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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

DSLRs & Lenses For Landscapes

The best cameras, lenses and gear for achieving the ultimate landscape photography no matter your budget

Labels: CamerasD-SLRsGear
This Article Features Photo Zoom

Landscape Lenses
Lens choice can matter just as much for resolution as the camera

Sigma 20mm
For most landscapes, you'll shoot stopped down so depth of field covers everything from foreground to background. Luckily, for landscape photographers, this means that fast lenses with large apertures aren't as important as they are for action or low-light specialists. Slower lenses of a given focal length are smaller, lighter and less costly. On the other hand, a manufacturer's fast lenses are generally pro offerings, which are "better" than the slower ones in terms of optical performance. Lenses also do the best in sharpness when they're closed down two or three stops from wide open. So if you need to shoot at an aperture of ƒ/5.6, an ƒ/2.8 lens will be sharper at that aperture than a lens that starts at ƒ/4 or ƒ/5.6. Of course, when you stop down beyond ƒ/8 or ƒ/11, diffraction starts to reduce sharpness, as well, so you'll have to decide which is more important for the shot—maximum sharpness at the focused point in your scene or overall sharpness from the foreground through the background.

Tamron 24-70mm
Looking at primes, favored focal lengths for landscapes will depend heavily on the photographer. At minimum, a capable kit will include at least one wide-angle, a telephoto and a basic perspective lens at 50mm. Though some prefer an exaggerated look, landscapes generally should look natural, so it's best to start with wide-angle solutions in the 20mm to 28mm (35mm equivalent) range to avoid distortion. Primes are great choices for achieving the most sharpness. They have been designed to meet the needs of a single focal length, while zooms must make several compromises in design to be able to accommodate so much range. But today's better zooms are very good, and the difference between prime and zoom isn't as huge as it was a decade or two ago. The advantage to a zoom lens is that it lets you change focal lengths quickly without physically exposing your image sensor to the environment. Zooms are also much lighter to carry than multiple primes, while a single prime is much lighter than a single zoom. An ideal strategy, whether shooting landscapes or anything else, is to choose a high-end zoom with a lot of coverage and then complement it with your favored focal lengths in primes. This gives you the best of both worlds.

Accessories For Landscape Shooters

Hoodman Compact HoodLoupe
Beyond the camera, lenses and filters, here are a few key accessories to have in your bag to help you get your best landscape photos. These accessories are small and light enough to have with you all the time.

Pristine landscapes require long hikes more often than not, especially when exploring remote areas that haven't been photographed as much. GPS units like the Garmin Montana 650T are useful not only to record location information for your photos, but also to safely navigate your way through large parks and unfamiliar wilderness.

A flashlight is mandatory equipment. We like headlamps like the Petzl Tikka 2 LED flashlight, which has variable brightness settings, low power consumption and, of course, it keeps your hands free for tasks like setting up and taking down a camera rig. Being in the right place at the right time for the best light to create dynamic landscape photos often involves predawn or post-sunset hiking. The flashlight helps you safely navigate to and from the spot, and it's invaluable for seeing the myriad camera controls in twilight.

Petzl Tikka 2
For classic view camera work, photographers always made use of the large 4x5-inch ground glass and a loupe for confirming composition and focus. For DSLR shooters, an LCD hood and a loupe like the Hoodman Compact HoodLoupe and the HoodLoupe 3.0/3.2 give you a way to magnify and review scenes on reflective LCD preview screens the same way. These hoods are also ideal when you're shooting in bright daylight.

There are several incredibly useful smartphone apps for landscape photography. The Photographer's Ephemeris (TPE) app for Android and iOS is a great system for mapping out landscapes, with several tools that can give you natural light conditions with sun and moon information local to the area you're exploring. You even can determine when the sun or moon will appear behind a hill. There are quite a few apps available for figuring out depth of field and hyperfocal charts like TrueDoF-Pro, Simple DoF and PhotoBuddy, which also packs in several other calculators like sun and moon phase calculation, angle of view and exposure. There are also several physical depth-of-field calculators like ExpoImaging's ExpoAperture2 and models from Rodenstock and Linhof.


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