A Summary of Nikon lens Versions
F - Early Nikkors for the Nikon F (1959)
Single coated lenses with reflections colored bright amber or light blue to pink
Focus ring with metal scalloped grip or with diamond pattern rubber grip.
Solid aperture coupling prong.
Barrel colored chrome or black.
Early versions in cm, no screws in mount and engraved "Nippon Kogaku Japan".
Late versions changed to mm, then 5 screws in mount, then engraved "Nikon".
C - MultiCoated lenses (1971)
Multi-layer coating on all lens surfaces - reflections colored dark green, red and purple.
Engraving ".C" added to lens designation, except early 28/2 and 35/1.4.
Barrel colored black, otherwise identical to late F type.
K - New Nikkors (1974)
Modern appearance similar to Ai type, functions the same as earlier types.
Rubber focus grip, finer texture than Ai lenses.
No ADR scale on aperture ring, solid aperture prong and no lens speed post at rear of lens.
I have no idea why this series are known as "K" type.
Ai - Auto indexing lenses (1977)
Ai cam on aperture ring automatically indexes the camera meter to the lens.
Aperture ring with secondary Aperture Direct Readout (ADR) scale, visible in viewfinder of Ai cameras.
Aperture coupling prong with cut-outs to illuminate ADR scale.
Lens speed post at rear of lens at 6 o'clock position. The EM, FG, FA, F301, F501 & F4 use this for flash or matrix metering.
PC and Reflex lenses are not auto indexing but are
designated Ai* to indicate the barrel style.
Ai Converted lenses (1977)
Barrel style of older lens types. No lens speed post at rear of lens.
Nikon conversions have a new Ai-style aperture ring with ADR scale.
Custom conversions can be done by cutting existing aperture ring to form the Ai ridge.
Economy range with greater use of plastic in construction, some only single coated.
Same features as Ai-S but lacks aperture prong. Designated "Series E" not "Nikkor".
Early version black with thin metal rear lens protectors.
Late version with chrome ring, solid rear protectors and Ai-style focusing grip.
Ai-S - Ai with Shutter priority (1981)
Smallest aperture number colored orange on ADR and aperture scale.
Linear control of aperture via stop-down lever for accurate exposures in shutter priority and program mode.
Focal length ridge built into rear lens shield indicates 135mm lens or longer for P-Hi mode with FA and F501.
Lens type notch - small semicircular scoop at rear of lens indicates Ai-S lens.
F3-AF - Autofocus for F3 camera (1983)
Early AF lenses with built-in focus motor, 6 CPU contacts on lens mount.
Only 80/2.8 and 200/3.5 ED-IF.
Also TC-16 with built-in focusing to provide limited AF with manual focus lenses.
Compatible with F3-AF, F4 and F501/N2020 but not other cameras.
Ai-P - CPU Lens (1988)
Manual focus lens with electronics of AF (non-D) lens, for advanced operations with AF cameras.
Only 500/4, 1200-1700 zoom and 45/2.8.
Some manual lenses can be converted by having a CPU chip added.
AF - Auto focus (1986)
Lens focused by motor in camera, 5 CPU contacts on lens mount.
Plastic barrel, selected lenses metal with crinkle finish. Cheap lenses with plastic mount.
AF lens (1986) - First version with plastic focus ring and push-twist aperture lock.
AF-N (1988) - New style with rubber focus ring and sliding aperture lock.
D lens (1992) - Transmits focus Distance for improved flash metering.
AF-I (1992) - Telephoto with Integrated AF motor, 10 CPU contacts, manual override of AF.
AF-S (1996) - Similar to AF-I with improved Silent Wave motor.
G lens (2000) - No aperture ring, aperture controlled via camera, cannot be used on manual cameras.
VR lens (2000) - Vibration Reduction to reduce effects of camera shake, 10 CPU contacts.
DX lens (2003) - Lens with smaller image circle for DX format digital cameras.
Alphabet soup - AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G IF-ED !!
IX - Lenses for APS camera (1996)
Low price compact lenses for the Pronea APS camera.
Has F-mount but cannot fit 35mm cameras - no clearance for reflex mirror and image circle too small.
Glossary of terms
IF - Internal Focus, focus achieved by moving an internal group of elements.
RF - Rear Focus, a variant of IF where the rear group of elements move to achieve focus.
CRC - Close Range Correction (floating elements), lens groups move independantly providing a higher level of correction at all distances.
ED - Extra-low Dispersion glass for minimising chromatic aberrations.
Aspheric - Lens element with non-spherical surfuce. Either precision ground, Hybrid (plastic molded to glass) or glass molded.
NIC - Nikon Integrated Coating, multicoating applied to lenses since the mid 1970s.
SIC - Super Integrated Coating, improved multicoating applied to lenses since around 2000.
Nano Coat - Highly effective but delicate coating applied only to selected internal lens surfaces.
Micro - Lens for closeup photography, also known as macro lens.
Medical - Macro lens with built-in ring flash.
Fisheye - Non-rectalinear lens with extremely wide picture angle.
OP-Nikkor - Fisheye lens using Orthographic projection
GN-Nikkor - Lens with guide number coupling for flash photography.
DC-Nikkor - Lens with defocus control
Noct-Nikkor - High speed lens for available-light photography
PC-Nikkor - Shift lens for perspective control.
PC-E-Nikkor - Tilt/shift lens with electronic diaphram.
UV-Nikkor - Special lens for ultra-violet and infra-red photography.