The best lenses for landscapes are wide-angle zooms. A standard zoom lens can also work really well for landscape photography. However, you’ll often find that you want to squeeze more of a scene into the frame than a standard lens can accommodate. So looking forward to the time when we can all get back into the great outdoors, here are the best landscape lenses for the job – and there's more to it than picking just any old wide-angle lens.
Back to basics
• What are the best camera lenses to buy?
There are some superb ultra-wide-angle zooms on the market but they tend to have integral hoods that form an extension to the barrel, thus protecting the protruding front optical element. That makes it impossible to fit landscape-friendly filters without buying an expensive filter system that has a specialist adapter, like the Lee Filters SW150 Mark II.
• Read more: Camera filters explained and why you still need them
• Landscape photography tips and techniques
You’re generally best off with a lens that doesn’t have quite such a short minimum focal length but comes with a separate hood and a built-in filter attachment thread. The maximum angle of view can still be very impressive, enabling you to fit vast areas into the image frame. You’ll also be able to exaggerate perspective in landscape photography, stretching the apparent distance between close foreground areas and the background.
If you want to know more about lens basics and the types available, see our guide to the best camera lenses to buy.
A generous zoom range is good to have. It enables creative versatility and avoids the need to carry a large number of lenses, or swap between them too often. The most up-market wide-angle zooms typically have a ‘fast’ f/2.8 aperture that remains constant throughout the zoom range. But they can be very pricey to buy.
Lenses with a slightly more modest aperture rating can still deliver great sharpness, contrast and color rendition, but from a more compact and lightweight package. It’s an important consideration if you’re trekking into the hills, in search of spectacular views. The addition of image stabilization can save further weight, removing the need to add a tripod to your load.
With all that in mind, here is our pick of the best lenses for landscapes, to suit a wide range of popular cameras.
Canon offers two wide-angle zooms for its APS-C format SLRs. There’s the diminutive, budget-friendly and relatively recent EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM, and its older, chunkier and more-upmarket sibling, the EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM. This Tamron lens outperforms them both, while matching the latter for price. Unlike both Canon lenses, it features weather-seals for the worst of the outdoor weather and a fluorine coating on the front element to repel spray and raindrops. You won’t need to buy the lens hood separately as an ‘optional extra’, either.
With a string of letters after its name, it boasts a fast and virtually silent HLD (High/Low toque-modulated Drive) autofocus system and a VC (Vibration Compensation) unit that delivers 4-stop stabilization. Handling, performance and image quality are excellent in all respects, and sharpness is superb across the entire frame, right into the corners.
Launched about six years ago, this 16-35mm has pro-grade handling and build quality typical of Canon’s L-series lenses. Its f/4 aperture rating remains constant throughout the aperture range, there’s a fast and whisper-quiet ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system, it’s weather-sealed, has fluorine coatings on the front and rear elements, and comes complete with a hood. Optical finery includes UD (Ultra-Low Dispersion) elements and Super Spectra coatings, while the 4-stop stabilizer enhances sharpness in handheld shooting. Sharpness itself is outstanding in the central region of the frame although it drops off a bit towards the edges and corners.
A weighty proposition for Canon’s EOS R-series mirrorless cameras at 840g, this ‘fast’ f/2.8 lens is nevertheless only about the same size and a little heavier than most f/4 wide-angle zooms for full-frame SLRs. Speaking of which, it has similarly high-end L-series build quality as Canon’s EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens for SLRs, with weather-seals and fluorine coatings on the front and rear elements. It also shares the same ‘IS USM’ credentials but the image stabilizer is even more effective, rated at 5-stops instead of 4-stops, and the autofocus is ‘Nano Ultrasonic’ which is even faster more silent, while adding the bonus of smooth autofocus transitions during movie capture. Unusually for such a wide-angle f/2.8 zoom, it has a filter attachment thread and separate hood. The only real downside is the steep selling price.
Nikon currently markets a low-budget AF-P DX 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR wide-angle zoom for its APS-C format SLRs, as well as more up-market (and much older) 10-24mm and 12-24mm DX lenses. The Tamron occupies the middle ground in terms of selling price but beats all the Nikon lenses for image quality, especially in terms of corner-to-corner sharpness. It has a solid build, incorporating weather-seals and a fluorine coating on the front element. Key features include a highly efficient 4-stop optical stabilizer, a fast and virtually silent HLD (High/Low toque-modulated Drive) autofocus system and an electromagnetically controlled aperture. However this makes aperture adjustment unavailable when using older Nikon SLRs including the D3000 and D5000.
Although fairly weighty for an f/4 wide-angle zoom, this Nikon 16-35mm is nevertheless only about two-thirds the weight of most f/2.8 editions. It certainly feels very solid and comes complete with a weather-seal on the mounting plate. The up-market optical design includes two ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements to enhance sharpness and contrast while minimizing colour fringing, plus Nano Crystal Coat to reduce ghosting and flare. There’s a typically fast and whisper-quiet ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system, with the usual full-time manual override. The VR (Vibration Reduction) system is a bonus, although it only gives a relatively meagre 2.5-stop advantage in beating camera-shake.
This Nikon is refreshingly compact and lightweight for a full-frame compatible wide-angle zoom. Designed for full-frame mirrorless Z-mount cameras, it’s only about the same size and weight as the Tamron 10-24mm zoom for DX format SLRs. It nevertheless packs a lot into its diminutive and weather-sealed build, including four aspherical elements, four ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements, Nano Crystal Coat and a fluorine coating on the front element. There’s a fast and virtually silent stepping motor-based autofocus system but, as usual with Nikon Z lenses, this comes without a physical focus distance scale. There’s no optical image stabilizer either but that’s no problem because Z 6 and Z 7 cameras have built-in, sensor-shift stabilization. Typical of Nikon’s Z-mount full-frame compatible lenses, image quality is exceptional with incredible corner-to-corner sharpness.
Fairly hefty for an APS-C format wide-angle zoom, the XF-10-24mm combines a generous zoom range with a constant f/4 aperture rating. It’s impeccably turned out and the high-end construction looks and feels fabulous. As signified by the ‘R OIS’ lettering in its title, the lens has a physical aperture ring to enhance handling and an Optical Image Stabilizer, albeit with a slightly mediocre 3-stop effectiveness. There’s nothing mediocre about the optical path, which includes four aspherical elements and four ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements and delivers exceptional sharpness in the short half of the zoom range, even when shooting wide-open. At longer zoom settings, it pays to narrow the aperture by an f/stop for real bite.
Ultra-wide-angle lenses represent a real challenge for the Micro Four Thirds system, due to its 2x crop factor doubling the ‘effective’ focal length. Even so, there are high-performance zooms to choose from, including the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7–14mm f/2.8 PRO. Unlike that lens, the Panasonic has a separate hood and comes complete with a filter attachment thread, while nearly matching the Olympus for maximum angle of view. Further landscape photography credentials include a tough, weather-sealed and freeze-proof construction. The lens lives up to its Leica billing with excellent image quality, thanks to an exotic optical path that includes three aspherical elements, two ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements, one aspherical ED element and a UHR (Ultra High Refractive index) element.
Remarkably compact and weighing in at just 225g, the Sony 10-18mm is a perfect match for slim-line A6000-series bodies. The 10-18mm zoom range isn’t overly generous at the long end but gives a useful spread of focal lengths, equating to 15-27mm in full-frame terms. Stepping motor-based autofocus is quick and virtually silent in operation. As usual with this type of system, there’s no physical focus distance scale and the manual focus ring is electronically rather than mechanically coupled. The latter enables very precise adjustments. Despite featuring Super ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass, sharpness is a little lacklustre when shooting wide-open but improves significantly when stopping down to f/5.6. The 3-stop optical stabilizer is worth having but isn’t an overachiever by current standards.
If you thought that all f/2.8 wide-angle zooms were big and heavy, this Tamron will make you think again. It’s surprisingly lightweight for a lens with such a fast aperture but doesn’t skimp on build quality, with a tough, weather-sealed construction. The optical layout includes both LD (Low Dispersion) and XLD (eXtra Low Dispersion) elements, while autofocus is courtesy of Tamron’s latest RXD (Rapid eXtra silent stepping Drive) stepping motor. This takes full advantage of the fast and wide-ranging autofocus options in Sony’s latest cameras. It can also take advantage of sensor-shift stabilization in Sony’s recent camera bodies, which is just as well as it lacks its own optical stabilizer. Sharpness is fabulous while colour fringing and distortions are minimal, even without digital corrections. The Tamron also happens to cost less than half the price of Sony’s 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master lens.