A Glossary of Photographic Terms: K - N

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Some of the ready resources: Nikon - Terms, SLRs, lenses || Canon - A & T series SLRs , FD Lenses || Minolta -XK/XD11 || Pentax - LX || Olympus - OM1/OM2 series, Zuiko Lenses || Contax - RTS Series | Hasselblad - Bodies, older lenses | Rollei - bodies


Kelvin. A scale use to measure the colour temperature. 5000 K refer to normal daylight.

K 14

Kodak's chemical process for developing Kodachrome slides.

Latent Image

The invisible image left by the action of light on photographic film or paper. The light changes the photosensitive salts to varying degrees depending on the amount of light striking them. When processed, this latent image will become a visible image either in reversed tones (as in a negative) or in positive tones (as in a color slide).

LCD panel ( Liquid Crystal Display.)

An electronically generated text, numeric & symbols. Before the popularity of the LCD, LED is the most common method. LCD consume only one fifth (1/5) of the power of the LED and thus have a wider application in photographic line. The only problem is, it'll turn dark at very high temperature (will resume to normal when cool down) and it will fades in extended time. (the Nikon F3 first used LCD display in 1980, I heard none is complaining about this after 17 years, did you ?) Used most commonly on cameras that shows such information as remaining exposures, flash status and aspect ratio selected.


Low dispersion glass, or UD (ultra low dispersion) or SD (Super Low dispersion), please refer to "ED", basically, refers to optically superior glass - price too! Dispersion sometimes also refer as "colour fringing".

Leader (Film Leader).

Part of film attached to camera take-up spool. 35 mm film usually has a leader of the shape originally designed for bottom-loading Leica cameras, although most cameras simply need a short taper.


Light Emitting Diode. Light producing transistors used to display dots, numeric and text in the viewfinder, slowly replacing by LCD display.


One or more pieces of optical glass or similar material designed to collect and focus rays of light to form a sharp image on the film, paper, or projection screen.

Lens aberration

Optical flaws which are present in small amounts in all photographic lenses; made up of chromatic aberration, spherical aberration, curvature of field, distortion, etc.; a perfect lens would show the image of a point as a point and a straight line as a straight line, but in practice, lenses are never perfect: they reproduce a point as a patch and a straight line as a more or less curved band; most of the trouble is caused by aberrations, inherent in the lens construction; it's the job of the lens designer to control most of the aberrations as much as possible by combining a number of single lenses in such a way that the aberrations of one lens tend to be cancelled out by opposing aberrations in the others.

Lens Shade

A collar or hood at the front of a lens that keeps unwanted light from striking the lens and causing image flare. May be attached or detachable, and should be sized to the particular lens to avoid vignetting.

Lens-Shutter Camera

A camera with the shutter built into the lens; the viewfinder and picture-taking lens are separate.

Lens Speed

The largest lens opening (smallest f-number) at which a lens can be set. A fast lens transmits more light and has a larger opening than a slow lens. Determined by the maximum aperture of the lens in relation to its focal length; the "speed" of a lens is relative: a 400 mm lens with a maximum aperture of f/3.5 is considered extremely fast, while a 28mm f/3.5 lens is thought to be relatively slow.

Light meter

(See Exposure meter)

Lighting ratio.

The ratio of the brightness of light falling on the subject from the main (key) light and other (fill) lights. A ratio of about 3:1 is normal for colour photography, greater ratios may be used for effect in black-and-white work.

Limiting aperture.

The actual size of the aperture formed by the iris diaphragm at any setting. Determines, but usually differs from, the eflfective aperture.


Lens of relatively long focal length designed to provide a narrower angle of view than the normal or standard lens, which generally has an angle of view, expressed on the diagonal of the film format, of about 45 degrees The long focus lens thus takes in less of the view in front of it but on an enlarged scale.


A measurement of the light intensity. One Lux in video means light level of a candle light.

Macro Lens

A lens that provides continuous focusing from infinity to extreme close-ups, often to a reproduction ratio of 1:2 (half life-size) or 1:1 (life-size). Nikon's version for their "macro" is "micro", eg. 105mm F2.8 Micro-Nikkor.

Micro lens

A lens for close-up photography; designed to focus continuously from infinity down to a reproduction ratio of 1: 2, or with a matched extension ring or teleconverter down to 1: 1; available in normal or telephoto focal lengths to provide a variety of free working distances; with the exception of Nikon, this type of lens is called a "Micro Nikkor" lens. Also see above, Macro or Makro (Usually for German origin lenses)..

Macro photography

The process of taking photographs of small objects with regular photographic lenses at reproduction ratios of 1X or greater; also referred to as "photomacrography. "


A lighttight metal container (cartridge) that holds 135 film (cylindrical magazine) or when apply to medium format, magazine back refer to the inter changeable container that holds the films for mounting on the back of the camera for exposures.


Special form of flashtube which is fired by mechanical (not electrical) means. Can be used only on cameras fitted with the appropriate socket.

Magnification ratio

Ratio that express greatest possible on film magnifying power of the lens. Used commonly on the macro setting of the zoom lenses, macro lens or with bellows.

Manual: User selects both shutter speed and aperture, following or ignoring the meter's recommendations to achieve the desired exposure.

Manual flash :

Flash output is controlled manually in manual flash mode unlike in auto flash mode, where flash output power varies automatically according to the selected aperture. Some Speedlights, example like the Nikon SB 27, SB 26, SB-25. SB-24 and SB 20, provide selectable manual outputs (full, 1/2, l/4, 1/8, l/16 etc.), while others provide full manual output only.

Manual iris.

Diaphragm controlled directly by a calibrated ring on the lens barrel.

Matrix Metering system :

An exposure metering system using a multi-segment sensor and computer. Available in some Nikon SLRs.With the classic techniques of evaluating for 18% reflectance, factors such as brightness and contrast are primarily used to determine exposure. In addition, it is essential to evaluate each scene's esthetic factors such as color to get the best exposure. Check Nikon's own terms.

Mammum aperture

The widest aperture which the diaphragm is capable of opening up to; it is engraved on the lens in this manner; 1: 1.4.


Minute glass or plastic structure of multiple prisms set in a viewfinder screen to act as a focusing aid. Breaks up an out-of-focus subject into a shimmer but images a focused subject clearly. Will not work satisfactorily at lens apertures smaller than f5.6.

Mid-roll change

Feature available on the some APS camera that enables users to remove a partially exposed film cassette, insert it again later, and start shooting exactly where they left off.


Also 1 hour colour lab. Photofinishing operation that operates on a retail level, serving consumers directly and processing film on-site.

Mirror lens (Reflex Lens).

Lens in which some (usually two) of the elements are curved mirrors. This construction produces comparatively lightweight short fat long focus lenses. They cannot be fitted with a normal diaphragm.


Modulation Transfer Function. The way people (who else, the magazines!) uses to measure a lens's ability to hold diminishing details of a subject. Why MTF ? Because, everything is done electronically and eliminating any errors in human judgement or vision and results can be repeatable to counter check earlier tests. Secondly, a precise comprehensive rating is made possible by incorporating huge amount of data into a single reading, lastly it is very fast and permit its use on just out from production lenses.


Representation by lighting of the three-dimensional nature of an original in a two-dimensional reproduction.

Monitor Pre-flash(es):

When performing Automatic Balanced Fill-Flash with TTL Multi Sensor, the Speedlight fires a series of scarcely visible pre-flashes to enable the camera's computer to pre-analyze the scene. The TTL Multi Sensor ins de the camera body reads the amount of reflected light, then the camera's microcomputer determines the area of the TTL sensor to be used for flash output control and adjusts the flash output level. The Monitor Pre-flashes are visible but not recognizable. First adopted by Contax RTS III, now Nikon is using this for its top flagship model, the F5.

Motor Drive

A mechanism for advancing the film to the next frame and recocking the shutter, activated by an electric motor usually powered by batteries. Popular for action-sequence photography and for recording images by remote control.

Multilayer coating

The depositing of multiple coats of anti-reflective materials on a lens surface to reduce ghost images and flare produced by internal reflections and insure faithful color rendition; in the Nikon Integrated Coating system, the number of layers is determined by the type of optical glass and the position of the element in the lens design.


Neutral Density. Usually applies on filter, filtration that can effectively reduce the amount of light passes to the film. In some filters, half ND filters can be very effective to lower the contrast, esp the sky to achieve more balance effect. Lens like reflex lenses, where its aperture is fixed, ND filter can be the only way to play around with exposures. Certain 617 format is providing with a central ND filter.


The developed film that contains a reversed tone image of the original scene.

Negative Holder

A device designed to hold the negative in proper position in an enlarger.

Nicd or NICAD

Nikel Cadmium. Used as the backbone of most rechargeable batteries. Though not so lasting as alkaline, but have a better resistance to cold than alkaline. When the batteries power is drained out, it will turn "flat" right away (advisable to have spare batteries). Most high speed motor drive handles best when using Nicd batteries.


Nickel metal hydride. A new generation Nicd batteries, the Nikon highest speed 8 fps is achieved using this type of batteries.

Normal Lens

A lens that makes the image in a photograph appear in perspective similar to that of the original scene (approximately 45°). A normal lens has a shorter focal length and a wider field of view than a telephoto lens, and a longer focal length and narrower field of view than a wide-angle lens. Normal lenses corresponding to that portion of human vision in which we can discern sharp detail; technically defined as a lens whose focal length is approximately equal to the diagonal of the film frame; in 35mm photography, the diagonal measures 43mm, but in practice, lenses with focal lengths from 50mm to 60mm are considered normal.


National Television Standards Committee. Standards for video broadcasting and recording in the US and Japan. PAL's the standard in Great Britain and the commonwealth countries. SECAM used in many countries in the European communities.

NIC (Nikon Intergrated Coating Process): Check Nikon's terms page for more.

A Glossary of Photographic Terms Menu - K - N

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