I’ve always found the Nikon lens codes a bit of a mystery so I’m writing a quick blog post as an aide-mémoire.
However the two salient points (for me anyway) are that when I’m buying a new lens I should:
Avoid DX lenses since they limit future usefulness if I switch to an FX body.
Since I am using modern digital bodies which can control lens aperture I’m better off getting G lenses over the older D lenses.
AF - Simply means that this is an autofocus lens.
D - The D stands for Distance it usually comes after the f-number or can be denoted as AF-D. These lenses essentially communicate focus distance information to the camera which uses it for exposure calculations in some situations. All AF-S and G-type lenses are also D-type lenses.
G - These lenses don’t have an aperture ring which means that you have to set the aperture on your camera rather than via the lens.
AF-S - This stands for Autofocus-Slient and it means that the lens uses a silent autofocus motor.
DX - A DX lens is designed for the Nikon DX format cameras. They can be used on FX (full-frame) bodies but may cause vignetting. These days it is probably better to avoid these if you can so that you are not restricting yourself if you move to an FX body in the future.
ED — “Extra-low Dispersion” glass which is used to reduce chromatic aberration.
VR - These lenses incorporate Vibration Reduction which is particularly useful with longer zooms as it allows you to lower shutter speeds by reducing shake.
Note that this is a working document as may be updated over time.
Most of the information has been taken from Wikipedia’s Nikon F-mount article.