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New Canon RF 100-400mm and RF 16mm Lenses

The number of EOS R lenses is growing with the release of the new Canon RF 100-400mm f/5.6-8 IS USM and RF 16mm f/2.8 STM lenses. We take a closer look at them in our review here with sample images, video review and 100% crop images for pixel peepers.

New Canon RF 100-400mm and RF 16mm Lnes review


Firstly, we have to say just what an exciting time it is for Canon full frame mirrorless users. On the same day 14th September 2021 as these two new RF lenses launched, the EOS R3 flagship mirrorless camera also launched (read our R3 camera specs comparison here) along with new multi-function shoe accessories. It’s not everyday a manufacturer gives their customers so much to celebrate and there really has never been a better time to be shooting mirrorless with Canon.

Vlogging with the RF 16mm ultra wide angle lens

Vlogging with the RF 16mm ultra wide angle lens

The concept behind these new RF lenses

The two new Canon RF lenses are designed around similar concepts, but with entirely different subjects in mind. Both are extremely compact and lightweight, affording the option to bring unique lenses absolutely anywhere without a heavy weight penalty. Both are affordable options when compared to their closest stablemates in the Canon mirrorless lens line-up and both are refined for their subjects combining portability with great results. Both models also offer customary lens barrel control rings with the 16mm providing a n electronic focus ring which doubles up as the control ring.

Tutorial with the Canon RF 16mm vlogging lens

What subjects suit these two very different lenses?

These two have predominantly different subject specialities, with the RF 100-400mm f/5.6-8 IS USM being a super telephoto zoom and the RF 16mm f/2.8 STM being a fixed focal length ultra wide angle. Here are some of the primary subjects suited to each:

RF 100-400mm mounted on EOS R6 body at 400mm. 1/60 sec. f/8. ISO 200.

RF 100-400mm mounted on EOS R6 body at 400mm. 1/60 sec. f/8. ISO 200. The close minimum focus of just 88cm at the telephoto end makes this an excellent lens for tele-macro close-up images and video

Canon RF 100-400mm f/5.6-8 IS USM

RF 16mm f/2.8 STM



Wildlife and safaris


Bird photography




Family outings

Astro photography, aurora and night skies



Distant portraits and lifestyle

Environmental portraits

You can of course use either lens for any other subjects not listed here, perhaps portraits for either, and selfies or group shots for the 16mm. There are no rules for subjects and focal lengths, simply recommendations for what they are most commonly used for. You might enjoy something completely different with yours, if so let us know!

It wouldn’t be right to compare specifications of these two lenses to each other as they are completely different, so we’ve put a comparison below to the nearest models from the RF range.

RF 100-400mm mounted on EOS R6 body at 400mm. 1/85 sec. f/8. ISO 400.

RF 100-400mm mounted on EOS R6 body at 400mm. 1/85 sec. f/8. ISO 400. Another tele-macro image of flowers from this telephoto

RF 100-400mm Vs RF 100-500mm specs compared


Canon RF 100-400mm f/5.6-8 IS USM

Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 L IS USM

Lens Construction


12 / 9

20 / 14

Special Optics

1x UD, 1 x PMo Aspherical

1x Super UD, 6x UD

Number of Diaphragm Blades



Closest Focusing Distance (m)

0.88 at tele end

1.2m at tele end

Maximum Magnification (x)



Image Stabiliser OIS (OIS + IBIS )

5.5 stop (6-stop)

5-stop (6-stop)

AF Actuator

Nano USM

Dual Nano USM


Super Spectra





Extender compatibility




79.5 x 164.7mm

93.8mm x 207.6mm




The differences between the two super telephoto zooms is pretty clear from this comparison. The newer 100-400mm is aimed at enthusiasts and photographers who want a smaller, lighter zoom while the 100-500mm is aimed at those who need the best possible image quality, with a little further reach. The newer lens is significantly lighter and more compact when stowed, while still offering a 9-bladed aperture, close minimum focus distance, excellent magnification and Canon’s newest Super Spectra coating, which is also found on the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro Lens. You can add Extenders on both, which gets you as far as 800mm with the shorter zoom. That is an impressive focal length by any measurement. Next up we’ll compare the ultra wide RF 16mm. The 100-400mm also gives you brilliant optical stabilisation so you can handhold for longer and with sharper results, while both excel when you mount on an EOS R5, R6 or the latest R3.

Watch the Canon RF 100-400mm f/5.6-8 IS USM Lens Review video here

RF 16mm mounted on EOS R6 body. 1/500 sec. f/8. ISO 200.

RF 16mm mounted on EOS R6 body. 1/500 sec. f/8. ISO 200. This shows what a great lens this is for group photos

The 100-400mm option does use a Nano USM for smooth, fast focusing whereas the bigger brother has two of those focus actuators. The 100-400mm design shares commonalties with Canon’s two prime super telephoto lenses. See our blog link in the summary for more details on our review of those lenses.

100% crop from image above

100% crop from image above

RF 16mm f/2.8 STM Lens

The RF 16mm is the first ultra wide angle prime (fixed focal length) in Canon’s full frame mirrorless range which makes it hard to find a direct comparison for specifications. You can get of course two ultra wide zoom lenses, which are the Canon RF 14-35mm f/4L IS USM and RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM, but these are completely different options.Hi

So let’s just talk about what the new Canon RF 16mm lens brings to the line-up:

  • Incredibly compact size and lightweight lens measuring 69.2 x 40.1mm at just 165g. This is absolutely miniature allowing you to use it on any full frame Canon mirrorless camera and barely notice the weight. Clearly this is ideal for one of the primary purposes, which is for vlogging where you want as light a set-up as possible.
  • The ultra wide field of view lets you get everything you need into the frame whether you’re shooting a makeup tutorial, content for a cooking channel or any vlogging direct to camera. Of course an ultra wide prime is also ideal for grand landscapes, astro photography and architectural shots too, getting lots of subject into the frame.
  • The lens has an excellent 0.13m minimum focus distance. This enables you to vlog while handholding the camera and get your whole face into the frame as well as shoot any other subjects extremely closely. In the example here you can see just how frame filling the animal is and the excellent level of detail 100% crop gives you.

landscape with RF 16mm lens

RF 16mm mounted on EOS R6 body. 1/400 sec. f/11. ISO 200. This ultra wide is an excellent landscape lens

Watch our video review Canon RF 16mm f/2.8 STM Lens First Look here


Both of these lenses offer mirrorless camera users with compact and lightweight lenses which don’t sacrifice quality over their compact size. Whilst they are both highly competent in their own rights, there are professional models with more glass available. Those are all significantly heavier and more expensive and in the case of the 16mm the other options are zooms at the time of launch.

The idea of these two is that users have options to bring just the lightest gear with them, which will get their jobs done very well at reasonable costs for their intended purposes. The 16mm is the widest prime in the RF line-up at launch and well placed to become a huge success thanks to excellent quality combined with its diminutive size. Meanwhile the 100-400mm offers a new focal range with the added benefit of Extender compatibility. The lens will more than meet the needs of most photographers who want to capture everyday telephoto subjects without the weight or expensive of other options. Both are excellent options for capturing movies too, which all EOS R cameras are known for. If you love content without the weight, these are two brilliant options.

Landscape with 100-400mm RF Canon lens

RF 100-400mm mounted on EOS R6 body at 200mm. 1/8 sec. f/11. ISO 200. You can pick out beautiful landscape details with a telephoto of this kind.

Related reviews

Check out our other Canon mirrorless lens reviews including the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens review. The eye waveringly good (and expensive!) RF 600mm f/4L IS USM and RF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM lens review as well as the Canon RF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM and RF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens reviews. We also reviewed the RF 100-500mm and two prime super telephoto lenses (both f/11) here.

100% crop from above sample image

100% crop from image above

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By Nick Dautlich on 14/09/2021

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