Sports Photographer Richard Pelham Reviews Canon’s New Lightweight 600mm Telephoto Lens

22 May 2019

Chief sports photographer for The Sun newspaper Richard Pelham tests Canon’s new 600mm hyper-telephoto lens at recent Premier League and Emirates FA Cup matches

Whether you’re photographing birds in the garden, cars on a racetrack or players on a football pitch, you’ll need a long telephoto lens to get the reach you need to fill the frame.

While zoom telephoto lenses are generally the most affordable option for photographers – with 70-200mm, 70-300mm or 150-600mm models the most popular on the market – if you want a clearer image or better bokeh then a telephoto prime lens could be a great investment (or worth hiring for a special occasion if the budget won’t stretch).

For professional sports photographers like Richard Pelham, a hyper-telephoto prime lens is an essential part of his kit bag.  As a dedicated Canon user, Richard trialled Canon’s new EF 600mm f/4L IS III telephoto lens at recent Premier League and Emirates FA Cup matches.

It is worth mentioning that Nikon’s contender, the  AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4 E FL ED VR also gets great reviews.

Lens Features

Mount: Canon EF

Lens construction (elements/groups): 17/13

Diaphragm blades: 9

Autofocus: Ultrasonic (ring-type)

Stabiliser: 5-stop Image Stabiliser

Closest focus distance: 4.2m

Filter thread: 52mm Drop in

Dimensions: 168 x 448mm

Weight: 3050g

RRP: £12,999.99

Canon boasts that this latest model is the world’s lightest compared to equivalent models on the market.  At 3,050g, it weighs 20% less than its predecessor. To achieve this, Canon says that it has completely redesigned the optical and mechanical structure of the lens, in the process also improving on image quality and optical image stabilisation.  It has also added a new electronic focusing ring and manual focus speed switch to allow photographers to fine tune the focus position exactly how they want.  Read on to find out what Richard made of it in action.

Manchester City v West Ham United Women’s SSE FA Cup Final, 4 May 2019, © Richard Pelham


I would usually use a Canon 500mm f/4 lens for football matches.  I tried a 600mm years ago but decided it was too heavy and bulky for me, so I was curious to find out how this new lightweight version would be in action.

The first thing I noticed when I unpacked the EF 600mm f/4L IS III is really just how light it is to handle – I couldn’t believe it.  It comes with a great lightweight case too, making it easy to carry when I need to walk to stadiums.

When you’re using a 600mm lens at the football, you need to take into consideration the other photographers around you.  It’s not fair for you to stick your lens out so far that they cannot work too.  I found this lens was much less bulky than other models I’ve tried and was easy to manoeuvre.

It’s my job to get the big moments at matches.  And I really noticed a difference with the 600mm compared to the 500mm in terms of how much I could capture. Even if I was at the wrong end of the pitch, I could still cover both ends easily.  It brought me much closer to the halfway line where much of the action was, allowing me to fill the frame better.

Manchester City v Watford, FA Cup Final, Wembley Stadium, 18 May 2019, © Richard Pelham

I found the clarity was better too, the images I got were so clear and the focal length really knocked the background out of focus.  It worked especially well for the trophy presentation for the FA Cup Final Winners in the Royal Box (see featured image). The way it stayed sharp even under dull light was incredible.

This summer in the UK is all about the cricket, with the ICC Cricket World Cup and the Ashes series against Australia.  This lens will be perfect for those long days in the sunshine.  You can easily use it with a mono pod, making it easy to swing around and track the action around the pitch without the burden of a heavy, cumbersome tripod.

Manchester City v Leicester City, Premier League, The Etihad Stadium, 6 May 2019 © Richard Pelham

Arsenal v Brighton and Hove Albion, Premiere League, 5 May 2019, © Richard Pelham

Manchester City v Leicester City, Premier League, The Etihad Stadium, 6 May 2019 © Richard Pelham

Manchester City v Watford, FA Cup Final, Wembley Stadium, 18 May 2019,  © Richard Pelham

Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United , Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, 27 April 2019, © Richard Pelham

Richard Pelham is chief sports photographer at The Sun newspaper.  In his 30-year career he has won multiple awards for his work photographing professional sports people and matches. To see more of Richard’s work, visit his website: www.dickiepelham.com.

Featured image: Manchester City v Watford, FA Cup Final, 18 May 2019, Wembley Stadium, © Richard Pelham