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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.


Method Two – Setting the Non-CPU Lens Specs by Using Camera Controls

Below, you'll find both a quick summary and detail on how to set the lens specs using the camera controls. Figure 3 shows the location of the controls we'll use to set the lens specs.


Figure 3


Method Two Summary

1. Open Custom Setting menu
2. Select custom setting f Controls
3. Select f4 FUNC. Button
4. Select FV Lock/Lens data
5. Close menus
6. Hold down FUNC button and turn rear Command-Dial to the Focal Length of the lens in use. The focal length changes will show on the Top Control Panel LCD. (See Figure 3 above for controls)
7. Hold down the FUNC button and turn the front Sub-Command dial until the maximum aperture matching your lens appears on the Top Control Panel LCD. (See Figure 3 for controls)


Method Two Detail

If you would rather use the FUNC button for something like Spot metering, then you'll probably need to use Method One to set your lens specs.

In order to use the camera's controls to directly input the lens specs, you must assign the FUNC button to FV Lock/Lens data using Custom Setting F4. If you decide that you use older lenses frequently enough to change the FUNC button to that setting, then, first we'll set Custom Setting F4 to FV Lock/Lens Data. (See D200 manual page 170 for more detail)

Figure 4

As you look at Figure 4, find the Custom Setting Menu then select F Controls from it and scroll right. Next, select F4 FUNC Button and scroll right. There is quite a list of things you can select for the FUNC button to do. Scroll through these until you find FV Lock/Lens data and scroll right. Now the camera is ready to accept input from the FUNC button and Command Dials to set your lens specs.

Setting the Minimum Focal Length: Hold down the FUNC button and turn the REAR Command Dial as you watch the focal length selections scroll by on the Top Control Panel LCD. Stop on the focal length closest matching your lens.  

figure 6

Setting the Maximum Aperture: Hold down the FUNC button and turn the FRONT Sub-Command Dial until the maximum aperture closest to your lens appears in the Top Control Panel LCD.  

figure 7

Congratulations! By using one of the methods above, your Nikon D200 is now ready to use your faithful Nikkors of olden times.

Variable Aperture Zoom Lenses Adjustment

The fact that we can now use matrix, averaging, and spot metering with our older Nikkors is marvelous. You can use prime and zoom lenses with this technology, although it's best to stick to zooms with apertures that do not vary across the zoom range. If you do use variable aperture zooms, be sure to check your histogram frequently. Since most variable aperture zooms vary by one stop you must allow a stop of extra exposure, either manually or with the exposure compensation controls.

"The Nikon Guide to Digital Photography with a D200 Digital Camera" (your manual), on page 95 states: "Lens data are not adjusted when non-CPU lenses are zoomed in or out. After changing the zoom position, select new values for lens focal length and maximum aperture."

If you set the one-stop variable aperture zoom to f/8, then zoom to its maximum setting, the aperture actually equals f/11, but the camera's aperture control ring is still reporting the f/8 setting, and the meter is metering accordingly. These are only minor difficulties, and ones that anyone who has used a medium format or bellows type camera is very familiar with. If you are using a variable aperture zoom, simply add exposure on the long end.

It is possible to have a CPU chip installed in your favorite old Nikkor lens if you would prefer, and that might be the best course to take on an expensive AI-S variable aperture zoom lens. But, for a single focal length prime lens, or non-variable zoom, it's so fast and easy to set the lens data that you may not feel the need to add a CPU chip. You decide!

Be Careful with Really Old Lenses

(A Lawyer Inspired Disclaimer follows... "LID")
In our enthusiasm to use our old Nikkors we must be careful with one important bit of information. We must keep a "LID" on our enthusiasm for using really ancient Nikkors.


Non-AI lens - Click for enlargement

1959 Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.5 Non-AI
All Pre-AI lenses (a.k.a. Non-AI) have a letter after Nikkor.

The Nikkor-P above means Nikkor-Penta, i.e. with 5 elements


Nikon made several lenses that should not be used on your Nikon D200. Carefully read the charts on pages 174 and 175 of your D200 manual; especially the one on page 175. Some of the old 6mm fisheye lenses extend too far back into the mirror box to be safely used on a Nikon D200. Perspective Control (PC) lenses before a certain serial number should not be used, later PC lenses are fine.




Also, some of the older Reflex Nikkors (mirror lenses) have some problems. Certain older serial numbers are listed for these also. There are even a couple of old zooms listed there. Most of the lenses listed as "not usable" are okay after a certain serial number is reached. Check your serial numbers.

The lens types that will most likely endanger your camera are the Non-AI lenses, also referred to as Pre-AI, easily identified by their solid "ears".


non-AI solid ears

Below is a picture of a newer AI-S lens, which has the all important AI-lever notch.

AI camera and lens

Your Nikon D200 has an AI lever (AI = Auto-Index) like on the older Nikon FE shown above. Look at the lens mount area on your D200, and you’ll find it. Since non-AI lenses do not have a notch matching this lever there is nowhere for it to go on your D200. You could snap it off if you force mount a non-AI lens. Don’t!

Carefully read the manual on pages 174 and 175. When you mount an older lens, do it slowly and carefully the first time. It should not feel any different from mounting a new AF lens. If you feel any binding or excessive stiffness…STOP!

Take comfort in knowing 95% of all old Nikkors ever made should work fine on the Nikon D200. Just take some precautions with old specialty lenses and don’t use non-AI types.



Many of the old Nikkors are extremely fine lenses, and the cost on them was quite high. It's a shame to simply abandon the use of lenses like a Nikkor AI-S 600mm, or a 55mm AI-S Micro Nikkor or the legendary 105mm f/2.5, available used in AI and even new in AI-S versions. The Nikon D200 has returned a measure of functionality to us that many have missed.


Nikkor AI-S perforated ears lens

With perfectly good lenses now going for a greatly discounted cost on auction services like eBay, one can acquire marvelous bargains in glass. Most advanced amateurs like to shoot in A mode, Aperture Priority. Many prefer to use M mode and manual focus with long telephotos or macro lenses. So, if that is your preference, why pay for the extra AF features? You now have a choice!

The Nikon D200 is a very flexible and truly professional camera. One of the proofs of this assertion is the fact that it will meter with almost any Nikkor lens one mounts on the camera. Extra camera controls are provided to allow one to use AF or MF on a whim, or by plan.

By pro consumer demand…the old AI and AI-S Nikkors are back!


Got a question on Non CPU lenses and Nikons?

Our experienced photographers can very likely answer any question you may have on using a non-CPU lens on your specific Nikon camera. Just ask in the Manual Nikkor Forum and we'll help.


Post a non-cpu lens question

(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.