Welcome to a guide and recommendations on the equipment for landscape photography. I know, some of you beginner landscape photographers may be thinking – Ha, just take a camera and snap away. We don’t need flash, reflectors, light stands, and backdrops. There are no “complicated gear” for landscape photography, there should be no fuss.
Well, that is partially correct. Getting started is easy, but landscape photographers still require some “specialized” equipment going down the road. So here it is, my sharing of recommended camera gear for your considerations. Hopefully, help you to take better photos – Read on!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
All right, let us start with the camera, the number one “basic equipment” that every photographer should have. Captain Obvious to the rescue.
- Casual (Compact Camera): Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 | Canon G5X | Sony RX100 III
- Entry Level: Nikon D3500 | Canon 1300D
- Decent (Crop Sensor): Sony A6100 (or later 6300~6500 series) | Nikon Z50 | Canon M200
- Better (Full-Frame): Nikon Z6 | Canon EOS R | Sony A7R III (OR A7R IV if you can find a good deal)
- Best (Top Of The Cream): Nikon Z7 | Canon EOS R5 | Sony A9 II
NIKON, CANON, SONY, OR PENTAX?
Fanboys and fangirls will most likely start to rage (as it has gone on for ages), and the arguments are endless. But personally, I don’t have a preference – Each brand has its own strengths and weaknesses.
If you are unsure, just go test drive various cameras before deciding which to purchase. Brand switching is a painful process that involves selling all your existing cameras, lenses, and accessories… So be very sure before you commit or switch.
MIRRORLESS OR DSLR?
As you can see, most of the recommendations above are mirrorless cameras. Yep, DSLRs are in the “sunset” phase of the product lifespan. Not that they are bad, but mirrorless cameras are just the “next common thing” in the market. If you can get a good deal for a pre-owned DSLR, by all means, go ahead and grab it.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
An important reminder to beginners – Megapixels is not a measure for image quality! An old 12 megapixels DSLR can produce much better images than a crappy 36 megapixels camera phone. There are quite a number of “technical specs” to look out for, but a few of the essential ones to take note:
- Dynamic Range – In “number of stops”. Technically, the higher the better, but also more expensive. Cameras with low dynamic range will generally produce “flat and dry looking photos”.
- Color Depth – Again, the higher the better. Cameras with shallow color depth cannot capture colors as accurately.
- Sensor – The quality of the images in general… Do you like it?
- Auto-Focus – One of the difficult parts for a beginner. But take note of the total number of AF points, how fast and accurate it is in various environments (bright, dark, fast-moving subjects, busy background, etc…)
- Weather-Sealing – Shoot outdoors a lot? A certain degree of weather-sealing will be good.
- Weight and Size – Wouldn’t want to bring a camera dumbbell while on a vacation.
- Price – Value-for-money, is it worth paying.
NOTES & SUGGESTIONS
Everyone has a different budget and comfort zone. But for the beginners, I will still recommend skipping the entry-level from the start. I began with an entry-level Nikon and learned to regret that decision quickly. Within less than a year, I outgrew the camera and felt restricted.
Hey, I cannot do very long exposures with this camera. The noise performance is really poor, can’t take good night photos. So yep, just shell out a bit more if you are serious about photography. Entry-level cameras are hard to sell too – They literally have little to no resale value.
Disclaimer – The lenses that I am going to recommend here are pretty much wide-angle lenses, but that doesn’t mean “landscape photographers must use wide lenses”. There are no rules saying that we cannot use telephoto lenses to take landscape photos.
- Basic Zoom Lens: Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8
- Better Zoom Lenses: Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 Art | Sigma 24-105mm f/4 Art
- Prime Lenses: Sigma 24mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art
- Best Prime Lens: Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4
P.S. Remember to choose the correct mount for your camera.
NOTES & SUGGESTIONS
Yep, all Sigma lenses and a Zeiss recommendation. For the people who are still insisting on “use original lenses” – Take a good look at the reviews on the Sigma Art series all around the world. They cost a fraction of the original, and some of them even outperform the “original”.
For beginners, you have a choice to bundle your camera purchase with a “kit lens” (usually 16-50mm or 18-55mm)… That works, but don’t expect too much out of it. My recommendation is, just spend a bit more to get the basic Sigma zoom. That f/2.8 makes a difference, and you will most likely be able to stick with this “improved basic zoom” for a longer time.
PRIME OR ZOOM LENSES?
Personally, I will say zoom lenses. Switching lenses while shooting is just a huge hassle, even though it is just a “slow-moving landscape”. Also, it makes more sense to travel with only one zoom lens, rather than a collection of prime lenses.
P.S. It’s not that prime lenses are bad. It’s just my personal preference for the convenience of zoom lenses for landscape/travel/street.
Nope, it’s not the built-in camera filter effects. Nor the Photoshop, editing app filter effects. Physical filters do matter, and they cannot be replaced with software.
Technically speaking, UV filters are used to filter out UV lights, prevent bluish photos. But in actual fact, a lot of photographers just buy a cheap UV filter to protect their lenses… Scratch the cheap filter, not the lens.
NEUTRAL DENSITY (ND) & CIRCULAR POLARIZER (CPL)
ND and CPL filters are a staple for every landscape photographer. What do ND filters do? In layman’s terms – Sunglasses. Yep, when the sun is too bright, we wear sunglasses to block some of the light off. In photography, we have graduated ND filters to block out an overly bright sky.
For CPL filters, they are usually used to reduce glare on some reflective surfaces (bodies of water in general). But as an “added bonus”, CPL filters also have a tendency to enhance the contrast and colors of a photo.
INFRARED FILTER (IR)
The IR filter blocks out all visible light, and only allows IR to pass. That is, the camera will only be capturing IR lights when this filter is put on – That is the surreal white-looking photos that you see above. But be warned that the IR filter is a specialized one, and requires quite a lot of skill to work with.
- Star Filter: This one turns street lights into “pointy starbursts”. Interesting effect, but not for everyone.
- Step-up Rings: Get yourself a set of these “converter rings”. Fit your filters onto different sized lenses.
NOTES & SUGGESTIONS
Overused beginner tip – Buy a large filter where possible (77mm or 82mm), even if you have a smaller lens. The reason is simple, a larger filter will fit most lenses. But a smaller filter will be wasted on larger lenses.
As to which filters to get – I will highly recommend getting a cheap UV filter to protect your lenses. Having a rectangular ND filter set is also good if you are serious about photography… Although a full set with the holder may cost quite a bit.
Finally, here are some odd-and-ends that are useful for landscape photographers.
- Decent: Selens
- Good: Manfrotto BeFree Travel Series | Manfrotto Carbon Fiber Tripod
- Better: Gitzo Mountaineer Series
Forget about the cheap $20 no-brand tripods. Had one before, broke after just a couple of uses. Get yourself a decent Selens at the very least… The next step up will be carbon fiber tripods. They are expensive, but for a good reason. I’ve used my Carbon Fiber Manfrotto for 10 years, and it is still in one piece.
The Manfrotto Super Clamp is an alternative to the tripod – For you guys who like to shoot on bridges or buildings, these clamps come in very handy for using the railing as a tripod.
For you guys who are into taking panorama photos, the easiest way is to get a tripod head that turns 360 degrees. But otherwise, the “serious folks” can consider getting one of those “slider rail things”.
- Black Rapid Camera Strap: Still using one of those “death slings” on the neck? Try switching to the quick release Black Rapid.
- OP/TECH USA Neoprene: This is the “rubbery” kind of strap for cameras and tripods. Used this one for ages and highly recommend it – It does weight distribution very well, you don’t feel as much weight on the shoulders.
- USB Flashlight: Brighter than the tiny LED on smartphones.
- YongNuo YN360: For ye who likes to do light painting.
- Hotshoe Bubble Level: So you don’t have to fumble with the menu to bring up the virtual horizon.
Thank you for reading, and we have come to the end of this guide. I hope this has helped you to better understand, and if you have anything to share with this guide, please feel free to comment below. Good luck and may the cyber force be with you.