Why Nikon AF Smart Adapters for Sony E-mount Took So Long

Vello-Nikon-F-Sony-E-AF-adapter-4

Nikon shooters who switched to Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras have been stuck waiting…and waiting…and waiting for AF Smart Adapters for their Nikon lenses – but that’s all about to change.

Commlite CM-ENF-E Nikon F Lens to Sony E-Mount AF lens adapters (Order for $399 from eBay) are FINALLY here.

Commlite-Nikon-F-Sony-E-AF-adapter
Commlite CM-ENF-E Nikon F Lens to Sony E-Mount AF lens adapter (Order for $399 from eBay)

It will be joined by the look-alike Vello Nikon F to Sony E-Mount AF Lens Adapter (Order for $399 from B&H Photo). My best guess is that the Vello adapter is a licensed re-badge which North American buyers may prefer since it’s sold by B&H Photo in New York.

Vello-Nikon-F-Sony-E-AF-adapter-3
Vello Nikon F to Sony E-Mount AF Lens Adapter (Order for $399 from B&H Photo)

What Took So Long?

In short, Nikon lenses are enormously complicated to adapt. Unlike Canon which switched to EF-mount when they introduced AF, Nikon remained committed to F-mount. But that commitment came at a price. Nikon AF lenses have more variations than wardrobe changes at a Lady Gaga concert.

How well these adapters will work depends on which generation of Nikon AF you’re using. This video shows a Commlite CM-ENF-E adapter auto-focusing in AF-S focus mode with a Nikkor 50mm F1.4 G lens:

Bear in mind that the 50mm 1.4 has small moving lens elements. Don’t expect the same performance with a 600mm F4.

Vello Nikon F to Sony E-Mount AF Lens Adapter’s product description gives clues to how various Nikkor glass will perform on E-mount:

“When using most G-type and E-type lenses from Nikon, users will have autofocus, including phase-detect support, and auto exposure as well as the ability to control the aperture from the camera body. Image stabilization is also supported and will work in tandem with any in-body stabilization systems.”

“Users of most D-type lenses will have access to auto exposure capabilities and all Nikon lenses will be able to communicate Exif data through the adapter to the camera.”

Notice there’s no mention of AF for D-type Nikkor lenses. Let’s take a look at each type to understand why.

E-Type Nikkor Lenses

Nikkor-E-Lenses

The latest Nikkor lenses feature an electromagnetic diaphragm mechanism in the lens barrel to provide electronic diaphragm or aperture blade control when using auto exposure during continuous shooting – unlike conventional D/G type lenses where the diaphragm blades are operated by mechanical linkage levers. In other words, Nikon E-Type lenses operate very similarly to Canon EF glass.

E-Type Nikkor Lens Compatibility with Nikon to Sony E-Mount Adapters:

• NIKON SMART ADAPTERS: According to Vello manufacturer specs, most Nikkor E-type lenses will have autofocus, including phase-detect on supported cameras, auto exposure, and the ability to control the aperture from the camera body. Image stabilization is also supported and will work in tandem with any in-body stabilization systems.

• NIKON G MANUAL ADAPTERS: Manual focus and no aperture control.

• NIKON F MANUAL ADAPTERS: Manual focus and no aperture control.

Nikkor E Fullframe Lenses:
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4E FL ED VR Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR Lens

Nikkor E APS Lenses:
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR Lens

PC-E Nikkor Tilt-Shift Lenses

Nikkor-PC-E-Lenses

Nikkor PC-E Tilt-Shift lenses are the most confusing subset of lenses. Technically they are D-type (notice the “D” in their name after the aperture). Like other D-type lenses, PC-E lenses have a working aperture ring – BUT the aperture ring transmits aperture settings to the body electronically like an E-Type lens. Whew!!!

PC-E Nikkor Tilt-Shift Lens Compatibility with Nikon to Sony E-Mount Adapters:

• NIKON SMART ADAPTERS: Smart Adapters should provide electronic aperture control – but these are manual focus lenses and nothing change that.

[UPDATE: 6/8/16 I can confirm that PC-E lens Aperture Control IS supported by Vello Nikon F to Sony E-Mount AF Lens Adapters.]

• NIKON G MANUAL ADAPTERS: Manual focus and no aperture control.

• NIKON F MANUAL ADAPTERS: Manual focus and no aperture control.

Nikkor PC-E Tilt-Shift FullframeLenses:
Nikon PC-E NIKKOR 24mm f/3.5D ED Tilt-Shift Lens
Nikon PC-E Micro-NIKKOR 45mm f/2.8D ED Tilt-Shift Lens
Nikon PC-E Micro-NIKKOR 85mm f/2.8D Tilt-Shift Lens

G-Type Nikkor Lenses

Nikkor-G-Lenses

Nikkor G-type lenses do not have an aperture control ring and are intended for use on Nikon DSLRs that allow the lens aperture to be adjusted via the camera’s command dial. G-type lenses relay subject-to-camera-distance information to the camera, where it is used to help determine ambient and flash exposure. Like E-type lenses listed above, G-Type Nikkor lenses lack an aperture control ring. However the F-Type lens aperture is controlled manually – not electronically – using a mechanical coupling on the lens mount.

G-Type Nikkor Lens Compatibility with Nikon to Sony E-Mount Adapters:

• NIKON SMART ADAPTERS: According to Vello manufacturer specs, most Nikkor G-type lenses will have autofocus, including phase-detect on supported cameras, auto exposure, and the ability to control the aperture from the camera body. Image stabilization is also supported and will work in tandem with any in-body stabilization systems.

• NIKON G MANUAL ADAPTERS: Manual focus with approximate aperture control using an aperture ring on the adapter.

• NIKON F MANUAL ADAPTERS: Manual focus and no aperture control.

Nikkor G Fullframe Lenses:
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Lens
Nikon AF-S VR Zoom-NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED Lens
Nikon AF Zoom-NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4-5.6G Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G ED Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.8G ED Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ED Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G Special Edition Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G Lens
Nikon AF-S Micro-NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8G ED Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G Lens
Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED VR II Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR Lens

Nikkor G APS Lenses:
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED Lens
Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 12-24mm f/4G IF-ED Lens
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Lens
Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Lens
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Lens
Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II Lens
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Lens
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Lens
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II Lens
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR Lens
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Lens
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR Lens
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II Lens
Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED Lens
Nikon AF-S DX VR Zoom-NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED Lens

Nikon AF DX Fisheye-NIKKOR 10.5mm f/2.8G ED Lens
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G Lens
Nikon AF-S DX Micro-NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G Lens
Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/3.5G ED VR Lens

D-Type Nikkor Lenses

Nikkor-D-lenses

Nikkor D-type lenses relay subject-to-camera-distance information to Nikon DSLRs that feature 3D Color Matrix Metering (all versions), 3D Matrix Metering, 3D Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill-Flash and i-TTL Balanced Fill-Flash. Many D-Type lenses have an aperture control ring and can be used on older Nikon SLR cameras that allow for manual control of the aperture, as well as on DSLRs-especially useful for adjusting aperture while recording D-Movies on higher end models. When used on a DSLR, the aperture control ring needs to be locked at the smallest possible aperture (generally designated in orange), and the aperture control is maintained through the camera’s command dial.

Nikkor D-Type Lens Compatibility with Nikon to Sony E-Mount Adapters:

• NIKON SMART ADAPTERS: According to Vello manufacturer specs, most D-type lenses will have access to auto exposure capabilities and all Nikon lenses will be able to communicate EXIF data through the adapter to the camera. There’s no mention of AF with D-type Nikkor lenses.

• NIKON G MANUAL ADAPTERS: Manual focus with manual aperture control.

• NIKON F MANUAL ADAPTERS: Manual focus with manual aperture control.

Nikkor D Fullframe Lenses:
Nikon AF NIKKOR 14mm f/2.8D ED Lens
Nikon AF Fisheye-NIKKOR 16mm f/2.8D Lens
Nikon AF NIKKOR 20mm f/2.8D Lens
Nikon AF NIKKOR 24mm f/2.8D Lens
Nikon AF NIKKOR 28mm f/2.8D Lens
Nikon AF NIKKOR 35mm f/2D Lens
Nikon AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4D Lens
Nikon AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D Lens
Nikon AF Micro-NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8D Lens
Nikon AF DC-NIKKOR 105mm f/2D Lens
Nikon AF DC-NIKKOR 135mm f/2D Lens
Nikon AF NIKKOR 180mm f/2.8D IF-ED Lens
Nikon AF Micro-NIKKOR 200mm f/4D IF-ED Lens
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4D IF-ED Lens

Nikon AF-S Zoom-NIKKOR 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED Lens
Nikon AF NIKKOR 24-85mm f/2.8-4D IF Lens
Nikon AF Zoom-NIKKOR 80-200mm f/2.8D ED Lens

Manual Focus Nikkor Lenses

Nikkor-Manual-Focus-Lenses

Nikkor Manual Focus lenses don’t have the capability to autofocus. Manual focus lenses can be used on Sony E-mount Cameras with basic Nikon F to E-Mount Adapters, in the manual focus mode.

Manual Nikkor Lens Compatibility with Nikon to Sony E-Mount Adapters:

• NIKON SMART ADAPTERS: Manual focus with manual aperture control.

• NIKON G MANUAL ADAPTERS: Manual focus with manual aperture control.

• NIKON F MANUAL ADAPTERS: Manual focus with manual aperture control.

Read More:

Guide to Nikon Lens Adapters for Sony E-Mount Cameras

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29 thoughts on “Why Nikon AF Smart Adapters for Sony E-mount Took So Long”

  1. As with any adaptive technology there will be obstacles and manufacturing delays, and thats if everything goes smoothly.. The biggest delay with Nikon adaptation, in comparison to Canon lenses, is that Nikon lenses are only ‘half’ electronically controlled. Nikon lenses require a mechanical lever for body controlled aperture, presenting a design hurdle not required for Canon lenses which are fully electronic. Obviously an adapter could have been released earlier with autofocus circuitry and no aperture control, however that would have significantly limited the usability of what most people have in Nikon lenses which is the G lenses that have no external aperture control at all.

    1. Sorry (cannot see any editing ability, heh)
      I meant to express the delay was likely in offering compatibility with the widest range of Nikon lenses through mechanical servo to control aperture, as that will include a far greater range of Nikon lenses. At least that was the explanation I received Metabones and Fotodiox, though both look to have been beaten to the punch by Vello.. =)

      1. Honestly Nikon AF is a mess. Even when I try to manage expectations some people are shocked that their D-type lens won’t work and the same focal length G-type lens will.

    2. In my opinion, the problem with Nikon is that rather than starting with a new mount for AF like Canon and Minolta, they pieced together their AF system in 4 generations described in this post.

  2. Dear Brian,
    Does Nikon AF Zoom-NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4-5.6G Lens work on Sony E-mount by using Nikon G Manual Focus Lens Adapters for Sony E-Mount?
    I have read your Sony lens adapter guide and knew that the aperture cannot be controlled precisely. Just want to make sure that lens will work on A7RM2 because I want to buy one. Thank you very much!
    Paul

  3. What about 3rd party (Sigma, Tamron..) F-mount lenses?
    I have a Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM C and a Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro for my Nikon and I am looking into buying a Sony mirrorless but I would like to be able to use all my F-mount lenses.

  4. Thanks for the superfast response, Brian!

    Well, that’s a bummer. But will the Vello still will work with the A7R with slower less-sure AF?

    Aperture control and EXIF data are still supported on the A7R?

        1. Their AF system. You may eventually get slow Eye AF with select Nikon E-Type lenses, like you can with Canon EF, but unlike focus-by-wire Sony E-mount lenses, DSLR lenses are designed for Eye AF

  5. Hi Brian, has there been any update on the market for new Nikon to Sony AF adapters? I remember seeing one introduced recently and wanted to know if you had seen and tried it out, and if so, what did you think?

    Thanks!

  6. I have no trouble at all on my A9 using Eye AF for near instant focus with my Commlite v.06 on the following AF-S lenses:

    50mm 1.4
    70-200mm f/2.8 VR (version 1)

    HOWEVER, I fail to get reliable focus on my 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 AF-S 🙁
    (I also fail to get reliable focus on my Canon 28-300mm 3.5-5.6L with the Metabones nor Viltrox)

    Any insights on why the ultra-wide zooms seem unadaptable?

    1. Nikon AF works as though every single lens was designed by a different engineer without every speaking to each other. It’s truly the biggest mess I’ve ever seen. If you can get ANYTHING to work the way you want with Nikon AF adapters consider yourself blessed. Just don’t expect it will work the same way you pick up that lens.

  7. Pedro Lopez Alegret

    What is the best adapter for work with Nikkor lens (fish eye 16 mm D and micro 105 mm D) with autofocus in a Sony 7R III?
    Thanks
    Best regards
    Pedro

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