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Gear & Apps

Canon’s 10 Oldest Lenses: Time for an Update?

By Anthony Thurston on January 10th 2014


Did you know that there are Canon lenses still in circulation, that you can buy new from the store, which were released in the early 90s? The oldest lens you can currently buy new from stores is the Canon EF 50mm F/2.5mm Macro, which was first released in 1987. Just so we are clear how long ago that was, that lens is older than I am. Let that sink in for a minute.

Many of you are probably wondering why on earth I am bringing this up. Many of you probably already know that many of the lenses on the cheaper side of the spectrum are Canon’s older glass. I recently came across this list over at The Digital Picture, which lists out the 10 oldest lenses in the Canon lineup.

10 Oldest Canon Lenses

  1. Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Macro Lens – 1987
  2. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens – 1990
  3. Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM Lens – 1991
  4. Canon EF 200mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens – 1991
  5. Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 Tilt-Shift Lens – 1991
  6. Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8 Tilt-Shift Lens – 1991
  7. Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Lens – 1992
  8. Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM Lens – 1992
  9. Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM Lens – 1993
  10. Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens – 1993

Does it surprise you to see that ALL of Canon’s 50mm lenses, with exception to the F/1.2 model, are over 20 years old? One of my favorite lenses, the Canon 100mm F/2 USM is over 20 years old, as well. This is exactly why they say to invest in glass and not in camera bodies, glass will last while bodies become outdated (faster now than ever).

[REWIND: Check Out The SLR Lounge Canon Lens Wars]

So, now that you see the list above, what Canon lens would you say needs an update the most? If you could pick one lens off that list which would you want Canon to update?

Which Old Canon Lens Would You Update?

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Latest Rumors On Possible Canon Lens Updates


According to the latest rumors, the Canon 50mm F/1.8 and 50mm F/1.4 will be combined into a new F/1.8 lens with IS. That lens is rumored to be announced at some point this year. There are also some rumors flying around with possible updates for the tilt-shift lenses as well as the 400mm F/5.6.

Really though, Canon is doing a pretty good job keeping lenses under wraps. But if the 50mm rumor I mentioned above is true, it will be going up against the new Sigma 50mm F/1.4 that was just announced. That will be an interesting battle.

If you are curious about how the old lenses mentioned in this article compare to some of the newer, more recently updated, lenses then keep your eye on our brand NEW Canon Lens Wars Series, the ultimate visual guide to real world differences between a whole host of Canon professional zoom lenses and primes. We tested 25 Canon lenses valued at over $40,000 dollars starting from 17mm to 300mm focal length.

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jared Stewart

    At this point, I think Canon would be hard pressed to make a new 50mm f/1.4 unless they could come close to the quality of the Sigma 50mm Art and still be at a lower price point.

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  2. wjp

    With a focal length of 50mm I wouldn’t think that a person would need IS in normal shooting situations. And in situations that require long exposures, you’d probably want a tripod and again no IS required. Not sure what the benefit would be for IS on the 50. Please correct me if I’m mistaken. It wouldn’t be the first time or the last time that I was mistaken.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      There are case where you may be hand holding the 50 that IS might come in helpful, but in general you are right. Rather unneeded. But, it is an excuse to sell the lens for more money, so that is probably the biggest reason that Canon will do it.

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  3. jeff

    I voted 50 f/1.4 because I have it and the softness and AF could improve. But its a double-edged sword because as you mentioned—you don’t WANT your lenses to be updated very frequently, you want them to far outlast your camera body, meaning they have lasting quality and value.

    Plus, Canon’s recent updates have not been cheap, far higher prices than the hardware they replace. So this is a “careful what you wish for” kind of article. I’m not sure I’d trade out my 1.4 for a 1.8 even with IS.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Totally agree with you here, a total double edged sword because that means paying for expensive new glass. But at the same time, still amazing to me that the 50’s have lasted so long without an update. 20 years is a LONG time, lots of tech advancements in that time.

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