Could this be the end of Canon third-party lenses?
Canon is flexing legal muscle to stop other companies from making (often, affordable) RF-mount glass.
Some friendly advice: If you’re a Canon RF-mount mirrorless shooter looking to expand your kit with third-party lenses, better do it soon. Canon appears ready to put the kibosh on sales of non-authorized optics for its flagship mirrorless mount and has already threatened legal action against one brand.
Canon doesn’t license mounts
How did we get here? Canon is the only major camera manufacturer that doesn’t license its most-popular mirrorless mount to other companies. Unlike Fujifilm, Nikon, Sony, etc., Canon likes to keep the magic of its modern mount a secret.
However, reverse engineering allows brands like Viltrox to sidestep the issue of licensing—well, technically, at least. And Viltrox’s reverse engineering is so state-of-the-art, that the brand was able to bring an autofocus-capable 85mm f/1.8 for RF-mount to market. Unfortunately, as of last week, that budget-friendly optic is no longer available for sale from any major US-based retailer.
A stern warning from Canon to Viltrox
Reports that Viltrox was forced to pull its RF-mount offerings due to the threat of legal action from Canon began circulating early last week and were confirmed shortly thereafter. Canon remained silent on the matter until this weekend when Canon Japan issued the following statement:
“SHENZHEN JUEYING TECHNOLOGY CO.LTD, manufactures auto focus lenses for Canon RF mount under the brand name “Viltrox”. Canon believes that these products infringe their patent and design rights and has therefore requested the company to stop all activities that infringe Canon’s intellectual property rights.”
Though the statement only mentions autofocus lenses, Viltrox has removed all products associated with the RF-mount from its website. Whether this is out of an abundance of caution or not remains to be seen.
That said, the brand is still selling Canon M-mount glass (as of writing).
The future of Canon third-party lenses
This move by Canon could impact lens options from a range of budget-focused small companies including Kamlan, Lawoa, Meike, TTartisan, and more. That said, not all third-party glass communicates with the camera. And Canon may be less likely to go after brands making all-manual lenses, as infringement is likely more difficult to prove.
The Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 can still be purchased new, as of publishing, from auction sites including eBay ($350). But don’t bank on that stock lasting long. Moreover, if there’s another third-party optic you’re considering, best buy it soon or forever hold your peace (or switch systems…jk).