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Thread: How to understand lens jargon?

  1. #1
    Member eloki's Avatar
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    How to understand lens jargon?

    I've been considering to get a 18-200mm nikkor lens, to replace my twin 18-55mm /55-200mm kit lens (I have a nikon d5000). So I was googling around for all the info I could get, however most reviews have so much technical jargon I simply can't make much sense of them all (for a newbie like me).

    So here are 2 examples:

    AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II

    AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED

    I get that both lenses are DX, which is different from the 35mm format (which is the standard from what I gathered. I also get that they both have a 3.5-5.6 maximum aperture (depending on "focal length"?). and the top one has Vibration Reduction?

    whats the G on the f/3.5-5.6G, and all the other stuff?

    TL;DR How do I interpret lens specs?

  2. #2
    Who let the rabble in? Lance B's Avatar
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    The first lens listed above is the second generation of the lens and has been updated from the first, hence the VRII monicker, whereas the second lens one only has VR, not VRII. I think that the newer version has better VR control for a possible extra stop in handholdability. In all other respects it is pretty much the same lens.

    The "G" means that there is no aperture ring and the aperture is purley controlled by using the camera, not the lens.
    Last edited by Lance B; 07-11-2010 at 12:20pm.

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Nikon Lens Nomenclature (note each brand has their own coding)

    Pre-AI Non-AI Manual Focus Nikon lenses made from 1959 and prior to 1977. Don't have a CPU. All Non-AI lenses have a letter after the word Nikkor, to tell the number of elements in the optical formula. For example, in the Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.5, the P stands for Penta, i.e. five elements.
    Types: A (chrome filter ring), C (black filter ring) and K (rubber coating)
    AI Manual Focus Nikon lenses, produced from 1977 until mid 80's, introduced Automatic Maximum Aperture Indexing. A mechanism for meter coupling, that is, to inform the meter in the body what is the maximum aperture of the mounted lens. With all black barrel, rubber focusing ring and multicoated elements. Don't have a CPU chip.
    AI-S Manual Focus Nikon lenses, introduced in 1982, with Aperture Indexing Shutter system for meter coupling. Smallest aperture is orange (if not, then the lens is either AI or pre-AI). Most of these lenses have extraordinary optics, like the legendary 105mm f/2.5, available in AI-S version. Don't have a CPU.
    E Manual AI-S Nikon Series E lenses, made for the compact Nikon EM introduced in 1979, starting the use of plastics. The 75-150mm f/3.5 Series E reached mythical stature. Don't have a CPU.
    AI-P Manual AI-S Nikon lenses with a CPU that sends the lens information to the camera body. The latest is the ultracompact Nikkor 45mm f/2.8 P "pancake", made to celebrate the FM3A and proving Nikon's loyalty not only to film enthusiasts but also to manual body users.
    F3AF Auto focus pioneering Nikon lenses introduced in 1983, exclusively for the F3AF.
    AF Auto focus Nikon lenses introduced in 1986. When on Auto bodies, there is no need to use the aperture ring in auto modes. AI-S lenses with a built-in CPU and screw motor for AF operation.
    AF-D Introduced in 1992. AF Nikon lenses with a CPU that also relays distance information to the camera, most useful for ultra-precise TTL flash. Among the first were the 35-70mm f/2.8D AF and 80-200mm f/2.8D ED AF Nikkor.
    AF-I Introduced in 1992. Nikon lenses with a coreless Integrated motor for faster AF in high-end telephoto lenses. The first were the 300mm f/2.8 and the 600mm f/4, both D ED IF AF-I.
    AF-S Introduced in 1996, Nikon AF-D lenses with a "Silent Wave" ultrasonic motor of their own, for fastest AF operation. The first were the 300mm f/2.8, 500mm f/4 and 600mm f/4, all D ED IF AF-S Nikkor.
    G Introduced in 2000. Nikon AF-D lenses without aperture ring. Need to be controlled through the body dials of latest cameras. The first was the 70-300mm f/4-5.6G AF.
    VR Introduced in 2000. Nikon lenses with a Vibration Reduction system allowing for crisp images handheld at very slow shutter speeds. The first was the 80-400mm f/4-5.6D ED VR Zoom Nikkor.
    DX Introduced in 2003. Nikon G lenses designed to just fill the frame of the DX format APS-C sensor size used in Nikon D-Series SLR cameras. The first was the AF-S DX 12-24mm f/4G IF-ED Nikkor.

    AF = Auto-Focus

    These lenses have a unique mechanical coupling which attaches to your Nikon DSLR, which then moves the lens. There are no motors in AF lenses, so your DSLR will determine the speed at which it focuses. On a side note, the Nikon D40 and D40x do not have internal motors themselves to use the coupling device on non-motorized lenses. Your DSLR must have an internal motor itself in order to use the auto-focusing feature of lenses which do not have their own motors to drive the focusing system. So, for example, only AF-I and AF-S lenses will work with a D40 and D40x.

    AF-I

    These lenses have a small "micro" motor inside the lens, and were unique to Nikon super-telephoto lenses in the early 1990's.

    AF-S = Auto-Focus + Silent Wave Technology (Ultrasonic Technology)

    This is a step-up from your ordinary AF lens. Ultrasonic motors are used in these kinds of lenses, making the movements of the lens element groups, virtually silent. Ultrasonic waves are used to move the lens elements back and forth. AF-S lenses are also famous for lighting-fast focusing. Again, this is becaue of the ultrasonic technology (Canon also uses ultrasonic motors).

    D = Distance

    The "D" on Nikkor lenses, is in reference to distance. An internal encoder is connected to the lens focusing ring, and transmits the shooting distance information to the camera automatically. 10-segment Matrix Metering is an example of what a "D" lens can do when attached to your D-series DSLR. A Lens without a "D" means you will not be able to meter with your D-series DSLR.

    DX

    Nikon's latest and newest type of lens, which is specifically engineered for the D-Series DSLR, by making a smaller image circle lens, enabling wider angle capabilities at a lower price than what a similar lens would sell for. Nikon's 24mm x 16mm imager size in their D-series cameras, are referred to as a "DX" format. This is why Nikon has released lenses with the DX name.


    ED = Extra-low Dispersion

    The farther you zoom, the more CA (Chromatic Aberration) is apparent. ED Lenses are made to reduce CA and are used in the more expensive zooms. Chromatic Aberration happens due to basic physics of light. A lens will not focus different colors in the exact same place, because each color has its own wavelength (Blue focuses nearer than Green or Red wavelengths). Thus, you need different lens elements to focus at specific color wavelengths. This is why some lenses are so expensive, and have multiple lens elements in them. An example of CA in a photo would be taking a photo pointed at a subject that has several edges, such as leaves on a tree, or a building with many different architectual edges poking out. CA would be prevalent if you notice purple-ish "blooms" around the edges of the subject.

    G = No Aperture Ring on Lens

    G Lenses have been around for a little while, but Nikon's earlier "G" lenses were not so great. The only reason I say this is because I have heard this first-hand from several Nikon users of the 70-300G and the 28-80G lens. The newer "G" lenses, such as the AF-S 24-85G, and the 70-300 "D" version, are not so bad.

    IF = Internal Focusing

    Internal Focusing on certain kinds of lenses, particularly telephoto lenses, allows for a much more balanced lens when shooting. The lens focuses internally, needing no more room to focus than the length of the lens itself, so you don't have to worry about buying a 12" lens and ending up with a 24" lens after zooming completely in on a subject, and having to counter-balance the effect. A "Push/Pull" lens does exactly this: the lens moves in and out of its main barrel in order to focus. Camera Shake is very hard to control in these situations, and you must have a pretty good grip on the camera and lens itself to avoid this when you are shooting in not-so-perfect lighting conditions (which is basically most of the time).

    VR = Vibration Reduction

    VR (Vibration Reduction) lenses are beginning to appear much more often from Nikon. What this technology does, is allow for lower shutter speed photos, without the blur that is normally associated with it. The 80-400VR was the first to use this technology.
    Last edited by ricktas; 07-11-2010 at 12:20pm.
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  4. #4
    Ausphotography Regular swifty's Avatar
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    Rick pretty much covered everything.
    I'll just add one more I can think of.
    N for nano coating.
    Nikon FX

  5. #5
    Perpetually Bewildered fillum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lance B View Post
    The first lens listed above is the second generation of the lens and has been updated from the first, hence the VRII monicker, whereas the second lens one only has VR, not VRII. I think that the newer version has better VR control for a possible extra stop in handholdability. In all other respects it is pretty much the same lens.
    Partly correct. The "II" in the lens descriptor indicates that this is the 2nd generation of this lens. It doesn't refer to the version of VR however. Both versions of this lens have VR II (just to add to the confusion ). From what I've been able to find out, the second generation of this lens was only a very minor update - a zoom lock switch was added (keeps the zoom locked at 18mm so it doesn't accidentally extend while you are walking around, etc); and one of the lens elements had some additional coating. Otherwise as far as I'm aware it's pretty much the same lens. If you are buying new it will likely be the new version anyway. (The new version has "VR" stamped in gold, the older version had it stamped in red).

    The 18-200 does have some shortcomings, but I'm a fan (I have the first gen version). Hard to beat for versatility. Let us know if you want any more info.



    Cheers.
    Phil.

    Some Nikon stuff. I shoot Mirrorless and Mirrorlessless.


  6. #6
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    eloki's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies!

    The one thing that I've been reading about is that so-called "zoom creep" which this lens seems to suffer from. Is it that bad / annoying?

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    Member super duper's Avatar
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    The "G" means that there is no aperture ring and the aperture is purley controlled by using the camera, not the lens
    Is this a bad thing? What exactly does this mean for the operator?

    I'm new to all this, so please excuse the stupid questions.

  8. #8
    Perpetually Bewildered fillum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eloki View Post
    The one thing that I've been reading about is that so-called "zoom creep" which this lens seems to suffer from. Is it that bad / annoying?
    From what I read many people find it quite annoying, however it doesn't bother me. Mine does creep but doesn't have much impact in use.

    I shoot mostly hand-held so would normally have my left hand holding the zoom ring anyhow. If I point the camera down to check the back screen the zoom often creeps, but I just reframe when I put it back to my eye. If you do a lot of tripod based shooting where the lens is pointed either down or up (astro for example) then it would probably be a big problem.

    Zoom creep can be a problem when walking around with the camera over your shoulder (although the newer version has a switch to lock the zoom at the short end). When I'm walking around I usually leave the camera in a small shoulder bag (Lowepro TLZ1). At those times when I am walking around with the camera out of the bag I support the camera with my hand (I don't leave it swinging from my shoulder), so creep is not a problem for me here either.

    I just had a quick look at my lens (gen 1) and the zoom appears to have tightened up a bit, probably because I don't use a lot these days. I'd imagine the opposite probably happens as well - the more you use it, the looser the zoom will become (and consequently its tendency to creep).


    Cheers.

  9. #9
    Perpetually Bewildered fillum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by super duper View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Lance B View Post
    The "G" means that there is no aperture ring and the aperture is purley controlled by using the camera, not the lens.
    Is this a bad thing? What exactly does this mean for the operator?
    For most this is not a bad thing and actually makes very little difference in operation. Most autofocus (AF) lenses (as far as I'm aware) don't make use of the aperture ring even if the lens has one. You set the aperture ring on the lens to the minimum aperture and then control the actual shooting aperture using the camera. The exceptions to this are the older type manual lenses that don't communicate with the camera. These lenses need to have the aperture set using the aperture ring on the lens.

    Of course one problem is that 'G' lenses won't be fully functional (if they can be used at all?) with older film camera bodies that don't have the ability to set the aperture in camera.



    Cheers.

  10. #10
    Who let the rabble in? Lance B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fillum View Post
    Partly correct. The "II" in the lens descriptor indicates that this is the 2nd generation of this lens. It doesn't refer to the version of VR however. Both versions of this lens have VR II (just to add to the confusion ). From what I've been able to find out, the second generation of this lens was only a very minor update - a zoom lock switch was added (keeps the zoom locked at 18mm so it doesn't accidentally extend while you are walking around, etc); and one of the lens elements had some additional coating. Otherwise as far as I'm aware it's pretty much the same lens. If you are buying new it will likely be the new version anyway. (The new version has "VR" stamped in gold, the older version had it stamped in red).

    The 18-200 does have some shortcomings, but I'm a fan (I have the first gen version). Hard to beat for versatility. Let us know if you want any more info.



    Cheers.
    I think you'll find that the VRII versions are an updated VR as well, now claiming up to 4 stops of VR rather than the old up to 3 stops of VR.

  11. #11
    Perpetually Bewildered fillum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lance B View Post
    I think you'll find that the VRII versions are an updated VR as well, now claiming up to 4 stops of VR rather than the old up to 3 stops of VR.
    Not in all cases - both the original version of the 18-200 and the newer "II" version had 2nd-generation VR (VR II). The point I was trying to make is that you can't necessarily determine the VR version from the lens descriptor. The "II" in the lens descriptor is to signify the 2nd generation of the lens not the generation of VR. Currently however, any 2nd generation ("II") lens with VR will of course have the 2nd generation of VR so it's somewhat interchangeable. But there are also a number of lenses that have 2nd-gen VR but do not have "II" in the lens descriptor (eg 105 f/2.8 VR; 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 VR, etc).

    Hope I'm making sense here ...



    Cheers.
    Last edited by fillum; 11-11-2010 at 10:51pm. Reason: spelling

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