Nikon Lens Identification

Whilst newer Nikon lenses are generally clearly marked with their type and specifications, this is not always the case with older lenses. This guide shows how to identify most common types of Nikon lens.

Pre-AI Lenses

were manufactured between 1959 and 1978. The will couple only to the meters of F, F2, and Nikkormat bodies, and if mounted will damage most Nikon bodies post-1980 unless they have been modified.

They are most easily identified, from an optics perspective, by their markings, and from a compatibility perspective, by their aperture rings.

AI Lenses

were introduced in 1977 to simply the process of coupling the lens to the camera's meter. They will mount and shoot on all Nikon SLRs. Metering is supported on most film bodies, except for low-end autofocus models, and all DSLRs above the D200.

They can be identified by the two rows of numbers on the aperture ring, where the second scale is smaller and filled only with white paint.

Series E Lenses

were introduced in the late 1970s as a lower-cost option for consumers. Some short-cuts were taken in their design and construction, and the name Nikkor was not applied.

Such lenses are clearly marked "Nikon LENS SERIES E" and are mostly to AI-S specifications.

AI-S Lenses

were introduced proper in 1982 as an upgrade to AI lenses that refined the motion of the diaphragm for use with the autoexposure modes of FA. These lenses are are in most cases visibly similar to AI lenses, but are easily distinguished by the presence of an orange f/16, f/22, or f/32 marking on the smaller aperture scale, and the presence of a milled notch on the lens mount.

AI-P Lenses

were introduced in 1988 to allow Nikon to milk a few more years worth of service from their existing super-telephoto line before they were updated to AF. These lenses are in all ways AI-S lenses, but feature the CPU and contacts necessary to provide full metering on most newer Nikon bodies.

They can be identified by the "P" following the aperture figure on the name plate.

AF / AF-D Lenses

were first introduced in 1986.

They are clearly marked "AF Nikkor". D-type AF lenses are denoted by a "D" following the aperture value statement.

AF-I / AF-S Lenses

feature an integrated focus motor.

They are marked "AF-I Nikkor" or "AF-S Nikkor".

AF-G Lenses

have no aperture ring.

They can be identified by that fact, really. Also the "G" after the aperture value statement.

DX Lenses

cover only the smaller size of the DX sensor format.

Marked "DX Nikkor"

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