Two Essential Lenses for Landscape Photography

It is an often debated topic; what are the essential lenses for landscape photography? One photographer attempts to answer this burning question in this great video.

Andy Mumford takes a "less is more" approach to landscape photography, believing that remaining as unencumbered as possible results in more creativity and better work. No one who has hauled massive amounts of gear in the wild can argue with that. What may be up for debate however is Mumford's choices for essential landscape lenses. He posits that the only two lenses a landscape photographer needs are a wide-angle zoom and telephoto zoom. He leaves out a mid-range zoom.

I've been guilty of doing my best pack-mule impersonation when traveling, lugging around way too much photography equipment. It has definitely slowed me down and left me unable to properly focus on my work. I like the idea of lightening my bag and forcing myself to become more creative with the gear on hand. A further way to minimize weight and cost is to avoid purchasing fast lenses. Other than for astrophotography, I generally use an aperture of f/8 for landscape photography; it makes much more sense for me to own the f/4 version of a given lens as opposed to the heavier and more expensive f/2.8 version, for example.

What are your essential landscape photography lenses? 

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21 Comments

While I generally agree, less is more, I've missed bringing a mid-range zoom too many times to leave it at home. Likewise, while I take most landscape photos stopped down, I prefer to have the option of shooting with a shallower DOF when desired. On the plus side, it saves time and money, not needing to go to the gym. ;-)

Aneesh Kothari's picture

I look forward to seeing your new youtube series: "The Photographer's Workout - Toned Abs and Creamy Bokeh" :-)

For the most part I would have to agree. I use wide angle and tele zooms the most, although my midrange zoom (24-105) covers a lot for me as well.

Nikon 16-35mm, f/4 is the lens I use most often. I sometimes use the Nikon 24-120mm, f/4 kit lens that came with the camera. I seldom find myself wishing that the lenses were faster. I have a 14mm, f/2.4 prime, but it is mostly for astrophotography.

Aneesh Kothari's picture

16-35 f/4 is my go-to lens as well. Hard to beat it for landscape work.

I really like my 16-35, as well, but it's no match for my 24-70E in their overlapping range.

Not just landscapes- my 2 lens combo for street shooting/travel is a 17-35 (f 2.8 in that case- but f4 prob would be fine) and a 70-200 f4. Never miss those middle focal lengths...

Great video, couldn't agree more, I use a 16-80mm and a 70-300mm with the majority of landscapes taken at either the bottom or top end. I do like having the midrange option though as portraits can often be part of the landscape if travelling with companions.

Ryan Luna's picture

Agree with you Andy. Unless I'm doing Milkyway photography, I basically only use my Fuji 10-24 and Fuji 55-200 with my X-T2 for general landscape images. I have the Fuji 18-55, but I really only use that for my kids, family, and friends casual shooting.

Mid-range zoom for me. Olympus has a very 'smooth' sensor although I often shoot plus/minus 2/3 stop brackets for long-scale HDR. The Olympus 12-60 is lightweight, very sharp and I can make a nice print on 13x19 paper. I also carry the 7.5 Laowa and the Samsung 7.5 fisheye which I usually de-fish. The 'recent work' album at dennisgalloway.com has many examples of pictures made with these lenses. A technique I use is to stitch verticals together for wider angle or larger file size. I modified the head of my tripod to work as a panorama head. It is not quite accurate enough for indoor use but fine outdoors.

This advice doesn't only apply to landscape. If you have a 16-35 and a 70-200 you can bridge the difference by moving your legs.

It depends on your shooting style. If you typically shoot between 24 and 70mm, it would be foolish to bring two lenses where one would suffice. Horses for courses.
BTW, I think I know your brother Wingtip. ;-)

Michael Jin's picture

"you can bridge the difference by moving your legs."

No you can't, but you can bridge the difference by cropping.

Maximilian Sulzer's picture

On my current trip to the UAE I'm packing exactly that. 10-24 (on APS-C) + 70-200 f/4, but then i added a 35mm prime to cover the middle a bit better (also better quality) and it doesn't really weigh anything.

I recently took a trip to the far east and didn't have much room to pack and made myself choose one lens to bring. I brought a 16-35mm, f/4, the camera, an ND filter, spare battery, and a travel tripod. Only one time did I kind of want a longer focal length and even then I don't think that it would have been a great photo.

Aneesh Kothari's picture

Very much depends on the location. I just found this out on my recent trip to Tuscany. I relied on a long zoom for almost all of my shots.

Maximilian Sulzer's picture

I'm actually using the 70-210 the most.
For desert landscapes and also city shots to get a bit more detail of buildings.

Ultra wide i used for some cityscapes and only for a few landscape shots.

With my D500, I use a 16-85VR, 70-210/F4, and 10.5 fisheye. Very light and capable for general shooting. The old F4 zoom isn't perfect, but the tradeoff in weight is awesome and it has a really nice color profile.

In principle I agree: With 16-35 and 70-200mm you can cover more than 90% of your landscape shots.

BUT this is only one side of the reality. In the field in many situations you can't or you do not wont to change lenses (bad weather, lack of time). This is why also in landscape photography I often shoot with my Sony 24-105mm F4.0 - it allows me to go quickly from wide angle to a moderate tele focal length, what increases my creativity.

Aneesh Kothari's picture

A great lens! I agree with you - I think it's completely situational.

Dave Bradley's picture

I love my Canon 16-35mm for landscape. I also love my Canon 70-200mm f2.8. It's great for compressing mountains or pulling the sun in over water.