My Top Two Landscape Photography Lenses

The image catalog in Adobe Lightroom is an interesting way to discover which lenses or focal lengths you tend to gravitate towards. In the library module, simply select the metadata tab at the top of the page and then set one column to lenses and another to focal length. With this, you’ll get a quick indication of your favourite lenses for a chosen time period, and also be able to drill down even further to find favourite focal lengths within a zoom range. You can also save the combination of metadata columns as a new preset for future usage!

I prefer this column setup so that I can quickly examine lens usage for specific date ranges to accommodate the purchase of new lenses.

Numero Uno

Floe Lake in Kootenay National Park – Shot with the Canon 11-24mm f/4 L @ 24mm

Over the years, I’ve used this feature several times to influence decisions on new lens purchases, and decisions on selling gear that isn’t being used enough. Recently I took several sets of photos from landscape photography sessions in the last two years and compared their focal lengths and lens choices. The first thing I discovered is that the vast majority of my landscape images are shot at 24mm. Whilst many were shot using the 24mm end of my 24-70 f/2.8 L II, and some with the 22-24mm segment of my 16-35 f/4 IS, more were shot with my Canon 11-24mm f/4 L lens. A large amount of images also used the wider end of that 11-24mm lens’ zoom range as well, leading me to conclude that I could probably do half or more of my landscape work with that one lens.

It probably shouldn’t be a surprise, but I hadn’t really sat down before to think about it specifically. That lens is a stunning performer, and given the same 24mm image from any one of my three lenses that include that focal length in their range, I can pick the one from the 11-24mm in a heartbeat. There’s something about the micro-contrast and fine detail that this lens renders, which is simply on another level compared to the other lenses.

The Surprising Second Runner

Kannanaskis – Shot @ 200mm with the Canon 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 L IS II

The second lens that I seem to use time and time again for landscapes is my Canon 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 L IS II. Whilst I’d also rate this lens highly in my wildlife photography kit, it seems I have something of an addition to long lens landscape work as well.

Within that range, 100mm, 200mm and 400mm seem to be my go-to focal lengths. This lens is a stellar performer throughout the zoom range, which is great because some wide range zooms have “no-go-zones”, particularly at the long end, where detail falls off. That’s not the case with the Canon, meaning you can simply concentrate on framing in the viewfinder, and not worry about where you are in that range. Long lenses are particularly good for compressing the features of a mountainous environment. Given that I live in the Coast Range of BC, and frequent either the Rockies or the Yukon seemingly every month, I guess this choice makes sense!

What I found interesting was looking at overall numbers from all my lenses and realizing that I had shot 80% or more of my recent work with focal lengths covered by, or very very close to, the range offered by these two lenses.

I do seem to use the 70mm end of a 24-70 quite often, but wonder if this is simply laziness, or good use of time in the field. When the light is changing quickly, I often don’t want to waste time swapping lenses. I suspect that if I’d had the 100-400mm lens on at that those points, many images could have been composed at 100mm instead of 70mm, by walking backwards or slightly reframing. Note that walking forwards is often much harder as I’m often on the edge of a lake, or a mountain…

But What About the FOMO?

All of this makes me think that on my next landscape trip I should simply gear up with two identical camera bodies – one with a Canon 11-24mm and one with a Canon 100-400mm L IS II. Whilst the numbers tell me that this should be fine, there’s definitely part of my brain that says “THAT WOULD BE CRAZY”. Would you do it? FOMO (fear of missing out) is a real thing, and I’m sure all of us are a little guilty of over-packing our camera bags from time to time. Usually FOMO is used to describe a fear of missing out on a particular event, but I think I’m going to adopt it into the photographer’s lexicon because FONHTRL, fear of not having the right lens, just doesn’t really roll off the tongue does it?

I’m sure if I did this, there might be the odd couple of compositions for which I wish I had a lens in the middle of the range, but I suspect I might find other ones using these two primary lenses, that I’d otherwise miss if I was messing with a mid-range zoom like a 24-70.

Take a look at your own images and see what you can find out! Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear what other people are using most often.

Photo of author

Dan Carr

Professional photographer based in Yukon, Canada, and founder of Shutter Muse. His editorial work has been featured in publications all over the world, and his commercial clients include brands such as Nike, Apple, Adobe and Red Bull.

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10 thoughts on “My Top Two Landscape Photography Lenses”

  1. HELLO , I ‘M FANTASTIC ( LUNG TRANSPLANT 2016 ) RENEWED VIGOR ” I USE 18-105/5300 5FPS /55-250 T5I 5FPS /7DMARK 1 ( SOON 150-600 TAMG2 ) 8FPS ALSO a7R WITH 28-70 OR 35 2.8 ZEISS … . USING CAMERAS WITH SELECT ZOOMS/NO LENS CHANGE NECCESSARY (ALSO T3 WITH 11-16 2.8 TOKINA ) P900 +SONY / KODAK BRIDGE SUPER ZOOMS . Love your posts been photo ing 68 Kodak brownie pocket 10+20 +polaroids AE1;1977 Minolta (10 lens+bellow)4 bodies / bounce flsh . CANON is the best !!!!!!!!!!!! With ext tubes xmas ornaments with glitter look “WILD?OUTERSPACE ! abstract awesome . Learning computer,digital since 2011… .How are you ?

    Reply
    • I loooooooove good glass and always over pack . But I find if I have two camera bodies and a lens on each I’m now wanting. Even if I set up each body with a prime . I’ll start seeing my day in these focal lenghts . Framing the shots well in advance in my head .
      It’s about getting into the creative mindset

      Reply
  2. I run in to the FOMO problem consistently. This past month, I spent a month driving around Europe, and I spent more time figuring out which lenses to take instead of packing.

    I decided on a 1-lens system. No lens-swaps, no worries about the sensor getting gunked up. From mountains to cities to beaches, I went with the 24-70 II. Throughout the entirety of the trip, I was debating whether or not it was making for a lazy photographer, since I’ve ran with a sort of scattered lens range the past few years (16-35, 50, 70-200) skipping some of the mid range stuff because, as you said, you can sometimes just take a few steps back/forward.

    Overall, I think it was a really beneficial exercise in slowing down my process while out shooting for enjoyment, and I can’t say I came to a concrete conclusion as to whether or not the 24-70 is making me a lazy photog. That being said, I am probably going to sell the 16-35 and the Sigma 24-35 (fun lens) and jump to an 11-24! Been debating it for a while now, but may as well give er a go. Great read, Dan! Cheers.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing your story Blake! I think you’ll love the 11-24. Definitely a good pairing with the 24-70 II if you do decide on a pair or lenses for your next trip.

      Reply
  3. Dan, I use Nikon and since 2005 I have been to 61 countries. I started out with 1 camera and lens and I added an additional camera and lens gradually to where in past few years I carry on a custom made harness from optech-usa 4 cameras with the following lens. 10-24mm dx, 16mm fx fisheye, 24-120mm fx & 100-400mm fx. Wth these lens I am able to capture what I want very easily. With the harness the weight is not a problem. I am 64 years old and my wife and I either travel on a tour or rent a car and travel independently. When on a tour I don’t have time to change lens. I am always evaluating what lens I should use and am considering having one of my other full or crop sensor cameras converted to also capture images in infrared. Thanks for sharing in your articles.
    Mark Gniewyk from NJ

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing your setup Mark! Wow I’ve never heard of a custom 4 camera strap before! I’d love to see it, do you have a photo?

      Reply
  4. What lenses would you pack for White Sands NM? I shoot wih Canon 5D Mark IV, I’m bringing the 11-24mm, 14mm 2.8 ii, and a macro 100mm but stuggeling between the 70-200 IS II OR the 100-400 / 4.5-5.6 IS II AND the 24-70 f/4 IS II(w Macro) OR 24-105mm f/4 IS II. a little FOMO moment here!

    Thanks
    Becca

    Reply
    • Haha oh I hate pre-trip FOMO! Why are you bringing the 14mm if you are taking the 11-24mm? Are you doing astrophotography with it?

      I would take the 100-400 over the 70-200. You won’t miss the 70-100mm gap, but the added 200mm on the end of the reach can be a total game changer and the 100-400 aslo has incredible close focus capabilities. I can’t think why you’d need the f/2.8 on the 70-200.

      Personally I would take 11-24, 24-105, 100macro, 100-400.

      Reply

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