What is the ultimate Sony FE (full-frame, E-mount) landscape photography lens?
As a generalization, the above list is sorted in performance and price descending sequence, with covered focal lengths increasing.
You may have determined this already from the above list, but a great Sony 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 Sony 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 Sony 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 is done using small apertures for significant DOF (Depth of Field). Therefore and fortunately, landscape photography does not require the fastest lenses, those with the widest aperture with 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 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 should I need to.
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 biggest advantage for using a prime lens is 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 Best Sony Full-Frame Landscape Photography Lenses
1. Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens
Sony's Best Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens, G Master Build
If I could choose only one Sony lens for landscape photography, this would be the one. The FE 16-35 is the Sony ultra-wide-angle zoom lens you want, an excellent choice for a wide variety of uses. The image quality it creates is impressive. The lens is well built and includes weather sealing. Those photographing the night sky will also find the f/2.8 aperture advantageous.
2. Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens
An Exceptional Bargain
For a very low price, the Tamron 17-28 Di III lens provides professional-grade image quality in a compact, lightweight package. There is little this lens lacks aside from switches. The focal length range does not reach the widest or the longest in the class, but it matches perfectly with another exceptional bargain lens, the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens.
3. Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens
Outstanding Image Quality, Exceptionally-Wide Angles of View, G Master Build
While not inexpensive, this lens delivers incredible image quality, despite the extremely-wide angles of view it avails. With f/2.8 available, this Sony lens is a great choice for photographing the night sky, along with low light events. Take this lens to the most beautiful locations and it is sure enable you to bring home exceptional results. Note that this does not accept front filters.
4. Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art Lens
Outstanding Image Quality, Ultra-Wide Angles of View, Relatively Affordable, Beatifully Designed
While this lens's focal length range is not as dramatic as the Sony equivalent, the cost is not as dramatic either. The Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art Lens impresses with the image quality it delivers, the build and aesthetic qualities are excellent, and AF is fast and quiet. Note that this does not accept front filters.
5. Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens
Compact, Lightweight, Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens
The diminutive, lightweight Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens is a great option for the frequently needed ultra-wide through wide-angle coverage.
Only the strong barrel distortion at the wide end of the focal length range detracts from the otherwise stellar optical performance this lens delivers. Plan on utilizing the correction options provided.
Additional features this lens avails include power zoom, dual XD linear drive AF, and reduced focus breathing, make this lens a highly attractive choice for video capture.
The moderate price ensures high popularity for this lens.
An Exceptionally Wide-Angle Lens
The focal lengths available in this lens are incredibly wide, and photographing with these angles of view is very fun. Especially the 12mm end provides the opportunity to set one's work apart from the crowd. The FE 12-24 is a quality lens, but note that it does not accept front filters.
7. Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens
Ultra-High-Performing General-Purpose Zoom Lens
Because of its remarkable capabilities and features, the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens is the go-to lens for many, including the most advanced professionals. The most-needed focal length range is fully covered, with outstanding image quality included.
The wide f/2.8 max aperture advantages this lens for stopping action in low light, making it an ideal choice for photographing action sports and low light events. The f/2.8 aperture is also useful for creating a strong background blur, allowing the subject to be isolated from a distracting background.
This lens's autofocus system performs excellently, and the wide aperture enables reliable low light AF performance.
The Sony "GM" build quality ensures enduring performance from this relatively compact and lightweight lens.
8. Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS Lens
Excellent Image Quality, Close-Focusing Capabilities, Excellent Build Quality, Great Focal Length Range, Fast Autofocus, Optical SteadyShot, Weather Sealing, Close Focusing
Though it lacks the wide f/2.8 aperture, the Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS Lens adds significantly to the long end of the general-purpose focal length, and it also adds Optical SteadyShot. Lighter weight, smaller size, and lower price are additional advantages this lens has over the Sony FE f/2.8 counterpart, and somewhat surprisingly, the f/4 lens is slightly sharper in most comparisons. The optical performance, combined with the rest of this lens's features, including good weather-sealed build quality and a great close-focusing capability, make it a very popular landscape photography zoom lens choice.
9. Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III VXD G2 Lens
Incredible Value, Excellent Image Quality, Great Design and Build Quality, Compact, Lightweight
It is not often that I recommend choosing a camera to gain access to a lens, but the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III VXD G2 Lens is such an incredible value that this is one of those unique scenarios.
For a very low price, this lens provides a wide f/2.8 aperture over the entire focal length range.
From an image quality perspective, this lens rivals even the best Sony standard zoom lenses.
Everyone can appreciate the small size and light weight of this lens, and Tamron's (USA) 6-year warranty is unsurpassed.
While I prefer the 24mm focal length to be available on my landscape lens, this lens's overall package makes me willing to overlook that aspect. The Tamron 28-75 is simply a great all-purpose lens and a great deal.
10. Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art Lens
Strong Value, Solid Performer
The Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art Lens, with a focal length range that encompasses the most-used angles of view, is a great all-around lens choice. This lens is well built and functions as beautifully as it looks. With a wide aperture, the 24-70 DN Art lens is ready to tackle low light scenarios, and the image quality this lens produces is very sharp, especially for the low price.
11. Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens
Nice Image Quality, Great Value, Nice Build Quality, Compact, Lightweight
As the Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens is added to the recommendations list, it is the smallest and lightest Sony-mount lens covering this focal length range. Those attributes are frequently important for landscape photographers hitting the trail. Affordability is always a valued lens aspect.
12. Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS Lens
Relatively Light, Well-Built, Ideal Telephoto Landscape Focal Length Range
I often find my favorite landscape images being captured at telephoto focal lengths, and this lens has the most-needed range for this use. With a fixed f/4 max aperture, this lens gives up a substantial amount of size, weight, and cost over the wider f/2.8 version. The FE 70-200mm f/4 includes pro-grade features, including solid, weather-sealed build quality, Optical SteadyShot, and teleconverter compatibility.
13. Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD Lens
Compact, Light, Sharp, Affordable, Slightly Shorter Focal Length Range
Tamron continues to produce great mirrorless lenses, and the 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD Lens is another big hit. Though this lens's focal length range falls short of the competing 70-200mm models, the range it does provide is great for landscape photography, and the image quality it provides is similarly great. The compact and light weight will be appreciated during long wedding shoots. That the price is affordable is welcomed by everyone.
14. Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens
Long Focal Length Range with Long Focal Lengths, Excellent Image Quality, G Master Build, Optical SteadyShot, Weather-Sealed
While landscape photographers may sometimes find this lens's 100mm wide end a bit too narrow, but sometimes the 400mm end is very welcomed, including for making distant mountain scenes large in the frame. I often photograph wildlife and landscapes simultaneously, and this lens's range is ideal for that dual purpose. When 400mm is not long enough, this lens's teleconverter compatibility will be found advantageous. The FE 100-400 has Sony GM pro-grade build quality.
Visit the Sony Lens Recommendations page for more recommendations.