Which lenses are good for landscape photography? I’ll show you what features matter and give recommendations for Canon, Nikon, and Sony.
Lenses for landscape photography: My recommendations
Right at the beginning, there are my concrete recommendations for the manufacturers Canon, Nikon and Sony. The recommendations were made in collaboration with Nicolas Alexander Otto, who has also tried a lot in the field of wide-angle lenses.
If you want to get more information about the image quality of certain lenses, I can recommend the Lens Image Quality Tool from The-Digital-Picture.com.
No matter which lens you choose, you should always use the appropriate lens hood. With some lenses it is included, with others you have to buy it separately.
Canon lenses for landscape photography
Canon APS-C SLR camera (Canon EF-S mount)
For example, you can use the following lenses on Canon EOS cameras 40D, 50D, 60D, 70D, 77D, 80D, 90D, 7D, 7D Mark II, 450D, 500D, 550D, 600D, 650D, 700D, 750D, 800D, 850D, 100D, 200D and 250D. They are not suitable for Canon full-frame SLR cameras because the EF-S design makes the lenses protrude too far into the camera.
Canon has two EF-S wide-angle lenses in their lineup. I use the EF-S 10-22mm. It’s relatively lightweight, which I appreciate on longer photo trips. Its little brother, the 10-18mm, costs much less and comes with an image stabilizer, but is nowhere near as sharp as the EF-S 10-22mm according to my comparison between the two. If you’re wondering if it’s worth the extra cost, I can clearly answer „yes.“
Canon full frame SLR (Canon EF mount)
This lens fits the Canon EOS cameras 6D, 6D Mark II, 5D Mark II, 5D Mark III, 5D Mark IV, 5DS, 5DS R, 1DX and 1DX Mark II, among others.
Canon, meanwhile, has an excellent wide-angle lens for landscape photographers in the form of the EF 16-35 mm f/4 L IS USM. In terms of sharpness, it is the reference in this focal length range. It has a consistent maximum aperture of 4 throughout the focal length range, and it also offers an image stabilizer if you ever want to shoot handheld in lower light without shaking.
Canon APS-C system camera (Canon EF-M mount)
This lens fits the Canon EOS M6, M6 Mark II, M3, M5, M50, M200, and M100, among others.
Fortunately, there is a very good wide-angle lens for the Canon mirrorless system cameras. What’s more, it is surprisingly affordable. We are talking about the Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM. It has a focal length of 11-22 mm and comes with an image stabilizer. So you can take pictures without a tripod even in low light. This is especially helpful for city trips and interior design. For the focus, this lens uses an STM motor. This makes it pleasantly quiet and also suitable for videos, because the motor cannot be heard when focusing.
Canon full frame system camera (Canon RF mount)
This lens fits the Canon EOS R5, R6, R3, R, Ra and RP, among others.
For the Canon mirrorless system cameras with full-frame sensor, the selection of wide-angle lenses is not very large at the moment. My recommendation here is Canon’s own RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM. It has its price, but brings all the features you want. That starts with the speed of 2.8, which is very good for a zoom lens. For focusing, it has the fast and quiet USM motor. An image stabilizer is also on board. It has excellent sharpness and is sealed. So you can use it even in dusty or wet environment.
Nikon lenses for landscape photography
Nikon APS-C SLR camera (Nikon DX mount).
This wide angle works on Nikon cameras D7500, D5600, D5500, D5300, D3400, D3300, D500, among others. Attention: The lens is not compatible to all Nikon DX cameras. Here I recommend to specify your camera under the following link on the Amazon page to see if it fits. You can find an alternative below.
For a long time it was hard to find a good wide angle lens for Nikon APS-C cameras. Since mid-2017, the Nikon range has included the highly recommended AF-P DX 10-20 mm 1:4.5-5.6G VR. It is relatively inexpensive, lightweight and the filter diameter is „only“ 72 mm. This also makes the filters a bit cheaper than for 77 or 82 mm. In addition, it has an image stabilizer on board.
If the AF-P DX 10-20 doesn’t fit your camera, the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED is a good alternative. To my knowledge, it works on the Nikon D3100, D3200, D3300, D3400, D5100, D5200, D5300, D5500, D5600, D7000, D7100, D7200, D7500, D300(s) and D500.
Nikon full frame SLR camera (Nikon FX mount)
This lens is designed for Nikon full frame cameras D600, D610, D700, D750, D780, D800(E), D810(A), D850, D4(S) and D5.
Finding a good wide angle lens for Nikon full frame cameras is not easy. The 14-24mm f/2.8G ED offers great image quality, but it has no filter thread and is relatively heavy. That’s why I recommend the 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED. It’s quite small and light and the image quality is totally fine.
Nikon full frame system camera (Nikon Z mount).
This lens can be used with the Nikon Z 6, Z 6II and Z 7, Z 7II.
So far, the market for wide-angle lenses on Nikon mirrorless system cameras is still quite limited. Fortunately, there is a good wide-angle that I can recommend. With the Nikkor Z 14-30 mm 1:4 S, you are well positioned here. With a focal length of 14-30 mm, it is very wide-angle and still has a front thread for filters. It has a continuous speed of 4 over the entire zoom range. For this, it is still quite compactly built overall.
Sony lenses for landscape photography
Sony APS-C system camera (Sony E-mount connection)
This lens is suitable for the Sony cameras a3000, a5000, a5100, a6000, a6300, a6500, NEX-3N, NEX-5R, NEX-5T, NEX-6 and NEX-7.
Here, you can grab the Sony FE 10-18 mm F4 OSS without hesitation. Besides a very good image quality, it comes with an image stabilizer if you want to shoot handheld in low light.
If it’s okay for you to work without autofocus and thus focus manually, then take a look at the Samyang 12mm F2.0 lens for Sony E-mount. It is sufficiently sharp and offers very good value for money. With a focal length of 12mm, it is very wide-angle and with a starting aperture of 2.0, it is also fast. So you can also use it for subjects like stars and northern lights.
Sony full-frame system camera (Sony E-mount connection)
The lens for Sony full-frame cameras works on the Sony A7, A7 II, A7III, A7R, A7R II, A7R III, A7R IV, A7S, A7S II and A9, among others.
Sony also pays well for a good wide-angle lens. Since, as described above, a 2.8 speed is not necessary, I can recommend the Sony FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS. It also has an image stabilizer with OSS.
If you do want more speed, then the Tamron 17-28mm F/2.8 Di III RXD is worth considering. Thanks to Markus for the tip!
Filters for wide angle lenses
Wide angle lenses usually have a filter diameter of 77 or 82 mm. Accordingly, you should budget a little more for the purchase of filters. For me, polarizing filters and ND filters are indispensable in landscape photography. I do not use a UV filter.
In my recommendations for cameras I always write about starting photography with a standard zoom. Gradually you will find out which focal length you shoot with the most and which are your subjects. This is how I described it in my article about SLR cameras for beginners.
What you should know before buying
Wide angle lens for landscape photography
If you realize over time that landscapes are your favorite subjects and you often use the wide-angle end with your standard zoom, then a wide-angle lens can take you further.
Why I recommend a wide-angle lens
Landscape photography isn’t limited to a specific focal length, of course. Recently, I received an email asking if it was possible to photograph landscapes with an 85mm lens. Yes, you can take a picture of a landscape even with this focal length 🙂 .
However, I almost always recommend a wide angle lens for landscape photography. The reason is that you can more easily provide more depth in the image with it. Giving a picture more depth and thus conveying a certain three-dimensionality is much more challenging with a telephoto lens. Another point in the 21 Ways to Improve Your Photography is to use a wide-angle lens and get closer to your subjects. This will make your pictures better.
So my recommendations on lenses for landscape photography are limited to wide-angle lenses. Of course, this is also because 90% of my own landscape photography is done with a wide angle. Nevertheless, I would like to encourage you to use other focal lengths from time to time to bring variety into your images and to constantly hone your image composition skills.
My survey about landscape photography in Germany showed that 80% of the photographers use either Canon, Nikon or Sony cameras. My recommendations are therefore based on these three manufacturers.
Luminosity plays a subordinate role for me for landscapes
I take most of the landscape shots that make it into my portfolio from a tripod. This is also because I often shoot at sunrise and sunset. At these times, a tripod is simply necessary because I can’t handhold exposure times of, say, 5 seconds without blurring.
Usually the whole picture should be sharp. I often use f/8 for this, so high speed is usually not an issue in landscape photography. Most of the lenses I recommend have a starting aperture around 4.
Zoom lens for light hiking
Fixed focal lengths often offer better image quality than zoom lenses. Of course, for optimal image quality, it would be good to use only fixed focal lengths. As a landscape photographer, however, you are often on foot for longer periods with your photo backpack. Here, the weight also plays a role. I therefore recommend taking a good zoom lens with you rather than 2-3 fixed focal lengths. This not only saves weight, but also space in the backpack.
Is it worth buying a wide-angle lens for a full-frame camera right away because you want to buy such a camera later?
It’s not worth it due to the different sensor sizes. Let’s take the Canon EF-S 10-22mm for APS-C cameras and the Canon EF 16-35mm F4 for full-frame cameras as an example. If you have an APS-C camera and take the 10-22mm, then you have a wide-angle lens. But if, because you want to buy a full-frame camera someday, you were to use the 16-35mm on your APS-C camera right now, you would have quite little wide angle. The difference in angle of view compared to your 18-55mm kit lens would be minimal (2mm).
The focal length of a lens doesn’t change because you screw it to a different camera. An APS-C and a full-frame camera have a different sensor size. So only a different area is illuminated. Lenses for APS-C cameras illuminate a smaller area than lenses for full-frame cameras. If you were to use a 10-22mm with a full frame camera, the corners of your image would just be black. On top of that, there may be mechanical problems that can damage your camera because lenses for APS-C sensors protrude further into the camera.
So if you’re using an APS-C camera and want to shoot wide-angle, go with a wide-angle lens for APS-C cameras. If you want to upgrade to a full-frame camera at some point, you will have to buy a new wide-angle lens.
Are you already using a wide-angle lens for your landscape photography? Would you recommend the same lenses? Or do you disagree with my recommendations at all? Write me in the comments!