In the late 1990s, my old CompuServe friend Chuck Westfall detailed for me exactly what Canon meant by its "L" designation for lenses, signified by the coveted "red ring" marking around the barrel of the lens. At the time, at least, it wasn't actually a generic designation for the company's highest quality line of lenses, which consumers widely mistook it for. Rather, it meant that the lens in question made use of one or more of a number of very specific lens technologies. (I don't remember the list now—maybe Chuck will see this and chime in.) It's just that the lenses that used those technologies tended to be more expensive, and all companies have much more freedom to make lenses better when the cost constraint—the #1 design constraint with most camera lenses—is eased. I do remember that not all of Canon's best lenses were necessarily L lenses—a case in point being the EF 50mm ƒ/1.4, which was made to Canon's highest optical standard at the time of its introduction (and it's a lovely lens) but didn't happen to include any of the technologies that would have earned it L status.
So anyway. If you happen to be one of those photographers who have always coveted the red ring of an "L" lens for all your friends to admire but were never able to afford it, there's finally a solution! Danish photographer Nicolaj Ma shows how:
(Thanks to Todd Bannor and Piotr Edelman)
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Bruce Appelbaum: "Hey, I painted a red line around my neck and no longer need my contact lenses!"