The Perfect Trio of Nikon Lenses for Landscape Photography?

The Perfect Trio of Nikon Lenses for Landscape Photography?

What is the perfect trio of lenses for landscape photographers? This holy trinity of lenses is broken down into three main categories: a wide angle, a standard zoom, and a telephoto zoom lens. I’ve finally settled on what I think this trio is for Nikon landscape photographers.

During my landscape photography journey, I have used all sorts of various lenses, working to find the perfect combination for me. I have used faster f/2.8 lenses to do-it-all zooms, 70-300mm lenses, and different brands of lenses if the budget at the time needed that. I used adapted lenses as I moved to mirrorless several years ago.

Today, I photograph landscapes primarily using a Nikon Z7 II with a Nikon Z6 II as a backup. I have finally settled in on what I think the perfect trio of lenses are if you are a landscape photographer using Nikon mirrorless systems. I hope this article helps fellow Nikon landscape photographers avoid some missteps along the way.

Photographed with Nikon 14-30mm lens

Are you not a Nikon landscape photographer? Don’t worry, there are a couple of guiding principles that helped me make my choices, and they are considerations for all landscape photographers, no matter what camera system you prefer. I cover those at the end of the article to help you with your decisions.

Wide Angle Lens

Wide angle lenses are practically synonymous with landscape photography, though I think over time, landscape photographers eventually gravitate toward smaller scenes. But a wide angle lens warrants a spot in a landscape photographer’s camera bag.

Nikon has two main options for this focal length of lens, the Z 14-30mm f/4 or the Z 14-24mm f/2.8. Both are solid performers, but I think the 14-30mm f/4 lens is the best choice. While this may surprise many, after all, photographers are always told faster lenses like an f/2.8 are the best.

Nikon 14-30mm lens

There are two main factors for my choice. The weight of a lens is a significant factor to me. I often hike several miles to my locations, and the extra weight I don’t need just makes me more tired by the time I reach a location. The Nikon 14-30mm is both lighter and smaller than the Nikon 14-24mm. This is a significant deciding factor for me.

Additionally, the 14-24mm lens has a 112mm filter size, compared to the 14-30mm lens at 82mm. I find the larger filter size unwieldy, whereas the 82mm filter size is much more manageable when it comes to space in the pack.

Due to those two main items, I choose the Nikon Z 14-30mm lens as the perfect option for landscape photographers. The lens provides excellent image quality without being too heavy or consuming too much room in the camera bag.

Photographed with Nikon 24-120mm lens

Standard Zoom Lens

This category has a lot of options in it, from the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8, to the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4, to the Nikon Z 24-120mm f/4, or even something like the Nikon Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3. It can be hard to choose which one fits this slot the best. I’ve tried many of them!

If I review my most common focal lengths from my Lightroom catalog, images shot in the 24-70mm range are high on the list. It is a very common focal length for me. That contributed to me trying a variety of options in this slot. 

Nikon 24-120mm lens

Ultimately, I decided to fill this spot with the Nikon Z 24-120mm f/4 lens. This lens is still lighter than a Z 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, while giving me a broad focal length to work with. This contributes to helping keep the weight of the camera bag down.

In addition, this choice helped me have access to focal length option of 14mm to 120mm when paired with my wide angle lens choice. This gets even better when we look at my telephoto zoom choice.

Telephoto Zoom Lens

When I returned to landscape photography, I didn’t even think I needed a telephoto zoom lens. I wanted grand landscapes, and a telephoto zoom just didn’t make sense. 

But, as I have spent more time practicing landscape photography, I have come to appreciate the small scenes and how the telephoto zoom can help me pick out details in a grand landscape. 

This realization led me to try various focal lengths. Was the Z 24-200mm long enough? Or maybe the Tamron Z 70-300mm, then an adapted Sigma 100-400mm, until I finally settled on the Nikon Z 100-400mm.

Nikon 100-400mm lens

As I grew to like the longer focal lengths, 300mm plus, the 100-400mm focal length became much more viable. I could cover from 14mm to 400mm across the three lenses when paired with the wide-angle and standard zoom choices.

I switched from an adapted Sigma 100-400mm lens to the Nikon Z 100-400mm lens for two main reasons. It wasn’t the size or weight in this case, but the minimum focusing distance and a native tripod collar. The Nikon Z 100-400mm had a better minimum focusing distance, and the native tripod collar made switching to portrait mode much easier.

The Perfect Trio

This trio of lenses seems to me to be the perfect set of lenses for Nikon landscape photographers. The image quality is high, the weight is reasonable, and the size in my bag is also reasonable. These lenses do all of that while allowing you to photograph anything from 14mm to 400mm across all three. It has proven to be an excellent trio of lenses for me.

Photographed with Nikon 100-400mm lens

Base Considerations

This article has been very Nikon-specific, but if you aren’t a Nikon landscape photographer, I think the base criteria I used to make my choices can help you make a decision no matter which camera system you use.

The primary criteria I used when making choices all came down to weight and portability. Given that landscape photography typically involves longer hikes, sometimes over rugged terrain, I wanted to keep my pack as light as possible and keep the bulk down. Not only does this help with hiking, but it also helps if you travel via airplane for your photography.

This criteria often means not choosing the f/2.8 version of lenses, which can go against the common advice of many photographers. I believe when coupled with the actual needs of a landscape photographer, these other lens types can be the preferable lens choices.

What do you think? What do you consider the holy trinity of lenses for landscape photography? Why did you choose the lenses you carry?

Jeffrey Tadlock's picture

Jeffrey Tadlock is an Ohio-based landscape photographer with frequent travels regionally and within the US to explore various landscapes. Jeffrey enjoys the process and experience of capturing images as much as the final image itself.

Log in or register to post comments

I am a live music videographer/photographer and closeup nature photographer . As a live music videographer I’d went through many different options for a light weight high performance lens kit . I shoot Nikon and Sony for the live music performances . The lenses and focal lengths I’ve used most in the past boil down to the trio you’re using for landscape. The only difference I’d decided to make is the Nikon Z 14-24 f/2.8 S . I’ve already purchased the Nikon Z 24-120 . I felt it was the most versatile right out the gate . I use it on a Z9 .
For my Sony setup I have their 200-600 and it’s very useful especially outdoors . Ive used it indoors in a smallish venue and it was tough . Having it for the Sony and the 100-400 S for the Nikon side of things will be great. I use an old Nikon 400mm f/3.5 ais lens but it’s limiting as a fixed focal length.
Nikon has really put out a well thought out line of glass first before their more expensive more expensive fast more pro S line of glass . It’s not as though the glass they have put out is subpar just not as fast as they could have . They put out good quality glass that can work hard and is affordable and usable to the majority.

The 14-24 is tempting, I think the filter size/awkwardness is a bit off putting to me - heard great things about the lens though.

Re: 200-600 and 100-400, I sort of wish Nikon had a 100-500, similar to Canon. As I’ve grown more use to the 100-400 focal length for landscape photography, sometimes that extra 100mm might come in handy!

I’ve been quite happy with the Nikon glass so far - especially from a landscape photography perspective.

As for the 14-24 over the 14-30 is two fold . The distortion on the 14-30 for video and for photos I really need the f/2.8 for live music photos . Otherwise I’d be all in on the 14-30 f/4 . And it’s still not out as an option.
A 100-500 or 150-500 might even be better if the size was small enough like this 100-400.

Having the 2.8 for that situation totally makes sense! I pretty much only shoot landscape, so the f/4 on the 14-30 isn’t a big issue.

I believe a D6 would preform better than a Z9 in low light. I’m not in love with the Z9 low light performance. If I were shooting a ton of low light stuff, I’d defintely give the D6 a try before committing to the Z system.

Odd there's no mention of the weight difference when saying the 14-30 is lighter than the 14-24 and therefore preferred.

The 14-24 weights 650g compared to the 14-30 which weighs 485g (per Nikon).

I totally agree with this choice. Added the 70-200 mm f/2.8 to my gear as it is faster for the occasional sportevents.
What I’m still looking for is a decent backpack what you can carry around yet delivers space enough for the “landscape gear” and the needed extra’s for a day hiking without breaking your back or your wallet 😉

I must admit, I do some portrait and event photography outside of landscape photography - and I do have the traditional 70-200 f/2.8 and a 24-70 f/2.8 for that work. The faster lenses are great for that. But I never use them for landscape photography because of how much they weigh.

I am also a big fan of Shimoda Design camera bags for landscape photography. I travel with a Explore v2 35L and sees the most use. I carry all my normal stills gear, plus video and audio equipment for my YouTube videos. Great bag.

I have an Action v2 50L as well. I don’t like flying with it as it borders on the just too big size for carry-on, but is a nice bag. Tend to use it regionally more when I’m not flying.

Thx for pointing to that direction. I ordered a Shimoda Explore and have been hiking with it for the first time. What a difference with my former backpack (in pricing,comfort and place).

Great! Glad to hear the new bag worked out well!

As mentioned it you do mostly landscape work f4 lenses are the way to go. I am often tempted by 2.8 teles but the size weight and cost are not what I need for my shooting style and locations which is 90% landscape work.

Definitely a landscape lens lineup for me. I do have a couple of f/2.8 lenses from when I did a lot more portrait and event work. I still do those occasionally, so I keep those lenses, but I never take them out on landscape trips - just so heavy…

Nikon 20mm f/1.8, 24-120mm f/4 and 100-400mm for me. I don't need anything else.

I think that’s a solid choice - even more so if you are doing astro, nice to have that faster lens. And even without astro, the 20mm is a pretty nice focal length for a wide shot. (I believe a lot of my 14-30 shots are more in the 21-ish range).

The zoom lens is the tool of the Devil...

I don’t see it that way for landscape photography, where zooming with your feet can be impossible.

Why do you say it is a poor choice?

I love travel and landscape photography... I own the 24-120 and 100-400 as well. I agree with your choices. However, I tried out the 14-30. I couldn't stand the "parked" position of the lens. It reminded me of a kit lens. I really tried to like it! I went for the 17-28 f/2.8 instead.
You didn't mention the best part about the 24-120 f/4... it is nearly a "macro" lens. I traveled with the 24-200, but when out in nature, I couldn't get close-ups of flowers, butterflies and coffee beans! With cropping, the depth of field was too deep. Ken Rockwell has a comparison on Z mid-range zooms. The 24-120 jumps out as a 0.39, the best of all of them. Almost double my 24-200 which is 0.22. Sold! I got one. What a difference. If you like the close focusing of the Z100-400, you'll LOVE the 24-120!! Ken Rockwell pointed out that Canon makes a multi-element close-up "filter" that happens to fit the 24-120. I got one used. Turns out, the 24-120 is macro enough for what I need while in field and forest without having ever used the attachment
One thing about my default trio of zooms that lines up with yours... They all overlap! Instead of ending where the next one stops, they have overlap... 17-28 or 14-30 overlaps with the 24-120, and of course the 100-400 has 20mm of overlap with the 24-120. It makes you much more flexible in the field.
Loved the article! Keep 'em coming!

The problem with the trio for landscape/hikers is Nikon still doesn't have a lighter 70-200mm f4 or 70-300 in Z mount. Meanwhile Sony is on its 2nd iteration of the 70-200mm f4 and also has a 70-300 4.5-5.6 G. To me those are the best types of telephotos for landscape. 70-200 2.8 is too heavy, 100-400 is too long, big and unnecessary for most landscapes, to me that is a short wildlife and sports lens. Come on Nikon, release a smaller decent performing native Z mount telephoto.

I’m a frequent 100-400mm user, I need to go through my LR catalog, but over the past couple of years, I bet it is one of my more commonly used lenses, but you are right, it is a pretty long lens.

If you want to stick with Nikon, the 24-200mm is a pretty decent little lens. It doesn’t make it to my standard carry list, but it has been a good travel lens for me and at times is the only lens I take on trips where I will have time to do some photography, but it isnt the primary purpose.

Tamron made a 70-300mm that is a native Z-mount. Wasn’t a bad lens, lacked VR though - but, for landscape photography that might not be an issue since we tend to have tripods around.

THANK YOU! I'm moving to a Nikon Z6 soon and just needed a simple, well thought out lens plan for hiking, birding, etc... this article is it!

Appreciate the advice!

Glad it helped! Enjoy the Z6!