Canon lenses decoded

Canon company tends to make lenses that fit into one of the following categories: cheap, better or best. This makes it fairly easy to read the letters and decipher the quality of the lens. A cheaper lens can still be good quality, but make sure it is appropriate for the camera and usage you have in mind.

Here are the basics to make sense of the codes unique to Canon brand.

First off, know your camera’s image sensor format and crop factor. See explanation

EF vs. EF-S format
Canon’s top-of-the line cameras have a full-frame sensor that doesn’t crop the image. In that way, they are similar to traditional film cameras.
EF mount lenses can be used on any DSLR cameras.
EF-S mount lenses only fit the cheaper APS-C format, cropped sensor cameras. So these lenses tend to be more cheaply made.

Ultrasonic motors (USM)
USM technology greatly improves the focusing quality over previous Canon lenses. It also greatly increases the price.

Image Stabilization (IS)
Check the age of your lens. The first IS systems didn’t do much besides burn up your battery power. Newer technology is much better. Test your own IS lens to see how it works with your photography style. IS technology may be added to a lens of any quality or type.

L-Series
These are Canon’s top-of-the-line lenses, built with professional-grade durable materials. They are also marked with a famous a red ring around the lens.

“II” lenses
If a lens has the II designation, it’s identical to the previous model but has improved weather-resistant construction and improved anti-reflective surfaces.

General Notes
+ Lenses that open to f/2.8 and f/4.0 are more desirable than those with variable zoom apertures.

+ Lenses that collapse and extend into the body of the lens have more problems with dust and are more cheaply made.

Canon is constantly adding new technology and designations. There is currently no user-friendly site with a complete list of their codes. It works best to do an internet search for specific questions you have.

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Nikon lenses decoded

D5500 camera

Nikon’s entry-level D5500 camera is compatible with AF-S, AF-I, VR and G coded lenses.

Nikon has a reputation for making NO bad lenses. However, they are also known for lenses that only work with certain cameras or certain applications. Make sure you decode their complicated naming system so you know what you’re buying.

Nikkor lenses are for Nikon cameras. I don’t know why the company makes this distinction. For all practical purposes, Nikkor and Nikon are the same thing.

FX vs DX format
First off, know your camera’s image sensor format and crop factor. See explanation
     DX format cameras crop the image. DX format lenses are optimized for this crop factor. FX or DX format lenses will work fine with DX cameras.
FX format are Nikon’s professional, top-of-the line cameras. They have a full-frame sensor that doesn’t crop the image. In that way, they are similar to traditional film cameras. DX lenses only work in crop-mode on FX cameras.

Autofocus Motor
Entry-level cameras like the Nikon D3300 need AF-S lenses, with a “silent wave electronic focusing motor,” to use autofocus. Higher-end cameras have a focusing drive motor in the camera, so they don’t have this restriction.

Use Ken Rockwell’s compatibility chart to see which lenses match up with your camera. His explanations of Nikon’s letter codes are as easy to read as any I’ve found.

Notes about quality
It’s no surprise that better lenses cost more. If two lenses have similar specs but very different prices, there is a reason. Be sure you understand why before you spend your money. All photographers have to weigh quality vs. price. Here are a few guidelines to help make sense of the options.
+ Lenses with gold ring around them are the top-of-the-line series, built with professional-grade durable materials.

+ Lenses that open to f/2.8 and f/4.0 are more desirable than those with variable zoom apertures.

+ Lenses that collapse and extend into the body of the lens have more problems with dust and are more cheaply made.

 

 

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