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Nikon Lenses FAQ

Nikon Abbreviations

Auto Indexing - Old Nikon lenses was non-AI and three kinds of AI - AI-E (1979), AI-S (1982) and AI-P (1988)

Autofocus related

  • AF - Short of AutoFocus
  • AF-D - AF with distance information, standard from 1992
  • AF-I - Lens with integrated focus motor, does not rely for in body screw drive.
  • AF-S - Lens have silent wave motor, much less noise compared to previous.
  • SWM - Another variant of Silent Wave Motor
  • IF - Internal Focusing, mean that nor front and not rear elements move forward-backward during focusing.
  • RF - Rear focusing, only rear element moves during focusing
  • CRC - Close Range Correction, AF improvement for close focus range.

More general

  • D-type lens - lens transfer distance information to body
  • G-type lens or just G - lens without separate aperture ring, all changes of aperture performed on body
  • E-type lens - Means that lens have electromagnetic diaphragm control mechanism, instead of usual for Nikon control by body lever
  • Gold ring - indicator of advanced lenses.

Lens Sensor Format

  • FX - Full Frame lens, made for 35mm size sensor. Most lenses do not have FX explicitly defined in naming.
  • DX - Lenses for APS-C sensors. Usually they are smaller and lighter.
  • CX - Lenses for 1” sensors, Nikon 1 system.


  • VR - Vibration Reduction, weird naming for usual Optical Stabilizer, used mostly to calm down Canon.
  • VR-II - More advanced version of same techniques.

Special lenses

  • Micro - used for macro lenses with close focusing capability.
  • PC-E - Tilt Shift lenses.
  • DC - Defocus Control capable lenses, allows to smooth out bokeh if necessary.

Optical construction

  • AS or ASP - Lens with aspherical elements.
  • SIC - Lens has some glass with Super Integrated Coating.
  • N - Nano Crystal Coating is present for at least one glass in lens. Usually not at all elements.
  • ML - Meniscus Protective Lens is present in front of the first glass in lens.
  • ED - Lens with at least of one Extra-Low Dispersion glass.
  • FL - Lens with at least one fluorite glass element. Used since 2013 in some advanced lenses.

General lenses info

Vintage Nikkor (Nikon) non-Ai, Ai and Ai-S lenses are considerably more expensive than most of other vintage lenses for two reasons:<br>- Nikon has never changed its F-bayonet mount<br>- Nikon has never changed the flange focal distance of its F-mount lenses<br>Regarding the fact that Nikon's flange-to-film distance with its 46,5mm is longer than by most of other brands, Nikkor lenses are perfectly adaptable to many camera bodies with simple mechanical F to x-mount ring adapters.

The third reason why Nikon is more expensive is of course high quality of many among their lenses. There are fortunately many good reviews regarding old Nikkor lenses. It very important in this case, because not all Nikkors are top quality in terms of optical performance. Their producing line offers lenses for everybody: from consumers to high-end pros. But when you know which lens to buy and if you're lucky to get good sample, you've got a high-end quality for bargain price if compared to Leica or some other brands who offer the lenses in top quality range.

As there are so far no reviews regarding the performance of Nikkor lenses on the µFT cameras, I will try to resume here my own experience with the Nikkors, exclusively for the personal-view website. I've been using Nikon cameras and Nikkor lenses since mid '80-ies and as rule of thumb I would just say: Nikkors reach their full quality when stopped down. On FF or APS-C sensors and on film, the best results are around f/8 to even f/11 for slower lenses, or 1-2 stops less for faster lenses. But mind everybody that on the µFT sensors only 2 stops from open aperture are usually giving the best performance, as after 3rd stop the diffraction will start to be visible in still photography (due to physical limitations of the small µFT sensors). For videos, even 4 stops will still work fine, but your exposure and ISO will have to be adjusted to light loss.

I hope my description of the following non-AF Nikkors will be helpful, but please mind that it is fully subjective review. Also, the quality between single samples of the same lens type may very a lot- from “lemon” to the “caviar” sample plus all steps in between- so mind I've used usually only one sample, seldom two different samples of the same type lens. Here we go:

  • Nikkor 28mm f/2.0: beautifully built lens, superb IQ, sharp, nice bokeh if shooting near objects with open iris. Bit of barrel distortion and vignetting which won't bother on the µFT sensor, but mind that this lens is on the µFT prone to produce coma which doesn't disappear even when stopped down to f/5.6, so be careful in the night shooting with street-lights or other light spots in background.<br>
  • Nikkor 28mm f/2.8: (only the very last Ai-S model): superb lens, tremendous sharpness and no distortions, can be used almost like macro with amazing results and usable DOF. It is still produced, costs ca $500 new. In terms of optical quality, all earlier 28mm f/2.8 models by Nikkor are inferior to the Ai-S one<br>
  • Nikkor 35mm f/2.0: superb lens, image excellent even open, on the µ4/3 performs as good as much more expensive, famous f/1.4 variant. This lens has great bokeh behind the focus and is nearly free of coma. Stopped down just a bit, in-focus light spots are getting a star-form<br>
  • Nikkor 50mm f/1.4: there are 28 (!!!) pre-AF 50mm f/1.4 models, all are OK or good on the µ4/3 in focus, but none of those lenses is great, IMPO. The bokeh makes big difference: try before you buy. At f/1.4 IQ is miserable, full of flare, unsharp and blurred all over. From f/2.8 onwards gets excellent for video. Personally, I don't like any of the 50mm Nikkors faster than f/1.8 as they are full of flaws, distortions and they have some breathing<br>
  • Nikkor lenses 50mm f/1.8 and f/2.0 are in general much better. They are sharp on the µFT sensors and even sharper on bigger sensors. From f/2.8 onwards those lenses beat the performance of all 1.2 and 1.4 Nikkors and one can have them used for bargain price. By f/1.8 go for earliest Ai-S samples and by f/2 mind its cheap 6-bladed diaphragm so void to use it where ghosting could occur (like strong light spots behind your subject), but otherwise is is a fantastic lens, possible best Nikkor's 50mm in terms of contrast, corner-to-corner sharpness and it is free of CAs and flare<br>
  • Nikkor Zoom 50-135 f/3.5: rare and nearly unknown excellent zoom lens with sharp and contrast image, excellent IQ from f/4.5 onwards, parfocal (one-ring zoom, though)<br>
  • Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 Micro Auto (non Ai): one of best macro lenses for close-ups I know. Little flaws: less good for distant objects, quite big breathing by focusing. Doesn't work on newer Nikon bodies, but it still does work on all µFT cameras. Actual Nikon's model 60mm f/2.8 ED G N is Nikon's best macro lens I ever tried and at the same time one of overall greatest Nikon's lenses- I use it as standard lens on the D800<br>
  • Nikkor Zoom 80-200 f/4.5: excellent lens, much cheaper than Canon FD 80-200 4.0 L but I can sign it performs as good on the µFT sensors. This legendary lens was one of first zoom lenses which performed as good as the primes. Crispy and contrasty even wide open, parfocal (one-ring, though…). The ring gets too loose with time, but it can be easily repaired in the service<br>
  • Nikkor 85mm f/1.4: now it gets very serious: this is a dream lens by all means: straight from f/1.4 onwards it has wonderful IQ, it is sharp and contrasty and the bokeh is… a dream! Its bokeh is as creamy like legendary Rokkor 58mm but optical performance is overall much better: unbeaten. Ai-S was excellent, “D” even better, but the best of all of them is actual “G” variant, it is optically even improved and has no coma at all, even widely open. This is a *perfect* lens, I don't know what else to say about it. It is not cheap, but its price is a real bargain for what it offers.
  • Nikkor 105mm f/2.5: legendary, Nikon's classic- one of the greatest ever produced IMO. It has excellent IQ even wide open, and from f/4 onwards it is just perfect: wonderful bokeh, tremendous sharpness and colors performance and no flaws<br>
  • Nikkors 135mm: all are really good, f/2.0 is allegedly a dream lens, but it is scary big and heavy, so the f/2.8 is probably better option for the µFT cameras. Mind that f/3.5 variant of 135mm Nikkors performs on the µFT about as good as f/2 or f/2.8 but it costs next to nothing<br>
  • Nikkor 180mm ED f/2.8: truly superb lens, it is one of the very best tele lenses I ever tried, tremendous sharpness on all cameras where I used it, great contrast and no distortions, free of CAs straight from f/2.8 onwards<br>
  • Nikkor 200mm f/4.0: late models without letter “Q” are amazing lenses, great IQ even when wide open, just beasty at f/5.6, this is a dream lens<br>
  • Nikkor 300mm f/4.5: ver.”H” is unpopular tele lens, Nikon certainly made better tele primes than this one, but this is probably the best deal you can have for less than 100$ in this focal length, turns to excellent outdoor lens stopped down a bit. Its IQ (use tripod, it has excellent collar) IMO performs nicer than the Panny 100-300 at its long end. Version “ED” of this Nikkor has first-class optics, if you find one in good shape.

Helpful external links:

Diffraction info:

Nikkor serial numbers:

Nikon F-mount info:

Reviews by a great photographer of nearly all Nikkors until 2009 (on film, APS-C and FF):

camera-usage/nikon-lenses-faq.txt · Last modified: 2016/10/18 01:04 by vitaliy_kiselev