Often beginner photographers tend to ask the wrong sort of questions. I am not blaming them as they are too naive to understand that simply buying the best piece of gear is not going to guarantee the best images. Photography is a synergy of the right tools with the right skillsets. You can eliminate the technology part and still be able to get good image s. but if you don’t have the right skills, no amount of quality gear will make up for it.
Okay, that caveat out of the way, now we can concentrate on the topic of discussion today. We are going to look at the best lenses for landscape photography. Ansel Adams, the legendary photographer and the co-discoverer of the Zone System for Exposure had once famously said, "Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer." It is probably the best summarization of the tough demands of landscape photography.
Landscape photography is one of those few genres of photography which is overly depended on the right combination of gear. You need a tripod, a cable release, the right camera, light meter, filters and of course the right lens. This discussion is about picking the best lens. More specifically, the best lenses for landscape photography.
The best lenses according to me, are those which zoom, have a sharp performance across the zoom range and have very little imperfections. Imperfections denote distortions, aberrations and lack of sharpness. A lens that is less than optimum in terms of sharpness would only get exposed the higher the resolution of the camera. A higher resolution camera will amplify every imperfection of the lens. If you have to choose between a sharp lens and a high resolution camera, choose the lens.
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L III USM
The Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L III USM* is one of the most preferred and widely used landscape lens designed for Canon's full-frame DSLR system. The lens is an upgrade of the older EF 16 – 35mm f/2.8L II lens which also happens to be one of the more popular lenses around for landscape work. The lens has a maximum constant aperture of f/2.8. A lens that enjoys Canon's L moniker, the EF 16-35mm is designed for outdoor work with a water and dust resistant construction. Internally, the lens has 3 aspherical elements and 2 UD elements to take care of aberrations and distortions. Externally, the lens comes with fluorine coating and sub-wavelength and Air Sphere coatings. Auto-focus on the lens is powered by a refined USM (Ultrasonic Motor). The lens comes with full-time manual focusing override. This is an important feature to have, especially for subjects that lack contrast. For landscape photos, I tend to rely more on the auto-focusing abilities of the lens, which in this case is extremely reliable. Overall, if I were to go only by the DxOMark score, the lens enjoys an extremely high rating of 34, when tested with the Canon EOS 5DS R. An impressive score that says volumes about the lens' abilities.
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G EF lens
The Nikon AF-S Nikkor EF 14-24mm f/2.8 G* is a wide angle zoom lens designed for the full-frame Nikon DSLR systems. The lens has a fixed wide aperture of f/2.8. Internal construction of the lens includes 2 ED elements and 3 aspherical elements. Also included are Nano crystal coating on the top element as well as Super Integrated coating that ensures extremely low impact from reflections and flares. Resultantly, the images are contrasting and super sharp. The auto-focusing technology of the lens is powered by Nikon's silent wave motor. It also has full-time manual (FTM) focusing. FTM ensures that you can turn the focusing ring even when auto-focusing is engaged and precisely and manually correct focusing. This lens comes with a great build quality. The lens is both moisture and dust resistance and therefore the lens is a great asset to have when shooting outdoors. Tested by DxOMark on several camera systems the lens is super sharp at f/16 wherein it gives its best performance. The lens is rated at 28 which is considered a par score based on other tested lenses.
Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens
At 42 on the DxOMark test results, the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM* is the sharpest wide angle zoom lens ever to have been tested by the company. Designed for Sony's FE mount full-frame system DSLT's this lens is a joy to shoot with. Too bad you will have to switch to a Sony system in order to use this baby in full mode. You could look for some adapters but then auto-focusing is likely to go or a toss. The internal construction of this lens constitutes 2 XLD elements and 3 aspherical elements plus 2 XA elements. The front elements come with Nano AR coating and fluorine coting which prevents the lens from becoming a dust and smudge magnet. Auto-focusing on the lens is powered by Direct Drive Super Sonic Wave AF motors. The lens is sharpest at f/2.8 and f/24 which means you can produce corner to corner sharpness even when the lens is stepped down.
Sony FE 28mm f/2
I did not think that I would be including a prime lens in this discussion. Prime lenses like the Sony FE 28mm f/2* are not my first choice when it comes landscape photos. They tend to cut the creative freedom. Sometimes there is simply no room to maneuver and in this situations a prime lens becomes a burden. But at a DxOMark score of 40 I don’t think anyone would complain too much. This lens is as sharp as they come. The internal construction of the lens includes 2 Extra low dispersion elements, 1 AA elements and 2 aspherical elements. This takes care of aberrations and distortions big time. This is a dust and moisture resistant construction just like the other lenses I reviewed about earlier. Auto-focusing on the lens is powered by a linear autofocusing motor with internal focusing. Internal focusing ensures that the lens barrel does not extend when the lens is focusing.
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