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Telephoto lens advice

Telephoto lens advice


What is a telephoto lens?

To put it simply, a telephoto lens is a lens that brings subjects up close. The focal length starts here at 80mm and has no real upper limit. Increasing the focal length changes the depth of an image significantly. The further the focal length moves into the telephoto range, the blurrier the background becomes and the larger the background becomes compared to the subject.

The area of ​​application

There are different areas of application for telephoto lenses, which depend somewhat on the actual focal length . A lot is possible between 80 and over 1000mm focal length .

Telephoto lens for portrait

The effect that telephoto lenses bring with them makes them great for portraits. They separate the person very well from the background and provide significantly more blurring in the background. You have to go a little farther away than you have to with a wide angle or normal lens , but you can clearly see the difference.

As you can see in the example images, increasing the focal length gives you significantly less background on the image. The second effect is the blurring. Although the picture was taken at 200mm with aperture 5, the background looks blurred and the subject stands out much better. However, since it is difficult to photograph a portrait at 200mm and there is often simply no space for this, a telephoto focal length between 80 and 130mm is often used in portrait photography .

Standard telephoto lens

The standard telephoto lens is in the focal length range up to 200mm and is used in travel, nature and sports photography. In this focal length range, you remain unnoticed as a photographer and can simply bring distant subjects closer. When buying, it is worth paying attention to a large open aperture and an image stabilizer, but more on that later.

Super telephoto lens

The super telephoto lens goes far beyond 200mm and is intended for large distances between the subject and the photographer. If something is very far away, it is worth using a super telephoto. The longer the focal length, of course, the stronger the effects that you get through the telephoto lens.

The cons / limitations

There is actually nothing in photography that has only advantages. It is of course the same with the telephoto lens.

Exposure time

The larger the focal length , the faster the exposure time has to be in order not to blur the image. In theory, as explained in the article on the exposure time , at 600mm, for example, 1/600 sec. That is extremely fast, especially in poor light situations, and naturally makes the picture dark. As a result, we usually have to go up with the ISO value or use a tripod.

An image stabilizer can of course also help here and so you can take photos with your free hand with 1/250 of a second, as in this example.


If you want to take photos from the free hand, you should be aware of one thing. Telephoto lenses are extremely heavy. Yes, not all of them, but you can quickly achieve a decent weight and of course a corresponding size that is not exactly easy to transport.

A tripod is extremely helpful here and you can take pictures of yourself in one place and from there. You can get close enough because of the long focal length .


If you don’t feel like taking a huge telephoto lens everywhere with you, I have a tip for you. Use a teleconverter. With a telecoverter, the focal length can be extended, but this has disadvantages. I already said: everything has its disadvantages. Depending on the converter, the lens loses 1-2 stops of light intensity.

However, you can combine these and turn a fast 100mm lens into a 200 or even 400mm lens very quickly.

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Normal lens advice

In photography and cinematography, a normal lens is a lens that reproduces a field of view that appears “natural” to a human observer.

The normal lens is a lens with a normal angle of view. This is approximately in the range of 40 to 50 ° or 40 – 60mm. But what is a normal angle of view? Think about how you perceive the world. Now try to transfer it to the camera. You don’t see the world very far, but you don’t see the world very narrowly either. You perceive your world as “normal”. This is exactly what a normal lens should be, but let me go into a little more detail here.

Normal lens vs. human eye

Theoretically, a normal person perceives approx. 180 ° diagonally. That’s an incredible amount. There are also lenses that can depict this, but this causes extreme distortion (fisheye). So we do not perceive the world with our full 180 ° field of view, but always concentrate on one area. You are probably reading this text on a monitor and concentrating on it. What happens in the corner of your eye is blurred.

So it is difficult to get two movable eyes into the field of view of a photo, but it works best with an angle of view between 40 & 50 °. The image doesn’t look too wide (wide-angle lens ), but also not too narrow (telephoto lens)

In all of the sample images in this post, it looks like the person is standing in front of you. That is exactly the effect of a normal lens. Everything looks normal 😉

Use of normal lenses

Normal lenses are most commonly used in portrait photography. Of course you can also photograph other subjects with the focal length range, but they are best suited for portraits due to their natural effect.

Fixed focal length for beginners

I recommend a prime lens for beginners in this area. It gives a better feeling for perception and you neither get too much nor too little on the picture. It is best to use a 50mm lens here. Thanks to their almost symmetrical construction, these lenses are inexpensive, light and powerful, and perfect for beginners in photography.

With this lens you are forced to concentrate on your subject and the composition of your picture and you cannot “zoom in” on the world.

Buy recommendation 50mm fixed focal length

Canon: EF 50mm F / 1.8 STM *
Nikon: NIKKOR 50mm 1: 1.8G
Sony: SEL-50F18F 50mm F / 1.8 *

Photo with the 50mm 1.8 from Canon

Special feature of CROP sensors

There is a special feature with CROP sensors (APS-C or Micro 4/3). These sensors are significantly smaller than full format. Full frame sensors are used as an output for calculating the focal length . The actual focal length does not change with an image sensor, but the effect of the image and the relation between camera, subject and background do.

That’s why I recommend a wider focal length when using an APS-C camera. Almost all entry-level cameras have an APS-C sensor

That’s why I used a 35mm on an APS-C camera very quickly in my early days.

Of course, I also have a few recommendations for your APS-C camera.

Canon * – Nikon * – Sony *

PS Even with full format, 35mm sometimes work much better than 50mm, even if it is actually too angular to pass as a normal lens. Just give it a try 😉