Telescope versus Telephoto Lens Magnification

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John Koch Senior Member • Posts: 1,440
Telescope versus Telephoto Lens Magnification

Telescope's magnification is usually measured as the multiple of the aperture lens diameter relative to the eyepiece lens diameter.  Right?

Meanwhile, in the case of telephoto lenses, one measures the focal length, with a 35mm sensor as the base reference.  The magnification may be measured as a multiple of the minimum focal length, which is often 35mm or maybe 24mm.

Is there any way to compare the magnification factor of a refractory telescope to that of a telephoto lens for a full frame camera?

Is there a "crop factor" to consider in the case of telescopes that approximates that of cameras with different sensor sizes?

Or, to put things in practical terms, if it takes a telescope with 50x magnification to distinguish Saturn's rings as a separate structure to the eye, what would would be the requisite camera lens focal length be to do the same?

Another comparison might be this: if a telescope with 80x magnification can make mars appear as large as the full moon appears to the naked eye , what camera lens focal length would achieve the same?

I suppose it all boils down to arcseconds covered by the field of view, but is there a formula to compare that of telescopes, based on magnification multiple, versus that of camera lenses, based on focal length?

Here I want to know about optical perception only.  Of course, when photography enters the equation, resolution, sensor size, ISO, and shutter time complicate matters.  Atmospheric conditions, earth rotation, and light pollution factors further compound the subject, but here I assume the telescope and the telephoto camera are on a remote mountaintop on a clear moonless night.

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