Telephoto Lenses

A telephoto lens is a kind of camera lens designed for using photographs of subjects at moderate to significantly distances. Also recognised as a “tele lens” or “extended lens”, they are a kind of extensive-focus lens which use a unique interior development to give them a focal length much for a longer period than the size of the lens alone. This would make them lesser, lighter, and less difficult to handle, even though even now providing exceptional long-range abilities.

Telephoto lenses are normally used when photographing sporting activities events, wildlife, and in any other instances where by the photographer are unable to get shut to the topic. They are also well-liked in portrait and macro images as they develop a satisfying, organic viewpoint no cost from the distortion prompted by using a vast-angle lens.

Focal Size

Telephoto digicam lenses arrive in both of those “primary” (fixed focal length) and zoom kinds. Individuals with mounted focal lengths have a tendency to be of higher good quality, whilst zoom lenses provide the obvious edge of better flexibility.

Canon telephoto lenses

Telephoto lenses are obtainable in moderate to very extended focal lengths.

Focal lengths commonly begin at all-around 85mm and lengthen up to 800mm and beyond. Extended focal lengths are equipped to seize extra distant element, but are also extra costly, more substantial, and heavier.

Simply because of the huge variation in focal lengths, tele lenses can be grouped into a few kinds:

Shorter Telephoto Lenses (85mm – 135mm)

These are great for capturing portraits and candid photographs (for illustration at weddings), where by you are very near to the issue but don’t want to intrude far too considerably. They are compact and lightweight, and can be hand held for quickly shooting.

Medium Telephoto Lenses (135mm – 300mm)

These lenses are common with sports and motion photographers who can get fairly close to the action, for instance standing on the sidelines. For this type of images, aperture is essential in minimising blur, specially when photographing fast-relocating topics.

Super Telephoto Lenses (300mm+)

Most novice photographers will not want a telephoto lens with these a extended focal size, but they are a well-liked preference among qualified wildlife and mother nature photographers, as nicely as sports activities photographers who are not able to get very close to the action (e.g. motorsport photographers).

The longest lenses have telescope-like magnification, creating them great for astrophotography, whilst they can be very highly-priced.

Focal Duration Option

Your preference of focal size is dependent generally on the topics you intend to shoot. If you are just finding started with telephoto photography, and want to experiment, then a telephoto zoom lens is a superior alternative. While these really don’t develop these high-excellent photographs as a prime telephoto lens, they allow you to experiment with a range of focal lengths.

85mm – 135mm 135mm – 300mm 300mm+
Rate Cheapest Mid-assortment Most highly-priced
Body weight Lightest Medium Heaviest
Sizing Smallest Medium Largest
Operating Length Near to medium Medium to considerably Considerably to quite far
Topics Portraits Shut sports and action Much athletics, wildlife, nature, astro

Telephoto lens focal length options

Depth of Industry

With all digital camera lenses, a for a longer period focal size indicates a narrower depth of subject, and telephoto lenses are no diverse. Significantly with extended telephotos, it can be tough to get your concentrating spot on, and even a slight transform in digital camera situation can result in blurriness. Since of this, you should really put your digicam on a tripod when employing just about anything but the shortest telephoto lens.


If you intend to shoot quickly-transferring subjects like motor racing or athletics occasions, then you can expect to want a extensive optimum aperture to aid you obtain a rapidly enough shutter pace to keep away from blurring. This is also essential if you intend to hand-hold your camera.

As focal length raises, lenses with huge apertures get far more and additional highly-priced. If your perfect lens is out of your price selection, think about no matter whether you could reside with a shorter focal duration, or use a tripod and longer publicity time.

Standpoint Compression

Mainly because of its lengthy focal duration and narrow field of perspective, a telephoto lens can make in close proximity to and distant objects appear to be closer together and more similar in size than they seem in true daily life. This influence is recognised as “foreshortening” or “viewpoint compression”.

House in field in front of big moon

A telephoto lens makes distant objects seem a great deal more substantial. Graphic by Brenda Anderson.

Foreshortening can make for really flattering portraits, as facial features seem natural and in proportion, and do not exhibit any of the bulging and distortion that appears when taking pictures shut up with a wider angled lens. Foreshortening can also be utilised to give additional emphasis to distant objects, for example by earning the moon show up a great deal more substantial in the night time sky.

Lens Construction

Telephoto lenses use a particular development to reach a focal length greater than their actual physical duration. There are two diverse techniques of carrying out this:

Refractive Lenses

Refractive telephoto lenses, also known as “unfavorable” lenses, use two lens teams (identified as “lens features”). The very first component bends the light inwards, and the second ingredient straightens it out once more right before it hits the film or sensor. This has the influence of shortening the distance the gentle need to vacation, although continue to ensuring it hits the sensor at the proper angle.

Refractive telephoto lens construction

Mirror Lenses

A mirror lens, also recognized as a “reflex lens” or “catadioptric lens”, uses mirrors rather than lenses to change the route of mild. The gentle enters as a result of the front lens as normal, but is then reflected back on alone by a curved mirror. The gentle then hits a next mirror on the again of the entrance lens, which bounces it again in direction of the sensor.

Mirror telephoto lens construction

Refractive or Mirror?

Refractive lenses develop a much larger-good quality impression than mirror lenses, with much better sharpness and contrast, and much more pleasing track record blur. If you can afford this kind of lens, it is a much superior total selection.

The primary positive aspects of mirror lenses are that they are lesser, lighter, and more cost-effective. Having said that, they suffer from inferior photograph high quality, and have a mounted aperture which can limit their usefulness. They should genuinely only be viewed as if you are on a limited spending budget, and even then you’d in all probability be greater off preserving up for a bit for a longer time to obtain a refractive lens.

Supporting a Telephoto Lens

Small focal duration telephoto lenses can generally be hand held devoid of any obvious blurring from digicam shake. This is significantly handy when photographing portraits or getting candid photographs, exactly where you have to react immediately.

When hand holding your digital camera, use the swiftest shutter speed you can. A good rule of thumb is to use a shutter speed that at least matches your focal length – for instance, when using a 200mm lens, you should use a shutter speed of 1/200th or more rapidly.

Telephoto lenses with extended focal lengths are conveniently influenced by digicam shake owing to their serious magnification issue. Their slim depth of subject helps make focusing hard, and extensive lenses with a slim maximum aperture may perhaps not be able to attain the shutter speeds demanded for hand keeping. They also have a tendency to be hefty, producing them awkward to hold for very long periods of time. When utilizing for a longer period lenses, you ought to use a tripod or monopod to retain your pictures sharp and to take the strain off your arms.

Acquiring a Telephoto Lens

Excellent varies significantly in the telephoto lens sector. Unless you are on a quite restricted funds or are just on the lookout to experiment, steer clear of mirror lenses in favour of exceptional refractive lenses.

When getting a telephoto lens, you generally get what you shell out for. Check out to stick to reliable models like Canon, Nikon (Nikkor), Sigma, Tokina, and Tamron. If you won’t be able to really pay for your perfect lens, it is really normally much better to wait around relatively than buying a less costly equal which turns out to be inferior.

Examine on the net testimonials and question around on message boards to get thoughts and suggestions on precise versions, and then shop all around to uncover a fantastic price tag. On the web stores these kinds of as Amazon and Adorama normally supply the best specials.

Cover picture by Doo Ho Kim.