Nikkor Lenses vs. Nikon Lenses

By Contributing Writer

Nikon is a corporate giant that makes numerous optical, electronic devices. But the company's history revolves around top-notch cameras and some of the best lenses available today. The corporation makes two distinct types of lenses--entry-level Nikon lenses that are less expensive and feature slower f-stops (f/4 to f/5.6, for example) and the professional Nikkor lenses, which are excellent for action and low-light situations like sports.

History of Nikon

Nikon began as an optics company in 1917, known then as Nippon Kogaku. What separates Nikon from many of its competitors is that even as early as 1918, the company began its own glass production and research facility. This decision is often said to give Nikon's lenses the clearest images available. In the 1970s, Nikon innovated camera lens further with: internal focusing (IF) and Extra-Low Dispersion Glass (ED) technologies, (which allow its lenses to rank among the sharpest available); Vibration Reduction (VR) and Super Integrated Coating/Nano Crystal Coating (SIC).

Nikon Lenses are Bargains

While you can take fine photos with standard Nikon lenses, they are designed to be quality bargains for the Nikon camera owner. The lower the f-stop number--say f/2.8 instead of f/5.6--the wider the opening on the lens and the more light is exposed when you take a photo. Nikon zoom lenses typically have f-stops that move from f/4 to f/5.6. They are designed for daytime events and family photos. The Nikon 70-300mm f4-5.6 AF lens is a good example. It zooms in close and takes fine photos during the day or inside with a flash. However, because the f-stop or aperture does not go to f/2.8, it is not ideal for evening sporting events, theater performances and similar events. Nikon's entry level lenses, with prices starting close to $100, also do not focus as quickly as the Nikkor lens. Nor do any entry-level lenses produce photographs with as much sharpness and contrast as Nikkor. Still, Nikon's standard lenses are among the best entry-level camera lenses available on the market.

Nikkor Lenses are Professional Grade

Nikkor lenses are top rated because they all have either/or/and IF, ED, VR technologies in them. Not every Nikkor lens has an f/2.8 aperture however, and that is done to hit moderate price points for amateur and professional photographers. Some are like the AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 12-24mm f/4 IF-ED lens that has an aperture as big as f/4; the AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lens ran closer to $1,800 in 2009. Both produce wonderfully sharp wide-angle and group photographs. Nikkor lenses offer the best performance available in a competitive industry. Bargains can be found by looking in camera shops or online for used equipment. Few companies can compete with Nikon's elite Nikkor lenses. Nikon produces more than 50 Nikkor lens for amateurs and professionals.

Popular Bargains for All

Bargains still abound on the Nikkor lens line-up. Among the most popular pro lenses are the AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 ED VR II; the AF-S DX Nikkor 12-24mm f4G IF-ED; the AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED; and the AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G IF-ED. The AF-S designation indicates that the focusing motor is part of the lens itself. In most cases, Nikkor lenses feature the Silent Wave Motor (SWM), which is ideal in churches where silence is necessary. AF-S is a hallmark of most Nikkor lenses.

Expert Insight

Nikon makes some of the best camera lenses for film cameras or digital single lens reflex (SLR) camera. Three price points are normally available from Nikon on many lenses: Nikon, Nikkor (f/4 or higher) and Nikkor (f/2.8 or lower aperture). Let your budget help you decide. As a Nikon photographer for 24 years, I have found that Nikon, and especially Nikkor, lenses live up to the high expectations I have for my photos as a father, husband and photographer. Other lenses that are made to fit Nikon camera bodies--many are not--may not generate the same contrast, sharpness or edge detail as a lens made by Nikon.The investment is slightly more, but the life of the lens and the quality of photos will more than pay for itself. You cannot go wrong with Nikon equipment. Buy the right DSLR body and the right lens, and you can photograph for your enjoyment--or for a living.