Telephoto Lens Focal Length Comparison

Although I have already done a focal length comparison from 12mm to 500mm focal length before, I decided to do it once again for telephoto lenses. I receive quite a few emails from our readers, asking about telephoto lenses and focal lengths, specifically whether a focal length of a lens is going to be sufficient for bird and wildlife photography. The below images should give you a pretty good idea about field of view when using particular focal lengths, from 70mm all the way to 1200mm:

70mm-400mm FoV

600mm-1200mm FoV

The above images are not cropped in post-production and represent equivalent focal lengths relative to 35mm. The longest field of view of the 1200mm shot was captured with the Nikon 200-400mm f/4.0 + TC-20E III TC @ 400mm (800mm effective) on a DX body, which is equivalent to 1200mm. The shortest focal length was captured with the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II at 70mm.


  1. 1) Wouter
    August 14, 2010 at 2:01 am

    Thank you!

    Wat was the distance between you and the birds? (preferably in meters- I’m a Metric Man :-) )


    • August 14, 2010 at 2:20 am

      Wouter, you are most welcome!

      Unfortunately, the subject distance information is not available in EXIF… I can only give you a rough estimate – I would say around 15 meters from me to the birds.

      • 1.1.1) Aaron Priest
        August 21, 2010 at 5:50 am

        KUSO Exif Viewer (free) can usually tell you the distance in meters for a raw file. The field is FocusDistance and is in meters. I have found KUSO and FxIF, a plugin for FireFox, to be invaluable. :-)

        • Profile photo of Nasim Mansurov Nasim Mansurov
          September 2, 2010 at 12:52 am

          Aaron, an EXIF viewer can only show the info if it is available :) The distance information is typically reported by a lens and if you are shooting with teleconverters and shooting over a certain distance, the information can fail to come through. If that happens, the camera will show a really large number or “unknown” for distance.

          • Aaron Priest
            September 2, 2010 at 4:43 am

            Haha, I didn’t consider that the teleconverters might mess with that. I figured the camera would factor it in with the newer electronic ones and D/G lenses, but I guess not huh?

  2. 2) Wouter
    August 14, 2010 at 3:41 am

    Close enough, thank you!


  3. 3) Mike
    November 16, 2011 at 12:47 am

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  4. 4) Christine
    August 13, 2012 at 5:58 am

    Wow, thanks! Just the info I was looking for. Can you explain what you mean by 800mm effective with a 200-400mm lens? How do you get a 1200 mm focal length with a 200-400mm lens? Thanks! I will definitely buy my telephoto lens by clicking on the B&H link on your website!

    • 4.1) Raymond
      September 2, 2012 at 8:36 pm

      thanks, nasim.
      great comparison. i’ve been a fan for reading reviews on your website regularly.

      you can get 800mm effective from a 200-400mm lens by using TC-20E III just like nasim wrote before. TC-20E is a 2 times teleconverter combine with 400mm focal length it becomes 800mm and when 800mm lens mounted at DX cameras (crop factor 1.5x body, series other than D700, D800, D3, D3x, D3s, D4) then it becomes 1.5 x 800mm = 1200mm lens.


      • 4.1.1) Christine
        September 2, 2012 at 11:43 pm

        Thanks Raymond. I understand the teleconverter, Nasim was saying 400 mm is 800 mm effective. What I don’t understand is why this is 1200 mm equivalent… What is the mechanism? Is it that those cameras are at normal lens at 50mm rather than 35 mm?

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