Canon EF 1200mm lens

The EF 1200mm f/5.6L USM is a super-telephoto prime lens that was made by Canon Inc. It uses an EF mount, and is compatible with the Canon EOS camera range. It has a focal length of 1200 mm and so on a digital body with a sensor size of 22.5 mm × 15 mm (called 1.6× crop), such as a Canon EOS 40D or 450D, it provides a 35 mm field of view equivalent to that of a 1920 mm lens. With a body with a sensor size of 28.8 mm × 19.2 mm (called 1.3× crop), such as a Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, the field of view is equivalent to that of a 1560 mm lens.

EF 1200mm f/5.6L USM
Canon EF 1200mm ƒ-5.6 L USM.jpg
Canon EF 1200mm ƒ-5.6 L USM in a display case
Technical data
Focus driveUltrasonic motor
Focal length1200mm
Aperture (max/min)f/5.6 - f/32
Close focus distance45.9'/14m
Max. magnification1:11.1
Diaphragm blades9
Construction13 elements in 11 groups
Lens-based stabilizationNo No
ApplicationSuper Telephoto
Max. length32.9"/83.6cm
Filter diameter48mm (drop-in)
Lens hoodBuilt-In
Angle of view
IntroductionJuly 1993
Retail info
MSRP$89,579 USD

The lens was aimed at sports and wildlife photographers, and is both extremely expensive and extremely rare. Canon described it as "the world’s largest interchangeable SLR AF lens, in terms of both focal length and maximum aperture."[1]

Technical informationEdit

The EF 1200mm f/5.6L USM is a professional L-series lens, that is now discontinued.[2] The lens was first developed for the Canon FD mount, although never marketed until after Canon had transitioned to the EF mount. According to a Canon USA representative interviewed in 2009, the lens made its first public appearance at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles; Canon had shipped five copies of the lens for media use at the Games. All of the FD 1200mm f/5.6L lenses were eventually shipped back to Canon in Japan. Later in the 1980s, these lenses were converted to the EF mount.[3] When used at the Los Angeles Olympics the lenses were fitted with built-in 1.4x teleconverters.[4] The official website of Canon competitor Nikon implies that these lenses, with the built-in 1.4x teleconverter, were also used by photographers covering baseball games, including the very popular high school tournaments, at Japan's Koshien Stadium. Nikon developed a 1200–1700mm manual-focus super telephoto zoom, specifically designed for use at that stadium, in order to compete with Canon's offering.[5] The lens' exact discontinuation date is not documented, but lies around 2005 (see below sources). At that time, Canon habitually displayed all their telephoto lenses at fares such as Photokina for users to try. This included the 1200mm up to 2005. At the 2006 Photokina, it was absent.

This lens is constructed with a metal body and mount, and with plastic extremities and switches. The features of the lens are: a wide rubber focus ring that is damped, a distance window with infrared index, the ability to limit the focus range, a focus-preset mechanism, and the ability to set the AF speed. The maximum aperture of f/5.6 gives this lens the ability to create depth of field effects. The optical construction of the lens contains 13 lens elements, including two large fluorite lens elements. The lens uses an inner focusing system, powered by a ring type USM motor. Manual focusing is rendered by wire: the lens does not have a direct mechanical connection to the focusing ring, instead detecting rotation of the focusing ring and using the lens motor to drive the lens elements. The manual focus speed is adjustable: 1 = 1/2 standard (for precision), 2 = standard and 3 = 2x standard (for fast-moving subjects). The front of the lens does not rotate nor extend when focusing. It does not have a typical rotating tripod mount like other telephoto lenses. However, the lens mount can be rotated and locked, allowing the lens to be used in horizontal and vertical shot formats. It is compatible with the Canon Extender EF teleconverters. The lens uses a small slot to insert filters near the base of the lens, similar to other super-tele lenses, rather than the conventional attachment at the end of the barrel.

The lens came with its own heavy-duty tripod and case. The lens was only available for special "pre orders", and was never built before selling; its annual production volume was approximately two lenses.[3] The lens also took more than a year to construct, due to the time required to grow its massive fluorite crystals.[6]

Few of these lenses exist; Canon has never released production figures, but it is almost certain that fewer than 100 were made, and it has been rumored that the actual number is closer to 20. A list of owners has also never been made public, but reported owners include Sports Illustrated magazine (two); Canon Professional Services (two); James Jannard, the billionaire founder of Oakley and RED Digital Cinema (two); and the National Geographic Society (at least one for its magazine). It is also widely believed that several intelligence and law enforcement agencies own this lens.[3]

Since its discontinuation, only three second-hand copies of the lens have been offered for public sale:

  • In 2009, the New York-based B&H Photo Video retailer sold this lens for US$120,000.[3]
  • In August 2014 a British dealer, MPB Photographic, offered this lens for £99,000 (slightly over $165,000 at the time)[7] with VAT included.
  • B&H offered this lens again in April 2015, this time for $180,000.[8]
  • On October 9, 2021, the German auction house Wetzlar Camera Auctions offered this lens to the public at auction,[9] eventually selling for €400,000 (about $460,000),[10] the highest ever value for a camera lens.


  1. ^ Canon Europe product page Archived 2005-09-25 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Canon Hongkong Co. Ltd - discontinued Super-telephoto lens page". Canon Hongkong. 2006. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d Carnathan, Bryan. "Up Close with the Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6 L USM Lens". B&H Photo Video. Retrieved July 3, 2011.
  4. ^ Steve simon (Feb 9, 1985). "Heavy lens". The Montreal Gazette. p. B-13. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
  5. ^ "Zoom-Nikkor 1200-1700mm f/5.6-8P IF-ED". Recollections. Nikon Corporation. Archived from the original on 2012-06-22. Retrieved June 17, 2012. In [the] 1980s, a rival company was making a 1200mm f/5.6 super telephoto lens. The newspapers were beginning to switch over to cameras made by this company in order to use the lens in their coverage of baseball at Koshien Stadium. In May 1989, Nikon rushed to begin development of its own super telephoto lens for Koshien Stadium.
  6. ^ Nikitas, Theano (July 8, 2010). "9 Unbelievable Camera Lenses That Actually Exist". Popular Photography. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  7. ^ Carnathan, Bryan (August 15, 2014). "Desperately Need a 1200mm Canon Lens? You're in Luck!". Retrieved August 17, 2014.
  8. ^ Zhang, Michael (April 28, 2015). "B&H is Selling a Used Canon 1200mm f/5.6L Lens for Just $180,000". PetaPixel. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  9. ^ "Rare $120,000+ Canon 1200mm f/5.6L lens to be auctioned - Australian Photography". Retrieved 2021-10-02.
  10. ^ Artaius, James (13 October 2021). "Ultra-rare Canon EF 1200mm camera lens fetches $462,321 at auction". Digital Camera World.

External linksEdit