A Practical Guide to Lenses for Landscape Photography

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Enough about the “best lenses” for this kind of photography. Let’s talk about what’s practical and what works.

Many landscape photographers would say that the thrill of landscape photography comes from the fact that anything can happen and locations can give you a diverse set of challenges to photograph outdoors. Landscape photography is made up of many different workflows and styles that are often dictated by variations in the actual shooting environment. Landscape photography covers mountain peaks, sea stacks, caves, rivers and even bustling cities. The key to building your landscape photography kit is making sure your gear is ready for whatever type of shot your vision might dictate when you see the location and the weather.

The best lens for landscape photography is just about any lens that can cover the range, give you the right frame, and one that will give you good image quality. In reality, even if you have the sharpest lens on the market, the image quality will not compensate for the shot if your lens is too wide for the shot. Versatility is key when talking about landscape photography equipment in general, so a more important knowledge is knowing which lens is right for certain situations and which lenses will be the most versatile.

Any lens can be used for landscape photography

It’s simple and obvious. Any camera will take the picture. It is not always necessary to obtain all the variants of lenses in order to be able to do landscape photography. It’s just that the limitations in the ranges would require more creativity and a workaround.

Zoom Lenses vs. Prime

Both are usable in landscape photography. Whether or not you believe the generalization that premiums are sharper, the only real reason most landscape photographers prefer zoom lenses is logistics. Zoom lenses often cover at least two to three focal lengths which are available individually in prime lenses. For example, a 16-35mm lens covers 16mm, 20mm, 24mm and 35mm, and the 24-70mm covers 24mm, 35mm and 50mm lengths which are separated into the main lenses. This means that to have all these perspectives in prime lenses, you would have to bring five or six prime lenses instead of just two zooms. Of course, it is possible to have fewer lenses as long as one is prepared to crop the images if necessary.

However, prime lenses are still very widely used by landscape photographers, especially in combination with a few zoom lenses to cover other ranges.

Standard zoom lenses

These lenses are still the most versatile in terms of range. The wide-angle at 24mm and the telephoto at 70mm generally gives you more reach than any other type of zoom, as it covers wide, normal, and the lower limit of telephoto. This is precisely why kit lenses always come in the form of standard zoom lenses. While not entirely free of limitations, kit lenses offer any beginner photographer the chance to try out all three ranges it covers.

Standard zooms come in many different forms. For APS-C camera users, they are often at 16-50mm, 18-55mm, or 16-55mm. For full frame, these lenses are the usual 24-70mm, 28-75mm or 24-105mm. Of course, there are also extended standard zooms or promenade zooms that extend from approximately 105mm to 240mm.

In the same logic, if we had to have only one lens for landscape photography, having a standard zoom remains the best option in terms of range. 24mm is wide enough, and while some places may need wider, shooting a panorama is a viable option and 70mm can give enough zoom in most situations, while cropping can be a way to compensate for the range.

Most camera and lens brands have 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses as their high-end standard zoom lenses that offer the best image quality, focus and performance in low light. However, in terms of practicality, the 24-70mm f/4 variants as well as the 24-105mm f/4 lenses have proven to be good alternatives in terms of cost, size and weight.

Ultra wide angle lenses

Many landscape photographers consider ultra-wide angle lenses their favorite. Ultra wide angle lenses allow you to capture such an angle of view in a single image. This allows you to capture multiple layers of foreground elements that can benefit the flow and composition of the whole shot. Ultra wide angle lenses allow you to capture very wide views in a single frame to show as much of the location in the image, or ultra wide angle lenses can be used to shoot in smaller places and widen the perspective of the place.

Ultra wide angle lenses often come in 16-35mm, 17-40mm, 17-28mm for full frame cameras. Some brands also offered more expensive variants, such as 12-24mm, 15-30mm or 11-24mm. Common variants usually come in the form of a more economical f/4 version and a more premium f/2.8 version. For daytime landscape photography, using f/4 lenses is often convenient. Since most of the time we use smaller apertures to keep the frame in focus as much as possible, f/2.8 isn’t an absolute need. However, the f/2.8 variants come in handy when shooting at night.

Fixed focal length wide-angle lenses are also popular on different camera systems. They are available in a variety of lengths of 12mm, 14mm, 16mm, 20mm or 24mm. The common factor is having maximum apertures at f/1.8 or f/1.4, and these can give you better performance when shooting at night.

Telephoto lenses

Longer lenses round out your lineup for any type of shooting scenario. Telephoto lenses do very well in two ways when it comes to landscape photography. The first is to zoom in on a distant fraction of the location for better visibility and the second is to isolate distant patterns which results in an outstanding composition. The standard for telephoto lenses is usually the 70-200mm versions which are common to all lens brands. Their f/2.8 versions often offer the best image quality as well as better focus. However, many other telephoto zoom variants are available. Most brands also offer 70-300mm, 100-400mm, 150-600mm or 200-600mm lenses as well as very fast but very expensive lenses.

Telephoto zooms with more reach often have smaller or even variable maximum apertures and relatively slower focusing. In reality, in landscape photography, these are not always so crucial. While the lens gives significantly good image quality, everything else is secondary when it comes to telephoto lenses. For cost-effectiveness and weight, it would be good to consider which lenses are available in your camera brand’s ecosystem that would give you better range or are lighter than the usual 70-200 heavy versions. mm.

Choosing your lenses in landscape photography is usually a long-term decision-making process. As you can shoot more and more places, you will know if the demands of your artistic vision are met by the equipment you have. In the end, what matters most is which pieces of gear get you the shot you want, and which pieces of gear you can take with you to the toughest places.

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