1959 marks the beginning of the Nikon F-mount with the introduction of the Nikon F 35mm film SLR camera.
Over time changes have been made that affect lens and camera compatibility. Generally, lenses can be used, but some features may not work. The exception are Non-Ai lenses, which can cause damage to cameras.
Damage Caused by Nikkor Non-Ai Lenses
These are the oldest Nikon F-Mount lenses. They will damage Nikon DSLRs and SLRs made after 1977.
Non-Ai lenses can be identified by metering prongs and a solid lip that protrudes backward from the lens mount. The lip will press against the meter coupling ridge or EE servo coupling post. The pressure can break or bend those parts, causing expensive damage.
Are all Nikon Mounts the Same?
No. There are 4 different Nikon lens mounts, which are listed below. This page is focused on the differences between F-mount lenses.
- Nikon S mount – The first mount made by Nikon. Used on rangefinder cameras. (Discontinued)
- Nikon F mount – Used on SLRs and DSLRs.
- Nikon CX mount – Designed for the Nikon 1 series cameras. These are very small lenses. (Discontinued, 2011-2018)
- Nikon Z mount – Released in 2018. For use on full frame mirrorless cameras.
What are the Differences Between F-Mount Lenses?
There are 4 differences that affect lens compatibility. With the exception of Non-Ai lenses, lenses will work on newer camera bodies. Metering and autofocus may not work depending on the camera body.
Lenses are backward compatible with the exception of the G series and any other lenses that have electronically controlled apertures.
These are lenses made between 1959-1977ish. They will have meter coupling prongs sticking out from the aperture ring. There is a solid lip on the lens mount that will damage a camera’s EE servo coupling prong or meter coupling ridge.
They are easy to visually identify if you can see the mount. Online sellers will state the lens is “Non-Ai.” Sellers on eBay might not do this is they are unfamiliar with Nikkor lenses.
Non-Ai lenses can be converted to work on newer camera bodies. Converted lenses are often referred to as being Ai’d. The conversion requires slots cut to match those of a Ai lens.
This can be done by removing the aperture ring on a lens and cutting it with a Dremel. I made a couple of YouTube videos covering the process which can be viewed here.
These lenses do not require a conversion to be adapted to a mirrorless camera. I use a Novoflex adapter to use some of the rarer lenses I have on a Sony A7.
Ai & Ai-S
A notch on Ai and Ai-S lenses connects to the meter coupling ridge on a camera. The connection supplies the camera with metering information. Newer DX digital cameras do not have a meter coupling ridge.
Ai and Ai-S lenses can be used on cameras without a meter coupling ridge. Metering information will not be provided to the camera. In order to use these lenses, the camera will have to be operated in manual mode. A light meter or trial and error will be required to get a correct exposure in the lens is stopped down.
If your camera does not have a meter coupling ridge and you are unfamiliar with manual mode, avoid these lenses. Not being able to use the light meter built into your camera is going to cause taking images to take a much longer amount of time.
Early Nikon AF & D-Series
Autofocus will not work on any camera body that does not have a built in screw drive motor. Lenses can still be manually focused.
The autofocus on early AF and D-series lenses is controlled by a mechanical linkage. The connection point can be seen on the rear mount of the lens.
Current lenses have motors built inside of them. Many DX camera bodies and the F-mount to Z-mount adapter do not have screw drive motors built into them.
The changes also extend to the optical designs of the entire lineup of Nikon F-mount lenses. This coincides with the increased power of computer aided optical design.
Manually focusing AF and D-series lenses is an unpleasant experience. 180 degrees or more of rotation is present in most manual focus only lenses. D-series lenses have shorter focus throws, which makes focusing more difficult.
The entire focus linkage moves when manually focusing, which I do not find to be a pleasant feeling. I would not recommend D-series lenses for manual focusing.
These lenses have CPU contacts toward the top of the mount in addition to a meter coupling ridge. The aperture can be locked and controlled electronically, which enables shutter priority mode.
To lock a lens, the aperture will need to be set to the smallest aperture, which will be printed in orange. Backward compatibility to cameras without CPU contacts is maintained by the meter coupling ridge.
G-Series & E-Series (Electronically Controlled Apertures)
Cameras must have CPU contacts to use G and E lenses. All F-mount DSLRs have CPU contacts and will work with these lenses.
This is because of Nikon's decision to remove physical apertures from these and future Nikon lenses. At the time of the change, some photographers were upset because lenses would not be compatible with older cameras.
Compatibility issues will exist with SLRs, reversing lenses, and adapting to non Z-mount camera bodies.
AF ED VR Abbreviations
There are many abbreviations that can appear on the barrel of a Nikon lens. The ones most commonly seen on modern Nikon lenses are below.
- AF - Autofocus. Indicates that the lens has autofocus, but does not indicate if the lens has a built-in focus motor.
- ED - Extra-low Dispersion. Indicates one or more of the lens elements is made with extra-low dispersion glass.
- VR - Vibration Reduction. Nikon's name for indicating that a lens has optical image stabilization.
- PC - Perspective Control. Nikkor lenses that have tilt and shift movement built-into the lens. None have AF, but there are a couple Micro-Nikkor versions for macro photography.
Nikkor (Top Quality)
The Nikkor moniker is used on lenses that are made to Nikon's highest standard. That does not mean that the Nikon F-mount lenses lacking the Nikkor designation are bad.
For example, some of the most popular F-mount lenses are the Series E lenses, especially the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Series E lens.
Pronea IX Nikkor
IX Nikkor lenses were designed to work with the Pronea S and Pronea 6i 35mm APS film cameras. While they have a Nikon F-mount, do not attempt to use them on F-mount SLRs or DSLRs. The rear elements of these lenses protrude far enough back to get hit by an SLR or DSLR mirror.
Which Nikon Cameras are F-mount?
F-Mount DSLR Cameras
DX Crop Sensor Cameras with a Nikon F-mount:
FX Full Frame Cameras with a Nikon F-mount:
Nikon SLR 35mm Film Cameras
North American market model names appear in parenthesis.
Manual Focus 35mm Film SLRs
|Nikon F||Nikon F2||Nikon F3|
|Nikkorex||Nikkormat F||Nikon FM|
|Nikon FM2||Nikon FM10||Nikon FM3A|
|Nikkormat EL||NIkon EL2||Nikon FE|
|Nikon FE2||Nikon FA||Nikon F-601M (N6000)|
|Nikon FE10||Nikon EM||Nikon FG|
|Nikon FG-20||Nikon F-301 (N2000)|
Autofocus 35mm Film SLRs:
|Nikon F3AF||Nikon F4||Nikonos RS|
|Nikon F5||Nikon F6||Nikon F-501 (N2020)|
|Nikon F-801 (N8008)||Nikon F-801S (N8008S)||Nikon F90 (N90)|
|Nikon F90X (N90S)||Nikon F80 (N80)||Nikon F100|
|Nikon F-601 (N6006)||Nikon F70 (N70)||Nikon F75 (N75)|
|Nikon F-401 (N4004)||Nikon F-401S (N4004S)||Nikon F-401X (N5005)|
|Nikon F50 (N50)||Nikon F60 (N60)||Nikon F65 (N65)|
|Nikon F55 (N55)|
What is a DX Lens?
DX lenses have image circles that will cover an APS-C sensor. They are intended for use with DX camera bodies. The focal length of these lenses will be stated in what the equivalent focal length would be for a full frame lens.
What is the difference between DX and FX cameras?
Sensor size. DX (APS-C) cameras have sensors that are 24x16mm. FX, “full frame,” cameras have 36x24mm sensors.
Full frame cameras are called that because FX sensors are the same size as 35mm film.
Can you use a DX lens on an FX body?
Yes. FX bodies have an option to crop to fit a DX image circle. Some cameras have the option to automatically crop when a DX lens is attached. Cropping reduces the number of megapixels because the entire sensor is not used. Photos will have ~53% less megapixels.
You can also choose not to crop a DX lens. Using a telephoto lens will likely result in a circular image. This is because the image circle projected by the lens is not large enough to cover the sensor. Wider lenses will cover more of the sensor, but there will still likely be black corners and/or heavy vignetting.
As an example, a D750 is a 24.3mp camera. Without any cropping, files are 6032x4032 pixels. Using the D750 with a DX lens in crop mode, files are 3968x2640 pixels.
3968 x 2640 = 10,475,520 (10.48 megapixels)
Can you use an FX lens on a DX body?
Yes. DX cameras will capture the image from the center of an FX lens. Vintage lenses tend to have softer corners and vignetting. The DX "crop" will not include the corners, so sharper images with lens vignetting can be taken with vintage lenses.
The image taken by a DX camera will be from the center part of an FX lens. This is the sharpest image area of a lens. Older lenses tend to have softer corners and vignetting.
There will be a narrower field of view when using an FX lens on a DX body compared to an FX body. This is referred to as crop factor. With Nikon there is a 1.5x crop factor. Multiplying the focal length of an FX lens by 1.5 will give you the equivalent FX field of view.
A 100mm FX lens on a DX body would be the equivalent of using a 150mm lens on an FX body.
100mm x 1.5 = 150mm
This effect can be thought of as a “free” teleconverter. For wildlife, sports, and macro photography, DX bodies and FX lenses can be a preferred combination.