Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Review

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens

The Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens offers an unparalleled range of long telephoto focal lengths, reaching an exceptionally and differentiatingly long 800mm, in a relatively compact, handholdably light, weather-sealed body with very good image quality and an affordable price. This lens is a great choice for pursuing wildlife photography, outdoor sports, and many other subjects needing the reach of an up to 800mm telephoto lens.

  • Outstanding range of long focal lengths
  • Great choice for wildlife photography
  • Moderately priced
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Relatively lightweight
  • 0.25x maximum magnification
  • Compatible with RF extenders
  • Zoom ring tension adjustment
  • Large
  • Narrow apertures
  • Strong lateral CA
  • Shared focus and control ring
In-Depth Review

The Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens is destined to be one of the all-time favorite wildlife lenses.


A significant number of photographers, both amateurs and professionals, are going to find this lens's long range of telephoto focal lengths, reaching an exceptionally and differentiatingly long 800mm, in a relatively compact, handholdably light, weather-sealed body with good image quality, Nano USM AF, high-performing Image Stabilization (5.5 stops of assistance) with auto panning detection, and an affordable price measures up to the ideal choice for pursuing wildlife and numerous other subject types.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Angle View

Focal Length Range

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While this lens has many great features, it is the 200mm through super-telephoto 800mm focal length range that should especially grab your focus. For the lens to be useful, the angles of view provided by the focal length range must work for you, and the extreme range provided by this lens takes in a wide range of needs.

As I said in the RF 800mm F5.6 L Lens and RF 800mm F11 Lens reviews, when you need to frame a subject tightly and can't get closer, due to:

  • Physical barriers (streams, cliffs, fences, etc.)
  • Legislated barriers (lines on a field, property boundaries, etc.)
  • Intolerance to closer photographers (skittish birds, for example)
  • Subject behavior impact (such as the natural activity of wildlife)
  • Safety reasons (dangerous wildlife, high-speed vehicles, etc.)
  • Stealth requirements (such as for law enforcement missions)
  • A requirement to avoid being a viewing obstruction (such as getting in front of the audience at a venue)

— you might need an 800mm lens.

When you want to capture a compressed look from a distant perspective, you might want an 800mm lens. When you want to create a strong background blur, isolating a subject from an otherwise distracting background, an 800mm lens might be just right.

If you simply don't want to get closer, an 800mm lens might be just right. Sit in the comfort of your car (or house), avoid the need to cross a creek, stay back from the surf, stay out of view, etc.

Many lenses reach 600mm, but few zoom to 800mm. Here is the 600mm vs. 800mm difference:

600mm vs. 800mm Comparison

The 800mm angle of view is considerably tighter than that of 600mm, and making this 800mm-capable lens considerably more versatile than the primes is the addition of the 200-799mm focal length range.

The standout use for the 200-800mm range is wildlife photography.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Swamp Sample Picture

The swamp subjects were uncooperative and distant, and the first two images are significantly cropped. A 600mm lens would have been insufficient.

200-800mm is optimal for subjects ranging from large animals close to small animals far away, including birds. And, chipmunks.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Chipmunk Sample Picture

The relatively light weight of this lens, along with the long focal length, makes it a consideration even for birds in flight. While keeping a moving subject in the narrow 800mm angle of view is challenging, this lens can be zoomed wide for viewfinder subject acquisition and zoomed long for the desired tight framing.

Though 200mm is not especially wide for environmental portraits, it still works well for that use, and the northern pintail duck image above illustrates an 800mm environmental portrait. Pets are another good subject for this lens.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Pet Sample Picture

This is a good lens for chasing the kids at the park, beach, or back yard.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Kid Portrait Sample Picture

While portraits are on this lens's capabilities list, this lens will more often be used to photograph people participating in outdoor sports. I say "outdoor" because the max aperture is insufficient for stopping most indoor action. This focal length range is optimal for watersports, such as surfing, and it will reach deep into a large field, such as for baseball and soccer, while still providing close subject coverage.

Photojournalists and others covering events may find this lens's focal length range useful. Photographing over large crowds, such as at outdoor concerts, is easy with an up-to-800mm zoom lens mounted.

This lens is an outstanding choice for photographing air shows. Many details are ideal for 200-800mm capture.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Landscape Sample Picture

This focal length range is valuable for capturing compressed landscape images. Want to add some color to your portfolio? Direct this lens at an even modestly colorful sky just before sunrise or just after sunset.

This lens is an excellent option for photographing the moon (or the sun with the proper solar filter in place).

The video uses for this focal length range mirror the stills uses.

An ASP-C sensor format camera model's 1.6x FOVCF (Field of View Crop Factor) will see an angle of view like a full-frame-mounted 320-1280mm lens. This narrower angle of view has similar uses but with smaller subjects or longer working distances. Bird photographers rarely have too much focal length, and distant wildlife can often make full use of this focal length. Keeping a moving subject in the 1280mm angle of view is challenging.

Just because you have an 800mm-capable lens doesn't mean that you can create sharp images at that focal length, even when using the fastest shutter speeds and best techniques. When present, heat shimmer will create optical distortion that diminishes the quality of long-distance-captured photos. Artificial turf sports fields and asphalt tracks are among the most notorious venues for heatwaves — sun on artificial turf ensures terrible image quality at 800mm.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Front View

Max Aperture

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How much light does the lens provide to the imaging sensor? Usually, that question is the second most important when selecting a lens.

The f/6.3-9 in the name refers to the maximum aperture, the ratio of the focal length to the entrance pupil diameter, available over this lens's focal length range.

The lower the aperture number, the wider the opening, and the more light the lens can deliver to the imaging sensor. Each "stop" in aperture change (full stop examples: f/5.6, f/8.0, f/11.0) increases or decreases the amount of light by a substantial factor of 2x.

Want a long range of long focal lengths in a zoom lens without a large size, heavy weight, and high price? Expect that lens to have a narrow and variable max aperture. A smaller aperture opening facilitates the use of smaller, lighter, and less expensive lens elements, and, from a relative standpoint, the Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens has those attributes.

Because this lens's maximum opening does not increase sufficiently with focal length increase to maintain the same aperture measurement ratio, the max aperture is efficiently variable, smoothly ranging from f/6.3 to f/9.0 as the focal length range is increasingly traversed. While the aperture change is continuous (not stepped), the camera rounds the EXIF-reported aperture to the nearest 1/3 or 1/2 stop. Here are focal length ranges reported by the RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens in 1/3 stop apertures.

200-267mm = f/6.3
268-454mm = f/7.1
455-636mm = f/8.0
637-800mm = f/9.0

For reference, here are the RF 100-500's reported apertures:

100-150mm = f/4.5
151-253mm = f/5.0
254-362mm = f/5.6
363-471mm = f/6.3
472-500mm = f/7.1

While f/9 on the 200-800's long end sounds especially narrow, the difference at the RF 100-500's equivalent focal lengths is not so big, mostly 1/3 or 2/3 of a stop. F/9 is 2/3 stop wider than availed in the RF 800mm F11, Canon's even more affordable 800mm lens.

With its narrow max apertures, this lens is not a good choice for photographing low-light motion, including indoor sports or even outdoor sports on dark cloudy days. Setting the ISO to a high number is the narrow aperture option for sharp low light images of in-motion subjects, and the resulting noise is an image quality factor. A narrow aperture is detrimental to low light autofocus performance, slowing or inhibiting focus lock.

Only a 1/60 second shutter speed (twice the framerate) is needed for 30 fps video capture, and wide apertures are not often required to get 1/60 in normally encountered ambient lighting.

A downside to the variable max aperture is that the widest max aperture cannot be used over the entire focal length range. The camera automatically accounts for the changes in auto exposure modes (including M mode with Auto ISO), but using the widest-available aperture in manual exposure mode is somewhat complicated by the changing setting (an in-camera function may accommodate the changes).

Despite having relatively narrow apertures, the long focal lengths provided by this lens can create a diffusely blurred background.

These examples illustrate the maximum blur this lens can create:

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Maximum Blur Example

The background is a significant percentage of many images, and when the background is not complementary to the subject (or even distracting), blurring it away is highly advantageous. The details in these images are gone.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Extended Top View with Hood

Image Stabilization

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The longer the focal length, the larger subject details (captured at an equal distance) are rendered, and the more still the camera must be held to avoid subject details crossing imaging sensor pixels during the exposure, the cause of motion blur. Image stabilization is an extremely valuable feature in any lens and an especially valuable feature in a telephoto lens, especially one with narrow apertures.

The Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens features an image stabilization system rating of 5.5 stops at 800mm. I never fully gain the CIPA-rated advantage, but this IS system makes a huge ISO setting and resulting noise difference in handheld-captured images of still subjects (subject movement still requires faster shutter speeds to avoid blur). Coordinated IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization) does not increase the rating. Auto panning detection is provided (a mode switch is not provided) and the lens has an IS On/Off switch, a feature I appreciate.

Remember that sensor-based AF takes advantage of the stabilized view for improved accuracy.

This IS system makes a mildly audible whirring when enabled and a quieter whirring when turned off. The view in the viewfinder smoothly transitions with composition change.

Canon indicates that this lens's IS system may have reduced effectiveness when used on a tripod but encourages IS use with a monopod.

When you want to leave the tripod behind, IS is there for you, helping to ensure sharp images (of still subjects) and adding significant versatility to this narrow aperture lens.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Angle View with Hood

Image Quality

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The first apprehension I have with a compact, lightweight, affordable Canon lens with an extreme focal length range and no "L" series designation is the expected image quality. The initial word from Canon was that my concerns were unnecessary, and the theoretical MTF charts back up that expectation.

Here are the Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens's MTF charts, along with those from an outstanding performer, the RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens. The RF 800mm F5.6 L IS USM Lens and RF 800mm F11 IS STM Lens charts are also included.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens MTF Chart Comparison

The black lines indicate contrast, and the blue lines show resolution. The solid lines are sagittal, and the dashed lines are meridional. The higher the lines, the better the performance.

The RF 100-500 is one of my most frequently used lenses, and I love the incredible image quality it provides. While the RF 200-800 MTF chart lines are not as high as the RF 100-500's lines at the compared widest and longest focal lengths, the comparison is likely closer at 500mm vs. 500mm, and the 200-800 chart still promised sharp images.

While the wider 800mm L prime lens shows itself to be a sharper lens, primarily only professionals and well-funded enthusiasts will find this lens's advantage worth the nearly 9x higher price.

In addition to having a 2/3-stop narrower f/11 max aperture (that shows softening effects from diffraction) at 800mm, the prime lens is not as sharp as the 200-800 zoom lens.

The image quality expectations set by Canon and the MTF charts were promising, but with the lens in hand tells the reality story.

The resolution chart shows this lens producing good wide-open center-of-the-frame image quality over the entire range except at 800mm, where it becomes slightly soft. With the effects of diffraction working against image sharpness at narrower apertures, little sharpness improvement is seen when stopped down with an ultra-high-resolution camera behind it.

Often, subjects are not placed in the center of a composition. In the periphery of the image circle, where light rays are refracted to a stronger angle than in the center, lenses typically show decreased sharpness, but this one shows only a gradual decline from the center to the corner, with lateral CA being the primary detractor at many focal lengths.

The resolution chart is merciless on image quality, so let's take the testing outdoors, next looking at a series of center-of-the-frame 100% resolution crop examples. These images were captured using an ultra-high-resolution Canon EOS R5 with RAW files processed in Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP) using the Standard Picture Style with sharpness set to 1 on a 0-10 scale. Note that images from most cameras require some level of sharpening, but too-high sharpness settings are destructive to image details and hide the deficiencies of a lens.

The identically processed last set of sample images are from the field, showing feather detail of distant birds.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Sharpness Comparison Example

200mm: f/6.3 | f/6.3 | f/6.3 | f/6.3
400mm: f/7.1 | f/7.1 | f/7.1 | f/7.1
600mm: f/8.0 | f/8.0 | f/8.0 | f/8.0
800mm: f/9.0 | f/9.0 | f/9.0 | f/9.0
800mm f/9.0 ISO: 500 | 500 | 1000 | 1250

These images look great, better than the resolution chart suggested. While I also tested narrower apertures, sharing the slight difference they showed seemed not worth your bandwidth.

Next, we'll look at a series of comparisons showing 100% resolution extreme top left corner crops captured and processed identically to the above center-of-the-frame images. The lens was manually focused in the corner of the frame to capture these images.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Corner Sharpness Comparison Example

200mm: f/6.3 | f/6.3 | f/6.3
400mm: f/7.1 | f/7.1 | f/7.1
600mm: f/8.0 | f/8.0 | f/8.0
800mm: f/9.0 | f/9.0 | f/9.0

Samples taken from the outer extreme of the image circle, full-frame corners, can be counted on to show a lens's weakest performance. The 800mm corners show modest softening, but otherwise, the performance seen here is good.

Corner sharpness does not always matter, and sharp corners are not usually a concern for the primary uses of this lens, wildlife, and sports.

This lens does not exhibit focus shift, the plane of sharp focus moving forward or backward as the aperture is narrowed (residual spherical aberration or RSA).

A lens is expected to show peripheral shading at the widest aperture settings when used on a camera that utilizes its entire image circle. Even with a wide-open aperture, this lens produces only about 1.5 stops of shading in the corners. Half a stop or less of corner shading remains at f/11.

APS-C format cameras using lenses projecting a full-frame-sized image circle avoid most vignetting problems. In this case, the about 0.5 stops of corner shading will seldom be visible.

One-stop of shading is often used as the visibility number, though subject details provide a widely varying amount of vignetting discernibility. Vignetting is correctable during post-processing, with increased noise in the brightened areas the penalty, or it can be embraced, using the effect to draw the viewer's eye to the center of the frame. Study the pattern shown in our vignetting test tool to determine how your images will be affected.

Lateral (or transverse) CA (Chromatic Aberration) refers to the unequal magnification of all colors in the spectrum. Lateral CA shows as color fringing along lines of strong contrast running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii), with the mid and especially the periphery of the image circle showing the most significant amount as this is where the most significant difference in the magnification of wavelengths typically exists.

With the right lens profile and software, lateral CA is often easily correctable (often in the camera) by radially shifting the colors to coincide. However, it is always better to avoid this aberration in the first place.

Color misalignment can be seen in the site's image quality tool, but let's also look at a set of worst-case examples. The images below are 100% crops from the extreme top left corner of EOS R5 frames showing diagonal black and white lines.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Lateral Chromatic Aberration Example

Only black and white colors should be present in these images, with the additional colors indicating the presence of lateral CA. This lens has strong lateral CA from 200mm through 400mm and modest lateral CA at the longer focal lengths.

A relatively common lens aberration is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA, which causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light. More simply, different colors of light are focused to different depths. Spherical aberration, along with spherochromatism, or a change in the amount of spherical aberration with respect to color (looks quite similar to axial chromatic aberration but is hazier) are other common lens aberrations to observe. Axial CA remains somewhat persistent when stopping down, with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing. The spherical aberration color halo shows little size change as the lens is defocused, and stopping down one to two stops generally removes this aberration.

In the real world, lens defects do not exist in isolation, with spherical aberration and spherochromatism generally found, at least to some degree, along with axial CA. These combine to create a less sharp, hazy-appearing image quality at the widest apertures.

The examples below look at the defocused specular highlights' fringing colors in the foreground vs. the background.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Spherical and Axial Aberration Example

Slight color separation is seen here, primarily at the shortest and longest focal lengths.

Bright light reflecting off lens elements' surfaces may cause flare and ghosting, resulting in reduced contrast and sometimes interesting, usually destructive visual artifacts. The shape, intensity, and position of the flare and ghosting effects in an image are variable, dependent on the position and nature of the light source (or sources), selected aperture, shape of the aperture blades, and quantity and quality of the lens elements and their coatings. Additionally, flare and ghosting can impact AF performance.

This lens features Canon's SSC (Super Spectra Coating) to combat flare and ghosting. Long telephoto lenses seldom test well in the site's standard sun in the corner of the frame flare test, but this lens's results do not indicate problems.

Two lens aberrations are particularly evident in images of stars, mainly because bright points of light against a dark background make them easier to see. Coma occurs when light rays from a point of light spread out from that point instead of being refocused as a point on the sensor. Coma is absent in the center of the frame, gets worse toward the edges/corners, and generally appears as a comet-like or triangular tail of light that can be oriented either away from the center of the frame (external coma) or toward the center of the frame (internal coma). The coma clears as the aperture is narrowed. Astigmatism is seen as points of light spreading into a line, either sagittal (radiating from the center of the image) or meridional (tangential, perpendicular to sagittal). This aberration can produce stars appearing to have wings. Remember that Lateral CA is another aberration apparent in the corners.

The images below are 100% crops taken from the top-left corner of R5 images captured at the widest available aperture.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Coma Example

The long focal lengths and narrow apertures combination are not optimal for untracked night sky photography, but these corner star samples are not bad.

This lens has modest pincushion distortion that varies little over the focal length range.

As seen earlier in the review, it is easy to illustrate the strongest blur a lens can create, and telephoto lenses are inherently advantaged in this regard. Due to the infinite number of variables present among available scenes, assessing the blur quality, bokeh, is considerably more challenging. Here are some f/11 (for diaphragm blade interaction) examples.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Bokeh Example

The first set of examples are 100% crops showing off nicely rendered defocused highlights, filled smoothly and shaped relatively round.

The second set of examples shows full images reduced in size and also looking nice.

Except for a small number of specialty lenses, the wide aperture bokeh in the frame's corner does not produce round defocused highlights, with these effects taking on a cat's eye shape due to a form of mechanical vignetting. If you look through a tube at an angle, similar to the light reaching the frame's corner, the shape is not round. That is the shape we're looking at here.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Cat's Eye Bokeh Example

The truncation is minor at the wide end and increases modestly at longer focal lengths. As the aperture narrows, the entrance pupil size is reduced, and the mechanical vignetting diminishes, making the corner shapes rounder.

A 9-blade count diaphragm will create 18-point sunstars (diffraction spikes) from point light sources captured with a narrow aperture. Generally, the more a lens diaphragm is stopped down, the larger and better shaped the sunstars tend to be. Unfortunately, a narrow max aperture lens does not afford much stopping down before reaching apertures where diffraction causes noticeable softening of details, and these lenses typically do not produce the biggest or best shaped sunstars. This lens can create a weak star at 200mm, but that capability evaporates as the focal length is increased.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Sunstar Effect Example

The examples above were captured at f/16.

The Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens design is illustrated below the RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Design Comparison with RF 100-500mm

The RF 200-800mm design includes 3 UD (Ultra Low Dispersion) glass elements.

While the RF 200-800 does not rock the resolution chart test and shows some strong lateral CA at the wide end, it performs well in many of the other tests, and it performs well in the field.


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As hinted by "USM" in the moniker, the Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens's AF system is powered by an Ultrasonic Motor. More specifically, this is a smooth, fast, quiet, and internal focusing Nano USM system.

A focus limit switch, often available on telephoto lenses, is not provided.

Non-cinema lenses usually require refocusing after a focal length change, and this lens is not parfocal. As illustrated in the 100% crops below, the reviewed lens does not exhibit parfocal-like characteristics. When focused at 800mm, zooming to wider focal lengths results in focus blur at most focal lengths.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Parfocal Example

If you adjust the focal length, re-establish focus (this rule usually applies).

Two Lens Function buttons are provided at convenient positions for horizontal and vertical orientation use. By default, the buttons provide the AF stop function, locking focus at the currently selected distance, permitting a focus and recompose technique. However, they can be programmed for numerous other functions.

Here is a partial list of functions assignable to the Lens Function buttons:

  • AF Stop (default)
  • Metering/AF start
  • Switch to saved AF function
  • One-Shot AF / Servo AF
  • Eye detection
  • Switch to saved AF frame
  • AE lock
  • AE lock (hold)
  • Exposure compensation (turn main electronic dial while button is depressed)
  • Activate IS function
  • Aperture
  • Many more ...

FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported in AF mode with the camera in One Shot Drive Mode, but the shutter release must be half-pressed for the focus ring to become active. Note that FTM does not work if electronic manual focusing after One Shot AF is disabled in the camera's menu. The lens's switch must be in the "MF" position and the camera meter must be on/awake for conventional manual focusing to be available.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Top View with Hood

The RF 200-800 does not have a dedicated focus ring. Instead, the knurled plastic control ring serves dual purposes, acting as a manual focus ring when that functionality is selected via a provided switch or camera. While the ring is relatively small and not especially easy to tactilely find, it is not positioned near other features.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Side View with Hood

The MF ring is smooth and nicely damped.

It is normal for the scene to change size in the frame as the focus is pulled from one extent to the other. This effect is focus breathing, a change in focal length resulting from a change in focus distance. Focus breathing impacts photographers intending to use focus stacking techniques, videographers pulling focus (without movement to camouflage the effect), and anyone critically framing while adjusting focus.

This lens produces a moderate change in subject size through a full-extent (worst-case) focus distance adjustment.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Focus Magnification Example

Far | Mid | Close

That example was captured at 200mm. At longer focal lengths, the blur becomes too strong to easily illustrate the full extent change.

This lens has a minimum focus distance of 2.62' (0.8m) at 200mm, where it generates its maximum magnification, a good 0.25x spec. Here are additional minimum focus distances:

200mm: 2.62' (0.8m)
400mm: 5.91' (1.8m)
600mm: 9.19' (2.8m)
800mm: 10.83' (3.3m)

Let's compare some other lenses:

ModelMin Focus Distance "(mm)Max Magnification
Canon RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM Lens34.6(880)0.41x
Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens35.4(900)0.33x
Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens31.5(800)0.25x
Canon RF 600mm F11 IS STM Lens177.2(4500)0.14x
Canon RF 800mm F11 IS STM Lens236.2(6000)0.14x
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Sports Lens22.8(580)0.34x
Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens94.5(2400)0.20x
Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens23.6(600)0.32x

At the stated focal length, a subject measuring approximately the respective size will fill a full-frame imaging sensor at the minimum focus distance.

200mm: 5.3 x 3.5" (135 × 90mm)
550mm: 7.5 x 5.0" (192 × 128mm)
800mm: 6.8 x 4.5" (173 × 115mm)

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Maximum Magnification Example

The USPS love stamps shared above have an image area that measures 1.05 x 0.77" (26.67 x 19.558mm), and the overall individual stamp size is 1.19 x 0.91" (30.226 x 23.114mm).

While this lens produces sharp center of the frame details its maximum magnification with a wide-open aperture, expect the image periphery to be soft due to field curvature. F/16 brings on increased depth of field that provides some improvement in corner image quality.

Mount an extension tube behind this lens to modestly decrease the minimum focus distance and increase magnification. Extension tubes are hollow lens barrels that shift a lens farther from the camera, allowing shorter focusing distances at the expense of long-distance focusing. As of review time, Canon does not offer RF mount-compatible extension tubes, but third-party options are available.

Substantially improving the maximum magnification capability is this lens's compatibility with Canon RF extenders.

Canon RF 1.4x and 2x Extender Comparison

Extenders / Teleconverters

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While the Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens already provides an outstanding focal length range, it is compatible with the Canon RF 1.4x Extender and Canon RF 2x Extender. The lens retains its native minimum focus distance and weather sealing with the extenders mounted, and image stabilization continues to aid steadiness.

EQUIPMENTTITLE with Extender/Teleconverter

The addition of a 1.4x extender creates a highly attractive full-frame 280-1120mm IS lens. Extend the focal length without increasing the aperture opening, and the effective aperture is reduced by 1-stop with the 1.4x mounted, making this a not-as-attractive f/9-13 lens. While the focal length versatility provided by the extender is outstanding, magnifying the image by 1.4x and adding lens elements to the optical path negatively and noticeably impacts image quality.

Here is the comparison.

The RF 1.4x adds a small amount of lateral CA and slightly increases barrel distortion, which is a positive attribute, reducing the native pincushion distortion.

The addition of a 2x Extender creates an impressive 400-1600mm zoom range. Note that, while the site's with extender image quality tests are usually conducted at the longest available focus distance (the point to using an extender is to gain longer focal lengths than natively included), the studio's working space and smallest chart limit the testing to 1485mm, slightly short of the maximum 1600mm availed.

In this case, the aperture is reduced 2-stops to a dauntingly narrow f/13-18. Autofocusing that combination is a superpower brought to us in the EOS R-series cameras.

Adding the 2x extender to the optical formula significantly degrades image quality. Here is that comparison. The RF 2x increases lateral CA and adds a barrel distortion that corrects most of the native pincushion distortion.

While the extender combinations work, I recommend getting closer without them if possible.

The extender-reduced aperture opening significantly reduces the available focus area in some cameras. The EOS R and RP AF area drops to 40 x 60% (Horizontal x Vertical) of the imaging sensor with the 1.4x, and all current full-frame R-series have 40 x 60% available with the 2x mounted. The current crop of APS-C R-series cameras have a 60 x 80% AF area when using the 2x with this lens.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens on Tripod

Design & Features

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Aside from a pair of 400mm DO lenses, I've never used a white Canon lens that didn't have a red ring indicating L-series membership prior to this one. This high-quality lens has many of the L-series requirements covered, so let's ask the question.

Why is the Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM not an L-series lens? To be considered an L-series lens, all aspects of design and performance, including optical quality, design, and construction, weather resistance, durability, and more, must adhere to an undisclosed and fluid set of internal standards.

On the missing list are:

  • Fluorite lens elements
  • Advanced optical coatings, including Air Sphere Coating (ASC) and Fluorine
  • IR-reflecting white coating
  • Dedicated MF ring
  • IS Mode switch
  • Professional target audience
  • Case included

Thus, this lens does not quite fit into the L-series of RF lenses.

While this lens does not get the ready-for-professional-use designation, it is well constructed.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Product Images

The straight exterior body design aids in holding comfort. As is normal for its class, this lens features an extending design, increasing by 3.54" (89.9mm) at 800mm.

The large rubber-covered zoom ring has a 140° rotation, making focal length changes moderately fast, which is needed to zoom through this long range. The zoom ring is smooth and there is impressively little play in the extended section of the lens barrel.

Like the RF 100-500, the RF 200-800 features a zoom ring tension adjustment ring. Positioned just behind the zoom ring, the tension adjustment ring allows the zoom ring resistance to be set as desired, though not completely locked. While many lenses provide a zoom lock switch that is usable only with the lens in its most retracted position, the tension adjustment ring offers far more flexibility. Rotate the ring a short amount to adjust the focus ring resistance between smooth and tight, the latter permitting any focal length settings to be firmly held, greatly enhancing a strong upward or downward angle shooting experience.

While this is a white lens, the color is slightly different from the RF L-series white, and the specialized IR-reflecting white coating is not featured. While a white lens might be less stealthy, garnering more attention than a black lens, white remains significantly cooler under a bright sun, reducing the temperature change and any negative issues that such contributes to, including part expansion, for consistent operation in high temperatures. I'll let you decide if white appears more professional, but white does hide dirt and dust better than black.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Side View

This lens has only two switches. Canon's usual flush-mount switch design is used, with sufficient raised area for use with gloves. The switches provide a sure click into each position.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Switches

With the AF/Control/MF switch positioned to "Control", the knurled Control Ring provides fast access to selectable settings, including aperture, ISO, and exposure compensation. While MF and the Control Ring cannot be used simultaneously without camera setting involvement, sharing functionality means there is one less ring to confuse. Three-position switches require a bit of care to select the middle position, but fully forward and full rearward make AF/MF selection easy. Note that this control ring turns smoothly — it is not clicked.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Mount

This lens design features the same dust and moisture resistance design as the RF 100-500 L lens, including at the critical point where it extends.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Weather Sealing Comparison with RF 100-500mm

The RF 200-800 does not have the Fluorine coatings useful for repelling fingerprints, dust, water, oil, and other contaminants and making cleaning considerably easier.

While the RF 200-800 is a relatively compact and light lens, it has a significant size, including both length and diameter, and weight.

ModelWeight oz(g)Dimensions w/o Hood "(mm)FilterYear 
Canon RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM Lens22.4(635)3.1 x 6.5(79.5 x 164.7)672021
Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens48.2(1365)3.7 x 8.2(93.8 x 207.6)772020
Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens72.4(2050)4.0 x 12.4(102.3 x 314.1)952023
Canon RF 600mm F11 IS STM Lens32.8(930)3.7 x 10.6(93.0 x 269.5)822020
Canon RF 800mm F11 IS STM Lens44.5(1260)4.0 x 14.2(101.6 x 361.8)952020
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Sports Lens74.1(2100)4.3 x 10.4(109.4 x 263.6)952021
Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens74.8(2120)4.5 x 12.5(115.5 x 318.0)952019
Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens60.9(1725)3.7 x 8.3(93.0 x 209.6)822021

For many more comparisons, review the complete Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Specifications using the site's lens specifications tool.

Here is a visual comparison:

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:

Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Sports Lens
Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens
Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens

The same lenses are shown below extended and with their hoods in place.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses with Hoods

Notably missing in the above comparisons is the slightly shorter Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD Lens. Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens to other lenses.

The RF 200-800mm lens has 95mm front threads. 95mm filters are large, heavy, and expensive, and they will not fit most other lenses without a step-up filter adapter ring.

Tripod rings provide balanced tripod mounting, avoiding tripod head and camera strain and sag, and they make camera rotation easy. This lens needs a tripod ring when used on support, and it gets a non-removable one that nicely integrates into the lens body.

This ring is solidly constructed, and the rotation is smooth, at least until partially locked. There are no 90° click stops, but small groves on the collar match with a small grove on top of the lens barrel to aid locking in these often-useful positions.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Neck Strap

Lens strap attachment points are provided on the tripod ring, and we are advised to use them vs. a camera-attached strap. Canon makes taking that advice easy by including Lens Strap 40 in the box.

Canon Lens Hood ET-101

Did you notice that the lens hood was not on the L-series missing list? This lens has no red ring, and therefore, it is a welcome surprise to learn that the lens hood is included.

The ET-101 is the same model used by the Canon RF 800mm F11 IS STM Lens. This large plastic lens hood (with a fine sandpaper texture) provides significant front element protection from impact and flare-inducing light. The rear of the hood is vented, helping to equalize air temperatures inside of the hood, potentially reducing heatwave distortion.

Canon Lens Case LZ1438

Sorry, the dual-zippered, padded nylon Canon Lens Case LZ1438 is nice but not included and expensive.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Cap

Price, Value, Compatibility

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The Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens offers strong value. While the aperture isn't wide, the range of focal lengths is long.

As an "RF" lens, this lens is compatible with all Canon EOS R-series cameras, including full-frame and APS-C models. Canon USA provides a 1-year limited warranty.

The reviewed Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens was online retail sourced.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Extended Top View


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While there is no direct alternative to the RF 200-800 at review time, the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens is on the radar for similar uses.

The focal length range difference is obviously significant. While the 100-199mm range is welcomed for many uses, including environmental wildlife imagery and portraits, the 501-800mm range (without extenders added to the comparison) holds great advantages, especially for wildlife photography.

The 100-500mm lens wins the image quality comparison, even at wide-open apertures and especially at the wider focal lengths. With the 1.4x mounted, the 100-500 at 700mm is slightly sharper than the 200-800 at 800mm. The 100-500 has slightly less peripheral shading at matching widest available wide apertures and less barrel distortion at the wider shared focal lengths.

Canon RF 200-800mm Lens Compared to RF 100-500mm Lens

The Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM vs. RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens comparison shows the 100-500 about 66% as long, narrower, and 24.2 oz (685g) lighter. The 100-500 has a Dual Nano USM AF system vs. Single Nano USM, 77mm filter threads vs. 95mm, a dedicated manual focus ring, a focus distance range switch, and a 0.33x max magnification vs. 0.25x. The 200-800 has a 5.5 stop rated IS system vs. 5.0, but the 100-500's coordinated IBIS rating goes to 6.0 stops. Of course, these CIPA ratings are calculated at the long end of the zoom range, and the 200-800's rating likely matches or exceeds the 100-500's coordinated rating at 500mm.

If the 100-500mm focal length range is adequate for your needs, and you can afford the RF 100-500's moderately higher price, that lens is my recommendation. Otherwise, the 200-800 is the better choice.

If your goal is to reach 800mm, the Canon RF 800mm F11 IS STM Lens becomes an option.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Compared to RF 800mm F11 IS STM Lens

In the image quality comparison, we see the prime lens producing a slight center-of-the-frame sharpness advantage. The prime lens has modestly stronger peripheral shading.

The Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM vs. RF 800mm F11 IS STM Lens comparison shows the zoom lens weighing considerably more and measuring a couple of inches longer at 800mm (both lenses retract). The zoom lens has 9 aperture blades vs. 0 — while the prime lens's aperture is always perfectly round, it is fixed at f/11.

The zoom lens has a Nano USM AF system vs. STM, a 5.5 stop IS rating vs. 4, and a 0.25x maximum magnification vs. 0.14x. The zoom lens has a 2/3 stop wider aperture at 800mm and offers dramatically increased versatility with its focal length range, but it costs nearly twice as much as the prime lens.

Use the site's tools to create additional comparisons.

Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens Top View


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The Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens offers an unparalleled range of long telephoto focal lengths, reaching an exceptionally and differentiatingly long 800mm, in a relatively compact, handholdably light, weather-sealed body with good image quality, Nano USM AF, high-performing Image Stabilization (5.5 stops of assistance) with auto panning detection, and an affordable price.

This lens is a great choice for serious amateurs and professionals pursuing wildlife photography, outdoor sports, and many other subjects needing the reach of an up to 800mm telephoto lens.

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Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens
Canon RF 200-800mm F6.3-9 IS USM Lens
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