Perhaps the most popular style of photography, landscape photography is about capturing the world around us. As a genre, landscape photography is epitomised by images of epic mountains, rugged coastlines and famous city skylines. But its broad appeal is that it incorporates almost any environment you find yourself surrounded by. So, regardless of the specific landscapes you plan on capturing, here’s a guide to getting the right gear for the job.
Photo by Alif Ngoylung
Choosing the Best Landscape Photography Camera
While any camera from a compact camera through to a professional DSLR can take great landscape shots, the best camera for landscape photography will typically have the following features:
High resolution – The number of megapixels determines the size of the image, which is important if you’d like to print it on a canvas for your wall (but not so much if you’re just posting to social media). It’s also worth remembering that the higher the resolution, the more you can crop an image – so more megapixels allow you to zoom in on or print a small part of an image without losing quality.
Large sensor – Sensor size determines the size and amount of light that reaches each megapixel and, aside from lens quality, is often considered the biggest factor in determining image quality.
High dynamic range – For high contrast scenes, particularly around sunrise and sunset, a higher dynamic range will allow you to capture more details in both the shadows and highlights.
Weather sealing – Capturing beautiful landscapes often involves braving the elements, so the best camera for landscape photography is one that will survive some exposure to rain, wind and dust.
GPS tracking – Models with inbuilt GPS and geo-tagging can make keeping a log of your favourite landscape photo locations a whole lot easier.
If you’re looking for the best value, it’s relevant to know which camera features aren’t as high a priority when it comes to landscape photography. The main two are:
Fast autofocus – While fast autofocus never hurts, landscape photography typically features slow-moving subjects. So a camera specialising in fast autofocus isn’t essential for landscape photography.
High frame rate – Similarly, a high-end sports camera capable of shooting a large number of frames per second might not be the best choice if it compromises some of the more desirable features listed above.
For those who opt for a DSLR or mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses, the best landscape photography lenses are:
Wide angle zoom lenses– Big, epic landscapes are most commonly shot with a wide-angle lens between 16-35mm (full-frame equivalent) to capture the entire scene in a single frame. This style of lens is considered the ‘go-to’ lens for most landscape photography enthusiasts.
Telephoto zoom lenses – The second most popular landscape photography lens investment is often a telephoto zoom in the range of 70-200mm (full-frame equivalent). This is ideal for focusing on certain aspects of a landscape or for compressing a scene with many layers.
For Those on a Budget
Versatile zoom lenses – For those on a budget or looking for a lighter weight gear setup, a versatile zoom somewhere in the range of 24-105mm (full-frame equivalent) is a common preference. If you only have room for one lens, then this is probably the number one pick. It’s wide enough for most landscape scenes but with enough zoom for tighter crops.
As with selecting your camera, understanding which features are less of a priority when choosing lenses for landscape photography can also make your decision easier. Here are a few features you can consider compromising on:
Autofocus – It’s definitely a nice feature but, in the world of static landscape scenes, tripods and long-exposure images, autofocus isn’t necessarily essential for all forms of landscape photography.
Wide apertures – Higher quality and more expensive lenses tend to have wider apertures (lower f-stop value). Known as ‘fast’ lenses, these are most valuable for portraits and action shots in which you want your subject to pop against a blurred background, as well as low-light photography. While a wide-aperture allows more light and can be essential for some forms of landscape photography, such as astrophotography or twilight shooting without a tripod, the majority of landscape scenes will be shot with a mid-range aperture to sharply capture details in both the foreground and background.
Capable of delivering magnificent landscape shots from a higher perspective, drones can offer landscape photographers a new world of possibilities.
Photo by Ivana Cajina
Landscape Photography Accessories
Tripod– A good, sturdy tripod is essential for capturing long exposures (e.g. smooth flowing waterfalls, light trails or the Milky Way), time lapses and properly composed panoramas, all of which are popular amongst landscape photography enthusiasts. If you plan on incorporating a little bit of adventure into your landscape photography, a lighter weight model made out of carbon fibre or aluminium will allow you to hike a few miles for that perfect vantage point while still providing sufficient stability in most conditions.
Tripod head – Often purchased separately to the tripod itself, the tripod head is the part on top that lets you position your camera and frame your composition. The two most common types are pan-tilt heads and ball heads. A pan-tilt head allows you to rotate the head through just one plane at a time (vertical, horizontal or tilt) which can be limiting for many scenarios and is often seen in more budget models for this reason. The most popular amongst landscape photographers is the ball head, which allows your camera to sit on top of a rotating ball so that your camera can move in all planes simultaneously, with a simple tightening of the ball head required to lock it into place. It is important to ensure that the ball head you choose can take the weight of your camera and heaviest lens to avoid any camera movement during your shot.
Remote shutter release– To complement a good tripod, a remote shutter helps reduce camera vibration on long exposure images. Remote shutters with an intervalometer can make time lapse photography much easier.
Filters– Highly popular for landscape photography, filters (e.g. polarising filters or neutral density (ND) filters) are the solution to capturing long exposures in any light, balancing out extreme highlights and shadows, removing unwanted glare or reflections, and creating numerous other effects.
Camera bag– A camera bag that keeps your gear safely protected and easy to access is a worthwhile investment for any landscape photographer. Backpacks are ideal for hiking. (You can also choose to turn your favourite backpack into a camera bag by using an insert, known as an ICU or Internal Camera Unit, to store your camera gear safely.) Alternatively, if you don’t need to carry much gear or just want a lighter weight or more discreet option, a camera satchel or shoulder bag that fits the essentials might be the perfect fit for you.
Spare batteries – Landscape photographers can often find themselves out shooting for long periods of the day and/or night, so having a spare battery or two is a good idea. In addition, a camera that can connect to an external power bank while shooting (e.g. via USB) can also make certain landscapes, like star trails, much easier to capture.
Photo by Simon Berger
Find Out More
If you would like more information on the best camera for landscape photography, general landscape photography tips or the right gear for getting started, feel free to get in touch or message us in the comments below.