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Lens Marking and Abbreviations Explained

Last Updated on July 14, 2021 by PixelPluck

When you buy a lens there are a lot of markings on it that denote different parameters of the lens. Markings and abbreviations are on every lens, which can be confusing to hobbyists or even professionals. Lens naming conventions can sometimes be rather complex because the manufacturers use letters and abbreviations to identify different lens components. Understanding what each of those means can be helpful, especially during the process of evaluating and purchasing lenses. In this article, you will find how to read the notations on a lens. Lens Marking and Abbreviations Explained.

Lens Marking and Abbreviations Explained

Here is a complete list of all the notations and markings on the lens. Different lens manufacturers use different markings to indicate the same technical aspect. Refer to this chart for a detailed list of all lens abbreviations. You can also download this chart in image format here.

Meaning/IndicatorNikonCanonSigmaTamronSonyTokina
Image StabilizedVRISOSVCNot in lensNone
Silent Wave MotorAF-S or SWMUSMHSMUSDSSMIF-S
Pro LensNo designationLEXSPGATX
Low DIspersion GlassEDEDAPOLDEDSD
Full-frameFXEFDGDiDoesn’t say DTFX
Crop-sensorDXEF-SDCDi-IIDTDX
Abb. meaningNikon LensCanon LensSigma LensTamron LensSony LensTokina Lens

Markings on Nikon Lenses Explained

In the following section, we have explained Nikon abbreviations in detail. You can understand all the markings and letters on a Nikon lens with the help of these abbreviations. The technology of Nikon’s lenses has changed significantly over the years, so some of the older abbreviations on modern lenses aren’t applicable.

AF

AF stands for Auto Focus, which means that the lens can automatically focus through the camera.

AF-D

AF-D means 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 the “D” acronym below. No longer used on modern lenses.

AF-I

AF-I means 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 the 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 a built-in motor such as D3500 and D5500 series.

AI

AI refers to “Automatic Indexing”. This abbreviation was used on very old manual focus lenses, so it is no longer used on modern lenses.

AI-S

AI-S lenses are the manual focus lenses that could be used with cameras that had Program and Shutter Priority camera modes. On AI-S lenses, the aperture can be changed directly from the camera. It is 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. Typically these are macro lenses.

D

D-type lenses send ‘camera to subject’ distance information to the processor inside the camera.

DC

Defocus Control lenses allow controlling the bokeh, which is great for portraits.

ED

ED marking on the lens refers to extra-low dispersion glass elements within the lens which 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

FL lenses were first introduced in 2013. This indicates that the lens has Fluorite Lens elements, which are superior glass elements than ED. As on August 2013, only one lens in Nikkor line had 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 mechanism.

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. Compared to conventional anti-reflection coating systems, this low-refractive coating is fabricated from microscopic nanoparticles. This results in dramatic reduction in ghosting and lens flare.

PC-E

PC-E means Perspective Control with Electronic Diaphragm. Allows lenses to tilt and shift to create special effects.

RF

RF stands for 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

SIC means super integrated coation. Lenses with Super Integrated Coating have better color performance and generally deal better with ghosting and flare.

SWM

Silent Wave Motor allows quiet autofocus with 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

FX on a Nikon Lens indicates “Full-frame”, as in 35mm film equivalent sensor. 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 D3500, D5550, D7500. DX lenses do work on FX bodies (they will physically mount) but will operate at only half the resolution. You will see dark shadows on the edges when DX lens is mounted on a FX camera body.

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/J5. CX lenses do not work on any other Nikon mounts.

Nikon Lens Markings – Infographics

Save or Pin this Nikon lens marking infographic for quick reference. Get high resolution here.

Lens Marking and Abbreviations Explained

Example: Nikon 24mm f/1.4G ED N

As you can see from the lens image, it says “AF-S Nikkor 24mm 1:1.4G ED N” on the lens. These markings means that it is a fixed Nikon (Nikkor and Nikon are the same things) 24mm lens with a maximum aperture of 1.4, has built-in autofocus with silent wave motor (AF-S), has no aperture ring (G) and contains extra-low dispersion glass (ED). The N in golden letter stands for ‘Nano Crystal Coating‘.

how to read Markings on Nikon Lens
AF-S NIKKOR 24mm 1:1.4G ED N

The rest of the information is not displayed on the lens but can be obtained from the manufacturer’s lens database, in the lens manual or on the lens box.

The abbreviations and marking on Canon lens is similar but comes with different notations. The basic technology remains the same across lens manufacturers. Certain advance tech may come in as unique features. Apart from these markings there will be a thread indicator which will denote the size of lens hood or filter to be attached on lens. Let us know in comments below if you have any doubt with the markings on the lens.


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3 comments

  1. Sir I have a camera Nikon 3300 with 18-55 & 55-200 mm lenses.I want close portrait lenses sujest me economic lenses

  2. photo dagne abera photo jornalset

  3. The N lenses are not affordable. Nano crystal technology on lens is pretty advanced tech. Good from Nikon.

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