Lens abbreviation glossary

Lens Abbreviation Glossary

We know things can often get confusing when you're looking for a lens to take the perfect shot, so we've compiled all the abbreviations and 'brand speak' here, with what it really means to you, and why you need to know about it.

Nikon Lens AbbriviationsNikon Lens Abbreviation Definitions

AF (Auto-Focus)
Nikon’s first generation Auto-Focus lenses
AF-S (AF-Silent Wave Motor)
AF-S is what Nikon calls their ultra fast Auto-Focusing lenses which utilise Nikons silent wave motor (~SWM). This system works by converting travelling waves into rotational energy to focus the optics the ultrasonic waves move in a spiral pattern inside the barrel with the motor positioned on top of the waves driving it from below.
DX is a lens designed exclusively for their APS-C sensored DSLRs, but can be used on their full frame cameras like 35 mm SLRs and full frame digital SLRs like the D3 series and D700 DSLRs.
G lenses do not have an aperture ring on the lens and must be controlled using the command dial on the camera.
D type lenses provide distance information as part of flash and ambient light exposure processes. D-type lenses also have a manual aperture ring.
SIC (Super Integrated Coating)
To enhance the performance of its optical lens elements, Nikon employs an exclusive multilayer lens coating that helps reduce ghost and flare to a negligible amount. It also includes minimised reflection in the wider wavelength range and superior colour balance and reproduction. Nikon Super Integrated Coating is especially effective for lenses with a large number of elements, like Zoom-NIKKOR lenses.
AS (Aspherical)
Aspherical lenses virtually eliminate the problem of coma and other types of lens aberration — even when used at the widest aperture. They are particularly useful in correcting the distortion in wideangle lenses. In addition, use of aspherical lenses contributes to a lighter and smaller lens design.
CRC (Close-Range Correction)
This system provides superior picture quality at close focusing distances and increases the focusing range. With CRC, the lens elements are configured in a “floating element” design wherein each lens group moves independently to achieve focusing. This ensures superior lens performance even when shooting at close distances. The CRC system is used in fisheye, wideangle, Micro, and selected medium telephoto NIKKOR lenses.
IF (Internal Focusing)
All internal optical movement is limited to the interior of the nonextending lens barrel. This allows for a more compact, lightweight construction as well as a closer focusing distance. In addition, a smaller and lighter focusing lens group is employed to ensure faster focusing. The IF system is featured in most NIKKOR telephoto and selected NIKKOR zoom lenses.
Nano Crystal Coat
Nano Crystal Coat is an anti-reflective coating. It virtually eliminates internal lens element reflections across a wide range of wavelengths, and is particularly effective in reducing ghost and flare peculiar to ultra-wideangle lenses.
VR (Vibration Reduction)
This innovative VR system minimises image blur caused by camera shake, and offers the equivalent of shooting at a shutter speed three stops (eight times) faster. It allows handheld shooting at dusk, at night, and even in poorly lit interiors.
ED (Extra-low Dispersion)
ED glass enables lenses to offer superior sharpness and colour correction by minimising chromatic aberration. It is an essential element for telephoto lenses.
Chromatic Aberration
Chromatic aberration is a type of image and colour dispersion that occurs when light rays of varying wavelengths pass through optical glass.
RF (Rear Focusing)
All the lens elements are divided into specific lens groups, with only the rear lens group moving for focusing. This makes autofocusing operation smoother and faster.
ML (Meniscus Protective Lens)
A curved meniscus protective glass element is installed in front of the lens to minimise ghosting by diffusing light re-reflected from the image sensor or film and the protective glass. Using a meniscus protective lens ensures a clear image with little ghosting.
SWM (Silent Wave Motor)
AF-S NIKKOR lenses feature Nikon’s SWM which converts “traveling waves” into rotational energy to focus the optics. This enables high-speed autofocusing that’s extremely accurate and super quiet.
M/A (Manual Auto Mode)
AF-S NIKKOR lenses feature Nikon's exclusive M/A mode, that allows switching from autofocus to manual operation with virtually no time lag — even during AF servo operation and regardless of AF mode in use.
A/M (Auto-Priority Manual Mode)
An “autofocus-priority autofocus” mode that reduces the sensitivity of the manual override to prevent unexpected switching from auto to manual.
A-M (Auto-Manual Mode)
An element that locks the focus ring during autofocus while enabling behaviour similar to a manual focus lens in manual focus mode with sufficient load when the focusing ring is rotated. The focus rings on the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6G VR, AF-S DX Zoom Nikkor ED 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6G, and AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor ED 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6GII rotate during autofocus.
Soft-focus shots of point light sources create regular polygonal shapes that reflect the shape of the opening created by the diaphragm blades. A rounded diaphragm uses blades designed to create a circular opening for a more beautiful soft-focus effect.
AF DC-NIKKOR lenses feature exclusive Nikon Defocus-image Control technology. This allows photographers to control the degree of spherical aberration in the foreground or background by rotating the lens' DC ring. This will create a rounded out-of-focus blur that is ideal for portrait photography.
HRI (High Refractive Index)
HRI lenses can offer effects equivalent to those obtained with several normal glass elements and can compensate for both field curvature and spherical aberrations. Therefore, HRI lenses achieve great optical performance in an even more compact body.

Canon Lens AbbriviationsCanon Lens Abbreviation Definitions

APS-C (Advanced Photo System type-C)
Advanced Photo System type-C (APS-C) is an image sensor format approximately equivalent in size to the Advanced Photo System "classic" size negatives.
EF signifies that the lens has an electronic lens mount. EF lenses are inter-changeable lenses that fit Canon's range of EOS single lens reflex (SLR) cameras - from EOS 35mm film cameras to the latest EOS digital cameras.
EF lenses designed to fit Canon's range of digital SLR cameras that have the smaller APS-C sensors, as in the Canon Digital Rebels (300D to 500D) and prosumer "D" models such as the 10D to 60D, plus the 7D.
Interchangeable lenses designed especially for use with the EOS M. Ultra-compact and lightweight they combine easy portability with superb quality optics for exceptional everyday photography.
USM (Ultra Sonic Motor)
Technology that uses sound waves to position the lens elements when focusing to produce highly responsive, fast and silent focusing with excellent holding torque.
Canon's STM technology uses stepping-motor technology for smooth, quiet autofocus when shooting video on compatible Canon DSLRs.
IS (Image Stabilizer)
Image stabilization technology allows the lens to sense movement from "shake" or vibrations and instantly apply an optical correction by moving a group of lens elements. Today’s IS systems allow photographers to shoot up to 5 stops slower with no increase in blur. Since the image is stabilised within the lens instead of the camera, the IS system can be optimised for each model. What’s more, the auto focus system has a steady image to work with and the photographer gets a steady image through the viewfinder.
Canon's designation for their top-of-the-range, professional lenses incorporating special optical materials such as fluorite, ultra-dispersion (UD) or super UD elements. L-series lenses, which are branded with a red stripe around the barrel, are the best Canon lenses available at any given focal length or zoom range and are priced accordingly.
DO (Diffractive Optics)
Canon is the first and only company in the world to incorporate a diffractive optical (DO) element into an interchangeable SLR lens. Using DO elements, telephoto lenses can be significantly shorter and lighter than previously possible, while simultaneously improving optical performance by reducing chromatic aberration.
A specialist tilt/shift lenses that allow correction of perspective distortion and control over the focus range. These lenses are often used for architectural interiors and exteriors.
Denotes a lens specially designed for macro photography. There is only one MP-E lens in the Canon line-up, the MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo.
Denotes a Canon macro lens, also known as a close-up lens. Macro lenses have the ability to focus an image on the film or sensor that is at least as large as the subject. This is a magnification of 1:1.

Sony Lens AbbriviationsSony Lens Abbreviation Definitions

G (Gold)
Sony’s “Gold” series of lenses. These are top-shelf professional quality lenses offering excellent image and build quality with extra features for additional creative control.
ZA (Zeiss Alpha)
These lenses use Carl Zeiss optical formulas and coatings, and are manufactured by Sony to Carl Zeiss specification. These, like the G lenses, are for pro photographers seeking the absolute best in image and build quality. They are also the only AF capable CZ lenses in the photography business.
SSM (Super Sonic Motor)
Lenses employing SSM feature quiet, fast, smooth, and accurate focusing. All of Sony’s SSM lenses also feature direct manual focus override, allowing a photographer to fine-tune focusing without using the AF/MF switch by simply turning the focus ring.
SAM (Smooth Autofocus Motor)
Lenses using a SAM focusing system feature smooth and accurate focusing. SAM is not equivalent to SSM, and does not have a clutch in the focus ring to enable DMF override.
DT (Digital Technology)
DT lenses only produce an image circle large enough to cover an APS-C size sensor. They are, however, compatible with the A900 and 850. These cameras will simply crop the frame to create an 11 MP APS-C sized image.
ED (Extra Low Dispersion)
Lenses using this glass are better corrected for chromatic aberration than lenses using regular optical glass. Never printed on the lens barrel
Super ED (Aspherical)
Similar to ED glass, but even better at correcting aberrations. Never printed on the lens barrel.
D (Distance Encoder)
Lenses with distance encoders are compatible with Advanced Distance Integration (ADI) flashes.
T* (T-star coating)
Used on Carl Zeiss lenses, T* is a special optical coating developed by Carl Zeiss that helps prevent flare and ghosting, and increases image contrast.
STF (Smooth Transition Focus)
Used for lenses featuring special apodization elements
IF (Internal Focus)
The lens does not change physical length as you focus on subjects that are closer or farther away.
Minolta manual focus lenses. They don’t work on the modern Sony bodies.

Pentax Lens AbbriviationsPentax Lens Abbreviation Definitions

Super Multi Coating
Lenses designed for cameras with full frame sensors (35mm). Will also work on DSLRs with smaller sensors, but a crop factor will be applied which changes the apparent focal length of the lens.
An FA lens without a seperate aperture ring, thus only operable on bodies that can control the aperture electronically.
* (FA*, DA* etc.)
The star sign follows the lens series designation (e.g., A*, FA*), and denotes a high-performance lens that uses special-glass elements
Current series of lenses designed for DSLRs with APS-C sized sensors.
Like DA, but featuring a very light construction, thus optimally paired with very compact and light bodies like the K-m.
Current series of lenses optimised for full frame dslrs.
Super Direct-drive Motor
A lens that uses extra-low dispersion glass elements (aimed at reducing color aberrations in telephoto lenses).
A lens that uses an internal focusing mechanism.
Super Protect coating
A lens that uses one or more aspherical elements (aimed at achieving flat field and corner sharpness with wide-angle lenses).
The original K-Mount lenses, full 35mm frame coverage, made out of metal, extremely solid and well constructed, great mechanical feel. Capable of only manual metering and aperture priority.
K mount with auto-aperture support.
K mount with auto-aperture support, auto focus, and mechanical aperture sensing.
K mount with auto-aperture support, auto focus, mechanical aperture sensing, and electrical contacts for power zoom
Similar to the * designation in that the lenses are of very high quality, and does not mean that the lens is being produced in limited quantities.
WR (weather resistant)
A lens that features special seals and thus when used with an appropriate DSLR body is resistant to dust and light rain.

Sigma Lens AbbriviationsSigma Lens Abbreviation Definitions

In order to attain the highest quality images, the APO lens has been made using special low-dispersion (SLD) glass and is designed to minimise color aberration.
ASP (Aspherical Lens)
The aspherical lens complex allows freedom of design, improved performance, a reduced number of component lenses and a compact size.
This lens can be used with the APO Teleconverter EX. It can increase the focal length and will interface with the camera's AE (automatic exposure) function.
These are large-aperture lenses with wide angles and short minimum focusing distances. With an abundance of peripheral illumination, they are ideal lenses for Digital SLR Cameras whilst retaining suitability for traditional 35mm SLRs.
These are special lenses designed so that the image circle matches the smaller size of the image sensor of most digital SLR cameras. Their specialised design gives these lenses the ideal properties for digital cameras, the compact and lightweight construction is an added bonus.
The exterior of this lens is EX-finished to denote the superior build and optical quality, and to enhance its appearance.
HSM (Hyper-Sonic Motor)
This lens uses a motor driven by ultrasonic waves to provide a quiet, high speed AF.
IF (Inner Focus)
To ensure stability in focusing, this lens moves the inner lens group or groups without changing the lens' physical length.
OS (Optical Stabilizer)
This function utilises a built-in mechanism that compensates for camera shake. It dramatically expands photographic possibilities by alleviating camera movement when shooting hand held.
RF (Rear Focus)
This lens is equipped with a system that moves the rear lens group for high speed, silent focusing.

Tamron Lens AbbriviationsTamron Lens Abbreviation Definitions

Lens technology created to help control chromatic aberrations that would otherwise degrade image contrast and sharpness. Anomalous Dispersion glass is a special optical glass that delivers an abnormally large partial dispersion ratio (amount of dispersion at a given wavelength range within visible light) relative to a specific wavelength zone.
ASL (Aspherical)
An aspheric lens or asphere is a lens whose surfaces have a profile that is neither a portion of a sphere nor of a circular cylinder. In photography, a lens assembly that includes an aspheric element is often called an aspherical lens.
Di (Digitally Integrated)
Is the designation Tamron puts on lenses featuring optical systems designed to meet the performance characteristics of digital SLR cameras as well as film cameras. These lenses may be used on cameras with full format (FF) or APS-C sensors (with a crop factor relative to the camera).
Lenses are designed for exclusive use on digital cameras with smaller-size imagers (also known as APS-C sensors). These lenses are not designed for conventional cameras and digital cameras with image sensors larger than 24mm x 16mm.
IF (Internal Focusing)
All focusing occurs within the lens, i.e. the lens will not change size as it zooms. Usually a desirable function of a lens.
LD (Low Dispersion)
Lens technology created to help control chromatic aberrations that would otherwise degrade image contrast and sharpness. LD elements are made from special glass materials with extremely low dispersion indices (characteristics that separate or refract a ray of light into rainbow colours) that effectively compensate for chromatic aberration that is particularly a problem at the telephoto end.
SP (Super Performance)
Professional class lens; currently the best lenses made by Tamron for the consumer market.
XR (Extra Refractive Index Glass)
Extra Refractive Glass having a refractive index of more than 1.69 is called extra refractive or high index glass. This numerical expression compares the speed of light in a transparent medium, like glass, with the speed of light in air. The higher the index number, the thinner a given element will be.
VC (Vibration Compensation)
In lens stabilisation - The proprietary VC (Vibration Compensation) mechanism features a triaxial configuration using three pairs of driving coils and slide balls around the compensator group of the lens' optical system. The lens incorporates a highly accurate gyro sensor for detecting hand-shake, and offers comfortable anti-vibration effects.

Samyang Lens AbbriviationsSamyang Lens Abbreviation Definitions

MC (Multi Coated)
English abbreviation for Multi Coated. Indicates that anti-reflective, multi-layer coatings prevent or reduce reflections of light from the surface.
UMC (Ultra Multi Coated)
This abbreviation indicates that a lens or filter has been covered with a multi-layered, anti-reflective coating to minimise reflections and increase image contrast. UMC coatings have replaced MC layers previously used in Samyang Optics products.
IF (Internal Focusing)
English abbreviation for Internal Focusing. Indicates that the focusing lens in the photographic lens is not an external lens. Owing to this solution, front and last lens elements do not shift or rotate, which is significant if filters or lens screens are used.
Lenses containing elements made from ED glass help suppress chromatic aberration.
A lens with an aspherical lens element in which at least one of the surfaces is not a portion of a sphere. Aspherical lens elements are most often used in wide angle lenses to reduce spherical aberration where non-axial rays of light focus in different points and blur the image.
CS (Crop Sensor)
A lens designed for use with APS-C or DX format cameras.
T (T-Stop, Transmission Stop)
A T-stop is an f number adjusted to account for the light transmission efficiency of a particular lens. T-stops were developed in the Motion Picture Industry to enable cinematographers to swap back and forth between lenses without having to adjust the aperture for each lens change, as even small changes in scene exposure levels are noticeable in video.
VDSLR lenses are specifically designed for video work and include follow-focus gearing and a decoupled, silent aperture allowing the user to smoothly and quietly change focus and aperture whist filming.