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Landscapes are one of the most popular photography subjects in the world, but to really capture the beauty of a landscape, nothing is better than a good wide-angle lens. If you are the happy owner of a Canon DSLR and wonder what is the best Canon wide-angle lens for landscape photography you can buy in 2023, you are at the right place!
Actually, I will first list the top 5 Canon wide-angle lenses, and then complete the selection with 3 more lenses made by other brands, for Canon DSLR cameras. These alternatives are totally worth considering as well! I will select a top pick for Canon lenses and a top pick for non-Canon lenses if it can help you make your choice.
In the last part, I will discuss the factors you need to consider before deciding what lens to buy and some frequently asked questions in relation to the selection of lenses I am presenting.
Let’s dive in!
What Are The Factors to Consider Before Making a Choice?
There are so many lenses with so many different specifications available that it’s not always easy to know what to look at and what features to prioritize. We will try here to list the most important factors to pay attention to when choosing your wide-angle lens:
You are looking for a wide-angle lens so obviously, the focal length is the first thing to look at. The smaller the number, the wider the field of view. However, you need to consider the camera you will be using: full frame or APS-C? Some lenses can be adapted to both, some others work only for APS-C cameras. These are usually the ones with very wide focal like 10 or 12 mm – it becomes the equivalent of 16 or 18 mm on an APS-C camera (Canon APS-C cameras have a crop factor of 1.6x).
If you have an APS-C camera, don’t forget to do this conversion or you will be surprised to get a lens that is not as wide as you expected! If you have a full-frame camera, don’t rush and get a 10 mm lens, often they are designed for APS-C only. Pay attention that the lens is compatible with your camera format!
A large maximum aperture is always very good to have because the brighter the faster: large apertures (small f-numbers) allow you to use faster shutter speeds, avoiding blurry images because of camera shake. With a fast shutter speed, you freeze the movements and get a sharp, clear image. A maximum aperture of f/2.8 and below is great, and f/4 is fine. over f/4.5 is okay but not amazing. In my opinion, f/5.6 is really the limit of what’s acceptable for a maximum aperture.
Maybe not as crucial as it is for wildlife photography for example (because you need to track moving animals and keep them in focus etc.), good autofocus is still important for landscape photography just like it is for any kind of photography – no one likes a soft focus and wants sharp, crisp images.
You may have noticed that one of my top picks is a manual focus lens, but it’s very easy to get a whole landscape perfectly in focus by setting the focus ring on 3ft or infinity. With short experimentation, it is easy to find the perfect setting for your manual focus.
Most lenses offer some sort of image stabilization, which is always good to have, particularly in low light. It is especially useful when your lens doesn’t have a very large maximum aperture and you are at risk of getting blurry pictures in low light. A good stabilization system can save your pictures and efficiently compensate for the vibrations and camera shake. That said, I would still give priority to a large aperture.
But if you can get both the large aperture and the stabilization, it’s even better!
Size & Weight
Landscape photography is by definition practiced in the outdoors and often involves transporting the camera for hours out in the wild. Choosing a lightweight and compact lens can make the experience much more pleasant.
I would consider this a nice-to-have feature for most amateur photographers, but if you are going to shoot in bad weather, in extreme humidity (like in the jungle), or in sand dunes for example, then weather and dust sealing can be an important point to take in consideration.
Now the game is of course the get the widest angle with the largest aperture with a good autofocus and image stabilization. It’s difficult to have everything, but you need to find the best compromise. For example, my Canon top pick may have an aperture of f/4 only, but it checks all the boxes otherwise. My non-Canon top pick offers an amazing ultra-wide angle with a very large aperture, great image quality, and for a very affordable price – and the sacrifice is made with the autofocus. I still think it’s a good compromise and great value for money.
USM or STM Autofocus, What’s The Difference?
You may have noticed on Canon lenses that there are the USM and STM autofocus types, and may be wondering what’s the difference between them. USM (UltraSonic Motor) and STM (Stepper Motor) refer to two different autofocus motors. I will not get into technical details here but I will try to explain the key differences between them.
To make things simple, USM motors are faster to focus and are widely used in professional-class lenses. They are almost silent but not completely. STM lenses are really great for video because the focusing process is smoother (but slightly slower), and practically silent. STM motors are more commonly found in amateur-class lenses.
But honestly, for landscape photography, you have all the time you need to focus your picture (unlike bird photography for example), so focusing speed isn’t really an issue. Both are just fine for landscapes, just know that USM is faster but STM is cheaper.
What Landscape Lens Do I Use?
Many years ago, as I was getting into photography, my budget wasn’t huge and I couldn’t afford any of the high-end wide-angle lenses that were suggested to me. I settled for a much cheaper, manual-focus lens, thinking it would be a temporary fix, until I can afford something more expensive. In the end, I loved my cheaper lens and never bought a more expensive one.
Below is a quick review of this lens.
Rokinon FE14M-C 14 mm f/2.8 Lens
Rokinon FE14M-C 14mm F2.8 Ultra Wide Lens for Canon (Black)
Rokinon is a Korean brand producing both affordable and high-quality lenses. It is also known as Samyang, Bower, or other brand names, depending on where in the world you are from. Only the name changes, the products are the same. I personally own the Samyang 14 mm f/2.8 and I absolutely love it! It works great with my Canon 6D.
Its fixed 14 mm focal length offers an ultra-wide angle, especially with a full-frame camera – but the lens is perfectly compatible with APS-C cameras as well. In my opinion, this 14 mm focal length on a full frame is a real game-changer for landscape photography.
You might be wondering, what’s the catch? A lens that is so great and affordable? Well, the lens is fully manual. There is no autofocus system. This left me intimidated for a long time before I decided to take the plunge, and honestly, it’s not more complicated than autofocus once you get the hang of it.
The f/2.8 maximum aperture is another great feature, enabling the use of fast shutter speeds even in low light. If you are looking for performance at an affordable price and are ready to live without autofocus, this lens is all you need!
- Size: 3.43 x 3.78 in / 8.7 x 9.6 cm
- Weight: 1.22 lb / 553 g
- Focal length range: 14 mm fixed
- Max. aperture: f/2.8 – f/22
- Compatible formats: Full frame, APS-C
- Ultra wide angle
- Solid build quality
- Great optics quality
- Very bright lens (f/2.8)
- Strong lens hood
- Fits full frame and APS-C
- Manual focus
- You may or may not like the fixed focal length
Other Buying Options:
A good camera and a good lens are essential in photography, and landscape photography doesn’t escape this rule. The information on this page is more geared toward Canon camera owners because I own a Canon, but I am sure that the advice in this article is also useful if you own other camera brands. All the information you need to make your final choice for your wide-angle lens is here. I hope this guide was valuable and useful to you in your search for a great wide-angle lens for landscape photography!