Telephoto focal lengths

Telephoto lenses have a 35mm equivalent focal length longer than 60 mm. Due to the crop factor on many digital cameras; the 35mm equivalent focal length is usually greater than the indicated values on the lens.

When creating an image the components that are especially important are the telephoto lenses characteristically shallow depth of field, the shortening effect on objects at different distances and long distance image capturing option.


  • Sport
  • Animals
  • Portraits
  • To achieve certain effects

Special features

  • Shallow depth of field
    • This can be used to deliberately create blurring. It is often used in portrait photography. Can also deliver interesting results in architectual and landscape photography (see example image below). 
  • High risk of blurring
    • A relatively high shutter speed for hand held images is required to achieve blur-free images (reciprocal formula). A tripod and / or an image stabiliser can be useful for images captured using telephoto lenses.
  • Great distances for capturing images are possible
    • The option to capture objects in full format at a distance using telephoto focal lenses make these focal lengths well suited for e.g. sport or animal photography. 
  • Shortening effect of objects in succession
    • Objects that are in a row, one behind the other, are the same size and in contrast to a wide angle lens are depicted as being almost (depending on the focal length) the same size.

Important! – When buying a camera, check the camera’s optical zoom. The zoom enables images to be captured at different focal lengths without greatly reducing image quality. The main selling point for many cameras on the market in the telephoto area is the digital zoom. Digital zooming reduces image quality and is only an image trimming and better results can usually be achieved by post-processing.

The following image was captured in Corsica. It shows the characteristic shallow depth of field of long telephoto focal lengths. While the branch in the foreground is in focus, the sailing boat is blurred almost unrecognisably. The diaphragm was 1:7.1 and the focal length 350mm. In correlation with the camera used, it results in a 35mm equivalent focal length of 560mm. The saturated blue of the sea can be attributed to a polarising filter.

Korsika Meer und Segelschiff - Geringe Tiefenschärfe bei Teleobjektiven

The image below was captured at the beach at a great distance. A lens with 400mm focal length was used. In correlation with the camera used, it results in a 35mm equivalent focal length of 640mm. To capture the image, a monopod and the lens-internal image stabiliser was used.

Surfer Italien - Tele-Brennweite 400mm

Here is another example of telephoto image. The depth of field’s course can easily be distinguished and the compressing effect of long focal lengths can be seen clearly. The people appear to be almost the same size despite the distance to the camera increasing.


Galata Bridge (Galata Köprüsü) – Golden Horn – Istanbul 2005
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