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Old Feb 16, 2009, 3:43 PM   #1
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So I have a Rebel XT and have a Pentax 85-200mm variable lens that I got instead of the kit lens I just got a 50mm 1.4 and love how fast it is and how I can take pics in much lower light now. So in July I'll be heading to Alaska and want to take good landscape shots. At first I thought about replacing that Pentax lens with a nice Canon 70-200mm 2.8 but I rented one and it was big and expensive and truthfully it didn't take pictures that were so amazing vs what I have that I had to have it. Being so new to photography (I din't really use the camera until I just took this class) I would rather has some diversity in lens rather than replacing what I have for better. Just yet anyway :-)

So what do I really have to have to take great landscape photos? What lens is on the must have list. I like the Canon lens mostly because I'm familiar with the line up but it there is another brand of something thats great let me know. Thanks in advance.
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Old Feb 16, 2009, 5:41 PM   #2
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Depends on what type of landscape photos you want to take. I did a lot of landscape stuff using mostly normal and mid-telephoto lenses for a long time. Then I got a wide angle (12-24) and discovered a whole new world. Composition is totally different and lots of fun. Look for something like a 12-24, or the Sigma 10-20 if you don't want a fisheye lens, or look for a fish-eye if you want the extreme view one provides (it's not to everyone's taste).
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Old Feb 17, 2009, 3:05 PM   #3
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I'm thinking normal landscape pics like "oh there's a pretty mountain" or group of tress, a nice river. I do really like the pics I've found that are turned vertical and the object at the bottom is really in focus and the horizon is distant but also in focus more or less.
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Old Feb 17, 2009, 7:58 PM   #4
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YellowTJ says: I do really like the pics I've found that are turned vertical and the object at the bottom is really in focus and the horizon is distant but also in focus more or less.

You'll get that with a lens like the 12-24 that mtngal mentioned.

What might be ideal for you would be a lens that covers a range from, say, around the 15mm mark to something like 80mm. Then you'd have a broad range of coverage from wide angle to medium telephoto. If you were into shooting wildlife, you'd have to go the other way -- greater than 200mm. If you could manage a macro lens in the lower range, you'd really be covered.

Popular Photography, and others, publish lots of lens tests.

If you want one lens that does it all, the Canon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 EF-S IS AF has good reviews, as does the Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC AF. In fact, Pop Photo calls the Tamron "arguably the single most useful lens available to sub-full-frame digital shooters."

However you go, you need to plug that wide angle gap in your lens line-up.

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Old Feb 17, 2009, 10:19 PM   #5
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I like the wide angle end of photography, and have been to Alaska several times. There is obviously quite a bit of scenery up there. One aspect of taking great pictures is having the opportunity and access.

You have asked for lens advice, so here is what I have learned.....

1. Regardless of the lens, or how wide it is, learn how to take images for stitching. There are vistas up there that are endless that no single image can really take in. So taking a set of images to be stitched into panoramas is essential. By the way there is a thread down below that specializes in just panoramas. There is also quite a bit of software that is available free (or pretty inexpensive) that will do the stitching.

2. Just my experience and opinion, but fisheye lenses - for use in taking landscapes in Alaska would probably not work well. Why - Fisheye lenses in order to take in an extremely wide vista, do this by pushing everything away from the lens in order to pull in additional views from the edges. What you wind up with is a vista that is just farther away (however wider). It would be better to take several images (with standard rectlinear lenses) and stitch them together. Now that being said, Fisheye lenses are great for VERY LARGE things that are CLOSE, or the interior of buildings, etc. I think that it would be very useable in a dense grove of tall trees to give the sense of how large, dense and tall they are. Just some ideas. Tokina has an extremely good fisheye lense, that supports the Canon mount - its a 10-17mm . I have the same lens from Pentax, and it is excellent, and like to use it - but not for landscapes. The 10-17 lens has a field of view from 180 degrees (at 10mm) to 100 degrees (at 17mm).

3. Lens are specified by their focal length, i.e., 50mm, 200 mm, etc. However, another useful measurement is the angle of view. I have the same wide angle lens as mtngal was referring to, the Pentax 12-24 (also made by Tokina for the Canon mount), and its field of view is 99 degrees (at 12mm) to 66 degrees (at 24mm). I find that for wide angle, using the field of view is a bit more useful and descriptive than just a focal length number. The other popular lens is the Sigma 10-20 (which covers 102 to 63 degrees). So the Sigma lens provides an additional 2 to 3 degrees of view (depending on how you measure) - thus the useable difference between the 12-24 and 10-20 - or the extra 2mm at 10mm translates to about 2 degrees of additional view. The difference between these lenses and the fisheye, is that these are rectlinear - they keep the same prespective as you see as opposed to distoring the image (like a fish eye) in order to squeeze the additional field of view in to the image.

4. Wide angle lenses can be expensive. Standard range lenses usually do go down to around 18mm. The "all in one" lenses, like the 18-200 are good lenses. However they are NOT as good as a set of 2 lenses, that split the coverage, i.e., 18-55mm and 50-200mm. There is somewhat of a rule of thumb for zoom lenses. Currently 4x is a pretty good range (provide good image quality, with out distortion). The 18-55 is a 3x range while the 50-200 is a 4x range. The 18-200mm lens is a 11x range. There are just too many comprismises that need to be made to get the wider range in "all in one" lenses. I would recommend that if your going to invest any money in a serious wide angle lens (like a 12-24), that you first consider spending the funds on a set of good standard range lenses, as opposed to an "all in one". The two lens set may be all that you may need. Just my personal opinion, but I think that your image quality would increase. You could probably just use the 18mm end and stitch panoramas together.

5. Yes, even having and using the 12-24 I stitch images together, for a variety of reasons. So stitching is just not a replacement for a wide angle lens.

6. In Alaska, there are also needs for telephoto, so just do not short change your self and concrentrate in the wide angle. There is a lot of wild life up there, mountain goats up on the side of ridges, bears, eagles, and the list goes on. So something that would go to 300 - I would want to take also. Since I shoot Pentax, what I would bring to Alaska would be the following - my Pentax DA 10-17, 12-24, 16-45 and 55-300. They are all in the f4 range, but with Pentax's in body image stabilization, I find that f4 and I (along with my budget) get along just fine. Note - I would be using the 10-17 for things other than landscapes (waterfalls, etc.)

The other thing I would suggest is to go out and practice shooting landscapes - the images are free (no film - just bits in memory). Practice stitching panels together so that you know how to control your lighting so that you get a consistent lighting across the stitched panaromas.

Hope that helps...
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Old Feb 18, 2009, 8:45 AM   #6
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Great advice thank you all. I'll of course take more suggestions.
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