- The Landscape Photography Book: The Step-by-Step Techniques You Need to Capture Breathtaking Landscape Photos Like the Pros
- National Geographic Greatest Landscapes: Stunning Photographs That Inspire and Astonish
- The Art, Science, and Craft of Great Landscape Photography
- Is a 24-70mm the Best Landscape Photography Lens?
- 6 Tips for Landscape Photography With a Telephoto Lens
photo by shilh via iStock
I know what you’re thinking…
How can anyone possibly narrow down all the excellent landscape lenses to a set of just three?
It’s true that there are a lot of fantastic lenses you can use to capture gorgeous landscapes, but standing above them all is the “holy trinity” of landscape photography - a wide-angle zoom, a standard zoom, and a telephoto zoom.
I know, I know...there’s no prime lenses in the holy trinity.
But as I explain in my video below, there are some very good reasons why you should pursue the holy trinity of zoom lenses and forget about primes for landscapes.
Give the video a watch and find out what lenses qualify as the holy trinity for Canon EF and RF lenses, Nikon F and S lenses, and Sony E-mount lenses.
Below, I’ve offered up a quick overview of why the holy trinity is your best bet as a landscape photographer.
Recommended Landscape Photography Books:
The Holy Trinity
Photo by Jason Wong on Unsplash
I’ve talked about my love for Canon’s RF lenses before, and I’ll do it again here - each of these lenses is simply spectacular.
The crazy part is that they’re spectacular on the EOS R, which can’t come close to maximizing the quality that these lenses are capable of. That’s something that the EOS R5 will certainly be able to do, and boy am I excited to get my hands on one of those cameras later this year!
As I explain in my video, there are some minor differences in focal length and aperture in the holy trinity depending on what camera you have and what mount the camera uses.
But, by and large, you’re looking at something in the 14-24mm range, as well as a 24-70 and a 70-200mm. This is most likely your best bet for the best lens for landscape photography combination.
Best Lens for Landscape Photography: Should You Get f/2.8 or f/4 Lenses?
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There are very few situations in which you need to shoot at f/2.8 in landscape photography. Low-light situations like astrophotography are a prime exception.
That being the case, if landscapes are all you shoot, an f/4 lens will be plenty fast for your needs. In fact, you’ll likely not even shoot at f/4 all that often!
I personally like having f/2.8 lenses over f/4 lenses because of their low-light capabilities. I’m not out every night photographing the stars by any means, but when I do, an f/2.8 lens is much more capable than an f/4 lens.
But, budget is the ultimate factor for most people, and since f/2.8 lenses are usually much more expensive, it makes sense for a lot of folks to go with f/4 lenses. I’ve shot many landscapes with a 24-70mm f/4 and they turned out great, so I’m not poo-pooing f/4 lenses by any means.
I suppose the advice I’m trying to give here is that you need to buy the best lens for landscape photography you can afford. Your lenses will last you for decades if you care for them properly, and they have a more significant impact on image quality than your camera, so putting your money towards good glass will definitely pay dividends.
Benefits of Wide-Angle Zooms
photo by Oleh_Slobodeniuk via iStock
The biggest asset of a wide-angle zoom like my Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8 is that you can take photos that look so much different than what our eyes see.
The distortion of a wide-angle lens isn’t for everyone, but I really love that distortion in a landscape - it looks unique and interesting, and that’s precisely what you want in a photo.
Besides, wide-angle lenses allow you to include a ton of foreground interest. Doing so gives your shots more depth and makes the photo seem more immersive too because you can create a layered shot with elements in the foreground, midground, and background. These are some of the primary reasons why a wide-angle zoom is considered a best lens for landscape photography.
Benefits of a Standard Zoom
Photo by Simon Migaj from Pexels
Having a 24-70mm lens in your kit is a must because it is such a versatile lens.
I’d say that most landscape photographers - myself included - would choose a 24-70mm lens as being the only one they could take on an epic landscape photography trip.
You can go wide at 24mm, shoot telephoto at 70mm, and have a ton variability in between.
This is an easy lens to use, too.
photo by Wiltser via iStock
Photos captured with a 24-70mm lens look much more natural than what you can create with a wide-angle or a telephoto lens. Without the distortion of a wide-angle and the compression of a telephoto, the images you create look more like what you see with your own eyes.
This can be helpful when framing up your shots and composing images because what you see through the viewfinder looks so much like what you see with your own eyes.
If you’re a beginner, pick up a 24-70mm zoom first - it’s an excellent learning tool and a best lens for landscape photography!
Benefits of a Telephoto Zoom
Photo by Mads Schmidt Rasmussen on Unsplash
The biggest advantage of using a telephoto zoom like a 70-200mm lens is that you can fill the frame with individual landscape elements and create much more intimate images.
Rather than showcasing the entire landscape, you’re forced to find that one element that’s more eye-catching than the rest and find ways to capture it in a beautiful way.
Telephoto lenses also give you the greatest opportunity to show scale.
Photo by Taneli Lahtinen on Unsplash
Because of their compression, distant elements seem larger than they are, so while mountains in the background of a wide-angle shot look tiny, they are big and robust in a telephoto image.
I’d argue that using a telephoto zoom for landscapes is the most challenging of the three lenses discussed here, but also the most rewarding.
Most landscape photographers start out with a wide-angle (I know I did…), and switching to telephoto requires you to think outside the box and reimagine what landscape photography can be.
So, if you’re in the market for the best lens for landscape photography, think about investing in the holy trinity of zoom lenses.
You’ll be covered from wide-angle to telephoto with just three lenses, and if you’re cramped for space in your backpack, any of these lenses can be used effectively on their own.