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I'm currently trying to sell my Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM and thought in the advert I would try date it.

On the underside of the barrel there is an eight digit serial number. On the lens mount there are no production codes.

According to a couple of resources online there should be either a code containing a few letters or on newer lenses a 10 digit serial number. I have neither. On the second resource, there is an example eight digit serial number they've dated the same way as the 10 digit BUT mine begins 21... which would age the lens at Sep 2014... I bought the lens used in 2009...

It looks like I'm not the only person to have noticed this.

Am I able to date this lens or should I just accept I can't?

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Dating a Canon lens". *giggles* \$\endgroup\$
    – user29608
    Mar 22, 2018 at 10:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ The electronic inside might have date codes to give a rough estimate \$\endgroup\$
    – PlasmaHH
    Apr 1, 2018 at 12:44

3 Answers 3

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Sorry, there is no way you can date your lens. Not all Canon lenses have date codes, or serial numbers that can be decoded.

Canon might have some master list somewhere but I bet if you were to ask Canon, they would say it’s not possible.

In the past most "L" lenses had 6, 7, or 8 digit serial numbers and separate date codes. Starting in 2008, new designs were introduced with a 10 digit serial number which should contain a date code. Some "L" lenses like the EF 24-105mm have continued with 7 digit serial numbers and separate date codes. I suspect it may have to do with which factory the lens is made in.

"Consumer" lenses are a mixed bag. Some have date codes, and some don't. "Consumer" USM, Micro Motor, and STM AF consumer lenses NEVER have separate date codes. If they are newer lenses with 10 digit serial numbers you can decode the build date.

For some unknown reason, all "Arc Form Drive" consumer lenses always have date codes.

All these older, out of production Arc Form Drive lenses had date codes: (28-70, 35-70, 35-105, 35-135, 50 f/1.8 (original), 70-210, 100-200, 100-300, etc.)

These older designed Arc Form Drive lenses, that until recently were still in production, also continued to have date codes: (24 f/2.8, 28 f/2.8, 35 f/2, 50 f/2.5, 135 f/2.8SF, etc.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Would the "35 f/2" mentioned in your last list be the EF 35mm f/2 introduced in 1990 or the EF 35mm f/2 IS USM introduced in 2012? Ditto for the 24/2.8 and 28/2.8 lenses included in the same list. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Oct 4, 2022 at 21:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am referring to the early non-USM, non-IS versions of the EF 24/2.8 28/2.8 and 35/2 that were still in production until recently. All the early Arc Form Drive lenses has date codes. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 4, 2022 at 23:32
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There's a pdf available that describes the serial number placement. According to that document, serial numbers do not contain letters.

But, if you want to date the lens, you can try and contact Canon directly and ask them to look up the serial number for you. As stated in your sources, that will give you the production date only.

(I had it done for a microscope, and the manufacturer (Leitz) was quick to reply with the information)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I own an EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens that has an eight place serial number: seven numerals followed by the letter D. So Canon lens serial numbers can contain letters. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Oct 4, 2022 at 21:47
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Yes I know this is a very old thread, with the question still relevant. I'm in the process of trying to buy an old Canon lens and figure out how old the lens is. As mentioned already, there doesn't appear to be an exact way to determine the age of a Canon lens without a date code. The OP makes [reference] to suggestions that give a good guesstimate of the year and month of manufacture using the first two digits of a ten digit serial number which some believe is the scheme Canon started using in 2008.

Canon lens Year&Month Chart

I've read on other sources that suggests Canon repeats the serial numbering scheme every eight years (96 months). OP states "mine begins 21... which would age the lens at Sep 2014... I bought the lens used in 2009..."

Using this information I extended the chart backwards an additional 96 months. It is possible the OP's lens serial number 21xxxxxx could have also been manufactured on August of 2006 which is more likely when the lens was made. Take this information with a grain of salt as no one seems to know for sure and Canon is not sayin'.

I hope anyone else stumbling across this thread finds it useful.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Canon did not begin using the date code integrated into longer serial numbers until 2008. This lens can not be positively dated based on the serial number. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Oct 1, 2022 at 21:23

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