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, D3x00 and D5x00 series.
- AF-P – Auto Focus with Stepping Motor. These are the newest generation built-in motors that are fast and ultra-quiet, making them ideal for both photography and videography needs. AF-P motors require the latest generation Nikon DSLRs such as D7500 and D500. They won’t work with older DX and FX DSLRs like Nikon D7000 and D800.
- 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 optically superior and significantly lighter glass elements. A number of new lenses such as the Nikon 800mm f/5.6E VR now feature fluorite elements.
- 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.
- HRI – Stands for High Refractive Index lens, designed to reduce field curvature and spherical aberrations. HRI lens elements are only present on the best of Nikon lenses, such as the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR.
- E – The new “E” type lenses feature electronic diaphragm control, similar to what we have previously seen on PC-E lenses (below). These lenses do not have the aperture lever on the back of the lens and are fully electronic, so there is no way to manually adjust the aperture anymore. “E” type lenses are more accurate than “G” type lenses, especially for shooting at high frame rates, because the lens can stop down to a desired aperture without the need to be engaged from the camera motor.
- 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.
Take a look at the following Nikon lens:
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.
I have a Nikon AF-P Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 G. This is the Nikon model D5600. On the back of the body is a button switch stating AE-L and AF-L and the under the button is a symbol that looks like a Key. Can you explain?
Hi Mr. Mansurov,
“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”
That what? Missing important (to me) information.
I look forward to seeing the information.
It would be great to update this list with the labels used for APS-C and Full Frame MILC systems.
Very informative thanks for sharing!
Do I understand correctly, that an AF lens will not Autofocus on a Nikon D5100?
Oops, no! AF means that the lens would include auto focus mechanism and hence they WILL autofocus.
Hi, I’m new to photography. I recently bought a Nikon D5200 with kit lens Nikon DX VR18-55mm and 55-200mm AF-S GII. I soon realized that the apperture is not large enough to produce my desired effect. Someone wants to sell me a Sigma 50mm 1.4 EX DG HSM Nikon mount and I don’t know if this lens is compatible with my Nikon D5200. The lens is expensive so I’ll like to ensure I’m not making a mistake in buying it. I’d be grateful for some guidance.
Cece, Nikon has two lense mount formats, FX and DX. The D5200 is a DX or has a crop sensor. The FX format mean the camera has a full-frame sensor. That’s the basic difference between the two. The full-frame tends to be the more expensive, high-end cameras such as the D5, D700 and D800 series. However, you will have no problem using the DX and FX lenses on either mounting system, but the FX lenses on a DX camera will introduce a 1.5x crop factor meaning a 50mm lense will an image of a 75mm lense. Then the DX lense on an FX camera will trigger an auto-DX mode on this type camera. The image will be produced at the center of the sensor. See more Nikon mounting systems at: www.nikonusa.com/en/le…rmats.html.
Thank you for the information. Saved a lot of time in researching what lens will be best and I build my gear. In the picture example of the lens, is this particular lens a FX mount or DX mount.
Great website. I’ve bookmarked it for future research.
Another “pro” tip – if the lens has the golden ring on the top (just like the one shown here as an example), the lens is considered by Nikon to be premium equipment.
Should this list not also include PF
Phase Fresnel (PF) lens elements effectively compensate for chromatic aberration and ghosting when combined with ordinary glass lens elements. The PF lens element is based upon the Phase Fresnel lens, which appears to have a series of concentric circles engraved onto it. Utilizing a Phase Fresnel lens element allows Nikon engineers to use fewer lens elements, resulting in a more compact and lightweight lens. Due to the characteristics of a PF (Phase Fresnel) lens that utilizes the photo diffraction phenomenon, when there is a strong light source within the frame or when light enters the lens from outside of the frame, ring-shaped colored flare may occur according to shooting conditions. This phenomenon can be minimized with “PF Flare Control” to be included in Capture NX-D (ver.1.1.0 or later). For more information, see software Help/manual. Capture NX-D is available from the Nikon website. Be sure to keep your software up to date.
like i have D3100, which lense should i use next as i have kit lens 18-55mm.
The 55mm-200mm lens would be a good choice.