The objective of many landscape photographers is to get as much of the landscape in to the frame as possible, which obviously requires a wide, i.e. short focal length lens with a wide field of view. As tempting as it may be to go and buy an 8mm – 15mm lens (such as the Canon f4L fish eye lens) it is worth noting that shooting ultra-wide often leads to distortion and converging lines. It is possible to control these issues, but it is not easy and it takes a lot of time and practice to learn how to get the most out of these ultra-wide angle lenses. It seems that many photographers buy these ultra-wide angle lenses without fully understanding the issues, struggle to get decent landscape shots and then slam the lens as “useless” – which is not fair.
Rather than struggling with an ultra-wide angle lens and learning how to use one there is an alternative lens you can use and get great results much quicker. These lenses are still wide have a wide field of view and squeeze a lot in the frame however distortion and converging lines are not a problem. As you’d expect these lenses are more popular and the landscape lenses I would recommend.
The perfect lens for landscape photography is a 16mm – 35mm lens. The 16mm short end is just long enough to eliminate converging lines and distortions (both of these are common using lenses with focal lengths of 15mm and less) but still has a wide field of view. You can of course use a fixed focal length prime for landscape photography, but a zoom lens is more versatile and provides more framing and composition opportunities. The 16mm – 35mm is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most useful lens for landscape photography.
The great outdoors can be a hostile place and Mother Nature often does play ball, so you lens is going to have to put up with some pretty nasty conditions. Rain, water and moisture is something you have to deal with, as is dry, arid and dusty conditions. Then there’s ice and wind, both of which bring even more issues to deal with. The point I am trying to make is a landscape lens has to be tough durable and able to withstand everything Mother Nature throws at it.
Another thing you have to consider when choosing a landscape lens is the type of camera you shoot, and more specifically the size of sensor in your camera. If you shoot a dslr camera with a crop sensor you need to take the “crop sensor factor” in to account and remember the effective focal length is the actual focal length of the lens multiplied by your camera’s crop factor, which for Canon camera’s is 1.6x. If you shoot a crop sensor Canon camera there are a few wide angle lenses that will enable you to get wide landscape shots, however since a 16mm – 35mm zoom lens is considered the best the only lens you should consider is a 10mm – 22mm lens (see review here), which gives the desired (effective) focal length of 16mm – 35mm.
If you shoot a full frame camera there is no crop sensor to worry about therefore the 16mm – 35mm zoom lens you see on the shelf will give the 16mm – 35mm focal length you need.
The Wide angle lens I use for landscape photography
The wide angle lens I use for landscape photography is the Canon 16mm – 35mm f4L IS lens, and I have to say that I am very happy with it. I bought this lens when I upgraded to a full frame 6d since my previous landscape lens (the Canon EF-S 10mm – 22mm f3.5 – 4.5) wouldn’t work.
When I was buying the 16 – 35 I also considered the Canon 16 – 35 f2.8L version, however after a lot of research and a visit to the local camera shop to try each of them and take a few test shots, I decided the f4L IS version was the one to buy. My research showed that the f4L IS was smaller and lighter, the f4L IS had better image quality (although you had to go pixel peeping to see this – and no one does that in real life), the f4L IS is far cheaper and better value for money and the f4L IS has image stabilisation – which isn’t advantageous for landscapes (because I use a tripod) but it is for other types of photography. Okay, the f4L IS doesn’t have the f2.8 maximum aperture but I really don’t need the ability to shoot this wide when I am out taking landscape shots.
The Canon 16 – 35 f4L IS lens is tough, durable and as it is weather sealed more than good enough to deal whatever Mother Nature decides to throw at it. Like all L series lenses the f4L IS lens is made using superior materials, which makes it bombproof, and superior optics, which means the image quality can only be described as stunning.
Buy the Canon 16mm - 35mm f4L IS lens from Amazon.com (US ctizens) or buy from Amazon.co.uk (UK citizens)
You need more than a wide angle for landscape photography
Many people seem to think a wide angle lens is the only lens you need for landscape photography, and whilst you can get by with just a wide angle lens you will find your landscape shots start to look the same, even with the framing and composition options of a 16mm – 35mm zoom lens.
As well as a wide angle lens there is another lens that is essential for landscape photography, and this is a 70mm – 200mm standard tele lens. A lens with a longer focal length allows you to compress the scene or zoom in and elements in the distance, which can result in stunning landscape photos.
When choosing a 70 – 200 tele lens for landscape photography it is worth remembering this lens also has to be tough, durable and capable of dealing with harsh environments, the elements and everything that Mother Nature is going to throw at it.
The tele lens I use for landscape photography
The tele lens I use for landscape photography is the Canon 70mm – 200mm f4L IS lens. Canon make four L series 70 – 200 lenses and the f4L is easily the best choice for landscape photography. Since the f4 is cheaper than the f2.8 but the build quality and image quality are virtually identical the f4 version is by far the best value for money. A f2.8 aperture isn’t needed for landscapes so this isn’t a reason to buy the f2.8 version. I suppose the same can be said about image stabilization (since I always use a tripod for landscape photography) however image stabilization makes the lens a lot more versatile, which is why I opted for the f4L IS version.
Buy the Canon 70 - 200 f4L IS lens from Amazon.com (US citizens) or buy from Amazon.co.uk (UK citizens)
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.