Skip to main content

Lens teardown reveals how Canon made an affordable super-telephoto

Super-telephoto lenses are known for being two things: Heavy and expensive. But the new Canon RF 600mm f/11 is neither. With Canon’s full-frame mirrorless cameras in mind, it weighs a hair over 2 pounds and costs just $699, a far cry from the 6.7-pound, $13,000 Canon EF 600mm f/4 for DSLRs. For photographers without the budget of a news agency, a prime lens of this focal length is usually off-limits.

Canon RF 600mm f/11 retracted and extended on white background
RF 600mm retracted and extended Image used with permission by copyright holder

Much of the RF 600mm’s cost-cutting is right in the name, where we see the aperture is stuck at a very closed down f/11. Compared to the EF 600mm, that’s three stops darker, a significant difference (each stop lost reduces the amount of light by half). That smaller aperture means every glass element within the lens can be made smaller, drastically reducing both cost and weight. But there’s a big drawback: While at f/4 you could continue shooting well into the blue hour if you don’t mind bumping up the ISO, at f/11 you basically have to pack your bags before sunset. (The RF 600 is also a fixed f/11; there is no aperture diaphragm, so it can’t be stopped down further.)

That’s not the only thing Canon did to keep costs down. In its latest lens teardown, Lensrentals, a camera gear rental and repair facility, revealed the secrets of the RF 600mm’s construction. Spoiler alert: Lensrentals found aspects of the lens that were surprisingly complex, leading the company to decide not to perform in-house repairs of this lens in the future.

Lensrentals

But what makes the lens so cheap is far less surprising: Plastic. There’s a lot of plastic used in the construction, but Lensrentals drew special attention to the mount. While the bayonet itself is metal, it connects to a plastic base via seven screws, a higher-than-usual number apparently due to the fact that they’re going into plastic.

That’s not to say the RF 600mm f/11 doesn’t have redeeming technical qualities. It achieves its remarkably small size thanks to “gapless” diffractive optics, a type of glass element that drastically reduces the total number of elements needed. Canon uses this technology in a number of high-end lenses, as well.

Still, this remains a budget lens that isn’t going to win awards for sharpness, as evidenced by the “not very good” MTF chart, as Lensrentals put it. MTF charts are a measurement of optical resolution, a key factor in determining the overall resolution your camera can capture. That’s OK, though, as the RF 600mm serves a different purpose, to bring super-telephoto imaging to photographers who otherwise don’t have the money or the space to do so.

Editors' Recommendations

Daven Mathies
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Daven is a contributing writer to the photography section. He has been with Digital Trends since 2016 and has been writing…
Crutchfield sale: Save on Canon, Sony and Nikon mirrorless cameras
Canon EOS R5

Photography can be a fun and even lucrative endeavor, although it also can be exceedingly expensive, with some of the best full-frame cameras on the market easily reaching and even exceeding one or two thousand dollars, and that's without taking into account the cost of the lenses. Luckily, there is a great sale at Crutchfield right now on various cameras and camera kits, and you can actually grab yourself some excellent cameras, whether you're just starting out or want to upgrade to the next level. To that end, we've picked some of our favorite deals below, although it's well worth checking out the full Crutchfield sale that's happenning now.

What you should buy in Crutchfield's camera sale
If you're just starting out with photography and don't want to spend the thousands of dollars you do for the slightly better cameras that you'll find in the mid-range, the Canon EOS R100 is an excellent option, and this kit includes a lens as well. It has a 24.1-megapixel sensor for high-quality photography, a 3-inch screen so you can get a better sense of what you're filming, and, of course, the RF-S 18-45mm f/4.5-6.3 lens that the kit comes with. It can also connect with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and all of that comes packaged at , which is $100 off the usual $599 price tag.

Read more
Save 35% on this SanDisk 128GB SD card for a limited time
The 128GB version of the SanDisk Extreme Pro SD card, on a white background.

When you buy from camera deals, you should also purchase an SD card or two to make sure that you have ample storage for your photos and videos. Unfortunately, the costs will start racking up if you're also going to buy accessories, so you should be on the lookout for offers like this one from StackSocial -- the SanDisk Extreme Pro 128GB for only $20, following a 35% discount on its original price of $31. That's $11 in savings on a dependable SD card, but you'll need to be quick in completing the transaction because there's no telling when the bargain ends.

Why you should buy the SanDisk Extreme Pro 128GB SD card
DSLR cameras and mirrorless cameras usually use SD cards as their storage devices, according to our guide on how to pick the right memory card for your digital camera. If you need one, the SanDisk Extreme Pro is an excellent choice because it offers shot speeds of up to 90 MB/s, which is perfect for recording 4K Ultra HD videos, photos in burst mode, and other types of content that will require a high-performance SD card to keep up with them.

Read more
How to transfer photos from an iPhone to a computer
The Apple iPhone 15 Plus's gallery app.

As the old saying goes, the best camera is the one you always have with you. If you're like most iPhone users, that means you've likely amassed a sizeable collection of photos on your device. However, while Apple's Photos app is a great way to manage and view your photo library, it's never a good idea to keep all your eggs in one basket. After all, suffering a lost or broken iPhone is painful enough without also losing all your precious digital memories in the process.

Even if you're backing up your iPhone to iCloud or your computer, it's a good idea to keep your photos backed up separately. After all, opening a folder or a photo management app is a much easier way to get at your photos than trying to extract them from an iCloud or iTunes/Finder backup, which requires either restoring them to another iPhone or relying on special software tools.

Read more