Nikon Lens Abbreviations

Nikon lens naming convention can sometimes be rather confusing, because Nikon uses letters and abbreviations to identify different lens components. Knowing what each of those stands for can be valuable, especially during the process of evaluating and purchasing lenses. Since Nikon has been producing lenses for so many years and the technology has significantly changed overtime, some of the older abbreviations are no longer used on modern lenses and those are marked appropriately below.

Nikon Lens Naming Convention / Nomenclature

Here is a detailed list of all Nikon lens abbreviations I could find:

  • AF – stands for Auto Focus, which means that the lens can automatically focus through the camera.
  • AF-D – Auto Focus with Distance information. Same as AF, except it can report the distance between the subject and the lens and then reports that information to the camera. The distance information can be useful for metering. See “D” acronym below. No longer used on modern lenses.
  • AF-I – Auto Focus with an integrated focus motor. No longer used on modern lenses.
  • AI-P – Manual focus lenses with a built-in CPU that transfer data to camera for exposure metering. No longer used on modern lenses.
  • AF-S – Auto Focus with Silent Wave Motor. The AF-S lenses have built-in motors inside the lens, which work great on all cameras without built-in motor such as Nikon D40/D40x,
    D60, D3000 and D5000 series.
  • AI – Indicates “Automatic Indexing”. This abbreviation was used on very old manual focus lenses, so it is no longer used on modern lenses.
  • AI-P – Manual focus AI lenses with a chip to send data to the camera. No longer used on modern lenses.
  • AI-S – Manual focus lenses that could be used with cameras that had Program and Shutter Priority camera modes. On AI-S lenses, aperture can be changed directly from the camera. No longer used on modern lenses.
  • ASP – Lens contains at least one aspherical lens element, which is used for correcting coma and other lens aberrations. Sometimes goes by “AS”.
  • CRC – Close Range Correction lenses that are optimized for close focusing distances.
  • D – D-type lenses send camera to subject distance information to the camera.
  • DC – Defocus Control lenses allow controlling the bokeh, which is great for portraits.
  • ED – Extra-low Dispersion glass elements within the lens do not disperse the light as it enters the lens. Most modern top of the line Nikon lenses contain ED glass, which also delivers better sharpness and reduces chromatic aberration or color fringing in photographs.
  • FL – Newly introduced in 2013. Indicates that the lens has Fluorite Lens elements, which are superior glass elements than ED. As of August 2013, only one lens in Nikkor line has a fluorite element – the Nikon 800mm f/5.6E VR.
  • G – If you see a letter “G” after aperture in the lens, for example “Nikon 50mm AF-S f/1.4G”, it means that the lens does not have an aperture ring like the old lenses. All modern Nikon lenses are “G”, because the aperture ring is only needed for old manual focus camera bodies.
  • IF – Internal Focusing allows the lens to quickly focus by moving some of the elements inside the lens barrel, without moving the front barrel or extending in size. Many of the modern Nikon lenses such as Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II are IF lenses. Lenses with IF acquire focus faster than lenses without IF.
  • Micro – Same thing as Macro, which is designated for macro lenses for close-up work.
  • N – The letter “N” stands for Nano Crystal Coat and it is always displayed in a golden sticker on all top of the line Nikon lenses. It is a special type of glass coating that
  • PC-E – Perspective Control with Electronic Diaphragm. Allows lenses to tilt and shift to create special effects.
  • RF – Rear Focusing. The focusing is done by moving the rear element inside of the lens, which means the rear element moves while focusing. The latest Nikon 24mm f/1.4 lens, for example, is RF.
  • SIC – Lenses with Super Integrated Coating have better color performance and are generally deal better with ghosting and flare.
  • SWM – Silent Wave Motor allows quiet autofocus with a quick switching between autofocus and manual operation. Overriding autofocus is very simple – you just turn the focus ring, instead of switching to manual mode first like you have to on AF-D lenses.
  • VR – Vibration Reduction allows using lenses hand-held without the need for a tripod in low-light situations. Special motion sensors inside the lens detect hand motion and compensate for the motion by stabilizing the lens in the opposite direction.
  • FX – this abbreviation indicates “full-frame”, as in 35mm film equivalent. Abbreviations like FX, DX and CX indicate format size (size of the digital sensor). You will never see FX on descriptions of lenses, because unless indicated otherwise, all lenses are full-frame by default (see DX and CX below).
  • DX – If a lens says “DX”, it means that it is specifically designed for APS-C DX camera bodies (see sensor size comparison below) such as Nikon D3000/D5000/D90/D300s. DX lenses do work on FX bodies (they will physically mount), but will operate at only half the resolution.
  • CX – Nikon has a mirrorless system called “Nikon 1″, with a sensor smaller than DX. Although the CX abbreviation is not included in the lens title, you might see it in descriptions and other marketing material. If a lens title starts with “1 NIKKOR”, it means that the lens is specifically designed for CX camera bodies such as Nikon 1 V1/V2/J1/J2. CX lenses do not work on any other Nikon mounts.

Example

Take a look at the following Nikon lens:

Nikon 24mm f/1.4

As you can see from the lens image, it says “AF-S Nikkor 24mm 1:1.4G ED” on the lens, which basically means that it is a fixed Nikon (Nikkor and Nikon are the same thing) 24mm lens with a maximum aperture of 1.4, has built-in auto focus with silent wave motor (AF-S), has no aperture ring (G) and contains extra-low dispersion glass (ED). The large letter “N” on the side indicates that the lens has Nano Crystal Coat. The rest of the information is not displayed on the lens, but can be obtained from the lens page in our lens database.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Mahmud
    April 12, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Thnks guys..iam still collecting a money to buy a dslr..and i already decided to buy a canon dslr by the end of this year..but when i read about ur article here,i guest nikon is the best for me coz i know nikon better than canon(Thnks tu u)..ur website is very helpfull..nice work…

    • April 17, 2010 at 3:25 am

      Mahmud, you are most welcome! I’m sure you will enjoy your Nikon as much as I do :)

  2. 3
    ) reyad kw
    June 9, 2011 at 3:03 am

    I’m new in camera world and i have basic in photography . i’have nikon D90 and i want to go with my
    my family to turky and i need good lens for landscape. in my suggestion (Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED)
    it best lens .but it compatable with D90 ? (Remember it DX )

  3. September 22, 2012 at 12:46 am

    Can you tell what camera bodies these lenses would be compatible with? Say I have a Nikon D5100.

  4. November 4, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Hi nasim,

    I have been looking at buying a zoom lens and I am quite confused by focal length and the zoom factors, my problem is that I have a nikkor 18-55mm vr and the advertised zoom factor on that is 3x, I have been looking at one of your recommended lenses which is the 55-200mm vr and that one states it has a zoom factor of only 3.6x. Can you explain how you convert focal length into a factor of zoom? And which lens I should buy if I want a serious zoom lens?

    I am sure I am getting it wrong here but if 55mm is 3x then surely 200mm should be 10-12x!

    Very confused!

    I look forward to your reply Nasim and thanks for your help in advance.

    Gary

  5. 6
    ) olayinka
    January 19, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Good day all,
    Please I will like to know the major difference btweeen Nikon lens 10-24mm and 55-200mm.
    Hope to hear from you guys soonest.

  6. 7
    ) Chris
    March 26, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    Point 15 refers to “FX” but “FX” is not explained in the list.

  7. 8
    ) Brett
    October 1, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Hi I have just purchased the nikon 70-300 lens the $800 one but it isn’t a DX like my camera is
    And have a d5100 I just need a bigger lens for camera with zoom is this ok
    And also im wanting to buy a more professional camera and looking to spend around
    $3000 for the body I mainly want to take landscape and pictures of buildings and the occasional
    Portrait and what lens would be good to purchase with body
    Thank Brett

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