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It has been an interesting couple of years for photographers involved in many genres, but one opportunity that always stays available is landscape photography. Since I’m a landscape photographer myself, common questions I get asked concern what to look for in a landscape photography lens and what is the best focal length for landscape photography.
Shooters of Micro Four-Thirds format (MFT, Micro 4/3rds) cameras will appreciate this roundup of the best Olympus lenses for landscape photography. Since the MFT format lens mount is shared by Panasonic, Blackmagic, DJI, and Kodak mirrorless cameras, users of those cameras can also add any Olympus MFT lens to their gear bags.
Crop Factor, Aspect Ratio, Legacy Lenses
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As a user of MFT cameras myself (along with other formats), I appreciate that many photographers and videographers of this format are likely already intermediate or advanced level photographers, so you don’t need a primer on crop factor.
Still, if you have been a photographer for a while, you probably started out on a different format camera, perhaps even with film-based 35mm cameras, so we’ll remind ourselves of the 2.0X crop factor and slightly more square aspect ratio.
A large reason why I think about crop factor a lot with MFT cameras has to do with how focal lengths compare on the wide-angle end of the lens spectrum. Mounting a legacy lens via an adapter especially requires us to do some mental conversions.
With all of the high-quality lenses designed specifically for MFT cameras though, especially by Olympus, I’ve narrowed down my current recommendations for best Olympus lenses for landscape photography to 3 fine options.
Features and Capabilities
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Landscape photographers have certain requirements and expectations regarding lenses that they use as a go-to lens for serious landscape photography. In addition to focal length and lens aperture, we also place high value on weather sealing and ruggedness for deciding the best lenses for landscape photography.
As a user of micro four-thirds cameras, you know quite well that a large number of lenses made for this mount are basically professional level lenses that are very well built and many of them have weather sealing for increased usability in extreme conditions.
Fast and accurate autofocus performance is a high priority for some of the rapidly changing views or conditions we find on our treks and adds the benefit of making the lens more usable for video recording.
We’re always looking for a good bargain, even when shopping for high-quality and pro caliber gear, so excellent condition used lenses, such as what I constantly find at MPB.com, get put into my things to check out when shopping for lenses and other photography gear.
Among all of the available options, most of us tend to narrow our personal choices down to a few types of lenses for landscape photography. Wide angle lenses are an obvious choice, but not every landscape situation is solved by carrying a medium wide-angle.
Zoom lenses are often excellent choices, especially in the ranges of extreme wide-angle and general-purpose. With Olympus lenses, the optical quality of zoom lenses is absolutely fantastic, so we can remove that worry from any criteria list.
What I consider to be a general-purpose range of focal lengths lines up with what are often paired with some cameras as a kit, but I like to upgrade from the basic kit lens to one that has more rugged construction The Olympus PRO line of lenses all meet that requirement.
Olympus 12-100mm f/4.0 IS PRO
An excellent choice for all-around photography, the Olympus 12-100mm f/4.0 IS PRO zoom lens is an upgrade from the 12-42mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. The 12-42mm kit lenses are excellent optically, but their relatively slow maximum aperture and lighter-duty construction will have landscape photographers outgrowing them in short order.
The maximum aperture of f/4.0 is still not super speedy, but that f-stop stays constant throughout the zoom range and the built-in 5-axis image stabilization makes it a superb choice for both photography and videography in a wide range of shooting conditions.
It has professional-level construction for ruggedness and weather sealing that protects from moisture, sand, and temperature extremes negatively affecting the lens and its use. It is superbly corrected from optical distortion and aberrations and the lens element coatings reduce flare and improve color transmission and contrast.
The focal length range is extremely versatile, running from wide-angle through normal and up to a good bit of telephoto. The MFT crop factor of 2.0X tells us that the equivalent focal length range in Full Frame 35mm format is 24-200mm, which is a good deal of wide-angle all the way through to moderately long telephoto.
This is a very usable range for general photography. Since it also has close focus capability, it can work as our one lens to take if limited to that. It is a bit heavy, but not outstandingly so since it’s a crop format lens. That tends to reduce size and weight for this type of lens compared with larger formats.
Olympus 17mm f/1.8
Sometimes a prime lens is what will work best, either due to size, lens aperture, or simply wanting that particular focal length. The Olympus 17mm f1.8 wide-angle lens is one of the best options for Micro Four-Thirds mount cameras.
At a focal length of 17mm (Full Frame format 34mm equivalent), this lens is wide enough for many scenic views that we may come across for our landscape photography. At a maximum aperture of f/1.8, it is also very fast, two or more stops faster than many zooms that also cover this focal length.
Many consider a lens such as this to be the best focal length for landscape photography and candid or street photography because it is only a little bit wider than what is considered “normal” in field of view, apparent perspective, and distortion. The fast maximum aperture allows low light shooting and selective focus techniques which can be difficult with the crop format and slower lenses.
While not weather-sealed like a PRO lens, it is very nicely made, heavier duty than kit lenses. It feels solid and works flawlessly with current and older Olympus MFT cameras. It's a great choice for traveling light and compact. Paired with an Olympus OM-D E-M10 II, it’s a wonderful outfit to carry in a sling pack for a day hike.
Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 ED PRO
A lens option that some will list as their number one choice of best Olympus lenses for landscape photography is the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 ED Pro ultra wide-angle zoom lens.
With a crop factor equivalent in Full Frame format of 14mm at the widest end, this lens is what can be labeled as extreme wide-angle. Since it’s a zoom lens, it is also extremely flexible and versatile in use.
The vert fast maximum aperture of f/2.8 adds to the versatility and being a PRO series lens, it is also ruggedly built and weather sealed. The built-in petal lens hood is vital not only for flare control but also as an added layer of protection for the very large front element that would otherwise protrude out into the wild.
That large front element also means there is not a filter thread for some of the filters we like to use in landscape photography, although there is some debate as to whether filters like a polarizer should be used on extremely wide lenses anyways.
A filter holder system could be used with a specialty mount that attaches on the outside of the hood, there are several brands making this type of outfit. That way, you could still use neutral density (ND) and graduated neutral density (GND) filters on this ultra wide-angle lens for creating amazing images.
Used Lens Options
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High-quality lenses and other professional level photography equipment can cost quite a lot, so any time we can save some money for our awesome tools by buying some gear used. Each of these lenses were found used at a substantial savings from brand new.
The trick with buying used cameras and lenses is to know what you are buying and who you’re buying from. A reputable retailer with years of experience in what makes a worthwhile piece of used gear, a consumer-friendly return policy, and a great warranty is how I prefer to purchase used stuff that I will use in my photography.
Besides these examples I found to illustrate my choices of the best Olympus lenses for landscape photography, MPB.com also has a huge and continuously changing array of other brands of cameras, lenses, and accessories. Some items are virtually brand new, and MPB.com stands behind what they sell, making them among my favorite stores for photography and video gear.
If you’re using one of these amazingly capable and high-quality MFT cameras, you should consider one of these 3 Olympus lenses when you want to upgrade to your own choice of the best lenses for landscape photography.