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How to read your lens

How many time have you seen the long lens name with all the abbreviation and think what’s all these symbols and mark means? The lens maker gives These name and marks as per the lens specifications, and most of the tags are copyrighted which cannot be used with other brand names.

How to read your lens ?

There are very few lens maker in the market like Canon, Nikon, Tokina, Tamron, whose lenses are used widely used in India.
These all manufacturer try there best to engrave/print the lens specification on the lens to help the consumer.

So mastering in reading these lens name and there specification is beneficial for you as it tells everything about the lens and its capabilities.So next time when you buy any new old used lens you know its supported camera body, it’s focusing power and its speed and lens coating.

In this article, I will explain how to read the symbols on the lens.

You can also take advantage of this knowledge to make it easier to pick up products when purchasing interchangeable lenses.

First, let’s Read the canon lens

Let ‘s try using ” EF 100-400 mm F 4.5-5.6 L IS II USM ” of a high performance telephoto zoom lens .

With this lens, I will read the name in the manner shown in the figure below.

how to read your lens


The first two later denote the mount type, Canon have three mount type “EF” – “EF-S” – “EF-M”. EF represent single reflex lens which are compatible with 35MM full size sensor.

EF-S means single reflex for APS-C size sensor , Ef-M means its a mirrorless single lens with APS-C size sensor.

The second section is a focal length of the lens means the minimum and maximum zoom range


If this lens is attached to Canon’s APS – C size sensor mounted camera, it will be a lens that works equivalent to 160 mm – 640 mm, but in general the lens name is not converted focal length but  It is customary to attach distance ” .

The next “F4.5-5.6” is the open aperture value of this lens . There are two numbers because, it is a type of lens that changes the open aperture value when zooming and changing the focal length. The value will change continuously between the two numbers between 100mm and 400mm.

The letter “L” is a proof that represents the lens of Canon’s high-performance line .

“II” means the second generation of the lens with this specification, version 2.

The last “USM” word represents the type of motor this lens have . USM full form is Ultra Sonic Motor and represents ultrasonic motors .

Lenses of other manufacturers are made of using these type of similar code / symbolic things. You can use canon’s  lens example, to read other lens too by breaking down the name and reading it.

However, the EF and EF-S are made differently and the physical form of the lens at first glance looks almost the same, but the EF lens can be attached to the single lens reflex equipped with the APS-C size sensor.

Nikon Motor for auto focus driving

In the age of interchangeable lens of the present time, the motor for autofocus drive plays a considerably important role. Depending on the characteristics and performance of this motor, the speed at which the camera focuses is greatly affected, and there is also a deep connection with the magnitude of the noise during autofocus operation.

In general, lenses using ” DC motor ” (OLD LENSES) have slow focusing at autofocus.  On the other hand, with lenses that use the new type of ” ultrasonic motor “, ” pulse motor “, ” stepping motor , linear motor are quiet, fast and has smooth auto focus operation.

Depending on the camera manufacturer, there are two factor which depend on whether you have a in lens motor for autofocus operation or in the the camera body. However, the manufacturer which had originally attached the motor to the camera body, now changing in the direction to have the motor on the lens inbuilt. (May be to reduce the body price, and buyer will buy lens anyway !)

Lenses which have in-built mother in side them are much bigger lenses compare to manual lens, but it will make it will be much faster autofocus lens.

The camera body which have inbuilt autofocus mother inside them produce much large driving noise.

In the following, we will summarize the codes representing the type of motor for each maker.

When shooting movies, the motor with quiet autofocus drive sound is an important factor in terms of ease of use. If the operation sound is significant during movie shooting, its motion noise will also be recorded together .

Image stabilisation

Now the camera or lens stabilisation are very important ran factor in lens and camera market.

Every camera manufacturer have there on define function for image stabilisation. “optical type” stabilisation get corrected with in the lens .

“Image sensor shift “is done by moving the camera’s sensor around the image plane using electrical actuators. Although it is not adopted with interchangeable lens cameras, there is “electronic type” which reduces camera shake by electronically moving the frame with subtle trimming .

Read more about image stabilisation 

Sign of high performance lens

Some manufacturers are differentiating themselves by attaching specific codes to high performance lenses. Typical examples are Canon’s “L” letters 

Sony’s “G” and “GM” lenses have slightly different directions, but Pentax’s “Limited” is a proof of a high-performance lens in the same way.

“Olympus lens” PRO “” PREMIUM “ is also a lens grade name, optical performance is PRO => PREMIUM => no mark.

In Sigma, the lens with the EX code attached was a sign of high performance, but the lens lineup policy has been changed. Lenses that inherit the performance of the EX series will be lenses of the “Art” series .



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