I recently bought a used Nikon 12-24mm 1:4 G ED lens in almost mint condition. My camera is a Nikon D5100.

I compared it to the similar spec Tokina 12-24mm by looking at a lot of different reviews online.

After taking a few shots with my acquisition (and being pleased with the results), when I look at the 'Info' section on my Apple PC (downloading to iPhoto), it shows as if the photos were taken by the very Tokina lens that I was comparing it to. This does not happen with any other lens I have. They show the correct description.

Any ideas? I think I either have a copy of a Nikon, or else my PC knows I have been looking up the Tokina 12-24 and has got confused. There is nothing on the lens to suggest it is a copy.

  • iPhoto is quite old having been replace by the Photos application years ago.
    – Eric S
    Nov 12 '18 at 14:46
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    This is anecdotal, so I won't put this in an answer. I seem to recall that the Tokina lens in question "spoofs" the Nikon lens by using the ID code for the Nikon lens. Since both send the same lens code to the camera, some software applications, such as iPhoto, may identify a nikon 12-24 as a Tokina 12-24.
    – Michael C
    Nov 12 '18 at 16:06
  • Is your lens the shape of the Nikon or Tokina versions you can look at in pictures at the web sites of retailers who sell them? The shape of the lens barrel and the location and widths of the zoom and focus rings are distinctively different.
    – Michael C
    Nov 12 '18 at 16:10

There are multiple metadata tags that may be used to identify a lens. Some cameras use the "Lens Make" and "Lens Model" tags, which contain strings that match the name of the lens you would expect from marketing and packaging materials.

However, other cameras use the "Lens Type" tag, which is a numeric value that must be mapped to the "proper" lens name. Multiple lens models by different manufacturers may use the same number. Some tools may attempt to identify the specific lens model by evaluating multiple tags. Exiftool's guess is contained in the composite tag "Lens ID".

I strongly doubt iPhoto uses your browsing history to attempt to identify lenses. The Nikon and Tokina lenses share the same specs and your camera does not save any metadata that can distinguish them, so the software just picks one. (See Exiftool Nikon LensID values.)


Maybe iPhoto does not know which 12-24mm f/4 you were using (e.g. because the metadata only state 12-24mm f/4), and assumed that it is the Tokina one. Maybe 52% of all iPhoto-users that have a 12-24mm lens own Tokina's lens, and therefore, it assumes that you do, too.

It is highly unlikely that iPhoto checks your browser history for lenses that match the metadata of your photographs, as I think there is no clear correlation between owning a lens and looking it up in the internet. Admittedly, I can offer anecdotal evidence at best.

I would use another tool to cross-check that information - e.g. exiftool.

Either way, I wouldn't worry about it. If you want to do lens corrections via software, simply select the proper lens instead - some software offers a "remember as default choice" in its lens correction settings for this reason.

  • I sincerely doubt that iPhoto developers decided it would be a good idea to just guess at the brand of a lens if it is not specified explicitly.
    – osullic
    Nov 12 '18 at 13:42
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    @osullic While I have no way to test that, it is what Lightroom and Capture One frequently do if you offer them a lens that they do not know about. E.g. my 14mm f/2.8 Dandelion chip got recognised as Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 more than once.
    – flolilo
    Nov 12 '18 at 13:43
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    @osullic It's more likely the case that Tokina has programmed their 12-24mm f/4 to tell the camera it is the Nikon 12-24mm f/4. Tokina, Sigma, and Tamron all used to do that type of thing rather frequently. If two different model lenses both send the same lens ID to the camera, the same metadata is recorded in the EXIF info, and no application will be able to tell them apart.
    – Michael C
    Nov 13 '18 at 5:43

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