8 and two tele’s for this lens you reviewed so well. Can’t wait for it to leave its backorder status.

    Fabulous job on this, best I’ve seen.

    Thank you, again.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 21:39h, 10 July Reply

      Thanks John! I’m pleased you found this useful. Congrats on your new Extenders.

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