What is the ultimate Canon full-frame landscape lens?
What is the ultimate Canon APS-C landscape lens?
Do you own a Canon DSLR camera? Our Best Canon DSLR Camera Landscape Photography Lens recommendations page has your answer.
You may have determined this already from the above list, but a great Canon landscape photography lens kit consists of one (or more) lens from each of the following categories:
In addition, you will probably want one of these: The Best Canon Mirrorless Camera Macro Lenses.
With a selection (or multiple selections) from each of the above categories, you will have lenses with a vast range of focal lengths for your landscape photography needs. Landscape photography can make use of all focal lengths Canon currently offers, from the widest angle through the longest telephoto, but I'll approximate the most useful range at 16-300mm. The ultra-wide-angle lenses will allow you to emphasize a foreground subject against an all-in-focus large scene, the telephoto lenses will keep distant subjects large in the frame, and the general-purpose lens will frequently find landscape application.
The focal length is of primary importance for landscape photography, but the max aperture is (usually) not. While a wide aperture can be used to isolate a detail in the landscape or to capture the night sky, much landscape photography uses small apertures for significant DOF (Depth of Field). Therefore and fortunately, landscape photography does not require the fastest lenses, those with the widest aperture and accompanying heaviest weight, largest size, and highest cost.
What is needed is high contrast and resolution from corner to corner of the frame. Landscape subjects typically have extremely fine details, and the sharp reproduction of these subjects is a requirement. Lenses need to be sharp enough to show the tiniest details.
Landscape photography often requires travel to get to the ultimate landscape photography destination. When traveling by airline, you will want to keep your pack light. The same need applies when hiking to a select location. Packing light helps keep the photographer's energy up, and increased energy will allow him or her to better focus on capturing the desired image. 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 for those times when a tripod is not desired or practical. Even under full sunlight, I very frequently need image stabilization to make handheld shooting successful, especially when using a light-reducing circular polarizing filter (a mandatory part of the landscape kit). The wind typically found at some of the ultimate landscape locations further increases the need for image stabilization with handheld daylight photography.
Since landscape subjects are often motionless, fast autofocus is not usually an essential feature for landscape photography. I use regularly use autofocus when shooting landscapes, but waiting even an extra second for the lens to focus would seldom make a difference in my images (unless the wife and kids are waiting for me). Even manual focus often works well for landscape photography, especially when photographing at narrow apertures.
Landscape photographers encounter bad weather (or search for it to capture the moodiest images), and this inclement weather may or may not be expected. Those working around water may also have to deal with saltwater or freshwater spray. Having weather sealed gear is a definite advantage under these circumstances. In addition to using mostly weather-sealed equipment, I generally have rain covers with me to quickly cover everything if necessary.
Should I get a prime or a zoom lens for landscape photography? The prime vs. zoom lens decision is a big one for the landscape photographer. Generalizing, the most significant advantage of using a prime lens is the ultimate image quality. These lenses typically produce the sharpest corners, low (or no) distortion, the least vignetting, and the best sunstars.
Blurry corners are usually not appreciated in landscape images. Distortion is typically the most noticeable when a flat line appears near the frame border, and curved oceans just don't look right. Vignetting shows most readily with a solid color covering a sizable portion of the frame edge and corner, and though a gradient blue sky color may be pretty, this effect being caused by the lens is usually not desirable in a landscape image. A great sunstar can become the most-stunning element in a landscape image, and a wide aperture, typical of a prime lens, stopped down significantly, usually creates the largest, best-defined sunstars.
A prime lens downside is that you need to buy and carry many 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 increased sensor dust that will be impossible to overlook in areas of blue sky at f/11. The best zoom lenses available today have excellent image quality, and they are my choice for a significant percentage of my landscape photographs. However, I often have both lens types with me, and sometimes I carry cameras with both types mounted at the same time.
The Entire Package: Impressive image quality and Overall Performance, Wide Aperture, Solid Set of Landscape Focal Lengths, Image Stabilization, Pro-Grade Build
The Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens is my go-to landscape lens. This lens is the right choice for a very high percentage of landscape photography needs, with the f/2.8 aperture ready to tackle the night skies.
Few want to compromise image quality, and this L-series lens delivers greatness in that regard. Fast and accurate AF? That box is checked. Pro-grade, weather-sealed build quality? Ruggedness is built in. High-performing image stabilzation is there for you when the tripod is not.
Great image quality and Overall Performance, Compact Size, Light Weight, Great Focal Length Range, Image Stabilization, Pro-Grade Build
If the sibling RF 15-35's f/2.8 aperture is not needed, the RF 14-35 provides a longer focal length range, a lighter weight, a smaller size, and a lower price. This is a great lens to take on landscape photography outings.
The Entire Package: Impressive image quality and Overall Performance, Wide Aperture, the Right Focal Lengths, Image Stabilization, Pro-Grade Build
The Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens is my go-to general-purpose zoom lens. This lens is the right choice for a very high percentage of photography needs, from landscapes to portraits and from night skies to weddings, with most needs between covered.
As I said about the RF 15-35, few want to compromise image quality, and this L-series lens delivers greatness in that regard. Fast and accurate AF? That box is checked. Pro-grade, weather-sealed build quality? Ruggedness is built in. High-performing image stabilzation is there for you when the tripod is not.
Great Focal Length Range, Excellent Image Quality, Relatively Light Weight, Modest Cost, Moderately Wide Aperture, Image Stabilization, Pro-Grade Build
The focal length range is a strong criterion for landscape photography lens selection, and the 24-105mm range is superb. While this range is long, it is not so long that image quality to becomes compromised, and the RF 24-105 F4 L IS produces stellar results in that regard.
Like the RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS, this rugged pro-grade, weather-sealed lens has fast and accurate AF and is image stabilized. While the f/4 lens can allow only half as much light to reach the imaging sensor as f/2.8 models, the f/4 lens weighs less and costs considerably less.
The Entire Package: Impressive image quality and Overall Performance, Wide Aperture, the Right Focal Lengths, Image Stabilization, Pro-Grade Build, Incredibly Compact
The Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens is my go-to general-purpose telephoto zoom lens. This lens is the right choice for a very high percentage of general telephoto photography needs, with landscapes and portraits being ideally covered.
Again, few want to compromise image quality, and this L-series lens delivers greatness in that regard. Fast and accurate AF? That box is checked. Pro-grade, weather-sealed build quality? Ruggedness is built in. High-performing image stabilzation is there for you when the tripod is not, and the wide aperture enables stopping motion in low light.
Excellent Image Quality, the Right Focal Lengths, Relatively Light Weight, Modest Cost, Moderately Wide Aperture, Image Stabilization, Pro-Grade Build, Incredibly Compact
Reduce the Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens's aperture opening by 1/2, and you get the Canon RF 70-200mm F4 L IS USM Lens. Advantages of the narrower aperture include reduced size, reduced weight, and reduced cost. When f/2.8 is not needed, this lens is the best option.
Ideal Focal Length Range for Landscape, Wildlife, and Sports Photography, High-Performing Lens with Pro-Grade Build and Image Quality, Image Stabilization
If I'm photographing wildlife or landscape, with few exceptions, the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens is either mounted or in my pack. This lens produces outstanding image quality at every setting. The combination of long focal lengths, long range of focal lengths, relatively compact design, fast and accurate AF, weather-sealed professional build quality, and image stabilization make this lens the perfect companion for many pursuits.
Great Image Quality, Tiny and Light, Affordable
Canon EOS M-series camera owners have a great ultra-wide-angle zoom lens option in the EF-M 11-22mm. This compact lens is effortless to take with you, the angles of view are a delight to use, and the image quality produced is impressively good.
Huge Focal Length Range, Surprisingly Good Image Quality, Reasonable Price, Image Stablization, Extremely Convenient
It is not often that I recommend a lens with a near-10x zoom range as a first choice lens, but this one has excellent image quality despite the long focal length range, leaving few reasons not to make this lens a primary choice. The EF-M 18-150 is a bit longer than some other options, but it is essentially two lenses in one, saving the time and effort required by lens changes. Image stabilization adds to the convenience.
Visit the Canon Lens Recommendations page for more recommendations.