Photography Tutorials

Best Lenses for Landscape Photography

We look at the best 3 lenses, their focal lengths and how they will help your landscape photography.

Today we are going to talk about the best lenses for landscape photography. There are not many surprises here, we’re talking about the holy trinity but I thought you’d find it useful if we talk about each lens and look at why and when we might use a particular lens and how that’s going to effect our landscape photography.

I am really keen for us all to start thinking about landscape as an art rather than a technical exercise and this is true with our lens choice too. The lens you choose for a particular image will tell the story differently so I think it’s important to understand why we are choosing a particular tool to create that narrative.

Wide Angle Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS

I chose this lens over the more expensive 2.8 because it’s still has great image quality, it’s lighter and it has IS which helps me for video. 

What this lets us do is to open up our field of vision and capture much more in the frame. It particularly lets us tell the story about relationship between the foreground and the background. This can be used creatively where we can get nice and close to our foreground and fill the compositions with it. A great example of this is rocks on a beach or a craggy mountain. When we do this be aware that the background will appear much smaller so a huge background is required. A sky full of colour or interesting clouds is perfect for seascapes or huge dominant mountains are also big enough to fill the background and look great. There are also times when you physically can’t move any further back and the wide angle still lets you get everything in…..caves are an example of this.

An important point to note, and something people often get wrong, it that focal length does not change perspective. A normal rectilinear wide angle lens does not cause perspective distortion. It increases the field of view but perspective is only controlled by the relationship between the camera itself and the subject.

There are two tests you can do to show this. Firstly set up an object and shoot it from a distance with both a wide angle lens and a telephoto. Crop into the wide angle shot so the object is the same size, and apart from a resolution loss, it will look the same. Now shoot the same object but make the object the same size in the frame for both shots. This time the perspective is wildly different and the images look completed different. This distortion in the wide angle shot is caused by the camera to subject distance, not by the wide angle. If it was the lens that caused the distortion then distant mountains would also appear distorted and they don’t.

Tamron 24-70mm

If I could only have one lens it would be definitely this one. This particular one is really decent, probably to the standard of the original Canon lens but the IS makes it great for video. Once Canon release a 2.8 version with IS then I will upgrade.

This focal range is just so useable and it’s why most kit lenses hit roughly this range. 24mm is plenty wide enough for the majority of occasions and 70mm can still get you in pretty close. It’s a perfect walk around lens for handheld shots and you’ll find yourself using the full focal range at some point or other. 

Not much more to say about this one. The focal length of our eyes fit into this range and I think most of us instinctively know what to do with this range.

Canon 70-200mm F/4

Canon has four lenses in this focal range so it can become quite confusing. This is the version without IS which I don’t need for landscapes and it is also relatively small and light. I use the 2.8 IS II when I shoot weddings……it’s probably my overall favourite lens but it’s just so damn heavy and completely impractical for landscape photography.

Now the 70-200mm range is really interesting for landscape photography. It lets us stand in front of a scene and really pull out the interesting elements. Get close in on the interesting light, the distant detail and essentially create a portrait of the landscape. It gives us control of the story too. When we are stood in a landscape, we see the whole thing with our eyes but it might just be the one distant element evoking the emotion in you. If you were to shoot this with a wide angle all the other irrelevant parts of the scene would enter the scene and distract the viewer from what you are trying to show them. You are the story teller and the viewer does not always need to know what is just out of the frame. Often a really good image would hint towards this anyway and spark the viewers imagination to fill in around the frame anyway.

There are also only so many amazing vistas in the world and we’re getting to the point now where they have all been shot in great light. This lens though gives us more room to be creative and capture something truly unique.

Prime Lenses vs Zoom Lenses: Which is Better?

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In this video we decide which is better: prime lenses or zoom lenses?

Before we answer this question let's first discuss the difference prime lenses and zoom lenses.

Zoom lenses are common on all compact cameras and have the ability to optically zoom in and change the focal length, getting you zoomed in and close to your subject. They are versatile and can be used in a variety of situations.

Prime lenses have a fixed focal length and cannot be zoomed. They are less versatile on their own but because of the more simple design they are sharper, cheaper and often have a bigger aperture.

Physical size and focal length does not define it as a zoom or a prime lens as there is a misconception that primes are small and zooms are big.

prime lens vs zoom lens

So which is best? Unfortunately there is no definitive answer to this and it is really a matter of both personal taste and what you will be shooting.

I love to shoot with prime lenses because the restriction on focal length can often force you to think more about your shot and the only way to zoom is to use your feet to get closer or move further away from your subject. They are great for portraits and low light shooting due to the large apertures and they can create creamy bokeh. This makes them a common sight in the camera bag of a wedding photographer.

Videographers also swear by prime lenses as they are generally lighter and more portable, easy to use and they give that traditional film look. For DSLR video, zooms will often come with image stabilisation that is essential for hand holding video although there are several prime lens on the market now that also have image stabilisation.

Zoom lenses on the other hand are getting better and better all the time and the difference in sharpness is not as pronounced as it used to be. A lens like the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 is such a versatile range that it is suitable for almost all situations and you really have to start pixel peeping before you see the difference in sharpness.

tamron 24-70

The only way to truly know which is best for you is to try them out. If you nailed me down ands asked which is better? - I think I would have to say prime lenses. If you ask me which spends most of the time on my camera then it is definitely the 24-70mm zoom.

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