What's the best FL for landscape/scenery?

Started Mar 13, 2013 | Discussions
dpyy
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What's the best FL for landscape/scenery?
Mar 13, 2013

Does anyone have a recommendation for the best FL for landscape photography?  I know landscape photography can mean a lot of things, I'm looking for those cliche shots of sunset + beech, or an amazing city skyline etc. Just general far away grand looking things.

I ask this because I hear different opinions. Some say wide angle is an obvious choice, some say wide angle make the actual things of interest too small?

D Cox
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Re: What's the best FL for landscape/scenery?
In reply to dpyy, Mar 13, 2013

One point is that the wider the angle, the smaller distant things look (and the more of them you can get into the picture).

So if you want the mountains to look big, use a longer lens.

Wide angle is good if you want to contrast a big foreground feature with a tiny distant scene.

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alextardif
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Re: What's the best FL for landscape/scenery?
In reply to dpyy, Mar 13, 2013

Look at Trey Ratcliff's EXIF details on all of his images to get a good idea of the FL impact if you frame a similar shot.  If found this to be a pretty useful guide http://www.stuckincustoms.com

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EinsteinsGhost
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Re: What's the best FL for landscape/scenery?
In reply to dpyy, Mar 13, 2013

dpyy wrote:

Does anyone have a recommendation for the best FL for landscape photography? I know landscape photography can mean a lot of things, I'm looking for those cliche shots of sunset + beech, or an amazing city skyline etc. Just general far away grand looking things.

I ask this because I hear different opinions. Some say wide angle is an obvious choice, some say wide angle make the actual things of interest too small?

I would look into Sony 10-18mm f/4 OSS. It is tiny, light and very good optically and practically the "landscape" focal length.

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Lightshow
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Re: What's the best FL for landscape/scenery?
In reply to dpyy, Mar 13, 2013

Generally a somewhat wide lens (28-35 on FF) works great for your average/typical landscape, wides and ultra wides for grand scenes/vistas, and teles for distant details.

The reality is use the focal length to fit in what you want to fit in, a d if you can't fit it in, stitching is always an option in landscapes.

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blue_skies
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Re: What's the best FL for landscape/scenery?
In reply to dpyy, Mar 13, 2013

dpyy wrote:

Does anyone have a recommendation for the best FL for landscape photography? I know landscape photography can mean a lot of things, I'm looking for those cliche shots of sunset + beech, or an amazing city skyline etc. Just general far away grand looking things.

I ask this because I hear different opinions. Some say wide angle is an obvious choice, some say wide angle make the actual things of interest too small?

It all depends.

Like DCox mentioned, the wider the angle, the smaller the center, but only at a distance. If short distance, the center actually seems emphasized.

If you consider a panorama shot taken with the 35mm FL, versus a wide angle shot, taken with the 12mm, you'll notice a very different picture.

In the panorama shot, the center is actually enlarged (bulbeous), whereas in the 16mm shot the center is reduced in size.

Next, a wider angle lens will also reduce detail. A longer FL will capture more detail and this can make a picture more interesting. It again depends on your viewing distance and print/monitor size.

Sometimes, it is the image composition that matters, sometimes it is the image detail.

Nature shots with 10-18 look normal, because we do not have a reference for nature images. But if you shoot scenes that we recognize, the distortion can be rather (unpleasantly) visible. Some photographers use this to accentuate a part of an image.

I find that it is up to the photographer - some scenes look great with a 12mm lens, others need a 50mm lens to 'get there'.

Typically, I would consider 20-24mm a good FL for enough 'wide' but not enough 'distortion'. You can pan with a 20mm FL quite effectively.



12mm perspective - looks funny?



24mm perspective, appears 'almost normal'



35mm perspective 'normal look'



35mm 'nature shot'

16mm 'nature shot'

200mm view of same scene - see how much detail is missing in the 'wide view'

180 degree pan with a wide 12mm angle lens (center drops back)

Horizontal pan with 22mm FL (SEL18200)

Vertical pan with 19mm FL (Sigma 19)

Vertical pan with 19mm FL (Sigma 19)

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Cheers,
Henry

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cptrios
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Re: What's the best FL for landscape/scenery?
In reply to EinsteinsGhost, Mar 13, 2013

Really, the "best FL" for landscapes is a good zoom. There's just too much variation in the world to choose one focal length to cover all the landscape bases. Those sunsets, for example, might most often call for a WA, while the cityscapes might be better served by a short tele, depending on where you're standing.

If you're asking this question because you want to invest in a really good prime and can only afford one (which is a situation in which most of us have been), the only real answer you can get is the one you deduce for yourself. Do you have plans for shooting in specific places? Are you going to be taking pictures of people or other objects in the foregrounds of grand landscapes (I prefer longer lenses in these cases providing I have enough room to step back)? Are you going to be in a place with great sweeping vistas (wider lens) or with just a few singular features that don't have all that much surrounding them (longer lens)?

So if you really wanted to be covered, the best options out there are the "modest superzooms," the Canon 15-85, Nikon 16-85, and Sony/Zeiss 16-80 (the best of the three I think, but the most expensive). Those all have surprisingly good IQ and a very good landscape FL range. However, if you want prime-level IQ, your best bet might be to just pick the spot in the range (i.e. WA, standard, tele) you use the most, and just get the best possible prime available near it. For example, a set consisting of the upcoming Zeiss 12mm (provided it lives up to its brand name), the Sigma 30, and the Sony 50 would serve you pretty well in almost any situation, I think. And the latter two would probably set you back just a bit over $300 total if you bought used.

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Chris 1
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Re: What's the best FL for landscape/scenery?
In reply to cptrios, Mar 14, 2013

Henry, that was a really informative post. Thank you for taking the time to show the impact of varying FL.

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daddyman
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Re: What's the best FL for landscape/scenery?
In reply to dpyy, Mar 14, 2013

My landscaping kit now consists of the SEL 10-18, Zeiss 24, SEL 35, and (if I think I'll need a short tele) a manual Konica Hexanon 50/1.4.

Mike

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golfpan
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Re: What's the best FL for landscape/scenery?
In reply to blue_skies, Mar 14, 2013

Thanks for taking the time to post this.  Very helpful and much appreciated.

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EinsteinsGhost
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Re: What's the best FL for landscape/scenery?
In reply to cptrios, Mar 14, 2013

Most of my landscape photography happens between 16-30mm (24mm to 45mm FF equivalent), but that is also because I don’t have an ultra-wide lens.

At 18mm (the widest angle on my Sigma 18-250):

Sigma 18-250 (at 18mm)

Occasionally I will zoom in considerably (in this case, 250mm) to emphasize an element (also useful if trying to exaggerate size of sun/moon against mountains, for example):

Sigma 18-250 (at 250mm)

And rectilinear-corrected 8mm fisheye:

Rokinon 8mm + Fisheye Hemi

Sigma 18-250 (at 250mm) 

Sigma 18-250 (at 250mm)

Sigma 18-250 (at 100mm)

Something to keep in mind is that DoF reducesy (hyper focal distance increases) dramatically with increase in focal length, at a far greater rate than reducing aperture would cope up with.

Generally, I would say 24-50mm (FF equivalent) is popular. But, if course, you can go closer. But, mostly wider than that.

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Dennis
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Samples at various FLs (fixed links)
In reply to dpyy, Mar 15, 2013

ALL of these are on APS-C:

280mm

200mm

26mm

28mm

17mm

75mm

17mm

135mm

85mm

28mm

16mm

18mm (and wasn't quite wide enough)

28mm

So the best FL is 16-300 (24-400 on full frame).  And I seem to favor a normal lens ... 28mm on APS-C.

- Dennis

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DRode
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Re: What's the best FL for landscape/scenery?
In reply to dpyy, Mar 15, 2013

Both are correct. Choosing a focal length is a often an artistic decision. How do I want the foreground, mid and background to relate to each other?

Imagine taking a picture of a cactus in the foreground desert scrub in the mid and a mountain in the background.

With wider the focal lengths, the cactus would appear larger and the mountain would appear smaller and less prominent. Using longer and longer focal lengths will make the mountain larger and the cactus smaller and less prominent. There is no right or wrong answer, just composition choices about how the elements in the frame relate to each other.

Sometimes we are limited by how close or far away we can place the camera but this is a practical consideration not a compositional one.

dpyy wrote:

I ask this because I hear different opinions. Some say wide angle is an obvious choice, some say wide angle make the actual things of interest too small?

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