Best Telephoto Lenses (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
Consider these telephoto lenses for capturing high-quality photos from a distance.
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BY Zach Faulds / LAST UPDATED ON March 20, 2021
Whether you're a beginner or a professional photographer, a telephoto lens can be a handy tool for capturing high-quality images. Telephoto lenses provide larger focal lengths compared to a standard camera lens, allowing you to take crystal clear photos from a distance. This is extremely useful in several different settings, including sports, nature photography, wildlife photography, and more.
Depending on your specific interests and shooting preferences, make sure you choose the type of telephoto lens that best suits your needs. Telephoto lenses can be expensive, but they are generally easy to use and operate. Whether you are looking for great value, versatility, durability, or a user-friendly option, we took a look at the best telephoto lenses available.
This lens is ideal for capturing subjects from a distance. It features near-silent autofocus and NANO USM technology to capture the exact moment in real-time.
- Lens information display provides a convenient way to check focal length, focus distance or depth of field
- Built-in image stabilization keeps images as clear as possible
- Includes features that work perfectly for capturing moving subjects
- Some customers have reported issues with image sharpness when shooting from a great distance
This is an extremely high-quality product, particularly for its budget-friendly price. It is a compact, lightweight model that includes a versatile zoom range between 45-150 mm.
- Easy to operate, featuring MEGA Optical Image Stabilizer
- Allows you to shoot clear photos, even in low light
- Near silent inner focus system, enabling excellent resolution and contrast
- Not ideal for shooting at extremely far distances
This telephoto lens is dustproof, water-resistant, and it also has a low-temperature rating for use in inclement weather or hazardous conditions.
- Five ED lens elements and one super ED lens element
- High-speed, extremely quiet autofocus feature
- Maximum magnification of 0.12x and a maximum aperture of F2.8
- Priced at a premium
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Benefits of Telephoto Lenses
- User-friendly. Although they can be quite expensive, a major benefit of telephoto lenses is that they are extremely easy to use for both amateurs and professional photographers.
- Better portrait photography. A key benefit of telephoto lenses is that they are handy for portrait photography. A quality telephoto lens allows you to shoot flattering photos with long, varying focal lengths.
- More professional. Even if you are not a professional photographer, if you spend the money to purchase a high-quality telephoto lens, your photos will look professional. Long focal lengths of telephoto lenses allow you to capture your subject in focus against a blurred background.
Types of Telephoto Lenses
This is the most common and popular type of telephoto lens. At 70mm, this type of lens allows you to shoot at a reasonable distance from your subject. At 200mm, you can shoot from a decent distance. The 200mm setting also enables you to shoot subjects that are moving, both closer to you and further away from you. It is one of the most versatile focal ranges, and it is ideal for anything from portrait photography to events like weddings.
This type of lens is an excellent option for shooting subjects further away. It is an ideal option for shooting moving subjects, and it can be used for sports or wildlife photography. The 100-400mm lenses are quite heavy and typically used in well-lit environments. It is an extremely flexible lens that allows you to focus on a faraway subject as it approaches you from a distance.
This is the least common type of lens, and it should only be used to shoot subjects very far away. The 600mm and above lenses are pretty expensive, but they can capture the most visually stunning and detailed photos. This type of lens is not quite as versatile as other lenses because you are limited to extremely long focal lengths. These lenses tend to be rather large and heavy as well.
Founded in 1937 and headquartered in Tokyo, Canon is one of the largest international corporations specializing in optical, imaging, and industrial products. In addition to telephoto lenses, Canon manufactures laser printers, camcorders, scientific calculators, and more.
Also headquartered in Tokyo, Nikon was founded in 1917 and has become one of the most reputable manufacturers of optics and imaging products in the world. In addition to telephoto lenses, Nikon produces binoculars, rangefinders, lights, accessories, and more.
Panasonic is one of the most reputable electronics companies in the world. It was founded in 1918 and is headquartered in Osaka, Japan. You'll find that Panasonic produces high-quality telephoto lenses, as well as microwaves, telephones, beard trimmers, and more.
Telephoto Lenses Pricing
- Under $500: Telephoto lenses in this price range are available at an excellent value. Make sure to read the reviews before purchasing a lens in this price range. You want to ensure that the lens can shoot from the proper distance and setting needed for your camera.
- $500-$1000: This is the most common price range for telephoto lenses. Lenses in this price range are quite versatile and capable of shooting in various settings, including subjects at a distance or in motion.
- $1000 and up: Telephoto lenses in this price range are priced at a premium. These lenses typically include a number of special features and can shoot photos from a great distance.
Built-in image stabilization is an important feature to help ensure that your photos are sharp and in focus. This feature is imperative when shooting with a longer lens, which can cause camera shake. If your product does not have built-in stabilization, you will most likely need to use a tripod to capture images at longer focal lengths.
Autofocus features are another important consideration for use with your telephoto lens. This allows for users with all types of shooting experience to be able to capture professional photos. Even professionals prefer an autofocus feature when shooting any kind of action shot or sports photography.
The aperture of your telephoto lens is typically expressed as a fraction. The smaller the bottom number of the fraction, the wider your lens will open and the more light that will be let in. Shooting at a wider aperture will allow you to capture shots of moving subjects or when you are shooting subjects in low light.
- Depth of Field. A major factor of telephoto lenses is that they allow you to capture images with a shallow depth of field—the longer your lens and the wider your aperture, the more blur you will get in your photo. Shooting with your telephoto lens and the proper aperture allows you to capture your subject and blur the background properly.
- Warranty. The length and type of warranty are essential considerations when contemplating the best telephoto lens to fit your photography needs. Most reputable manufacturers will include some type of warranty with their telephoto lens. Look to purchase a lens with a limited warranty that will cover any manufacturing defects or issues with your product for its first few uses.
Best Telephoto Lenses Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Make sure that your telephoto lens has autofocus or image stabilization features for the best results. Even if you have these features, you should consider purchasing a tripod to avoid any potential camera shake.
- Consider using a shutter release to further reduce camera shake, even with a mounted camera. A shutter release should minimize the movement of your camera and telephoto lens while shooting.
- If you're shooting wildlife photography, make sure to capture the subject as magnified as possible in the frame. This will help to capture the most intricate details and properly blur the background.
- If you are shooting in inclement weather or hazardous conditions, make sure that your telephoto lens is completely dustproof and weather resistant.
- Some telephoto lenses are not compatible with all cameras. Check with the company or online before purchasing a telephoto lens to ensure that it is compatible with your camera.
Q: What is a telephoto lens used for?
A telephoto lens is ideal for shooting subjects from a distance like wildlife or sports photography. Your photos will look like you are just a few feet away, even when shooting from a far distance.
Q: What is the difference between a telephoto lens and a zoom lens?
A telephoto lens typically refers to a lens with a long focal length. A zoom lens can zoom anywhere from a short, wide-angle to a long, telephoto focal length.
Q: What does telephoto mean?
A telephoto lens has an extremely long reach, allowing you to capture a subject with your camera that is far away or magnifying the subject within your frame.
Q: Is a telephoto lens necessary?
A telephoto lens is necessary if your goal is to capture subjects from a distance, particularly wildlife, sports, or landscape photography. Telephoto lenses will focus on your subject and blur the background, producing visually stunning photographs.
Consider the Canon EF 70-300mm USM Lens for a high-quality telephoto lens, featuring a near-silent autofocus and NANO USM technology, or the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 45-150mm Mirrorless Camera Lens, including a versatile zoom range between 45-150 mm.