Canon Date Codes
In sorting out which lenses are which I have
had to resort on occasion to date codes.
There is a fair amount of information on the
web about these codes but it is incomplete and spread out here and there and it can be
frustrating to gather it together. Let’s see
if we can summarize here whats available.
Canon began using date codes around 1960,
the code being an alphabetic letter followed by four
numerals. The letter represented the year and the first two
digits represented the month of manufacture. For months January
thru September the first numeral was a zero and it was often left out, as in the
case in the image to the left. The codes began with A in 1960 and in 1986 it
recycled and began again at A. This continued until 2013 but the codes were not
always present on every lens and camera.
On FD Lenses the code may be found on the rear plate of the lens. For FD SLR’s it may be found inside the body in the film cassette well in black ink on the black surface. They can sometimes be hard to see.
In tabular form, the year codes are as follows:
|Letter Date||1st Series Year||2nd Series Year||3rd Series Year|
So, for the lens above lets see how this works. We know the FD lenses were manufactured in the 1970’s so we are looking at first series in the table. The letter L signifies manufacture in 1971. The numerals are three digits so we know the leading zero has been dropped. Month of manufacture is 7 or 7th month, i.e. July. So this lens was manufactured in July of 1971. This dating can be really helpful when you have two lenses that look identical and you want to tell them apart. If you know the dates of manufacture from the Canon Museum website you can pinpoint what you have.
Canon has not, apparently, said what the final two numbers were for.
However, you will often find another alphabetical letter preceding or appended to the date code and this stands for the factory where the lens or camera was produced. “F” stands for the Fukushima plant. “O” stand for Oita and “U stands for Utsonomiya, all cities where the respective plants are located. The factory code comes at the beginning or end of the code. If at the beginning, the first letter is the plant, the second is the year. If at the end, then the code will be a letter, two or three numerals and finally the plant code. But note, lens date codes did not include factory designations prior to 1986. And the factory code was not always used in any event.
10 Digit Codes
Starting in 2008 Canon has been transitioning to 10 digit serial numbers. The format is as follows:
DD C SSSSSSS
although the spaces I have included are usually left out. The DD portion, the first two numerals, give the date of manufacture. The codes are as follows:
All of the above has to be taken with a grain of salt. Canon has not been consistent in the application of these codes. And printing date codes on a black surface in black ink does not show a great concern for the usefullness of these codes. Sometimes the factory code is included, sometimes not. The table for the 10 digit codes is believed correct but is subject to caution. The above is a guide only. It appears that not all EF and EF-s lenses are date coded at all. So, proceed with caution.
That being said, this information can be useful. For an example, the the page on Canon’s FD 35mm f/3.5 lenses shows how they can be used. These date codes were very usefull in sorting the lenses out in view of the poor information available in the Canon Museum.
I want to thank Ken Rockwell for his information taken from his website and the Digital Picture for their information on the 10 digit codes. Without the help of others on the internet what I am doing here would not be possible. I hope that others can make use of this information I have assembled here in like manner.