What Is Telephoto? A SImple Guide 

what is telephoto

Whether you’re a newbie looking for some basic information or a seasoned photographer on the fence about what kind of telephoto to opt for, our guide will provide you with answers. 

We will cover anything from “What is telephoto?”, “What is telephoto on Samsung?” to “What are the best telephoto lenses for iPhone?”.

Without further ado, let’s begin!

What is a Telephoto Lens?

A telephoto lens is a type of long-focus lens characterised by being psychically shorter than the focal length. It is used to photograph subjects that are at a distance from the camera and additionally enlarge the image for clarity. The lens is considered telephoto if it has a focal length of 60mm or longer

A telephoto lens can be attached to either an SLR or DSLR camera, and some can even be used on smartphone cameras.

What Is a Telephoto Lens Used For?

A telephoto lens is used to zoom in and make the subject appear closer than it actually is. Wildlife photographers especially benefit from this kind of lens as they’re not able to get physically close to their subjects due to disruption to nature and safety concerns.

Purchasing a telephoto lens is an excellent choice if you’re planning on diving into professional photography. The focal lengths on the telephoto lens are popular for portrait photography, and high-quality images if you are planning to sell products online. The telephoto lens is especially useful for events with big crowds, as it will allow you to capture the scenery in its entirety. 

Furthermore, Moon lovers will appreciate the telephoto lens’ ability to seize all the details not visible to our naked eye. So, photographing the Moon up close and diving into astrophotography won’t be such a challenging task.

What Are the Different Types of Telephoto Lenses?

Telephoto lenses are divided into three categories according to their focal lengths:

1. Short Telephoto Lens

  • Ranges from 85mm to 135mm
  • Lightweight and easy to handle
  • Used for portraits, events, and artistic photography 

One such lens is Canon EF 85mm F/1.4L IS USM Short Telephoto Lens. The product costs around $2,400, depending on the retailer.

2. Medium Telephoto Lens

  • Ranges from 135mm to 300mm
  • Heavier and longer
  • Used for sports and wildlife photography due to the outstanding zoom 

Canon EF 135mm F2L USM is a fine example of a medium telephoto lens. In Australia, the price range for this product is $1,400 – $1,800.

3. Super Telephoto Lens

  • Focal lengths beyond 300mm
  • Marked with shallow depth of field
  • Used for wildlife photography 

A great example of a super telephoto lens is the Nikon 180-400mm Super Zoom lens. The average price of this particular lens is around $20,000.

Telephoto lenses also differ in the way they can achieve a focal length that’s larger than their psychical length:

  • Refractive lenses contain two lens elements. The purpose of the first element is to bend the light, while the second element straightens it out before it even hits the film or sensor. In this way, a zoomed image is produced.
  • Mirror lenses have a curved mirror that reflects back the light. Then the light hits the second mirror, which causes it to bounce back to the sensor, creating magnification.

What Is a Telephoto on iPhone?

Some models of the iPhone come with a built-in telephoto lens, which significantly elevates the quality of the images. Nevertheless, if your iPhone doesn’t have one, you can buy a clip-on telephoto lens, which is a great alternative. Once you do that, you can slide the clip-on lens on your iPhone’s camera and capture incredible shots. 

If you’re wondering: “What are the best telephoto lenses for iPhone?” here are a few examples.

1. Moment Tele Lens – 58mm

The Moment Tele Lens of 58mm will double the quality of the zoom feature on your iPhone and make your portraits and landscape look better than ever. Not to mention fashion and adventure Instagram profiles will stand out with the high-quality glass pictures, considering that posting pictures or clips was only the fifth most common SM activity among polled adult Aussies. However, it’s not the best for capturing fast-moving objects such as kids and pets.

2. Sirui Portrait Lens

Sirui Portrait Lens has a focal length of 60mm, a bit better than the Moment Tele lens. Moreover, you don’t have to buy a case, as Sirui Portrait Lens can be clipped on the edge of the iPhone. Though this lens doesn’t come close to the quality of the built-in lens, you can still get solidly sharp pictures. 

3. Apexel High Power 36x HD

The Apexel High Power stuns with its 36x focal length, bringing closer the subject located as far as 8000m away. On top of that, it can be used as a standalone telescopic lens, making it perfect for Moon watching. It’s a small investment if you want to dabble in astrophotography. However, due to its size, it’s impractical to carry around.

4. Sevenka 6-in-1 Lens Kit 

If you’re on a budget, then the Sevenka kit is a perfect choice for you. This kit includes six lenses and an 18x telephoto lens. You can buy the entire kit for around $50, and the photo quality is in correspondence with the product price. 

5. Xenvo Pro Lens Kit

The Xenvo Pro Lens Kit comes with a GlowClip LED light clip that can be clipped anywhere on your phone. In addition, the TruGrip lens clip has superior gripping power and can bind the lens to your phone while you’re taking photos in action. It comes with a quick-release lanyard and a travel case, so you can carry it while travelling.

What Is a Telephoto on Samsung?

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra has one of the best telephoto lenses currently available. It has two 10-megapixel telephoto cameras, one offering a 3x optical zoom and the other a 10x optical zoom.

With the cameras outlined above, it can provide shots zoomed up to 100 times. If you’re aiming at making close-up shots, the 3x optical zoom will come in handy. The 10x zoom is better for photographing objects in the distance, although they could come out blurry during nighttime.

Other smartphones with great telephoto lenses are the Vivo X70 Pro with its 5x periscope lens and the Huawei P50 Pro with a 3.5x periscope lens.

Is a Telephoto Lens Worth It?

If you’re a true photography lover and you want to take your shots to the next level, you already know the answer to the question, “Is a telephoto lens worth it?”. With a good telephoto lens, you will be able to do anything from taking close-up photos of the wildlife to bringing more depth to images when capturing intimate moments. 

Bottom Line

While telephoto lenses can be a bit pricey depending on the type and model you opt for, they are a great way of elevating the quality of the shots. These lenses are an excellent choice for photographers that can’t be physically close to the subjects of their photographs. Additionally, the telephoto lens may also be of great value for shooting intimate events, as the lens adds depth to the images.


1. Is telephoto the same as zoom?

A zoom lens has a changeable focal length and is used for dynamic photography. In contrast, a telephoto lens has a fixed focal length greater than 60 mm and is used for shooting distant objects without physically moving.

2. What is the difference between a wide-angle vs telephoto lens?

Wide-angle lenses allow you to capture more of the scene, providing depth of field. On the other hand, telephoto lenses put the subject in focus while blurring the background. 

Therefore, wide-angle lenses are suitable for a wider field of view, making the objects look smaller. Telephoto lenses have a narrower field of view, making the background objects appear more prominent. 

3. What does a telephoto lens do?

Telephoto lenses are great for shooting distant scenes and objects. For a detailed explanation and an overview of some of the best products, read our “What Is Telephoto?” comprehensive guide.

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