Canon Goes Long With Lenses

Canon announced the long-expected 800mm f/5.6L and 1200mm f/8L lenses. Full details of the lenses are on the data pages, as usual (links above). These lenses aren’t for the faint of heart, at US$15,000 and US$20,000, respectively, so most of you are just going to say “wow” and move on to reading about something else.

What’s interesting to talk about is the way the Canon RF lens lineup is developing, and how it’s getting temporarily distorted. Of the 23 current lenses, 14 reach 100mm or better, in some cases like the new 1200mm, far better. 

Multiple factors seem to be causing this. First, with EF (DSLR) lenses being discontinued, the exotic lens designers and manufacturing group find themselves needing new product to regenerate the revenue that the old EF exotic lenses used to. Sony’s recent emergence as a key sports and wildlife platform makes for another competitor that’s moved quickly and nimbly, and eaten away some of Canon’s trusted press and pro users. Canon has been quick to shore up the RF exotic line, though that doesn’t come cheap for the customer.

Then there’s the M/RF mount duality. Clearly Canon isn’t going to take the M mount much into telephoto territory, if it decides to take it anywhere. To date they haven’t taken it into much more than just a handful of small, inexpensive, consumer-friendly options. But the RF cameras are full frame, so Canon needs substantive telephoto focal lengths to attract the cost conscious sports or wildlife photographer, among others. The f/11 DO lenses are one example of Canon’s approach there, but bolstering those options with more expensive (and far better) exotics is a bit of halo marketing, too. 

Could it also be that Canon will stay all full frame in the RF mount? The wide angle and telephoto options offered so far give them the flexibility to do so, though there are persistent rumors that an R7 is an APS-C camera. What if, instead, it’s a low-cost full frame camera? 

Canon is the biggest camera player with about 50% of the interchangeable lens camera market, and they seem to be the most disorganized in their strategic direction. But make no mistake, the 400mm f/2.8L, 600mm f/4L, 800mm f/5.6L, and 1200mm f/8L are a statement that shouldn’t be ignored. Still missing is a 300mm f/2 or f/2.8L and 500mm f/4L, but I have little doubt we’ll see something in those focal lengths soon.

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