What’s The Point of a 70-300 mm Lens & What’s It Used For?

Have you ever seen photographers using an extra-long lens? Maybe they were taking pictures of wildlife at a national park or another viewing area. Did you want to use one, too?

While there are larger lenses on the market, a 70-300 mm lens is generally a good segue into zoom photography.

What’s the Point of a 70-300 mm Lens and What’s It Used For?

A 70-300 mm lens is a medium telephoto lens often employed for taking photos of wildlife, sporting events, and astronomical subjects such as the moon, planets, and stars.

It is also recommended for travel photography, street photography, and other candid occasions. It provides magnification so you can see details in distant objects as if you took the photo up close.

A 70 to 300 mm lens is particularly flexible in its use, as the zoom is variable rather than fixed. The shorter focal length overlaps with that of many prime lenses, allowing you to switch between mid-range and distant subjects without changing lenses.

You may be able to leave the bulky camera bag and your extra lenses at home and rely on just one lightweight lens, making it a great option for travel.

Understanding the Focal Length of a 70-300 mm Zoom Lens

The 70 to 300 mm length is not the length of the lens itself. Rather, it is the focal length. It is actually the distance between the camera’s sensor and the point at which the light rays converge inside the lens to form a sharp image.

This measurement further describes the magnification and view angle that a lens can provide. For example, if you are taking a photo of a bird in a tree, the bird will appear closer at a 300 mm focal length than at a 70 mm focal length.

The view angle will also be narrower at 300 mm – you’ll see less of the tree and surrounding objects than at 70 mm.

As already mentioned, the zoom of 70 to 300 mm offered on some telephoto lenses makes them flexible in use. Imagine you’re taking your camera for a day at the zoo.

You want to be able to photograph the animals even if they are lounging at the back of their enclosures. The longer focal length is perfect for this application – it will look like you were standing right in front of that yawning lion when you snapped the photo.

But you also want to take a group photo of your family while at the zoo. That’s when you’ll scale back to 70 mm. You may have to step back or set up your tripod a little farther away to get everyone in the shot.

You can compare this to your prime lens, the lens that came with your camera. At full zoom, most prime lenses max out at 85 mm.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about 70 to 300 mm Lenses

Do you have more questions about your 70 to 300 mm telephoto zoom lens? We’ve answered owners’ and buyers’ most common questions.

Can I Use a 70 to 300 mm Lens for Portraits?

Seventy to 300 mm lenses can be used for portrait photography, but they may not be the best lens for the job. Why?

Above, we discussed the overlap in average focal length between prime lenses and 70 to 300 mm telephoto lenses. Since most prime lenses max out at 85 mm, there is a 15 mm overlap in focal length.

But think about it – how often do you set your prime lens to maximum zoom when taking someone’s portrait?

If you use your 70 to 300 mm lens for portraits, you’ll find that you have to back away from your subject to get the full person, group of people, or surroundings in the frame.

This is because your lens has a narrow field of view. This can cause problems because other people or objects can get in your way or you may not be able to distance yourself enough when shooting in tight spaces.

The 70 to 300 mm zoom lens can be ideal for outdoor portrait photography when you’ll be switching frequently between portraits and distant subjects – for example, taking photos of your friends or family at a soccer game or wildlife park, then getting back to photographing the action.

Is the 70 to 300 mm Lens Good for Bird Watching?

The simple answer is, yes! When compared to your standard prime lens, a 300 mm lens will make you feel much closer to your feathered subjects.

However, to get really close-up shots, where a small perched songbird fills the whole frame, you’ll either need to hike close to your subject (within 100 meters or so) or opt for a 400 to 600 mm telephoto lens.

How Much Zoom Does a 70 to 300 mm Lens Have?

A focal length of 300 mm is roughly equivalent to a zoom of 8.5 times.

How Do I Know Which 70 to 300 mm Lens Will Fit My Camera?

Each camera manufacturer – and even different camera models made by the same manufacturer – uses a different system of connecting the lens to the camera.

Before purchasing a lens, you should confirm that the brand and model of the lens is compatible with the camera you own. The seller may provide this information, or you may look it up on the manufacturer’s website.

Adapters are also available that allow lenses to connect to and communicate with different cameras.

Final Thoughts

The 70 to 300 mm zoom lens is a great option for travelers and most hobby photographers due to its versatility. The focal range of these lenses means that you can take a lot of different types of photos with a single lens, lessening the weight you carry and the impact on your wallet.

Seventy to three hundred millimeter lenses (70 to 300 mm) are also a good entry-level lens for experimenting with telephoto or wildlife photography, as they are much cheaper than telephoto “long lenses” with focal lengths of more than 300 mm.