I’ve had a lot of questions lately about gear — many of which are focused on the best lenses for landscape photography. I thought I would share an explanation of my recommendations for those who are either just getting started or are in the market for an upgrade. Hope this helps!
First off, my lens selection is based on the set-up as a whole and having a light weight kit. This is especially important to me as a landscape photographer, because being versatile and keeping things super simple is key. I feel that when you are in the field and things are happening fast less is definitely more. Speed and timing versus having a bag full of options can often times be the difference between getting a shot or not!
In my mind, using this two lens strategy is the best combination for shooting great landscape and travel photography.
A wide angle or ultra-wide angle lens is the most important lens there is for a landscape photographer. Having this wide perspective not only allows us to show an entire scene from a close foreground through to high mountain peaks and large sky. It also enables us to create unique perspectives and add drama to our photos. Using a wide angle can be challenging and take some time to master, however, once you learn the ropes — getting close to your subject, finding and reading lines, creating foreground interest — it can be an amazing tool.
Whatever you do don’t underestimate the importance of a long lens for landscape photography! While I don’t use a telephoto lens as often in landscape photography as the wide angle, it is still an incredibly important tool in many scenes. Some of my best images were created with a telephoto. It allows you to eliminate unwanted and distracting elements from your images and showcase only the most important or dramatic aspects of the scene. You can fill the entire frame with interesting elements and sometimes eliminate things like boring blue skies and favor a small amount of color in the distance by zooming in.
Skip the Mid-Range
While most people tend to have a mid-range zoom (something like a 24-70mm) as their go to lens, to me this is the least useful and least used lens out there. I owned one years ago and I basically never used it. I also haven’t gotten another one since. This is mainly because a mid-range lens zoom is a very normal field of view and for most things I just find it boring. I’d always rather be very wide to show the drama of the landscape or pulling things in close with a telephoto to eliminate unwanted elements and tell a stronger story.
What Lenses I Use
Until recently, I was shooting Nikon and my lens set-up was a Nikon 16-35mm f/4G and a Nikon 70-200mm f/4. I also took a 50mm prime along sometimes on the rare occasion I did need something mid-range, but again I rarely used it.
Since I recently switched to Sony, I also changed up my lens kit a bit to make things even lighter. The idea is still exactly the same, the ultra-wide angle and telephoto, but in this case I am using the Sony 12-24mm f/4 G and Sony 85mm f/1.8.
With the Sony’s ability to customize buttons and large image sensor, I am able to turn these two lenses into a versatile combination. I set one of the back buttons to automatically go to 1.5 crop mode. This turns my 12-24 into a 36mm lens at 24mm and gives me an 18-megapixel image. The 85mm becomes a 127mm. Whenever I need something a bit wider than 85mm all I have to do is shoot a vertical panorama, which gets me in the 50mm range. I still recommend a 16-35 and 70-200mm for many people, although the smaller kit mentioned is a great option.
Everything mentioned or listed has been tested by me in the field in extremely challenging situations and I can honestly say I think it is the best out there! Feel free to check-out my gear page is you are looking for any more recommendations on shooting with Nikon or Sony gear.