Are third-party RF lenses finally on the way?

Since the launch of its RF lens mount in 2018, Canon has stopped third-party manufacturers from making lenses for the system. However, in an interview with PetaPixel, a company spokesperson indicated that there might be some hope for the future.

What was said by Canon?

PetaPixel spoke to Canon’s Go Tokura during the CP+ 2024 camera show in Yokohama, Japan, earlier this month. Tokura is the Senior Managing Executive Officer and Deputy Head of the Imaging Group at Canon. When asked about the company’s position on third-party lenses, Tokura said, “There is a slight change from last year.”

What has changed?

Tokura went on to explain that Canon had now launched more than 40 lenses and added, “Our product lineup has become more versatile and based on that, our communication with the third party has been seeing more progress from last year.”  When asked about how much progress had been made, Tokura replied cryptically, “More than 50%. I know that is still ambiguous, but what I mean this is that at least we are starting the discussion.”

Why hasn’t Canon allowed third-party lenses before?

During the interview, Tokura was asked why Canon had continued to prohibit third-party RF mount lenses. His answer was refreshingly candid: “Our business strategy says that we are not going to partner with a third party. And the reason why we came up with that strategy is because of the business that we are doing. So our business is that if we have some technology, we try to lock them up inside of our company and try to make a profit out of that. That’s the basis of our business.”

Why is Canon talking to third-party companies now?

Concerning the future, Tokura said, “It’s been six years since we launched RF and we have come up with quite enough product lineups for the body and over 40 lenses. And so the business environment has changed around RF. And so based on that, we have considered expanding our new horizon to this business as a strategy. So that’s the reason why we started discussion with the third party list manufacturers.”

What we think

Up till now, Canon has been very active in protecting its patents for the RF mount system. Samyang, Yongnuo, and Viltrox all discontinued their autofocus lenses for the RF mount after Canon sent them cease and desist letters. Companies invest a lot of money in developing new products and need the protection of patents so they can recoup some of those costs. However, it looks as though Canon is now happy to start licensing the use of the RF mount to third-party manufacturers. It might be a few years before we see RF mount lenses from other companies on the market. However, it looks as though they are finally on the way.

Pete Tomkies
Pete Tomkies
Pete Tomkies is a freelance cinematographer and camera operator from Manchester, UK. He also produces and directs short films as Duck66 Films. Pete's latest short Once Bitten... won 15 awards and was selected for 105 film festivals around the world.

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