Medium telephotos

When a short telephoto lens will not give you as large an image as you need from any given distance, a longer lens is called for. A medium telephoto may be the answer. This is a lens whose focal length is anywhere from three to ten times that of a normal optic. For example, a lens with focal length of 150mm to 500mm.

This longer lens is not as useful for general photography as a short telephoto lens. Very few subjects demand this much magnification. However, if you happen to like photographing those which do, you will enjoy working with a lens of this length. A medium telephoto lens will reach out over greater distances to give you large images with rich detail and it will throw backgrounds further out of focus so that subjects stand out from them even more clearly.

Of course, there are also some negative aspects to this lens as compared with a short telephoto lens. It is bigger, heavier, slower (smaller maximum aperture) and much more expensive. Filters are larger and more costly, and you will probably need a tripod for best results most of the time. A medium telephoto lens is definitely a special purpose lens and should be acquired only by someone interested in the kind of subjects t handles so well.

What are some of the subjects for which a medium telephoto lens is appropriate? To some extent they are the same ones that might be covered by a short telephoto lens. The difference is in the required degree of magnification. Children at play, animals at the zoo, or the performers on a stage can all be made to appear large with a medium telephoto lens from the same distance. Or you can be farther away and still obtain an image size comparable to that given by the shorter lens.

There are other subjects areas especially suited to a medium telephoto lens. Outdoor sports are one such area. Baseball, football and soccer pictures lack impact when photographed from the sidelines with a normal lens or sometimes even with a short telephoto lens. On the other hand, a medium telephoto lens can close in on one or two players and capture exciting highlights as though you were out on the field with them. When action is nearby you can get spectacular close ups. But even when it is on the other side of the field, the picture can be filled with players instead of unimportant turf and grandstands.

Wildlife and nature photography, in the wilderness or in a large, cage less Animal Park, is another area where the medium telephoto lens is especially useful. Most animals in the open are shy. They keep a “safe” distance between themselves and humans, a distance that is often too great to be adequately bridged by a shorter lens. Unless you shoot from a car with its motor stopped and gain steadiness from a window frame, a tripod or other support is highly recommended with a medium telephoto lens. A tripod will make stalking an animal on foot more cumbersome, but the sharper, better composed images that result will make the effort worthwhile.

You, along with many other photographers, may be unsure whether to buy a short telephoto lens (which doesn’t produce very large image, but is small, light, fast and hand-hold-able) or a medium telephoto lens (which is bigger, heavier, slower and often requires a tripod but captures large, detailed and impressive images). Specific subject matter sometimes dictates the choice but frequently there is an overlapping area in which either type of lens can function well.

Carefully consider the kinds of subjects you will be photographing most and the amount of enlargement needed in your prints. Then examine and try various lenses which seem suitable.


More about telephotos lenses

- Short Telephotos Lens
- Long Telephotos Lens
- Mirror Lenses and Telescopes
- Tele Extender
- Characteristics of Tele Lenses

- Tips on how to handle long lenses