For a great landscape lens kit, select one (or more) lens from each of the following categories:
And you will probably want one of these along with you as well:
4. Macro Lens
With that selection, you will have a great range of focal lengths for your landscape needs. The ultra-wide angle lens will allow you to emphasize a foreground subject against an all-in-focus large scene while the telephoto lens will keep distant subjects large in the frame. The general purpose lens will likely be your most-used landscape lens.
Any focal length can work for landscape photography, from fisheye to 800mm. But I should note that haze and heat wave distortion tend to make the longest focal lengths more difficult to employ for this use. The most useful range of focal lengths you should consider as part of your kit are 16-200 or 300mm for a full frame DSLR and 10-200mm for an APS-C/1.6x FOVCF format DSLR.
While a wide aperture can be used to isolate a detail in the landscape or to capture the night sky, much landscape photography is done using small apertures for a desired large DOF (Depth of Field). Therefore, landscape photography does not need the fastest (widest aperture, heaviest weight, most expensive) lenses. But it does require high resolution lenses to enable the tiniest details to be captured.
Landscape photography often requires travel to get to the right location. When traveling by airline to an ultimate landscape photography destination, you will want to keep your pack light. Same when hiking to that special location. Keeping the photographer's energy up will allow him/her to better focus on capturing the desired image. So, light weight is a generally important feature for a lens in the landscape kit.
Since landscape subjects are often motionless, image stabilization can be a huge benefit for a landscape lens. Even under full sunlight, I very frequently need IS to make shooting handheld successful. When the sun is high, I typically have a circular polarizing filter (mandatory for the landscape kit) mounted. This filter reduces light reaching the sensor by about 2 stops. Then add the wind typically found at the ultimate landscape locations and ... I need the help of image stabilization for my f/11 handheld daylight photography.
Since landscape subjects are often motionless, fast autofocus is not usually an important feature for landscape photography. I use often use autofocus when shooting landscapes, but waiting even an extra second for the lens to focus would seldom make a difference in my images. Even manual focus often works well for me when photographing at narrow apertures.
Landscape photographers often encounter bad weather and this inclement weather may or may not be expected. Those working around water may also have to deal with salt or fresh water spray. Weather sealed gear is a definite advantage under these circumstances. In addition to using mostly weather sealed gear, I generally have rain covers or garbage bags with me to quickly cover everything should I need to.
The prime or zoom lens decision is a rather big one for the landscape photographer. Generalizing, the biggest advantage for using a prime lens is ultimate image quality - primarily the sharpest corners (important for landscape photography), low (or no) distortion and the least vignetting. Distortion is typically most most noticeable when a flat line appears near the frame border - such as an ocean horizon. Vignettting shows most readily with a solid color covering a sizable portion of the frame edge and corner - such as a blue sky. An issue is that you need to carry many prime lenses to adequately cover the focal length range of a single zoom lens. Frequent lens changes required by a set of primes will inevitably lead to sensor dust that will be impossible to overlook in areas of blue sky at f/11.
The zoom lenses today have excellent image quality - and are my choice for a significant percentage of my landscape photographs. But not always. I often have both lens types with me and sometimes I carry cameras with both types mounted at the same time.
Sometimes getting the landscape shot of your dreams involves very cold temperatures. I don't hear of too many issues about the cold affecting lenses, but you definitely want to avoid condensation when returning to a warm environment. Cameras can have issues with cold LCDs not working until warmed again, but keeping your batteries (many of them) warm is a primary issue when shooting in the cold. Keep batteries in inside pockets and/or use hand warmers.
While the following list is far from conclusive, I will tell you about some of my favorite and most-used landscape lenses. I will separate the APS-C/1.6x FOVCF-only lens recommendations from the full frame lens choices (which are also good choices for APS-C format cameras). BTW: Full frame DSLRs, with their excellent pixel-level image quality, are an especially great choice for landscape photography.
The Best Canon APS-C-Only Landscape Lenses - My Recommendations
Excellent Image Quality, Wide Focal Length Range, Image Stabilization, Light Weight, Great Value
When I'm carrying one lens for landscape photography with an APS-C format DSLR, this is the lens I have with me. The 15-85 covers a wide range of most-important landscape focal lengths in a lightweight package.
The Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens is my close second choice, but the 17-55 is heavier with a shorter focal length range. You want the 17-55 if night skies are in your photos.
Covering the Ultra Wide Angle Focal Lengths
The Canon EF-S 10-22 is my APS-C choice for emphasizing foregrounds against and in-focus distant background. The look that 10mm allows is great. This is a relatively small, light lens that is easy to take with you.
Great Build Quality, Excellent Image Quality
While this lens does not have optical stabilization or a wide range of focal lengths (falling short of my recommended range), it makes up for its shortcomings with excellent, across-the-frame image quality. The wide f/1.8 aperture will let you create great landscape blurs behind a sharp foreground subject. Sigma delivers very impressive phyical features to accompany the excellent image quality you can expect from this lens.
The Best Canon Landscape Lenses - My Recommendations
Canon's Best Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens
Landscape photography often makes use of wide through ultra-wide focal lengths to take in large amounts of beauty and to keep both the foreground and background in sharp focus. This lens has a wider angle of view range than the 24-something mm lenses listed below this one. The 16-35mm range provides some of the most-desired landscape focal lengths, though a telephoto zoom may be desired in addition to this lens for tighter-framed/more-compressed distant landscape photos.
Especially attractive for landscape photography is that this lens delivers very impressive image quality completely into full frame lens corners. Also very desired for handheld landscape photography is that this is image stabilization – this is the only full-frame-compatible ultra-wide angle Canon-mount lens featuring image stabilization. The weather does not always cooperate with photographers shooting outdoors and this lens' weather sealed build quality is meant to help in those inclement weather situations.
With a modest overall size, weight and price along with accurate autofocus, this lens is a solid choice for both amateur and professional landscape photographers.
Ultimate Image Quality, Excellent Build Quality, Wide f/2.8 Aperture, Weather Sealing
The 24-70 f/2.8L II's biggest drawback as a landscape lens is the lack of image stabilization. But it delivers the best image quality you will get in a zoom lens in this focal length range - it is very impressive. Shoot from a tripod and you will not need image stabilization. The f/2.8 aperture will allow you to get more creative with subject isolation/background blur, but that extra glass adds to the carry weight of this lens. The 24-70L II also carries a weighty price tag.
Excellent Image Quality, Macro Capabilities, Excellent Build Quality, Image Stabilization, Weather Sealing
With great image quality, a solid focal length range, light weight and image stabilization, the 24-70 f/4 ISL makes a great general purpose landscape lens. The biggest advantage this lens holds over the 24-105L IS and the rest of its competition is the impressive 0.7x macro focusing capabilities. The 24-70L IS also has less barrel distortion than the 24-105L at 24mm, but the 24-70 IS costs more and has a shorter focal length range.
Amazingly Wide Angle of View, Exceptional Image Quality, Pro-Grade Weather-Sealed Build Quality
The 11-24 L goes wider than any rectilinear lens before it and this ultra wide angle of view can set landscape photos apart from the crowd. This lens delivers very impressive image quality performance over its entire focal length range and its pro-grade build quality is ready to go wherever you take it. Downsides: price, weight and inability to mount a circular polarizer filter.
Excellent Image Quality, Great Build Quality, Image Stabilization, Great Focal Length Range
Landscape photography, for me, often involves the use of telephoto focal lengths. When those situations arise, the Canon 100-400 L II is my top choice. This lens is easily portable and handholdable, but features a very long focal length range that works especially well for wildlife encountered while photographing landscapes. The image quality from this lens is top-notch and the build quality matches.
Impressive Image Quality, Great Build Quality, Image Stabilization, Weather Sealing, Compact & Light
The 70-200 f/4L IS does not have the focal length range that the 70-300L IS has, but the 70-200 is another excellent telephoto landscape lens choice. Focal lengths beyond 200mm are often not needed and the 70-200's lighter weight is especially welcomed when hiking. This lens has impressive image quality and is built for professional use. I use this lens and the 70-300L IS nearly interchangeably - and often have both with me when traveling (for backup purposes).
I Love This Lens!
The TS-E 24L II has the best image quality of any 24mm prime lens I've ever used. Actually, there are very few lenses that reach this level of image quality excellence. Solid build quality and tilt, shift & rotation movements in an ideal-for-landscapes 24mm focal length gives you an overall awesome landscape lens choice. This is often the lens I have mounted when I am tripod-based and waiting for the prefect sunrise or sunset. This is a manual-focus-only lens and no Canon TS-E lens is currently weather sealed.
Ultra-Wide Aperture, Excellent Image Quality, Excellent Weather-Sealed Build Quality
F/1.4 is the widest aperture currently available on any lens wider than 50mm. And this is the best night sky lens in Canon's lens lineup. The wide aperture can also give your images a blurred background look that sets them apart. This is a great lens overall - including great image quality. The 24mm focal length is my most-used for full frame landscape photography.
Great Image Quality, Excellent Build Quality, T/S Movements
With the best image quality of any lens in the near-17mm focal length, the TS-E 17 is very frequently my choice for an ultra-wide focal length need - especially for landscapes. The tilt, shift & rotation movements provide many landscape photography benefits. It's built like you would expect from anL lens.
A downside to the large convex objective lens element is the inability to accept standard filters.
Visit the Canon Lenses page for more recommendations.