What is the best landscape lens? Hmmm…………….. this is a question that never fails to get photographers talking, or should that be arguing, and opinions are divided. You should never confuse a lens mainly for landscape photography but one that can be used for other types of photography and a lens solely to be used for landscape photography, however this is what many people seem to do. I mean………
Many people seem to think that landscape lenses need to be super sharp, which isn’t strictly true because landscape photos aren’t that detailed. Landscape lenses do need to have a good level of sharpness but they don’t need to be Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens sharp.
Many people seem to think that good landscape lenses need a wide maximum aperture, which is definitely not needed. The objective in landscape photography is to maximise the depth of field and get front to back sharpness, and this requires narrow apertures not wide ones. Many of the camera lenses marketed as “landscape lenses” have apertures of f2.8 or f4, which is ridiculous. I mean, when was the last time you shot a landscape at f2.8 or f4? I can guarantee that I have never used such wide apertures to shoot a landscape, and I never will. I am also guessing that many readers of this post have never used such wide apertures either.
Many people seem to think that landscape lenses need to be constructed out of the best materials, which isn’t true either. Landscape lenses do need to be tough and durable but they don’t need to be bombproof, and whilst “weather sealed” sounds good it really isn’t necessary. If you go to places and have to deal with the extremes (such as extreme dust, extreme humidity, extreme heat, extreme cold and extreme wetness) weather sealing is very useful. The thing is – how many people actually have to deal with the extremes on a regular basis? I am guessing not very many. Most people don’t need weather sealing and bombproof lenses so why pay for features you don’t really need?
From what I can tell from my time reading articles and blogs, and spending times on the various photography forums it seems that most photographers who shoot a Canon camera considers the Canon 16mm – 35mm f2.8L lens the best landscape lens out there, and whilst it is an exceptionally good lens I have to disagree. This lens has a wide maximum f2.8 aperture (which we have already established isn’t needed) and this lens is made from super tough materials and is not only weather sealed but also bombproof (again, we have already established this isn’t needed). This lens is also stupidly expensive which is to be expected, I mean the f2.8 aperture and tough materials don’t come cheap. If you want a lens solely for landscape the Canon 16 – 35 f2.8L lens is not the best lens by a long way. If you want a lens for landscapes photography and interior/indoor photography, fashion photography and group portraits however, this lens should be at the top of your list.
So, bearing in mind you don’t need anything super sharp, you don’t need a wide aperture and you don’t need weather sealing – what are the best landscape lenses? Well let’s take a look….
If you shoot a full frame camera the best landscape lens has to be the Canon 17mm – 40mm f4 lens. Whilst it may not be as wide as the 16mm – 35mm lens (but this is only just wider) it does have a longer reach, and there are times when this comes in to its own.
If you shoot a crop sensor camera the best landscape lens has to be the Canon 10mm – 22mm (effective focal length of 16mm – 35mm). This is a small, light and discreet lens with superb image quality.
Having the right lens will help you capture better landscape shots however using filters will take your landscape images to the next level. Many photographers argue that filters are redundant in the world of digital photography, however I would have to disagree with this. Okay, sitting in front of the computer and editing photos using Photoshop or Elements can create some filter effects but there are some effects that cannot be replicated post capture, and a filter must be used.
I use a square filter set up and my favourite landscape filter is the Zomei 10 stop ND for long exposures, and this is one effect even the most skilled and experienced Photoshop guru cannot replicate.
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.