Understanding the AF-P Lenses

Updated 
With the introduction of the AF-P lenses, Nikon caused a big issue: compatibility. First, the lenses to which the following applies:

So let's clear the compatibility up. 

Specifically for the DX lenses:

  • Fully Compatible — D5, D500, D850, D3300, D3400, D5300, D5500, D5600, and D7500. The D500, D3300, D5300 models require a firmware update.
  • Mostly Compatible — Df, D4, D4s, D600, D610, D750, D800, D800E, D810, D81A, D5200, D7100, D7200, and Nikon 1 with FT-1. The D600, D610, D750, Df, D4, D4s, D800, D800E, D810, D810A, D7100, an D7200 require a firmware update.
  • Incompatible — F6, D1 series, D2 series, D3 series, D40 series, D50, D60, D70 series, D80, D90, D100, D200, D300 series, D700, D3000, D3100, D3200, D5000, D5100, D7000

Fully compatible means what it implies: these AF-P lenses work just as you'd expect on those cameras.

Mostly compatible is the problem of menus. For example, many of the older cameras (e.g. Df, D4, D4s, D750 and D7200 have no way of turning VR on and off on the DX versions of these lenses; the FX version has a switch on the lens; see its compatibility, below), even after the firmware update. The DX VR lenses work otherwise fine, but VR will always be left on.  

Incompatible means that you probably shouldn't even bother trying to use the lens on the camera (if you want the automated features such as autofocus). The lens will mount, but focus, VR, and in older bodies exposure, will not function.

What about the FX 70-300mm AF-P lens? It's compatibility is slightly different. With current firmware:

  • Fully Compatible — Df*, D4*, D4s*, D5, D500, D600, D610, D750, D800*, D800E*, D810*, D810A*, D850, D3300, D3400, D5300, D5500, D5600, D7100*, D7200*, D7500 (*latest firmware only)
  • Won't retain focus point when meter powers off — D3, D3s, D3x,  D300, D300s, D700, D5200, and D7000
  • Incompatible — D1 series, D2 series, D40 series, D50, D60, D70 series, D80, D90, D100, D200, D3000, D3100, D3200, D5000, D5100, and all film SLRs.

The second bullet is important to understand. These cameras work perfectly fine with the FX AF-P lens as long as the meter is active. If you let the meter go inactive, focus won't be retained at the point you left it when you power up the meter again. If this is an issue, these cameras all have the ability to set the meter off time limit higher. But the real issue here is that you generally can't set these cameras up and prefocus them, let them stand for any longish length of time, then finally trigger them and expect the focus to be where you left it. You'd need to have them re-establish focus (e.g. AF-On button or partial/full press of the shutter release depending upon how the camera is set). 

Frankly, the overall AF-P compatibility issues (DX and FX) are all a bit insane. Nikon needed to pick a date and fully update firmware for all cameras that were introduced after that date. Or, at least, all cameras Nikon is still currently selling anywhere in the world. 

This page has been updated several times as people give me further feedback on what actually happens with these lenses on the various bodies. I'll keep doing so as I learn new information. Nikon's own site is not particularly forthcoming. Even the firmware updates can be vague as to exactly what they "fix.”

Nikon has a full table of compatibility, including notes on firmware updates and partial compatibilities. You can assess it here.

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