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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lenses For Landscapes

Looking for the perfect lens for your scenics? Check out the options and see what some top OP pros have to say about their favorite choices.

Labels: Lenses

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Canon EF 16-35mm ƒ/2.8 L II USM
Canon EF 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 L IS USM
If you want to expand perspective, you have to move closer. In order to get everything in the frame from the closer distance, you have to use a wider-angle lens. Conversely, if you want to compress perspective, you have to move farther away. In order to eliminate extraneous stuff at the great distance, you need to use a longer lens. That’s how focal length and shooting distance work to produce the “look” of a given image.

You can use a wide-angle lens to take in a wide area for an “epic” landscape, or you can move in close to a foreground subject to make it dominate the image while still including some of the surroundings.

Pentax DA 12-24mm ƒ/4.0 ED AL (IF) zoom
Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX
Or you can use a long lens to zero in on a distant feature. Zeroing in on a series of objects from a great distance will produce the “telephoto compression” effect. Lenses are very useful tools to complement your creative vision. (Of course, there’s a place in the landscape photographer’s bag of tricks for the “normal” lens, too. Although none of the pros we polled picked a normal lens as his or her favorite landscape lens, many selected zooms that included the format’s “normal” focal length.)

Essentially, lens choice comes down to selecting the focal length that frames the image as you want it from the camera position you’ve selected for the subject you’re photographing.

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm ƒ/2.8-3.5 SWD
Landscape Lenses
That said, what are the best lenses for landscapes? We’re assuming here that you’re using a 35mm or digital SLR; different formats (medium-format, view cameras, etc.) require different focal lengths in millimeters to produce a given effect.

Wide-Angle Zooms. Wide-angles are a great choice when you want to show vast expanses or great depth by moving close to a prominent subject while having a wide enough angle of view to include some of the surrounding environment. At a given distance and aperture setting, a wide-angle lens will produce more depth of field than a longer lens. That’s fortunate because the really tiny openings that are produced when you stop down a short-focal-length a lot produce quite a bit of diffraction, which reduces sharpness. (When you stop a lens down, depth of field increases, but overall resolution decreases.)

Popular wide-angle landscapes zooms include the Canon EF 16-35mm ƒ/2.8L II USM, Nikon AF-S DX Zoom Nikkor 12-24mm ƒ/4G, Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-35mm ƒ/2.0 SWD, Pentax smc DA 12-24mm ƒ/4.0 AL, Sigma 10-20mm ƒ/4-5.6 EX DC, Sony Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonar T* 16-35mm ƒ/2.8, Tamron 10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 Di-II and Tokina AT-X PRO DX AF 11-16mm ƒ/2.8.

Sony DT 11-18mm

Zeiss Vario-
Sonnar T*
16-35mm ƒ/2.8
Midrange Zooms. Midrange zooms go from wide-angle through “normal” focal lengths and into short telephoto. They’re good choices for general landscapes, able to handle the wide vistas or direct the viewer’s attention to specific details in a scene.

Popular midrange landscape zooms include the Canon EF 24-105mm ƒ/4L IS USM, Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 17-55mm ƒ/2.8G, Olympus Zuiko Digital 12-60mm ƒ/2.8-4.0 SWD, Pentax smc 16-50mm ƒ/2.8 SDM, Sigma 17-70mm ƒ/2.8-4.5 DC Macro HSM, Sony Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 24-70mm ƒ/2.8, Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 XR Di LD and Tokina PRO DX 16-50mm ƒ/2.8.

Tele-Zooms. Telephoto zooms are a great choice when you want to zero in on a distant object you can’t approach closely due to terrain or other obstructions, or when you want a compressed perspective.

Popular landscape tele-zooms include the Canon EF 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L IS USM, Nikon AF-S VR Zoom Nikkor 70-200mm ƒ/2.8G, Olympus 50-200mm ƒ/2.8-3.5 SWD, Pentax smc 60-250mm ƒ/4.0 SDM, Sigma 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM, Sony 70-200mm ƒ/2.8G, Tamron AF18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di-II VC and Tokina DX 50-135mm ƒ/2.8.


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