Camera Lenses Are Confusing, But This Will Make It Easy

For more stories like this, please subscribe to The Phoblographer.

I could easily start this with various lens nomenclatures and our autocorrect system would think it was gibberish. For example, GM. VC. OS. OSS. IS. VR. ED. ASPH. APO. DG. DN. HSM. STM. USM. Seriously, anyone that looks at these names wouldn’t know what they mean unless you really know photography and the brand. Photography manufacturers complicate their naming conventions instead of simplifying them. And I think that’s a huge problem for sales and for messaging to the audience. Here’s what we need to do about camera lenses.

I seriously think that naming is all we truly need to make different. Sony sort of gets this. Their lenses tend to be some of the simplest names out there. But the rest get pretty ridiculous. Camera lenses don’t need to be confusing.

Cameras Don’t Have Similar Names as Camera Lenses

Don’t believe me? Well, look at cameras! Why wasn’t the Sony a7 II called the Sony a7 II OSS? Instead, the lenses get the odd names. This has been a practice for a while. But when you’re talking about the lenses, it’s fair to call them by a shorter name. That’s similar to calling me Chris instead of Christopher. So let’s look at a few examples:

  • Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM should just be Canon 50mm f1.2 RF
  • Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG DN Art should just be Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art FE or Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art L
  • Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f2.8 VR S should be Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 Z. For lenses like its predecessor, it sometimes got ridiculous. Honestly, even this one has different names on Amazon.

There a bunch of other examples, and sometimes it makes sense to have a bit of nomenclature. But most of the time, it doesn’t. It gets entirely too confusing and it’s probably a reason why companies try to push camera sales more than lens sales. Sometimes it’s just obvious that a lens is one of your highest-end options. Sometimes it isn’t. But look at it this way when it comes to marketing: you’ll have a few 50mm camera lenses. 

  • 50mm f1.8: a cheap one
  • 50mm f2.8 Macro: A Macro one, and that name makes sense
  • 50mm f1.4: A middle grade option
  • 50mm f1.2 GM: The cream of the crop

Do You Know All These?

We didn’t really need GM in the naming. And overall, the name doesn’t need to be ostentatious. Simplicity will help the lens sell and be understood. This is huge for all the people who are brand new to photography. But it’s also just important for the naming and marketing. Before I go, let me leave you with a ton of weird naming. Specifically, we’re going to pick on Sigma camera lenses. These names are featured in our Prime Lens Guide.


    To attain the highest quality images, the APO lens has been made using special low-dispersion (SLD) glass and is designed to minimize color aberration.


    The aspherical lens complex allows freedom of design, improved performance, a reduced number of component lenses, and compact size.


    This function utilizes a built-in mechanism that compensates for camera shake. It dramatically expands photographic possibilities by alleviating camera movement when shooting handheld.

    This lens uses a motor driven by ultrasonic waves to provide quiet, high-speed AF.


    This lens is equipped with a system that moves the rear lens group for high-speed, silent focusing.

    To ensure stability in focusing, this lens moves the inner lens or groups without changing the lens’ physical length.

    This lens can be used with the APO Teleconverter EX. It can increase the focal length and will interface with the camera’s AE (automatic exposure) function.

  • EX (EX LENS)

    The exterior of this lens is EX-finished to denote the superior build and optical quality and to enhance its appearance

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.