Journalists in China recently had an opportunity to interview a group of Japanese Canon executives, and posed questions about the current state of third-party lenses for RF-mount mirrorless cameras. First spotted by Canon Rumors on the Weibo account Camera Beta, Canon executives stated that the company is open to the idea of third-party RF-mount lenses and is, in fact, in talks with several lens manufacturers. While this sounds promising, Canon is much more reserved and deliberate when it comes to allowing other optical manufacturers to use their RF lens mount standard. And unusually, has taken legal action to prevent lensmakers entering the RF system without permission.

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This more or less aligns with what we heard from Canon when we posed a similar question to company executives back at CP+ earlier this year.

According to the new Camera Beta interview, Canon is open to requests for licensing the RF-mount to third parties. However, it doesn't just issue a blanket license for the outside manufacturer to make any and all lenses. Canon, instead, treats each third-party lens request on a case-by-case basis.

Image credit: Canon

Exactly how Canon decides which third-party lenses get an official license for the RF mount was not made clear. And as Canon Rumors points out, just what exactly does a license for the RF-mount allow third-party manufacturers to do? Beyond just making lenses fit with the physical RF-mount on R-series cameras, will third parties get access to proprietary Canon autofocus specs or firmware? Will third parties be limited to manual focus lenses? We simply don't know.

The Viltrox 85mm F1.8 AF lens was a third-party lens compatible with Canon's RF-mount and featured autofocus functionality. Viltrox was asked by Canon to stop selling this lens and all other RF-mount lenses.

One of the major benefits of interchangeable lens cameras is the flexibility to use a wide variety of lenses to suit not only the look, style or scenario you're trying to photograph but also your budget constraints. Third-party lenses are often less expensive than those from camera makers. Pricing aside, having more choices for lenses is better than fewer choices. Canon's older EF-mount had excellent third-party support from Tamron, Sigma, Tokina, and many others, yet there is a lack of third-party lenses for RF mount so far. Meanwhile, many other mirrorless platforms, such as Sony's E-mount and Panasonic/Sigma/Leica's L-mount, all have extensive support from manufacturers.

Recently, Nikon's Z-mount has gained support from Tamron (some of Tamron's lenses are even rebranded as first party) and Sigma (bringing its DC DN APS-C lenses to the system), making the RF lineup seem that much less diverse.

With Canon's statement in mind, one can speculate that Canon is concerned about third-party offerings competing directly with their own. From a business perspective, it's a valid strategy. That said, we've always believed that more lens choices benefit the consumer, and increase the attractiveness of any given system overall.

Although it's unclear whether or not we will soon begin to see an increase in third-party lenses for Canon's mirrorless cameras, it's clear that the demand is there.