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How old is that Canon lens?

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When was your EF lens made?

A short guide to Canon date codes



Important Note: This is explained in more detail on the regularly updated lens age article at our EFlens site

There is a manufacturing date code on the back of most Canon lenses – I’d forgotten this existed until..

I was reading a DPR thread about someone who had sent a Canon lens in for service and was concerned that the bit at the back which usually has a manufacturing date code stamped on it had gone. [DPR Thread]

Looks as if Canon had replaced the plate at the back.  No big deal you might think? Well some people think differently and it seems there are concerns about its resale value.

Personally, when buying a second hand lens, I’m interested in the photos I can take, but I do accept that there is an area of photography, (almost entirely populated by men BTW) that finds the gadgetry side of things a key part of their interest.

ts-e 24mm lens

ts-e 24mm lens

Lest anyone think I’m unduly taking aim at this side of the subject, I do have occasional bouts of ‘techiness’ myself, such as making an adapter for a 5×4 view camera for my DSLR – my ‘excuse’ to the business is that it taught me a lot about camera movements and led to the article on focusing a tilted lens.

However, when doing paying work, the techy side is (mostly) kept in the background to provide the underpinning for the creative side.

Back to that date code… (if you’re reading this and didn’t know about it, I’m guessing that several of you will now have a lens to hand ;-)

It’s a code of two letters and (usually) four numbers printed on most lenses and some camera bodies (pre 1986, the code may be of the letter/4 digit/letter format)

My 24mm TS-E lens has the code UL1202

The first letter is the manufacturing site (in Japan)

U = Utsunomiya, F = Fukushima, O = Oita

The second letter is the year of manufacture

A = 1986, 1960  N = 1999, 1973
B = 1987, 1961  O = 2000, 1974
C = 1988, 1962  P = 2001, 1975
D = 1989, 1963  Q = 2002, 1976
E = 1990, 1964  R = 2003, 1977
F = 1991, 1965  S = 2004, 1978
G = 1992, 1966  T = 2005, 1979
H = 1993, 1967  U = 2006, 1980
I = 1994, 1968  V = 2007, 1981
J = 1995, 1969  W = 2008, 1982
K = 1996, 1970  X = 2009, 1983
L = 1997, 1971  Y = 2010, 1984
M = 1998, 1972  Z = 2011, 1985
UC1204 Canon Date code - December 1988

UC1204 Canon Date code – December 1988

The 3rd and 4th digits are some internal Canon code

That makes my TS-E 24mm of December 1997 vintage (UL1202 1st & 2nd digits for month)
– I’ve not told it about the Mk2 replacement on the way, and its subsequent trip to eBay ;-)

I note that from 1990 Canon only date coded certain lenses

All L-series lenses EF15mm f/2.8 Fisheye   EF50-200mm f/3.5-4.5 EF24mm f/2.8   EF50mm f/1.8 EF28mm f/2.8   EF50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro EF28-70mm f/3.5-4.5   EF70-210mm f/4 EF28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 II  EF100-200mm f/4.5A EF35mm f/2   EF100-300mm f/5.6 EF35-70mm f/3.5-4.5   EF135mm f/2.8 Soft Focus EF35-70mm f/3.5-4.5A  MP-E65 f/2.8 Macro EF35-105mm f/3.5-4.5   TS-E45mm f/2.8 EF35-135mm f/3.5-4.5   TS-E90mm f/2.8

Note that this code has been updated to purely numeric codes on current lenses.

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