Landscape photography is a genre that spans a multitude of different styles, from up close and intimate images to sweeping panoramas. In order to cover all your needs, you must have the right equipment.

Lenses are possibly the most important piece of equipment to consider, perhaps even more so than the camera itself. You will change the camera from time to time, good objectives are forever.

Much of the cost of photographic equipment will go towards lenses, so choose carefully before deciding which one to buy. There is a huge offering on the market and it is easy to get lost with so many specifications and terminology, especially if you are just starting out.

In this article we will analyze the 3 objectives that you will need as a landscape photographer and will give you the necessary advice to decide and invest your money wisely.

Prime vs Zoom.

Fixed focal lenses for landscape photography are highly impractical. By not having a zoom, they will greatly limit the composition. You should have many, many prime lenses to meet your needs, and you usually don’t even need the advantages that prime lenses offer. The large diaphragm opening and the greater definition that they usually offer do not counteract their impracticality.

A mistake that is made with this type of lens is to think that you can zoom simply by changing your position, and this in landscape photography is completely wrong. If you zoom in or out of your subject, you are completely changing the perspective of the scene, while if you zoom in, you are cutting the field of view by changing the focal length.

In addition, many times it is impossible to physically approach or move away from the subject for the simple reason that the terrain where you are prevents you from doing so.

Diaphragm Aperture

There are some exceptions, but generally in landscape photography you will use an aperture of F8 to F11 to have a greater depth of field, and it is also in this aperture range that the subjects are sharpest.

If we do not take into account astrophotography and the northern lights, this means that the 3 essential lenses you need for landscape photography should not be bright, which will save you a lot of money, weight and volume.

To give you an idea, a lens with a constant aperture of F2.8 on average usually weighs and measures 35% more, and costs twice as much as one with an F4.0 aperture. It makes no sense to invest that money and carry the extra weight and volume if you are not going to take advantage of it.

Image Stabilizer

Personally I prefer lenses to have an image stabilizer. However, most modern cameras already incorporate the stabilizer in the body, and some brands even allow both stabilizers to work together.

In the vast majority of cases you will photograph with a tripod, but there are cases in which the stabilizer will come in handy, so I recommend having it on at least one of the two (lens or camera). It will be very useful if you have to shoot handheld and even if it is mounted on the tripod and there is a lot of wind, especially when using a telephoto lens.

Weather Resistance.

Shooting landscapes means that you will spend most of your time outdoors, under all kinds of weather conditions. To avoid possible damage, make sure your lens is sealed with gaskets on its moving parts, and is constructed of durable materials.

Autofocus.

Although landscape photography is a rather slow genre, investing in autofocus lenses is worth it. There are just times when focusing manually can be tedious, for example when shooting handheld.

The landscapes have hardly any movement, so you don’t need the latest technology in focus systems. A consistent and precise autofocus will be more than enough.

Focal Distance.

I’m going to be talking in full format terms, so if you’re using an APS-C or Micro 4/3 system you’ll need to take into account the crop factor of your system:

SONY/NIKON APS-C: 1.5

CANON APS-C: 1.6

MICRO 4/3: 2

Wide Angle | Ultra Wide Angle.

It is the most popular lens for landscape photography and it is for less. The reason they are so revered is because of their focal range, which ranges from 12mm to 35mm. This wide range of vision allows you to capture images with a perspective that the human eye is not used to seeing, resulting in unusual and impressive images. That is why they are considered an essential lens for any landscape photographer.

Also, wide lenses are excellent at conveying depth, which means you’ll get consistently sharp images, from foreground to background, something we almost always look for in landscape photography.

The big question when purchasing this lens is to decide on a wide angle or an ultra wide angle. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages.

Depending on your brand, you will normally find the following options:

ULTRA WIDE ANGLE: 11-24mm, 14-24mm or the most common 14-24mm.

WIDE ANGLE: 15-30mm, 17-40mm, the most common being 16-35mm.

In the wide-angle lens you can attach filters, even screw-in ones that minimize camera movement when placing them. They are also more versatile as they have a longer focal range, allowing you more flexibility when composing.

The big advantage of the ultra wide angle is those extra 2mm in its shortest focal range. It may not seem like much, but those extra millimeters make a big difference in the real world. On the other hand, these objectives have a convex front element, so filters cannot be easily adapted. There are specific filter holder systems for these objectives, but they are large, heavy and very expensive, so I do not recommend them. Also its shorter focal range makes it less versatile and you will have to swap lenses more often.

Standard Zoom.

As the name indicates, this zoom is considered the standard lens in the photographic world. Ranging from 24 to 70mm, it is possibly the most versatile lens of all. It provides a field of view similar to the human eye, and as such, can create more realistic and pleasing images.

At 24mm it’s wide enough to get glorious views with a more natural composition, and at 70mm you’re entering short telephoto territory, giving you enough focal length to play with composition and focus more on detail.

Luckily it’s easier to choose in the range of standard zoom lenses. Here the big debate is between choosing a 24-70mm or a 24-105mm. The 24-70mm is usually available with a constant F2.8 aperture, but as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, it’s not a necessity for landscape photography. Another advantage is usually a greater definition by having a smaller focal range, but this varies depending on the objective and brand.

The main advantage of the 24-105mm is obviously that extra 35mm of focal range, which makes it an even more versatile lens.

Telephoto | Super-Telephoto.

These lenses are generally more associated with wildlife photography, although they definitely have a place in landscape photography as well, and can enhance your photography by seeing the world in a different way. Its long focal range allows you to dissect and isolate details of the landscape such as lines, patterns, textures or silhouettes, giving rise to more abstract images, adding variety to your portfolio. They are also an excellent option for excluding much of the landscape when the light is not good, or when the scene lacks interest in the foreground.

The typical range of a telephoto lens is usually between 70 and 200mm, and the super telephoto lens goes up to 300, 400 and even 600mm. Generally the 70-200mm range is sufficient, but some people prefer 70-300 or 100-400 to have even more range.

70-200mm lenses tend to have more definition than a 70-300mm or 100-400mm, although that always depends on the specific brand and lens. Also the 100-400mm tend to be much more expensive and heavier, although the offer on the market is always growing and there are excellent options at competitive prices.

Resume:

  • Fixed focal lenses are not practical for landscape photography.
  • Do not invest in bright lenses, a maximum aperture of F4 is sufficient.
  • Get lenses with a stabilizer if your camera doesn’t have one.
  • The construction and tightness of the lens are very important.
  • You don’t need ultra-fast focusing lenses.
  • Consider the crop factor if you are using an APS-C or Micro 4/3 camera.
  • If you opt for an ultra-wide angle lens, check first what filter system you can use, perhaps a wide angle is more convenient for you.
  • As for the combinations, any of these options will cover all your needs, so that the team is not the factor that sets your limits:

14-24mm + 24-70mm + 70-200mm. This combination is known in the photographic world as “the holy trinity”, and it is the most common combination. (A variant would be to change the telephoto lens for a 70-300mm).
16-35mm + 24-105mm + 100-400mm is also a very interesting alternative, if you opt for a longer standard zoom.

Conclusion:

Every photographer has their own style, which means the concept of the best lens for landscape photography will vary depending on your needs.

If you’re just starting out and you’re still unclear on your style, I advise you to practice with whatever camera and lens you have on hand. With time and practice, you will find that you start to gravitate more towards a certain style, and then you will know what your needs are.

I hope this article has been helpful to you, and it clears up your doubts about what each objective offers and what qualities, or not, you should look for in them. If you have any other questions, or you liked the article, do not hesitate to leave me a comment

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