Nikon Lens Abbreviations & Acronyms (A Quick Guide)

Welcome to a guide and list of the Nikon lens abbreviations and acronyms. I bet you have already seen those “strange markings” all over Nikon lenses, but what the heck do they mean? This guide will help you to decode the Nikon code, and walk through a short history lesson so you better understand Nikon lenses – Read on!

 

 

NIKON VS NIKKOR!?

For you guys who are new to Nikon, their lenses are branded “Nikkor”. No need to be confused, it’s just part of the history. Nikon originally only wanted their best lenses to carry the “Nikkor” name, but now, all their lenses are branded “Nikkor” nonetheless.

 

AUTO INDEXING (AI)

Once upon a time, lenses are manual. That’s right – No autofocus, no aperture priority, no shutter priority, no automatic of any sort. It was not until 1977 that “Automatic Maximum Aperture Indexing”, or “Auto Indexing” (AI) came into existence. That is the first generation of lenses capable of doing “automatic exposure”, and it received several upgrades over the years:

  • AI (1977)
  • AI-E (1979)
  • AI-S (1982)
  • AI-P (1988)

While modern Nikkor lenses no longer have “AI” decorated on them, the AI technology is integrated into all modern lenses “by default”.

 

 

AUTOFOCUS (AF)

  • AF: The “next big upgrade” in 1986, the first generation of autofocus lenses.
  • AF-D: Update in 1992, autofocus with distance information.
  • AF-I: Autofocus with an integrated focus motor.
  • AF-S: The newer autofocus with Silent Wave Motor, supposedly faster and more silent.
  • AF-P: Auto-focus with a “Pulse” motor. Supposedly even “betterer” than AF-S.

Take note of “autofocus with integrated focus motor”. Yep, some Nikkor lenses do not have their own autofocus motor. You will need a Nikon camera with a built-in motor, or that lens is as good as a manual focus lens. Now for a few more noteworthy terms in regards to auto-focus.

  • SWM: Silent Wave Motor. A glorified AF motor.
  • IF: Internal Focusing. The manual focus ring will not turn when autofocus is working its magic.
  • RF: Rear Focusing. The rear element moves while focusing.
  • CRC: Close Range Correction. Optimized for close focusing distances.

 

LENS TYPES

  • D-Type: The older range of Nikkor digital lenses. These lenses still come with a manual aperture ring, that needs to be locked at the smallest aperture for auto to engage.
  • G-Type: All modern lenses built beyond this point no longer have a manual aperture ring. Since technology has grown so much, and the aperture is now controlled with the camera instead.
  • E-Type: Electromagnetic diaphragm mechanism. In simple terms, allow more accurate aperture blade controls, good for shooting at high frame rates.

 

 

MOUNT SYSTEMS

  • Leica Screw Mount (LTM) – From the 1930s to 1950s Nikon made lenses for the Leica Screw Mount (LTM), but Nikon themselves did not produce any LTM cameras.
  • F-Mount – In 1959, Nikon came up with their own “F-mount” standard, and it has not changed since. But please note that not all camera bodies and lenses are backward compatible. Mounting some older F-mount lenses on a later camera body may even result in damage.
  • Z-Mount – In August 2018, Nikon released its line of mirrorless cameras, and they no longer use the age-old F-mount. A new “Z-mount” is announced, with a larger diameter than the F-mount. No worries though, the Z-mount does have an F-mount adapter to maintain lens compatibility.

 

 

FORMAT

  • FX: Lenses built for “full-frame”, or the 35mm film equivalent.
  • DX: Lenses designed for APS-C (crop sensors). DX lens will still work on FX cameras, but you need to set the shooting mode to “DX lens”. This will result in a smaller resolution due to cropping.
  • CX: This lens is made for mirrorless systems. Lenses with the “1 NIKKOR” is a CX lens by default.

 

STABILIZATION

Nikon calls their stabilizing system Vibration Reduction (VR), and a later upgrade to VR II.

 

SPECIALIZATION

  • Micro: Or call it Macro, designed to be capable of focusing very close up to the subject.
  • PC-E: Perspective control with an electronic diaphragm, or simply “tilt-shift”.
  • DC: Defocus Control lens allow the control of the out-of-focus parts of the focus. AKA Bokeh. The results are subtle though.

 

ELEMENTS

  • ASP or AS: This lens has at least one aspherical lens element – Read on Wikipedia if you like to learn more.
  • ML: Meniscus Protective Lens. A curved glass element is installed in front of the lens to reduce ghosting.
  • ED: Extra-low Dispersion. Glass that does not disperse the light as it enters the lens, better sharpness and reduces chromatic aberration. Used in most modern top-line Nikon lenses.
  • ASED: Aspherical ED glass.
  • Super ED: So-called better version of ED glass.
  • HRI: Lens with high refractive index.
  • FL: Fluorite Lens. Nikon’s new line of glass in 2013, optically superior and significantly lighter glass elements.
  • SR: Short-wavelength refractive. Announced in 2019, better optical quality and suppresses chromatic aberration. Read this if want the technical information.
  • PF: Phase Fresnel – Read this on Nikon USA if you want to learn more.
  • TC: Teleconverter. A “magnifying glass” in simple terms.

 

 

LENS COATING

  • SIC: Super Integrated Coating. Better color performance and generally less ghosting and flaring.
  • N: Nano Crystal Coating. A special coat of glass that “virtually eliminates internal lens element reflections”. That is, it almost completely wipes out possible ghosting.
  • ARNEO: Anti-reflective NEO.
  • Fluorine: Repels dust, water, grease, and dirt.

 

CLASS (GOLD RING)

Nikon has a very simple way to distinguish its “premium” lenses. All lenses with a gold ring are deemed to be “top quality”, and those that don’t are “consumer-grade” or “prosumer-grade”.

 

LINKS & REFERENCES

Thank you for reading, and we have come to the end of this guide, and here is a small section on some extras and links that may be useful to you.

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