Lens designations

These days, camera lenses are high-tech pieces of kit. Each manufacturer uses many abbreviations and acronyms to refer to the various technologies and it can get confusing to compare lenses – especially when different manufacturers use different names to refer to the same technology.

You can look up the abbreviations on each manufacturer’s website (see below), but it’s a pain and it takes ages. So I compiled a table to compare the most common lens designations. This table is not exhaustive – I have only included terms that are used by more than one manufacturer.

Technology Canon Nikon Sigma Tamron Tokina
Full frame sensor EF FX DG Di FX
Crop sensor EF-S DX DC Di II DX
Ultrasonic focus motor USM SWM / AF-S HSM USD
Optical image stabilisation IS VR OS VC
Professional grade L EX SP AT-X Pro
Inner or rear focusing I/R IF / RF RF / IF / HF IF IF
Aspherical lens elements AL / L* APS AS / F&R
Macro lens Macro Micro Macro
Apochromatic lens UD ED APO LD SD
Floating element Float CRC FE
Perspective control TS-E PC-E

* All Canon L lenses make use of aspherical lens elements. Many of their other lenses use one or more aspherical lenses too but are not labelled as such.

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