Landscape photography is probably my favorite type of photography – and typically one of the most popular around the world. It’s easy to understand why – there is so much beauty in the world!
With hundreds of cameras competing for your attention on the market, all claiming to be the very best, how to be sure you have found the best camera for landscape photography that really ticks all the right boxes? Stop browsing and comparing away blindly, here are all the things you need to know and pay attention to when choosing your camera.
What Makes a Camera Good for Landscape Photography?
Each type of photography has its own challenges and landscape photography is no exception. What are the factors you need to pay attention to in order to shoot the best landscape pictures? Let’s try to answer this question.
Landscape photography is one of the types of photography where image quality perfection is the most important, to properly convey the great beauty of a place. High-resolution images help fulfill this goal, and I wouldn’t go below 18 to 20 megapixels.
We usually pay attention to image processors in wildlife photography or sports photography for example, or any fast-moving scenes. A powerful processor ensures speedy operations and solid autofocus performance. In landscape photography, it’s true that we usually don’t have this issue because landscapes don’t move around and we have all the time to compose and shoot our pictures.
That said, it is still an advantage to get a recent image processor (and the difference from an older version to a newer version of a processor is often huge) for overall increased image quality and better control of the noise that appears on the image at high ISO sensibility.
Landscape photography needs to be super sharp, from foreground to background. While this largely depends on the aperture settings of your lens, it is also important to have good-quality autofocus covering a good portion of the frame. Ideally, many of the AF points would be cross-type points. Cross-type points generally do a better job at focusing on the subject precisely and can focus on vertical elements perfectly unlike other AF points.
ISO & Noise
Landscape photography sometimes takes place in darker light conditions, such as during the golden hour. Lower light means a longer shutter speed. To avoid blurry images and keep a reasonably fast shutter speed, you can increase the aperture, and/or increase the ISO sensibility. It is useful to have a broad ISO range, allowing you to shoot clear, sharp pictures even in low light.
Unfortunately, a side effect of high ISO is grainy, noisy pictures. It is important to choose a camera that is very good at keeping the noise low, even at higher ISO. It is the case of my top pick, the Canon EOS 6D, for example.
Related to the point above about low light conditions, image stabilization can avoid blurred pictures caused by camera shake when the shutter speed is getting too slow. Some recent cameras offer a really advanced and efficient stabilization, and it’s obviously a very good feature to have.
It makes sense to ask yourself if you should buy a full-frame camera or a crop camera (with an APS-C sensor). You can read more about full-frame vs. APS-C sensors in the next FAQ below.
This may or may not be a huge deciding factor depending on the kind of environments you shoot in, but if you plan to take your camera to deep jungles and deserts full of fine sand flying around, you should definitely choose a weather-sealer camera.
Built-in GPS and Wi-Fi
I personally LOVE this feature and I am always amazed at how precise and accurate the GPS tagging is. If you enjoy looking at your shooting locations on Google Earth after your get back from the wild, built-in GPS is definitely a nice feature to have. Some cameras don’t have built-in GPS but can connect to your smartphone via Wi-Fi and an app, and use your phone’s GPS to tag your pictures.
APS-C or Full-Frame – Which One Is The Best For Landscape?
First of all, I want to say that both APS-C and full-frame sensors are capable of taking superb landscape photography. So it’s all a matter of choice, priorities, and budget.
For landscape photography, we often need the widest lenses possible to get the widest field of view. The focal length written on the lens is always in a full-frame equivalent, even when this lens is aimed at APS-C sensors. Between these two sizes, there is what we call a crop factor, usually about 1.5x.
If you are shooting a landscape at 18 mm with an APS-C sensor, your focal length will actually be about 27 mm (18 x 1.5 crop factor) – which is much less wide, and more “zoomed”. This is the typical “telephoto effect” of crop sensors. It’s great in wildlife photography as it takes you closer to your subject, but for landscape, it’s kind of a limitation.
With an APS-C sensor, your wide-angle lens will be a little narrower.
Full frame cameras will give you access to wider fields of view, but that’s not the only benefit. Full frame sensors also have larger pixels, resulting in better image quality and in particular, better low light performance. Remember what we said about low light, high ISO, and noisy images… all of these are more in control with a full-frame sensor.
For these reasons, if your budget allows, I’d suggest you go for a full-frame camera.
DSLR or Mirrorless Camera, Which One Should I choose?
The main difference here is definitely size and weight. DSLR cameras use a mirror to direct the image coming from the lens into the optical viewfinder so you can see exactly what the camera sees. That’s great, but it results in more bulky and heavy cameras.
Mirrorless cameras, as their name suggests, do not have this mirror. As a result, there is no optical viewfinder but more and more, mirrorless cameras feature a good-quality electronic viewfinder instead. The absence of mirror allows to build cameras that are much smaller, and more portable.
Just like DSLRs, they function with interchangeable lenses, but there are more lenses available for DSLRs than for mirrorless cameras. Another thing to note is, while it’s true that mirrorless cameras are very portable, if you attach a big, heavy lens to it, it’s not very portable anymore and not very balanced either (lightweight camera body vs. heavy lens).
The image quality of mirrorless can sometimes truly rival the one of DSLRs, but the DSLR technology is much more established. The areas where mirrorless cameras surpass the performance of DSLRs are typically continuous shooting speed, and video quality. For landscape photography, it’s not extremely relevant (except if you enjoy shooting video).
To conclude, I think that mirrorless cameras are getting really good, but my preference still goes to DSLR cameras – I can’t imagine not having an optical viewfinder and I like the feeling of holding a beautiful DSLR in my hands 🙂
What Camera Do I Use?
After owning an APS-C camera for a long while, I decided to go full-frame and got a Canon EOS 6D. It is still the camera I am using during my travels and back at home, and I am very satisfied with image quality, even though I admit it can feel a little bulky sometimes.
I chose it for its good overall quality, its great noise control, its built-in GPS, and more importantly, for the fact that it’s probably the most affordable full-frame DSLR camera on the market.
If you’d rather choose a mirrorless camera, I would go for the Fujifilm X-T30.
On this page, we tried to find out what are the things to consider when buying a camera for landscape photography. I hope this guide was useful and the information valuable! I believe that after reading this page, you should have a good ideal of what to look for in your camera. And remember that apart from the camera, good landscape photography also comes from a good lens and more importantly, great light!