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How-to's Camera Reviews

Nikon cameras and Non-CPU lenses

Darrell Young (DigitalDarrell)

Keywords: nikon, d200, camera, bodies, non_cpu, pre_ai, non_ai, ai_s, ai, nikkor

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Your Nikon DSLR and Non-CPU lenses

Lenses are some of the most desirable and expensive parts of our Nikon photography addictions. All of us have our eye on at least one or two more Nikkors. Wisely, Nikon has not changed their F-Mount lens attachment bayonet for a very long time. That means many of the Nikon DSLR cameras can mount and use not only the newest AF-S Nikkors and aftermarket lenses, but also most of the older Manual Focus (MF) lenses from several years ago.

Manual Focus Nikkor lenses
An assorted set of MF Nikkors


Wisely, Nikon has not changed their F-Mount lens attachment bayonet for a very long time. That means your e.g. your D500 or let's say D200 can mount not only the newest AF-S Nikkors and aftermarket lenses, but also most of the older Manual Focus (MF) lenses from just a few years ago.

Since the Nikon D500 has a “professional” heritage, it can do something that many other digital SLR cameras will not. The light meter will remain functional even with older non-CPU manual focus lenses. (non-CPU = no electronic chip in lens). Many of the newer Nikon film and digital bodies will not allow light metering with older MF lenses, even though they will mount them. Instead, they disable the light meter as soon as a non-CPU lens is mounted.

The reason Nikon chose to do this is simple. A non-CPU lens has no microchip inside to inform the camera body of lens settings or distance measurements. This makes it impossible for metering functions like 3-D Matrix metering to function, since it cannot accurately measure the distance to the subject. Light metering in standard Matrix, Averaging, and Spot modes could still work on any Nikon DSLR camera so Nikon allows it in certain cameras, including the D500.

So, as a proud Nikon D500 owner you have a choice of all the new Autofocus (AF) lenses on the market, and virtually all of the older MF Nikkors and aftermarket Nikon-mount lenses.

How does one set the camera to use these older lenses? Will you need to read dozens of manual pages to figure this out? Happily, it is not at all complicated to set your camera for older MF lenses. Let’s see how!


Method One – Setting Lens Specs by Using the Shooting Menu

Below, you'll find both a quick summary and detail on how to set the lens specs using the camera menus.


Method One Summary

1. Open the Shooting Menu
2. Select Non-CPU lens data
3. Set the Focal Length
4. Set the Maximum Aperture


Method One Detail
Images and details below are specific for the D200. You should though be able to apply the same technique to more modern DSLRs, such as e.g. the D850 or the D500

Now, you'll need to set the MINIMUM Focal length, then the MAXIMUM aperture. See Figures 1 and 2 for the steps to set the minimum focal length. Aperture comes next.

Figure 1

As in Figure 1 above, select Focal length from the menu. The next screen will give you a series of focal length ranges. These are 6-45, 50-180, and 200-4000 and N/A. Select the range into which your lens best fits. (Examples: a 50mm or 135mm lens fits best in the 50-180 selection, while a 300mm or 600mm lens fits best in the 200-4000 selection) The N/A setting is used with specialty lenses that need no focal length setting.

Special Note: For more detail see your D200 manual on pages 93-95. For a list of compatible Nikkor lenses see manual pages 174 and 175.

If you are using a zoom lens, there is no difference in the setup. Simply enter the minimum focal length, and there should be good results across the entire zoom range. For example, an 80-200mm zoom would go in the 50-180 range, since the MINIMUM focal length is the important number.

Figure 2

In Figure 2 above, we see how to set the Maximum aperture. The selections run from f/1.2 to f/22, with an N/A selection for specialty lenses with no aperture settings. Look at your lens, see what the largest aperture is, and set it in the menu. For instance, my AI-S Nikkor 50mm has an f/1.8 maximum aperture. If there is no exact match, use the one closest to your lens' actual maximum aperture.

Once again, with a zoom lens, just enter the maximum aperture as you would on a prime lens. As long as the zoom is not a variable aperture zoom (and most pro lenses aren't) you'll be fine. Variable aperture zooms are discussed in the Variable Aperture Zoom Adjustment section at the end of this article.

The Nikon D200 will take the maximum aperture menu setting and detect the position of its aperture ring to know what aperture is in use. As you turn the aperture dial on the lens the Nikon D200 will adjust the meter accordingly.

Special note: Remember that we are only concerned with the MAXIMUM aperture and MINIMUM focal length settings in-camera.


(3 Votes )
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Originally written on July 26, 2006

Last updated on January 6, 2021


John Owens (pnwjohn) on January 5, 2021

This was super helpful. I had seen a youtube article on JKLenses on this same topic and they had suggested to add your non-cpu lenses in the setup menu where you can go back to them in the future. It seems the D200 only has this in the shooting menu... not the end of the world, I guess you just make the changes each time you plan to shoot with the non-cpu lens.

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on March 21, 2018

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

(Edited by jrp Wednesday, 21 March 2018 ) (Edited by jrp Wednesday, 21 March 2018 ) James, on your D5200 your non-cpu lenses can only be used in Manual Mode. That means you need to set the desired aperture manually.

User on March 17, 2018

I have a D5200 Nikon and the CPU data is not on any of my menus for my old vintage lenses when I shoot in manual mode.

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