Telephoto Lens Vs Telescope

Telephoto Lens Vs Telescope: Which To Choose


Telephoto lens and telescope, in their core, are both used for taking pictures of distant objects. Telephoto lenses are pretty commonly seen with camera owners. But telescopes are still used by niche users. 

So the usage is similar. But what creates the debate telephoto lens vs telescope?

Telephoto lenses and telescopes both serve their purpose perfectly. Telescopes are apt for astrophotography. They have large magnification and better image quality of magnification. Telephoto lenses are much easier to use and carry. They are very good wildlife photography and other sectors.

Still confused on which lens is good for you? We have done the research for you. Just follow us to this article and find out!

General Comparison Between Telephoto lens and Telescope

Telescopes and telephoto lenses are both camera equipment for taking pictures. Both excel at taking pictures of distant objects. But they are not the same. 

Before we can suggest any of the two, we have to tell you where they differ. The differences between telephoto lens and telescopes are highlighted below:

Differences Telephoto Lens Telescope
Magnification Low Very High
Setup Easy Difficult
Focus Length 60mm or more Between 400 and 3000 mm
Focusing Faster Slower
Transporting Easy Difficult
Fields Used In Wildlife Photography, Astrography, Cinematography Mainly Astrography
Price Comparatively Inexpensive Expensive

So we can see that there are quite a few characteristics differentiating the two. 

In-Depth Comparison 

Now we are aware of the differences between telephoto lenses and telescopes. But the differences have more to do with them. And without properly understanding the differences, we cannot make a choice between them. 

So now let’s look into the nuances between telephoto lenses and telescopes. Hopefully along the way we will be able to help you make a decision. 


Magnification is the ratio of the height of an image to the height of the object. Simply put, it is what magnifies or makes the far away objects bigger for us to see. Better magnification will result in us getting better pictures of distant objects. 

Telephoto Lenses

The magnification of telephoto lenses is generally not that high. 

The most common X magnification range of telephoto lenses are 1.4x and 2x magnification. There are some 1.7x and 3x magnification lenses as well.

Telephoto lenses do have enough magnification to take pictures of objects in space. But the photos will not be of the best quality. At high magnification, the image of telephoto lenses gets slightly unsteady. 


Telescope lenses are well known for their unbelievably high magnification. The images provided by telescopes have amazing image quality even on highly magnified targets. 

The X magnification of telescopes vary widely. Some have a magnification of 167x or even more.

Note that magnification is not related to aperture in any way. The apertures of telescopes play no role here.

Winner: Purely based on terms of magnification, the winner is telescopes. But we have to remember that higher magnification is not always better. So there are many instances where the telephoto lens, with less magnification, may be better.

Focus Length

In physics, the focus length is the distance of the focal point from the center of the lens.

For cameras, longer focal length is good for isolating texture and distant features. It also creates dramatic backgrounds.

Wide focal length helps bring the entire scene into focus. It is better for taking pictures of landscapes.

Telephoto Lenses

Telephoto lenses have focal lengths of 60 mm or more. There are telephoto lenses that go well above 300 mm of focus length.

Telephoto lenses with wildlife photography sometimes require lenses with high focal length. Sports photographers are also seen using such lenses. 


Telescopes have a really long focus length. The purpose of telescopes is to observe really distant objects. So the longer focus length is absolutely necessary .

The focus length of telescopes generally range from 400 to 3000 mm. This high focus length lets telescopes look really far and take pictures of outer space objects. 

But the high focus length handicaps telescopes’ capabilities of taking close pictures.

Winner: Telescopes win in terms of having a longer focal length. This allows telescopes to take pictures of distant objects. But the high focal length also makes telescopes incapable of taking pictures of near objects. Which telephoto lenses can. 

Setup And Transporting

For photographers, the process of setup and difficulty in traveling matter much. Taking too long can make you lose the perfect shot. Or traveling hassle may make you unable to get to the spot in the first place. 

Telephoto Lenses

Telephoto lenses are normal in size. The lenses with exceptionally long focus length are of very big sizes though. Apart from that, most telephoto lenses can be carried in bags. 

Setting up telephoto lenses is pretty easy. They can be quickly set up and easily mounted. 


Telescopes are heavy and large. So traveling with them isn’t quite as easy. On the other hand, they require you to carry extra equipment as well. 

Winner: Telephoto lenses are easier to travel with and easier to set up. 


The importance of properly focusing on the object needs not be mentioned. So faster focusing is pretty useful. 

Telephoto Lenses

Telephoto lenses can focus pretty fast. Finding the object and focusing on it is really simple with telephoto lenses. The lens takes beautiful pictures that have maximum sharpness.

The ease of focusing makes telephoto lenses excel in wildlife photography and other sectors.


Telescopes are basic rigs and are hand operated. So hand operated focusing can take time for even the most experienced of photographers. 

Telescopes often take several seconds for the image to stabilize. Adjusting and reviewing the focus ultimately might take a few minutes.

Winner: Telephoto lenses are easier and faster to focus.

Final Verdict

For astrography, telescopes are the best choice for you. In all other fields, the versatility of the telephoto lens makes it better.

You can take good pictures of outer space using telephoto lenses. Sometimes the ease of use might make the telephoto lens a better option for astrography. But overall, telescopes take much better pictures of outer space bodies. 

Telescopes are not suited for anything else apart from astrography. On the other hand, Telephoto lenses can be used in many fields of photography.

There are many telephoto lenses and telescopes available in the market. The sheer number of choices may be overwhelming. So here are the telephoto lens and telescope we recommend: 

Category For Whom Product Where To Get Them
Telescope Beginner Orion SkyQuest XT6 Amazon
Professional Orion 8-Inch Newtonian Astrograph Amazon
Telephoto Lens Canon Users Canon EF 70-300mm Amazon
Nikon Users Nikon NIKKOR 70-300mm Amazon


How Many Glass Elements Telescopes Have?

Telescopes generally have 2-4  glass elements in them. Normal photo lenses may have 15-20. Having more glass elements offers better control over optical defects. But more glass elements causes more refraction and scattering of light. That may cause flares and lower the contrast.

Can Telescopes Be Used For Regular Photography?

Telescopes cannot generally be used for regular photography. They have really high focal lengths that require objects to be really really far from the camera. Telescopes also have less glass elements, making it much harder to control optical deflects. 

What Are Telephoto Lenses Used For?

A telephoto lens has longer focal length than other lenses. This makes it ideal for situations where photographers cannot get close to the object. These lenses can also serve artistic purposes. They can create contrasting focuses between foreground and background.


Now we know more about the debate of telephoto lens vs telescope. Both are spectacular pieces of technology that serve their purposes perfectly. 

Telescopes are more apt for astrophotographers. While telephone lenses may have an appeal to a wider audience. Based on your usage, you can pick any of the two. 

That’s it for today!

Orion SkyQuest XT6 Classic Dobsonian Telescope Kit

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Canon Cameras US EF 70-300 is II USM 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Fixed Zoom Camera Lens, Black (0571C005)

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Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED IF AF-S VR Nikkor Zoom Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

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