Landscape Photography Prime vs Zoom Lenses

Landscape Photography Prime vs Zoom Lenses – Which is Best?


Landscape photography is a popular genre that captures the beauty and grandeur of natural environments. It typically showcases outdoor scenes such as mountains, forests, deserts, coastlines, and other expansive vistas. The goal is to evoke emotions and create a sense of awe, tranquility, or adventure through the visual representation of the natural world.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of landscape photography prime vs zoom lenses, discussing their pros and cons, as well as popular options within each category for landscape photography. The information presented will enable photographers to make informed decisions about which lens type best suits their needs and creative vision.

The lens is one of the most critical components of a camera setup for landscape photography. The right lens can significantly enhance the quality of an image, capturing the essence of a scene with clarity and detail. Choosing the appropriate lens for landscape photography requires considering factors such as focal length, aperture, image quality, and overall versatility.

There are two main types of lenses that photographers use in landscape photography: prime lenses and zoom lenses. Prime lenses have a fixed focal length, while zoom lenses offer a range of focal lengths, allowing the photographer to adjust the field of view without physically moving. Each type of lens has its unique advantages and disadvantages, making the choice between prime and zoom lenses dependent on the individual photographer’s preferences and shooting style.

Prime Lenses for Landscape Photography

Prime lenses are camera lenses with a fixed focal length, meaning they cannot zoom in or out. These lenses are designed to perform optimally at a specific focal length, resulting in high-quality images with minimal distortion and aberrations.

Landscape Photography Prime vs Zoom Lenses: Prime


Image Quality

Prime lenses generally deliver superior image quality compared to zoom lenses, as they have fewer moving parts and are optimized for a single focal length. This results in sharper images with better color rendition and contrast.

Aperture Capabilities

Prime lenses often have larger maximum apertures, allowing more light to enter the camera. This enables photographers to shoot in lower light conditions without increasing ISO or sacrificing shutter speed. The wide apertures also allow for greater control over depth of field, creating more artistic effects with background blur.

Compact and Lightweight Design

Due to their simpler construction, prime lenses are typically smaller and lighter than their zoom counterparts. This makes them more convenient for travel and long hikes, reducing the overall weight of the photographer’s gear.

Encouraging Creativity

Using a prime lens requires photographers to move and explore the scene more actively, as they cannot rely on the lens to zoom in or out. This encourages creativity and can lead to more unique compositions and perspectives.


Fixed Focal Length

The inability to change focal lengths can be limiting in certain situations, as photographers must physically move closer or farther away from their subject to achieve the desired framing.

Limited Versatility

Prime lenses offer less versatility compared to zoom lenses, as each lens covers only a single focal length. This can be restrictive in rapidly changing environments or when capturing a variety of subjects.

Need to Carry Multiple Lenses

To achieve different perspectives and compositions, landscape photographers often need to carry multiple prime lenses, adding weight and complexity to their gear setup.

Popular Prime Lenses for Landscape Photography

Wide-Angle Prime Lenses

Wide-angle prime lenses, typically with focal lengths between 14mm and 35mm, are popular choices for landscape photography. These lenses allow photographers to capture vast scenes, emphasizing the foreground and creating a sense of depth.

Standard Prime Lenses

Standard prime lenses, usually around 50mm, provide a natural perspective that closely mimics the human eye. These lenses are versatile and can be used for a variety of landscape photography styles, from intimate scenes to sweeping vistas. I’ve written an entire article dedicated to landscape photography with a 50mm lens if you want to learn more.

Zoom Lenses for Landscape Photography

Zoom lenses are camera lenses that offer a range of focal lengths, allowing photographers to adjust the field of view without physically moving. These lenses provide versatility and convenience, enabling users to capture a variety of subjects and compositions without changing lenses.

Landscape Photography Prime vs Zoom Lenses: Zoom



Zoom lenses offer greater versatility compared to prime lenses, as they can cover multiple focal lengths with a single lens. This allows photographers to capture diverse scenes and subjects without needing to change lenses or move closer or farther from the subject.


The ability to change focal lengths without swapping lenses or repositioning oneself saves time and effort, especially in situations where quickly adapting to changing conditions is essential.


Investing in a high-quality zoom lens can be more cost-effective than purchasing multiple prime lenses to cover the same range of focal lengths.

Ideal for Unpredictable Environments

Zoom lenses are useful in unpredictable environments, such as changing weather or rapidly evolving scenes, where the ability to adapt quickly is crucial.


Potential Compromise on Image Quality

Zoom lenses often have more moving parts and complex designs, which can cause slightly lower image quality compared to prime lenses. However, modern high-quality zoom lenses have significantly narrowed this gap.

Slower Maximum Apertures

Zoom lenses typically have slower maximum apertures than prime lenses, which can limit low-light performance and the ability to achieve a shallow depth of field effects.

Bulkier and Heavier Design

Because of their more intricate construction, zoom lenses are often larger and heavier than prime lenses, making them less ideal for travel and extended periods of carrying. However, consider the focal length range you’ll cover and do some quick math to see if multiple prime lenses would actually end up weighing just as much or more.

Popular Zoom Lenses for Landscape Photography

Wide-Angle Zoom Lenses

Wide-angle zoom lenses, covering focal lengths between 14mm and 35mm, are popular choices for landscape photography. They provide flexibility in capturing vast scenes and can help photographers adapt to varying foreground and background elements.

Standard Zoom Lenses

Standard zoom lenses, usually ranging from around 24mm to 70mm, offer a versatile focal length range suitable for various landscape photography situations. These lenses can capture both wide vistas and more intimate scenes with ease.

Telephoto Zoom Lenses

Telephoto zoom lenses, covering focal lengths from around 70mm to 200mm or beyond, enable photographers to compress the landscape and bring distant subjects closer. These lenses are excellent for capturing details in the landscape and isolating specific elements within a scene.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Lens for Landscape Photography

Your Photography Style

Understanding your personal style and preferred subjects in landscape photography will significantly influence your lens choice. Some photographers enjoy capturing vast, sweeping vistas, while others prefer intimate, detailed scenes. Consider whether a prime or zoom lens will best complement your creative vision and approach.


The cost of lenses can vary significantly, and your budget will play a crucial role in determining which lens type or specific model is right for you. High-quality zoom lenses can be more expensive, but may be more cost-effective than purchasing multiple prime lenses to cover the same focal length range.

Weight and Size

When traveling or hiking for landscape photography, the weight and size of your gear can be a crucial factor. Prime lenses are generally lighter and more compact, but carrying multiple prime lenses may negate this advantage. Consider the overall weight and size of your gear and how it may impact your experience in the field.

Weather Resistance

Landscape photographers often face inclement weather, such as rain, snow, or dust. Weather-resistant lenses can provide added protection and durability in these situations, ensuring your gear remains safe and functional.

Focal Length Requirements

Identify the focal lengths you most frequently use or plan to use in your landscape photography. This will help you determine whether a prime lens at a specific focal length or a zoom lens covering a range of focal lengths will be more suitable for your needs.

Aperture and Low-Light Performance

The maximum aperture of a lens affects its low-light performance and the ability to create a shallow depth of field. If you often shoot in low-light situations or desire greater control over the depth of field, consider lenses with wider maximum apertures.

Image Quality Priorities

While modern high-quality zoom lenses have narrowed the gap in image quality compared to prime lenses, prime lenses still generally offer superior sharpness, contrast, and color rendition. Consider your priorities in terms of image quality and whether a prime or zoom lens will best meet your expectations.


No One-Size-Fits-All Solution

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to choosing between landscape photography prime vs zoom lenses. Both prime and zoom lenses offer distinct advantages and disadvantages, and the ideal choice depends on the individual photographer’s needs, preferences, and shooting style.

Importance of Understanding Personal Preferences and Requirements

To make the best lens choice, it is crucial to understand your personal preferences and requirements as a landscape photographer. Factors such as your photography style, budget, weight and size considerations, weather resistance, focal length requirements, aperture and low-light performance, and image quality priorities should all play a role in your decision-making process.

Experimenting with Both Prime and Zoom Lenses

Experimenting with both prime and zoom lenses can provide valuable insights into your preferences and help you discover new creative opportunities. By using both types of lenses, you can gain a better understanding of their unique characteristics and how they can contribute to your landscape photography.

Evolving with Experience and Growing as a Landscape Photographer

As you gain experience and grow as a landscape photographer, your preferences and needs may evolve. Continually reassessing your lens choices and adapting to your changing requirements will ensure that you always have the right tools to capture stunning landscape images that reflect your creative vision.

The Creativv
American digital marketer and founder of with over a decade of experience in event, travel, portrait, product, and cityscape photography.

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