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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Telephotos For Landscapes

Think Differently…

Labels: LensesGear

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Most people think of wide-angles when they think of landscape photography, and much landscape work is, indeed, done with them. But, perhaps for that very reason, you might want to try some telephoto landscapes, as well: By virtue of their relative rarity, tele-landscapes are different.

Tamron SP 70-300mm ƒ/4-5.6 Di VC USD
Long lenses isolate small, distant portions of a scene, and in the process, flatten perspective. These two aspects are so different from the wide-angle grand vistas that they tend to stand out from the crowd (assuming they're good photos, of course—light, composition and detail are important no matter what lens you use, or what your subject matter is). Using a long lens for landscapes requires different thinking—and that can be refreshing in the field, as well as for the viewers of the images.

So, what is a telephoto lens? Well, in common use, it's any lens much longer than a camera's normal lens. Actually, telephoto refers to a specific optical design, in which the physical length of the lens is shorter than the focal length. But, most folks think of any long lens as a "telephoto," and we'll go along with that here.

For our purposes, telephotos start at twice the "normal" focal length for the camera. For a "full-frame" digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) or 35mm single-lens reflex (SLR), 50mm is the "normal" lens, so telephoto starts at 100mm. For Advanced Photo System, type C (APS-C), a "normal" lens is about 33mm, so telephoto begins at 67mm. For Four Thirds System sensors (and Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras, which use the same-size sensors), normal is around 25mm, so telephoto starts at 50mm.

We also put a long limit here for landscapes—you can shoot landscapes with any lens, of course, but lenses much longer than 300mm for a full-frame camera (200mm for an APS-C model and 150mm for Four Thirds/Micro Four Thirds) generally produce landscape images so different that they start to fall into the "abstract" realm rather than the "pictorial" realm. So, use whatever lens you want for your landscapes, but here we'll consider full-frame lenses in the 100-300mm range, APS-C lenses in the 67-200mm range and Four Thirds lenses in the 50-150mm range.

Sigma 150-500mm ƒ/5-6.3 DG OS HSM APO; Sony 70-400mm ƒ/4-5.6 G Alpha A-Mount Telephoto Zoom
Telephotos For Wildlife

The main thing outdoor photographers use long lenses for is wildlife, of course, because they "bring the subject to you." A long lens lets you fill the frame with wild subjects that won't let you approach closely. Pro and big-budget amateur bird/wildlife shooters use 500mm ƒ/4, 600mm ƒ/4 and even 800mm ƒ/5.6 lenses, which start above $5,000 and go well past $10,000.

More affordable options include telephoto zooms (Canon 100-400mm, Nikon 80-400mm, Sigma 150-500mm, Sony 70-400mm, Tamron 200-500mm, for example, all of which sell for less than $2,000) and slower moderate telephotos (Canon, Nikon and Pentax 300mm ƒ/4, Canon 400mm ƒ/5.6—also for less than $2,000—for example).


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