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Red, Gold And Silver Lines On Canon Lenses – Explained

Canon lenses have different colors and markings on them to indicate what kinds of features the lenses have and what line up of lenses they belong to. 

Because of this, it can get kind of confusing to know what’s what. 

This post will tell you the difference between the gold, red, silver and green (yes even these rare ones) markings on Canon lenses, so you’re no longer left confused looking at your lenses and thinking “What does this mean?”.

Before I start, I do have to mention that these are not rules that ALWAYS apply.

This is because Canon has not always been consistent in using these color markings, but for 90% of situations, they will apply.

In the cases where you are unsure, you can easily check the specifications of your lens to verify.

If you want a quick summary of the post, then here you go:

  • Gold ring = EF lens with USM (ultrasonic motor) and not an L-series lens
  • Red ring = L-series lens and can have a USM motor
  • Silver ring = EF-S series lens and can have USM motor
  • Green ring = DO (Diffractive optics) lens
  • Red dot/circle = EF lens
  • White square = EF-S lens

What Does The Gold Ring On Canon Lenses Mean?

The gold ring on Canon lenses shows that the lens is an EF lens with a USM (Ultrasonic Motor) and this gold ring will be painted on as a dashed line.

This means that the lens uses an ultrasonic motor for autofocus instead of other types of autofocus like STM (stepper motor).

USM lenses are known to be faster at autofocus compared to STM lenses, but STM lenses are quieter than USM lenses.

If the lens has a gold ring then it also means that it is a non-L type lens. 

L-type lenses will be covered in the next section. 

So Canon lenses with a gold ring are EF USM lenses that are not L-series lenses. 

What Does The Red Ring On Canon Lenses Mean?

If your Canon lens has a red ring around it then you have yourself a high quality ‘’L-series” lens.

This has nothing to do with the autofocus type of the lens. L-series lenses are some of Canon’s best lenses and the L stands for ‘Luxury’ according to Canon. 

You may also see the letter ‘L’ on your lens to show that it is an L-series lens and these types of lenses can be found for EF mounts as well as RF mounts.

These lenses have much better optical quality and durability compared to lower-end non-L lenses. They tend to be ‘fast’ lenses meaning they have a large maximum aperture (low f-number).

Due to this, they are also some of the most expensive lenses on the camera market.

You might have read in the previous section that the gold ring means the lens is USM but for non-L series lenses. 

To be clear, you can have an L-series lens with a red ring that has a USM motor. 

What Does The Silver Ring On Canon Lenses Mean?

The silver ring means that the lens is an EF-S series lens. It also means it is not an L-series lens. 

Silver ring EF-S lenses can have ultrasonic motors (USM).

EF-S series lenses are Canon’s lenses designed for their crop sensor DSLR cameras. 

These lenses are more affordable than L series lenses and are intended more for beginners up to enthusiasts.

There are some exceptions to this rule as Canon has been inconsistent at times. One exception is the EF USM 28-200mm lens which has a silver ring even though it is an EF lens. 

For the most part, any lens with the silver ring will be an EF-S lens. If it is an EF lens you will know from the red dot on the lens barrel which I mention later in this post.

What Does The Green Ring Mean On Canon Lenses?

The green ring on some Canon lenses shows that you have a DO lens which stands for diffractive optics. 

Diffractive optics are used in some lenses to reduce the number of lens elements used in a lens and by doing this the size and weight of the lens can be reduced.

A DO (diffractive optics) lens will be more expensive than the non-DO counterpart and DO lenses are quite rare.

What Does The Red Circle/Dot Mean On Canon Lenses?

If you are wondering about the red dot instead of the red ring then this one is for you. 

The red dot on the lens, close to where the lens mount is, is to show that this particular lens is an EF lens and not an EF-S lens. This shows that the lens can be mounted on EF-mount cameras as well as EF-S mount cameras.

Basically, this means you can use this lens on any Canon DSLR whether it’s a full-frame camera or a crop sensor camera.

You can also use this marking when attaching the lens because it should line up with a red marking on the lens mount of the camera body.

What Does The White Square Mean On Canon Lenses?

The white square has a similar purpose to the red dot in the previous section but it shows the opposite.

The white square that you see on Canon lenses shows that a particular lens is an EF-S series lens and not an EF lens. 

This means that you cannot use this lens on a camera with an EF-mount. You can only use this lens on cameras with an EF-S mount. 

This is one of the differences between EF and EF-S lenses.

Further Resources:

Another thing about lenses that confuse a lot of people is the numbers on them.

Check out this post which tells you what the f-numbers like 3.5-5.6 mean on a lens.