Canon Says it is Evaluating Third-Party Optics on a Lens-by-Lens Basis


Canon executives in China were asked by local journalists when the company might consider opening the RF lens mount to third-party optics, and the company confirmed that it is currently evaluating options — just on a case-by-case basis.

In a transcript of an interview published on Weibo and spotted by Canon Rumors, Canon’s executives were asked a number of questions about the company’s plans for the future. In typical fashion, the camera company’s local executives didn’t provide much in the way of direct answers to most of these queries, but did give a somewhat surprising response to the question of the closed RF mount.

After stating that Canon was not able to provide specific plans for the future, an executive told reporters that Canon actually has opened the RF mount to third-party manufacturers on a limited basis. This is likely a reference to one specific case that the company likes to point to, which is a Cosina RF-mount lens that lacks autofocus capabilities.

Obviously, the issue with the lens mount isn’t manual focus lenses — those are quite abundant — but rather those that support autofocus. To date, Canon has not allowed any manufacturer to produce a lens for RF that features autofocus (and gone so far as to threaten legal action against any company that has tried) but the company likes to muddy the waters of that conversation with the reference to Cosina.

Further, Canon’s executive — Kazuka Yonei — says that it is in communication with third party lens companies (no specific company or how many were mentioned) and that it evaluates every lens on a case-by-base basis.

“Now if we receive a request from a third-party lens company to open the mount, we will study whether to license it according to Canon’s own business planning and strategy. In fact, we are now communicating with several third-party lens companies in this regard,” the executive says, machine translated.

This can be interpreted to mean that Canon won’t give a company wholesale permission to make lenses for its mount, but rather must approve each lens individually, likely to ascertain whether it will directly compete with a current or planned Canon lens. No details on the parameters of that evaluation were provided.

Kohei also dismisses the argument that Canon is holding off on third-party options until it completes its lens lineup, saying that the discussion of third-party lenses and its own plans are evaluated separately.

“You also asked just now, if we open the bayonet license, it means that our RF lens group is already complete. In fact, we have considered this issue separately. Whether to open the RF opening to third-party lens companies and whether Canon’s own product line is complete are two issues,” he says.

The Canon executive goes on to say that the company has been working very hard since 2018 to aggressively expand the RF lens lineup to now 37 total optics.

“In order to maximize the advantages of the EOS R system and better meet the needs of customers in different photography fields, Canon will continue to strive to continuously enrich its lens product line in the future.”

The biggest takeaway here is that Canon is, at the very least, greatly slowing the process third-party lens manufacturers have to go through in order to make optics for the mirrorless mount. If it is assumed that Tamron and Sigma have pitched Canon on lenses it wants to add to the RF mount system, it appears that to this point, all of those pitches — which are considered on a lens-by-lens basis — have been rejected.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.