The magic device does not exist: professionals, like others, have a box with a hole and pieces of glass…
Simply, they can pay a little more to get a more robust equipment better adapted to their needs.
So don’t have any complex to start with a box bought second-hand, without the latest generation functions, and a standard lens.
Only your ego may take a hit when you come across a reporter loaded with equipment: leave him his toys.
Purchasing Landscape Photography Equipment
The choice of equipment is a crucial step.
Even if you already have some equipment, you will have to complete or renew it.
The main thing is not to get lost in unnecessary functions and to invest in the long term in safe values.
Moreover, electronics is evolving rapidly; as in computing, technology constantly makes previous equipment obsolete.
Nevertheless, you have to know how to get started, without waiting for indefinitely to release something new.
To invest in equipment suitable for landscape photography, set some priorities: first of all, keep in mind that light only passes through one thing before being recorded by the camera, it is the lens of the lens.
It is therefore the sinews of war and the number one budget item; 2/3 of your investment should be devoted to it.
Secondly, opt for wide-angle lenses (lenses that see wide) rather than long focal lengths (magnifying lenses); wide-angle lenses range from 20 mm to 35 mm (in 24 × 36 format equivalent, see below); the smaller the number, the wider the field of view.
Note that the optical quality of a lens originally designed for film is not necessarily constant in digital use: excellent lenses sometimes become poor when mounted on digital cameras.
But most of the time, you will be dealing with modern lenses, specifically designed for digital use.
Choose lenses that are :
- large aperture lenses (f/2.8-4.5) for zooms ;
- with a sunshield supplied and adapted (those sold separately are often poorly adapted and cause vignetting) ;
- with similar diameters from ﬁlters due to the cost of ﬁlters ;
- multilayer treated ;
- with lenses spéciﬁques (aspherical, ED…) ;
- not “all plastic” ;
- from spéciﬁque to the body (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax, Zeiss…) ;
- high-end for generic brands (Sigma, Tamron, Tokina).
The choice of the focal length
The focal length, in other words the type of lens, is decisive in determining the amplitude of the framing.
From ﬁsh-eye to the telescope, via the classic 50 mm, the possibilities are very extensive.
The reﬂ ex cameras allow you to choose the lens you want to use, while the compact or bridge cameras have a single focal length, which is mounted in a different way.
A new generation of small cameras, the hybrids, also have a more or less extensive system of dedicated lenses, but much less rich than the range for reﬂ ex.
The logic of the reﬂ ex is to enter a system composed of all the interchangeable lenses of a brand, while a compact is a conﬁguration ﬁ system specific to a single camera.
All brands of cameras reﬂ ex therefore have a wide range of lenses, adapted to all needs: the available focal lengths range from less than 10 mm to more than 400 mm.
The widest ranges are those of Nikon and Canon (followed by Sony and Pentax).
In medium format silver, we can mention Mamya, Pentax, Contax and Hasselblad.
There are also less expensive lenses that can be mounted on all brands of cameras: Sigma, Tamron and Tokina have made it their specialty.
ATTENTION TO INCOMPATIBILITIES
The lenses of the same brand are not always mounted indifferently on silver or digital cameras, there are many incompatibilities.
In addition, APS-C lenses cannot be used on full-format cameras.
A “coding” feature on the camera prevents ﬁxation from being used on them.
The horizontal image is obtained with a wide-angle focal length
of 24 mm (equivalent to 24 × 36), while the vertical uses a little t telephoto lens of 90 mm (equivalent to 24 × 36), while the vertical uses a little t telephoto lens of 90 mm (equivalent to 24 × 36).
(equivalent 24 × 36).
Recall that many digital cameras (APS-C) apply a coefﬁcient multiplier of 1.5 or 1.6 compared to the 24 × 36 argentic focal length.
Thus, a 50 mm lens will become a 75 mm lens when mounted on an APS-C digital camera.
This has an impact on wide-angle lenses because it is difﬁcile to get a short focal length on an APS-C camera.
Hence the effort of manufacturers to develop particularly short focal lengths, especially dedicated to digital: a 13 mm focal length, for example, is necessary to obtain the equivalent of a 20 mm in 24 × 36.
Very short focal lengths
Short focal lengths are very useful in landscape photography.
They allow you to see wide and compensate for the lack of recoil in certain situations.
This capa-city is sometimes accompanied by small optical defects, including a slight dis-torsion of straight lines (especially horizontal).
In extreme cases, with the super wide-angle lenses, also called ﬁ sh-eye (fish eye), which compress an extremely wide vision into a kind of spherical image, all straight lines are strongly curved.
The effect is very special and makes ofﬁ more of a fun curiosity than a photograph.
Nevertheless the obtained image can be very interesting with a landscape.
Any part of the world then becomes a kind of small round planet, in the true sense of the word.
When these optical aberrations are corrected (with aspherical lenses), the lens loses its status of ﬁ sh-eye to become a very wide-angle lens: these are focal lengths of less than 14 mm in APS-C digital (equivalent to a 20 mm in 24 × 36), with irreplaceable virtues.
Every landscape photographer should have such a focal length.
The field of coverage is considerable, while allowing very close foreground shots and a large area of sharpness.
The image is vast, it breathes, it allows for large panoramas with long perspectives.
On the other hand, the impression of recoil can make certain elements of the set insigniﬁants, because they appear very distant; a strong foreground is then very important.
Be careful to manage the presence of the sky, which can occupy a large part of the image.
This kind of focal length also works wonders with lakes and their reflections, and all the bare expanses (moors, deserts, peat bogs …).
Do not hesitate to test a position at ground level.
It is also the focal point of the deep dive par excellence.
Short focal lengths (wide-angle)
Then come the wide-angle lenses, from 14 to 24 mm in APS-C (20 to 35 mm in 24 × 36).
It is certainly the most useful and most used focal length in landscape photography, especially the 18 mm (28 mm in 24 × 36).
The field remains very wide without losing its naturalness, with reduced aberrations and high optical quality.
They are very versatile focal lengths, often supplied as first equipment.
They are quite rarely proposed in the form of focal length ﬁxe, da-vantage in zoom.
It is a very practical option in the field, which avoids the multiplication of lenses in the bag.
Even if the gap on paper is not very important, there are real differences between a 16, 18 and 24 mm APS-C (and from 16 to 24 mm, the gap is considerable).
The bearings are very visible and one needs to be able to cover all these focal lengths depending on the case.
A 16-85 mm or 17-50 mm APS-C zoom lens is an ideal compromise, which will also allow you to cover higher focal lengths.
But you can also opt for a 10-24 mm APS-C, specifically wide-angle.
The landscape seems to have the same extent.
However, technically, it is the 50 mm focal length which is considered to be the most neutral possible (it neither moves the subject away nor brings it closer).
In landscape, however, it still lacks breadth.
There are zooms with variable maximum aperture, depending on the focal length, or constant aperture, for example f/2.8 regardless of the focal length.
The latter are more expensive but they also offer better optical quality, and of course greater brightness.
Don’t hesitate to buy this type of zoom, even second hand, even if you don’t want to use other focal lengths for a while.
Variable aperture zooms are much cheaper and very common in all brands.
They are defined by two digits, f/3.5-5.6 for example.
The smallest (f/3.5) corresponds to the maximum aperture of the shortest zoom focal length (for example 16 mm) and the largest (f/5.6) to the longest focal length (for example 85 mm).
Their quality remains quite honorable at medium apertures (f/8), but decreases rapidly in the extremes.
Their brightness is also lower, which becomes annoying as soon as it gets dark.
AND ON A COMPACT?
If you buy a compact camera, make sure that the built-in zoom is at least 28 mm or less (24 × 36 equivalent), which is far from always the case.
In “compact” lenses, this often results in 7 mm or less.
Wide-angle lenses are widely used by everyone.
It has become a kind of standard photographic vision to which we have become accustomed … The images from these focal lengths seem less original than others.
Except in extreme cases, the spectator has very little awareness of the fo-cals used.
When he is pleasantly over-caught, he associates this with the intrinsic beauty of the landscape or the talent of the photographer.
In fact, a less usual focal length can also contribute a lot, be aware of this.
Conversely, your photo will be all the more careful and relevant the more it is taken at a common focal length.
Standard focal lengths
Above 24 mm and up to around 45 mm APS-C, one enters the range of medium focal lengths, which neither widen nor narrow the actual field of view.
The most “neutral” focal length is 33 mm APS-C (50 mm in 24 × 36).
With this type of lens, you frame approximately what you would see when looking at the world through a lens without lenses, a simple small skylight… So it is customary to say that this is the closest you can get to real vision.
This is true for the perception of distances, but for the rest, it’s a false speech.
Indeed, your visual perception apprehends a much wider field than the rather narrow frame of these focal lengths.
One is generally very frustrated by this narrowness which only shows bits of the landscape embraced by the eyes.
Concretely, our vision (even subjective) is much closer to what a wide-angle lens gives in a photo.
The average focal lengths are therefore relevant to isolate, without any magnifying effect, a rather limited portion of the landscape.
But their main advantage is their very high optical quality.
They are simple to manufacture, with few lenses, so their performance is particularly optimized.
They are, moreover, very cheap: a very bright 50 mm (f/1.4) costs almost nothing.
Their qualities thus compensate well for their disadvantages.
Another advantage is that they have a relatively short minimum focusing distance, which is very practical.
However, the perspective “breathes” and the scene is not narrow.
This is due to the choice of vertical framing and the good readability of each plane of the image.
In spite of this, it must be recognized that these focal lengths are little used in landscape, because they lack scope, image bias and flexibility of use.
But I advise you to take an interest in them for two reasons.
Firstly, the very small size, even compact, of a 50 mm lens makes it a very discreet and light tool that facilitates shooting in sensitive places (monuments, archaeological sites, etc.).
), or when you don’t want to attract attention.
Secondly, “forcing” you to use a medium focal length will exercise efﬁcacement your eye to choose, to sort through what you see, to isolate the most beautiful compositions.
Long Focal Lengths (Telephoto Lenses)
Starting at 55mm APS-C (80mm in 24 × 36), you enter the realm of long focal lengths (telephoto lenses), whose mission is to get closer to things and have a magnifying effect.
The field of view is therefore increasingly reduced: a 600 mm acts like a small pair of binoculars that focuses on a portion of the world. inﬁ me.
While an 80 mm 24 × 36 is ideal for portraits, it is not necessarily indispensable for a landscape photographer.
In this type of focal length, give priority to zooms.
You’ll need to cover a wide variety of long focal lengths, rather than just one at a time.
Versatility is essential for landscapes.
Depending on the constraints of the terrain and the subject, you will need to adjust your focal length precisely and rarely twice to the same value.
The best zooms cover 70-200 mm (24 × 36 equivalent) with a constant aperture of f/2.8.
However, by experience a 70-300 mm can be more interesting, even if it is less bright (f/4.5-5.6).
The 300 mm focal length is very useful and the reduction of the aperture considerably reduces the weight and the price of the lens.
AND ON COMPACTS ?
Beware of zooms that are too large (e.g. 24-384 mm in 24 × 36) or too small (maximum aperture of f/6.7).
A lens can’t remain efficient over a very large amplitude and, beyond f/5.6, the image becomes much too dark in the viewfinder…
As for the models with internal stabilizer, they are of little use for the landscape because the tripod avoids vibrations anyway.
Focal lengths above 300 mm (in 24 × 36) will be rarely used, or even useless.
Indeed, the vocation of long focal lengths will be mainly to isolate a harmonious detail in the middle of a general scene, not to make a close-up of an unapproachable subject (as in wildlife photography).
Let’s quote the particular case of some very marginal lenses that have, not glass lenses, but a mirror (like telescopes) to ensure high magnification: this technology (catadioptric) is less expensive, but it does not allow to vary the aperture which remains ﬁxe and not very bright (around f/8).
Finally, it is always possible to use ﬁxer (via an adapter) a reﬂ case ex on a ground telescope or a telescope.
The results are often disappointing in terms of sharpness and contrast, but space is a landscape of choice, very tempting to photograph.
Big disadvantage is the very long exposure times (several hours sometimes for stars) combined with the movement of celestial bodies (starting with the moon): you therefore need an automatic and perfectly synchronized tracking system to compensate for the Earth’s rotation… The moon is very bright and can be photographed as an object illuminated by daylight; sun eclipses, and even more so the sun itself, can only be photographed with a special (and mandatory!) ﬁltre. ) so as not to burn your retina: ask at telescope stores and especially at amateur astronomy clubs.
By going in front of the landscape to get closer to it, telephoto lenses also bring the different planes of the image closer together.
The result is a compression of the planes that distorts the scale of the distances, to the point of abolishing any perspective or vanishing line.
This compression can be used to homogenize a background by interweaving colors and shapes.
The graphics then becomes again essential to compensate for the loss of relief.
The exploitation of this type of focal length is similar to a true technique of reorganization of reality.
One thus seeks to mask a layout of the landscape which would be unfavourable to us with a shorter focal length.
This is the case when a foreground is too isolated and the space between it and the following shots seems too empty.
We can also use the telephoto lens to exaggerate the proportions or size of large subjects in the background.
It’s a trick that’s used a lot in movies, when the hero’s silhouette is drawn on a setting sun or a huge moon… Not only are the shots close together, but they’re also magnified.
Imagine a ﬂeur in front of the glowing sun disk: with a telephoto lens that magnifies five times (250 mm), your ﬂeur will be five times bigger but will remain a small object, while a sun five times bigger will take on much more impressive proportions in comparison.
You should also know that the bigger the subject is at the beginning, the stronger the impact of the coefﬁcient focal length multiplier will be.
Preferably, you need a camera reﬂex, aﬁ n be able to change the lens at will and aim clearly at what you are shooting.
Indeed, the optical aiming of reﬂex offers the best possible precision: no electronic interference, good brightness, precise control of the focus.
Only one drawback:
nice thing about reﬂ ex do not show quite 100% of the format of the photograph ﬁnale: the field covered by the viewfinder is often 90 or 95% of the scene that will be recorded.
So you have to take this into account when framing by imagining a picture a little wider than what you see.
In silver photography, there are several film formats, and therefore cameras: 2.4 cm high by 3.6 cm wide (= 24 × 36 mm) is the most common small format, and the most practical (also called 35 mm format).
4.5 × 6 cm, 6 × 6 cm, 6 × 7 cm, 6 × 9 cm, correspond to the so-called “medium format” films, also called 120 format.
Note that there are also extremely expensive digital formats (Hasselblad, Pentax).
Then there are the large formats, which no longer use roll film, but individual “plans-ﬁlms”, a kind of small blank postcards (there are also digital equivalents).
The larger the format, the more expensive, heavy and bulky the material is, but the richer the details of the photo will be.
Digital technology replaces the film by an electronic sensor; this sensor can also have different sizes, but here it is mainly the number of pixels that will be decisive.
From the number of pixels will depend the image analysis ﬁnesse and the maximum enlargement format without visible loss of quality (at a resolution of 300 dpi on printed media), but also the weight of the ﬁ chier obtained.
From the size of the sensor will result especially the management of low lights and ﬁns details for large prints.
Indeed, large sensors do better in darkness and high ISOs than small sensors, and you sometimes get more details from ﬁnesse in enlargements.
But in daylight, on 30 × 45 cm formats, you won’t see any difference.
What are Iso ?
It is the acronym used for déﬁnir the sensitivity of a silver film or a digital sensor to light.
The higher the ISO number, the less ambient light the camera needs to take a correct picture, but the more grainy the picture tends to be.
ISOs generally range from 100 to over 3,200.
At 100, the image is perfectly detailed and grain-free (noise), but the scene must be well lit if you want to take a freehand picture.
At 3200, you can almost photograph at night, but with less detail and much more grain.
Very high-end digital models can make images as perfect at ISO 2,000 as they can at 100, but you still need to have the use of them.
In landscape, it’s almost useless.
Another particularity of digital, many sensors record a smaller image than with 24 × 36 film (between 20.7 × 13.8 mm and 28.7 × 19.1 mm).
As a result, the image ﬁnale is like “cropped” from the 24 × 36 mm maxi-mal format.
The apparent focal length is therefore changed: a 20 mm lens mounted on a reﬂ ex digital APS-C, for example, will give a picture equivalent to a 35 mm lens used with a 24 × 36 mm body.
With some high-end digital cameras called “full format” (whose sensor has the same size as the 24 × 36 negative), this shift does not exist, but these cameras are very expensive.
Enﬁn, be aware that the brand of the camera does not really matter; today all manufacturers offer excellent products ﬁ ables.
Only the technical specifications matter.
The first step is to use the digital APS-C format, which is widely used worldwide and already gives excellent results.
Who can tell whether this photograph is basically silver or digital?
In this case, it is silver.
Then it depends on how it will be printed or scanned, but post-processing will transform it into a digital image anyway.
What to look for on your Camera Body ?
- A clear viewfinder (if it is a reﬂex)
- A metallic lens bayonet
- The presence of a program “A”, Aperture Priority
- The presence of a Spot metering
- The possibility to set the exposure
- A good grip (not too small size! )
- A large and good LCD screen déﬁnition ( 120 000 pixels), comfortable (to be tested in store) and adjustable, to be able to aim at ground level or at arm’s length
- On the compacts, a zoom that goes down to 28 mm (in equivalent 24 × 36, ask the salesman)
- A good battery life (see spéciﬁcations housing techniques)
- A low latency trigger-recording, to be tested in store.
4 typical Landscape Photography Kits
Here is an example of 4 reﬂex “kits” adapted to landscape photography, depending on your level
- Beginner : camera + 18-55 mm f/4-f/5,6 + light tripod.
- Versatile : body + 17-50 mm f/2,8-4,5 + 70-300 mm f/4-5,6 + tripod.
- Expert: body + 10-24 mm f/3.5-4.5 + 60 mm f/2.8 macro + 70-300 mm f/4-5.6 + tripod.
- Semi-pro, pro: full format housing + 14-24 mm f/2.8 + 24-70 mm f/2.8 + 100 mm f/2.8 macro +70- 200 mm f/2.8 + tripod + ﬂash.
The budget ranges from 400 € for the minimum used purchase, to nearly 5 000 € for the luxury version in new purchase.
Count 1 000 € for an average team of good quality.
How to choose your landscape photography Equipment ?
Buy equipment that you like: you have to like your device to use it properly.
Set yourself a maximum and realistic budget based on market prices;
visit specialized stores, the photo departments of hypermarkets, consult Internet sales sites, read the specialized press.
Look in the windows of second-hand equipment.
This will familiarize you with the price levels.
Don’t mix up information gathering and buying; take your time to form an opinion and get information, then go back to buying with specific ideas in mind.
As for second-hand equipment, never buy it by mail order: it is absolutely necessary to see and handle the equipment before purchase.
Prefer second hand gear benefiting of a warranty (3 to 6 months).
The most expensive equipment is often the best, so the price is a good indication of quality.
The price of the lenses is conditioned by the optical quality and the brightness, itself dependent on the maximum aperture of the diaphragm.
The aperture value is written with a number preceded by “f/”; the smaller the number, the larger the aperture and the more light will pass through to the camera.
In general, a lens with a wide aperture is also superior in terms of optical qualities.
In addition, it provides a clearer and more comfortable view when mounted on the camera body.
Finally, the aperture also makes it possible to manage the depth of field (the more or less sharp areas in the picture)
Be aware that, in general, lenses with fixed focal length are of better quality than zooms; this is due to less complex optical formulas and therefore better finish
They are also often cheaper: a 50 mm f/1.4 lens is almost worthless, even though it delivers superb images.
What’s the difference between cheap and expensive cameras ?
The features that have a significant impact on the price are :
- the size of the sensor: APS-C format or full format (equivalent to 24 × 36 silver)
- the number of pixels: from 10 to more than 30 Mpx
- the control of high ISO: the capacity of the camera to deliver detailed images at more than 1600 ISO.
Nevertheless, in the field, a zoom will be more practical at infinitely and in the end, it is almost impossible to perceive a neat difference in the image quality…
The camera bodies, on the other hand, are packed with electronics and it is their reliablity and their performances that make their rating.
For the landscape, an advanced autofocus is not necessary.
On the other hand, the analysis of the light, the cell, is very important.
The more modern the cameras are, the better this analysis is.
Photography is a comprehensive conﬁguration that is not always limited to the camera itself.
Some accessories are useful, even essential if you want to make the difference with the simple occasional photo.
Your constant companion will always be your tripod: it is indispensable and crucial for the sharpness of your images.
You will have to take it everywhere, count on it in all weathers, on all reliefs.
Bulky at the beginning, it will quickly become an automatism.
You must choose it carefully: it must be stable, robust, but not too heavy (about 2.5 kg) because you will most often have it on your shoulder.
A height of 1.50 m, unfolded, is enough.
Prefer foot systems with clips, or with clamping nuts, rather than models with self-sliding feet (it slips with wet hands) and avoid spacers that cause the feet to be too far apart.
It must be possible to position the feet horizontally.
The head must be able to tilt in all directions, with a clamping system that is easy to handle (and loosen!).
Quick-release systems that avoid having to unscrew the camera to remove it from the tripod are very practical.
Any model that looks a bit buzzy, whose materials seem light, should be discarded.
The brands Slik, Gitzo and Manfrotto are particularly ﬁ ables.
Lastly monopods, although they are lighter, are also not very stable and not self-standing (you have to hold them with one hand), I do not recommend them.
The most important filter is the circular polarizer.
The polarizer is screwed on the front of the lens, it helps to strengthen the colors and erase the parasites reflections (choose an ultra-flat model) to avoid vignetting (darkening of the edges of the image) with wide-angles.
The graduated filter
It is a transparent square filter with only the upper part tinted more or less dark gray:
It allows to darken the skies, which are always much brighter than the earth.
This balances the overall brightness of the image, avoiding too great contrasts.
Colored filters like the yellow filter are pretty useless, as we can post process the color temperature if when shooting in Raw.
They are square or screw, type 81b, warms the harsh lights of the middle of the day.
In the case of black and white shots, the use of colored ﬁltres can have a great impact on the final rendering.
The color will not give a dominant, but modifies the contrasts and shades of gray.
The effect is particularly ﬂagrant on skies, vegetation or the way reds are reinterpreted.
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The small accessories
Other essential accessories: a brush, a cloth in microﬁ bres, a plastic bag and a mini umbrella.
The brush will allow you to remove dust and pollen from all over the camera; the cloth will be used to wipe off any raindrops or splashes; the plastic bag will wrap your camera if it rains; enﬁ n, the umbrella will shelter you during the shooting.
All this fits into a multi-pocket pants or vest.
To carry and protect your equipment, make it as light and practical as possible; from this point of view, bananas are preferable to bags.
Let’s not forget the shoulder strap models that always slide over the shoulder, and consider the backpack: a must if you have a lot of material to carry, it will force you to settle somewhere every time you need to take something out or put it away.
In use, it’s very restrictive.
But it’s nothing compared to the back perspiration caused by wearing the bag! So know how to restrict the material you carry and preferably adopt a system of panniers around your waist: it sufﬁt to slide the panniers on the front to access them, and you can walk for hours without extra perspiration.
Lowerpro is the leading brand in this field.
Now Your Turn
Now I would like to know, do you have any question ?
Or maybe do you have some information to add ?
Either way, let me know in the comments below