In photography, a long-focus lens is a camera lens that has a focal length that is longer than the diagonal measure of the film or sensor that receives its image. It is used to make distant objects appear magnified with magnification increasing as longer focal length lenses are used. A long-focus lens is one of three basic photographic lens types classified by relative focal length, the other two being a normal lens and a wide-angle lens. As with other types of camera lenses, the focal length is usually expressed in a millimeter value written on the lens, for example, a 500 mm lens. The most common type of long-focus lens is the telephoto lens, which incorporates a special lens group known as a telephoto group to make the physical length of the lens shorter than the focal length.
Long-focus lenses are best known for making distant objects appear magnified. This effect is similar to moving closer to the object, but is not the same, since perspective is a function solely of viewing location. Two images are taken from the same location, one with a wide-angle lens and the other with a long-focus lens which will show identical perspectives, in that near and far objects appear the same relative size to each other. Comparing magnification by using a long lens to magnification by moving closer, however, the long-focus-lens shot appears to compress the distance between objects due to the perspective from the more distant location. Long lenses thus give a photographer an alternative to the type of perspective distortion exhibited by shorter focal length lenses where (when the photographer stands closer to the given subject) different portions of a subject in a photograph can appear out of proportion to each other.
Long lenses also make it easier to blur the background more, even when the depth of field is the same; photographers will sometimes use this effect to defocus the background in an image to "separate" it from the subject. This background blurring is often referred to as bokeh by photographers. Long lenses are often used with a tripod, because of the increased weight and the fact that the effect of camera shake is magnified.