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02-10-2009, 04:38 PM   #1
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Landscape lens - prime or zoom?

I'm itching to replace my 18-55 kit lens and I'm looking for a wide landscape lens. I was thinking about the Sigma 10-20 for a while, then started thinking about the DA 12-24. Now I'm starting to wonder about a prime setup with the 15 and 21 limiteds (once the 15 is available, anyway). The 14/2.8 is too expensive for me, and I don't need 2.8 in a landscape lens.

So I'm wondering what your opinions are about using primes for landscapes?

I like primes, and I know the whole "zoom with your feet" mentality, but that's harder to do with expansive landscapes, a few steps back doesn't change your viewpoint a whole lot, and if you're on the top of a mountain, you might not have much room to move anyway. So this makes me think a UWA zoom would allow me to get a lot more shots than a prime (or two). But a couple of small primes are easy to carry, and should generally be sharper and have less distortion than a UWA zoom.

Another thing that I think also attracts me to a prime setup is "startup" cost, as I can buy individually and build a set over time. Of course that leaves me with a significant amount of time without certain focal lengths...

02-10-2009, 04:48 PM   #2
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Well, as a prime lover, I would recommend you primes of course. I make landscape photos with primes all the time. It forces you to be creative with the limiting equipment. You just have to find that one angle, that one spot to capture. I feel you have to be more aware of the landscape than it is with zooms. It is true, a zoom will allow you to get a lot more shots than a prime (or two). But it's not about more, it's about better. Or not?

And remember: landscapes don't run away, so you can allways bring a second lens and change. I do this all the time.

Just my 2 cents.........
02-10-2009, 05:18 PM   #3
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Some places you zoom with your feet and fall off a cliff. Seriously.

A good zoom is handy for landscape, but I have never considered the ultrawides to be in this category. They are great for urban interiors, close quarter streets, or for those "I've got something decisive in the foreground and a whole lot of perspective in the background" type shots. For me that's only one step more gimmicky than fish-eye shots. Yeah, I'd like the DA12-24 but I'd use it about one shot in 300.

Landscape means 28mm on film. 28mm still works rather well on digital though you might want to be a bit wider sometimes. You might also want to be narrower. Because too wide and you push all that lovely landscape away from the film plane, losing impact.

I find the DA16-45 is perfect for this application. I wonder how many times I can write that? :-)
02-10-2009, 05:21 PM   #4
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Either is good.
But if the 14/2.8 is too expensive for you, don't hold your breath on the 15 and 21 ltds - they won't be cheap either.
If you find yourself looking for versatility, you may as well go with a wide zoom. The 16-45's an awesome performer and at a fraction of the price of the 12-24. Just depends how wide you want to go. The 10-20 is a well known contender and is good for its price.

02-10-2009, 06:48 PM   #5
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I use both.

DA* 16-50 for hiking and rain. Just take 1 lens with maximum flexibility and light weight, and weatherproofing.

If I have time and conditions agree though, I prefer to use a prime that has great sharpness from center to border. The biggest flaw I spot with some landscape stuff I do is soft corners when I print big.

Ultra wides like the Sigma 12-24 I tend to only use for specific reasons, like being up close to a large waterfall that I can't get with other lenses, etc. For general landscape shots, all you get is a lot of tiny foreground and sky.
02-10-2009, 09:11 PM   #6
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See a similar thread on dpreview for more insight. What works for landscape is a personal thing. When I shoot with my 18-55, so many shots turn out to be aorund 28mm, I might as well jsut be using my 28. That's 28 on APS-C, of course. I don't shoot landscape at 18 - which is simialr to 28 on 35mm flim - very often at all. And even though I'm currently cravng the DA15, I can't really imagine using it very often for landscape. I do shoot a fair amount around 40 on APS-C.

So for me, I can go out with a 28 and a 40 and feel like I've got things pretty well covered. But then, I love primes, and I only tae my zoom when I know it will be "good for me", but I resist the idea pretty strongly. Yes, my zoom is like eating my vegetables :-). Other people feel exactly the opposite, and that's fine too.
02-10-2009, 10:28 PM   #7
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I shoot with a 16-45 which is convenient since my common landscape focals are 16mm, 24mm and 45 mm, so the lens suits me perfectly.
02-11-2009, 12:38 AM   #8
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It's quite simple really. Zooms offer flexibility. Primes usually offer better optics wide open and are usually smaller.

Keep in mind though that landscapes are usually taken at f/8-16, so that makes the difference in optics pretty much negligible. (unless you zoom in at 100-200%, and if you are doing so..WHY??)

Your choice

edit: keep in mind that I used the words "usually" not "always"


Last edited by soccerjoe5; 02-11-2009 at 12:44 AM.
02-11-2009, 05:06 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rense Quote
landscapes don't run away, so you can allways bring a second lens and change.
But the light does. Often some special light is gone within minutes.

Or you are on a journey and cannot easily return.

It can be fun to regard the limitation to one FL as a challenge. But then you sometimes may want to take the picture you had in mind, not the one you were forced to take.
02-11-2009, 05:27 AM   #10
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In fact, all the lenses you have mentioned are good lenses. They are all good for landscape.

Personally I would love to own Da 15mm ltd for sure. A lens so tiny and cute. I have to own it. Hehe

Da 14mm f2.8 is pretty much a good lens but it does flare quite a bit for me as a landscape lens stopping down to f8. This prime is really a night time lens that I do use it for low light scenery shots.









Still, I do not think Da 14mm f2.8 was anyway better than Da* 16-50mm f2.8 and I sold the prime with a profit :P

Da 21mm ltd is a great lens and I am going to buy this lens again for street work. This lens is so small and cute that I wanna have more fun with this pancake.

Da 12-24 and Sig 10-20mm are all good zooms. I personally find zooms annoying these days that they are often bulky and heavier. A light hobby should be rather light and easy.
02-11-2009, 06:08 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Class A Quote
But the light does. Often some special light is gone within minutes.

Or you are on a journey and cannot easily return.

It can be fun to regard the limitation to one FL as a challenge. But then you sometimes may want to take the picture you had in mind, not the one you were forced to take.

Well, yes you're right I guess, but it's not what I meant. If you bring two or three lenses, it's only on very rare occasions that there is no time to change them. Making landscape photos of course, cheetas and hawks are different kind of stuff....
02-11-2009, 06:49 AM   #12
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I was lusting after a DA 15mm for a while, but I've decided to just stick with the 16-45. The 15mm will likely have lower distortion, but at 16mm the 16-45 already has low enough distortion that it never bothers me.

I know that if I get the 15mm I'll want the 21mm, which is significant added cost, less versatility and questionable gain in IQ. As far as I can tell the 16-45 is sharper and has lower distortion at 21mm than the 21 Ltd. The DA 15mm is an unknown. IQ could be better than the 16-45 or maybe just better in some ways, not as good in others. The 16-45 is not significantly larger or heavier than 15 + 21. Besides, there's a lot of merit to framing a landscape with a zoom.
02-11-2009, 11:09 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Class A Quote
But the light does. Often some special light is gone within minutes.
True, but a lens change takes only seconds if you're accustomed to it. And unless your zoom is the 18-250 or something like that, you still can't guarantee you won't be changing lenses sometimes. As discussed in a recent thread, the number of shots lost to lens changes is hugely overestimated by people who don't actually use primes much.
02-11-2009, 11:31 AM   #14
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I can't really comment on the primes vs zooms aspect of this thread because the only primes I own are the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 and the Pentax 50mm f/1.4 which I have used for low-light interior shots rather than landscapes. I'm guessing that 95+% of my landscape images have been made using the Sigma 17-70 lens. Most of the remaining ones have been made using the Sigma 70-300 lens, and this is in spite of the fact that I own a Sigma 10-20mm ultra wide-angle. I agree with some of the other posters that ultra-wides are more of a specialty lens that is not commonly used in landscape photography. We all see these impressive, broad vistas and imagine capturing them in a photograph, but that almost never works out, and the best images are usually obtained when the photographer "zooms in" and captures a representative portion of that vista. My advice, FWIW, is to stick to something in the upper teens to 50mm or so range.

CN

Last edited by Clem Nichols; 02-11-2009 at 11:37 AM.
02-11-2009, 12:23 PM   #15
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Fact is, a small kit of primes will likely take up at least as much space as a single zoom--and probably weigh more. You should shoot whichever you enjoy shooting the most. This is a hobby that can be directed at stress relief and hedonistic pleasure. It need not be a stictly logical choice--resolution, price, weight, shooting style etc. Many of us in this forum shoot the lenses we have the most fun shooting and only you can make that decision.

As to ultrawide in the realm of landscape work...it would be tough to argue that anyone other than Mark and David Meunch are the top landscape photographers of our time. Yes, that's partly because they've focused on national icons, national parks etc. But those two have produced several dozen coffee table books with stunning landscape images. And the vast majority of their best images are super wide shots with an exaggerated foreground element (not a style I particulaly like to shoot, but that's what's popular).

Many or even most of us amateurs shoot landscape shots that look alike, but not like the Meunch's--just look at the images in the photo section of this forum, or on my website or whereever--most don't have an interesting foreground, or even a close foreground. Actually, most--including my own--appear to have been taken over the rail of a viewing platform. I know that's not what we all do, but it's how many of our images appear.

The "intimate landscape" ala Elliot Porter has been less in favor--at least in American print media--the past 25 years, in favor of the Meunchlike "grand landscape" shot with ultra wides. If you doubt this, look at the front cover of your local telephone book for the past 25 years--probably grand landscapes (or grand cityscapes as the case may be). Your own shooting style will dictate how to approach this. Killer Porteresque images can be made with a macro lens rather than any of the lenses we all tend to think of as landscape lenses.

My longwinded recommendation...get a quality superwide (either prime or zoom) and get a quality macro lens. Then you can cover most landscape shooting opportunities you encounter. And do yourself a favor, don't shoot over the rail at the scenic overlook! Well ok, sometimes...
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