Two types of motors 'Nikon SWM'

This article covers two types of 'Nikon SWM' motors.

Nikon SWM Ring Motor Parts

Nikon SWM Ring Motor Parts

All Nikon Lenses type Nikon AF-S use the built-in Nikon SWM (Silent Wave Motor) focusing motor.

There are two main types of Nikon SWM technology.:

  1. Nikon SWM ring motors (in Western literature they may be called Ring SWM)
  2. SWM based on gear motors (may be called 'Micromotor SWM' or 'Gear SWM' or 'Compact SWM' in Western literature).

In both cases, the idea of ​​turning the waves into rotational motion is used, which allows you to move the lens of the lens (to focus).

Ring motors Nikon SWM (Ring SWM)

Ring motors are quite expensive, they have a construction without extra gears, they look like several metal rings. Such motors can very quickly, quietly and accurately move the lens of the lens. They look like this (taken from here):

Lens motor Nikon ED AF-S VR-Nikkor 70-200mm 1: 2.8G Vibration Reduction SWM IF (MKV, VRI), Nikon AF-S Nikkor 17-55mm 1: 2.8G ED IF SWM DX, Nikon N AF-S Micro Nikkor 105mm 1: 2.8G ED VR SWM IF Micro 1: 1 Nano Crystal Coat (now it’s clear why the macaroons are so chubby):

SMW motor for AF-S 70-200mm F2.8, DX 17-55mm F2.8, MC 105mm F2.8

SMW motor for AF-S 70-200mm F2.8, DX 17-55mm F2.8, MC 105mm F2.8

Motor for Nikon AF-S Nikkor 18-70mm 1: 3.5-4.5G ED DX SWM IF Aspherical (now it is clear why the 'simple' 18-70 / 3.5-4.5 focuses as quickly as TBU) and Nikon DX AF-S Nikkor 12-24mm 1: 4G ED SWM IF Aspherical (Now it’s clear where the price tag for this lens comes from):

SWM motor for AF-S DX 18-70mm F3.5-4.5, DX 12-24mm F4

SWM motor for AF-S DX 18-70mm F3.5-4.5, DX 12-24mm F4

Motor for Nikon ED AF-S Nikkor 17-35mm 1: 2.8D SWM IF Aspherical, Nikon ED SWM AF-S Nikkor 28-70mm 1: 2.8D, Nikon ED AF-S Nikkor 300mm 1: 4D IF Silent Wave Motor (now it is clear where the same problems with 'focus whistle' for these models come from):

SWM AF-S 17-35mm F2.8, 28-70mm F2.8, 300mm F4

SWM for AF-S 17-35mm F2.8, 28-70mm F2.8, 300mm F4

Motors for Nikon AF-S 200mm F / 2, 300mm F / 2.8, 400mm F / 2.8, 500mm F / 4, 600mm F / 4, 200-400mm F / 4:

AF-S 200mm F2, 300mm F2.8, 400mm F2.8, 500mm F4, 600mm F4, 200-400mm F4

Motor for AF-S 200mm F2, 300mm F2.8, 400mm F2.8, 500mm F4, 600mm F4, 200-400mm F4

Motor for not very successful Nikon ED AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm 1: 3.5-5.6G SWM VR IF Aspherical:

SWM AF-S 24-120mm F3.5-5.6

SWM for AF-S 24-120mm F3.5-5.6

Nikon SWM gear motors

These motors were created to reduce the cost of production. They generate slightly more noise than 'real' ring motors. Outwardly, they look like ordinary micro-motors.

Motor for Nikon DX AF-S Nikkor 18-200mm 1: 3.5-5.6GII ED SWM VR IF Aspherical:

Compact SWM AF-S DX 18-200mm F3.5-5.6

Compact SWM for AF-S DX 18-200mm F3.5-5.6

Motor for Nikon DX 18-55mm F / 3.5-5.6, DX 55-200mm F / 4.5-5.6

Compact SWM DX 18-55mm F3.5-5.6, DX 55-20mm F4.5-5.6

Compact SWM for DX 18-55mm F3.5-5.6, DX 55-200mm F4.5-5.6


The difference between ring and compact SWM motors is visible to the naked eye.

From my own experience I will say that lenses with ring motors have really better performance during focusing.

And now the sad truth. Some Nikon TOP lenses use SWM babies instead of a ring SWM. It is known with certainty that the Nikon 85 / 1.4G and Nikon 105 / 1.4E (exactly) uses compact SWM. I didn’t really believe that $ 85 Nikon 1.4 / 1600G can use a motor similar to the one in the Nikon 18-55 / 3.5-5.6 casing. Now everything fell into place and the reason for the slow focusing of the Nikon 85 / 1.4G became clear.

At one time, I was lucky enough to talk with a lens repairman, and he confirmed that many expensive Nikon lenses have horrible compact SWM motors (including the one mentioned by Nikon 85 / 1.4G).

Due to the fact that there is no marking on the Nikon lenses indicating the type of SWM motor, it is difficult to know what the buyer pays money for. Marketers won again.

Thank you for attention. Arkady Shapoval.

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Comments: 33, on topic: Two types of 'Nikon SWM' motors

  • Radmir

    Indeed, the first)
    Arkady, just opened your eyes! Thanks)

  • Andrei

    Arkady do not think that I am finding fault, but here is a mistake “Motor for Nikon DX 18-55mm F / 3.5-5.6, DX 55-20mm F / 4.5-5.6” I had to introduce 55-200 lens atoms 55-20 does not exist)
    and so very informative
    I would really like to see something similar to a comparison of motors from Nikon and Kenon (I just sold all the photo equipment and can’t decide which system to get on ())

    • Arkady Shapoval


  • Pastor

    Cool article. How surprised 18-70! I definitely won’t sell it now :)))

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Here here I already wrote that only 17-55, 16-85 and 18-70 have a fast focus from DX zooms. Perhaps the new 16-80 will also be fast. About 18-70, at one time it cost a lot of money! This is now selling it for 50 cu

      • Pastor

        Yes, up to a thousand cu was worth it. And now in the Russian Federation to find it cheaper than 100 bucks is a great success. And in my opinion, purely subjectively 18-70 faster 16-85 focuses. Although the difference is minimal.

  • Vladimir

    turning waves into rotational motion

    It seems to me that it would be more correct to write - hesitation.

  • Sergei

    The Nikkor 50 1.4G has a ring motor, only the focusing speed of the lens, to put it mildly, does not shine. :] So not everything is so simple, and reliability, as you already wrote, this motor in this lens does not differ (although mine survived from purchase to sale without problems).

    Arkady, hundreds of lenses have passed through your hands, tell me, are some of them really silent focusing? My Nikon's and not only glasses all chirped, rustled, groaned, etc. and so on, which was especially evident in the video recording (I did not try screwdriver lenses - there, probably, there was a nightmare in noise). There are many places where they write about different glasses about the “noiselessness” of focusing, and so far I am inclined to believe that this is not true.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      If you shoot a video with a built-in microphone, then I have not seen a single really silent lens. SWM, USM / STM is much quieter than screwdrivers, or Canon Micro Motor (with a conventional micro motor), but really friction, movement of parts, lenses and other things are audible :)

    • varezhkin

      Ie ring motor is not a guarantee of good speed right? those. no direct relationship?

      • Sergei

        Well, I’m not an expert in Nikon motors, I can’t say anything. I know that the 50mm 1.4G focuses rather slowly. In theory, "ring" motors are more reliable - less plastic gears that wear out over time. But here is a copy of 50 1.4 Arcadia died from a light blow. I probably had a couple of minor blows, but the engine remained intact, perhaps just luck.
        In general, most likely the choice of motor type is due to the convenience of technological placement. If it is possible, without sacrificing compactness and other qualities, to screw a cheaper motor with a gearbox, Nikon sculpts it.

  • Sergei

    At 16-85, by the way, the drive is not direct (ring), but also gear. There is nothing special to compare in speed, but I would not say that it is very fast.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      16-85 is slightly slower than 17-55 and 18-70, 17-55 is generally considered a “bullet”.

  • Vladimir

    Not that I was very interested in it, but sometimes the thought slipped through - how does he turn the “dog”. Thank you, now I will have an idea.

  • anonym

    18-70 has a disease, does the motor fail?

    • Bogdan

      18-70 one iz from the very old ones, and it’s made up of a bulo to finish the bagato, so it’s not wonderful

  • Alexey

    Some posts about Nikon - (

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Zabra will not be about Nikon and Kenon. And yesterday it was about the photographer’s notes :)

  • varezhkin

    thanks. wonderful article!

  • Bogdan

    And such a question. It’s clear with the focusing speed, but does the difference between gear and ring motors affect the tenacity and accuracy of focusing?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      My practice has shown that it affects. The gears have a certain lag, while the ring motor changes its focus direction much faster and brings the focus. Perhaps it’s just that my opinion was wrong.

      • Sergey

        The presence of a multi-stage gearbox (gear) increases the micro backlash. So a certain difference will be guaranteed.

  • varezhkin

    Is anything known about the new AF-P motors? Nikon releases 2 versions of 18-55, and it is rumored to be the same 70-300 again for crop.

  • Ruslan

    Was a couple of years ago 18-70 excellent color rendition; good detail was bought from the hands but absolutely in an unused condition.
    But after two years he began to miss every other time in the most literal sense.

  • Gene jb

    As for SWM, I’ll say that ring ones are subject to the action of time. They are made of ceramics, which has a weight, metal spraying and fragility inherent in all piezoceramics. From this, the motors are very gentle in operation, short-lived. Since a small calibrated gap between the rings is needed for work, when dust gets there, it can jam when it is still working with dust, the ring is erased due to the combination of abrasive and ultrasonic treatment and quickly becomes worthless. Repair is expensive.
    Small SWM motors are more reliable, they also have the weaknesses of their big brothers, but to a lesser extent.
    The old-type collector motors are in principle very durable. The power reserve for them depends only on the bushings and erasure of the brushes.
    STM motors are almost eternal. Only bushings are erased. With proper development, they can live 100 years or more.

    • anonym

      it turns out that they refused the screwdriver in vain

  • andrei2911

    Tamron is honest in this respect. It clearly indicates the type of motor in the marking. And in all of its tops there are exactly ring motors - USD.

  • Eugene

    Great stuff !. Fairly complete information in simple, understandable language.
    Thanks to the author.

  • Valentine

    Comment ...
    1. a simple question 18-135 which motor? ..
    2. In terms of accuracy - which is better, and in terms of reliability, on pro cameras (D2-3-4 .. and on semi-pro D200-300-700) - a “screwdriver” or a wave? ..
    Comment ... When falling from a height of 1,5 meters, repair of a top lens with a wave motor can be equal to the cost of an almost new one?)))

    • Arkady Shapoval

      1. compact swm
      2. it all depends on the specific lens and specific camera
      3. usually when falling from 1.5 meters you can buy a new lens, and it doesn’t matter what was in the middle, it will be glass containers and scrap metal

  • Vlad

    Tell me, what type of motor is in 50 / 1.8g and 35 / 1.8g dx?

    • B. R. P.

      Look in the relevant articles on this site.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      both nikon swm, nikon 50 / 1.8G ring, 35 / 1.8G DX compact

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