These are the only three lenses you need for shooting landscapes

Feb 20, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

These are the only three lenses you need for shooting landscapes

Feb 20, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Landscape photography is one of those genres where lens choice is a hotly debated topic. Everybody has their favourites, and people always seem to argue about what’s “best” or “essential”. Mads Peter Iversen tackles this topic in the above video and believes you can shoot just about everything you need with just three lenses.

The three lenses Mads mentions aren’t specific makes or models of lens, but types of lens. And all three of them are zooms. They’re a wide-angle zoom, a normal zoom and a telephoto zoom. It’s the set of lenses many people refer to as “The Holy Trinity”, or “The Big Three” as Sigma calls them.

Typically this set is a 14-24mm f/2.8, a 24-70mm f/2.8 and a 70-200mm f/2.8. And if you’re shooting in the daytime, I tend to agree. When shooting landscapes in the day, your aperture is going to be around f/8 or f/11, so super-fast f/1.4 glass isn’t really required and is often overkill for the sake of spending money.

Sure, sometimes you might want to use some speciality glass, like a tilt-shift, but if you think you need that kind of stuff, then this video isn’t really aimed at you anyway. You know what you need and why you need it. This is for those who are just trying to figure out how to get started shooting landscapes.

Of course, there are price considerations to take into account, too. The f/2.8 zoom trio aren’t exactly inexpensive. But taking two or three zoom lenses is less hassle and weight than a dozen primes while offering a lot more versatility for landscape shooters.

For a lot of beginner landscape photographers, you might only need a couple of lenses, like the inexpensive 18-55mm and 55-300mm kit lenses that tend to come with cameras these days, and perhaps a 10-20mm or 11-16mm for your ultrawide. You might even be able to get away with just a single 24-105mm lens if you don’t want to go super wide or long with your focal length. Again, if you’re shooting landscapes at f/8 for enough depth of field to capture everything, your inexpensive kit lenses are often going to be good enough.

I quite enjoyed taking Sigma’s trio out to the Arizona desert last year, and other than a macro for some shots, I didn’t feel that I really needed anything else for the photos I wanted to shoot while I was there. Typically, though, I do take primes when heading out to shoot landscapes. Usually just a 24mm and a 50mm.

What are your go-to landscape lenses?

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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5 responses to “These are the only three lenses you need for shooting landscapes”

  1. Anthony Kerstens Avatar
    Anthony Kerstens

    I have all the lenses I need for landscape, and they are not zoom lenses.

  2. Dude Seriously Avatar
    Dude Seriously

    I would never use Sigma or Sigma Art lenses for landscapes because of the ugly flaring that I get from them. IMO, they look great on test charts, but underperform in the real world. The worst part being ugly, harsh lens flares and inconsistent performance across the lineup. Some Art lenses have worse vignetting than others and I’ve never been impressed with the color.

    I think Sigma Art lenses are overrated and overpriced, but a lot of people seem satisfied with them. I shoot a lot of backlit scenes and in harsh lighting, so they don’t fit my style of shooting.

    To each their own.

  3. Ryan Souders Avatar
    Ryan Souders

    Article says enough. Even the author takes 3 additional lenses, lol. Only lenses you need are the ones you have, even if it’s just one prime.

  4. JustChristoph Avatar
    JustChristoph

    If there is a sentence in the lexicon of photographic journalism that should win awards for being the most untrue, most repeated, most trite, and most infuriating, it’s the one that goes something like this –

    ‘Zoom lenses offer a lot more versatility’

    Here’s the reality. You go out to shoot with your 14mm-200mm 2.8 zoomers (which, by the way, shows a total lack of any commitment to a personal photographic style, or, frankly, any style). Anyway, there’s a contest to see who is gasping hardest: Your wallet – having forked out BIG for the holy trinity, or you, lugging them up a steep hillside to get ‘that shot’. You set up your camera and take your photos and when you get home they are disappointing and you’re left wondering where did it all go wrong. Why? Because you didn’t have a plan of the shot you wanted. That’s why you thought you needed all that stupid glass.

    After some experience you discover that you almost always use the exact same two or three focal lengths. Further more, you would like to get some moody shots with plenty of detail in the shadows and some artisticly defocused areas and the best way to do that is to get faster glass. You sell the ridiculous triplets and buy yourself three fast, much lighter, much smaller, prime lenses. You can take photos in any light. You can access places you wouldn’t go before because your kit is so much smaller. You can also get away with a much lighter tripod.

    You finally start taking the sort of photos you always imagined. You also have a wedge of cash left over, so you fly to somewhere exotic and get some of the best, most exciting photos of your life.

    The end. (cue music)

  5. DanNorth Avatar
    DanNorth

    Overlapping focal lengths gives some flexibility and less lens change.
    16-35mm, 24-105mm, 70-200mm