If you look at the lens from any manufacturer, you will notice some numerical and alphabetical prints on it. They are printed there to let the buyers know about the feature and the quality of the lens. Sometimes it might be confusing to understand the meaning of those numbers and symbols and decide about the type of the lens you are trying to get based on that information. When I bought my first lens a couple of years ago, I went through the same confusion. And that is why I am trying to make a note of some of the abbreviations that Nikon uses on it's lenses so that you can make a informed decision about the Nikon lenses. Without wasting much time, let's take a look at them one by one and see what does it really mean for us as a lens buyer.
AF - AF stands for Autofocus but the lens does not come with it’s own motor for auto-focusing. The lens can auto focus only when it is coupled with the camera body which comes with the autofocus motor inside the camera body.
AF-S - AF-S stands for Autofocus with a silent-wave autofocus motor built inside the lens. By using this type of lens, you can achieve autofocus whether the camera body comes with it’s own focusing motor or not.
If you want to know more about an AF lens and an AF-S lens and how does it work with different types of camera body, please check out my blog - Autofocus Is Not Working On My Nikon D5100.
DX - It means the lens was primarily built for those Digital SLRs which utilize a smaller sensor or cropped sensor and known as DX format or APS-C sensor format body. Technically, you can use a DX lens on both DX format camera and FX format camera, but you may end up getting a circular image in the middle of the black frame if you are using a DX lens on a FX camera body. This is because FX type camera has a bigger sensor and the image produce by a DX lens can’t fill in the full sensor area.
D - It means the Lens equipped with a "chip" which allows the camera body to assess the distance of the subject being photographed and expose for that subject correctly.
DC - DC stands for Defocus Control. A lens is designed primarily for portraiture that allows you to selectively defocus the image.
ED - ED stands for Extra-Low Dispersion Glass. It is basically a glass coating that doesn't disperse light as it enters the lens as other normal glass does and obtain optimum correction of chromatic aberrations.
G - It means the lens’ aperture is electronically controlled and does not have an aperture ring on it. Some of the Nikkor lenses will have an aperture ring allowing physical, manual aperture control which is designed for the older bodies.
IF - IF stands for Internal Focusing which means it doesn't change its length of the lens as you focus it. CPU built inside the lens controls focus in the lens itself. Lens will not expand or shrink when you focus subjects and it's front element doesn't move either.
Micro - Nikon's proprietary trade name for a macro lens. "Micro" and "macro" mean the same thing for Nikon lens.
N - Nano crystal coating. A high-tech coating used on lenses to reduce ghosting and flare. In the early days, Nikon used letters like P (penta, 5 elements), N (nano, 9 elements) to indicate how many elements a lens had. Now Nikon reused a letter N to indicate nano crystal coating.
VR - VR stands for Vibration Reduction. It is an image stabilizer technology introduced by the Nikon allowing a photographer to reduce blurring associated with the motion of a camera or its subject specially when they are not using tripods. It actually allows photographers to shoot with 2-4 stops slower shutter speed than without VR lens and still produce sharper image.
Ø - Filter diameter that correctly fits into the lens. Common filter diameters are 49mm, 52mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm and 72mm.
If you see something like f/3.5-5.6 numbers printed on your lens, that means your lens maximum aperture is f/3.5 when it's fully zoomed out (at the lowest focal range) and f/5.6 when it's fully zoomed in (at the highest focal range).
I hope this explanation helps you to understand some of the nomenclature Nikon uses on their lenses and assist you to decide which lens you should buy or what to look for when you are shopping for your next lens.