No matter what kind of photography you enjoy, chances are you’re going to eventually need a strong telephoto lens. Landscapes, wildlife, and even portraits can be significantly enhanced by using a medium telephoto lens. These lenses generally have a maximum focal range of 200mm to 300mm.
The great news is that there are tons of medium telephoto lenses to choose from, and you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get a professional-grade lens. Third-party lenses are an ideal option not only to save money, but also to diversify your photography kit.
Telephoto lenses are generally categorized into three types of zoom, and you’ll often find lenses listed as standard, medium, or ultra-zoom. Standard telephoto lenses typically have a maximum focal range of 100mm to 135mm.
Medium telephoto lenses give you quite a bit more zoom, typically maxing out at around 300mm. Ultra-zoom telephoto lenses are anything over that maximum focal range and provide impressive zoom and sharp pictures.
A medium telephoto lens is a great way to get started with telephoto lenses, so to help you out, here’s our list of the best medium telephoto third-party lenses!
1. Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC MACRO OS HSM (Overall Winner)
No stranger to the top of best third-party lens lists is Sigma. This 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 medium telephoto lens offers tons of range and impressive specs. Available for Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Pentax mounts, you can get this lens for virtually any camera body.
I really enjoy the wide focal range. 18mm lets you shoot wide-angle shots, making it perfect for interiors and landscapes, while the 250mm focal range lets you shoot wildlife and sports with ease. In between those two points are plenty of opportunities to experiment with focal ranges to find your style.
This Sigma lens is also classified as a dedicated macro lens with a minimum focal distance of just over one foot. It’s not often that you find a high-quality telephoto lens that can also help you with your macro shots! While the f/3.5 aperture isn’t necessarily the best for macro shots, it will still give you a beautiful depth of field.
Taking a look at the interior specs of the lens, you’ll find a smooth autofocus function that’s quiet and effective. The image stabilization is one of the best on the market, and you’ll need it when shooting at 250mm. The overall build of the lens is smaller than the previous versions, meaning the lens is sleek and easy to use.
If you’re looking for your first telephoto lens or you are in need of an upgrade, definitely check this Sigma telephoto lens out!
2. Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
Tamron is another familiar name in the third-party lens world, and the 18-200mm is a strong contender for one of the best medium telephoto third-party lenses on the market. Designed specifically for Nikon mounts, the Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC will certainly elevate your photography game. Not only is it a high-quality lens that’s reliable and consistent, it’s also one of the least expensive medium telephoto lenses on our list!
While it doesn’t quite have the focal range of our top choice, it still offers tons of versatility for a wide range of photography styles. Tamron upgraded the autofocus motor to be faster and quieter than ever, letting you focus on your shot. Like the Sigma on our list, this lens does a great job of providing photographers with plenty of options depending on what they’re shooting.
I rarely shoot under 18mm to begin with, and this lens provides virtually everything you need to get started on wide-angle photography as well as telephoto shots. In fact, many photographers use this lens as their primary lens to cover most of their photography needs.
Tamron is famous for high-quality image stabilization, and the vibration compensation technology in this lens gives you crisp, blur-free images no matter what you’re shooting.
3. Venus Optics Laowa 105mm f/2 STF
For something with top of the line performance at a surprisingly affordable price, look no further than the Laowa 105mm f/2 STF telephoto lens. This telephoto lens from Venus Optics has enough zoom to capture the action from far away, while still providing a wide enough angle to make it versatile in a wide range of shoots.
The smooth focusing mechanism and wide f/2 aperture allow you to get stunning shots with beautiful bokeh, whether you’re capturing wildlife or you’re shooting portraits. If you’re not used to shooting with prime lenses, this may be a great one to start with.
What might be lacking in range of focal distances, it more than makes up for in its high-quality build and ultra-wide aperture capabilities. This lens has two diaphragms for enhanced photo finishes. The eight-blade and 14-blade diaphragms control bokeh, depth of field, and exposure.
It’s also extremely lightweight without feeling like it’s made with low-quality materials, which I find to be a very important part of a photographer’s experience.
4. Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD Macro (Budget Winner)
Our budget winner is another fantastic Tamron telephoto lens with plenty of zoom. With a range of 70-300mm, you’ll be able to capture wildlife and sports photography with ease.
While the minimum focal length of the Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD Macro doesn’t allow for quite as much versatility as some of the other lenses on our list, 70mm is still a solid focal length that lets you capture great street photography and can work very well with product photography.
This Tamron is available across a wide range of kits, including Nikon, Canon, and Sony. The minimum focusing distance is right around three feet, letting you get decently close to your subject. The real power of this lens comes at the 300mm focal length.
At 300mm, you can often find distortion and lack of clarity in some lenses. You won’t find any of that with this Tamron lens. The internal image stabilization and enhanced micromotor focus mechanism lets you capture smooth, crisp shots even at maximum focal length.
Choosing the Best Medium Telephoto Third-Party Lenses for Your Kit
Medium telephoto lenses are a great way for new photographers to try out lenses with longer focal lengths, or as you can see from our list, a high-quality prime lens. They’re also a great way for seasoned photographers to diversify their lens portfolio.
From entry-level lenses to high-quality professional-grade lenses, these are just a few of the top medium telephoto third-party lenses on the market today. Check out some of our other guides for more top lens recommendations!