What are Canon L Lenses?

An L lens is a line of SLR photography lenses made by the Canon Company. L lenses are Canon's top-of-the-line lenses. The "L" officially stands for "Luxury", a reference to the lenses' high price and build. There are rumours that "L" originally stood for "asphericaL" but this is patently false and has never been substantiated. The use of "ASPH" was common to notate aspherical elements throughout Canon's and other manufacturers' histories.  Canon produces both L-series zoom lenses and prime lenses for their obsolete FD lens mount and for their current EF lens mount used on all Canon EOS cameras (digital single lens reflexl and film single lens reflex).

A fresh new book discussing the Various Canon Lenses - is a new paradigm in publishing, Disparate content sources have been organized into a single relevant, cohesive and informative book. This content was organized using articles from Wikipedia and images using Creative Commons licensing, Books like this one represent an exciting new lexicon in the distribution of human knowledge. This book in particular embraces chapters focused upon the various Canon lenses, including EF-S lenses, EF lenses, FD lenses, kit lenses, FL lenses, and L-Series lenses.
As of 2012, Canon has not produced any L-series EF-S mount lenses, though the EF-S 17-55mm and EF-S 10-22mm both contain the same high-quality glass elements used in L-series lenses and have comparable image quality to some L-series lenses. Some regard the decision to not designate these lenses as L-series and build the body to L standards a marketing decision.

The lens on the Canon PowerShot Pro1 was designated L-series, and was the first fixed (non-interchangeable) lens so designated.


L-lenses have superior optical performance and are typically built with a solid construction to withstand constant use and harsh conditions. They can be recognized by a red ring around the front part of the lens. Most recent L lenses have sealing to help resist dust and water. L-lenses are typically used by professionals and serious amateurs due to their high price and large mass.

Most L series lenses share a number of common characteristics:
Tough build, made to withstand the trials on the fields (some incorporating dust and moisture resistant rubber seals).

At least one fluorite or ultra-low dispersion glass element, combined with super-low dispersion glass and ground aspherical elements.

Non-rotating front elements, which are optimal for some filters (e.g. circular polarizers).

Relatively large apertures compared to other Canon lenses in the same focal lengths.

Where included, true ring-type USM (ultrasonic motor) and full-time manual focusing.

Three additional data communication pins on Canon Extender EF compatible lenses, compared to the standard EF mount.

There are some lenses which include one or more of these technologies but which are not designated L-lenses. L-lenses are often equipped with an Ultrasonic Motor (USM and/or IS, but the optical performance is the key criterion.

Larger sized L-lenses, such as the 70-200 mm and 100-400 mm zooms and longer focal length primes (300 mm+), usually have an off-white barrel (sometimes referred to as the color "putty") to reduce heat absorption under the sun that may otherwise affect the performance of the lens, as well as to identify Canon's lenses (for example at sporting events). However, shorter focal length L-lenses can be black (such as the Canon EF 24-70 mm f/2.8L and all L-lens primes under 300 mm, with the exception of the discontinued 200 mm f/1.8L and newly announced 200 mm f/2.0L IS.). Therefore L-lenses can be identified by either a lens barrel's off-white color or, as on all L-lenses, the distinctive red ring on the lens barrel.

Wide angle L-lenses typically have a gelatin filter holder on the mounting point of the lens, which allows the photographer to cut a small, square piece of gelatin out of a larger filter sheet and place it on the lens. On film cameras, these are typically used to correct the color temperature, but on digital cameras this is largely unnecessary, as the color temperature can be corrected in software. The mount is still commonly used for neutral density gelatin sheets though, especially on certain wide-angle lenses where the protruding front element precludes the use of any screw-in filters. Telephoto Style L-lenses typically do not have gelatin filter holders, to maintain compatibility with the Canon Extender EFs.


The following is a list of L-lenses including discontinued lenses.





Prime Lenses


Standard & medium telephoto

Telephoto Primes

Super telephoto


180mm f/3.5L Macro USM


Canon lens codes

On the back of Canon lenses is a six-digit code, which indicates where the lens was manufactured and when.

Example of a code "UV1212"

The first letter 'U' represents the factory that made the lens. Three possible first letters are:

  • U = Utsunomiya
  • F = Fukushima
  • O = Ōita

The second letter 'V' represent the year of manufacture
  • A = 1986, 1960
  • B = 1987, 1961
  • C = 1988, 1962
  • D = 1989, 1963
  • E = 1990, 1964
  • F = 1991, 1965
  • G = 1992, 1966
  • H = 1993, 1967
  • I = 1994, 1968
  • J = 1995, 1969
  • K = 1996, 1970
  • L = 1997, 1971
  • M = 1998, 1972
  • N = 1999, 1973
  • O = 2000, 1974
  • P = 2001, 1975
  • Q = 2002, 1976
  • R = 2003, 1977
  • S = 2004, 1978
  • T = 2005, 1979
  • U = 2006, 1980
  • V = 2007, 1981
  • W = 2008, 1982
  • X = 2009, 1983
  • Y = 2010, 1984
  • Z = 2011, 1985

The next two digits represent the month of the lens is manufactured.

The last two digits are for internal Canon use.

Therefore the example of UV1212 means the lens was made in the Utsunomiya, Japan factory in December 2007.

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