Last month, Canon drew ire after it was revealed – via user screenshots of a customer-service chat – that the company had forced third-party lens manufacturer Viltrox “to stop selling all RF-mount products.”
The Viltrox representative explained: “If Canon opens up permissions in the future, there may be changes,” but that “we’re not the first company to be stopped.”
In other words, Canon has been cracking down on third-party lenses designed for its RF-mount mirrorless system (a system that includes cameras such as the popular EOS R5, EOS R6, and EOS RP). And research carried out by DIY Photography indicates that only RF-mount lenses with autofocus capabilities have been removed from third-party product lineups, while manual-focus RF-mount lenses have remained untouched.
The reason? DIY Photography suspects “patent enforcement” issues. Manual-focus third-party lenses aren’t chock-full of Canon technology and are difficult to oppose from a legal perspective; autofocusing third-party lenses, however, boast plenty of Canon’s latest and greatest tech, and are therefore more vulnerable to ownership challenges.
It’s all-around bad news for Canon users, many of whom rely on third-party glass to round out their gear bags. Lenses brought out by manufacturers such as Viltrox, Sigma, Tamron, and Laowa are consistently cheaper than native Canon lenses, and these companies also produce specialty glass that allows photographers to pursue creative applications, such as super macro and soft-focus photography. Restrictions on third-party products seem guaranteed to reduce the number of lens options without offering any real benefit to consumers.
Of course, Canon does allow third-party companies to produce certain compatible lenses – as evidenced by the dozens of non-native lens models currently available – but those are EF-mount lenses designed for Canon’s DSLR system, not RF-mount lenses.
So why the change? The ever-reliable Canon Rumors offers a few answers, gathered from “two quality sources.”
First: “Canon doesn’t feel the RF lineup is anywhere near maturity, and they want the lineup filled out with their own lenses.”
Second: “Canon believes the ‘more affordable’ options are already covered by the…EF lenses out there that work extremely well on the RF mount with Canon’s line of adapters.”
And finally: “Canon isn’t done with tweaks and improvements to the RF mount.”
Technically, Canon is right: Mirrorless photographers do have access to plenty of affordable lenses via the EF to EOS R adapter. But the adapter adds extra size to each setup, and it can be inconvenient to work with, especially if you’re using a mix of RF and EF lenses. Plus, third-party manufacturers consistently push the boundaries of imaging via new technology, and while EF lenses are nice, they’re still old.
And there’s more bad news: “One of the sources said not to expect anything from the third-party manufacturers until late 2024 at the earliest, and that not every manufacturer is going to be given the opportunity to make RF lenses.”
So while Canon users may eventually gain access to high-quality third-party glass, it won’t be anytime soon – and the lens selection may remain limited, at least compared to the current EF-mount third-party options.
Now over to you:
What do you think of this move by Canon? When do you think Canon will allow third-party AF lenses? Share your thoughts in the comments below!