Team PolarPro's Landscape Photography Gear
Landscape photography is one of the most popular forms of photography that we see when scrolling through the internet these days. With our feeds filled with epic images, it has to make you wonder how do I take a photo just as amazing, if not better? In order to get the perfect shot, there is a lot that goes into each photo that requires more than just the click of your camera. At PolarPro we strive to instill the urge of adventure through our photography, and believe that capturing the landscapes you adventure to and through are the best way to do it. To determine what gear would best fit into your workflow, let’s start from in front of your lens and work our way back.
It All Starts at the Front
First, a proper ND Filter will be your best friend when shooting landscape photography. A ND filter or neutral density filter, is used specifically to reduce the amount of light that enters your lens, and in turn reaches your sensor. Because of this, ND filters give you more freedom to control the exposure of your image rather than having to rely on adjusting your aperture settings. Landscape photographers often use them to flush out bright environments, reduce the depth of field, and add motion blur to moving objects, such as rushing water or floating clouds. Where a ND/PL filter differs however, is that the polarizing property within the filter enhances the colors of your image to give it more vibrancy and contrast. Our QuartzLine filters are made of the highest quality fused quartz glass, which offers unrivaled durability and optical clarity. These filters were built to accompany you on any rugged adventure, and make a necessary addition to any landscape photographer’s camera bag.
Our Landscape Photography Necessities
Having the proper gear is a must when trying to capture the perfect shot, and it all starts with what device you’re shooting on. A DSLR or mirrorless camera is favored by most landscape photographers due to its functionality and versatility out in the field. Of course you can shoot photography on practically any device, including your iPhone, but in order to get extraordinary photos it comes down to what camera you have and how you use it. DSLR and mirrorless models are often preferred by landscape photographers due to the wide array of lens options, broad number of camera settings, and their large sensors which give you the ability to capture high levels of detail, color, and contrast. It is also important that your device is weather sealed, in order to prevent the outside elements from ruining your camera, such as wind or rain. However, in order to take incredible landscape photography images, more than just a reliable camera is required to get the job done. A good lens is an absolute must when taking photos outside, and even if you have the most expensive camera on the market it is not as effective, without a solid lens to match. In this article we are going to break down everything you need to know about what camera gear you need in order to take epic landscape photography.
Our Favorite Lenses
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G NIKKOR Lens
This lens is one of the most versatile lenses on the market, making it a go-to for landscape photographers who want to capture wide-angle panoramas and landscapes. This Nikon NIKKOR Lens goes unrivaled when it comes to image sharpness, and works well in low light so you can take high quality photos in even the darkest of shadows. This is a zoom lens, which allows you to take up-close pictures of landscapes without compromising the integrity of the image itself. The aperture is constant at f/2.8, which means that it does not change while zooming in and out as well. It is geared toward the landscape photographer that works in various conditions and who requires remarkable sharpness, color, and contrast in their images. For this Nikon NIKKOR lens, we recommend any of our 77mm QuartzLine filters to help execute the perfect shot on your next landscape photography shoot.
Canon EF-S 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM
Not all landscape photography needs to be taken with an ultra-wide lens, and the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 is the perfect combination of a 16mm ultra wide focal length and a classic focal length of 35mm. This lens is perfect for landscape photography, because it allows you to capture both the foreground and the background while maintaining exceptionally, sharp focus. It has approximately 16 different features, some of them including: one aspherical lens, fluorine coating, and a minimum focus distance of under a foot, with a fixed aperture of f/2.8. This lens is also weather sealed making it dependable to withstand any outdoor climates. For this Canon lens, our QuartzLine filters with the thread size of 77mm will fit best.
Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS
In addition to wide angle lenses, telephoto zoom lenses are extremely popular amongst landscape photographers who want to get up close and personal images. Although this lens is not considered as small or light as our other favorite lenses listed, it is relatively more compact compared to other telephoto lenses on the market. This is one of Sony’s best lenses for landscape photography due to its quick auto focus, excellent image quality, and decently modest size. This 70-200mm lens is optimally built featuring a premium AF system, and is a great option for landscape photographers who are looking for an exceptional lens at a reasonable price. We recommend one of our 72-77mm step-up rings, in addition to one of our 77mm QuartzLine filters in order to take epic images while out on your next shoot.
Sony Sonnar T* FE f/2.8 ZA
Although most landscape photographers prefer a wide angle lens to capture the vast outdoor settings they like to photograph, we wanted to list a prime lens option. Both zoom and prime lenses produce photos of superior quality, but when making a choice on which lens to bring with you completely depends on your workflow needs. Some of the things to consider when deciding to bring a prime lens on location with you are: the amount of access you will have to walk around the subject you are shooting, how much weight/ how many lenses you can carry, and most importantly your preference for focal length. The one downside to this lens is that it only fits on Sony E-Mount cameras making it a good option for your A7Riv, but not compatible with other models. This Sony Sonnar lens benefits greatly from Zeiss’s optical technology, as it utilizes a Sonnar design to provide a relatively fast f/2.8 aperture with minimal aberrations. For this prime lens, we recommend one of our 67mm QuartzLine filters with a 49-67mm step-up ring for capturing inspiring landscape photography images.
What We Look For
There are so many camera options out there on the market, it makes it difficult to narrow down which device would suit you best. For landscape photographers, the settings a camera has to offer are of utmost importance, when determining what device to take out into the field. We sat down to decide what features we look for in camera when shooting landscape photography, and the top items we came up with were:
1. Strong lowlight or ISO performance
2. Great resolution, as a large megapixel count is usually needed
3. Dynamic range that helps in high contrast scenes (ex: dusk, dawn)
4. Reliable autofocus capabilities
Our Top Camera Choices
The Nikon D850 is a professional grade, full frame DSLR camera and has remained one of the top landscape photography cameras since its release in 2017. In a world that is constantly saturated with Sony and Canon talk, the Nikon brand has always been a go-to favorite for some landscape photographers. The base ISO value in the D850 is 64, which has allowed this camera to compete with other digital medium-format cameras in terms of its dynamic range. For the most part, the D850 has well controlled noise levels at higher ISO values, but where it really shines is in the lower ISO levels since its base level is below 100, which differs from most cameras. The D850 also has impressive auto focus capabilities in extremely dark conditions, however it must be calibrated properly in order for it to be effective. As far as where this camera ranks in terms of resolution, it is at the bottom of the list when compared to our other camera options. The Nikon D850 has only 45.7 megapixel sensor, but has remained a favorite choice among landscape photographers for years due to the quality it produces when shooting still images.
Canon EOS 5DS R
The Canon EOS 5DS R is another DSLR camera that remains popular amongst landscape photographers, and has the largest pixel count of any other DSLR on the market, with a resolution capability of 50.6 megapixels. The 50 MP CMOS Sensor delivers incredibly clean and detailed image files, which even when viewed on the retina image display is nothing short of exceptional. The Canon EOS 5DS R is the perfect camera for capturing unreal detailed landscape photos, and works great when you want to crop an image without compromising the quality of it. The 5DS R also delivers a dynamic ISO range of 100 - 6400, and has the ability to extend to 12,800. In addition, it has four High ISO Noise Reduction settings (high, standard, low, and off), that provide you with the creative freedom to trade off between the subject detail and noise level of your image. This camera also offers a Multi Shot Noise Reduction setting which takes 4 separate images and combines them into one image in order to average out the noise. The autofocus on this camera is nothing short of noteworthy as well, as it has 61-point AF with 41 cross-type points and 5 double-cross-type points for added accuracy with fast lenses.
Fujifilm GFX 50S
If budget is not something you hold as a priority over quality, then the Fujifilm GFX 50S might be your best option. Although this camera is listed at a higher price point, the quality is where the dollar amount becomes admissible. Fujifilm is known for making small, compact cameras but with the GFX 50S, they decided to try their hand in the medium-format game. This camera is bigger in size compared to Fuji’s usual models due to the enhanced sensor size, which is 167% larger than a usual size of a full-frame sensor. However, what this larger sensor has to offer is more overall pixels are able to be captured-- a whopping 51 to be exact. Fuji is known for their user-friendly set up, and the GFX 50S is no different. This camera features the same external dials that are used to adjust the camera’s settings, which are found on most other Fuji models. Furthermore, the GFX 50S has impeccable low light capabilities, causing there to be no exact visual difference in ISO’s lower than 3200. It is not until the ISO level is bumped up over 6400 to where grain and noise start creeping into your image. The one area where this camera certainly lacks, however, is in its autofocus capabilities. The Fuji GFX 50S has a simple contrast-detect only autofocus system, which causes the autofocus to be noticeably slow and force lenses to hunt where there is not enough contrast in the shot. However, for a medium-format camera the GFX 50S has a comparable robust AF system with a total of 425 focus points, which cover the whole image frame, including in both single servo and continuous servo modes.
Sony recently released the A7Riv, a camera that marked its name with having the largest resolution in the industry, with over 60 megapixels. Sony sprang this on us, when quite frankly no one was really asking for it, but with their previous model, the A7Riii, being one of our favorite landscape photography cameras we wanted to give this one a try. The A7Riv is what we consider to be one of the most well-rounded camera options, taking both incredible action and landscape photos. The most notable feature of this mirrorless camera is obviously the 61 megapixel sensor, which makes it a clear stand out against any of its competitors. However, if cropping your images down substantially is not part of your regular post-production workflow, some might say that this resolution is just excessive. This camera also offers a 15-stop dynamic range at low light sensitivities, which results in smooth, natural gradations ranging from deep shadows to highlights. The ISO range on the A7Riv is the same as their previous model, which ranges from 100 to 3200 ISO and has extended values up to 102400 ISO and down to 50 ISO. However, with Sony’s new A7Riv, the autofocus technology has been updated to have real time tracking combined with real time AF. As a result, the A7Riv offers over 75% frame coverage with 567 hybrid AF points, allowing for better continued autofocus over more of the frame. With this being said, the Sony A7Riv, is a great camera for shooting landscape photography due to the sheer quality and features of the camera. However, if you are not a photographer that needs to crop down your photos regularly then the extra megapixels may not be a reason to upgrade from the A7Riii.
Carly San Filippo
Copywriter at PolarPro