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Nikon Lens Abbreviations


What do those initials mean in the side of your lens?

 Getting the right lens for your Nikon camera

A detail of a nikon lens Different manufacturers identify the different features of their lenses with different initials or abbreviations. These can be quite confusing and so we thought it would be a good idea to go through the most common ones, so that you know what to look for. It is important to know what your Nikon lens can do, because some lenses will not be appropriate for your camera.

Firstly though, two very basic settings

MM or focal length of the lens. So the larger the number, the longer the focal length, the higher the magnification and the further you can see with it. The human eye is about 30mm (though there are different interpretations of this), so if you want to see more than that you want a higher number. For example, sports lenses tend to be big, perhaps 300 – 1000mm, so that they can get close to the action. They also tend to be fast…

Which brings us on to aperture. The aperture of a lens is known as the F number or F-stop. Often the widest aperture is shown on the lens. So an f4 means that the widest aperture on that lens is f4 – though it will have other settings, probably going down to f22. If the lens has two numbers – for example f4-5.6 – then it means that the lens has a variable aperture. This means that when you zoom the lens in and out, the aperture will change. This can be annoying when shooting stills, but a nightmare if you are shooting video. The bigger the number, the smaller the aperture. Again, a sports lens would be f2.8 or so, so that the shutter speed can keep up with the action.

Now some of the abbreviations:

DX Means that the lens is built for DX cameras like the D3000, D5000, D7000 series cameras. They tend to be smaller and lighter than FX lenses and the focal length doesn’t change – if you put an fx lens on a dx camera the focal length will change. It will be increased by a factor of 1.5 or 1.3, so a 50mm lens would become a 65mm or 75mm lens. If you buy a 50mm dx lens and put it on a dx camera, the focal length will remain 50mm

IF Means internal focus. This means that the front of the lens doesn’t move – so you can attach filters to the lens either clear filters to protect the lens, or polarisers or neutral density filters to change the light going into the lens.

ED Means extra low dispersion. This is supposed to reduce the amount of chromatic abberation, which is the blue/red tinge you can sometimes see on edges when you blow pictures up.

AF-S Means Autofocus the lens has an internal motor for focusing, it might also use the initials SWM for silent wave motor. Because the D5200 doesn’t have an internal motor, if you want your lens to auto focus, it must have an internal motor

VR Means vibration reduction and is designed to reduce the effects of camera shake. Very useful for low light hand held photography, and in big lenses which are hard to keep steady. Because this is automatic, you must switch this function off if you are on a tripod or it will increase blur.

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