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Telescope vs Telephoto Lens Comparison

Getting started in astrophotography, you may be wondering which optical device is best for you. Telescopes provide a narrow and detailed view of objects in space, which makes them ideal for astronomy. Telephoto lenses provide a wider, less detailed view, which makes it easier to locate and capture imagery.

Telescopes vs Telephoto Lenses for Astrophotography

Telescopes provide a clearer image of specific celestial bodies. However, they require time to set up and operate, which can make it more difficult than using a telephoto lens. Telephoto lenses are portable and provide a wider field of view. This makes it easier for beginner astrophotographers but won’t provide as detailed of a view.

Which Takes Clearer Photos, Telescopes or Cameras?

Telephoto lenses are great for locating and taking pictures of celestial bodies at lower magnification. This is ideal when taking photos of objects within our solar system, but won’t be very helpful at greater distances. Astrophotography telescopes are designed to have strong magnification and clarity, even at great distances. 

Focal Ratio of Telescope vs Telephoto Lenses

The focal ratio represents the speed, brightness and width of your view. This is found by dividing the focal length by the aperture. Telescopes have a fixed focal ratio, typically ranging from F/4 to over F/22. Telephoto lenses can range from less than F/2 to more than F/22. Lower focal ratios provide a brighter, wider, and less magnified view. This is ideal when viewing star clusters or galaxies. Larger focal ratios are ideal for viewing specific celestial bodies because they have higher magnification and a narrower view.

Should You Purchase a Telescope or Telephoto Lens?

Low-powered telephoto lenses can be a great way to get started in basic astrophotography. However, high-quality telephoto lenses cost significantly more than telescopes for the same level of magnification and clarity. So if you are planning on imaging deep space, it’s much more cost-efficient to purchase a telescope.