what does and A and M mean on nikon lens

Beginner’s Guide to What Does A and M Mean on Nikon Lenses?

When you are searching the market for good lenses from Nikon, you are likely to find countless options that you can just go ahead and buy. However, this variety that is widely available often ends up creating confusion for a lot of people and it is not something that can easily be handled by people, to begin with.

If you have been wondering what A and M mean on Nikon lenses, then it is something that is not new. A lot of people that have come to us have talked about how this is something that has confused them time and again and, in all honesty, I want to make things easier for everyone so there are no issues that come in the way and ruin the experience overall.

That is why, below, we are going to take a look at everything that you should know about the meaning of A and M that is found on Nikon lenses along with some other lenses that might come across.

What Do A and M Mean on Nikon Lenses

It is safe to say that whenever you run into lenses that are available on the market, there is a chance that you will be seeing some markings on them. Now, what do these markings mean, in the first place? Well, that is going to be different based on the marking you are looking at.

Thankfully, there is not a lot of confusion surrounding the A and M symbols, and that is why we are going to make things easier for you.

Nikon Camera Lens

What Does A Mean on Nikon Lenses? 

Now, when you are looking at a Nikon lens, you will realize that it is full of labels and information that you are going to be looking at. The beginners easily get confused and trust me, we have all been there. So, it does not often surprise me that people often find themselves surprised. If you are in the same boat, then let me help you out.

The ‘A’ that you can find on most of the Nikon lenses stands for Automatic or Auto, this is referring to the lens’ focusing capabilities. Simply switching to this lens will allow you to use your lens’ autofocusing capabilities.

Now, I do understand that a lot of people have talked about why one should be using manual mode, in the first place. Well, to be honest, there are a lot of uses for the manual focus mode, but that is a topic for another discussion.

For now, if you want to be sure that your Nikon lens is autofocusing the way it is supposed to autofocus, make sure that the switch is pointing towards A. Additionally, if you have been looking for good Nikon cameras with excellent autofocusing, then you can check them out in our previously covered article where we have discussed some good Nikon cameras for long exposure.

What Does M Mean on Nikon Lenses? 

The next thing that we are going to explore is what the ‘M’ means on Nikon lenses. I do not think this needs any explanation as it is exactly the opposite of what the ‘A’ switch does. If you are still wondering, the ‘M’ here stands for Manual or Manual focus and it lets you take complete control of how you are going to focus with the focus ring that you can find on the lens, itself.

However, an important thing that you should keep in mind is that if the lens is set to A, and you are using the focus ring, that is not going to work because it does not have the manual focus override.

The A and M switches are found on almost all the AF-S Nikkor DX lenses, so it is not at all something that will be confusing. If you are looking for excellent manual focus lenses, you can check them out here.

Nikon F4 With Nikkor

What Do A/M and M/A Mean on Nikon Lenses? 

Now that I am done explaining what the ‘A’ and ‘M’ mean on your Nikon lenses, you would be surprised to know that you are going to run into some lenses that come with either A/M or M/A mode and this is something that confuses the life of out of people as they now have to struggle with these as well.

Honestly, this is not at all confusing and we are going to make things easier and simpler for everyone. So, let’s not waste time and start looking, shall we?

What Does A/M Focus Mode Mean on Nikon Lenses 

The first one that we are going to take a look at is the A/M focus mode and of course, this is just as important since it is not going to create any hassles for anyone, in the first place. 

The A/M focus mode offers not just autofocus, but it also offers you the option to manually override the lens into manual focus. So, for instance, if this switch is turned on, and you still want to use the manual focus, all you have to do is turn the focus ring, and you would be able to manually focus using the focus ring while the autofocus would still be on.

The A/M switch is found on most of the mid-range AF-S Nikkor lenses.

What Does M/A Focus Mode Mean on Nikon Lenses 

The last one is the M/A focus mode which is just like A/M but with some differences. The switch allows you to switch from autofocus to manual operation by simply rotating the focus ring and this time around, you are not going to run into any lag between the switch. This is an excellent option for those who are into sports photography where they have to capture fast-moving motion with ease. 

The option is most common on most of the lenses including the professional lenses all thanks to the fine adjustment that they allow.

Nikon Lens Lid

How Do I Change from Different Modes? 

The last thing that most people are going to bring up is just how can you change from one mode to another. Thankfully, this is not at all difficult. All you need to do is flick the switch on your lens and you will be able to switch between the two modes.

One really important point that I have to let you know is that your lens’ automatic or manual mode only refers to focus and not at all the settings on your camera. Your camera’s mode dial should always be set to manual for the best possible control and experience in photography.

Not doing so is just going to let your camera control all the settings and trust me, there are high chances that the pictures are not going to turn out the way you want them to.

What if My Lens Has No A, M, A/M, or M/A Switch? 

There are some lenses that you find in the market that are without A, M, A/M or M/A switches, a lot of people often get confused. You do not have to worry, however. As those lenses are strictly manual focus. We have covered them in detail in the past as well, and they are best suited for those who want a completely manual control over their lens.

Frequently Asked Questions 

The A or M that is found on most of the Nikon lenses in the market refers to Auto and Manual respectively. 

The A that you can find on most of the Nikon lenses in the market represents that your lens is running in Autofocus mode, only when the switch is pointed towards A.

The A/M on a lens means that you can switch the lens to manual focus without actually having to turn the switch in a different direction. You just have to be sure that you are rotating the focus ring and you are good to go.


 I do understand that for a lot of first timers, it can be an issue trying to figure out how to use the A and M modes, along with A/M and M/A modes. But it is safe to say that understanding this is not at all difficult. As a matter of fact, lenses have become super-reliable and easy to use over the past couple of years and I believe that these features are only added by the manufacturers to make your experience easier.

If you have been wondering just how to use these functions or what exactly are they for then this entire guide is for you to know. We have not only explained the basic A and M modes, but also the more advanced A/M and M/A modes, so you do not have to worry about these later down the road.

Gary Sindell

Gary Sindell

Hey, I’m Gary Sindell from beautiful Vancouver. A passionate photographer turned ‘Lens Guru’, I’ll help you discover the power of the right lens and elevate your photography game.

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