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Old May 27, 2009, 9:17 AM   #1
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Default New to SLR - Zoom vs. Telephoto Zoom

Hello Everyone,

I am quite new to the SLR scene and I was wondering what the difference between Zoom vs. Telephoto Zoom is. I know telephoto has one focal length???? and zoom has many???? I think thats correct.

Can someone explain the difference. Which is better? Is it better to go with a telephoto only? Or does it matter what I will be shooting.

Thank you very much.
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Old May 27, 2009, 1:22 PM   #2
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OK, lets clear up the confusion here.

Zoom refers to any lens of any size that has the ability to 'zoom' between focal lengths.

You then have prime, or fixed focal length lenses. These are usually higher optical quality then a zoom lens as they are not so complicated but the downside is you need more of them to cover shooting needs.

Telephoto is in reference to the length of a lens. Telephoto being long. I'm not sure where telephoto would officially start but I generally think of it as anything over 60mm. You also have standard lenses which I think of as 40, 50, 60mm and then wide is anything wider than this.

So a telephoto zoom would be something like a 70-200mm.

Hope that helps.
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Old May 27, 2009, 9:29 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark1616 View Post
...You also have standard lenses which I think of as 40, 50, 60mm ...
This was correct back a quarter century ago in the old film days. These days things are different.

Normal - a lens with a focal length close to the diagonal measure of the image format (digital sensor or film). With 35mm film and the so called "full frame" digital cameras, this is roughly 40-50mm. With the common "cropped sensor" (APS-c or Nikon's DX) it would be roughly 28-30mm. On the Panasonic/Olympus 4/3 and micro4/3 format, Normal would be 20-25mm due to their slightly smaller sensors.

Telephoto - in common usage, a lens with a focal length noticably longer than Normal. If you get picky with an optical engineer you'll find that the proper term, in general, is "long focus" with "telephoto" being reserved for a special class of long focus lenses that are physically shorter than their optical focal length. Almost no one makes this distinction unless discussing the internal optical design and its impact on the physical size of the lens.

Wide Angle - a lens with a focal length noticably shorter than Normal.

Standard - whatever is commonly sold with the camera as a starter lens. In "olden days" 35mm film cameras had 40-55mm lenses as either their fixed lens or the starter lens sold with an SLR body. Today, the ubiquitous 18-55mm "kit" lens is effectively the Standard lens, but "Kit" is used more than "Standard".

Zoom - a lens that can vary in focal length by operating a control on the lens or body. Technically, the proper word for this in general is "varifocal", with "zoom" being reserved for special varifocals that not only change focal length but don't shift focus in the process. Today, many so called zooms actually fail to hold focus well (they almost do) when "zoomed" but since they are almost always used with autofocus, the necessary refocusing need after a focal length change goes unnoticed by the user.

Wide-angle Zoom & Telephoto Zoom - an informal way of saying that the particular lens is a zoom where its whole range of focal lengths are either wide-angle or telephoto.

You'll find some confusion when reading the lens maker's lens descriptions when lenses are shared between bodies with different formats. If a lens is optically designed to cover the 35mm film and "full frame" sensor format but can be used on a cropped sensor camera as well (common in Nikon's and Canon's lens line) you will find that the manufacturer classes the lens as "wide angle", or whatever, based on its useage on the larger format. A 28mm non-zoom (aka "prime" or "fixed focal length") Nikkor lens will be labeled "wide angel" as it acts like one on the larger format. If used on their smaller DX format DSLRs, it is in effect a Normal lens.
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Old Feb 20, 2013, 12:16 AM   #4
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"Telephoto - in common usage, a lens with a FIXED focal length noticeably longer..."

Standard lens - The 50mm lens was considered standard because when viewing objects through the viewfinder using this lens, they do not appear larger or smaller than to the naked eye.
Wider angle (e.g. 28mm) lenses make objects appear smaller while focal lengths greater than 50mm make objects appear larger than normal.
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Old Feb 22, 2013, 2:29 PM   #5
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Ahhhhh - g'day all

Courtesy of "Photographic Optics, Arthur Cox, Focal Press"

The telephoto lens was developed in the 1890s, mainly by Dallmeyer in England. The main idea was to have a lens with a long focal length and at the same time having a short back focus ......"

In other words, a lens whose 'physical' length was shorter than its 'optical' length ~ a 500mm lens which could be measured at (say) 300mm to 400mm was a 'telephoto', whereas a 500mm lens that measured at 500mm was then dubbed a 'long' lens

The same design principles are well used today with our current zoom lenses - and optical designers 'play-the-numbers-game' with physical size vs optical performance in order to give us things like 100-300mm or 18-200mm or whatever lenses that are physically shorter than their longest focal length and a damn sight sharper than the lenses of 25 years ago

And still we're not happy [well some of us anyway]

Regards, Phil
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Old Feb 24, 2013, 9:42 AM   #6
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This thread is really old, form back in 2009
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Old Feb 24, 2013, 2:12 PM   #7
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G'day ST

Yeah - thankx mate .... didn't spot that - I wonder whether it's one of the many 'new starter / spam' messages that turn up from time to time

Maybe our OP can enliven us...

Regards, Phil
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