When you buy a high-end camera system, you’re not just buying the camera; you’re committing yourself to the whole lens eco-system of that particular camera. That is because not all lenses work with all camera’s. If you don’t want to use an adapter, then Sony E-mount will only work with Sony, Leica L-mount only with Leica/Panasonic/Sigma, and Canon RF-mount only with Canon. You would think that means you’re stuck with ONLY the lenses that your camera’s manufacturer sells. But thankfully, that is often not the case.
For just about every camera system, you will find that you can get lenses from third-party manufacturers, like Sigma, Samyang, Viltrox, Tamron, etc. These lenses are almost always cheaper than the lenses made by your camera brand, and often compare favorably in terms of build quality and image quality. But the quality of third party lenses does vary greatly; some are just too cheap and really not worth the money, others rival or even exceed the quality of ‘original’ lenses, at a fraction of the cost. Nevertheless, it’s nice to at least have the choice. The competition from third-party lens manufacturers also forces the camera companies to innovate and produce increasingly better quality lenses to justify the extra money you pay for them. Being able to choose between lenses from different manufacturers at different price-points and levels of build quality and image quality, is simply a Good Thing™ for everyone.
But apparently, Canon doesn’t agree with that. At all. Their new RF mount was launched in 2018, but they still don’t have RF versions for some of their older EF ‘L’ lenses, such as the 24mm f/1.4 and the 35mm f/1.4, meaning you have to buy the EF to RF adapter and just use the older lenses for now. So wouldn’t it be great if at least there where at least some third-party lenses to choose from? That would attract new customers to your camera system, right? But Canon doesn’t care. They have actually threatened legal action against third-party lens manufacturers if they sell auto focus lenses for the RF-mount. Korean lens maker Samyang was already selling a well reviewed and very competitively priced 85mm portrait lens for the RF system, but removed it from the market after Canon’s bullying. So as a result, you can now only get third-party manual focus lenses. Fun fact: one of Canon’s MAIN SELLING POINTS for their RF cameras is the advanced autofocus. And there is no way you can use a manual 85mm f/1.4 lens (for example) on any moving subject and expect to nail focus manually. Not unless it’s the Titanic moving along as slow as a drifting iceberg. As a result, we are essentially forced to buy only Canon lenses, or mess around with adapted lenses.
I only I had known this when I bought my Canon R6… Because of Canon’s bad attitude, I now mostly shoot with EF lenses using an adapter. I bought a new 28mm f/1.4 Sigma lens for wider shots, and a secondhand Canon 135mm f/2 EF L lens for portraits. Both those lenses were well under $1000, which is nice. But both those lenses are also older design, and because they require an adapter stick out about an inch further from the camera body. That makes a difference with heavy lenses like these, because it makes the camera more front-heavy and thus more awkward to shoot with—though I do have to say that they still produce great photos.
The only Canon RF lens I own is the cheap plastic 50mm f/1.8 (a.k.a. the ‘nifty-fifty’) that I bought with the camera. The massive f/1.2 version of that RF lens is over one order of magnitude more expensive, but the quality of the photos certainly isn’t more than 10x better. Something that I have also heard reviewers of camera equipment mention on YouTube. I also doubt the 85mm f/1.2 produces images that are 5x ‘better’ than Canon’s f/2 version of that focal length. Of course, if you make your money with photography and you want to deliver the absolute best quality to your clients, then I would get an expensive lens like that too. After all, just one wedding is enough to earn you the money back that you paid for it, and every job after that the lens will just make you money.
But not every Canon shooter is a pro. What about photography enthusiasts? Or someone learning about photography, but not ready to take on jobs yet? There is a giant chasm between Canon’s entry level lenses, and their ‘professional’ lenses, that could easily be filled by third-party manufacturers. Not to mention to be able to buy focal lengths that Canon don’t even produce. Like a fast 28mm prime, for example. That is why I bought the Sigma EF lens. But thinking back, if I had known it would be so problematic to get lenses for my Canon camera, I would definitely have gone for my second choice: the Sony a7 IV.
Looking at the number of lenses available for Sony… it is just NO competition. My favorite camera store shows a total of 160 prime lenses available for Sony E-mount, about 150 for EF-mount, but only 70 for RF-mount. What about zoom lenses? There are only 14 options for RF-mount, compared with 35 for E-mount and 49 for EF-mount. Keep in mind though, that the new third party E-mount lenses often produce better image quality than the ‘older’ EF versions of those lenses, and new EF lenses are no longer developed. So the lack of choice is just going to increase in the next few years, as EF is gradually phased out.
But I’ve made my choice so now it’s too late… right? Well, actually maybe not. Because my Canon EF lenses are highly adaptable, I could just get an adapter and use my EF lenses on the Sony body if I switched. I’d only have to sell my Canon R6 with the cheap 50mm. And then all my other future lenses would be E-mount, and I could eventually replace the EF lenses too. And then I doubt I would ever go back to Canon during my lifetime. I am reminded of the saying: “You date your body, you marry your lenses.” If there’d been a good RF lens selection today, I would have owned only RF lenses, I would’ve been 100% invested in the system and I wouldn’t even have thought of switching to another camera brand. Funny, isn’t it?
It’s actually rather interesting how Canon appears to have implemented a policy that increases their customer’s frustration with the RF-mount, forcing some of them to invest in EF glass instead, and in so doing made it easier to switch another camera system. As a consequence—unless of course Canon comes to their senses and changes their ways—the Canon R6 will be both the first and last camera I buy from that company. If you are currently considering investing in a new camera system, then I would suggest seriously considering the availability of third-party lenses in your buying decision.