1 June 2023

When Canon announced the R100, I read some comments that it would make a good basic wildlife kit when combined with one of the RF 100-400 mm f/5.6-8, RF 600 mm f/11, or RF 800 mm f/11 lenses.

I would tend to disagree. I do so as someone who uses the similar M50 Mark II for wildlife photography. In my eyes, there are two main issues: autofocus and lenses.


The R100 has a fairly recent iteration of Canon’s dual-pixel autofocus system with subject detection and tracking. This allows it to confidently achieve and maintain focus on objects that move in the frame (subject tracking) and change distance (continuous autofocus or, in Canon-speak, “Servo AF”).

The issue is selection of the autofocus point. In wildlife photography, you typically want to put the autofocus point on your subject (if the subject is small in the frame) or on the subject’s eye (if the subject is larger).

Let’s consider how we might achieve this with three modern, compact Canon cameras: the R100, the similarly-priced M50 Mark II, and the slightly more expensive R50.

Let’s start with the R50 ($680 new, body only). It has a more modern processor and autofocus system than either the M50 Mark II or the R100. In particular it has animal-eye detection, so you can simply leave the camera in Tracking AF mode, half-press the shutter, and the camera will often correctly place the autofocus point on the animal or, if possible, on the animal’s eye. If it doesn’t, you can use the touch screen as a touchpad to move the autofocus point to your subject. The camera’s tracking feature will then keep the autofocus point on the subject, allowing you to recompose at will. Sweet.

The M50 Mark II ($500 new, body only) has a slightly older processor and autofocus system than the R50. In particular, while it has subject detection, it doesn’t have animal-eye detection. This means that in Tracking AF mode it will tend to lock on to the body of an animal rather than the eye. For birds in flight, that’s about the best you can manage, so often these images will have less-than-perfect focus. However, for stationary or slow moving birds, you can use the touch screen as a touchpad to manually place the autofocus point. It’s more work, but it gets the job done and rapidly becomes something you can do very quickly. Again, the camera’s tracking feature will then keep the autofocus point on the subject, allowing you to recompose at will.

Now let’s consider the R100 ($480 new, body only). The R100 is to a large degree a M50 Mark II with a lens mount for RF lenses rather than EF-M lenses and, crucially, without the touch screen. In particular, the autofocus system appears to be very similar and doesn’t have animal-eye detection. The lack of a touch screen means that to move the autofocus point, you need to press the AF button and then use the arrow buttons. It is slow, and while it’s fine for architecture and landscape, it’s not feasible for wildlife.

So, with the R100 you’re limited to either Tracking AF with automatic subject detection, which will focus on the body rather than the eye, or Spot AF with a central autofocus point placed manually over the subject’s eye, which in practice requires you to keep the subject in the center of the field. While a central autofocus point will work, it limits your ability to recompose. Either you will always have your subject in the center of the field, or you will need to frame wider and then recompose by cropping in post, which reduces sharpness and increases noise.

This is not an absolute impediment to wildlife photography, but it is a significant limitation. I used to shoot with a Sony a6000, which also used arrow buttons to move the autofocus point. When I changed to a Canon M50 Mark II, it was hugely liberating to be able to use the touch screen to quickly move the autofocus point or to select a subject for tracking.

This makes it difficult to recommend the R100, given that the M50 Mark II has a similar price but also comes with a touch screen.

Here are some of examples of my photos for which it was useful to be able to quickly move the focus point away from the center and onto the bird’s eye. In all cases, I could have shot wider with a central focus point, at a cost in noise and sharpness.

House Finch

Black Vulture

House Sparrow


Now let’s consider lenses.

We can quickly discard the RF 600 mm f/11 and RF 800 mm f/11 for use on APS-C bodies. The slow f/11 aperture will give noisy images that are softened by diffraction. Additionally, the 800 mm is too long for many compositions. (On a full-frame sensor, it’s a different story.)

The RF 100-400 mm f/5.6-8 ($650 new) is more promising. The focal length is fine; I often shoot at about 400 mm on APS-C and crop in slightly to 500-600 mm. It’s about as slow as you would want for APS-C, but is adequate for daytime use. One clear advantage is its lightness, at about 635 g. It costs about $650 new, and as a recent lens is not yet widely available used. Of course, this RF lens is not compatible with the M50 Mark II, which accepts older EF-M lenses.

However, the Sigma 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 in EF mount ($800 new or $500 used) is about ⅔ of a stop faster than the RF 100-400 mm at 400 mm, is comparably sharp, and is similarly priced when new. Furthermore, you can buy the Sigma 100-400 mm used at a considerable discount on the new price. You’ll need an EF-to-RF or EF-to-EF-M adapter to use this lens. The Sigma 100-400 mm is about twice as heavy as the RF 100-400 mm, at 1160 g compared to 635 g, but that’s almost inevitable given its faster aperture.

The Sigma 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 DG OS C in EF mount ($100 new or $850 used) is only slightly more expensive. It has more reach than either of the 100-400 mm lenses and is very competitive in sharpness. Its major disadvantage is its weight at 1930 g.


So what budget kit would I recommend for wildlife photography?

If you can afford it, I’d recommend the R50 ($680 new, body only). After that, the M50 Mark II ($500 new, body only). And last in the queue, the R100 ($480 new, body only).

As to lenses, the Sigma 150-600 mm ($1000 new or $850 used plus an adapter for $50), then the Sigma 100-400 mm ($800 new or $500 used plus an adapter for $50), and finally the RF 100-400 mm ($650 new and not yet available used).

Let’s see the matrix of prices, assuming used Sigma lenses.

R50M50 Mark IIR100
Sigma 150-600$1650$1450$1450
Sigma 100-400$1300$1100$1100
Canon 100-400$1350-$1150

You can see that the M50 Mark II with a used Sigma 100-400 m lens is actually slightly cheaper than an R100 with the RF 100-400 mm lens, but the former has a better body (with a touch screen) and a faster lens. The only disadvantage is the additional weight, but I think it’s still light enough for most people.

Additional Notes

Frame Rate and Buffer Depth

All of these cameras have deficiencies in either their frame rates or their buffer depths or both:

You can see that you’ll quickly fill the buffer unless you use JPEG or HEIF format. That’s typical with low-end bodies.

What’s the Point of the R100?

I think the R100 combined with a telephoto lens will be useful for parents who want to photograph their kids doing sports. I’d imagine the automatic subject detection and tracking will work here, that most users will simply use it as a point-and-shoot in the sports scene mode and not be bothered by the lack of controls. The buffers are adequate for JPEGs, although the frame rate of 3.5 frames per second is marginal. Canon even sells a kit that combines the R100 body, RF 18-45 mm f/4.5-6.3 lens, and RF 55-210 mm f/5-7.1 telephoto lens for $830.

Not surprisingly, the M50 Mark II can also perform these duties quite nicely. Canon also sells a kit that combines the M50 Mark II body, EF-M 15-45 mm f/3.5-6.3 lens, and EF-M 55-200 mm f/4.5-6.3 for the same price as the similar kit for the R100.

In both cases, an alternative is to adapt an EF-S 55-250 mm f/4-5.6 IS STM ($300 new and $150 used), which gives slightly more reach and slightly faster apertures. (Make sure you get the “IS STM” model, not the earlier and significantly worse “IS” or “IS II” models.)

But Isn’t EF-M Dead?

You might well ask, how can I recommend the M50 Mark II in 2023 when the EF-M system is clearly not going to be developed further by Canon?

I’d recommend using the M50 Mark II with a EF-to-EF-M adapter and only buying EF or EF-S lenses. If you later change to an RF camera, you can take these with you simply by buying an EF-to-RF adapter for $50. EF and EF-S lenses can be bought used at very reasonable prices.

In particular, I’d recommend considering the EF-S 18-55 mm f/4-5.6 IS STM as a standard zoom, the EF-S 10-18 mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM as a wide zoom, the EF-S 18-135 mm f/4-5.6 IS STM or IS USM as a travel zoom, the EF-S 24 mm f/2.8 STM as a compact wider prime, and the EF 50 mm f/1.8 STM as a portrait lens. I also like the EF-S 55-250 mm f/4-5.6 IS STM as a lightweight telephoto zoom, but if you get the Sigma 100-400 mm it’s less necessary.