A telephoto lens can be used to capture subjects far away from you or to magnify the subject in the frame. But that’s not all.
Telephoto lenses are some of the most widely used lenses in photography, they are popular amongst both amateurs and professionals. You can use a telephoto lens to create an out of focus background or to compress the perspective of your photos and make objects look closer to each other.
If you are looking to buy a telephoto lens, this article is what you were looking for. We’re going to take a deep dive into what these lenses are and how exactly they can be used. I’m also going to show you the best telephoto lenses available in the market today so that you can make an informed decision when buying your next telephoto lens.
So let’s get started.
Related: The Best Lens For Portraits
What is a Telephoto Lens
In general, a lens can be called a telephoto lens if it has a focal length of 60mm or more. While a telephoto lens can surely be a zoom lens, that is not necessarily its only function. They come in a wide range of focal lengths such as ‘medium-telephoto’, which is typically 70mm to 200mm, and ‘super-telephoto’, which is longer than 300mm.
You can use these lenses as prime lenses for magnification, or as zoom lenses. Another misconception to get out of the way is that a zoom lens needs to be able to physically zoom. What truly characterizes a zoom lens is a long focal length.
Uses of a Telephoto Lens
Shoot From Distance
A wonderful effect of the telephoto lens is that it makes subjects appear much closer than they physically are. The effect is more pronounced as the focal length of the lens increases. This is especially handy if you want to capture your primary subject while making the background appear a lot closer.
Focusing on Detail
Due to the fact that telephoto lenses have a small field of view, they are exceptional at taking shots that focus on specific details in a scene. You can isolate details with ease. For example, in a landscape shot, a single mountain can be made the focus. A lot of macro lenses are also generally telephoto lenses, and you can use them to capture minute aspects of any scene.
Telephoto Lens Bokeh Effect
With portrait images being so popular these days, you might have found yourself wondering how exactly these images have their backgrounds blurred. Most shots taken on a smartphone have computation photography at work, and the background blur is created artificially. However, to create such an effect organically, you don’t have to look any further than a telephoto lens.
You can achieve this effect by using lenses that have a wide aperture and a long focal length. In fact, this blur effect requires the subject to be further away from you, and this factor matters more than the actual lens. Because telephoto lenses allow you to shoot from afar, they are ideal for creating a background blur.
Related: Zoom Lens Explained
Fill the Frame
Often, you may find yourself faced with a scene that has certain aspects that are simply marvelous, say a beautiful tree-line. However, some other parts of the scene may take away from its potential beauty, such as a dull sky. A telephoto lens is perfect in such situations. Its narrow field of view allows you to focus on only the tree-line. Moreover, by bringing distant objects closer to the subject, you are filling your entire frame with only what matters.
Telephoto Lens for Wildlife Photos
Due to the ability of telephoto lenses to take shots from afar, while still allowing the subject to dominate the frame, it naturally becomes very favored in wildlife photography.
With such a lens, you can take brilliant shots that appear to be taken from very close to an animal, resulting in a breathtaking and dramatic feel. Moreover, you will also be at a safe distance from your subject. You also don’t risk scaring the animal away by being too close.
Portraits come out excellently on telephoto lenses. The longer focal length offers a much better perspective and lets you shoot from further away.
This can keep the subject more at ease, and also gives very natural shots. Moreover, the long focal length gives you distortion-free shots, while easily blurring the background.
Related: The Best Lens For Portraits
No matter what the scenario, it is extremely useful to have a telephoto lens in your camera bag. Its sheer versatility and the impact it brings in a shot make it an indispensable tool in every photographer’s arsenal. We hope that this article helped you gain a deeper understanding of telephoto lenses, and keeps you moving forward confidently in your photography journey.
Stefano Caioni is a photographer from Sydney, Australia. Founder and editor of Pixinfocus, his passion for photography helps him explore new places and live new adventures. Thanks to photography he reconnected with the outdoors and was able to travel the world and take photos of some of the most beautiful places on Earth.