Lenses for landscape photography.

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by ammlan, Mar 15, 2012.

  1. <p >Dear All, <p >I have Canon 7D camera with EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS & EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM lenses. Please suggest me lenses and filters suitable for Landscape photography. My budget is around $1500. <p > Regards.
  2. i just bought a 24mm TS-E II used for $1600 for my 40D. It is a real beast and taking landscapes with the shift feature is a dream.
  3. Thanks Wilson... but 24mm is very expensive.
    I got one answer form the forum
    Thanks to Photo.net members.
  4. The lenses you have can do landscapes just fine. Typically, landscapes are done with f/8~f/11, and nearly any lens is fine at that aperture. A tilt-shift lens might be a nice, but very specialistic, addition. Many people advice wide-angle lenses for landscapes, and they're useful for sure, but I find many many times I'd end up with 24 and 35mm (on crop sensor, like your 7D), so the "normal" lenses are just really fine.
  5. If you want something sharper then your 18-135, the Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 would be it. If you want something with a wider angle, look into the Canon 10-22mm. And get a good polarizing filter for either one.
  6. Landscape photography doesn't have to mean wide angle, so if you have $1500 burning a hole in your pocket, you can buy any lens you like and take landscape shots with it. Though as you already have the 70-200 you'll probably not want another long lens. It's not necessary in broad daylight, but for dawn and dusk photography perhaps a tripod would be the first thing to get.
  7. Why do you want to buy anything at all? What can't you do with your current lenses that you want to do?
    If you want to go a little wider, you could replace the 18-135 with the EF-S 15-85, which is a very good lens. There is no reason to have as much overlap as you do between your current lenses. However, if the focal length you have now is working for you, why spend the money on another lens? Landscape photography is generally done at moderate apertures for DOF, so there is not much reason to spend money for something faster. What you should have for landscape work is circular polarizing filters and a tripod. I'd probably add a cable release, which costs perhaps $12 on eBay.
  8. I would recommend upgrading your tripod & backpack.
  9. I would upgrade your three-legged friend, or skills by taking a workshop. Your lenses are fine for landscape.
  10. Filters for landscape:

    Circular Polarizing, by far the most useful, I would say it is essential

    Neutral density filter, helps to reduce light to the camera for 'dreamy' stream photos

    Graduated neutral density filter, to reduce the large range of exposure, particularly with skies, dark foreground

    Protective filter such as UV, skylight, or clear, very controversial, some people use them all the time,
    others (like me) not at all. If you go that route, don't buy a cheap one that reduces image quality or
    increases lens flare.

    Many, many posts regarding filters on this forum and please, lets not start another! Many good articles as well on the internet by advanced and professional photographers

    By all means, get a tripod if you do not have one.
  11. What's do you feel that you are lacking with the lenses that you have now? On a recent trip to the American West I used my 70-200 f/4
    IS extemsively. I used a midrange zoom extensively. You already have comparable lenses for your camera. What else are you looking
    for? Macro?

    FYI - I also used the 24 mm tilt shift lens extensively, but I understand your reservations about the price. I brought a wide angle zoom,
    but I used that lens only to a limited degree.
  12. Some thoughts on filters:

    A few years ago I looked back at a collection about sixty of my favorite photos. I discovered that only one of those
    images had been shot with a polarizer. The photos that I really liked had been shot in the best light and didn't require
    polarization. This made me question the value of polarizers. I used to shoot with polarizers a lot, but now I use them only
    when absolutely necessary.

    On the trip that I mentioned in my previous post, I used my circular polarizer exactly one time in two weeks of continuous
    landscape photography. I used it to cut through some haze. People will have differing opinions on this topic, but to me a
    polarizer is not essential. Not at all. It's a specialized tool to be used in specific circumstances.

    I use graduated neutral density filters. Some people prefer HDR processing (manual with layers, or automated with
    specialized software), but I'm not fond of that look, and I don't want to spend a lot of time on processing when I can
    achieve the desired result in a few seconds with a filter. It requires some practice to use these filters effectively -
    remember to press your depth of field preview button when positioning the transition line - but they work really well. I
    prefer Singh Ray filters for their color neutrality and their feathered transition line. I buy them in the size that fits the 100
    mm Lee holder (larger and wider than Cokin P filters).

    I rarely use UV fiilters unless I'm working in an environment with blowing sand , heavy rain, or sea spray.

    If you want to do time lapse photography, consider getting a neutral density filter (no graduated) of 8 to 10 stops for your
    favorite lens. I won't explain why here. There are videos on the web that explain why this filter is useful.
  13. For landscape ND grads and a tripod are a must (I would get at least a 2 stop and a 3 stop grad 2 is probably my most
    used). In terms of lenses it depends what you are looking for. The 17 F4 and 24 f3.5 tilt shift lenses are amazing but
    expensive. My 17 f4 is much better than my 16-35 F2.8 II zoom but not the easiest lens to use. On the 7D the 17can be a
    bit awkward as the prism overhang makes things tight. Both the TS lenses need practice and patience but they do
    deliver. If you do not want to jump this far then perhaps a wider prime may work. There are lots of choices here. See
    what focal length you normally (or most prefer) for landscapes and buy that as a prime
  14. Retailers would have you believe there are specific lenses for specific applications, so you buy a "landscape" lens for landscape photography, a "portrait" lens for portraiture, etc. In reality there are only focal lengths and maximum apertures. There is no reason, for instance, that you can't use a hyperzoom (18-300 or whatever) for landscapes, portraits, wildlife, etc., and your two lenses can certainly be used for these purposes too. (Well, good luck shooting small birds at 200mm, but that's beside the point.) Hyperzooms do not deliver good optical quality, but that's another issue.
    Commonly landscape photography is done at small apertures, for better sharpness and greater depth of field -- often/usually on tripods to support the lower shutter speeds. Lenses tend to get very much the same when stopped down to the f/8 - f/11 range that would most commonly be used. They differ more in chromatic aberration properties than anything else. I find the 17-40 very well controlled for CA and very well behaved at smaller apertures. It tends to distort a bit, but I don't care when I'm doing landscape work. It's not architectural photography, after all.
    As others have explained, there are certain filters that are used much more commonly in landscape work -- polarizer, ND, graduated ND, UV (which actually serves a purpose in landscape film work). I'll also mention "moose" filters.
    I don't use filters very commonly in landscape work. The creamy water effect was a flash in the pan and is already getting old. I'll layer two differentially exposed frames in PS, rather than use a graduated ND. Colored filters like a moose filter can all be replicated in PS. The only filter that can't be replicated in PS is a polarizer. I find a polarizer indespensible on perhaps 25% of my landscape shots, either to darken a sky or to minimize reflections off of foliage. Unlike virtually everyone else, I prefer a linear polarizer to a circular one. It's not as friendly with autofocus and autoexposure, but I'm not an auto- sort of photographer. It does have one less layer of material and therefore is more optically "perfect." The down-side is that it is hard to find a linear polarizer that's multicoated.
    BTW, many people will tell you to use wide angle lenses (especially ultrawides) for landscape work. However, landscape photographers tend to work at all focal lengths. For instance, big-moon-on-the-horizon shots are done with long telephotos. It all depends on what you're shooting. The lenses you have will probably work for most situations.
    Finally, one property of a good "landscape" lens that is often ignored is its weight and size. I say that because much of landscape photography is done on hikes. Young/strong people with good knees can schlep around all sorts of heavy gear. Older folks like me really have to be conscious of weight. For instance, I wouldn't consider taking your 70-200/2.8IS on a long hike -- not even for a second. If I need to do telephoto work, I have my 70-300IS, which is much smaller and lighter. If image quality is of greater importance, I have my 70-200/4IS. However, that extra stop your f/2.8 lens offers is not worth the weight to me. I wouldn't use it, and it would kill my knees. As for a wide angle lens, I love my 17-40 on my 5D. However, if my hike is long enough, and if there are enough hills to climb, I use a crop camera and my humble little plastic 18-55IS kit lens. Honestly!
    In the end, there are no hard/fast "rules" to landscape photography.
  15. Ammlan,
    When I first read your post I got the sense that you are looking for something wider than 18mm? If not please disregard, otherwise...
    +1 vote here for the Tokina 11-16 f2.8.
    That leaves you half your budget to go towards a new tripod / ballhead / filters / another lens, etc.
    With $800 left you might find a used Canon TS-24mm (v1). There is a rumored (albeit somewhat funny) Samyang / Rokinon TS-24mm as well. But, if it proves to be true there might be a fully manual TS-24mm for under $1000. If it is anything as sharp as their 14mm and 85mm offerings it would be a awesome alternative the Canon offering.
    Or for your remaining $800, if you want a prime for landscape that would scale up for FF later on, perhaps the new Canon 24mm IS. But I would think that would be a bit tight on a 7D. Sounds like a nice lens though for handheld f8 wider perspective photos / video on a 7D.
  16. Rather than starting with the idea that there must be some particular lens or lenses that are generically "right" for landscape photography (an incorrect concept, by the way), instead start by asking, "When I use my current lens for landscape photography, what have I been unable to do that I really wanted/needed to do?"
    If you are having success with your current lens and can't identify a strong need for some specific different lens features... just use and enjoy the lens you have. If, on the other hand, you can recognize some specific shortcomings of the current lens that you feel have actually impaired your photography, the specific features that were missing are the ones you need to look for in a new lens.
    The lens choice doesn't start with "What lenses should I have for landscape?" It starts with, "What features do I need for my photography?"
    1. Thanks Willemse for the suggestion.
    2. Thanks Hartman. 10-22 is also my choice, but as Mitchell mentioned that a good choice of lens depends on "What features do I need for my photography?" (Thanks a ton Mitchell), let me do some Landscape photography and then decide my need.
    3. Thanks Dan M, Luis for mentioning the need of a tripod and the cable release.
    4. Thanks Avis; you have truly said “Landscape photography doesn't have to mean wide angle”.
    5. Thanks Dan South for sharing your experience and giving me tips on filters specially neutral density filter of 8 to 10 stops and Singh Ray filters with Lee holders ( I just googled Lee Holders and got this video http://darwinwiggett.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/lee-holder-vs-cokin-z-pro-holder/ )
    6. Thanks Philip for suggesting TS lens, but I need some practice to use these lenses.
    7. Thanks Sarah for answering so elaborately. Each and every word of your reply is help for me. A special thanks for suggesting me a linear polarizer rather than a circular one.
    8. Thanks Brad. You are correct that I was looking for wider lens than 18mm. Thanks for suggesting Tokina 11-16 f2.8.
    9. Thanks Dan (Mitechell).
  17. One additional bit of info on the graduated neutral density filters (dark on one half and clear on the other). I'll use the 1 or
    2 stop filter most frequently, but I have stacked up to seven or eight stops on occasion. With modern digital cameras that
    have good dynamic range shooting raw, the 1 stop grad ND might be almost obsolete. On the other hand, if it lets me
    boost the darker regions, it might help cut down on shadow noise and give better color rendition throughout the frame.
    Recently, the 2-stop hard edge ND grad has been my most used filter.
  18. Dan, there are many people who love their grad NDs, but have you tried stacking different exposures in different layers, masking, and blending? It achieves essentially the same result, except that...
    (1) You don't have to own/carry the filter. You do need to shoot with a tripod, though!
    (2) You can create whatever exposure differential you want and aren't limited to what the filter(s) produce(s).
    (3) You don't need to stack filters!
    (4) You can create your masks however you wish. You can make the line diffuse, more abrupt, sharp (e.g. right at the horizon), crooked, elaborately contoured, or whatever. in fact you can one one layer to dodge/burn another.
    IMO, digital imaging and digital editing made the grad NDs obsolete. Of course the regular ND filters still have their place, when they are needed to achieve the desired tradeoff of aperture and shutter speed.
  19. Hi Sarah,

    In a word, no, I have not tried the technique that you have described. I recognize it as a legitimate alternative to using
    graduated ND filters, and in some cases (non-linear transition lines) I believe that the layering technique can give superior
    results. That said, I can't agree that ND grads are obsolete.

    With ND grad filters you're dealing with one exposure. The advantages are numerous. You can shoot moving subjects.
    You don't need a tripod, so if it's a situation where handheld shooting is possible (or necessary) you can still get the shot.
    And the big reason as far as I'm concerned: reduced processing. Instead of developing two raw files separately, combining
    them, and then iteratively reprocessing them if I don't like the blend, I can process one file quickly in Lightroom and be
    done with it. Selections and masks and layers and blending modes and selection options - some people might love this
    stuff, but to me it seems like a total pain in the neck compared to the few seconds that it takes me to pull a filter out of a pouch
    and position it correctly.

    If you want to put in the time on the back end, you might not mind doing all of that processing and creating intermediate
    files. In fact, processing foregrounds and backgrounds separately gives you more creative control. I prefer to capture
    everything in a single shot, but I won't argue that it's the superior method (nor the inferior), but only that it's different and
    offers different advantages.

    As far as carrying the filters, they're very light. Unless I'm walking around in a bathing suit, I don't see carrying a couple of
    grads as a disadvantage. I see no disadvantage to stacking filters, either. I usually carry one, two, and three stop filters and a
    two slot holder, so I have combinations available up to five stops. I have a five stop grad that I carry sometimes as well.
    In the vast majority of cases stacking isn't required anyway. Also in the vast majority of cases - and I was surprised by
    this in practice - a straight transition line works well. If I were shooting an interior with a window, for example, I would
    prefer your stacking method for obvious reasons. But most of the time, my filters let me get everything in one shot and
    save me a lot of work on the back end.
  20. Well, there's a lot to be said for simplicity, and I admit that my approach is sometimes a PITA. Another variant on my layering approach is to use two different contrasts of the same frame, enabling me to use a single, handheld shot. However, the shadow detail suffers somewhat from underexposure issues.
    Filters in a swimsuit. I'm trying to imagine that... and the stares you would get. ;-D
  21. Sarah, I actually have ND grads, and tried the approach you mention. The photoshop way works slightly better in some ways, I think: for example, even with a soft graduated filter, you need a somewhat even horizon. With some bracketed RAWs, you can create an enormous dynamic range, and good image editors are flexible enough to pull it all together.
    And the filters have their advantage: it's right in the camera, the work afterwards is relatively little. You can still bracket with the filter on too - you don't loose any options (photoshop works the same, after all, still).
    In terms of actual image results, I prefer the filters (and mine are the usual cheap and not-overly-good Cokins ...!). The proper exposure of the air retains that nice deep blue better, somehow. Less risk of introducting noise, posterisation. Much of this might be my limited patience with Photoshop (or any pixel editor like it), though, so it's not saying all that much.
  22. Dan and Sarah:
    Regarding GNDs versus exposure blending, I'd concede that in the "film era" (and especially if you shot slides) that the GND was really the only realistic method of dealing with scenes that contain extraordinarily large dynamic range. Here they could often work quite well, especially in the hands of a photographer who really understood their use, was very careful and methodical about how they were set up, and so forth.
    They can still work in much the same way with digital exposure. They can still be attractive to some shooters for reasons including the following:
    • Their use is familiar and comfortable to those who learned to work that way.
    • Once set up, it is possible to capture a scene in a single exposure.
    • They can work without a tripod - though this is bit complex.
    • They seem to some people like tools that "real photographers" should use.
    For some, their feeling about these positives is strong enough that they are not deterred by the downsides:
    • Say what you will, they add a level of complexity to the process at the time the exposure is made.
    • They require additional equipment - typically more than one filter plus a holder. (I realize that some people manually hold them in front of the lens.)
    • Some degree of care (often a high degree) is required to choose and correctly position the filter at the time of the exposure.
    • It is not easy to correct errors in filter use in post.
    • The "line" between dark and light areas of the filter is virtually always visible in the final photograph, especially to those who are photographers and recognize the use of the GND right away. Even in the work of some very fine and highly regarded photographers, you can see this.
    For many but perhaps not all photographers shooting landscape, architecture, and similar subjects with digital cameras, the exposure blending method has a lot to offer:
    • Rather than attaching a filter holder, choosing the right GND, carefully positioning it, and making an exposure, one simply brackets two or more shots with the camera on the tripod. (Some do this handheld, by bursting a quick series of bracketed exposures.)
    • The blending of the two (or more) exposures is done in post, allowing for as much (or as little) careful work as needed.
    • More than two exposures can be combined in scenes with extreme dynamic range variations. (Not quite impossible to do with GNDs, but very difficult.)
    • The divisions between light and dark areas of the scene need to by linear since they can be created with masks in post - it is possible to lighten the shaded walls of a v-shaped canyon and not change the bright valley beyond, or to work around a rock or a peak that is conical or round.
    • It is possible to "spot" in small areas from one exposure - for example to introduce a bit of the longer exposure in small areas of deep shadow, or to spot in a bit of the shorter exposure to bring back highlight detail.
    • The blending does not need to be an all or nothing effect. Any area of the image can contain any proportion of the two (or more) blended images.
    • Different color balancing, etc. can be used on the component blend layers.
    All in all, the blending method provide tremendous power and flexibility to the photographer, way beyond what can be accomplished with the GND filters. For those who want or need this power, the blending technique is powerful and useful and even critical.
    It does have its own set of "issues" to deal with:
    • Camera stability and position must be maintained between component exposures. This usually means using a tripod and being careful to not disturb it between shots.
    • It does require more than one exposure.
    • Subject motion within the frame can be a concern, though much less often than those who don't use the technique think it would be.
    If you are interested in dealing with high dynamic range scenes and you value being able to carefully and fully control your image, give it a try.
    (Who acknowledges that this is not HDR, a topic he doesn't know all that much about since he hasn't really used it.)
  23. I wrote, or actually my auto complete wrote: "The divisions between light and dark areas of the scene need to by linear...

    Clearly this should read "... need NOT BE linear..."
  24. I have never disputed the power and control of the layering and blending approach. As mentioned, if I were shooting an interior with windows looking into a bright, sunny day, that would be my preferred approach. However, that kind of control comes with a cost of time and effort on the back.
    I spend a lot of time on post-processing and related activities week in and week out, yet I struggle to keep up with my projects. I need a workflow that's both effective and streamlined. I'll spend no more than 15-30 seconds attaching and positioning a filter (even when I have to screw on the adapter ring). I can use this assemble for a single shot or for many (or for video or time-lapse series). At the back end, I process a single, complete file in Lightroom.
    To me, the use of an ND grad filter is a lot more efficient than opening multiple files, selecting the right combinations among multiple exposures, developing multiple RAW files, layering and aligning files, selecting and masking regions, blending, and saving large interim work files for potential future edits. Again, the latter method is absolutely acceptable, but for my projects and my schedule it would be like washing a car with a toothbrush. It can be done, but there's a faster alternative that delivers the results that I need.
    It would be great if software could automate the process of blending layers. Some of the newer products such as HDR Expose show promise in this area. This would be great for something like the interior of a church with sun pouring in through stained glass windows. Traditional "tone mapped" HDR has never appealed to me, so I look forward to evaluating less heavy-handed automated approaches including in-camera HDR.
  25. The process of simulating the use of a GND takes about... 15 seconds in post. :)
    (To describe more fully - With the camera on the tripod and set up to expose, I typically might make two exposures rather than one with one optimized for bright and the other for dark - maybe a stop or two apart. This does add perhaps a couple of seconds to the capture process, and I only do it for those photos that might require it - a wild guess is that this is 5% or fewer. If the subject is one where the GND filter might have been a fine alternative - e.g. - a sunset sky over the horizon - the blend process is half automated in post. I use a free ACR plug-in that automatically opens the two component images as smart layers in Photoshop. The GND-equivalent blend is made by making a new layer mask on the upper image (1 second?) then drawing a gradient on the mask (5 seconds?) if all I want to do is replicate the GND filter's capabilities.)
    And, though I'm not an HDR kinda' guy, I have friends and colleagues who use it much as you describe in your "interior of a church" example - in useful and subtle ways that you might not even recognize as using HDR.
    Finally, my primary reason for writing that long post about the pluses and minuses of blending and GND filters is not to suggest that your approach is right or wrong nor that one is better or worse for individual photographers, but to try to provide some accurate and perhaps useful information about how the process is applied by those who do prefer it.
  26. Thanks! Ditto!
  27. And let's throw in a handheld shot for good measure. Tripod use is forbidden at this marina, so I cranked the ISO up to 3200, positioned the filter carefully, and let her rip.

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