A Review of the Canon RF 1200mm f/8 L IS USM Lens

Do you have $20,000 burning a hole in your pocket? If you have ever wondered what you can accomplish with a lens that costs the price of a car, check out this excellent video review that takes a look at what is arguably the most extreme lens on the market right now, the Canon RF 1200mm f/8 L IS USM.

Coming to you from Christopher Frost, this great video review takes a look at the Canon RF 1200mm f/8 L IS USM lens. At $20,000, RF 1200mm f/8 L IS USM is extreme in every facet. It includes:

  • Two fluorite, one Super Ultra Low-Dispersion (UD), and one UD element for extremely low chromatic aberrations 
  • Air Sphere and Super Spectra Coatings for deep contrast, excellent color accuracy, and reduced lens flares and ghosting
  • Rounded nine-blade diaphragm for smoother bokeh
  • Ultrasonic motor for fast and quiet autofocus suitable for both photos and video
  • Minimum focus distance of 14.1 feet for maximum magnification of 0.29x
  • Variable speed manual focusing
  • Two focus presets
  • Focus range limiter for faster focusing
  • Image stabilization system offering up to four stops of compensation
  • Rotating tripod mount
  • Weather-sealed design
  • Fluorine coating on front element
  • Heat-resistant paint finish
  • Drop-in filter system
  • Compatible with 1.4x and 2x teleconverters

Check out the video above for Frost's full thoughts on the lens. 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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Steve White's picture

With tongue in cheek (somewhat), I'll note that my Olympus 300mm f/4 with a 2x TC delivers the same 1200mm FF equivalent, f/8 performance. That lens is $3000 and the TC is $500. I've saved enough compared to the $20K Canon lens so that I can kit myself out with more gear.

Yes, yes, I know, people will scoff at Olympus and MFT, but the combination of an OM-1 or EM-1x with the 300 + 2x TC will provide performance that's pretty close to a Canon (R6ii, for example) with the 1200mm f/8. Might take a pixel peeper to see a difference.

But perhaps that's a comparison Fstoppers would care to make sometime? Might make for an informative review.

Reginald Brown's picture

That's only in terms of field of view. You could say the same about an aps-c camera with a 400mm f/4. You could ALSO say the same about cropping in on a higher resolution full frame body with a wider lens, since that's what you're doing, cropping in.

Not bashing m4/3, i like the system, i started out with full 4/3 before micro was a thing. But it's not truly equivalent.

Michael Aubrey's picture


I put my Nikkor-T 1200mm f/18 on my 8x10 view camera and then after I develop the sheet film I cut out 36x24 squares to then enlarge to 8x10 on my enlarger when I print them.

Paolo Bugnone's picture

Actually no, not even close.
First of all it's 600mm f/8 equivalent without a TC, 1200mm f/16 equivalent with the 2x TC.

And btw, even if your equivalance was correct (it isn't) as Reginald suggested it would be the same as using a 300f/4 on FF then cropping or using a 400mm on APS-C and cropping, so please stop treating a 300mm f/4 like it's some kind of magic artifact able to bend physics.

Steve White's picture

Well no, while focal length equivalents scale with the size of the sensor, aperture doesn't. An f/4 lens is just that regardless of sensor size; f-stop is simply the ratio of the focal length divided by the current diameter of the aperture. F/4 is f/4, and f/8 is f/8, across the board.

So the Oly lens is a FF equivalent 600mm f/4, and with the 2x TC it's 1200mm f/8 equivalent. One could obviate this if only the industry would talk about 'angle of view' instead of focal length but that's a different discussion.

The point -- if I focus on a bird with, side-by-side, an Oly OM-1 and the 300mm + 2x TC (1200mm f/8 equivalent), I'm going to have about the same image in the viewfinder as I do with the Canon R6 and the 1200mm f/8 lens. The angle of view and brightness are about the same. Both are excellent cameras, both are excellent lenses, and the images I'll generate is (photographer skill being equal) will be about the same.

Arguments about 'low light' conditions are much less about the lens and more about the sensor, etc., and I won't get into that except to acknowledge that FF systems generally have an advantage there.

I won't bash the Canon lens or systems -- I happily shot Canon for 30 years from film to digital, and moved to Oly simply because at age 67 I got tired of lugging heavy gear through the wilderness. But I'd really like to see someone do a side-by-side shot as I suggested, and show me that it's worth the $25K for an R6 and a 1200mm lens to get a shot.

Graham Moore's picture

If you want to take the comparison to the luxe end of the MFT system, the 150-400mm f4.5 with internal 1.25x TC can go to 500mm (20x magnification) at f5.6, handheld. It's very sharp and allows photography in environments that are almost impossible to hike through with larger formats and the associated optics. Price is about 40% of the Canon 1200mm f8 cost.
The new Canon lens is a work of art but unfortunately only available to a small number of photographers due to the hefty price.

Jean-francois LE GUEN's picture

But now, thanks to electric cars, it only costs half of a car. What a bargain!

george andrews's picture

My Nikon P950 trumps it.