The Three Best Lenses for Landscape and Travel Photography.

I travel a lot.  And I take a ton of photos. Mostly, I shoot landscape photography or travel photography.  There’s also a little bit of architectural photography and a small amount of lifestyle photography when I’m traveling too. Of course, I travel often with my wife so I want to take a few shots of her or us along our journey as well.  If this sounds like you or your photographic tastes, I’m going to share with you three best lenses for landscape and travel photography that for years I’ve been referring to as the “Trifecta.”

There are many great lenses and many great lens manufacturers these days, and like many of you I have a good stock of lenses. However, I find myself reverting back to three lenses 99% of the time. Unless I know for certain I’m going to want a certain look that one of these three can’t give me, I rarely travel with more than these three lenses.  Sometimes I don’t even bring all three.

Let’s start talking about these lenses in order of their importance from least to most.  It doesn’t matter much what camera platform you are shooting, whether it is Nikon, Canon, Sony, Lumix, etc. Most manufacturers have lenses that are similar to these three. Usually I shoot Nikon cameras and lenses, so I’ll be referring to these a lot, but I’ll also mention the Canon equivalents as most photographers tend to shoot one of these two brands of cameras.  Alright, here we go…

#3: Nikon / Canon 70-200mm f2.8.

Nikon 70-200mmI use the Nikon version of course, but I used to have the Canon equivalent.  Both are incredibly sharp, fast and fun to shoot.  The major drawback with these lenses are their weight.  Both are behemoths. But for the long range shots, the portrait shots, the detail shots, textures, etc, this is an awesome lens.  Even though I find myself using the other two lenses much more often than the 70mm-200mm lens, I must say this is an essential piece of equipment.  The wide aperture and good zoom length make it ideal for events, model and wedding photography as well. If I were more of an event or wedding photographer, this lens would be even more indispensable.

#2: Nikon / Canon 24-70mm f2.8

Nikon 24-70mmOh, yea.  On some trips this is actually the most important lens you can bring.  It has a great medium zoom range, a wide aperture, it is light, fast and all around awesome! When I’m shooting in urban environments and places I’ve never been, this is often the only lens I’ll take on day trips. It’s wide enough on a full-frame camera to take in a great landscape and it has enough of a zoom to get texture shots. The f2.8 aperture is wide enough and fast enough to capture really nice cultural photography of people and animals and makes this lens nearly the perfect piece of glass for your arsenal. I’m pretty sure that since I’ve owned this lens, or the Canon counterpart I have never gone on a trip without it. And I can honestly say I don’t see where I ever would.

#1: Nikon 14-24mm f2.8

Nikon 14-24mmBecause my niche is mainly landscape photography, I live with this lens attached to my camera. This is the best ulna-wide angle lens I have ever used. By a long shot. And that includes Canon equivalent lenses.  I should note that I haven’t used Canon’s newest ultra wide angle 11-24mm f4L lens, but I have shot a lot with their 16-35mm f2.8L lens.  Personally, I wouldn’t buy a lens with an aperture that wasn’t at least as wide as a 2.8 though, so the f4 of the 11-24mm would be out automatically.

Before I shot the Nikon 14-24mm lens, I thought the Canon 16-35mm was a great lens.  However, from day 1 of shooting the Nikon, there was no comparison. The Nikon is wider and still doesn’t distort the images like the Canon 16-35 does. There is an adapter for the Canon to allow users to put their Nikon glass on Canon bodies, so if you are switching to Canon, or if you shoot Canon and you are a landscape guy (or gal), get the Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 with the Canon EF mount adapter.

While this lens is ultra wide, ultra fast and extremely durable, it does have a downside. Because of its built in lens hood, it doesn’t accept most filters. I know a lot of guys that love to use filters, and if that’s you then you may want to research the available filter options for this lens, because there aren’t many. Those that are available are quite expensive too. So, beware.

The greatness of this lens more than overcompensates for the filter thing though. If you are a landscape shooter or want to get into photographing great landscapes, this is THE must-have lens. When you are shooting landscapes “the wider the better” is often the case with regards to lenses. There’s a reason for it too, to encompass as much of your scene as possible. And this lens does it better than any other I have used.

Of Note:

There are many more lenses that are great of course. I personally just find these three the best lenses for the type of photography that I shoot: Landscapes, Nature, Travel, etc.  Sometimes I carry one or two additional lenses with me.  Usually a couple of primes. Generally, I bring a 24mm f1.4 for night time landscapes and a 50mm f1.4 for urban shooting. But with the Trifecta of lenses listed above, I can usually replace those two lenses for the three already in my quiver.  Then my bag has a bit more room for other essentials…