Buying lenses can be a daunting experience if you are new to photography. You look at your brand’s endless list of lenses which makes you dream and wonder what lens you should buy next and whether you need all of them. How do other people decided on what lens to buy? It’s not as hard as it may seem.
Zoom or Prime
While prime lenses are very good, I often prefer a zoom lens. The reason behind this? I carry less lens and I can do more. While prime lenses are sharper and have higher apertures, I feel that I rarely need them for landscapes. Plus, I’m willing to compromise on the quality.
The most common focal lens for landscapes is a wide-angle lens which usually starts at 14mm. Below that focal length, we are getting into the fisheye territory (with some exceptions).
Lenses from the range of 16-35mm on full frame or 10-20mm on crop sensor are the most commonly-used lens for landscape. With that said, there are other lenses you should also consider – going wide is great and a lot of fun. For example, in the image above, I couldn’t have captured the “face” in the rock on the left if I didn’t have a wide-angle lens. Still, a mid-range lens is a must.
The 24-70mm lens is probably the best overall range lens you can find and one of the most used lens for all types of photography. This range is great because sometimes your subject is just too far away or you want to isolate part of the subject. For example, in the previous above, I was standing on the other side of the lake; I needed that extra range and had no change to get any closer. A lot of my work is shot with the 24-70mm because the lens is so versatile.
An alternative to this lens is the 24-105mm. This lens has an amazing range especially if you are using it on a crop body. With either of these ranges, you can’t go wrong when it comes to good coverage.
The 70-200mm is not for everyone; people often prefer to go as wide as possible each chance they get. But I like to get close and personal with my subject… whether it’s a mountain or a bird. I love always having this lens with me – the range is incredible and you don’t need to crop the images later which gives you that extra detail.
The image above may look like a painting but it’s a real mountain in Iceland. In this location, I shoot most of the time at 200mm rather than wide; the mountains are far away and shooting at 200mm makes the image much more personal. Having a crop body with a 70-200mm is fantastic because the 200mm should be around 300mm and you don’t need to use a teleconverter to add the extra range.
Another range option you can use instead of the 70-200mm is the popular 100-400mm. With all the benefits of the 70-200mm and with extra the range, this is a very viable option.
You might think that a macro lens is not much use for landscape but you would be wrong. Macro lenses are usually prime and have high apertures. They also focus very close to their subject. You might find a new world out there… the world of micro-landscapes is very interesting and unique. It’s not something we usually see and the results can be quite amazing. I don’t personally own a macro lens but I had a chance to try one and I enjoyed it a lot.
Although we all like gear and we like to own all type of lenses, sometimes it makes more sense to rent rather than purchase. I buy the lenses that I use the most; but there are some specific lenses that I prefer to rent because I rarely use them unless I need them for something specific.
I always rent lenses that are 300mm and above. I use them to photograph some wildlife but I don’t feel the need to buy them. Also, lenses like fisheye or tilt-shift can be used in very creative ways but, because of their price and the lack of use, I prefer to rent them.
With all this being said, don’t take my word for it. Ask a friend if you can try a lens or simply rent it and decide for yourself what works best for you and your style. Trying new lenses is always fun and exciting.