What’s the Difference Between Nikon and Nikkor Lenses?

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When shopping for cameras, you might come across a wide variety of brands. Two brands that might seem similar are Nikkor and Nikon. So before making your decision, what’s the difference between Nikon and Nikkor lenses?

What’s the Difference Between Nikon and Nikkor Lenses?

The difference between Nikon and Nikkor lenses is that Nikkor is a subsidiary of Nikon. Nikkor branded lenses were previously used to imply their higher quality. However, now this is not the case as almost all of Nikon’s lenses are branded under Nikkor, regardless of their quality.

An image of Nikkor lens

Nikon and Nikkor History

Nikon Corporation was established in 1917 in Japan as a result of a merger of three manufacturers. It was known as Nippon then. In the beginning they only produced lenses and later produced other things such as binoculars and periscopes for the Japanese military. They manufactured their first camera in 1948.

The Nikkor brand came into inception in 1932 as a subsidiary of the Nikon Corporation. This was supposed to be a brand of lenses produced by the Nikon corporation including the F-mount range. At that time, lenses produced under the name Nikkor were only premium lenses. Thus, all Nikkor were part of Nikon, however, all Nikon were not a part of Nikkor.

Current Scenario

Today, almost all of Nikon’s lenses are branded as Nikkor. Still, Nikkor lenses are considered premium grade lenses, as almost all of them have ED, IF, and VR technologies. On the other hand, the Nikon branded lenses are more of the entry level lenses.

However, they are slowly moving towards integration as some average range of lenses are also branded Nikkor nowadays. Some basic kit lenses are also released under this brand name.

Compatibility of Nikkor Lenses With Nikon

Not all lenses made by Nikkor are compatible with Nikon cameras, although most of them are. Nikon divides this into three areas of compatibility:

  • Full Compatibility: This means that the lens works on your camera. This also means that your camera as well as your lens will be able to perform all of its functions without any issues. An example is the D3200 with E-Type lenses.
  • Limited Compatibility: This happens when the lens would work with your camera; however, you can’t use all of the camera’s and the lens’s functions. This might mean that the autofocus might not work and you would have to use manual focus, or you might not be able to use TTL light metering. For example, the D3500 has limited compatibility with with AF-D lenses.
  • Not Compatible: This refers to the fact that you will not be able to use that lens with your camera at all. You would not be able to capture pictures and in some cases not be able to fix the lens on the camera at all. For example, the D800 does not work with AF-P lenses.

Nikon mainly produces two types of camera bodies: one that have an in-built autofocus, the other which does not have this feature. The cameras with the in-built autofocus require lenses that have an in-built autofocus motor. Two types of lenses made by Nikon that have an in-built autofocus are AF-S and AF-P lenses.

Types of Nikkor Lenses

The main types of lenses produced by Nikkor that are available in the market are:

  • AF-P Lenses: These lenses allow you to set some settings using the camera’s settings. This includes autofocus and manual focus modes as well as Vibration Reduction.
  • E-Type: These are newer type of lenses that have an Electromagnetic Diaphragm Mechanism that provides highly accurate aperture blade control during continuous shooting.
  • AI Lenses: These are automatic maximum aperture setting lenses and are being produced for a long time now. They have manual focus and can be used with almost any Nikon camera. Also, they do not allow TTL features on the cameras.
A close-up image of Nikkor lens

Related Questions

Why Are Nikkor Lenses So Expensive?

Nikkor lenses are so expensive because they represent a premium lineup of Nikon’s lenses. They have a lot of features such as Vibration Reduction technology, Silent Wave Motor, auto focus, and full sized lenses. Moreover, they are usually professional lenses for special purposes such as wedding, sports, and wildlife photography.

What Do Dx and FX Mean on Nikon Lenses?

DX refers to smaller sized sensors, whereas FX are full sized sensors. You can use an FX lens on a DX camera body. Moreover, you can use a DX lens on an FX camera body too. However, DX crop mode is automatically chosen by the camera to avoid vignetting.

Can You Use Old Nikon Lenses on New Nikon Cameras?

You can use most old Nikon lenses on new Nikon cameras, as Nikon has kept the same F mount for almost 60 years now. It has only recently introduced the Z mount for its new mirrorless cameras in 2018. Still, you can use F mount lenses on Z mount cameras using an adaptor.


The main difference between Nikon and Nikkor lenses is that Nikkor is a subsidiary company of Nikon. Nikkor used to have a lineup of more premium lenses. Now, almost all Nikon lenses are produced under the Nikkor brand.