If you’re heading out on a landscape photography adventure you may be wondering what lens you need?
Most of what you read on the internet will probably say you need a specialized wide-angle lens for landscape photography but if you’re a beginner I’m going to suggest that you start with your stock 18-55mm lens. Yes, a wide-angle lens is designed with landscape photography in mind, but you don’t need one to take great landscape photographs. Most landscapes photos are taken between 18-24mm, so a stock lens of 18-55mm will cover the optimal focal length in a lot of situations.
The photo above was taken on a stock 18-55mm lens on a Nikon dSLR. There were no filters and post processing is minimal. It was taken mid morning as it was about two hours into a nine hour hike in Waterton National Park.
If you’ve been taking landscape photographs and are considering expanding your lens collection to include a wide-angle lens, then I’d first suggest that you spend a few minutes going through your favorite photos. Look at the metadata (information that includes focal length, aperture, ISO etc) and if these photos are commonly at 18mm then it may be time to give yourself a little more width. If you find that you’re not spending a lot of time at 18mm then a lens that offers a wider angle may not be a priority. In this situation, you may want to prioritize filters, technique (in camera and post processing), or a sharper lens to improve your photographs.
If you’ve identified that a wider field of view is required to capture the landscapes you have access to, then it’s time to purchase a wide-angle lens. All of the major brands have good wide-angle lenses and it really depends on a few key considerations:
- How wide is wide enough? Sometimes you only need a couple of mm’s so 16mm may be wide enough.
- Do you prefer a zoom (variable focal length) or a prime (fixed focal length) lens? This is a personal decision. Typically prime’s are sharper however the more expensive “pro” zooms are pretty close.
- Do you need weather sealing? – first check your camera is weather sealed as if it isn’t then this isn’t a priority. Just get a relatively cheap rain cover like a OP/TECH rain sleeve or a Vortex Media storm jacket. If you’re camera is weather sealed and you like heading out in all types of whether then you may want to prioritize weather sealing.
- Don’t forget about third party options. Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, Samyang / Rokinon make some great lenses and they are often cheaper than the named brand lenses. Do your research regarding image quality but these may be a viable option for your first wide-angle lens.
Good zoom wide-angle lens for APS-C dSLR cameras include:
- Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4-f/5.6 IS STM
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor DX 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED
- Sony 10-18mm f/4 OSS
- Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS
To finish, its important to reiterate that a wide-angle lens is NOT a requirement for landscape photography and you need to head out and find your style before you invest in a lens that may not be required. If you determine a wider focal length is required then a wide-angle lens will be perfect.