Canon EF 600mm F/4L USM

Super telephoto prime lens • Film era • Discontinued



EF The lens is designed for Canon EOS 35mm SLR cameras but can be also used on Canon EOS APS-C digital SLR cameras.
L Professional lens with high quality optics and robust build. Meets the highest standards and provides excellent performance and flawless image quality unachievable with traditional optical technologies.
USM The lens is equipped with Ultrasonic Motor.

Model history (4)

Canon EF 600mm F/4L USMA9 - 86m-- 1988 
Canon EF 600mm F/4L IS USMA17 - 135.5m-- 1999 
Canon EF 600mm F/4L IS II USMA16 - 124.5m-- 2011 
Canon EF 600mm F/4L IS III USMA17 - 134.2m-- 2018 

Features highlight

Focus limiter
8 blades
Drop-in filters


Production details
Announced:November 1988
Production status: Discontinued
Original name:CANON LENS EF 600mm 1:4 L ULTRASONIC
System:Canon EOS (1987)
Optical design
Focal length:600mm
Maximum format:35mm full frame
Mount and Flange focal distance:Canon EF [44mm]
Diagonal angle of view:4.1°
Lens construction:9 elements in 8 groups
1 FL, 2 UD
Internal focusing (IF)
Diaphragm mechanism
Diaphragm type:Automatic
Aperture control:None; the aperture is controlled from the camera
Number of blades:8 (eight)
On Canon EOS APS-C [1.59x] cameras
35mm equivalent focal length:954mm (in terms of field of view)
35mm equivalent speed:F/6.4 (in terms of depth of field)
Diagonal angle of view:2.6°
Closest focusing distance:6m
Maximum magnification:1:9.1 at the closest focusing distance
Focusing modes:Autofocus, manual focus
Autofocus motor:Ring-type Ultrasonic Motor (*)
Manual focus control:Focusing ring
Focus mode selector:AF - M
Full-Time Manual Focus (FTM):Yes
Focusing distance range limiter:6-;6-15;15-
Image Stabilizer (IS)
Built-in IS:-
Physical characteristics
Maximum diameter x Length:⌀167×456mm
Weather sealing:-
Fluorine coating:-
Filters:Removable front filters are not accepted
Additional features:Drop-in filter holder (48mm)
Lens hood:ET-161 - Clamp-on round
Teleconverters:Canon Extender EF 1.4X → 840mm F/5.6
Canon Extender EF 1.4X II → 840mm F/5.6
Canon Extender EF 1.4X III → 840mm F/5.6
Canon Extender EF 2X → 1200mm F/8
Canon Extender EF 2X II → 1200mm F/8
Canon Extender EF 2X III → 1200mm F/8
Source of data
Manufacturer's technical data.

Manufacturer description #1

Developed just in time for the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988, the EF 600mm f/4L USM has firmly established itself as the one of the finest long-range autofocus super telephoto lenses ever made. Incorporating one fluorite and two UD glass elements in a 9-element formula, its clarity and snap must be experienced to be appreciated. Its rear-group focusing design is perfectly matched with a powerful, silent USM autofocus drive. Manual focusing is also very smooth, and like other L-Series super telephotos, can be set for either half, normal or double speed to match the shooting conditions. Well suited for both sports and nature photography, the value of the EF 600mm f/4L USM is further enhanced by its compatibility with EF Extenders . When used with the Extender EF 1.4x, the EF 600mm becomes an autofocus 840mm f/5.6, while the 600mm/2X combination produces a manual focus 1200mm f/8.

Manufacturer description #2

The EF 600mm f/4.0L is the first super-telephoto EF lens. It was developed along with the EOS 850, to satisfy the needs of professional photographers.


  • A fluorite and two ultra-low dispersion (UD) elements are used to almost completely eliminate secondary color.
  • A telephoto lens design revision holds distance-related aberration variations to a minimum, and improved image quality close up.
  • The ultrasonic focusing motor coupled to lightweight internal focusing cell equals high speed autofocus.
  • The powered "manual" focusing ring is positioned for best balance in handheld shooting.
  • The ability to limit the focusing range with the "focus preset" allows rapid shifts of focus between predetermined points.
  • The controls of all three long EF lenses have been standardized for users who use more than one lens.
  • The EF 1.4X increases the focal length while retaining a very respectable f/5.6 maximum aperture.

External Design

The external design concept of this lens is the same as the EF 300mm f/2.8L and EF 200mm f/1.8L and follows the concepts laid down for long lenses in the FD series. USM powered manual focusing and preset focus functions make this a quite flexible long telephoto lens.

The overall shape is one of curves, with few angles. Finish is in a slightly pebble-grained light gray lacquer to keep the lens as cool as possible. The red ring is the mark of an L series lens.

Optical Performance

Chromatic Aberration

In-focus areas give high contrast, accurate color reproduction and separation, no color fringing due to good lateral color control.

Out-of-focus areas give very pleasant blur without any color cast.

The viewfinder image is bright, clear, and neutral.

Aberration Variations with Focusing Distance

A positive element (G5) has been added to the middle group, allowing the power of the inner focusing group to be reduced. Since any group that moves in relation to the other groups tends to cause variations, and the greater its power, the greater the variations are, reducing the power of this group reduces the variations with focusing distance allowing closer focusing and stable image quality from closest focus to infinity. (As an example, the FL 600mm was an f/5.6 and focused only to 10 meters. The FD 600mm was a f/4.5 and focused to 8 meters. This lens is an f/4.0 and focuses to 6 meters and gives better image quality than the older lenses).


Internal focusing, combined with the USM, gives full-range focusing in about a second. Three speed powered manual focusing gives the advantage of power with the feel of manual focusing.

Control position and operation has been standardized, so that the photographer can switch between the 600, 300, and 200mm lenses and always feel at ease with the controls. naturally, a 600mm lens is designed primarily for use on a tripod, but the balance and the powered manual focusing should make this lens eminently hand-holdable for experienced photographers.


EF 2X: Since this combination gives 1000mm at f/8 and the light cone necessary for the autofocus sensor is f/7.6, autofocus cannot be used. Manual focus is possible with the switch in the AF position. AE operation is not affected.

EF 1.4X: Both AF and AE operate, although AF speed is intentionally decreased, as with the EF 300mm f/2.8 + EF 2X, but to a lesser extent than with the 2X extender.

Manufacturer description #3

A fast super telephoto lens boasting the brightest maximum aperture in its class. It is ideal for freezing super telephoto action. Large-diameter artificial system throroughly compensate axial chromatic aberration to ensure excellent picture quality. The optical system design also suppresses aberration changes during focusing, realizing well-balanced, sharp, clear imaging performance from infiinity to the closest focusing distance of 6 meters/19.7 feet. Rear focusing and a built-in Ultrasonic Motor provide extremely fast, high-precision autofocusing for a super-telephoto lens. As with the EF500mm, an electronic manual focusing ring is positioned for optimum balance while hand-holding. A focus preset function is provided. Use with the Extender EF 1.4X transforms the lens into an autofocus 840mm f/5.6, while the EF 2X creates a manual-focusing 1200mm f/78 super-super telephoto.

Manufacturer description #4

The Canon EF 600mm f4.0L is the first super telephoto EF lens and is designed for demanding professional use. It is particularly useful in nature photography, some news applications, and can be effectively used for outdoor sports. A new optical system design reduces aberration variation with respect to distance and improves picture quality at short distances. The EF 600mm f4.0L is compatible with EF 1.4X and 2X Extenders, to achieve AF photography at 840mm f5.6 and manual focusing at 1200mm f8.0, respectively.

  • One fluorite and two ultra low dispersion elements.
  • Built-in USM (ultrasonic motor) provides superior AF performance with quiet operation.
  • Electronic Focus Preset.
  • Three speed manual focusing.
  • 48mm drop in filter.

Typical application


Slow full-frame super telephoto prime lens • Professional model

Professional model

  • Combination of focal length and speed meets professional demands
  • Ring-type Ultrasonic Motor
  • Compatible with teleconverters

Missing features (3):

Image Stabilizer (IS) • Weather sealing • Fluorine coating

Genres or subjects of photography (4):

Distant subjects • Distant landscapes with perspective compression effect • Sports in good lighting conditions • Wild nature

Recommended slowest shutter speed when shooting static subjects handheld:

1/640th of a second

Alternatives in the Canon EOS system

Sorted by focal length and speed, in ascending order

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Table of contents
Pros and cons
Canon EF L series lenses (76)

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35mm full frame

43.27 24 36
  • Dimensions: 36 × 24mm
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Diagonal: 43.27mm
  • Area: 864mm2

Ring-type Ultrasonic Motor

Focusing distance range limiter

The lens features focusing distance range limiter which allows to choose between the following focusing distance ranges:

6m - ∞Full range of focusing distances.
6m - 15mRange of focusing distances suitable for shooting nearby subjects.
15m - ∞Range of focusing distances suitable for shooting distant subjects.

By setting the suitable focusing distance range, the actual autofocusing time can be shorter.

AF - M

AFAutofocus mode.
MManual focus mode.

Drop-in filter holder

A drop-in filter holder with a neutral filter comes with the lens. The holder accepts 48mm filters. The filter holder must be always in place because the filter is a part of the lens optical system.

Aspherical elements

Aspherical elements (ASPH, XA, XGM) are used in wide-angle lenses for correction of distortion and in large-aperture lenses for correction of spherical aberration, astigmatism and coma, thus ensuring excellent sharpness and contrast even at fully open aperture. The effect of the aspherical element is determined by its position within the optical formula: the more the aspherical element moves away from the aperture stop, the more it influences distortion; close to the aperture stop it can be particularly used to correct spherical aberration. Aspherical element can substitute one or several regular spherical elements to achieve similar or better optical results, which allows to develop more compact and lightweight lenses.

Use of aspherical elements has its downsides: it leads to non-uniform rendering of out-of-focus highlights. This effect usually appears as "onion-like" texture of concentric rings or "wooly-like" texture and is caused by very slight defects in the surface of aspherical element. It is difficult to predict such effect, but usually it occurs when the highlights are small enough and far enough out of focus.

Low dispersion elements

Low dispersion elements (ED, LD, SD, UD etc) minimize chromatic aberrations and ensure excellent sharpness and contrast even at fully open aperture. This type of glass exhibits low refractive index, low dispersion, and exceptional partial dispersion characteristics compared to standard optical glass. Two lenses made of low dispersion glass offer almost the same performance as one fluorite lens.

Low dispersion elements

Low dispersion elements (ED, LD, SD, UD etc) minimize chromatic aberrations and ensure excellent sharpness and contrast even at fully open aperture. This type of glass exhibits low refractive index, low dispersion, and exceptional partial dispersion characteristics compared to standard optical glass. Two lenses made of low dispersion glass offer almost the same performance as one fluorite lens.

Canon's Super UD, Nikon's Super ED, Pentax' Super ED, Sigma's FLD ("F" Low Dispersion), Sony' Super ED and Tamron's XLD glasses are the highest level low dispersion glasses available with extremely high light transmission. These optical glasses have a performance equal to fluorite glass.

High-refraction low-dispersion elements

High-refraction low-dispersion elements (HLD) minimize chromatic aberrations and ensure excellent sharpness and contrast even at fully open aperture.

High Index, High Dispersion elements

High Index, High Dispersion elements (HID) minimize chromatic aberrations and ensure excellent sharpness and contrast even at fully open aperture.

Anomalous partial dispersion elements

Anomalous partial dispersion elements (AD) minimize chromatic aberrations and ensure excellent sharpness and contrast even at fully open aperture.

Fluorite elements

Synthetic fluorite elements (FL) minimize chromatic aberrations and ensure excellent sharpness and contrast even at fully open aperture. Compared with optical glass, fluorite lenses have a considerably lower refraction index, low dispersion and extraordinary partial dispersion, and high transmission of infrared and ultraviolet light. They are also significantly lighter than optical glass.

According to Nikon, fluorite easily cracks and is sensitive to temperature changes that can adversely affect focusing by altering the lens' refractive index. To avoid this, Canon, as the manufacturer most widely using fluorite in its telephoto lenses, never uses fluorite in the front and rear lens elements, and the white coating is applied to the lens barrels to reflect light and prevent the lens from overheating.

Short-wavelength refractive elements

High and specialized-dispersion elements (SR) refract light with wavelengths shorter than that of blue to achieve highly precise chromatic aberration compensation. This technology also results in smaller and lighter lenses.

Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics

Organic Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics material (BR Optics) placed between convex and concave elements made from conventional optical glass provides more efficient correction of longitudinal chromatic aberrations in comparison with conventional technology.

Diffraction elements

Diffraction elements (DO, PF) cancel chromatic aberrations at various wavelengths. This technology results in smaller and lighter lenses in comparison with traditional designs with no compromise in image quality.

High refractive index elements

High refractive index elements (HR, HRI, XR etc) minimize field curvature and spherical aberration. High refractive index element can substitute one or several regular elements to achieve similar or better optical results, which allows to develop more compact and lightweight lenses.

Apodization element

Apodization element (APD) is in fact a radial gradient filter. It practically does not change the characteristics of light beam passing through its central part but absorbs the light at the periphery. It sort of softens the edges of the aperture making the transition from foreground to background zone very smooth and results in very attractive, natural looking and silky smooth bokeh.

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Image stabilizer

A technology used for reducing or even eliminating the effects of camera shake. Gyro sensors inside the lens detect camera shake and pass the data to a microcomputer. Then an image stabilization group of elements controlled by the microcomputer moves inside the lens and compensates camera shake in order to keep the image static on the imaging sensor or film.

The technology allows to increase the shutter speed by several stops and shoot handheld in such lighting conditions and at such focal lengths where without image stabilizer you have to use tripod, decrease the shutter speed and/or increase the ISO setting which can lead to blurry and noisy images.

Original name

Lens name as indicated on the lens barrel (usually on the front ring). With lenses from film era, may vary slightly from batch to batch.


Format refers to the shape and size of film or image sensor.

35mm is the common name of the 36x24mm film format or image sensor format. It has an aspect ratio of 3:2, and a diagonal measurement of approximately 43mm. The name originates with the total width of the 135 film which was the primary medium of the format prior to the invention of the full frame digital SLR. Historically the 35mm format was sometimes called small format to distinguish it from the medium and large formats.

APS-C is an image sensor format approximately equivalent in size to the film negatives of 25.1x16.7mm with an aspect ratio of 3:2.

Medium format is a film format or image sensor format larger than 36x24mm (35mm) but smaller than 4x5in (large format).

Angle of view

Angle of view describes the angular extent of a given scene that is imaged by a camera. It is used interchangeably with the more general term field of view.

As the focal length changes, the angle of view also changes. The shorter the focal length (eg 18mm), the wider the angle of view. Conversely, the longer the focal length (eg 55mm), the smaller the angle of view.

A camera's angle of view depends not only on the lens, but also on the sensor. Imaging sensors are sometimes smaller than 35mm film frame, and this causes the lens to have a narrower angle of view than with 35mm film, by a certain factor for each sensor (called the crop factor).

This website does not use the angles of view provided by lens manufacturers, but calculates them automatically by the following formula: 114.6 * arctan (21.622 / CF * FL),


CF – crop-factor of a sensor,
FL – focal length of a lens.


A lens mount is an interface — mechanical and often also electrical — between a camera body and a lens.

A lens mount may be a screw-threaded type, a bayonet-type, or a breech-lock type. Modern camera lens mounts are of the bayonet type, because the bayonet mechanism precisely aligns mechanical and electrical features between lens and body, unlike screw-threaded mounts.

Lens mounts of competing manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony etc.) are always incompatible. In addition to the mechanical and electrical interface variations, the flange focal distance can also be different.

The flange focal distance (FFD) is the distance from the mechanical rear end surface of the lens mount to the focal plane.

Lens construction

Lens construction – a specific arrangement of elements and groups that make up the optical design, including type and size of elements, type of used materials etc.

Element - an individual piece of glass which makes up one component of a photographic lens. Photographic lenses are nearly always built up of multiple such elements.

Group – a cemented together pieces of glass which form a single unit or an individual piece of glass. The advantage is that there is no glass-air surfaces between cemented together pieces of glass, which reduces reflections.

Focal length

The focal length is the factor that determines the size of the image reproduced on the focal plane, picture angle which covers the area of the subject to be photographed, depth of field, etc.


The largest opening or stop at which a lens can be used is referred to as the speed of the lens. The larger the maximum aperture is, the faster the lens is considered to be. Lenses that offer a large maximum aperture are commonly referred to as fast lenses, and lenses with smaller maximum aperture are regarded as slow.

In low-light situations, having a wider maximum aperture means that you can shoot at a faster shutter speed or work at a lower ISO, or both.

Closest focusing distance

The minimum distance from the focal plane (film or sensor) to the subject where the lens is still able to focus.

Closest working distance

The distance from the front edge of the lens to the subject at the maximum magnification.

Magnification ratio

Determines how large the subject will appear in the final image. For example, a magnification ratio of 1:1 means that the image of the subject formed on the film or sensor will be the same size as the subject in real life. For this reason, a 1:1 ratio is often called "life-size".

Manual focus override in autofocus mode

Allows to perform final focusing manually after the camera has locked the focus automatically. Note that you don't have to switch camera and/or lens to manual focus mode.

Manual focus override in autofocus mode

Allows to perform final focusing manually after the camera has locked the focus automatically. Note that you don't have to switch camera and/or lens to manual focus mode.

Electronic manual focus override is performed in the following way: half-press the shutter button, wait until the camera has finished the autofocusing and then focus manually without releasing the shutter button using the focusing ring.

Fixed focus

There is no helicoid in this lens and everything is in focus from the closest focusing distance to infinity.

Internal focusing (IF)

Conventional lenses employ an all-group shifting system, in which all lens elements shift during focusing. The IF system, however, shifts only part of the optics during focusing. The advantages of the IF system are:

Manual diaphragm

The diaphragm must be stopped down manually by rotating the detent aperture ring.

Preset diaphragm

The lens has two rings, one is for pre-setting, while the other is for normal diaphragm adjustment. The first ring must be set at the desired aperture, the second ring then should be fully opened for focusing, and turned back for stop down to the pre-set value.

Semi-automatic diaphragm

The lens features spring mechanism in the diaphragm, triggered by the shutter release, which stops down the diaphragm to the pre-set value. The spring needs to be reset manually after each exposure to re-open diaphragm to its maximum value.

Automatic diaphragm

The camera automatically closes the diaphragm down during the shutter operation. On completion of the exposure, the diaphragm re-opens to its maximum value.

Fixed diaphragm

The aperture setting is fixed at F/4 on this lens, and cannot be adjusted.

Number of blades

As a general rule, the more blades that are used to create the aperture opening in the lens, the rounder the out-of-focus highlights will be.

Some lenses are designed with curved diaphragm blades, so the roundness of the aperture comes not from the number of blades, but from their shape. However, the fewer blades the diaphragm has, the more difficult it is to form a circle, regardless of rounded edges.

At maximum aperture, the opening will be circular regardless of the number of blades.


Excluding case or pouch, caps and other detachable accessories (lens hood, close-up adapter, tripod adapter etc.).

Maximum diameter x Length

Excluding case or pouch, caps and other detachable accessories (lens hood, close-up adapter, tripod adapter etc.).

For lenses with collapsible design, the length is indicated for the working (retracted) state.

Weather sealing

A rubber material which is inserted in between each externally exposed part (manual focus and zoom rings, buttons, switch panels etc.) to ensure it is properly sealed against dust and moisture.

Lenses that accept front mounted filters typically do not have gaskets behind the filter mount. It is recommended to use a filter for complete weather resistance when desired.

Fluorine coating

Helps keep lenses clean by reducing the possibility of dust and dirt adhering to the lens and by facilitating cleaning should the need arise. Applied to the outer surface of the front and/or rear lens elements over multi-coatings.


Lens filters are accessories that can protect lenses from dirt and damage, enhance colors, minimize glare and reflections, and add creative effects to images.

Lens hood

A lens hood or lens shade is a device used on the end of a lens to block the sun or other light source in order to prevent glare and lens flare. Flare occurs when stray light strikes the front element of a lens and then bounces around within the lens. This stray light often comes from very bright light sources, such as the sun, bright studio lights, or a bright white background.

The geometry of the lens hood can vary from a plain cylindrical or conical section to a more complex shape, sometimes called a petal, tulip, or flower hood. This allows the lens hood to block stray light with the higher portions of the lens hood, while allowing more light into the corners of the image through the lowered portions of the hood.

Lens hoods are more prominent in long focus lenses because they have a smaller viewing angle than that of wide-angle lenses. For wide angle lenses, the length of the hood cannot be as long as those for telephoto lenses, as a longer hood would enter the wider field of view of the lens.

Lens hoods are often designed to fit onto the matching lens facing either forward, for normal use, or backwards, so that the hood may be stored with the lens without occupying much additional space. In addition, lens hoods can offer some degree of physical protection for the lens due to the hood extending farther than the lens itself.


Teleconverters increase the effective focal length of lenses. They also usually maintain the closest focusing distance of lenses, thus increasing the magnification significantly. A lens combined with a teleconverter is normally smaller, lighter and cheaper than a "direct" telephoto lens of the same focal length and speed.

Teleconverters are a convenient way of enhancing telephoto capability, but it comes at a cost − reduced maximum aperture. Also, since teleconverters magnify every detail in the image, they logically also magnify residual aberrations of the lens.

Lens caps

Scratched lens surfaces can spoil the definition and contrast of even the finest lenses. Lens covers are the best and most inexpensive protection available against dust, moisture and abrasion. Safeguard lens elements - both front and rear - whenever the lens is not in use.