How to determine age of a Canon lens

Have you ever wondered how old is your Canon lens? I often get asked if it’s possible to determine the age of a Canon lens. If you buy a new lens from an authorized dealer, the chances are, the lens was manufactured fairly recently. So if you bought your lens new, you have a good idea how old your lens is. However, most people who buy used lenses really want to know how old a lens is without solely relying on seller’s information. The lens’ manufacturing date can give a rough estimate of how long the lens has been in use for, even if you factor in the shipping and warehouse storage times. Fortunately, Canons has been stamping date codes on their lenses since 1960 and you can pinpoint your lens’s production date, if you know how to decode it. In this quick tutorial I will show you exactly how to decode these date codes on older lenses as well as the new serial numbers.

As I have mentioned above, Canon has been placing date codes on their lenses for a long time and previously many lenses had the date code placed separate from the actual serial number. In 1990, Canon started placing date codes on select lenses only. All ‘L’ lenses have them. Click here to see the list of non-L lenses that have date codes post 1990 (if your non-L lens is not on this list, then you are out of luck).  I will refer to these date codes as “the old system.” But starting in 2008, Canon created a new numbering system which incorporates production date, internal repairing code and an actual serial number into one consolidated block. And to top it off, it looks like they’ve reset the date count in the beginning of 2013. I am sure that internally Canon has a nice chart on how to decipher each number on the new serial numbers, but they don’t share it with the rest of us, so we have to make a few calculated guesses. I will refer to these big serial numbers as “the new system.”

The Old System

old-dating-systemCanon’s old dating system is fairly straight forward, if you know what each letter means. You can find this code on the inner rim of the lens (the side that attaches to the camera). Here is the date code on my trusty EF 24-70mm 2.8L – “UT1009.”

The first letter “U” means that the lens was manufactured in Canon’s plant in Utsunomiya, Japan.  There are three plants which produced EF lenses: U = Utsunomiya, F = Fukushima, O = Oita.  Prior to 1986 this letter was at the end of the date code.

The second letter “T” means that it was produced in 2005. You can tell the year by checking your code against the table below. Canon started with letter “A” in 1960 and got to ‘’Z” in 1985, then they went back to “A” in 1986 and ended the alphabet again in 2011. The reason I know that my lens was manufactured in 2005 and not 1979 (since both are labeled as “T”) is mainly because this lens did not exist back in the 70’s and partly because the factory code is at the beginning.

A 2012, 1986, 1960 N 1999, 1973
B 2013, 1987, 1961 O 2000, 1974
C 2014, 1988, 1962 P 2001, 1975
D 2015, 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

The next two digits are the month. 01 being January and 12 December. Occasionally, the leading zero of the month is omitted. In my case 10 means October.

Finally, the last two numbers are internal manufacturing codes, most likely batch numbers.

The New System

new-dating-systemThe new system consolidates the date codes and serial numbers into one string of numbers. And this number is now placed on the body of the lens. It looks like this new system was only implemented on lenses that were marketed starting in 2008 and forward. So some lenses that were produced immediately after 2008, but were introduced to the market before 2008, still have the old dating system.

To determine the age of a Canon lens based on the new 10-digit serial number we have to visually break down the number into two, one and seven digits: DD A SSSSSSS

The first two numbers DD correspond to the manufacturing date. It starts in January 2008 with number 38. 39 is February 2008 and so on until December 2012 which is 97. Then Canon reset to 01 on January 2013. Please refer to the table below for all the dates and corresponding numbers.

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
January 38 50 62 74 86 01 13
February 39 51 63 75 87 02 14
March 40 52 64 76 88 03 15
April 41 53 65 77 89 04 16
May 42 54 66 78 90 05 17
June 43 55 67 79 91 06 18
July 44 56 68 80 92 07 19
August 45 57 69 81 93 08 20
September 46 58 70 82 94 09 21
October 47 59 71 83 95 10 22
November 48 60 72 84 96 11 23
December 49 61 73 85 97 12 24

The next number appears to be for internal use. And the final group of 7 digits is the actual serial number of your lens.

So following this breakdown you can see on this image that my EF 24-70 2.8L Mark II lens was manufactured in July 2013 (07).

If your Canon lens has a date code then you will be able to tell when it was manufactured. However, keep in mind that the production date is only just that – a date when your lens was made. Lenses can often take a long time to be shipped and then stored in a warehouse awaiting sale. Production date should only be one of the factors determining the extent of how long the lens has been in use for, other factors being the visual condition of the lens and smoothness of operation.

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/4.5
EF35mm f/2 EF100-300mm f/5.6
EF35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 EF135mm f/2.8 Soft Focus
EF35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 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
This entry was posted by Alex Gumerov.
 

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  1. Oh, My EF-135 bought from canon singapore starts with 23! means what? i bought it before they made it?
    fantastic world!

  2. There are some 8 digit serial numbers that do not follow any of the conventions you show above. What is the convention for 8 numeric numbers?

    • Hey Peter, if you have the 8 digit code then the first 2 digits should tell you the date it was manufactured when you reference the chart above.

  3. I’m trying to determine age of an immaculate Canon 100mm to 200mm FD lens. The body number is 85258 and on the flange is clearly stamped U603. The lens has been passed down through the family but know no more than that!
    I assume that the “U” = Utsunomiya factory, but the three numbers are what? Is this a pre 1960 lens?

    • For FD lenses, they use different numbering. The first letter in FD numbering correspond to manufacturing year. The next two number shows the month (i.e 06 for June), but sometimes they omitted the “0”. The last two numbers used for internal purposes (maybe the batch number or else). Canon starts manufactured the FD lenses in 1971 with letter “L” to identified the year (therefore, M = 1972; N = 1973 and goes on).

      Your lens was stamped with U603, so it was manufactured in June 1980 (U = 1980, 6 = June, 03 = internal numbering). My FD lens 50 mm f/1.8 was stamped U710. Therefore your lens is 1 month older than mine.

    • The same numbering can be use to identify your canon film camera, the difference is they put another letter after the 2 digit internal code. For example, if the serial number of your film camera is M1102F, then it means your camera was manufactured in Fukushima, November 1972 (M = 1972, 11 = November, 02 = internal code & F = Fukushima).

      But canon reset the numbering in 1986 for their product which explaind above in “The Old System” section. Use the numbering system that i explained in my previous reply, if the product was manufactured before 1986.

  4. Very useful article Alex!
    Since mirrorless cams take the photography world by storm, older lenses grow very popular.

  5. Hi
    I have two EF-S 18-55mm lens made before 2008.
    One was bought in July 2007 and has serial No. 2940538648.
    If you extrapolate the table back from 38 being Jan 2008 – that makes it an Apr07 which fits the facts.
    The other is No. 1840538105 which makes it May06 by extrapolation and that also probably fits purchase date.
    Do you agree ?

  6. I have an EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens with an 8 digit serial number that doesn’t fit the schemes described above. As far as I can tell the lens was introduced in 1995 so the first two digits, 88, don’t indicate the lens was manufactured in 1988.

    serial number 8800404C

    So, how should I read this serial number?

  7. I have a 100-400 4.5-5.6L and the number is 212216 and there are no letters. Any idea when it was manufactured?

  8. I have just purchased a CANON f8/500mm FD mirror Lens
    Serial number 19439, with U500 stamped on the rear flange
    Wondered if you could give me an indication for the Year of Manufacture ?
    Thanks.

  9. I met with a 100-400 lens in the second version, which began to be produced in 2014, and its number starts with the number 45, suggesting it was produced in August 2008.
    So something is not right here

  10. Apart from the UZ number on the bayonet of my 70 – 200/2,8 EF it only has a 6 digit numbe on the barrel. You don’t mention this. According to my son he bought the lens in 2011.

    Rather confusing – can you throw any light on this?