Canon is considering third-party lens viability on a lens-by-lens basis, and is currently ‘communicating with several’ lens companies about licensing deals.
This is according to interview with Chinese reporters from Camera Beta, whose interview with Canon’s Japanese executives published on Chinese social media platform, Weibo, was picked up by Canon Rumors.
While the response by Canon’s executives seems promising, it’s a bland response that is currently in line with the market leader’s policy to keep the RF mount closed. This is despite customer pressure mounting on Canon to enable more lens variety by allowing third-parties manufacturers into the ‘RF ecosystem’. As Canon Rumors points out, ‘one of the most frustrating things with Canon’s EOS R system is the lack of autofocus third-party lenses from the likes of Sigma and Tamron, along with the glaring wide-angle L lens holes in the line-up’.
Canon’s RF business strategy likely hinges on building its own lens line up without third-party manufacturers competing against them and cannibalising sales. However it may backfire if photographers view the lack of third-party options as a reason to look elsewhere.
Canon currently offers over 30 RF-mount lenses, with the majority of focal lengths covered. However brands like Sigma are attractive as their lenses are mix affordability with great optics, and this is clearly a threat to Canon.
However is now the only popular camera brand with a closed mount. Nikon recently Z mount deal with Tamron, and also in a limited capacity to Sigma
Here’s the translated passage attributed to Canon executive, Kazuka Yonei:
‘Again, I can’t reveal my specific R&D plans for the future. In addition, although it is still limited to some special companies, Canon has also opened the RF mount to third-party lens manufacturers through licensing. Now, if we receive a request from a third-party lens company to open the mount, we will study whether to license it based on Canon’s own business plan and strategy. In fact, we are now communicating with several third-party lens companies in this regard.
You also asked just now whether we open the bayonet license, which means that our RF lens group is already complete. In fact, we have different considerations on this issue, whether to open the RF opening to third-party lens companies and whether Canon’s own product line is complete.
In fact, since the launch of the RF system in 2018, we have been continuously expanding our lens lineup to meet the various levels of photography needs of our customers, and currently have 37 lenses. In order to maximize the advantages of the EOS R system and to better meet the needs of customers in different fields of photography, Canon will continue to strive to enrich its lens lineup.’
Yonei’s reference to already opening the RF lens up refers to a deal signed with Cosina for a Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1 lens, which has electronic connection yet no autofocus – a real deal breaker. (There are plenty of unofficial third-party RF lenses available, such as by Yongnuo, which have no electronic communication and are limited to manual focus.)
And just because Canon is open to receiving requests, doesn’t mean it accepts them. It’s hard to imagine the likes of Sigma and Tamron haven’t tried to get the ball rolling, as the demand is likely there. And as Canon Rumors states, the ins-and-outs of the licensing is pretty vague. ‘What isn’t mentioned is what the licensing grants the third-party manufacturer,’ Canon rumors states. Are the manufacturers on their own to come up with the autofocus algorithms, or are those provided? Would there be ongoing Canon support through firmware compatibility updates? Perhaps there could be different tiers of licensing?