Are Nikon Lenses Universal?

Are Nikon Lenses Universal

No, they’re not. That’s the fast and simplest answer to this question. Not all Nikon lenses can be used with all Nikon cameras.
However, the more accurate answer isn’t really all that simple. It’s true that Nikon lenses have established an enviable reputation for excellence through the years. After all, Nikon is an iconic brand in the optics and camera industry, and the company is fully committed to making sure that this reputation remains outstanding.

Compatibility: Are Nikon Lenses Universal?

Nikon is well aware of the importance of ensuring that all their lenses are considered wise investments. That’s why, whenever they release a new camera, they also try to ensure that buyers will still be able to use the Nikon lenses they already have. People don’t have to buy new lenses just for the new cameras. That’s why lots of older Nikon lenses are still popular today—they can still be used for even the latest Nikon cameras.
Still, this doesn’t mean that all Nikon lenses can be used for all Nikon cameras. That’s just not possible, even for Nikon. So, here’s a quick guide to show you which Nikon lenses can be used for which Nikon cameras.

DX Lenses

You can use these for any Nikon DX camera that comes with a DX format image sensor. However, you can use these DX lenses for FX cameras:

  • D3
  • D3S
  • D3X
  • D4(S)
  • D5
  • D500
  • D600
  • D610
  • D700
  • D750
  • D800(E)
  • D810(A)

These cameras have a larger FX format sensor, so you have to use the “DX Crop” or “Auto DX Crop” feature. That’s because these DX lenses offer a smaller area of illumination. If you don’t, you’ll end up with an extreme reduction of brightness around the edges of the frame (vignetting).

AF-S and AF-I Lenses

These aren’t quite the same as your standard AF lenses. That’s because these AF-S and AF-I lenses have a focus motor built-in within the lenses themselves. You can use these lenses on any Nikon camera body, regardless of whether or not the camera body has a focus motor.
You will need these lenses if you want to have the Autofocus feature in the following Nikon cameras:

  • D3000
  • D3100
  • D3200
  • D3300
  • D40
  • D40X
  • D5000
  • D5100
  • D5200
  • D5300
  • D5500
  • D60

These are the cameras which don’t have the autofocus motor, so you’ll need to have the motor built-in with the AF-S and AF-I lenses to enjoy the autofocus feature.

AF Lenses

These are also autofocus lenses, but you need to make sure that your camera has a built-in focus motor. To focus automatically, these lenses use a mechanical coupling between the camera and the lenses. The camera has a built-in focus motor, and with a series of gears this motor drives the focusing mechanism of the lens to locate the right focus.
You can use this for any DSLR camera, as long as it comes with a built-in focus motor. This means that you cannot use these lenses for the following Nikon cameras because they don’t have a focus motor in the camera:

  • D3000
  • D3100
  • D3200
  • D3300
  • D40
  • D40X
  • D5000
  • D5100
  • D5200
  • D5300
  • D5500
  • D60

To repeat: if you have any of the cameras listed above, then you cannot use the standard AF lenses.

AI Lenses

AI stands for Aperture Indexing. They don’t mean “artificial intelligence”, as some newbies might think. This was a system to couple the lens to the exposure system of the camera.
Just as there are AI and non-AI lenses, there were AI and non-AI cameras. The AI lenses were all backward-compatible with the non-AI cameras. But if you have an AI camera, you need to know that not all non-AI lenses will be compatible with your camera.
You can use these manual focus lenses with the AI levers on just about any Nikon DSLR camera, though there are a few exceptions to this rule. Basically, you can meter with these AI lenses when you have the more advanced (and more expensive) DSLR cameras. These include the following cameras:

  • D1- series
  • D2
  • D200
  • D3
  • D300
  • D300S
  • D3X
  • D4(S)
  • D5
  • D500
  • D600
  • D610
  • D700
  • D750
  • D800(E)
  • D810(A)

You can still use these AI lenses for your consumer-grade Nikon cameras. However, you will have to determine and set the exposure manually. These consumer-grade cameras which can use the AI lenses include the following:

  • D5300
  • D5200
  • D5100
  • D5000
  • D3300
  • D3200
  • D3100
  • D3000
  • D80
  • D70
  • D60
  • D40
  • D40X

Non-AI Lenses

These lenses include the Nikkor-H, -P, and -Q. What you have to understand with these lenses is that they were made long before Nikon came up with digital cameras. So, you can’t really use them on any Nikon DSLR camera. You also can’t use these lenses in any late model film SLR camera—though the new Nikon Df is an exception to this rule.
The body of the Nikon Df lets you use most (but not all) non-AI lenses. That’s because the camera body has an innovative meter coupling lever. This has a hinged tab which folds down to connect most non-AI lenses.

Summary

Before you buy a new Nikon lens, always do some online research to make sure that it can be used for your Nikon cameras. Nikon tries hard to make sure that your lenses can work on all their cameras, but you have to make sure it fits the one you have, too.

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