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 (early NKJ 28/2 and 35/1.4 are multicoated but lack the ".C" marking)
- 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. According to some sources the 'K' designation itself is believed to be derived from the Japanese "konnichi-teki", loosely translatable as "modern" or "contemporary".
However within Japan this range are known as "New Nikkors" (in English) so it seems unlikely the "K" designation is based on a Japanese word.
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.