My favorite nature photography lenses are:
- Wide-Angle Lenses: Nikon 14-30mm and Fuji 10-24mm provide a unique perspective with extreme wide-angle capability for photographing immersive landscapes, accentuating foreground features in particular.
- Medium Telephoto Zoom: Nikon 70-200mm and Fuji 55-200mm, allowing for the capturing of isolated areas of the environment as well as the compression of scenes, exhibiting grandeur and unique views.
- Standard Zoom: Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4.0 and Fuji X 18-55mm, giving a versatile alternative for a variety of landscapes, balancing weight concerns, and delivering two-dimensional depictions when extreme wide-angle or extended telephoto ranges are insufficient.
An article just recently published in the Canon Europe pro newsletter delves into the best Canon lenses for landscape photography. Naturally, this attracted my interest, causing me to reconsider the crucial subject of the finest lenses for landscape photography. In my case, the thought process goes beyond Canon to encompass NF, including Nikon and, more lately, Fuji.
How I chose
Meanwhile, one issue remains: which lenses do I find myself using the most often in landscape photography? The response seemed to classify them as the finest lenses for me. With almost a decade of investment in landscape photography, the progression from its infancy to the present has experienced significant change. However, I must admit that, for the most part, my go-to lenses have stayed steady throughout the last decade.
Finally, the lenses have coalesced into a clear selection. Today, we’ll look at the intricacies of these lenses and possibly investigate why, in my experience, they’ve become important.
In essence, two lenses stand out as the bread and butter of my landscape photography toolset. There are two additional that, although not as often employed, nonetheless serve an important role. Let us now examine these lenses more closely.
Before we get into the individual lenses, I’d want to give my thoughts on the lenses I find most successful for landscape photography – the lenses that, in my opinion, are the greatest for this specific genre.
Fixed Focal Length vs. Zoom Lenses
The age-old argument between fixed focal length and zoom lenses may often seem like a leap of faith. For others, it really becomes a matter of firm conviction. Both sides have enthusiastic supporters with good reasons to defend their positions. Two fundamental aspects have typically dominated the discussion of fixed focal length lenses.
Advocates for Fixed Focal Length Lenses
For starters, fixed focal lengths provide dependably outstanding picture quality. Second, there’s the critical concern, particularly in terms of picture composition, of depending on foot zoom rather than the lens’s zoom power. These are the standard arguments in support of fixed focal lengths.
Role of Zoom Lenses in Landscape Photography
Zoom lenses, on the other hand, as previously said, have a role in landscape photography. Modern advances in picture quality, in my view, are a crucial factor promoting the usage of zoom lenses. Unlike popular belief 20 or 30 years ago, modern zoom lenses, particularly ones with a moderate range (such as 18-300), may routinely give good images. I should mention that I haven’t used lenses with a wide range in a long time, preferring instead a more restricted zoom range.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Lenses in Landscape Photography
Most lenses, fixed or zoom, have strengths and disadvantages in the domain of landscape photography, where picture clarity, absence of distortion, and low chromatic aberrations are crucial. However, in my experience over the previous years, zoom lenses with a rather small range may attain picture quality that meets my discriminating standards. In the following discussion, we’ll look at individual lenses that matched these requirements for me.
The Practicality of Zoom Lenses
The second thing to explore is how I use zoom lenses to capture diverse components of the environment. I often need to zoom in on certain things of interest while traversing the landscape. This is not a job I can do easily by muscular activity alone. Instead, using a zoom lens enables me to rapidly study the scene, looking for the best focal length to capture a certain piece. If the ideal framing isn’t obtained after reviewing the first judgment, I alter the focal length until the view via the camera’s viewfinder matches with my envisioned composition. This method guarantees that the photographed part corresponds exactly to my artistic purpose for the final shot.
Versatility of Zoom Lenses
Zoom lenses provide a considerable benefit in terms of versatility. They give me with a greater choice of focal length alternatives by embracing a wider range of focal lengths. This is particularly useful when working with wide-angle lenses, since I typically explore the whole range of the lens’s capabilities, often beginning with the widest wide-angle setting. In such situations, the adaptability of zoom lenses shines through, enabling me to fluidly move between various focal lengths while reacting to the dynamic needs of the terrain.
Lightweight Solution for Wide-Angle Photography
Furthermore, the weight-to-focal-length ratio is a practical benefit of zoom lenses that I value. A zoom lens is much lighter than carrying separate lenses with distinct focus lengths. This is particularly important when working with a large range of wide-angle focal lengths. For example, if I added 14 or 12 mm focal lengths to the conventional focal lengths of 18 mm, 20 mm, 24 mm, 28 mm, and 35 mm, handling the weight and logistics of all these unique lenses would be a significant task. Zoom lenses, by integrating different focal lengths into a single, lightweight device, provide an effective option. Because of their lighter weight, they are an excellent option for the practical needs of landscape photography.
Wide-Angle Lenses in Landscape Photography
Another notable feature, especially with fixed focal length wide-angle lenses, is their considerably larger aperture. However, in landscape photography, this aspect has little meaning for me. I can’t think of a single time when I purposefully chose an aperture, such as f/1.8 or f/2.8, for my landscape photographs. When it comes to lenses, I usually go for ones from the individual camera maker that have an aperture that begins at f/4 or later. I find it adequate for landscape photography as long as the ostensibly open aperture permits for decent optical quality (f/4 or wider). This method also saves weight when compared to fixed focal length lenses, particularly across multiple focal length ranges.
Sole Reliance on Zoom Lenses
In conclusion, as previously said, I only use zoom lenses for landscape photography. The two primary lenses I use for this purpose, one from Nikon and one from Fuji, cover comparable focal length ranges. The Nikon 14-30 is the wide-angle lens I use, and the Fuji 10-24 is its equivalent. The most often used focal lengths are 14 mm and 18 mm, or 10 mm and 15 mm in the case of Fuji (corresponding to full format).
Exclusively Zoom Lenses for Landscape Photography
As previously said, the reason for my fondness for wide-angle lenses is the distinct viewpoint they provide. I’ve gotten used to what an extreme wide-angle lens photographs throughout the course of my landscape photography career. This viewpoint, distinguished by prominent foreground components, heightened distortion, and a relatively distant backdrop, differs from normal human experience. Understanding and using this viewpoint may be difficult, particularly for novices, but it adds a captivating layer to landscape compositions.
I’ve grown to like photographing certain components in the environment, particularly with wide-angle lenses. Wide-angle lenses were, and continue to be, the necessary instrument for traditional landscape photography after I refined my eye for this viewpoint.
The next picture, highlighted by a breathtaking snapshot captured in Swedish Lapland during the autumn, depicts a mountainous environment.
The majesty of the mountain massif serves as a background, complimented in the foreground by a gorgeous lake and fall foliage. The rocky landscape emphasizes the mountainous look, resulting in a layered picture. The use of a wide-angle lens provides for a more immersive depiction, especially when carefully accentuating the foreground.
Crimson Colors of Autumn
Moving on, the brilliant crimson colors of autumn are highlighted in a low, mat-like plant in Swedish Lapland.
The close-up viewpoint at the start of the frame quickly draws the viewer’s attention to an intriguing element. The zoom lens excels in such compositions, allowing for a dynamic spatial impression and emphasizing foreground, middle ground, and background features.
Closing Thoughts on Wide-Angle Lens Adaptability
We experiment with various compositional strategies in the following photos, both taken in Swedish Lapland. The first uses a prominent foreground theme with a short exposure to concentrate on a big stone that anchors the spectator in the rocky sea shore environment. The second uses a long exposure to create a feeling of serenity and to capture the spirit of the place. These variants demonstrate wide-angle lenses’ adaptability, enabling photographers to create compositions that vary from wild and rough to calm and tranquil, depending on the intended impact.
Medium Telephoto Zoom Lenses
The medium telephoto zoom is my second go-to lens for landscape photography. For Nikon, I use the 70-200mm F bayonet lens, which was created exclusively for digital reflex cameras. This lens is not currently available for the Z bayonet or mirrorless cameras, however it may be used using the FTZ adapter. On the Fuji side, I use the 55-200mm telephoto zoom, which stretches to 300mm when compared to the Nikon version. Notably, the Fuji lens is almost half the weight of the Nikon lens while still providing superb optical quality.
Distinguishing Features of Telephoto Lenses
A telephoto lens’s distinguishing feature is its capacity to capture tiny, isolated sections of the environment, in contrast to the wide-angle lens’s vast view. The telephoto lens successfully compresses the scene in the first view, revealing distinct mountain ranges separated by a significant distance. The spatiality is strong, highlighting the grandeur of the mountainous features. Furthermore, the telephoto lens pulls a mountain chalet closer to a rock wall, changing the apparent dimensions and producing an enthralling composition.
Isolating Elements and Creating Unique Perspectives
The telephoto lens is used to isolate pieces of the surrounding terrain in the following photograph. When seen from a distance, the trees look virtually invisible in the forest, creating a new and unusual viewpoint. This lens is especially useful for panoramic photography, since it allows for detailed pictures of mountain peaks and ridges. Furthermore, the telephoto lens may intensify the fog effect, making it thicker and giving a particular atmospheric feel to the picture.
Standard Zoom Lenses
The traditional standard zoom lens is my third essential lens for landscape photography. I like the 24-70mm lens with a starting aperture of f/4.0 for Nikon Z. On the Fuji X bayonet, I use the 18-55mm lens, which begins later in the wide-angle range but is compatible with the 10-24mm wide-angle lens stated before. Although I don’t usually carry this lens, it’s a flexible option, particularly when weight and size are important factors on long walks in difficult terrain.
Three-Lens Arsenal: Wide-Angle, Medium Telephoto Zoom, and Standard Zoom
In summary, these three lenses—the wide-angle, medium telephoto zoom, and standard zoom—comprise my favorite arsenal for shooting a variety of landscapes, each with specific benefits depending on compositional requirements and climatic circumstances.
Should you do without the regular zoom lens?
The major reason I periodically skip the regular zoom lens, especially the 24-70mm, is its weight. I seldom use this focal length range since I favor extreme wide-angle lenses in heavily wooded places and longer telephoto ranges for the opposite effect. However, when this focal length is required, I prefer the 24-70mm or 18-55mm standard lenses. This decision was inspired by the requirement for a two-dimensional portrayal of a landscape piece that was not as narrow or compressed as with a telephoto lens.
Why did I replace my Nikon 200-400mm (Now Replaced)
Due to its size and weight, the fourth lens in my landscape photography arsenal is one that I seldom use and carry. This is the Nikon 200-400mm zoom lens. While I have since sold it due to its rare usage, I want to replace it with a lens such as the 100-400mm or possibly the 150-600mm next year, especially for my Fuji setup. This focus length is designated for special situations, such as when I know I need to capture distant landscape features that would be lost in the broader perspective.
This lens is essential for capturing waves, which is a subject I adore photography, particularly near the Brittany coast in the Atlantic. The first two images demonstrate the importance of using a longer focal length to capture the fine intricacies of waves. The first picture enlarges a short part of a wave, emphasizing its dynamic nature. I stood almost waist-deep in the water with a tripod in the second photo to catch a wave from a close view. Even with a 200mm focal length, I needed a teleconverter to cover the frame appropriately.
The goal is always to minimize cropping and capture the picture in-camera as intended.
Specialized Long Telephoto Lens
The last image, taken from a slightly diagonal angle above, demonstrates the usage of a long telephoto lens in landscape photography. While the focal length isn’t very long, it enabled me to snap a wave that I wouldn’t have been able to catch with my 70-200mm lens. Although it is seldom used, this lens serves a special function when capturing distant landscape elements with accuracy.
Conclusion: The four main categories
In summary, my favorite lenses for landscape photography fall into four categories:
(Bread and Butter) Wide Angle Lens:
- Nikon 14-30mm lens
- Fujifilm: 10-24mm
Broadcast Zoom (Bread and Butter):
- Nikon 70-200mm lens
- Fujifilm: 55-200mm
These two focal length ranges cover around 95% of my landscape photography requirements. They are versatile, enabling me to swap between them dependent on illumination, size, and compactness.
- Nikon 24-70mm lens
- Fujifilm: 18-55mm
This lens category is employed on occasion, providing a normal focal length range for photos that may not be adequately covered by wide-angle or telephoto lenses.
Telephoto Lens (Long):
- Nikon: 200-400mm (or comparable Fuji options)
This lens, albeit hefty and bulky, is reserved for specialized settings and is used to capture distant scene features, notably when shooting waves or distant panoramas. This lens is responsible for the other 5% of my landscape photography.
Emma Lucy is the Founder & CEO of Emma Lucy Photography. She has over a decade of experience shooting weddings and other intimate events. She also tests the latest digital camera bodies, lenses, analog cameras, and other gear from Canon, Nikon, Sony, and other camera brands. She is From London and currently lives in the United States of America, where she spends most of her time as a self-employed professional photographer and writer.