Last Updated on 09/28/2018 by Mark Beckenbach
Landscape photography isn’t always about sweeping panorama’s and wide angle lenses; telephoto lenses have place in this genre too.
When it comes to landscape photography most people think about using wide and ultra-wide lenses to shoot images that show wide sweeping vistas, mountain ranges, or large portions of countryside. But sometimes focusing on one tiny area of detail can offer much more impact. Telephoto lenses are able to bring far away objects to us, and they offer amazing compression which can lead to some incredibly dramatic shots.
We are all familiar with landscape shots that show a mountain range, and of course they always look great, but what if you just want to focus on sun rays hitting the mountain peak, or if you want to capture up-close images of fog rolling and flowing over a hillside? This is were telephoto lenses come in to play. In this article we are going to look at some of the best telephoto lenses to pack inside your camera bag alongside your wide and ultra wide lenses.
Canon 70-200mm F4 L IS USM II
If you are a Canon shooter you are in luck because one of the very best telephoto lenses is made by Canon. The 70-200mm f4 L IS USM II is just about the perfect lens to have in your bag for landscape pictures.
In our review we said:
“So what makes the Canon 70-200mm f4 L IS USM II so great? It has weather sealing, nice bokeh, great autofocusing abilities, sharp image quality, and it’s very light. In the hand, it feels great and you can easily carry it around with you all day if you wish.”
The Canon 70-200mm f4 L IS USM II is an incredible lens. The build quality is top notch, and the weather sealing makes it perfect for landscapes. As you would expect from a Canon L series lens, the image quality is amazing. The colors reproduced are gorgeous, and even though this is only an f4 lens, the bokeh is nice and smooth too. The 70-200 f4 is also nice and light which means this lens is easy to use for long periods of time. Weighing in at 1.76lbs, this lens will not add too much extra weight to your camera bag, which is important if you will be hiking with it for a while. If you are a Canon user and landscapes are what you shoot, this is the telephoto lens that should be in your bag.
Buy now ($1,299): Amazon
Pro Tip: Don’t underestimate the importance of a solid, sturdy tripod for shooting landscapes images with telephoto lenses. It’s incredibly important to make sure the tripod you use can hold heavier equipment. The MeFOTO Roadtrip Classic Leather Edition tripod can support a whopping 17.6lbs of gear. If you need a great tripod that is under $200, check this one out.
Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 Contemporary
The Sigma 150-600mm telephoto to super telephoto is a big, versatile lens that is great for landscape photographers who really want to capture unique images and capitalize on compression effects. Make no mistake about it, the 150-600mm is a heavy lens so you need to be prepared for the extra weight, but your efforts will be well worth it. This lens is designed for sports and wildlife photographers, but it’s great for landscape work where you really want to focus on one particular area of interest, like the peak of a far away mountain or ripples created in sand dunes that are off in the distance. At 600mm the compression effect is strong and it can make even the most distant objects look like they are incredibly close. Focus on a barn in the distance and the rolling hills that are far behind and it will look like they are knocking on the barn doors. The compression can make for some very unique images.
In our review we said:
“Despite this lens being in the Contemporary lineup of the Global Vision of Sigma, it feels incredibly well built. In fact, it’s the best built lens that we’ve played with in the contemporary lineup and we dare say that it’s better than some of the Art lenses.”
The build quality is excellent, and while it doesn’t offer weather sealing like its more expensive sports series version, the contemporary does come with a rubber gasket that can be placed over the lens to create a seal around the mount. Images produces are very sharp, and colors are very saturated which can really make landscape images pop. Autofocus is very fast and very quiet, and the image stabilization works amazingly well. The lens weighs 6lbs, so if you plan to use a tripod make sure it can handle the weight of both the camera and the lens. If you want a lens that will allow you to hyper focus on one particular aspect of the landscape before you, then you should check out this telephoto lens.
Buy now for Canon ($899): Amazon
Buy now for Nikon ($899): Amazon
Buy now for Sigma SA ($989): Amazon
Pro Tip: If you’re a Sony shooter and want to use any of the Canon mount lenses we have mentioned in this article, you should check out the MC-11 adapter. The adapter converts any Canon EF mount lens into a Sony E mount and they will work perfectly.
Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM
If you like the idea of carrying telephoto lenses, but don’t like the idea of carrying even more gear, you could kill two birds with one stone and a carry a wide to telephoto lens like the Sigma 24-105mm f4 DG OS HSM. The 24-105mm focal range is perfect for both wider angle shots and for shots where you want to get a little closer to the object you want to photograph.
In our review we said:
“It is nice that the Sigma 24-105mm f4 is not complex. There is no learning curve to this lens. You can take it out of the box and start working with it right away. It zooms easily and the two buttons are easy to manage. The only thing you have to know is to turn off the Image stabilization when using a tripod.”
Being able to shoot a nice, wide image of beautiful fall trees one minute, to shooting a close up image of just the leaves without moving our changing your lens is what make the 24-105mm so great. This Sigma variant is of great build quality, which is what we have come to expect with the Sigma Art series, and auto focus is nice and fast. The manual focus ring is nicely dampened and is easy to use, and the optical stabilization makes it great if you prefer to hand-hold your gear. This lens produces very sharp images, while colors rendered look natural and not over-saturated. If you like the idea of telephoto lenses for landscapes, but also like the idea of keeping your load light, this lens could be the one for you.
Buy now Canon ($896.53): Amazon
Buy now Nikon ($829): Amazon
Buy now Sigma SA ($1,134.64): Amazon
Buy now Sony A Mount ($899): Amazon
Pro Tip: If you really want to take you images to the next level, and cut down time in post production, you should consider using both solid and graduated ND filters. Being able to get your images right in camera is far better than fixing things in post. Check out this awesome set of filters.
Sony 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 G OSS
If you are a Sony shooter and would prefer to use a native lens rather than an adapted Canon EF lens, the 70-300mm G OSS may be the perfect companion for your camera. Being a Sony, the build quality is excellent and the image quality is also very, very good.
In our review we said:
“For a little over $1,000 you’re getting a dust and splash resistant lens with quite a zoom range and a fairly compact size. Sure, it’s not an internal zooming lens but it’s still not too bad. On top of that, it’s designed for full frame mirrorless cameras. Considering Sony’s reputation, you can bet that it’s also going to be pretty darn good.”
The Sony 70-300 weighs 2.4lbs so it will not add too much weight to your camera bag, and it’s fairly comfortable to use for long periods of time. The lens is weather sealed which is great for landscape photographers, and the texture on the body of the lens feels nice in the hand. Image quality is wonderful – sharp from corner to corner – and color reproduction is nice thanks to natural looking colors. The autofocus works incredibly well in good lighting scenarios, but does slow down a little in low light, however this is a minor flaw if you are just using it for landscape photography. This is one the cheapest telephoto lenses that is native to Sony bodies, and it produces excellent results. The Sony 70-300mm is definitely one to consider if you would like to stay with first party lenses.
Buy now ($1,198): Amazon
Which telephoto lenses do you have in your camera bag for landscape photography? Let us know in the comment section below.