Reviews

LAST UPDATED:  March 20, 2021

Best Telephoto Lenses (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021

Consider these telephoto lenses for capturing high-quality photos from a distance.

Entering our 7th season of /DRIVE on NBC Sports, and with millions of YouTube and Facebook followers, The Drive is a leading authority of all things automotive.

The Drive on NBC The Drive on YouTube The Drive on Facebook

The Review Team

The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.

PUBLISHED 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.

Best Overall
Canon EF 70-300mm USM Lens
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

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. 

Pros
Pros
  • 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
Cons
Cons
  • Some customers have reported issues with image sharpness when shooting from a great distance
Best Overall
Canon EF 70-300mm USM Lens
Best Value
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 45-150mm Mirrorless Camera Lens
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

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.

Pros
Pros
  • 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
Cons
Cons
  • Not ideal for shooting at extremely far distances
Best Value
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 45-150mm Mirrorless Camera Lens
Honorable Mention
Fujifilm Fujinon XF 50-140mm Lens
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

This telephoto lens is dustproof, water-resistant, and it also has a low-temperature rating for use in inclement weather or hazardous conditions.

Pros
Pros
  • 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
Cons
Cons
  • Priced at a premium
Honorable Mention
Fujifilm Fujinon XF 50-140mm Lens
Closeup Of Telephoto Lens
Amazon

Why Trust Us


All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

Learn more

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

70-200mm

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.

100-400mm

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. 

600mm

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.

Top Brands

Canon

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. 

Nikon

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

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.

Key Features

Image Stabilization

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

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. 

Aperture

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.

Other Considerations

  • 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

Best Overall

This telephoto lens is ideal for capturing subjects from a distance. It features a near-silent autofocus and NANO USM technology to capture the exact moment in real-time. A lens information display provides a convenient way to easily check focal length, focus distance, or field depth while shooting on the fly. The built-in image stabilization will help keep your images as clear as possible despite any potential camera movement. This lens includes features that work perfectly for capturing any moving subjects, including sports and wildlife. This is an extremely reliable product from a trustworthy manufacturer, and it includes free shipping on any repair needed for the life of the product.


However, some customers have reported issues with image sharpness when shooting from a great distance. If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, Canon's customer service team is very responsive and will typically offer a refund or replacement product.

Best Overall
Canon EF 70-300mm USM Lens

This telephoto lens is ideal for capturing subjects from a distance. It features a near-silent autofocus and NANO USM technology to capture the exact moment in real-time. A lens information display provides a convenient way to easily check focal length, focus distance, or field depth while shooting on the fly. The built-in image stabilization will help keep your images as clear as possible despite any potential camera movement. This lens includes features that work perfectly for capturing any moving subjects, including sports and wildlife. This is an extremely reliable product from a trustworthy manufacturer, and it includes free shipping on any repair needed for the life of the product.


However, some customers have reported issues with image sharpness when shooting from a great distance. If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, Canon's customer service team is very responsive and will typically offer a refund or replacement product.

Best Value

This telephoto lens is an extremely high-quality product, particularly for a budget-friendly price. This compact, lightweight model includes a versatile zoom range between 45-150 mm. It is extremely easy to operate, featuring Panasonic's MEGA Optical Image Stabilizer. This allows you to shoot crystal clear photos, even in low light. The lens is perfect for combined photo and HD video hybrid photography. Another key feature is the near-silent inner focus system, which enables excellent resolution and contrast. The lens's seven aperture blades capture smooth and sharp images, even in out-of-focus areas and when shooting at large apertures. You can make sure that this lens fits your camera by entering your camera's model number on the company site.


One downside to this telephoto lens is that it is not as ideal for shooting at far distances as well as other products on this list.

Best Value
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 45-150mm Mirrorless Camera Lens

This telephoto lens is an extremely high-quality product, particularly for a budget-friendly price. This compact, lightweight model includes a versatile zoom range between 45-150 mm. It is extremely easy to operate, featuring Panasonic's MEGA Optical Image Stabilizer. This allows you to shoot crystal clear photos, even in low light. The lens is perfect for combined photo and HD video hybrid photography. Another key feature is the near-silent inner focus system, which enables excellent resolution and contrast. The lens's seven aperture blades capture smooth and sharp images, even in out-of-focus areas and when shooting at large apertures. You can make sure that this lens fits your camera by entering your camera's model number on the company site.


One downside to this telephoto lens is that it is not as ideal for shooting at far distances as well as other products on this list.

Premium Pick

This telephoto lens is dustproof, water-resistant, and it also has a low-temperature rating for use in inclement weather or hazardous conditions. It has advanced technology to produce high-resolution images, including five ED lens elements and one super ED lens element. The unique triple linear motor includes a high-speed, extremely quiet autofocus feature. A high-performance gyro sensor provides ultimate image stabilization and superior performance while shooting moving subjects or from a great distance. This lens has a maximum magnification of 0.12x and a maximum aperture of F2.8. Despite its many advanced features, this telephoto lens is still relatively easy to operate.


The only downside to this telephoto lens is its premium price point. However, if you are comfortable with the investment, then there may not be many better options on the market.

Premium Pick
Fujifilm Fujinon XF 50-140mm Lens

This telephoto lens is dustproof, water-resistant, and it also has a low-temperature rating for use in inclement weather or hazardous conditions. It has advanced technology to produce high-resolution images, including five ED lens elements and one super ED lens element. The unique triple linear motor includes a high-speed, extremely quiet autofocus feature. A high-performance gyro sensor provides ultimate image stabilization and superior performance while shooting moving subjects or from a great distance. This lens has a maximum magnification of 0.12x and a maximum aperture of F2.8. Despite its many advanced features, this telephoto lens is still relatively easy to operate.


The only downside to this telephoto lens is its premium price point. However, if you are comfortable with the investment, then there may not be many better options on the market.

Most User-Friendly

The Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm Lens is extremely easy to operate for any photographer, regardless of skill. It features a quality autofocus and vibration reduction image stabilization technology for blur-free results. This telephoto lens is ideal for shooting sports, wildlife, concerts, landmarks, and other subjects from a distance. The compact model also makes an excellent option for recording video clips while on the go or at an event. It has a wide aperture range between f/45-63 to f/32. The lens settings can easily be accessed via the camera menu. 


Keep in mind that this telephoto lens is not compatible with as many camera models as some other telephoto lenses. Confirm online or via Nikon's customer service line that your camera is compatible before purchasing this lens.

Most User-Friendly
Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm Lens

The Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm Lens is extremely easy to operate for any photographer, regardless of skill. It features a quality autofocus and vibration reduction image stabilization technology for blur-free results. This telephoto lens is ideal for shooting sports, wildlife, concerts, landmarks, and other subjects from a distance. The compact model also makes an excellent option for recording video clips while on the go or at an event. It has a wide aperture range between f/45-63 to f/32. The lens settings can easily be accessed via the camera menu. 


Keep in mind that this telephoto lens is not compatible with as many camera models as some other telephoto lenses. Confirm online or via Nikon's customer service line that your camera is compatible before purchasing this lens.

Best Compact

The Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary Lens is another high-quality lens for use in various settings. Despite its compact, lightweight size, this telephoto lens can still capture superb images from a distance. It includes advanced features like a quiet and optimized Hyper Sonic Motor and an improved Optical Stabilizer. The zoom lock switch allows you to lock your shot at any focal length, and a manual override switch is included to improve focus control. Water and oil-repellent coating on the lens allows for simple surface cleaning and maintenance. There is also a dustproof and splash-proof mount for added convenience. It is completely compatible with most camera models: just enter your camera model number online to confirm its compatibility.


This telephoto lens is not as weather-resistant as some other models, so if you plan to shoot in inclement weather, you may want to consider another option.

Best Compact
Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary Lens

The Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary Lens is another high-quality lens for use in various settings. Despite its compact, lightweight size, this telephoto lens can still capture superb images from a distance. It includes advanced features like a quiet and optimized Hyper Sonic Motor and an improved Optical Stabilizer. The zoom lock switch allows you to lock your shot at any focal length, and a manual override switch is included to improve focus control. Water and oil-repellent coating on the lens allows for simple surface cleaning and maintenance. There is also a dustproof and splash-proof mount for added convenience. It is completely compatible with most camera models: just enter your camera model number online to confirm its compatibility.


This telephoto lens is not as weather-resistant as some other models, so if you plan to shoot in inclement weather, you may want to consider another option.

Honorable Mention

The Pentax HD DA 55-300mm Lens is another budget-friendly option, capable of capturing images from a great distance. It is a great option for use by professionals and amateur photographers in a variety of settings. This lens has a fully collapsible design, making it an excellent choice for traveling or shooting on the go. A PLM motor and autofocus feature allow you to capture moving subjects like wildlife or sports with ease. This lens is exceptionally durable, featuring a weather-resistant construction for shooting photos in all types of hazardous conditions. A super-protective coating helps to protect the lens from dust, water, or other inclement weather. 


Some customers have reported issues with the buttons on this telephoto lens, so if you run into any problems, reach out to the company's customer service team for support. 

Honorable Mention
Pentax HD DA 55-300mm Lens

The Pentax HD DA 55-300mm Lens is another budget-friendly option, capable of capturing images from a great distance. It is a great option for use by professionals and amateur photographers in a variety of settings. This lens has a fully collapsible design, making it an excellent choice for traveling or shooting on the go. A PLM motor and autofocus feature allow you to capture moving subjects like wildlife or sports with ease. This lens is exceptionally durable, featuring a weather-resistant construction for shooting photos in all types of hazardous conditions. A super-protective coating helps to protect the lens from dust, water, or other inclement weather. 


Some customers have reported issues with the buttons on this telephoto lens, so if you run into any problems, reach out to the company's customer service team for support. 

Honorable Mention

Don't let the sleek design of the Sony Alpha 70-350mm Super-Telephoto Lens fool you. This telephoto lens can capture some of the sharpest images imaginable. A built-in optical image stabilization feature allows you to easily and quietly bring even the most remote images into focus. The compact, lightweight product is ideal for shooting sports, wildlife, landscapes, and more. The focus hold button is extremely versatile, and it can be programmed to a variety of custom functions. You can instantly and conveniently switch between auto and manual focus as needed via the AF/MF switch on the side of the lens. This telephoto lens is compatible with various camera models, but make sure to confirm that your camera is compatible before purchasing this lens.


Unfortunately, his telephoto lens is not completely dustproof or weather-resistant, so if you plan to use it in inclement weather, you may want to consider another option.

Honorable Mention
Sony Alpha 70-350mm Super-Telephoto Lens

Don't let the sleek design of the Sony Alpha 70-350mm Super-Telephoto Lens fool you. This telephoto lens can capture some of the sharpest images imaginable. A built-in optical image stabilization feature allows you to easily and quietly bring even the most remote images into focus. The compact, lightweight product is ideal for shooting sports, wildlife, landscapes, and more. The focus hold button is extremely versatile, and it can be programmed to a variety of custom functions. You can instantly and conveniently switch between auto and manual focus as needed via the AF/MF switch on the side of the lens. This telephoto lens is compatible with various camera models, but make sure to confirm that your camera is compatible before purchasing this lens.


Unfortunately, his telephoto lens is not completely dustproof or weather-resistant, so if you plan to use it in inclement weather, you may want to consider another option.

Tips

  • 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.

FAQs

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.

Final Thoughts

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.