This Canon Aperture Ring Situation Is Very Weird

A Canon RF 35mm lens is shown prominently centered against a white background with scattered light gray question marks. The lens features a sleek black design with a red ring near the top and the Canon logo, "35" and other lens details visible.

Last week, Canon clarified that while the aperture control rings on its 24-105mm f/2.8L Z and 35mm f/1.4L VCM don’t work in photo mode with its existing cameras, that will change with any camera announced after June 2024. That’s really weird.

There are two levels of weirdness in this situation. Firstly, it’s already strange that Canon did not allow the aperture rings to be used in photo modes to begin with — if they work in video modes, we can’t think of any technical reason why they wouldn’t be enable-able in photo modes. Secondly, Canon’s choice to explain that the limitation will be lifted with any camera released after June 2024 is by far the strangest way to say, “Just buy a new camera.” That might not be the intent, but that’s how it comes off.

PetaPixel has asked Canon a few times now exactly why there is a limitation on when that aperture ring can be used and it has not been specified why this function is not possible using current generation cameras. All that has been communicated is that it’s not enabled.

We’ve had extended internal conversations about this limitation and even when we go out of our way to think of reasons why it might be, we can quickly disprove them by pointing out the fact that the same cameras do gain the ability to use that ring when they switch to video mode. From that perspective, it doesn’t make sense that it’s hardware-limited — it must be a software decision.

Do photographers need the manual aperture ring? No, Canon shooters have not really ever had them so many probably aren’t even thinking it is something they would miss. It certainly is not a necessary feature and many photographers are perfectly happy to ignore that ring. But looking at the broader camera market, Canon’s choice here is just odd. Canon certainly has a history of ignoring what other companies do and going their own way but still, you have to admit it’s strange.

Canon RF 24-105 f/2.8 L Z aperture ring
Canon RF 24-105mm f/2.8 L Z

The way Canon explained this limitation may have actually done more harm than good. That said, if a new camera were to be released that does support the aperture control ring in photo mode, questions would be asked and we’d be right back here anyway.

“Please note that the ability to change the aperture value with this iris ring when shooting still images will only be available on EOS series cameras released after June 2024. Please note that with the current EOS series, it can only be used for video recording,” Canon explained to PetaPixel in an email earlier this week.

When before it felt like a decision Canon made to support video shooters now feels like something that is being explicitly excluded from current-generation camera support. What was before attributable to company culture or vision now feels like a way Canon hopes to force photographers to buy a new camera. It doesn’t matter if that’s the truth — it’s the truth of how it feels to hear it.

A black Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM lens is shown against a white background. The lens features a wide focus ring, a control ring, and an image stabilization switch. It has a red ring near the front element, indicating its L-series status.
Canon RF 35mm f/1.4 L VCM

Earlier this year, Canon explained to PetaPixel that the reason RF-mount has been closed so long (up until recently when APS-C was finally opened to Tamron and Sigma) was a “business decision.” In short, Canon is a business, and it did not make financial sense to undercut its own lenses by allowing a competing company into its system.

“So basically, the reason why we have not been collaborating or partnering with a third party is because of our business strategy. 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,” Go Tokura, Senior Managing Executive Officer and Deputy Head of the Imaging Group at Canon told PetaPixel in an interview at the CP+ show in Japan.

Seeing a quote like that and then looking at the language surrounding external aperture control, it’s hard not to see this as yet another profit-driven business decision. And then you’re left to ask, is this feature really that amazing that a photographer would buy both one of these new lenses and a brand-new camera just to have it? That seems very unlikely so, again, this is weird.

The hard timeline is also unusual — Canon never says anything about unannounced products, but it’s basically signaling that a new camera is coming as soon as next month. Again, that’s weird.

Say what you will about necessity, business decisions, and manual aperture rings for still photography, but I’m left scratching my head at this whole situation. Only Canon knows why Canon does the things Canon does, and never has that been truer.

Image credits: Aspects of header photo licensed via Depositphotos.