On a tight budget, we recommend one filter for landscapes that’s absolutely necessary: a polarizer. Its effects can’t be replicated digitally, including elimination of unwanted reflections from nonmetallic surfaces like lake surfaces, ponds and other bodies of water. A polarizer also can darken a blue sky so white cloud formations stand out dramatically (the effect is strongest when the sun is to your left or right) and produce more saturated colors by eliminating the polarized flare that desaturates them.
PNY 16 GB Optima SDHC
SanDisk 2 GB SD
You can save money by choosing a memory card with slower read and write speeds, which isn’t extremely important when shooting landscapes, so when deciding which cards you need, look at capacity foremost. Also, purchase at least two cards, if not more. You don’t want to have to start deleting shots just because you run out of space.
Since your budget landscape kit will be fairly compact—a compact DSLR, one or two smaller lenses and one filter, along with spare batteries and memory cards—you can make do with a smaller camera bag. Just make sure it comfortably will hold everything you intend to carry and is strongly built. Billingham, Crumpler, Domke, Kata, Lowepro, Mountainsmith, Tamrac, Tenba and Think Tank are just a few of the manufacturers that make good bags at effective prices.
These DSLRs are great entry-level choices for landscape photographers.
Canon EOS Rebel T2i
The EOS Rebel T2i features a number of image-quality-enhancing features of interest to landscape photographers: Auto Lighting Optimizer (enhances shadow detail and adds contrast to flat scenes); Highlight Tone Priority (adds up to one stop of detail in bright areas); Peripheral Illumination Correction (automatically corrects lens vignetting); four-level High ISO Noise Reduction; and Long Exposure Noise Reduction.
Canon EOS Rebel T1i
With the T1i, you get 15.1 megapixels, a high-res, 3.0-inch live-view LCD monitor, HD video, 14-bit RAW images, ISOs to 12,800, a sensor-dust remover and the ability to use all EF and EF-S lenses—for about $100 less than the new T2i.
The D5000 features a 12.3-megapixel CMOS sensor similar to the one in the higher-end D300S, along with similar excellent image quality. It offers a tilt/swivel live-view LCD monitor, very effective Active D-Lighting to hold detail in high-contrast scenes and compact dimensions with a light weight.
Nikon’s lowest-priced “new” DSLR, the D3000 features 10.2 megapixels, very simple operation, a 3.0-inch LCD, Active D-Lighting, +/-5-stop exposure compensation and more.
The E-620 features a 12.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor, and you can shoot your landscapes in any of four formats: 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 and 6:6 square. The 2.7-inch live-view LCD tilts and swivels to any angle, and sensor-shift stabilization works with any Four Thirds System lens. Six in-camera Art Filters provide creative options that you can apply to your scene.
The tiny E-450 features 10 megapixels, Supersonic Wave Filter dust reduction, three Art Filters, Shadow Adjustment Technology and recording on CompactFlash and xD-Picture Cards.
The K-x packs lots of useful features into a very compact 4.8x3.6x2.7-inch package, including a 12.4-megapixel CMOS sensor, operation on widely available AA batteries (lithiums or rechargeable NiMH units provide excellent performance on long hikes), an ISO range of 200-6400 (expandable to 100 and 12,800) and in-camera three-shot HDR for capturing shadow and highlight detail.
Sony Alpha DSLR-A330
Essentially a 10.2-megapixel A380, the A330 otherwise offers the same features and the ability to accept the wide range of Sony and Minolta Maxxum-mount lenses.