The Top 4 Lenses Landscape Photographers Wish They Had
The lens a photographer uses helps them portray the world around them.
In some cases, they offer a wide, grand view of the scene. In other cases, they get viewers up close and personal with a single landscape element.
There are a variety of lenses in between these two extremes as well, giving landscape photographers all sorts of choices regarding how to capture their subject.
Perhaps more so than other genres, in landscape photography, the choice of lens you make has a significant impact on the manner in which your vision comes to life.
That's because you can't just manipulate the subject as you would in a portrait. Instead, you have to manipulate how you capture the subject with your lens to change the look of your image.
The problem for many photographers, however, is that lenses (good ones, anyway) are expensive.
Fortunately, there's plenty of ways to save a few bucks and still get a great lens by buying pre-owned glass.
With that in mind, here's four types of lenses to keep your eye on if you're a landscape photographer.
Ultra Wide-Angle Lens
By far, the most popular landscape lens is a wide-angle (more on that in a minute). But if you go wide-angle, why not try ultra wide-angle while you're at it?
These lenses offer an interesting angle of view that's so wide that it actually bends the horizon line, as seen in the image above.
Sure, images like the one above are clearly not a natural representation of a landscape as we see it with our own eyes, but it's nevertheless an impactful way of capturing a landscape.
What's more, these lenses are ideal for situations in which you don't want to decide which elements of the landscape to include and which ones to exclude in the shot.
Ultra wide-angle lenses are considered to be anything shorter than 24mm on a full frame camera and anything shorter than a 15mm lens on an APS-C camera (the fisheye lens seen on the camera above is considered an ultra wide-angle).
The difference, of course, is due to the difference in sensor size between the two types of cameras. If you're unclear about sensor size and how it impacts effective focal length, check the "Learn More" section below.
Ultra wide-angle lenses might not be as popular as some of the others on our list, but that doesn't mean there isn't a huge selection of them out there.
No matter if you shoot with a Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, FujiFilm, Sony, or some other brand, you can find an ultra wide-angle lens to fulfill your landscape photography vision.
As noted earlier, wide-angle lenses are the most popular for landscape photography.
Though they don't have the vast field of view of an ultra wide-angle, they are still able to incorporate plenty of real estate from left to right so that viewers get the full view of the scene, as seen above.
Likewise, wide-angle lenses are top choices because they can incorporate lots of foreground and background, meaning you can capture both the land and the sky with ease, again, as seen in the image above.
Paired with the appropriate aperture, that means you can get an entire landscape in sharp focus due to a large depth of field.
A consequence of using a wide-angle lens is that they exaggerate the perceived distance between objects.
That means that the mountain range that looks so impressively large to your naked eye might seem a little small in a wide-angle shot.
Therein lies the tradeoff - you can capture more of the scene in front of you with a wide-angle lens, but the elements in the scene, especially those in the background, will appear smaller.
Still, if you're after a grand, dramatic feel to your landscape shots, a wide-angle lens is the way to go.
Typically, these lenses are considered to be less than 35mm on a full frame camera and less than 24mm on an APS-C camera.
Standard lenses, which on a full frame camera is considered around 50mm and on an APS-C camera is considered around 35mm, most closely replicate what we see with our own eyes.
That makes standard lenses an optimal choice if your goal is to portray the landscape in a way that looks familiar and feels comfortable, as the image above does.
With an angle of view that's typically in the 50-55 degree range on the diagonal, standard lenses offer a much tighter view of the landscape than ultra wide-angle and wide-angle lenses.
But, because our eyes have a similar angle of view, images taken with a standard lens are quite pleasing.
Another advantage of using a standard lens is that they help drive attention toward the subject. So, rather than offering a wide, grand view, you get a more focused shot that highlights the primary subject more than anything else.
Likewise, standard lenses are incredibly versatile. For example, if you shoot with an APS-C camera and pair that with a 35mm lens, you can get pleasing landscape shots, great portraits, tackle street photography, and just about anything else you wish.
These lenses - especially prime lenses that have a fixed focal length (like the 50mm Canon lens shown above) - also tend to have very large maximum apertures, which is great for low-light shooting.
So, if you want a lens that produces pleasing results, that's versatile, and allows you to shoot low-light landscapes with greater ease, give a standard lens a try.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from ultra wide-angle lenses are telephoto lenses.
These lenses are big, bulky, and offer the narrowest angle of view among all the lenses on this list. Typically, telephoto lenses are anything above around 85mm on a full frame camera and 50mm on an APS-C camera and extend up to 600mm or more.
That narrow angle of view means that you can very easily highlight a specific area of the larger landscape and fill the frame with it, much like has been done in the image above.
Where a wide-angle lens has the effect of exaggerating distance in the shot, a telephoto lens has the effect of compressing distance.
That means that it's an ideal choice for photographing far-off elements but making them quite large in the frame.
They are also a good choice for situations in which you want to show foreground and background elements in the same shot, but make those elements appear closer to one another than they actually are.
In terms of drama, telephoto lenses are hard to beat when it comes to making landscape elements like mountain peaks look impressive.
However, just like the lenses on the wider end of the focal range, telephoto lenses don't produce results that look natural. But as you can see in the sample image above, even though it's not a natural view, it's sure a good view!
No matter what focal length lens you use for landscapes, there's opportunities to create stunning imagery. What it comes down to in the end is personal taste and how you want your images to look.
Of course, the budget is a huge factor in buying lenses, too, so finding ways to make your money stretch a little further is always a bonus.
Rather than buying a single brand-new lens, I strongly recommend using services like Lensfinder to get a couple of great pre-owned lenses instead.
As the name states, Lensfinder is nothing but lenses, so you don't have to search through a bunch of photography gear you don't need or want.
Not only does Lensfinder make it easy for you to find the lenses you want, but they also make it easy for you to purchase.
Just find the lens you want, communicate with the seller directly within Lensfinder, and pay for the lens via PayPal.
It's fast, easy, and allows you to get more bang for your buck.
That's not a bad deal if you ask me!