jeetsukumaran wrote in post #16602519
Taken literally, "best landscape lens" requires enumeration/discussion of optimum lenses at each focal length or range to be answered accurately.
I suspect that "landscape lens" here is a (inaccurate, incorrect, and naively-mistaken) synonym for "wide-angle" or "ultra-wide-angle" lens.
I confess, it is a pet-peeve of mine when I hear this usage. But I guess everyone else is comfortable with this travesty, so I will just have to learn to live-and-let-live.
In any case, mentally-correcting the question to "Best wide-angle lens for landscapes??" allows me to say the following ...
On a budget, if you are prioritizing the compositional flexibility of a zoom over absolute top-notch corner-to-corner image quality: EF 17-40 f/4.
On a significantly larger budget, if you are prioritizing the compositional flexibility of a zoom over absolute top-notch corner-to-corner image quality: EF 16-35 f/2.8 II.
On a even larger budget, if you want absolute top-notch corner-to-corner image quality over the compositional flexibility of a zoom: Zeiss 21 mm f/2.8.
On a painfully extraordinarily larger budget, if you want absolute top-notch corner-to-corner image quality over the compositional flexibility of a zoom, *and* you are interested in fully-exploring or pushing the creativity envelope: TS-E 17 or the TS-E 24.
The zooms give you compositional flexibility. This is not to be sneezed at. Yes, yes, yes, I know: we have all heard that you can "zoom with your feet". Except that sometimes (or, depending on the terrain that you are in, many times) you can't. Because of things like cliffs and rock faces and raging rivers etc. etc. You can pseudo-zoom by cropping or panning & stitching, but the former dumps resolution, while the latter can really be a pain under some circumstances.
If you want the convenience of a zoom and you can afford it, the 16-35 is probably your best bet. Yes, you don't need that speed for landscapes. But you will find yourself using the 16-35 in so many other contexts that you will see it as much as a general-purpose travel/candid/pseudo-journalistic lens that can double as a landscape lens.
There *only* two reasons I can think to get the 17-40 over the 16-35: (a) price and (b) weight. No doubt about it. I say this sincerely and honestly, and, most crucially, without the psychological need to justify what is in my bag. While I do not own either right now, I have owned and used both in the past. The 16-35 is clearly superior in every respect to the 17-40 except these two.
Now, if you want true corner-to-corner top-notch image quality, you have basically to choose between the Zeiss 21 mm or the TS-E 17 mm (or the TS-E 24 mm).
Before going any further, be aware that you are going to be sacrificing sooooooooooooooo much on the altar of image quality if you go this route. Soooooooo much. Possibly more than you have ever sacrificed before.
- $$$: looking at between $1800 to $2400 new
- zooming: some shots you are just going to have to let go, while others are just going to be different
- autofocus: not a big deal for landscapes, I know. But it really compromises the usability of these lenses in other contexts
- weather-sealing: yeah, not something one might consider off the bat when picking a lens, but definitely comes to mind when you take out your rig in a snow storm, rainforest, windy desert or beach
Now that is a lot.
But the pay-off is spectacular.
Absolutely, take-your-breath-away-even-as-you-cannot-help-saying-wow-when-you-first-see-the-image-on-the-screen spectacular.
I am not saying that I will never go back to the 16-35 or 17-40 for landscapes after seeing the results of my Zeiss 21 mm and TS-E 24 mm. I know they are capable of equally-stunning results. But they will always seem like a fancy restaurant roast/grill/fry chef pressed into making dessert when the pastry chef is on vacation.
As for choosing between the Zeiss or the TS-E?
I have both.
I prefer the TS-E.
I love the Zeiss. But the TS-E is simply a better lens: sharper (more resolution/contrast) corner-to-corner across the frame when unshifted/untilted. And, of course, while corner sharpness drops when shifting, the shifting/tilting simply bring in literally new dimensions to my photography that I am just beginning to explore.
And that famed Zeiss effect?
Well, the 3d-pop you get at larger apertures might be there, but this is simply not a common shooting context in landscapes.
The rich micro-contrast? Maybe it is there and maybe it is not. Hard to say. I sometimes suspect that this might be a mass-hallucination brought about by repeated chanting of religious Zeiss fanatics on the internet. At other times I *think* I *might* be able to see it. But then again, if what I am seeing is actually what I think people are calling the Zeiss micro-contrast, then I see some of the same micro-contrast with the TS-E as well. In either case, even if it is not an illusion, I am definitely not going to give up shifting or tilting -- the micro-contrast, if it exists, is nice, but is not necessarily better than the putatively more neutral rendering of the TS-E. On the other hand, the tilting and shifting is a very, very, very, very, very real effect that I cannot replicate through any other means (without loss of quality) and that I do not want to give up.
By the way, with the tilting, I am not talking about using it for the "Lilliput" effect. That is nice. Once or twice. It is sooooo overdone now.
Like the fisheye effect, a couple of shots here and there work well for their novelty and the way it makes us question our perceptions. But too many (and three is too many) and it really gets old. Tired of seeing the "Lilliput" effect being used to show off TS-E lens. Worse, the people who think that the TS-E is a gimmicky specialist lens because it is only used for the "Lilliput" effect (ignorance meets clichedness -- yuck).
Rather, I am interested in using the tilt for near-far compositions. Or, for e.g., to get all of a mural or a wall sculpture in focus. Or to get a line of monuments. Or a lichen-covered bark of a fallen tree stretching into the frame. Or heads of corn in a cornfield. There are simply so many things you can do with this lens that are physico-optically not possible with other lenses.
Note: I *just* got the TS-E lens. So I am *just* beginning to explore/experiment with it, and do not have results to show for it yet. As such, you will have to weight my remarks appropriately ...