After Banning Some Third-Party Lenses, What Does Canon's RF Future Look Like?

Recently, Canon banned the production and sales of some third-party lenses for its RF mount cameras. Many photography enthusiasts bemoaned the decision and claimed Canon would lose out because of it. Now that Canon has confirmed the prohibition, what does the future look like for its RF mount cameras and lenses?

Economics was never a particularly strong subject of mine when I was in high school, but I do remember some basic concepts such as supply and demand, cost-benefit analysis, and the impact of competition on the market. On that final point, the last decade or so has been wonderful for lens collectors, as many high-quality third-party lens manufacturers really started having an impact on the market. Companies such as Sigma, Tamron, Samyang, and Viltrox, to name a few, offered consumers cheaper options compared to native lenses, often with minimal loss in image quality. However, in Canon's case, the manufacture and sale of lenses for RF mounts has now been dramatically slowed, for reasons relating to patent infringement.

So, now that Canon has banned third-party lens manufacturers from making and selling lenses for Canon's RF mount cameras, what does the future look like for Canon and cameras that use this mount? That question brings us to this great video by Dave McKeegan, in which he discusses Canon's recent decision, the specific reasons behind it, and some of Canon's responses to the controversy. He also provides his view on where that leaves Canon and what its possible roadmap might look like heading into the future. It's a good watch and deserves your attention if you've been affected by this decision, as I have. What are your thoughts on all this?

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40 Comments
Stuart C's picture

I have no skin in the game here as I don't, or ever plan on owning a Canon setup, but this decision was just bizarre... in this world of value for money and options that customers demand, it seems ridiculous to alienate such a large portion of potential buyers.

Tom Reichner's picture

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This has a huge impact on me and the type of photography that I do.

As a Canon shooter, I depend heavily on 3rd party lenses, and that dependence has nothing to do with lower costs.

I depend on 3rd party lenses because companies like Sigma and Laowa make lenses that I need, that Canon refuses to make. Lenses like the 300-800mm f5.6, the 60-600mm f6.3, the 15mm f2.8 Macro (true macro with 1:1 magnification ratio), and the 24mm Macro Probe (true macro with unbelievable 2:1 magnification ratio).

Two members here on Fstoppers have commented on other articles that the preference for 3rd party lenses is based solely on lower prices - that 3rd party lens users just want them because they are cheaper. This is incorrect, and comes from a shallow, misinformed mindset.

Many people prefer 3rd party lenses because they come in specialized designs that work well for certain niche uses. And because Canon makes no lenses that are at all similar.

I have spent over $22,000 on Canon L series lenses over the past 12 years. So that shows I am no cheapskate looking for an economical alternative. But I use my 2 Sigma lenses more than all of my Canon lenses combined, because their zoom ranges are just more useful for the type of photography I do.

The next lenses I buy will be the Laowa 15mm f2.8 macro and the Laowa 24mm Macro Probe. I would prefer to buy Canon lenses, but Canon doesn't make any lenses that come anywhere near close to doing what these lenses can do. So I must rely on 3rd party lenses once again, because of huge gaping holes in Canon's lens product lineup.

Canon lenses are of world class quality, but they do not offer highly specialized lenses for unusual niche photography. Therefore I, and others, are forced to go to 3rd party lenses in order to get a lens that will actually do what we need it to do.

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Grant Allenby's picture

I'm in the same boat. I bought a Canon R7 as I shoot mostly wildlife and the 32MP, 15 fps mech and having a very fast working AF at those speeds was camera nevana for me. A £500 more stack sensor option would have had me keeled over with Joy.

However that ellation came crashing down when I tried to get lenses that as Super Tele with decent enough aperture. Nikon 200 - 500 f5.6 for example.

Its solely my own fault, but I was blown away with shock when trying to find RF and EF glass that flitted my needs. Like I say my own fault for not checking but why on earth don't Canon have a zoom lens over 400mm on the EF system. I guess I'm silly for presuming they must have one before I swapped from Nikon to Canon.
The RF offering 100 - 500 while it looks super sharp and great AF. It's £3500 to start but more important to me is its 7.1 at the ranges I want to use.
I can't tell you how much a difference having 5.6 over 7.1 makes when shooting in horrible light in Scotland.

Further to this saga, I thought no worries, I will just default to the trusty 150-600 EF Sigma, only to find out Canon are secretly artificially hamstringing them make giving those lenses pulsing issues. I can only assume it's Canon because Sigma has come out and said that the lens are perfectly fine and working. Plus with Canon recent stunt of blocking some 3rd party lenses in a update and then unblocking them in a further update.

i would buy a Canon 5.6 200-500 in a heartbeat regardless of price, well so long as it's semi reasonable and not £9k

So I have an R7 up for sale. Might look at the Fuji HS2 but I really love Nikon and want a professional/semi pro APS-C from them

Tom Reichner's picture

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Grant,

You bring up a great point, exposing Canon's utter lack of a XXX - 600mm zoom that is f5.6 or f6.3. Sony, Nikon, Sigma, and Tamron all have lenses in this niche and they are great sellers, as they fill a need that many wildlife photographers have for a long zoom that is small and light enough to handhold.

Seeing how well these lenses sell, and the vast amount of people I see using them in the field here in the U.S., it seems odd that Canon has refused to make a similar lens. I understand a corporation wanting to protect their other products, such as the $12,000 and over supertelephotos, but at some point you have to give your customer base what they want, or they will be forced to buy another manufacturer's product.

You and I are prime examples of this. Both of us are willing to spend thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars (or pounds) for lenses, but we aren't spending all of those dollars on Canon lenses because they simply doin't make what we want and need for the type of photography we do.

Sadly, Fuji and Olympus don't make the lenses that I need, either, so the options available to me are quite limited. Let's hope that changes in the coming years.

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James Bruton's picture

There is nothing wrong with Canon trying to protect their intellectual property and R&D rather than give it away to 3rd parties. Also, like many other technologies, I suspect Canon's main profit does not come from the camera, it comes from the lenses. For photography hobbyists and enthusiasts I would argue that many if not most have more of an investment in their lenses and gear than the camera they own. It's just good business.

Mike Ditz's picture

They are protecting their turf and want to control how the products interact. Sort of like Apple.

I have been using Apple products for like 20 years. In all that time everything I bought for it that was made by Apple worked without any glitches, 3rd party products usually worked but not always 100%
i used to use Canon but moved to Sony a while back, I have 5 or 6 vintage (Nikon, Contax, Rokinon) non Sony OEM lenses and 4 or 5 Sony lenses. I guess that wouldn't work with the RF bodies.

James Bruton's picture

Agree, I don't see a huge cry for asking someone like HP or Dell why they don't build a cheaper Mac clone.

Deleted Account's picture

I agree. I also suspect that Canon will license their RF patents to Tamron and Sigma, etc. So, there will be third party lenses, for which Canon will receive a small royalty per unit, as it should be. They spent a great deal developing the technology, and others should have to pay to use it. The market is large enough that I would have to believe that Tamron and Sigma would be willing to pay a licensing fee to gain entry to RF ecosphere, and Canon can potentially make a lot of profit from those licensing agreements. It is why companies patent their technology, I think they went after Viltrox with great dispatch because they were infringing Canon's patents without any licensing agreement. Viltrox was, in effect, stealing Canon's intellectual property. Once a patent is infringed, if it is not defended, it is difficult to subsequently assert the patent rights. Had they not forced Viltrox to desist, it would have been open season for anyone to steal Canon's designs.

James Bruton's picture

Well said.

David Pavlich's picture

I'm not going to do the research, but maybe someone here already knows. How long was it after Canon started developing the EF line of lenses did the first worth while third party lens appear?

Mike Ditz's picture

The EF mount came out in 1987, back then the 3rd party lenses were not all that great but were much cheaper. I had a couple until I could afford real Canon lenses. I don't know when the good 3rd party lenses came out.

STEVEN WEBB's picture

Henry Ford was attributed with saying many years ago about the Model T, "Customers can have any color automobile they want, as long as it's black." That was for production efficiency at the time. But I think Canon is going to run into competition issues like Ford experienced and will have to throw in the towel on forbidding 3rd party lens with full RF mount capabilities. Not sure how soon that will happen though. As I've posted before on Fstoppers about this, I think it would be to Canon's advantage to have written contracts with 3rd party companies to allow them to make RF lenses. Then Canon would be able to make some money off royalties and licensing fees.

Tom Reichner's picture

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That would be great! That way, if Canon is unwilling to make all of the lenses that we need, we will at least be able to get them in a natively compatible mount, and not have to use some adapted clusterf___.

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David Pavlich's picture

I have to disagree. What my 5DIV was with the lenses I have, my R5, with the same lenses, is better in every respect. You may not like the idea of an adapter, but it works AND has made my current lenses even better.

Iain Stanley's picture

In what way do you think your lenses are now better, as opposed to the R5 being better than the 5D4?

Tom Reichner's picture

But you are probably talking about an EF to RF adaptor. That is not at all what I am talking about. 3rd party manufacturers are not going to make new lens designs in the EF mount, because it is becoming obsolete (even Canon isn't making any new lens designs for the EF).

Hence, looking years into the future, if I want to use new, innovative lenses that Sigma, Laowa, and Tamron haven't even designed yet, then I am going to have to confabulate some clunky way of adapting lenses made for the Sony or Nikon mount to work on Canon R cameras. That has absolutely nothing at all to do with using today's EF lenses on today's R cameras.

David Pavlich's picture

Okay. I get your point now. :-)

David Pavlich's picture

Ian: Sorry, for some reason when I click on 'Reply', it stays grayed out. The lenses aren't technically better, but they work better with my R5. Semantics.

Iain Stanley's picture

No worries, I was just curious, as I own both those cameras as well

Iain Stanley's picture

I agree. From an intellectual property standpoint, it’s understandable. But from a business position, not so much. Especially when, as Tom said, some of the third-party lenses fill gaps in Canon’s lineup.

If Canon isn’t going to make a specific lens, allow another company to do so and take a cut of the sales. It’s a win for everyone.

Benoit .'s picture

I would definitely not compare Canon to Ford. Ford made cars available to the masses building very simple models at a time cars were expensive and extremely slow to produce. When those brands got absorbed and more comfortable models started getting build on a lines similar to Ford’s is when competition caught up. Ford was simply forced to adjust to keep going. Ford was your Tamron until it no longer could benefit from a process Henry put in place first.

Walid Azami's picture

As a result of this, I purchased a Sigma lens. I've been loyal to Canon for the duration of my career but for the first time, I felt they weren't loyal to me. So instead of an RF lens, I purchase a Sigma with an adaptor. This is how you kill brand loyalty and Canon did a great job if that was their goal.

Dan Stiel's picture

It's disappointing that Canon is limiting the utility of the EOS R series by blocking 3rd party lenses. I think it simply diminishes the brand by opening up future potential buyers to give greater consideration to Canon's competition - especially Nikon and Sony.

Market share is a battle of inches. Canon just gave Nikon and Sony the length of a football field.

FYI - I've had a Canon EOS R since it first came out in 2018. It's a pretty good camera. And, I've been using budget-friendly 3rd party EF lenses (Tamron, Sigma, Tokina) with the RF adapter with good results and no issues. FYI - I have just one RF lens - the $200 nifty fifty (which works well for a cheap lens)

However, my EOS R and the lenses are due to be retired and down-cycled to the kids in the family just taking up photography. I was thinking about getting the EOS R3, or switching to Nikon, like the Z9.

This news simply means I'll be giving Nikon more serious consideration.

Matt White's picture

"what does the future look like for Canon and cameras that use this mount?"

Expensive.

Brian Lymer's picture

How would you feel if you bought a new car, but you were restricted to buying any future tires, wheels, floor mats, etc. from the car's manufacturer (at inflated prices)? Or maybe they made it so that competitors gas pump filler nozzles wouldn't fit the car's filler hole, requiring you to buy gas from only their approved suppliers at prices not affected by market conditions. Canon is being just plain greedy.

Annette Johnson's picture

Brian Lymer, you hit the nail on the head! Totally, this is what Canon are doing.

They are also definitely going the "Apple"products way, and we all know people either love that or hate them.

There will always be people with money who want to go "Singular" with their product purchases,but for the average joe/joesephine this is not possible. So that would make Canon a rich mans/woman's hobby, right?

Prediction; many will leave Canon and jump to Fuji/Nikon/Sony etc and still get great photographs and have super working kit. Now and in the future...with third party support growing.

David Pavlich's picture

Love to see people jumping from brand to brand! Keeps the camera companies awash in cash. And, when Canon does allow Tamron and Sigma to produce R lenses, there will be another influx of cash into the camera industry. Ya' gotta' love having a choice.

Daniel Lee's picture

The future for Canon users is either swap to a different system that offers better value for money or accept you can only buy overpriced but excellent RF L lenses, great but with many compromises budget RF lenses or overpriced and outdated EF lenses.

Domenic Campagna's picture

I purchased an R5 with the thought of mixing 3rd party and Canon lenses. I have a series of EF L mounts and bought the adapter ring for the R5. I couldn’t be more disappointed after spending before tax $5,200 on the camera blues another $250 for the adapter, I’m in shock! I won’t be buying any RF lenses and continue to shoot with the adapted EFs. My son is a Sony shooter and was gloating about the virtues of Sony, I should’ve listened.
I’ll keep the Canon around for a while then rid myself of it and move on to Sony.
Domenic C.

Daniel Lee's picture

I recently swapped from Canon to Sony due to the lack of first and third party lens options. I was using an R6 and then swapped to an A7IV. I will say the Canon bodies do have the slight edge in Eye AF and high ISO performance, although to me lenses make the system not the body hence the swap.

EF lenses are very overpriced here in Australia so I managed to get brand new Sony G/GM lenses cheaper for what it would have cost me getting old EF lenses.

David Pavlich's picture

Hmmmm....I've been having just the opposite experience. My Canon and third party lenses work better with my R5 than they did with my 5DIV.

Iain Stanley's picture

You can still buy (used if needed) lots of EF mount lenses to use with your adapter. I have many lenses I used with my 5D4 that work perfectly well with the R5 and adapter.

Even though new RF mount third-party lenses mightn’t be coming, there are still tons of EF mount lenses you can use with confidence.

Randall Hazeltine's picture

With the technology in cell phones outpacing the innovation in the mirrorless world it's only a matter of time before manufacturers are going to have to ditch 35mm sensors all together for a larger sensor to justify carrying lenses. At that point what good is the RF mount? If the RF could handle a larger sensor as well as the current ones it would have a much longer life span. Canon will be lucky to get more 10 more years with this mount. Computational capabilites need to be implimented in their bodies quickly as well if they don't want to loose those loyal to the brand.

regan albertson's picture

Those that don't like Canon's decision to protect themselves from intellectual property theft by PRC pirates should just quit being Canon fanboys. It's not your brand! When you cite Sony, their only intention is the destruction of any competition, nothing more, nothing less. Sony has slightly less loyaity to their customers than a tomcat.

Stuart C's picture

I don't think they are being Canon fanboys tbh.

miha zero's picture

I am not even considering RF platform as of month ago, due to lack of 3rd party lenses. I am strongly considering (more of collecting funds really) to go GFX route and do what i was scared to do due to cost. With Canon RF lenses and Camera ... it costs me about the same for something i would not be happy about owning.

As far as I am concerned Canon is history.

Peter Julian Photos's picture

Canon may be in breech of Australian Consumer Law (ACL) by limiting a consumer access to 3rd party lenses, under the unconscionable conduct contract law. In Australia a supplier of a good or service must disclose prior to time of purchase ANY clause which had the consumer known, then that consumer may have chosen not to purchase the product or service. Given that Canon has previously allowed (tacitly) the use of third party lenses with it's EF & EF-S mount camera's a reasonable consumer would expect the same. However Canon has not disclosed on it's website that this long standing practice is no longer allowed.

I am currently writing to the ACCC which administers the ACL to notify them of this, and to see if they will take the issue up, alternately a current Australian owner of a Canon R mount system MAY be entitled to a full refund of the purchase price AND consequential loss costs as Canon has failed to notify the consumer of this condition of sale at time of purchase - this would be a good class action claim against Canon Australia.

I currently have not moved from my 90D but unless there is a change, my next purchase won't be Canon.

David Pavlich's picture

You are aware that Canon has never given any sort of license or permission to reverse engineer their products. It happens that the reverse engineering prior to the R line up was done without trampling on any of Canon's patents. However, it looks like the initial attempts to replicate the R line has infringed.

Your hope that your government will take Canon to task will be to the detriment of Australia's photographic community. Like it or not, Canon has a right to protect their stuff. Let the consumer be the judge. Bringing the government in on something like this will be a waste of their bureaucrat's time.

Neil McAliece's picture

When looking to get back into photography seriously (beyond grabbing a phone and grabbing a quick shot), I initially looked at Sony, Canon, Nikon because that's what most seemed to be using. (about a year ago)

If I was starting that search today, this issue would rule out Canon straight up.

I'd had a big gap from shooting film in the late 80s into 90s with Nikon and Minolta SLRs. I was attracted to the Fujifilm XT cameras and went for a used XT-2 about a year ago. I never liked PASM dials when I picked up digital cameras in the last 20 years.

I'm over the PASAM hump having just purchased a Fujifilm XH2. If I were to consider switching systems, again this issue would rule out Canon for me. I've got expensive Fuji lenses. I've also got good 3rd party alternatives. Taking away that choice just makes a system far less attractive.

Alan Springfield's picture

I currently own both EF and RF systems and I am about to PX my RF kit in favour of Sony. The ability to have access to a wide range of lenses at varying price points is the reason. On the EF system I have used both Canon and third-party lenses. Canon lenses are good, but many third-party lenses are as good some even better also the third-party suppliers often fill gaps in the market not covered camera manufacturers.
I look at the limited range of lenses available for the RF system and then look at the huge range of lenses from several suppliers for the Sony system, in addition to the extensive range of Sony lenses and it is no contest. A quick check a few days ago showed that there are a total 259 lenses from 8 different manufacturers available for the Sony mount.
So, in the new year my R6 will be traded in for a Sony A7 IV and a Sigma Sony E to Canon EF adapter so I can use my Sigma EF mount lenses on the Sony. I will continue to use my two Canon 5D Mk IVs until they wear out or I have graduated totally to Sony.
The decision by Canon demonstrates their arrogance and lack of understanding of the market. They are no longer the technological kings of the heap.