Reolink - Be Prepared, Be Reolink

Macro vs. Telephoto Lens: 2024 Full Comparison


In the ever-evolving world of photography, two types of lenses have consistently captured the imagination of enthusiasts and professionals alike: macro and telephoto lenses. These two lens categories cater to distinct yet equally fascinating aspects of photography, allowing photographers to delve into the intricate details of tiny subjects or capture distant scenes with astonishing clarity.

In this article, we will delve into the fundamental differences between macro and telephoto lenses, exploring their unique features and applications. Let's start!

Macro vs. Telephoto Lens: Key Differences

Macro and telephoto lenses are two distinct types of camera lenses that serve different purposes in photography. Macro lenses are crafted specifically for close-up photography, enabling them to focus far shorter distances than standard lenses. On the other hand, telephoto lenses are characterized by their longer focal lengths, which result in a narrower field of view and the appearance of magnification.

Aspects Macro lens Telephoto lens
Focusing Distance Extremely close to capture small details Variable, primarily for distant subjects
Magnification High, often 1:1 or greater Moderate, not as extreme as macro lenses
Depth of Field Shallow when focused closely Deeper, more of the scene can be in focus
Primary Purpose Close-up photography of small subjects Distant subjects, wildlife, and sports
Focal Length Range Varied, typically 35mm to 200mm Longer focal lengths, often 70mm and up
Background Blur Pronounced bokeh due to shallow depth of field Bokeh present, but not as intense as macro
Angle of View Wider due to shorter focal lengths Narrower due to longer focal lengths
Subject Examples Insects, flowers, textures, small objects Wildlife, sports, distant scenes
Field of Expertise Close-up and intricate details Distant subjects and isolating subjects

Basic of Macro and Telephoto Lens

Now, let's see the details of Macro and Telephoto Lens.

What is the Macro Lens?

Macro lenses are purpose-built for capturing incredibly close-up and detailed photographs, often used to depict subjects like insects or flowers with intricate textures.

A true macro lens achieves a 1:1 magnification ratio, signifying that the subject appears at life-size on the camera's sensor. It produces a genuine-to-life image of the subject. Additionally, certain macro lenses can push magnification even further, reaching ratios like 2:1 or even as high as 5:1. However, such advanced magnifications are typically found in professional-grade lenses with premium pricing.

One of the standout features of macro lenses is their notably shorter minimum focusing distance. This allows you to get exceptionally close to your subject from the start. Furthermore, macro lenses tend to offer a wider maximum aperture compared to telephoto lenses, which offer greater control over the depth of field. This, coupled with the 1:1 magnification, enables superior close-up shots of minuscule portions of your subject.

What is the Telephoto Lens?

A telephoto lens is designed to bring subjects closer in appearance than their actual distance. These lenses are generally categorized into two primary groups: medium telephoto (around 70 mm to 200 mm) and super telephoto (300 mm or greater).

Usually, telephoto lenses have a relatively far minimum focusing distance. This means that they aren't suitable for capturing subjects up close, and they're generally not ideal for macro photography. Additionally, telephoto lenses typically offer lower magnification capabilities compared to macro lenses.

Telephoto lenses come in both fixed focal length and variable focal length (zoom) versions. Fixed focal length lenses demand the photographer to maintain a specific distance from the subject, while zoom lenses permit altering this distance. Many zoom lenses also feature autofocus, automatically focusing on the subject. However, some lenses necessitate manual focusing by the photographer.

Macro vs Telephoto Lens: Pros and Cons

Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of both macro and telephoto lenses is crucial for choosing the appropriate lens for your specific photographic needs. Here's a comparison of the pros and cons of these two types of lenses.

Macro lens: Pros and cons


  • Extreme close-Ups: Due to the shorter minimum focusing distance, macro lenses excel at capturing intricate details of small subjects, allowing you to photograph textures, patterns, and fine details that might not be visible to the naked eye.
  • Greater magnification: Macro lenses provide high magnification ratios, often achieving a 1:1 ratio, where the subject is reproduced at life-size on the camera sensor.
  • Wider maximum apertures: Wider maximum apertures are a common feature of true macro lenses, often at f/2.8 or wider. This aperture size empowers you to exercise greater control over the depth of field, enabling you to pinpoint specific aspects of your subject for focused attention.


  • Portability: Because of their necessary optical elements and design, macro lenses typically have larger dimensions compared to standard prime lenses, which might make them a bit less convenient to carry around.
  • Higher cost: True macro lenses can be expensive due to their complex optics and precision in achieving high magnification ratios.

Telephoto lens: Pros and cons


  • Distance compression: Telephoto lenses bring distant subjects closer, making them ideal for wildlife, sports, and capturing scenes that are hard to access physically.
  • Various styles: Telephoto lenses offer versatility across various photography styles and can swiftly adapt to the photographer's requirements.


  • Smaller maximum apertures: Standard telephoto lenses usually feature a narrower maximum aperture, often around f/4. This narrower aperture can limit your ability to control shutter speeds effectively and might affect their low-light performance.

Macro vs Telephoto Lens: Which One Should You Use?

Choosing between a macro and a telephoto lens depends on your photography goals and the subjects you plan to capture. To help you make an informed decision, let's explore when each type of lens is most suitable.

When to use a macro lens?

  • Close-up photography: Macro lenses excel in capturing the intricate details of small subjects like insects, flowers, and miniature objects.
  • Product photography: Macro lenses are suitable for capturing close-up shots of small products, highlighting their textures and details.

When to use a telephoto lens?

  • Wildlife photography: Telephoto lenses are widely used in wildlife photography to capture animals from a safe distance without disturbing them.
  • Sports photography: Telephoto lenses are essential for capturing fast-moving subjects in sports, such as athletes and action shots.
  • Portrait photography: Telephoto lenses can create pleasing portraits by allowing you to isolate the subject and achieve a blurred background (bokeh).

Macro vs. Zoom vs. Telephoto vs. Wide Angle Lens: What's the Difference?

Besides macro and telephoto lenses, photographers often rely on zoom and wide-angle lenses to suit different scenarios and creative preferences. Let's explore some other lens categories and their distinct characteristics.

Zoom lens

A zoom lens is a camera lens designed to alter the focal length and, consequently, the camera's angle of view. This characteristic permits you to magnify your subject (zoom in) or encompass a broader scene (zoom out) without requiring physical proximity adjustments. Zoom lenses encompass an assortment of focal lengths within a singular lens, rendering them adaptable instruments suitable for a diverse array of photography scenarios.

In many zoom lenses, the barrel elongates while rotating, although some lenses maintain a consistent barrel length even during changes in focal length.

Wide angle lens

A wide-angle lens is a type of camera lens that has a shorter focal length than standard lenses, allowing it to capture a broader scene within the frame. This lens type is particularly useful for capturing expansive landscapes, architectural structures, and scenes where you want to emphasize space and depth.

Comparison table

Aspects Macro Lens Zoom Lens Telephoto Lens Wide Angle Lens
Magnification 1:1 or greater Dependent on lens Magnifies distant subjects Standard magnification
Depth of Field Shallow at close focus Varies with focal length Shallow at longer focal lengths Deep, especially at distance
Focal Length Varies, but often short Variable, wide to telephoto Long, magnifying distant scenes Short, capturing wide scenes
Use Cases Small subjects, textures Versatile, various scenarios Wildlife, sports, portraits Landscapes, architecture

Pro Tip: How to Pick a Focal Length for Macro Photography

Macro lenses can be categorized based on their focal lengths into three groups: short-range(35-60mm), mid-range (90-105mm), and long (150-200mm).

Short macro lenses

Short macro lenses are often employed for casual macro photography excursions or as versatile lenses that can be switched to macro mode when required. They offer convenient storage, effortless portability, and generally cost less. Their compact size also makes them simpler to hold by hand.

However, a significant limitation of short macro lenses is their reduced working distance. Additionally, under specific lighting conditions, your head or camera might cast unwanted shadows on the subject. Furthermore, shorter lenses tend to produce less appealing bokeh compared to longer focal lengths.

Mid-range macro lenses

Mid-range macro lenses offer a greater working distance advantage over short ones. This distance allows for capturing macro shots without getting too close to subjects. They present an excellent choice for flower photography, particularly in the realm of abstract flower photography.

However, while offering more working distance, mid-range lenses might not suffice in scenarios requiring even greater separation. For highly sensitive or delicate subjects, lenses with longer working distances, like the long macro lenses, could be more suitable.

Long-range macro lenses

Longer macro lenses consistently deliver remarkable image quality. They also excel in providing the most generous working distance, a crucial aspect of insect photography.

This extended working distance opens up opportunities for creative macro techniques, such as capturing shots through out-of-focus flowers and adding an artistic touch to your compositions.

However, it's important to note that longer macro lenses tend to be heavier, posing challenges for extended handheld usage, particularly in low-light conditions. If you're pursuing advanced insect photography or prioritizing top-tier image quality and are comfortable with the associated weight and cost, these lenses are a worthy consideration.


1. Are telephoto and macro lenses the same?

No, telephoto and macro lenses are not the same. They serve different purposes and have distinct characteristics that cater to specific types of photography. Telephoto lenses are used to capture distant subjects with magnification, while macro lenses are used to capture extreme close-ups of small subjects.

2. Is a macro lens good for distance?

A macro lens is not typically designed for capturing distant subjects. Macro lenses are optimized for extreme close-up photography and excel at capturing subjects at a very close range with a high level of detail. They have a short minimum focusing distance and are capable of achieving a 1:1 magnification ratio or greater, which means they can capture subjects at their actual size on the camera sensor.

3. Can I use a zoom lens for macro?

Yes, you can use a zoom lens for macro photography, but there are some limitations and considerations to keep in mind.

Many modern zoom lenses offer a feature called "macro mode" or "close-up mode," allowing you to focus on subjects closer to usual. While these modes can provide some level of magnification and are convenient for capturing a bit closer subjects, they might not provide the same level of magnification and detail as dedicated macro lenses.


In the end, the choice between a macro lens and a telephoto lens hinges on the specific narratives you wish to craft through your photography. These two lens categories, each with their distinct characteristics, offer pathways to creativity that cater to different subject matter and artistic intentions.

If you like this article and find it helpful, share it with your friends. Do you have something to say about the camera lens? Make sure you leave a comment below!



All Comments Are Welcome

Yucy, as a proficient editor in Reolink, specializes in the field of home security. Her expertise lies in providing insightful information regarding the latest advancements in security systems, surveillance technologies, and safety measures. Comment and discuss with her!