DSLR Camera Lenses and Their Abbreviations

For those of you who want to learn what all these DSLR abbreviations are about, I’ve compiled a list of the terms used, what they stand for and of course what they’ll actually do for you.

General Abbreviations

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of why they are all different, let’s look at the commonalities. There are three common terms to describe SLR lenses and these are simple to grasp and relate to more creative and performance functions.

camera lens abbreviations

“lens” captured by Jonathan

Focal length: The scope of the scene captured (for example, a 16–35mm is a lens which covers an area of 16mm (relatively wide) and zooms to 35mm).

Maximum aperture: The maximum opening at which the lens can let in light (e.g. f/2.8 or f3.5–5.6).

If the lens has only one number then that is the maximum aperture possible.

If the lens has two numbers then these are the maximum apertures possible dependent upon the focal length the lens is set to.

The lower the number the wider the lens aperture and the faster it lets in light.

AF/MF: Switch between Auto Focus and Manual Focus

Canon Lens Abbreviations

Terms to describe Canon lenses

Canon produces an extremely wide range of lenses for their EOS cameras. This married with the ranges produced by Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina gives Canon owners an enormous range of Canon Fit SLR Lenses.

EF: Electronic Focus. Lens mount fits the entire Canon EOS DSLR range.

EF-S: As above but only fitting the APS-C sensor digital SLR such as the 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D and 300D, 350D, 400D, 450D, 500D. The S stands for “short back focus,” meaning that the back of the lens is much closer to the CMOS (CCD if you like) than with EF lenses.

USM: Ultrasonic autofocus motor. Two types. USM micro-a direct replacement for the systems on older FD motors and ‘Ring USM’ with manual override.

DO: Diffractive optics. A technology allowing Canon to produce shorter physical length lenses.

TS-E: Tilt-shift lens used for perspective correction in photography, usually in architectural work to alter converging lines and depth of field. Similar to ‘Sinar’ camera.

L Lenses: Canon professional with higher optical quality and not specifically functionality. Usually white in colour. All L series lenses have a red ring on the outside.

MP-E: Macro Photo Electronic. Lenses designed for macro with an electronic aperture control function.

IS: Image Stabilisation, A system designed to reduce camera shake. Nikon version is called VR (Vibration Reduction) and Sigma one is OS (Optical Stabilisation).

Nikon Lens Abbreviations

Describing Nikon Lenses

Nikon produces a large range of lenses with their own specific acronyms. Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina also make Nikon Fit SLR Lenses making the selection almost equally as wide.

AF DC_ Nikkor Lenses: Defocus-image Control adjusting spherical aberration and thus the blur giving rounded blur effect used for portraits.

CRC (Close-Range Correction): Fisheye, wide-angle, macro, and limited medium telephoto, offering higher quality at closer distances.

DX Nikkor: optimized for bodies with smaller sensors.

ED: Extra-low Dispersion glass. Superior sharpness and color, correcting blue and red light travel.

IF: Internal Focusing. Lens length remains unchanged

Macro: suitable for close up focusing.

G: Aperture adjusted by the camera body.

Nano Crystal Coat: non-reflective coating for clearer images.

VR: Vibration Reduction: Nikon’s version Image Stabilisation to cut down the effects of camera shake.

PC-E: Perspective Control for architectural photography.

RF: Rear Focusing for smoother autofocus.

Silent Wave Motor: Silent AF

Sigma Lens Abbreviations

Acronyms for Sigma lenses

EX: Sigma’s professional lenses.

DG: For full frame bodies

DC: For APS-C bodies.

ASP: Aspherical lens.

APO: Apochromatic lens. Unique to Sigma and for chromatic aberration.

OS: Optical Stabilisation.

HSM: Hypersonic Motor. Silent AF.

RF: Rear focus..

IF: Inner focus so lens physical length is fixed reducing camera shake with longer focus shots.

DF: Dual focus. Does not rotate during AF.

Conv: Used with Sigma teleconverters.

Tamron Lens Abbreviations

Tamron Lenses described

ASL: Aspherical

AD: Reduces chromatic aberration..

Di: Full frame

Di II: Cropped Frame.

IF: Internal focus.

LD: Low Dispersion Glass to reduce chromatic aberration

Macro: Designed to focus on closer subjects

SP: Super Performance.

XR: Extra Refractive Glass for improved optical results.

VC: Vibration Control as Canon’s IS, Sigma’s OS and Nikon’s VR.

About the Author
Park Cameras is a pro dealer who provides full UK warranty SLR Lenses. Hi, my name is Keith Trigwell. I’m a live music photographer and I also have a passionate interest in most other types of photography, particularly portraiture and Fine Art. My live music shots can be seen at http://www.flickr.com/bigmojo. To pass the time I also write a few articles on photography and technical photographic matters.

Like This Article?

Don't Miss The Next One!

Join over 100,000 photographers of all experience levels who receive our free photography tips and articles to stay current:

11 responses to “DSLR Camera Lenses and Their Abbreviations”

  1. Katie says:

    Great break down off all the abbreviations. Bookmarked!

  2. Matt says:

    Honestly guys, I know there is some sort of perceived need to constantly publish but if this is the best you can come up with then you’d be better to not bother…

  3. Chuck says:

    What about Pentax?
    They make lenses too….

  4. Roy says:

    Thanks, This list must undoubtedly (?) exist somewhere else; but I’m glad I found it. So many of the photography forums use these abbreviations, it’s sometimes difficult to figure out what the lens features mean. Good list to print and keep handy when at a forum site. Roy

  5. Mark Ferguson says:

    Thanks for article, I found it very helpful. It would have been even better if Pentax lens had been included.

  6. Tonya Meers says:

    Thanks for this it was really helpful. Sorry Matt you might know all of this stuff but some of us are new to DSLR’s and find all of the different terminology a bit confusing sometimes.

  7. Michael says:

    What lens is beter to use to make HDR pictures like this http://www.canada-area.com/Photo.aspx?id=109 ?

  8. Vassili says:

    Michael, your example is not HDR picture. You can take it with any camera using almost any lens, mate (but, not with fisheye lens)

  9. Nandagopi says:

    Greatly informative………. Archived!

  10. Michael says:

    Many thanks, Park. I also enjoyed your Flickr photostream – well done.

  11. Joe says:

    Describing aperture as the speed at which a lens can let in light is confusing. The speed of light does not change with aperture. The size of the lens opening does.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New! Want more photography tips? We now offer a free newsletter for photographers:

No, my photos are the best, close this forever