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Is a $2,899 Lens Much Better Than a $649 Lens?


One would think a more expensive lens would outdo a cheaper lens. I mean, for the most part, that’s absolutely true. There are lots of big factors to take into consideration with lenses. There’s autofocus, image quality, weather sealing, and other tech. But we were curious to see whether the Canon RF 100-500mm L majorly outdoes the cheaper Canon RF 100-400mm lens. We’ve reviewed both, so we put together this short, informal comparison.

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I’m not doing a side-by-side comparison. I think that ruins the fun and practicality of tests at times. The truth is that in the real world, you’re not going to try to shoot the same photo over and over. You’re going to be in different experiences each and every time. So I’m reaching into our lens reviews to compare and contrast photos. Take a look. Can you tell which photos are from the Canon RF 100-500mm L? Or are the photos you’re looking at from the Canon RF 100-400mm instead?

Lens 1

Here are photos from lens one.

Lens 2

Here are photos from lens two.

Answers

Both of these lenses were shot on the Canon EOS R5 and the Canon EOS R original. And unless you’re pixel peeping, you probably can’t tell the difference. In truth, they both are capable of shooting very good images. 

Lens 1 is the Canon RF 100-400mm f5.6-8.

Lens 2 is the Canon RF 100-500mm f4.5-7.1 L IS USM.

Personally speaking, I really like the RF 100-500mm and what it can do more. But at the same time, I also shot better photos with that lens because of the subject matter. Right out of the camera though, I’d probably say the L lens has deeper, richer colors. If you didn’t know any better and you weren’t pixel peeping, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

So why is the Canon RF 100-500mm f4.5-6.3 L IS USM worth so much more? Well, there are a bunch of reasons.

  • The Canon RF 100-500mm f4.5-6.3 L IS USM has longer reach.
  • The L lens is weather sealed.
  • There are arguably better autofocus motors and algorithms working with the L lens.
  • The 100-400mm is lighter for sure. 

Chances are you’re going to edit your images anyway if you’re shooting with Canon. Personally, I’m happy with both the Fine Detail image profile and my own custom ones. I’ve fine tuned my Canon cameras to the point where I don’t need a lot of post-production. But ultimately, if you got the 100-400mm and did the right amount of post-production, you could get the images to look like the L lens. So instead, you’re paying for all the other things that aren’t possible with the cheaper lens. 

Could a professional photographer use the 100-400mm and get great photos? Sure! But an amateur photographer could also use the 100-500mm and get good photos. At the end of it all, it’s not even about the image quality — it’s about the features. And time and time again, I’d only reach for Canon L lenses. When Canon starts to offer weather sealing for lenses that aren’t L quality, then maybe I’ll start changing my mind.





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