What Is The Difference Between Telephoto lens And Zoom Lens?

Are you into photography and sure the best lens to have in your camera? This happens, especially for beginners. With the cost of photography cameras on the high, you need to make the right decision!

One of the debated topics in photography right now is the difference between these lenses. Which one is the best?

Zoom lenses come with a variable focal length. Telephoto lenses feature fixed focal length. Zoom lenses are versatile and used in dynamic photography. Telephoto lenses are ideal for static images.

If you’re a beginner, zoom lenses are the best since they are cheaper and offer versatility. However, professional photographers must use  telephoto lenses. It is worth noting that zoom lenses can be telephoto lenses, while telephoto lenses cannot be zoom lenses.

Let’s dive in and understand their differences, advantages, disadvantages, and the best to use.

Telephoto Lens

A telephoto lens is a type of zoom lens that has a relatively long focal length and a wide-angle of view. This means that you can get closer to your subject, but it also means that objects further away will be smaller in size.

The longer the focal length, the more magnification power you have. A 100mm f/2.8 lens would give you about 1:1 magnification with an object at infinity. If you use a 200mm f/4 lens, you will get 2x magnification. With 300mm f/5.6, you will get 4x magnification.

Telephoto Lens

Telephoto lenses are generally used for taking pictures of sports or wildlife while having a wider angle of view allows you to capture landscapes.

The lenses have a fixed focal length, so they do not zoom like prime lenses. They are often called “fixed-focal” lenses because their focal lengths stay constant throughout the zoom range.

Telephoto Lenses Advantage And Disadvantage


The main advantage of using a telephoto lens is that it gives you a very narrow depth of field, which makes it easier to isolate one element from the background. It’s perfect for macro photography.

However, if you want to take photos of people, you may find it difficult to focus on them when there is something else close by, such as a tree, building, or other objects. You might need to use a tripod.

Telephoto Lenses Advantage

The lens also ensures the greater distance between you and your subjects. This is important in wildlife photography, where some animals can charge. You can observe distant objects without getting closer.

The lens can also create contrasting focuses between the background and the foreground. This way, you can use them for artistic purposes.


The first main disadvantage of telephoto lenses is that they doesn’t allow you to see the whole scene at once. When you’re shooting fast action scenes, you’ll notice that things move out of focus.

Also, since you’re focusing on a small part of the scene, you won’t be able to get a good sense of how everything looks together.

Telephoto Lenses Disadvantages

Secondly, the lens’s aperture also remains closed during the entire zooming process. You don’t have any control over the light entering the camera. So, you can’t change the exposure settings while you’re zoomed in. In addition, the image quality decreases as you zoom in.

Thirdly, telephoto lenses tend to cost more than normal lenses. The lenses are also heavy and bulky compared to the zoom lens.

Zoom Lenses

A zoom lens is a photography lens that allows you to zoom in on the subject. This type of lens has two focal lengths, long and short. The longer focal length gives you a broader view of your subject, while the shorter focal length allows you to get closer to it.

Zoom Lenses

When using this type of lens, you can shoot at different distances from your subject. The lens makes it possible to focus on subjects at varying distances without adjusting the lenses. They are versatile lenses suitable for beginners.

A zoom camera for carp fishing photos is the best choice giving you excellent control on the boat or riverbank. You can easily zoom in and out and get precise fish photos.

Advantage And Disadvantage OF Zoom Lens

The lens makes it possible to focus on subjects at varying distances without adjusting the lenses. They are versatile lenses suitable for beginners.

Advantage And Disadvantage OF Zoom Lens

  • A wide range of focal lengths is available
  • Fast-focusing speed and easy to use
  • Compact size, thus portable
  • Affordable because of the low cost
  • Good image quality
  • Versatile and can be used with most cameras
  • No need to change filters
  • Suitable for beginner photographers
  • Not good for professional work because of low resolution
  • Difficult to control when zooming
  • Heavyweight

What Is The Difference Between Telephoto And Zoom Lens?

This is a common question for everyone looking to buy some photography lenses.

What Is The Difference Between Telephoto And Zoom Lens

Basic Difference

A basic difference between the lenses is their focal lengths. A zoom lens features a variable focal lengths, while a telephoto lens features a fixed focal lengths. The lengths are usually greater than 50mm.

Difference In Photography

The focal length differences affect how you take photos. A zoom lens is suitable for dynamic photography due to the varying focal length. A telephoto lens, on the other hand, works best for static photography.

If you’re a beginner photographer, consider a zoom lens since they give you versatility. You can take different pictures from the same point by zooming in one and taking a second in a normal frame.

A telephoto lens can bring the scene closer and get super sharp images. This is why they are preferred by professionals. A telephoto lens can deliver a crisp and sharp image with a good depth of view.

Get to Know: Differences Between Samyang Vs Rokinon?

Zoom Vs. Telephoto Lens – Which Lens Should I Use?

Choosing between a zoom lens and a telephoto lens comes down to your budget and purpose. It can be overwhelming for a beginner to decide which lens to use.

If you’re starting and have limited resources, then consider a zoom lens. Zoom lenses are versatile and can double up as telephoto lenses. You can change the field of view in  zoom lenses an make imahes larger or small.

Zoom Vs. Telephoto Lens

However, a zoom lens might not capture crispier and sharper photos than a telephoto lens. If you’re a professional photographer, then consider using a telephoto lens.

Telephoto lenses are good when taking photos from a fixed point. Telephoto lenses are not common as most people prefer versatility. It comes down to trading crispier and sharper shots over versatility.

Overall, the ideal lens to use comes down to what best works for you. If you have the budget, then buy both lenses. I prefer zoom lenses over telephoto due to the versatility they offer.

However, when I focus on a single subject and need crispier images, I use a telephoto lens.

Bottom Line

Well, that’s it from me! Now you know the basic difference between a zoom lens and a telephoto lens. Knowing the differences between the lenses and how they affect photography is essential.

It can help you make a wise purchase decision. For professionals, having both lenses makes sense. However, if you’re just starting, choose a zoom lens.

Michael Jordan

Hello, I am Michael Jordan. I’m the founder and the chief editor of this Wise Photographer. I’m a journalist and hobbyist photographer. Because of my profession and studies, research with the camera, and its relevant tools, I’ve gathered some knowledge on it. Now, I’ve created this “Wise Photographer” site to share my knowledge and experience with the people looking for a guideline for purchasing cameras.

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