DSLR Lens Abbreviations Explained | Canon, Nikon, Sigma and More

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If you’re totally confused about the letters in the title of DSLR lenses and you want to know what they mean, keep reading.

dslr lens abbreviations, Canon, Sigma, Nikon, Tamron, Tokina, Sony, DSLR
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One of the trickiest things to understand about DSLR cameras are the lenses that go with them. Not too long ago I wrote a post explaining the basics of these pesky things. We covered a lot of topics ranging from focal length, aperture and full frame versus crop sensor. If you don’t know what those terms mean, I highly suggest you have a look at that post first! Those topics won’t be covered here, but they will be referenced too a lot. Check it out and come back!

In this post, I want to take that information a step further.

What are DSLR Lens Abbreviations?

Regardless of the brand, almost every DSLR lens has additional letters in the title Like ED, AF-S, or EX. These DSLR lens abbreviations can be confusing if you are trying to figure out what lens is best for you. And what’s more, every brand has come up with it’s own language to tell you the same information. So a lens with with the same mount (for example, two lenses designed to work with Canon cameras) will have completely different abbreviations.

How are you supposed to keep everything straight? Well, hopefully I can help!

I’ve created a list of the most common DSLR lens abbreviations below.  Under each brand I’ve broken it down into two categories, lens mount and lens class/features.

Canon

Lens Mount
  • EF– Designed to work with full frame or 35mm sensor cameras.
  • EF-S–  Designed to work with crop or APS-C CMOS sensor cameras.
  • EF-M– Designed to work with Canon’s mirrorloess cameras. This isn’t as common lately, but I wanted to include it anyway just in case you come across it.
Lens Class and Features
  • L = Stands for luxury. L series Canon lenses are are built and crafted for professionals.
  • IS– Stands for Image stabilization and helps to avoid blurry images from your movements.
  • USM– Stands for Ultrasonic Motor. It is a type of technology used to create a quiet and  smooth autofocus.
  • STM– Stands for Stepper Motor. It is a type of technology used to create a quiet and  smooth autofocus.
  • UD– Stands for Ultra Low dispersion . It is the type of glass used when constructing the lens. It is designed to prevent unnecessary glare and distortion in your final images, especially chromatic aberration.
  • PZ– Stands for Power Zoom. There is a motor within the lens that changes the focal length.
  • I, II, III, etc– This refers to the generation of the lens. The higher the roman numeral, the more recent the lens has been manufctured. For example the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 II is the second and most updated version of the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8.

Nikon

Lens Format
  • FX– Designed to work with full frame or 35mm sensor cameras.
  • DX– Designed to work with crop or APS-C CMOS sensor cameras.
  • CX/1 NIKKOR– Designed to work with Nikon mirrorless cameras, you may not see CX in the title, but if you see 1 NIKKOR that is the same thing.
Lens Class and Features
  • VR– Stands for Vibration Reduction and helps to avoid blurry images from your movements.
  • AF– Stands for Auto focus and it means that the lens has this ability.
  • AF-S– Stands for Autofocus, it is a newer and updated version from the standard AF. It is designed to be faster and smoother.
  • SWM– Stands for Silent Wave Motor. It is a type of technology used to create a quiet and  smooth autofocus.
  • IF– Stands for Internal focusing. A lens with this abbreviation will focus internally without the zoom barrel moving or the focus ring turning.
  • ED– Stands For Extra Low dispersion. It is the type of glass used when constructing the lens. It is designed to prevent unnecessary glare and distortion in your final image, especially chromatic aberration.
  • D-This lens will send additional distance data to the camera when taking an image. This is not “extremely” important. In most cases, having this or not wont make a difference in your final images.
  • E– Stands for electromagnetic diaphragm mechanism. Basically means the aperture blades have better control which affects how the light is captured.
  • G– This means that the aperture on the lens is controlled electronically by changing the settings in the camera versus an aperture ring. The older lenses had a dedicated aperture ring that you would turn to adjust the aperture. Video people like me are really used to lenses with a dedicated aperture ring, but the newer photography lenses have gone digital with this feature.

Sigma

Lens Format
  • DG– Designed to work with full frame or 35mm sensor cameras.
  • DC– Designed to work with crop or APS-C CMOS sensor cameras.
Lens Class and Features
  • EX– Represents their high-end lenses. EX series Sigma lenses are are built and crafted for professionals.
  • OS– Stands for Optical Image stabilization and helps to avoid blurry images from your movements.
  • HSM– Stands for Hyper Sonic Motor. It is a type of technology used to create a quiet and  smooth autofocus.
  • APO– Stands for apochromatic. Indicates that the glass is designed to prevent unnecessary glare and or distortions in the image, especially chromatic aberration.

Tamron

Lens Format
  • Di– Designed to work with full frame or 35mm sensor cameras.
  • Di-II– Designed to work with crop or APS-C CMOS sensor cameras.
Lens Class and Features
  • SP– Stands for  Super Performance.  SP series Tamron lenses are are built and crafted for professionals.
  • VC– Stands For Vibration Compensation and helps to avoid blurry images from your movements.
  • USD–  Stands for Ultrasonic Silent Drive. It is a type of technology used to create a quiet and  smooth autofocus.
  • LD– Stands for Low dispersion Glass.  Indicates that the glass is designed to prevent unnecessary glare and or distortions in the image, especially chromatic aberration.

Tokina

Lens Format
  • FX– Designed to work with full frame or 35mm sensor cameras.
  • DX– Designed to work with crop or APS-C CMOS sensor cameras.
Lens Class and Features
  • ATX-Pro– Stands for  Advanced Technology. ATX-Pro series Tamron lenses are are built and crafted for professionals.
  • IF-S– Stands for Silent Wave Motor. It is a type of technology used to create a quiet and  smooth autofocus.
  • SD– Stands for Super Low Dispersion. Indicates that the glass is designed to prevent unnecessary glare and or distortions in the image, especially chromatic aberration.

Sony

Lens Format
  • FE– Designed to be used with full frame mirrorless cameras
  • DT– Stands for Digital Technology. Lenses DT in the title are designed to work with crop or ASP-C CMOS Sensor cameras, but they can be mounted on full-frame Sonys that are set to crop mode.
  • E–  lenses designed to work with APS-C sized sensors.
Lens Class and Features
  • G– Stands for “Gold”.  G series Sony lenses are built and crafted for professionals.
  • ZA– Stands for Zeiss Alpha. These are Zeiss branded lenses specifically made to work with Sony cameras.
  • SSM– Stands for SuperSonic Motor. It is a type of technology used to create a quiet and  smooth autofocus.
  • ED– Stands for Extra Low Dispersion Glass. Indicates that the glass is designed to prevent unnecessary glare and or distortions in the image, especially chromatic aberration.
  • PZ-Stands for Power Zoom. There is a motor within the lens that changes the focal length.
  • OSS– Stands for Optical SteadyShot and helps to avoid blurry images from your movements.

DSLR Lens Abbreviations Made Easy

I hope this write up helps you tackle the world of DSLR lens lingo. Now you can understand the language and figure out what lens is right for you.

If you have any questions about lens abbreviations feel free to leave a comment below!

You can always rent gear to test it out before buying. I recommend Aperturent, check out their website!

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Olivia Johnson
Olivia Johnson is a videographer, photographer and freelance writer in the Atlanta, GA area. She works with soloprenuers and businesses to create video content that resonates with their audiences. Her full-service video production company, Silver Iris Entertainment specializes in commercials, business profiles, and event videography. She is also the founder and main contributor at Creatlivity, a lifestyle blog for women in business. She contributes articles about entrepreneurship, marketing, videography, photography, and tech.
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