Focal length
The focal length of an optical
Optics is the branch of physics which involves the behavior and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it. Optics usually describes the behavior of visible, ultraviolet, and infrared light...

 system is a measure of how strongly the system converges (focuses) or diverges (defocuses) light
Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light has wavelength in a range from about 380 nanometres to about 740 nm, with a frequency range of about 405 THz to 790 THz...

. For an optical system in air, it is the distance over which initially collimated rays are brought to a focus
Focus (optics)
In geometrical optics, a focus, also called an image point, is the point where light rays originating from a point on the object converge. Although the focus is conceptually a point, physically the focus has a spatial extent, called the blur circle. This non-ideal focusing may be caused by...

. A system with a shorter focal length has greater optical power
Optical power
Optical power is the degree to which a lens, mirror, or other optical system converges or diverges light. It is equal to the reciprocal of the focal length of the device. The dioptre is the most common unit of measurement of optical power...

 than one with a long focal length; that is, it bends the ray
Ray (optics)
In optics, a ray is an idealized narrow beam of light. Rays are used to model the propagation of light through an optical system, by dividing the real light field up into discrete rays that can be computationally propagated through the system by the techniques of ray tracing. This allows even very...

s more strongly, bringing them to a focus in a shorter distance.

In most photography
Photography is the art, science and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film...

 and all telescopy, where the subject is essentially infinitely far away and magnification is achieved by moving the image plane away from the center of projection, longer focal length (lower optical power) leads to higher magnification
Magnification is the process of enlarging something only in appearance, not in physical size. This enlargement is quantified by a calculated number also called "magnification"...

 and a narrower angle of view
Angle of view
In photography, angle of view describes the angular extent of a given scene that is imaged by a camera. It is used interchangeably with the more general term field of view....

; conversely, shorter focal length or higher optical power is associated with a wider angle of view.