The Best Telephoto Zoom Lenses For Your Camera


The reason why you step up from a smartphone to a dedicated camera to begin with is for the zoom functions. Your smartphone can’t do it nearly as well as a dedicated camera with a dedicated lens. So, we’re rounding up the best telephoto zoom lenses for your camera. No matter the camera system, you’ll be able to find something here that you’ll thoroughly enjoy.

The Phobographer’s Various product round-up features are done in-house. Our philosophy is simple: you wouldn’t get a Wagyu beef steak review from a lifelong vegetarian. And you wouldn’t get photography advice from someone who doesn’t touch the product. We only recommend gear we’ve fully reviewed in these roundups. If you’re wondering why your favorite product didn’t make the cut, there’s a chance it’s on another list. If we haven’t reviewed it, we won’t recommend it. This method keeps our lists packed with industry-leading knowledge. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

How We Choose the Best Telephoto Zoom Lenses

Here’s some insight into how we chose the best telephoto zoom lenses in this list:

  • Our ethics don’t allow us to include something in these roundups that we haven’t tested before. So with that said, we’ve got full reviews on all of these products. You can check them out via the hyperlinks. And trust us, we really have tested the best telephoto zoom lenses and much more.
  • All product images and sample images are shot by our staff.
  • You’re probably going to look through this and wonder why there isn’t an option for Nikon on this list? Well, there is. Tamron makes lenses for Sony, Fujifilm, and Nikon mirrorless cameras as of this publishing.
  • We’re choosing these lenses based on build quality, image quality, autofocus speed, pricing, and image stabilization.
  • You’ll get beautiful images from these lenses, we’re very positive about that. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be calling them the best telephoto zoom lenses.
  • No photographer in the world wants to be carrying around something overly heavy.

Canon RF 100-500mm f4-7.1 IS USM L

PROS

  • Pretty light
  • Fast-focusing
  • Image stability is awesome
  • Nice colors
  • Gorgeous bokeh
  • Super sharp

CONS

  • Expensive
  • F7.1 max aperture at the long end

In our review, we said:

Here’s the deal, the Canon RF 100-500mm f4.5-7.1 L IS USM is an excellent lens. There isn’t a single flaw about it. It’s compact compared to some competitors, the image quality is wonderful, and it’s weather sealed. And $2,699 for what you’re getting isn’t an awful price point, though it’s not exactly a no-brainer purchase. For what this lens is, it’s exemplary, and I think any serious birding photographer will really enjoy it as long as they’re not hiking with it for a while. There isn’t much to complain about with the Canon RF 100-500mm f4.5-7.1 L IS USM.

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Tamron 150-500mm f5-6.7 Di III VC VXD

PROS

  • Smaller than competing lenses
  • Handheld telephoto shooting
  • Versatile zoom range, with close-up ability
  • Great color and background separation
  • Reasonable price
  • Weather-sealing
  • Fantastic for Fujifilm X mount and Sony E mount alike

CONS

  • Autofocus has occasional misses with fast action
  • Soft corners

In our review, we said:

500mm is a lot of reach. But, the Tamron 150-500mm f5-6.7 Di III VC VXD is smaller and lighter than several similar lenses, including the Sony FE 200-600mm f5.6-6.3 G OSSthe Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f5.6E ED VR, and the Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary. Only the Canon RF 100-500mm f4.5-7.1 IS USM is slightly smaller. The Tamron also packs in some optical design and coating meant to preserve image quality. But, the biggest innovation about this lens is, well, that’s it’s not quite as big.

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Sony 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 G Master

Pro

  • Pretty lightweight
  • Ring around it that allows you to adjust how tight the zoom is
  • Image stabilization
  • Weather sealing
  • Sharp
  • Nice bokeh
  • Close focusing for what this lens is
  • Convenient focal lengths
  • Not too badly priced for a lens like this
  • Good for tracking subjects when shooting sports outdoors

Cons

  • Tracking moving subjects still more or less demands that you stop down the lens when shooting interior sports

In our review, we said:

The Sony 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 G Master FE has a more neutral color profile than many of Sony’s other lenses. Photojournalists who want the most versatile image possible will appreciate that quite a bit. That means you can use the Sony Deep, Vivid, Clear, Standard, and Portrait color profiles without any worry.

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Olympus 150-400mm f4.5 PRO

PROS

  • Insanely lightweight for carrying over time
  • Pretty fast
  • Weather resistance
  • Very sharp and beautiful image quality
  • Incredibly convenient
  • The built-in teleconverter is awesome.
  • Internal zooming
  • Beautiful colors and bokeh

CONS

  • Even with focus limits on, the focus can be slow and annoying at times. But that’s kind of a given considering the massive focal length range.
  • Can be slow to focus even with the OM System OM1 in super low lighting like in a forest.
  • Quite a high price

In our review, we said:

The Olympus 150-400mm f4.5 PRO lens offers some of the most versatility I’ve ever seen in the photography world. Lenses with built-in teleconverters can be something special. Wildlife and sports photographers will really like what this lens can do for them. I think wildlife and bird photographers are going to benefit the most here. The depth of field equivalence is around f9 on a full-frame camera when shooting wide open. And when the teleconverter is activated, it becomes f5.6, which translates to f11. Sure, these are all considerations to make when shooting with a lens like this.

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Tamron 70-300mm f4.5-6.3 Di III RXD

PROS

  • Impressively sharp for the price point
  • Weather sealed
  • Speedy autofocus performance
  • Lightweight
  • Very, very affordable at $549 for Sony FE and Nikon Z

CONS

  • I wish it had a zoom lock.
  • I also wish it had a focus limiter.

In our review, we said:

I tried this lens mostly with the Sony a7r III, but also used it a bit with the original Sony a7. The autofocus is comparable, but overall the focus with this lens is accurate, fast, and reliable. I nailed 92% of the shots. Any time I missed the shot, I’d blame Sony. Trying to find birds in the trees can sometimes be a bit tough for the Sony a7r III. It’s even tougher with leaves and branches in the way.

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