A Simple Guide to the Numbers and Acronyms on Your Lenses

In Gear by Jim Harmer

What does the lens name mean?

A really bland stock photo by Jim Harmer

Photography lens manufacturers use all sorts of abbreviations and acronyms to explain the features of their lenses.  In an effort to educate use, the photography lens manufacturers really just confuse us.  Hopefully you'll understand a bit about the different lens feature abbreviations by reading this post.

I can't even tell you how many of my photography students have purchased the wrong lens simply because they didn't understand what the name of the lens really means.  For example, I've had a number of students come to class proud as anything of their new “macro” lens that really isn't a macro lens at all.

The confusion comes stems from the fact that each lens manufacturer uses their own special acronyms to describe specific, subjective features of the lens.  Hopefully this handy guide will help you to avoid the problems of the photographers who have gone before you into the frightening world of purchasing a new lens.

Image StabilizedVRISOSVCNot in lensNone
Pro LensNo designationLEXSPGATX
Low dispersion glassEDEDAPOLDEDSD
Full-frameFXEFDGDiDoesn't say DTFX
Abb. MeaningNikonCanonSigmaTamronSonyTokina

You'll want to note that there are many other lens abbreviations which are not used in this list.  For example, TS-E, IF, BIM, Conv, etc.  There is no limit to all of the abbreviations, but these are some of the most common acronyms to get you started in understanding what lens you are buying.

But What Do Those Features Do?

Image stabilization – reduces the camera shake by counter-balancing the natural shake in the photographer's hands.  Most manufacturers put this motor in the lens, but some manufacturers–such as Sony–put this in the camera.

Silent Wave Motor – Uses a high-end motor in the lens to focus more quickly and without creating much noise.  A lens with a good Silent Wave Motor is necessary for sports or other situations where the photographer shoots fast-moving subjects.

Pro Lens – Some of the manufacturers have a proprietary marking to designate their pro quality lenses.  Nikon doesn't have a specific designator for this, but the “N” designator is similar (nano-crystal) and the gold ring is also probative.  Each of the manufacturers have their own criteria  for determining what constitutes a professional lens.

Low-Dispersion Glass – Reduces the chromatic aberration.  Chromatic aberration is a weird phenomenon which creates a strange-looking brightly-colored line around the hard edges of objects in a photo.  If you use cheaper glass and you zoom in on your photos to the edges of objects in the photo, you'll see it pretty clearly.

Full frame and Crop Frame – If you aren't sure of the differences, you might want to check out this post on the difference between crop and full frame.

If you like these daily photography articles, you should LIKE us on Facebook, so they will appear in your facebook feed each morning.  Here's a link to our facebook page.

About the Author

Jim Harmer

Facebook Twitter Google+

Jim Harmer is the founder of Improve Photography, and host of the popular Improve Photography Podcast. More than a million photographers follow him on social media, and he has been listed at #35 in rankings of the most popular photographers in the world. He blogs about how to start an internet business on IncomeSchool.com..