Don’t expect any third-party autofocus lenses in the near future

AlanF

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Thanks for this thoughtful post.

I think a lot of times on this forum people use "reverse engineering" without understanding what it is and that it isn't some magical way around patent infringement.

As I understand it, and as you state in your post, reverse engineering simply means deconstructing something to figure out how it works. As photographers, most of us have reverse engineered images that we like, figuring out the lighting, focal length, point of view, processing, etc.

Roger's team at Lens Rentals often do tear downs of cameras to see how they work and how they are constructed. They are essentially reverse engineering the bodies, but they are not violating any patent because they aren't making new cameras from what they learned. As you point out, it's how you use that information that matters.

What I have tried to explain, and I hope you would agree, is that for patents it really doesn't matter how you get there. One could have a "Eureka" moment in the middle of the night, get up and design a new mirrorless lens system without any awareness or improper copying of Canon's system and still be in violation of patents if the end result is too similar to what has already been patented.
Here is a paragraph from a recent textbook published by Springer which succinctly sums up much.
Reverse Engineering of Code,
Olav Lysne

“Reverse engineering for the purpose of understanding interfaces is largely uncontroversial. The reasons for doing it are clear and they are generally compatible with the interests of society. An exception to this is when a company intentionally keeps its user interface secret for commercial reasons or for reasons related to security. Whether reverse engineering that interface is acceptable then becomes a legal as well as a moral question. In 1990, Sega Enterprises released a gaming console called Genesis. Its strategy was to let Sega and its licensed affiliates be the only developers of games for it. A California-based company called Accolade reverse engineered the interface of the Genesis gaming platform and successfully developed and sold games for it. In 1991, Accolade was sued by Sega for copyright infringement. The court ruled in Accolade’s favour because it had not copied any of Sega’s code and because of the public benefit of the additional competition in the market that Accolade represented. Today – several decades later – secrecy regarding interfaces and challenges of such secrecy through reverse engineering still take place. The jailbreaking of mobile phones bears witness to this phenomenon.”

What that means is that anyone can both legally reverse engineer the interface code between a lens and a camera and then write their own version of the code that does the same job. The defense of "reverse engineering" fails if the proprietary code is copied, or it was obtained by deception or it has been in breach of end user agreement, as has been ruled in other cases. And that sums up what I have said all along in several posts.

Patent law is there both to protect the rights of the patentee and also to protect the interests of society. It doesn't like oppressive monopolies. What that means for us here is that as far as the physical mount on the lens is concerned, any lens maker can make the hardware to fit onto the RF mount without any restrictions as the law wants competition for accessories. Then, they can genuinely reverse engineer the interface software and write their own code. I have no idea what Viltrox has done that is in breach of Canon's patents, but they must have done something.
 
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entoman

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Well the above is true and quite relevant to a discussion on a forum dedicated to camera gear, I don’t believe any of that really applies to the ‘typical consumer’.

I suspect for most people it’s, ‘I need/want a new camera, I have/had a Canon, it was ok, I’ll buy another Canon.’ You can swap in toaster, tv, car, and whatever brand you like. That’s typical consumer behavior. It’s why, unless something truly paradigm-shifting comes along, market share changes slowly at best.
Very true, most people are extremely loyal to a brand, whether it's a camera, a car, motorcycle etc. The level of willingness of people to switch brands was demonstrated when a modest percentage of Canon and Nikon DSLR owners jumped ship to Sony MILCs, but that was primarily due to new technology. I agree that it's pretty unlikely that your typical consumer will switch brands due to Canon not having yet filled out their lens range. Especially when the desired lens is almost certainly available from either Canon or Sigma in EF mount.
 
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dolina

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Very true, most people are extremely loyal to a brand, whether it's a camera, a car, motorcycle etc. The level of willingness of people to switch brands was demonstrated when a modest percentage of Canon and Nikon DSLR owners jumped ship to Sony MILCs, but that was primarily due to new technology. I agree that it's pretty unlikely that your typical consumer will switch brands due to Canon not having yet filled out their lens range. Especially when the desired lens is almost certainly available from either Canon or Sigma in EF mount.
An example of "paradigm-shifting" that @neuroanatomist mentioned is the 2007 iPhone & 2008 Android smartphones.

A pocketable camera/computer/modem/iPod/etc that has increased utility that you would find odd to leave at home.

It is pushed to you on a 2-4 year contract that you pay off on equal monthly installment.

That's why point & shoots and dSLRs peaked in 2010 & 2012 respectively. As buying them is more of a "pull" when they're still functional.

When it is time for replacement odds are you'll beg off any digital still camera and stick with any $429-1599 iPhone or $29-2,999 Android.
 

entoman

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Here is a paragraph from a recent textbook published by Springer which succinctly sums up much.
Reverse Engineering of Code,
Olav Lysne

“Reverse engineering for the purpose of understanding interfaces is largely uncontroversial. The reasons for doing it are clear and they are generally compatible with the interests of society. An exception to this is when a company intentionally keeps its user interface secret for commercial reasons or for reasons related to security. Whether reverse engineering that interface is acceptable then becomes a legal as well as a moral question. In 1990, Sega Enterprises released a gaming console called Genesis. Its strategy was to let Sega and its licensed affiliates be the only developers of games for it. A California-based company called Accolade reverse engineered the interface of the Genesis gaming platform and successfully developed and sold games for it. In 1991, Accolade was sued by Sega for copyright infringement. The court ruled in Accolade’s favour because it had not copied any of Sega’s code and because of the public benefit of the additional competition in the market that Accolade represented. Today – several decades later – secrecy regarding interfaces and challenges of such secrecy through reverse engineering still take place. The jailbreaking of mobile phones bears witness to this phenomenon.”

What that means is that anyone can both legally reverse engineer the interface code between a lens and a camera and then write their own version of the code that does the same job. The defense of "reverse engineering" fails if the proprietary code is copied, or it was obtained by deception or it has been in breach of end user agreement, as has been ruled in other cases. And that sums up what I have said all along in several posts.

Patent law is there both to protect the rights of the patentee and also to protect the interests of society. It doesn't like oppressive monopolies. What that means for us here is that as far as the physical mount on the lens is concerned, any lens maker can make the hardware to fit onto the RF mount without any restrictions as the law wants competition for accessories. Then, they can genuinely reverse engineer the interface software and write their own code. I have no idea what Viltrox has done that is in breach of Canon's patents, but they must have done something.
Interesting, and thanks for posting.

In view of this being the case, what do you think are the reasons why Sigma and Tamron have so far failed to release, or even announce the development of, RF mount lenses?

RF mount and cameras have been available since September 2018, and in view of the facts that camera owners rarely switch brands, and that Canon has held the biggest market share for many years, it must have been obvious to Tamron and Sigma that the RF mount would become hugely successful. Many of their existing designs could have been easily ported to RF, using EF protocols to save time, to fill the time-gap while new designs were being developed.
 

neuroanatomist

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An example of "paradigm-shifting" that @neuroanatomist mentioned is the 2007 iPhone & 2008 Android smartphones.
Then you have people on here that seemingly believe Canon blocking certain RF-mount AF lens manufacturers is a paradigm shift that will spell certain d00m for Canon. Lol.
 

dolina

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Then you have people on here that seemingly believe Canon blocking certain RF-mount AF lens manufacturers is a paradigm shift that will spell certain d00m for Canon. Lol.

Number of APS-C vs Full frame body SKUs from all brands indicates otherwise.

Canon may follow FujiFILM's direction of selectively licensing after nearly a decade or at least tolerating reverse engineered 3rd party lenses nearing the year 2030. This is being done so that Canon gets the opportunity for 1st lens purchase in a market that has been shrinking since 2012.

Absence of a preferred MILC equivalent dSLR lens today is an indicator of how profitable or in-demand it is globally & not just in you city/country.

Example would be the 28-300mm. All the brands below halted production long ago

- Nikon
- Sigma
- Tamron

Canon is the only one that has it in stock

Sony that has the largest MILC lens lineup does not have that lens. The closest being the 24-240mm.
 

AlanF

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Interesting, and thanks for posting.

In view of this being the case, what do you think are the reasons why Sigma and Tamron have so far failed to release, or even announce the development of, RF mount lenses?

RF mount and cameras have been available since September 2018, and in view of the facts that camera owners rarely switch brands, and that Canon has held the biggest market share for many years, it must have been obvious to Tamron and Sigma that the RF mount would become hugely successful. Many of their existing designs could have been easily ported to RF, using EF protocols to save time, to fill the time-gap while new designs were being developed.
It's sheer speculation why. At one extreme, Canon might even have a deal that they will license in the future if Sigma and Tamron hold back now. Or, it might be rather at difficult at present and there is not enough profit and there is lower hanging fruit elsewhere now. Or, perhaps they think Canon is d o o med.
 

AlanF

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Amazing! Yesterday it was listed in stock.

So yesterday the last USA warranty to ship!
I look at the Canon Japan site. Maybe they have residual stock in USA or Brazil or elsewhere. But, the message from the Japanese site is that they are no longer making it.
 

neuroanatomist

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A RF L successor will be out within 4 years.

The delay of a refresh is reflective of soft demand or margins not as good.
I'll believe it when we see it. The 35-350L launched in 1993, and was replaced with the 28-300L in 2004. I'm not convinced we'll ever see another L-series superzoom. As you carefully document, no other manufacturer has one currently, and even Sony has not bothered with a high-end superzoom like that.

The main purpose of such a lens was reportedly for journalism (pun intended, there). Photojournalism has fallen on hard times, I'm not sure the market can support such a lens in RF mount.

More generally, the target market for a superzoom lens is the consumer wanting an all-in-one solution, and for that there is already the RF 24-240.
 

entoman

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I'll believe it when we see it. The 35-350L launched in 1993, and was replaced with the 28-300L in 2004. I'm not convinced we'll ever see another L-series superzoom. As you carefully document, no other manufacturer has one currently, and even Sony has not bothered with a high-end superzoom like that.

The main purpose of such a lens was reportedly for journalism (pun intended, there). Photojournalism has fallen on hard times, I'm not sure the market can support such a lens in RF mount.

More generally, the target market for a superzoom lens is the consumer wanting an all-in-one solution, and for that there is already the RF 24-240.
I agree. I think it's extremely unlikely that we'll see an L series superzoom. The general perception seems to be that there are too many compromises - mediocre optical performance, excessive bulk and weight, restricted maximum aperture etc. For those reasons, superzooms seem to be perceived as "amateur" glass, hence we have the 24-240mm non-L at an affordable price for those who want a one-lens solution.
 
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neuroanatomist

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I agree. I think it's extremely unlikely that we'll see an L series superzoom. The general perception seems to be that there are too many compromises - mediocre optical performance, excessive bulk and weight, restricted maximum aperture etc. For those reasons, superzooms seem to be perceived as "amateur" glass, hence we have the 24-240mm non-L at an affordable price for those who want a one-lens solution.
I owned the 28-300L for a while (it was one of those I bought used because I didn't know if I really wanted it, and I ended up selling it at a profit). The IQ was on par with my 24-105/4L...decent but not great. The combination of the EF 24-70/2.8 II and EF 70-300L delivered much better IQ across the range.
 

entoman

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I owned the 28-300L for a while (it was one of those I bought used because I didn't know if I really wanted it, and I ended up selling it at a profit). The IQ was on par with my 24-105/4L...decent but not great. The combination of the EF 24-70/2.8 II and EF 70-300L delivered much better IQ across the range.
That's a familiar story - over the years I've bought several lenses that I *thought* at the time would be really useful, but in practice they got little use, and ended up being sold. Judging by the huge amount of pristine EF glass on sale secondhand, quite a lot of people have the same experience. It pays to choose optics carefully.
 

dolina

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neuroanatomist

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That's a familiar story - over the years I've bought several lenses that I *thought* at the time would be really useful, but in practice they got little use, and ended up being sold. Judging by the huge amount of pristine EF glass on sale secondhand, quite a lot of people have the same experience. It pays to choose optics carefully.
I haven't done much of that, fortunately. Lenses I'm not *sure* of, I buy used. Of the lenses I've done that with, I ended up keeping only one (the MP-E 65mm).

I have bought several lenses new that I've ultimately sold, but that was after replacing them with something similar/better. For example, the second lens I bought was the EF 85/1.8. I eventually switched to the 85/1.2L II then the 85/1.4L IS which I still have and use.
 

WhatDoesMStandsFor

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I don't think it's only autofocus patents, but anything that have comms with the camera body. Some cinema glass manufacturers like Cooke, Leica, Fujinon and Zeiss have protocols for their PL lenses (mainly Cooke/i and Zeiss eXtended Data), and since RED adopted the RF mount, they may be willing to work on something for RF as well. Canon may be aware of these companies as well, but they tend to respect patents more than Chinese and Korean companies,
 

neuroanatomist

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A RF L successor [to the EF 28-300L] will be out within 4 years.

My guess on RF direct replacements or improvements of the following to be released between today-2026

- EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III
- EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
- EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM
- EF 85mm f/1.8 USM
- EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM
- EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM
- EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM
- EF 11-24mm f/4L USM
- EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM
- EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM
- EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM
- EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM

2024-onwards or 2026-onwards

- TS-E L lenses
Interesting. So first an RF 28-300L replacement will be launched within 4 years. But now you don't guess it will happen.

I'd suggest putting more thought into your guesses. Do you honestly believe the RF lineup will include five 85mm prime lenses? There are three already. With IBIS and the two RF 85/1.2L lenses, I doubt we'll see an RF 85/1.4. With the RF 85/2 Macro, I doubt we'll see an RF 85/1.8.
 
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WhatDoesMStandsFor

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My guess on RF direct replacements or improvements of the following to be released between today-2026

- EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III
- EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
- EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM
- EF 85mm f/1.8 USM
- EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM
- EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM
- EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM
- EF 11-24mm f/4L USM
- EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM
- EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM
- EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM
- EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM

2024-onwards or 2026-onwards

- TS-E L lenses

I'm pretty sure Canon considers the RF 85mm f/2 Macro IS STM a replacement for the EF 85mm f/1.8 USM. Also, the RF 100-400mm f/5.6-8 IS USM can also be considered a somewhat sucessor for the EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III.
 
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