Best Landscape Lens For Nikon Z6 and Z7

Nikon’s new mirrorless cameras are exciting for those of us that love landscape photography.

Whether you prefer the versatility and dynamic range of the Z6 or the 42 megapixels of the Z7, either one will help you create epic landscape images.

I took a look at Nikon’s entire lens lineup and although it is still a little limited, they have some great options for your next landscape shoot. Plus keep in mind that they are adding new Z lenses on a pretty regular basis now.

Important SpecsClick To Compare Pricing
Best Overall
14-30mm f/4 S
Aperture: f/4 to f/22
Weight: 485g
82mm filter thread
Min. Focus Distance: 0.28 m/0.92 ft
Angle Of View: FX format: 114° – 72° | DX format: 90° – 50°

Budget Pick
24-70mm f/4 S
Aperture: f/4 to f/22
Weight: 500g
72mm filter thread
Min. Focus Distance: 0.3 m/0.99 ft
Angle Of View: FX format: 84° – 34°20′ | DX format: 61° – 22°50′

Most Versatile
24-70mm f/2.8 S
Aperture: f/2.8 to f/22
Weight: 805g
82mm filter thread
Min. Focus Distance: 0.38 m/1.25 ft
Angle Of View: FX format: 84° – 34°20′ | DX format: 61° – 22°50′

Best For Nighttime Shooting
20mm f/1.8 S
Aperture: f/1.8 to f/16
Weight: 505g
77mm filter thread
Min. Focus Distance: 0.20 m/0.66 ft
Angle Of View: FX format: 94° | DX format: 70°

Best Overall | 14-30mm f/4 S

If you focus your photography mostly on landscapes then the 14-30mm f/4 is where you should start.

14-30mm is a great range for landscape photography and the impeccable image quality combines with a relatively lightweight and compact package that makes it easy to take on your landscape photography adventures.

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Specs

  • Aperture Range: f/4 to f/22
  • Weight: 485g
  • 82mm filter thread
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 0.28 m/0.92 ft
  • Angle Of View: FX format: 114° – 72° | DX format: 90° – 50°

On a full-frame camera like the Nikon Z6 or Z7 14mm will give you that classic ultra-wide landscape photography look and 30mm is enough of a range to still narrow in on somewhat smaller scenes when you want to do so.

But what really makes this lens exciting is that it is a 14mm lens that you can use lens filters on. If you shoot a lot of landscape photography then you know how important filters are to creating high quality landscape photos.

This lens uses an 82mm filter thread which is among the more common thread sizes for full frame lenses which means you may already have filters that work with this lens.

The area where this lens falls short of some other similar lenses is with the f/4 maximum aperture.

You can find some ultra-wide zooms in this same range with an f/2.8 max aperture. However, these lenses aren’t capable of having regular filters screwed onto the front. You need specially designed (and expensive) filter systems for these types of lenses.

In addition, most of the time when shooting landscape photography, you’ll be using smaller apertures like f/8 to f/12 anyway. So the lack of that f/2.8 maximum aperture is unlikely to become an issue unless you shoot a lot of night photography.

I think that the ease of use with filters and portability more than makes up for the lack of an f/2.8 maximum aperture. You can always add a lens like the 20mm f/1.8 later on to use specifically for night landscapes.

Budget Pick | 24-70mm f/4 S

Until the third-party lens makers like Tamron or Sigma start making Nikon Z Mount lenses, you really aren’t going to find too many budget-friendly options. However, compared to some of the other, the 24-70mm f/4 slightly less expensive.

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Specs

  • Aperture Range: f/4 to f/22
  • Weight: 500g
  • 72mm filter thread
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 0.3 m/0.99 ft
  • Angle Of View: FX format: 84° – 34°20′ | DX format: 61° – 22°50′

The 24-70mm f/4 Z-mount less is basically a smaller, less expensive version of the f/2.8 version below.

24-70mm is a great range for landscape photography.

While it is not as wide as the 14-30mm above, 24mm on a full frame camera is still pretty wide and works great for landscapes.

While you may be giving up 10mm on the wide end, you gain 40mm on the long end compared to the 14-30mm. This is great if you also like to shoot family photos, street photography, or portraits.

Compared to the f/2.8 version below, you’ll save over $1000 with this lens.

Like I mentioned above, you won’t often find yourself using the maximum aperture very often when shooting landscapes.

Even if you want to shoot low light landscapes like night photography or astrophotography, the Nikon Z6 and Z7 handles low light very well. So you’ll see less need for the 2.8 max aperture even when shooting that kind of shot.

Unless you are using the camera to make money, it’s hard to justify the cost difference between the f/4 and the f/2.8, especially since there is very little noticable difference in image quality.

These are the reasons that our top pick and our favorite budget pic are both f/4 lenses.

Most Versatile | 24-70mm f/2.8 S

If you want a lens that can handle landscape photography and a wide variety of other photography situations, then the 24-70mm f/2.8 can do it all. But that does come at a price.

The 24-70mm f/2.8 is the middle component of what professional photographers call the “trinity” of lenses consisting of a wide angle zoom, mid-range zoom, and a telephoto zoom.

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Specs

  • Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22
  • Weight: 805g
  • 82mm filter thread
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 0.38 m/1.25 ft
  • Angle Of View: FX format: 84° – 34°20′ | DX format: 61° – 22°50′

Being the mid-range zoom, the 24-70mm can handle many different situations. The 24mm end is ideal for landscape images.

Another added benefit of this lens is the maximum f/2.8 aperture. This is also what makes it so expensive.

The constant f/2.8 aperture will allow you to blur the background quite effectively at all the focal lengths. Most of the time you will find yourself shooting landscapes at smaller apertures like f/8 to f/12 to ensure more of the scene is in focus, but there are situations where the f/2.8 comes in handy, even for landscape photograpahy.

You may want to isolate focus on a compelling foreground element like a flower and blur out the background. You will also find the f/2.8 aperture very helpful if you want to try shooting astrophotography.

Although, if you want to do a lot of astro photos, check out the next lens below…

Best For Nighttime Shooting | 20mm f/1.8 S

The sensor quality in the Nikon Z6 and Z7 are perfect for shooting night landscapes and astrophotography. Pair them with the 20mm f/1.8 and you’ll have one of the best night photography combinations around.

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Specs

  • Aperture Range: f/1.8 to f/16
  • Weight: 505g
  • 77mm filter thread
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 0.20 m/0.66 ft
  • Angle Of View: FX format: 94° | DX format: 70°

When you are shooting at night, having a wide maximum aperture is much more important than the versatility of a zoom lens. That is the main reason I’m recommending the 20mm f/1.8 for night photography but not the only one.

It also handles coma very well. Coma is when small points of light get stretched out in the corners

Why the Nikon Z system is great for landscape photography

To start with, Nikon cameras in general are known for their image quality, durability, weather sealing, and ergonomics. When you are out in nature, those last three things are of the utmost importance.

The current full frame Nikon Z cameras (Z6, Z7, and the new Z5) all are very well built with great ergonomics and durability.

When it comes to image quality, the Z5/6 and the Z7 use different sensors, but they are both exceptional. The Z7 is more popular among landscape photographers because of the 42-megapixel sensor. The Z6 has fewer megapixels at 24.5, but that means better low light performance and easier to handle files (By most accounts, the new Z5 will have a similar or same sensor as the Z6).

Best Canon Lens for Headshots

Capturing stunning headshots of loved ones is usually at the top of every new photographer’s list. It can also become a profitable side business if you become skilled at it.

But, as you may have come to realize, you’re going to need to invest in an upgrade from your kit lens if you want to achieve truly great results.

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Best Overall
Canon EF 85mm f/1.4

Budget Pick
Canon 50mm f/1.8

Most Versatile
Tamron 24-70 f/2.8

Runner-Up
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art

Runner-Up
Canon 85mm f/1.8

Unfortunately, the hard part, especially for new photographers, isn’t realizing that you need more gear. It’s knowing which of the thousands of lenses available is most suitable for your portrait photography needs.

Here, to help you start expanding your lens collection to attain the results you want, we give you a breakdown of our picks for the top 5 Canon Lenses for Headshots, including the pros and cons of each option.

Best Overall | Canon EF 85mm f/1.4

This lens is the best of the best in portrait photography for Canon users. Part of Canon’s professional-grade L-series line, it’s a premium lens at a premium price that will produce superior results.

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Designed specifically for what Canon calls “creative portrait photography”, the 85 mm f/1.4 comes with practically everything a headshot photographer could want. For starters, it has a wide f/1.4 maximum aperture, which makes it possible to achieve a soft background with shallow depth of field. The wide aperture also helps make the most of what’s available when lighting conditions are not ideal.

On top of that, this is a medium telephoto lens fixed at 85mm, the perfect focal length for capturing flattering images of your subjects without feature distortion even at short distances.

Additionally, Canon has packed the 85 mm f/1.4 with various features to help your images turn out perfectly. It has IS (image stabilization) technology to help produce continuously clear images, even while handholding your camera in certain low light conditions. This means you now can leave behind the constraints of the tripod even more often. This turns out to be is particularly useful when shooting in close spaces and capturing fine details.

Close-up images are also possible due to the lens’s shortish 33.5” minimum focusing distance.

Other stand-out features of this lens are the high-speed AF system to help you not miss a single moment and the molded glass (GMo) aspherical lens coated with Canon’s exclusive anti-flare coating (ASC) to help create images free of distortion, vignetting and lens flare.

It is worth noting that the IS motor when activated can tend to produce a slight rattle, but this does not seem to affect performance or image quality. The consensus among users seems to be that the light noise produced is a worthwhile trade for the sharp images IS helps to produce.

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Budget Pick | Canon 50mm f/1.8

When first beginning to expand your lens collection, you may be quite shocked by the high cost of most prime lenses. If you find the 85 mm f/1.4 out of your price range,

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Canon still has you covered with another much more affordable lens option that will also produce beautiful images. The 50 mm f/1.8 is a small, lightweight lens that still gives you the benefits of a wide aperture for around only $100. With this lens, you can achieve soft backgrounds and shoot in low-light without having to break the bank.

At 50 mm focal length, it’s a wider-angle lens than the 85 mm, but still allows you to frame great portraits. If your camera has a crop sensor rather than full frame, the focal length actually becomes 80mm. While that doesn’t make the lens produce true 85mm results, it does mean that on a crop sensor camera body, you’ll be getting even tighter images, which can be useful with headshots.

The 50 mm f/1.8 also has a very short minimum focal distance of 1.15 ft to allow you to shoot very close-up in tight spaces. This makes it excellent for detail shots, whether you’re homing in on a pair of beautiful blue eyes or the intricacies of a dainty flower.

 To combat lens flare issues, Canon has redesigned the lens arrangement in the 50 mm and included improved coatings. The newest version of this lens also has a gear-type STM motor which gives you the benefit of very quiet operation, decreased aberrations and seamless video recording.

Canon users of all levels seem to be consistently pleased with this lens, sometimes affectionately known as the “nifty-fifty”, citing its wide application to a variety of photography contexts and clear image quality as some of its best features.

Not surprisingly considering the price, this lens does not include extra tricks like IS technology. This results in less predictable hand-held results at slow shutter speeds, but depending on your shooting style, that may or may not affect you in the least.

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Most Versatile | Tamron 24-70 f/2.8

If investing in a fixed focal lens feels a bit too restraining and you want a more versatile option, you may want to consider the Tamron 24-70 f/2.8. This lens has the freedom of a zoom lens that makes it more applicable to a wider variety of situations, but still reaches ranges suitable for producing good headshots.

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Additionally, it has a 2.8 maximum aperture. Although this is not the widest aperture available, at f/2.8, this lens is able to open wider than most common zoom lenses. This gives you more control over low-lighting and the possibility of achieving softer backgrounds than is possible with your typical zoom lens, but obviously not quite as much as with the other wider maximum aperture options on our list.

That detail aside, the Tamron 24-70 is a lens more than capable of producing great quality images. It includes Tamron’s eBAND Coating to control lens flares, as well a Flourine Coating and Moisture-Resistant Construction to repel water and debris.

Tamron also designed this lens with more precise and faster autofocus to create sharp crystal-clear images. On top of that, the 24-70 comes with Tamron’s highly rated Vibration Compensation system, which makes it possible to capture hand-held shots even when lighting is not the best.

Although Canon also makes a 24-70 lens, many users tend to prefer the Tamron for practicality, because the Canon version unfortunately doesn’t include any type of image stabilization technology. As a result, the Tamron 24-70 tends to produce more reliable results in lowlight scenarios.

It should be mentioned however, that the Tamron is a few ounces heavier than its Canon counterpart and some users find its reverse focusing ring to be a bit cumbersome when using manual focus.

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Runner Up | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art

If the 85 mm focal length feels a little too tight for you, but you still want the benefits offered by a fixed focal length lens with an extra-large aperture, the Sigma 50 mm f/1.4 Art lens may be the option you’re looking for.

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This lens can handle various types of shooting, which means that you’ll be grabbing it for more than just headshots. For example, due to its wider focal length, it still adapts to landscape shooting nicely. On top of that a minimum focus distance falling just under 16 inches makes it possible for you to also use this lens for close-up photography.

Sigma has designed this lens to provide consistent, seamless performance and to be compatible with even professional grade Canon camera bodies. Among the most outstanding features of the Sigma 50 mm f/1.8 is its Hyper Sonic Motor for near silent performance and precise autofocusing.

Additionally, it is constructed with 13 elements in 8 groups to provide consistent performance at wide apertures and Special Low Dispersion Glass and a Super Multi-Layer coating to help produce high quality results free of flares, distortion and vignetting. As part of the Sigma’s ART line, this lens boasts the ability to produce super sharp images with clear separation between subject and background.

Some users do note that in order to achieve the highest-level results with this lens, you might end up having to have to buy the USB dock sold separately to help fine-tune the autofocus.

As you might expect, this is a somewhat time-consuming, tedious process, but thankfully, most users report being able to achieve pristine images right out of the box, even at wider aperture settings.

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Runner Up | Canon 85mm f/1.8

Another excellent option from Canon is the 85 mm f/1.8. This lens offers the much sought after 85 mm focal length considered optimal for portraits, but with a bit smaller maximum aperture than the 85 mm f/1.4 and a lower price tag.

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While we wouldn’t go so far as to say that this difference produces insignificant results, the fact is that even at f/1.8, you will be able to achieve very nice, professional-grade images with quality background blur.

The best part is that the 1.8 is much more affordable than our top pick, the 1.4, great news if you are a new photographer or just have a smaller budget.

The minimum focusing distance with this 85mm at 2.8 feet is longer than offered by some of the wider options on this list, affecting its versatility for more general shooting functions. Its best use is for focusing on a specific subject with clear depth of field, which makes it perfect for beautiful headshots and other types of close-up photography.

This lens is designed to be practical, affordable, and consistent. It lacks some of the features like IS technology that the 1.4 has but is still a solid lens designed to produce quality images. For photographers looking for a dedicated portrait lens, we recommend one of Canon’s 85mm options, and the 1.8 is a great choice at a fraction of the price of the 1.4.

Users who buy this lens realizing that it is purposely not wide-angle nor is it made to be used for every shooting situation are highly pleased with their investment and the results it produces.

Although the 1.4 certainly has some advantages for handheld shooting in low light, Canon’s 1.8 is more than capable of producing stunning, professional-quality images.

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What to look for in a Headshot Lens

Wide aperture

Even people who know nothing about photography find themselves impressed by the “blurry background” in a well-crafted headshot. This is the result of what photographers call shallow depth of field and is made possible by wide open apertures.

A wide aperture causes your camera to focus on the subject a determined distance from the sensor and all other elements that out of that range are left progressively more out of focus.

For that reason, portrait photographers usually choose a lens with the widest aperture they can afford. The minimum acceptable aperture would be f/2.8, but if you can swing a f/1.8 or a f/1.4, you won’t regret it.

Focal length

Part of what distinguishes a “good” headshot photographer from just a common shutterbug, it the ability to capture flattering angles of your subjects. While undoubtedly, this is related to having a good eye for framing images, it is also closely related to using the proper focal length.

A focal length of 85mm is considered gold-standard for portraits, because it provides the correct distance between the subject and the camera sensor to create images that are flattering to the human eye. Said simply, people look prettier when shot at an 85mm focal length, more or less.

That being said, starting at 50mm up to 85mm, you are well within a desirable portrait range where the proportions of the human face in your images will be most similar to what you see with your naked eye.

Price

Prime lenses are a huge investment for photographers, with most nearing or surpassing the $1000 mark.

If you are firmly invested in your photography journey and price is not a problem for you, obviously don’t hesitate to buy the lens that seems to best fit your particular needs.

However, if photography is more a weekend hobby or if you’re just getting started, don’t feel like you need to break the bank in order to be able to take quality headshots. A more economic option that compromises a few features can still be a great addition to your camera bag.

Speaking from personal experience, a budget-conscious nifty-fifty lens can be a great introduction to prime lens photography. Just don’t be surprised if it whets your appetite for more elaborate lenses later on.

Why Upgrade Your Lens For Headshot Photography?

When you made the big decision to upgrade from your phone camera to a DSLR, you likely envisioned yourself finally being able to capture those beautiful close-ups of your daughter’s freckled face or your furry friend’s sweet puppy dog eyes.

However, it probably didn’t take long for you to notice that the kit lens that may have come in the box with your camera just wasn’t cutting it to get that dreamy soft background and those crystal-clear details that you hoped for when it comes to headshots. And that’s for good reason.

Kit lens are designed to give you a multipurpose introduction to the world of SLR photography at an accessible price. While they aspire to let you do a little bit of everything, they aren’t exactly the ideal tool for more professional-level results.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of close-up portrait photography, because, in order to produce beautiful headshots, you need a lens that offers you two things that the kit lens does not have—a wide aperture and an appropriate focal length. The first gives you that beautiful soft background that makes your subject pop and the other makes it possible to find close angles of the subject without causing gross distortions of their features.  

The lenses that made our list take those things into account, along with including other bells and whistles to help you produce the most stunning results possible.

Without a doubt Canon’s 85mm options are the standard options for professional headshots. They have both the focal length and the depth of field necessary to achieve consistently beautiful images. For that reason, they were awarded the winner and runner-up slots in our list.

However, for those photographers who want more practicality, the Sigma and Canon 50 mm options are also capable of producing quality portraits and adapt to more types of shooting. Sigma’s 50 mm f/1.4 gives you wide aperture at a more versatile 50 mm focal length, making it also a runner-up option. On the other hand, Canon’s 50 mm f/1.8 clocks in at around $100, making it hands-down the best budget option on the market for headshots.

And finally, Tamron’s 24-70 f/2.8 wins most versatile for its wide adaptability. This is a lens that you can keep on your camera to capture whatever comes your way without having to change lenses frequently. Due to the 2.8 aperture, you will notice a difference in depth of field, but that may be a sacrifice you’re willing to make if a multi-purpose lens suits your needs more.

Whatever your needs and budget may be, all the lenses on this list are solid options to help you graduate from your kit lens and take your headshot photography to the next level.

Best Camera For Long Exposure Photography

Long exposure photography can be a lot of fun and produce some of the most compelling and epic images.

The best part is that it can be done without a really expensive professional-level camera as long as you have a good set of neutral density filters.

But you came here looking for the best cameras for long exposure photography, so here are the options I would recommend based on your specific use and needs.

All of the cameras below have the functions necessary to take long exposure photos (manual shutter, bulb mode, ability to add ND filters).

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Best Overall
Sony A7RIII

Budget Option For Canon Shooters
Canon EOS M200

Budget Option For Nikon Shooters
Nikon Z50

Budget Option For Sony Shooters
Sony a6400

Runner Up
Nikon Z6

Super Compact Option
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 VII

Best Overall | Sony A7RIII

Even though I usually use Nikon gear, this camera has me a little jealous, especially when it comes to shooting landscapes like long-exposure images. A favorite of pro landscape photographers, the Sony A7RIII has everything you need to create epic images.

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Specs

  • 61.2MP BSI CMOS full-frame sensor
  • Powerful yet easy-to-use AF tracking system
  • 10 fps burst shooting (JPEG or Compressed Raw from 12-bit readout)
  • 5.76M dot OLED viewfinder
  • CIPA rated to 315 shots per charge, USB charging
  • 4 or 16-shot high resolution modes (up to 240MP images for static subjects)

Let’s just get this mirrorless/DSLR debate out of the way before we get too deep into this list. They’re both just ways to put a body around an image sensor. Neither one has anything to do with image quality…that’s all about the sensor.

But, if you are investing in a new camera right now, it looks like all the innovation when it comes to new cameras and (more importantly) new lenses is going into the mirrorless lineups for each manufacturer. So I do think that mirrorless is the way to go with a new camera, not because they are “game changers” or “revolutionary” or any nonsense like that, but because you want to be able to upgrade your lenses in the future and you’ll have better options going forward with a mirrorless system.

Now let’s talk about the Sony A7RIII.

One of the big knocks on Sony cameras when it came to outdoor and landscape photography is that they fell short of Canon and Nikon in the build quality. However, the fourth generation of the A7R really improved on the ruggedness of the body compared to prior models.

The biggest draw of the A7RIV when it comes to shooting long exposures is the massive 61.2 megapixel sensor. High resolution is a big deal when shooting any kind of landscape photos.

One feature that can be really helpful for shooting long exposures is the Imaging Edge Mobile app. That lets you control the camera from your smartphone and set long exposure timers all without having to touch the camera.

I can’t count how many remote timers I’ve lost. They’re tiny, fall to the bottom of your camera bag, and disappear without a trace. So having that control built into your smartphone makes things a lot easier.

Overall, this is one of the best landscape cameras out there so if you are planning to shoot a lot of long exposures and want the highest quality, most megapixels possible, cameras on the market, then the Sony A7Riii deserves a real close look.

Budget Option For Canon Shooters | EOS M200

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Specs

  • Compact for travel, good megapixels, upgradeable lens system with Canon’s newest lenses
  • 24MP APS-C sensor with Dual Pixel autofocus
  • Face and eye detect autofocus
  • 3″ tilting touchscreen
  • CIPA rated to 315 shots per charge, USB charging
  • Wi-FI and Bluetooth

Canon has stepped up its mirrorless offerings recently and the M200 is a great affordable option for those of you that want to get into landscape shooting but don’t want to break the bank.

This camera sports a lot of features that make it a great affordable option for taking on hikes and photo trips where you may want to shoot some long exposure photos.

To start with, it is very compact, light, and portable. The body by itself is a little larger than a deck of cards. You can get it with a 15-45mm F3.5-6.3 kit lens that is also pretty compact. It’s not a perfect lens by any means but its pretty good considering the price and compactness.

One downside compared to some of the other options on this list is that it doesn’t have a lot of physical buttons and dials to control your exposure. This makes it a little less usable out in the field, especially when you need to make some quick exposure adjustments. However, the touch screen is pretty solid and you can control a lot of the camera features using the screen.

Budget Option For Nikon Shooters | Nikon Z50

The Nikon Z50 is Nikon’s crop sensor mirrorless body. It’s not as much of a budget option as the Canon EOS M200, but for now, it is the most affordable entry into the Nikon mirrorless system.

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Specs

  • Compact for travel, upgradeable lens system with Nikon’s newest mirrorless lenses
  • 21MP APS-C sensor
  • Face and eye detect autofocus
  • 3″ tilting touchscreen that folds down 180 degrees for shooting or filming yourself
  • CIPA rated to 320 shots per charge, USB charging
  • Wi-FI and Bluetooth

It sports the Nikon Z Mount, which means it looks kind of huge on the small Z50 body but also means that you can upgrade to the more expensive full frame Z lenses before investing in a full frame Z body like the Z7 for your landscape photography.

In my opinion, the new Z mount is the biggest draw to the Nikon Z series of mirrorless cameras. It is the widest and closest to the sensor among it’s Canon and Sony competitors. This allows Nikon a lot of flexibility when it comes to engineering new lenses which will result in some of the best quality lenses out there.

The Z50 is a solid all-around performer as well. It’s a crop sensor camera but it handles low light pretty well.

The best part about the Nikon Z50 is that Nikon made sure to design the ergonomics the same way they do for their higher end full-frame cameras. This is one of the few mirrorless crop sensor cameras I have used that fits well in my hand and doesn’t feel like I am going to drop it.

The body is pretty rugged as well compared to other similarly priced crop sensor cameras.

The 20 MP sensor falls short of the 24 MP sensors in the Sony a6400 and the Canon M200, however, I think fewer sensors in the same area give you a little more dynamic range which can be very helpful when shooting long exposures as they often require more range than your average snapshot.

The overall image quality is excellent. Nikon is well known for their color science and this camera is no exception.

So whether you are looking for your first interchangable lens camera or looking to add a backup to your full frame Nikon, the Z50 is an excellent and relatively affordable option.

Budget Option For Sony Shooters | a6400

The Sony a6400 is a few models from the most recent a6600, but since Sony puts out new cameras at a breakneck pace, it isn’t outdated at all and gives you a tremendous amount of capability for much less than the newer crop sensor models from Sony.

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Specs

  • 24MP APS-C sensor
  • 425-pt phase detection AF system with Real-Time Tracking
  • Tilting screen, 180° up, 90° down
  • 2.36M-dot electronic viewfinder
  • Interval shooting option added
  • 410 shots per battery charge (per CIPA)
  • Wi-Fi with NFC and Bluetooth

Sony’s crop sensor cameras are more expensive than most. But if you are looking for a budget model, go back a couple of models from the latest a6600 and take a look at the a6400. You’ll get 90% of the capability at a lower price.

Sony is definitely the current leader in innovation and other brands like Nikon use Sony sensors in their own cameras, so you know you are getting a high quality camera when you buy a Sony.

The 24 MP sensor is very good for a crop sensor. It has good dynamic range and low light performance.

In my opinion, the Sony cameras don’t do as well with color rendering as Nikon or Canon, but they are getting better. With the a6400 being an older model, it isn’t as good in this department. But for anyone but the most critical eye, you won’t even notice a difference.

The big downside to the Sony crop sensor cameras for me is the ergonomics and handling.

They are smaller but just don’t fit in your hand as well as other similar cameras like the Nikon Z50 and they aren’t as well weather sealed as the full frame Sony cameras. So if you take this camera out in bad weather, be sure to cover it up.

Sony also catches a lot of criticism for their menu system. I think it’s fine once you get used to it, but users switching over from a Canon or Nikon may find it quite frustrating.

Overall, the Sony a6400 is going to give you excellent image quality for your long exposure shooting, even though it’s ease of use may fall a little short.

Runner Up | Nikon Z6

So why the Z6 and not the Z7? While it has fewer megapixels, the Z6 is much more affordable and more versatile as an overall camera. However, if you are really keen on maximizing the megapixels then the Z7 is also a great camera.

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Specs

  • 24.5MP full-frame BSI-CMOS sensor
  • Hybrid autofocus system w/273 phase-detect points
  • Up to 12 fps burst shooting (Raw + JPEG)
  • 3.69M-dot OLED viewfinder
  • 2.1M-dot tilting touch LCD
  • OLED top plate display
  • Single XQD card slot
  • SnapBridge Wi-Fi system with Bluetooth

If 42 MP is overkill for you and you are looking for something a little more affordable but that still will give you professional-level quality, the Nikon Z6 is a great option.

The Z6 is kind of Nikon’s mirrorless version of the D750 (a camera I have used as a professional photogrpaher for years and still use now).

That makes this an all around camera that does everything well. The lower resolution means more dynamic range, faster burst shooting (not that you would need that for long exposures), and files that are more manageable if you don’t have a high end photo editing computer.

That versatility is the main reason I am recommending the Z6 here.

Most of us that like shooting long exposures also want to shoot other things (including things that aren’t landscapes and don’t require 40+ MP). So having that versatility is more valuable to most of us than having a high res specialty camera.

The Z6 is also quite capable with video too if you’re interested in dipping your toes in that pool.

The rugged build and weather sealing also make this a great camera for taking anywhere with you.

Lastly, it uses the Nikon Z mount, which, like I said above, is the most exciting mount out there (at least for us nerds that get excited about things like camera mounts).

So you know know that you’ll have great lens options moving forward.

Super Compact Option | Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 VII

While the Sony RX100 VII actually costs more than some of the crop sensor interchangeable lens cameras above, what you are getting for that price is an ultra-compact camera that is easy to take with you anywhere and still get high-quality images.

Click below to compare prices and check availability…

Specs

  • 20MP 1″-type stacked-CMOS sensor with phase detection and built-in DRAM
  • 24-200mm equivalent F2.8-4.5 zoom
  • Retractable 2.36M-dot EVF with 0.59x equiv. magnification
  • 3″ touchscreen LCD (flips up 180° or down by 90°)
  • Intervalometer
  • Wi-Fi with Bluetooth and NFC

While the prospect of only having to carry with you a super compact camera for those long exposure opportunities, they do pose a significant hurdle to long exposure photography. Most such cameras don’t have built in filter threads.

While the Sony RX100 VII is no exception to that (it has no filter threads), it is an exceptionally high-quality compact camera with a 20MP 1″ sensor that makes it ideal for keeping your bag light on excursions AND you can get a very inexpensive adapter that lets you add filters to the camera.

The Lensmate Quickchange Filter Adapter Kit let’s you easily add any 52mm filter to the front of either the RX100 VI or the RX100 VII.

CLICK HERE to check it out on Amazon.

So while the Sony RX100 VII does fall short of the other options on this list, it makes up for that by being compact enough that you can always have it with you.

What To Look For In A Camera For Long Exposure Photography

Long exposure photography is basically just a form of landscape photography, so much of what you want in a camera for these types of images will be the same things that any landscape photographer is looking for.

Here are some of the most important factors.

Resolution

Any time you are shooting a landscape image, more resolution is a bonus.

More megapixels means that you can make larger prints without losing quality, you can crop in more for compelling compositions, and the overall image quality tends to be better in general when you have more pixels to play with in post-production.

Of course, more megapixels comes with a higher price tag, so you need to balance that out with your budget.

I have found that the 24 MP range is plenty to get very high quality images in almost all situations. Of course the 40+ MP beasts like our top pick here will give you a lot more flexibility and detail, but often it can be overkill.

Durability and Handling

If you are taking your camera out on hikes and excursions to find that next epic long exposure composition, then you need a camera that can stand up to the elements and stand up to human clumsiness too.

Build quality, weather sealing, and overall durability is important for any landscape photographer.

Good handling (or ergonomics) in a camera means that it is easy to hold and easy to access the features you need without digging into the menus on the camera.

That’s why higher end cameras have more buttons and dials. You want to be able to make changes quickly and intuitively when you are out in the field.

Portability

Long exposure photography often means carrying your camera gear to a location.

Which makes a lighter, more compact camera a great option. All of the cameras on this list are relatively compact and easy to take with you on yoru next excursion. But some are more compact than others.

The higher quality cameras and lens systems are always going to be bigger so you need to balance that out with the portability factor.

Price

We can’t talk about cameras without talking about price.

A new camera is an investment, so you need to figure out how much you are willing to invest.

I tried to give you a good range of price options above.

For the most part you get what you pay for but all of the cameras above will allow you to create compelling long exposure images.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is long exposure bad for a camera?

No, long exposure is not bad for a camera. Cameras, especially higher end cameras, are designed to handle exposures of many minutes without experiencing any harm. However, once your exposures reach over a few minutes, you may start to see “hot pixels” in the resulting image. This doesn’t mean there is any damage to the sensor but it’s not ideal to have in your image.

Best Nikon DX Travel Lens for 2020

Important SpecsView On Amazon
Top Pick
Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR
Max Aperture: f/2.8-4
Weight: 16.93 oz
72mm Filter

Budget Option
Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G
Max Aperture: f/1.8
Weight: 7 oz
52mm Filter

Pro-Level Zoom
Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM
Max Aperture: f/2.8
Weight: 19.2 oz
77mm Filter

Largest Zoom Range
Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G VR
Max Aperture: f/3.5-6.3
Weight: 19.4 oz
67mm Filter

Best For Landscape Shooters
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 ATX Pro DX II
Max Aperture: f/2.8
Weight: 19.4 oz
77mm Filter

At the heart of every camera is its sensor. This little rectangular gadget takes wavelengths of light and turns it into the zeros and ones that make up the digital data of our photographs. Nikon produces two different sized sensors: the large FX sensor at 36x24mm, and the smaller DX ‘crop’ sensor at 24x16mm.

DX bodies and lenses are typically smaller, lightweight, and more affordable than their full frame counterparts. While FX lenses typically produce higher quality images, the difference is negligible for most amateur photographers and many pros as well.

I’ll be honest…most of my photos go on Instagram, not billboards, so sensor size doesn’t really matter much.

So, you’ve done your research and bought a crop sensor Nikon body, because it was lightweight and compact – perfect for your backpacking trip across Patagonia.

And now, it’s time to find the best DX travel lens for your trips!

To help you out, I’ve put together a breakdown of some great crop lenses for your Nikon DX-format sensor camera body.

Top Picks

Click Below For Details

Nikon AF-S DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 E ED VR | Top Pick

Zoom lenses are versatile. And we humans – photographer or not – love versatility. Heck, I don’t own a single tool, just a toolbox full of different multi-tools! So naturally we gravitate towards zoom lenses. Why take a handful of lenses when I can take one?! That’s just more to carry…

Nikon AF-S DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4

This Nikon 16-80mm covers the perfect travel range and the f/2.8-4 max aperture is enough to let you get the shots you want when the sun goes down on your travels. You could shoot an entire trip with just this lens and never miss a shot.

CLICK below to compare prices…

The Nikon 16-80mm f/2.8 VR lens kind of does it all, and the price reflects that. The built in vibration reduction (VR) is really handy.  It makes handheld shooting, especially in low light, much more successful. The 16-80mm range and wide aperture is impressive, and paired with the vibration reduction, you’re basically unstoppable. Snap that mountain vista, then zoom on the swooping falcon and “snap!” grab that too.

If you’re after the “do-it-all-and-still-be-stunned” lens, then this is it. You’re hardly going to regret lugging around this one pound powerhouse.

At such a compact size, light weight, and affordable price, there’s no reason not to sling this little gem into your travel pack.

Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G | Budget Option

Every good photographer should have a prime lens in the arsenal of lenses. They are simple, easy to use and oh so satisfying for reasons that science can’t explain. They’re just fun.

Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G

The Nikon 35mm f/1.8 is the one lens every Nikon DX camera owner should have. It’s the equivalent to a full-frame 50mm and gives you the ability to get clean shots in low light at a reasonable cost.

CLICK below to compare prices…

This Nikon 35mm with an f/1.8 aperture is a great lens. A crop sensor introduces a 1.5x crop – so this 35mm will appear tighter, more like a 50mm lens. 50mm is the sweet spot for producing beautiful undistorted.

Its real selling point is the wide aperture. Shallow depth of field and beautiful bokeh has become a hallmark for high quality (or ‘artistic’) images. And with an aperture that wide you can feel confident shooting images in low light conditions. So spin that dial back and open it right up, shoot all day and shoot all night… just because you can.

Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM | Pro-Level Zoom

No, it’s focal range isn’t as impressive as the aforementioned Nikon, and no, it’s not smaller or lighter… but it is more affordable.

Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8

One of the best Nikon DX lenses available and it isn’t a Nikon! The Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 is a wide aperture zoom that is the crop-sensor version of a full-frame 24-70mm. Impeccable sharpness and a constant f/2.8 makes this a very useful lens in a variety of situations.

CLICK below to compare prices…

This one’s for the shooter on a shoestring budget. You’ve probably already spent your camera budget on flights around the world, and just need something that will take great photos and not blow a hole in your pocket.

By no means is the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 a bad lens. Far from it, in fact. Sigma has installed its own brand of vibration reduction – Optical Stabilization (OS), again increasing the performance of the lens when being used handheld and/or in low light. 

Certainly a selling point of this lens (if not the price) is the wide aperture. Wide aperture photos with blurry backgrounds and sharp, shallow focal points are just, well… cool. And to have that capability in an affordably priced, good quality zoom lens, WITH stabilization, is also pretty cool if you ask me.

Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G VR | Best Zoom Range

Maybe you don’t care about bokeh-filled, shallow depth-of-field photographs of mountain flowers at dusk, you just want ZOOM. You want to see what the mountain lion is eating for lunch half way down the valley; you want to see the expression on the face of the gargoyle grazing the sky at the top of the cathedral. 18-300mm, how’s that for versatility! Need I say more?

Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G

With a massive zoom range, this could be the only lens you take on your trip. Good image quality and vibration reduction make this lens a great option for traveling. But the size and weight may be a negative for some looking for a lighter kit.

CLICK below to compare prices…

The selling feature of the Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5 VR is the outrageous focal range that it sports (equivalent to up to 450mm with the 1.5x crop factor on the DX sensor – that’s a lot of zoom!). I also really like the incorporation of VR stabilization. With VR on, it is much easier to take sharp handheld images at full zoom. For a travel setup with no extra lenses, the sharp images it can produce at any focal range may be a determining feature.

Unfortunately you can’t have it all. This lens is understandably the heaviest of those I have touched on, but not by much. Plus, the aperture leaves some to be desired. Shooting in low light is going to be difficult without a tripod. This is alleviated to some point by the VR stabilization.

If you love lens versatility and don’t mind the extra weight, then jump on one of these. Pick up a tripod while you’re at it, and you’ll be shooting through the night!

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 ATX Pro DX II | For Landscape Shooters

On the flip side, maybe you don’t care about how close you can get to the subject. You want to have it ALL in the shot. You’re probably a sucker for a seascape, a landscape lover, you have “wide-or-die” tattooed across your chest.

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8

Perfect for travelers that prefer to shoot landscapes and are looking to save some money compared to the Nikon brand lenses, this Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 is a surprisingly high-quality lens for the price.

CLICK below to compare prices…

None of the other lenses I have covered compare to the wide angle capabilities of the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8. With a crop sensor it is more difficult to get really wide. But this lens does a good job pushing the focal limit, making this barely an issue.

Another solid feature is the wide aperture. Again, you’re going to find easy shooting in low light, nice bokeh and shallow depth of field possible. However, this lens is one of the heavier lenses, and it does not have any kind of stabilization. For its intended purpose, this probably wouldn’t present any real challenges

This is the obvious choice if you primarily shoot night scenes, landscapes, seascapes, cityscapes, or you just like the wide angle look. And, it is certainly modestly priced for a good quality wide angle lens.

What To Look For In A Nikon DX Travel Lens

DX lenses are typically far cheaper than full frame lenses. If you are shooting with a full frame body, don’t disregard DX lenses, most will work on your FX camera body. Just toggle the crop frame function and keep shooting like normal.

What to look for always comes down to your personal preference and the kind of travel you are embarking on. If you are solo backpacking the PCT then the weight is number one. Take the 35mm prime lens, it weighs nothing. If you’re heading to Rome for a three-week vacation, then versatility is key. Take the zoom lens that won’t break the bank, so you got more in the tank for gelato and pizza.

Size and Weight

Usually, when you are traveling you want to be light and fast. That’s where Nikon’s DX range excels. Fast, light, and effective. For this purpose, I highly regard versatility and portability when making a travel lens selection. 

What defines your portability requirements is the way you like to travel. For the solo backpacker space is at a premium. You might only take a simple zoom, or prime lens. The city hopper on the other hand may have space for a bulkier lens, or even multiple lenses.

Versatility

On the other side of the coin is versatility. Will this lens be able to capture all the pictures I want to take? If wide angle street photography is your thing, then you’re not going to a 300mm zoom lens be particularly versatile. First, think about what kind of images you would like to create, then define what lens (or focal range) will help you achieve this most effectively.

Image Quality

It should go without saying that image quality is always a big factor when buying a lens. Even though the DX crop sensor lenses are the top of the range, there’s no need to shirk on image quality. These lenses are good! I believe if you’re adding to your photography kit you should always aim for something with better glass than what you currently have.

Consider it future proofing… remember you can still use DX lenses on a FX body for when you want to upgrade your camera body.

Cost

Finally, try and stay in your budget! There are many different price points and options when purchasing a new lens. Aftermarket lenses are often cheaper than native lenses, usually with very little change in image quality (sometimes aftermarket lenses can be better!) Consider the second hand market.

Try snag a good deal if you’re really set on a particular product but beware of potentially faulty items. Certainly, the simpler lenses are cheaper. The prime Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G is the cheapest lens I reviewed, but by no means is it weak!

Pick The One That Suits Your Needs

I usually travel light. Sometimes to cities, other times the wilderness, but always with my gear on my back. My bag is always pretty loaded, so I have to be tight on my camera-gear-allowance.

I find myself more often just taking one lens with me, attached to my camera around my neck or in my backpack. I flip between being infatuated with high zoom, then wide-angle photography. When I’m heading out the door I just grab the one I’m in love with that day and just roll with it.

Common Questions About Nikon DX Lenses

How do I know if my Nikon lens is DX or FX?

Crop sensor Nikon lenses are marked with “DX” on the lens barrel. Other brands will likely be marked with “DX” or something similar, such as “DC” (Sigma), or “Di” (Tamron).

Can you use FX lenses on DX cameras?

Yes. FX lenses project a circle of light large enough to cover the 36x24mm FX sensor. The DX sensor is smaller, at 24x16mm, so the image will be cropped smaller. Functionally, your focal length will appear 1.5x larger when using an FX lens on a DX body. 35mm will feel like 50mm if you are used to shooting full frame.

You can also use DX lenses on FX bodies. Your camera should detect that you are using a DX lens, or you can manually toggle the crop function on your camera body.

Best Camera For Family Photography

Important SpecsClick To Compare Prices
Sony A6500
Editor’s Pick
24.2 Megapixels
APS-C Sensor
Image Stabilization
Up to 11fps
4k Video
453g body
Canon EOS Rebel T7
Budget Option
24.1 Megapixels
APS-C Sensor
Up to 3fps
HD Video
475g

Nikon Z50
Mirrorless Pick
20.9 Megapixels
APS-C Sensor
Image Stabilization (lens only)
Up to 11fps
4K Video
395g

Nikon D5600
Best DSLR
24.2 Megapixels
APS-C Sensor
Up to 5 fps
HD Video
465g

Sony A7III
Pro Level Pick
24.2 Megapixels
Full-frame Sensor
Image Stabilization
4K Video
Up to 10 fps
635g

Sony RX100VI
Best Point and Shoot
20.1 Megapixels
1″ Sensor
Image Stabilization
4K Video
Up to 24fps
301g

Whether you’re just starting a new family or looking for a way to capture more family photos, upgrading from the cell phone camera is a great way to capture higher quality family photos.

But with hundreds of options on the market, the choice can be quite overwhelming.

So hopefully this guide to the best cameras for family photography can help you narrow down the options a little bit. You can see that instead of just giving you a list of cameras, I tried to break them down into categories that might be helpful to you.

Top Picks

Click Below For Details

Sony a6500 | Top Overall Pick

Sony was one of the first major manufacturers to jump into mirrorless cameras and that move paid off huge as they quickly got up to the level of Canon and Nikon as far as camera sales. The Sony a6500 is a great camera that will improve your family photos and also let you expand into more advanced photography if you choose to.

Best Camera For Family Photography

Sony a6500

The Sony a6500 is a solid and compact interchangeable lens camera that does everything you need for great family photos and video and will let you experience more advanced photography as you learn more.

CLICK below to check availability…

One of the best features of Sony mirrorless cameras is their eye autofocus capability. This is a feature that will identify the eye of a person (as long as they are close enough) and focus right in on the eye itself. In most cases it can even distinguish between the eyeball and eyelashes.

Any portrait photographer will tell you that the key to a sharp image is nailing focus right on the eyes (and sometimes if the person is close to the camera you can narrow that down even more to focusing on the eye closes to the lens). That is exactly what the eye autofocus feature can do.

This camera has image stabilization built into the camera itself. That means that when shooting still subjects, you can use a slower shutter speed and still have the image come out sharp. It also means that you can shoot video handheld and the camera will compensate for a lot of the camera shake giving you much less jittery video.

The Sony a6500 does fall a little short when it comes to weather sealing though. That means you have to be a little more careful about taking it out in rain, near the ocean, or in dusty conditions. The more expensive a6600 has better weather sealing.

The main reason I didn’t choose the newer a6600 is the price. At about $400-500 more than the a6500, the added features (while impressive) aren’t necessary for most family photography.

Canon EOS Rebel T7 | Budget Option

Canon is the biggest name in photography and the Canon EOS REbel T7 (also called the EOS 2000D because Canon likes to confuse you) is a solid entry-level DSLR camera that is very affordable. If you are just getting started with photography and want to save some money, this is a great option and will give you noticeably better images than even the best cell phone cameras.

Canon EOS Rebel T7

The Canon EOS Rebel T7 is a simple straightforward DSLR that gets the job done very well at an affordable price that makes it a great fit for families on a budget that still want great family photos.

CLICK below to compare prices…

The Rebel T7 has a 24.1 megapixel sensor which is plenty of resolution to capture the average family trip (or just about anything else).

This being a Canon camera, you will have the advantage of the huge canon lens library to choose from. There are plenty of options from affordable to extremely high end. Keep in mind that this is a crop sensor camera with a 1.6x crop factor. That means that the effective focal length of any lens will be multiplied by 1.6 (so a 50mm lens will have the field of view of a 75mm focal length).

The rear LCD screen is not a touch screen (not a big deal) but it’s also a fixed in place screen (bigger deal). That means you can’t tilt it up and down to get different angles for your photography while still being able to see the screen easily.

It also lacks Canon’s Dual Pixel Autofocus, their relatively new autofocus system that works really well to grab focus quickly and accurately and is a favorite among video shooters as well. But, I wouldn’t consider a top-notch autofocus system a necessity for family photography since Canon’s prior autofocus system was pretty good already. Most amateur photographers will not even miss the Dual Pixel Autofocus.

Nikon Z50 | Mirrorless Pick

Nikon doesn’t have the market share of Canon or Sony but they have been making great cameras for over 50 years. Nikon cameras are known for their great ergonomics and build quality and that has carried over to their first-generation crop sensor mirrorless camera. The Nikon Z50 was a very close call for our top pick and would make an excellent addition to any family’s household.

Nikon Z50

The Nikon Z50 features Nikon’s well known attention to ergonomics and images quality in a smaller mirrorless package that is easy to use and will make it easy for you to take on more advanced photography projects as well.

CLICK below to compare prices…

Just to get this out of the way…I know that the overall top pick above is also a mirrorless camera as well. But I can’t put the same camera in this category, so I wanted to give you a second option.

For what its worth, even though I use a D750 for my professional work, this is the camera that I have with for everyday photos.

The image quality of the Nikon Z50 is right up there with almost any crop-sensor camera. It has a 20.9 MP sensor, which is good, but not great. I would have liked it better with 24MP, but it comes pretty close. It also handles low light about as well as any crop sensor camera out there from any brand.

The Z50 also has Nikon’s new Z Mount. This is the largest mount among the big manufacturers as well as the closest to the sensor. While the mount may look giant next to the crop sensor in this camera, there are a few major advantages.

First, the close proximity to the sensor (that’s called flange distance) as well as the large opening means that Nikon (and other lens manufacturers) have more options open to them when creating lenses. That allows them to develop smaller lenses for cameras like the Z50 but also super-fast full frame lenses like the new Noct 50mm f/0.95. So you can get this camera knowing that you’re ready for future lens technology.

On top of the specs you can read about, Nikon gives a lot of attention to the way their images are processed in the camera and the result is among the best in color rendition and overall quality. That is Nikon’s secret recipe that you can’t really see in a spec sheet.

There are a few downsides though and these are the reasons why the Sony a6500 got the top spot.

The Nikon Z50 lacks image stabilization built into the body. So far both crop sensor Z Mount lenses do include in-lens image stabilization. But that means that you won’t get any image stabilization if you use the adapter with older lenses that don’t have it. That’s a real bummer because one of the cool things about mirrorless cameras is the ability to easily adapt them to a wide variety of vintage (and really inexpensive) lenses.

The Sony also has more megapixels which can be helpful if you like to shoot landscapes on family vacations or find yourself cropping in on images often.

Nikon D5600 | Best DSLR

The Nikon D5600 is the next level up from the more budget-friendly Canon model above. It is still a crop sensor camera but with a better image sensor and some additional features that you may find useful.

Nikon D5600

The Nikon D5600 is a highly capable DSLR camera with great image quality

CLICK below to compare prices…

If you want to stick with the traditional DSLR camera, then the D5600 is going to let you create some high-quality images and is a great value for the money. This camera is a DSLR camera like the budget option above, but its certainly an upgrade.

You’ll get better low light performance with the D5600 over the Canon model above as well as slightly better image quality.

You’ll also get a flip out screen. The screen on the D5600 flips out to the side and rotates around. That means that you can see it from behind the camera and above or below, but you can also flip it around 180 degrees to see the screen when the camera is facing you. This is very helpful for shooting selfies or setting the camera on a tripod and shooting video of yourself.

Like Canon, Nikon also has a tremendous lens lineup including the Nikon lenses and third party lenses. You’ll have plenty of choices if you want to upgrade the glass. In addition, the Nikon crop sensor cameras use the same mount as the full-frame cameras. So you can use high-quality full-frame lenses in this camera and add them over time if you want to plan ahead to a switch to full-frame.

Sony A7III | Pro-Level Pick

The Sony A7III is the 3rd generation of their mid pro-level Mirrorless camera line. It doesn’t have the insane resolution of the A7R lineup or the great video performance of the A7S lineup but it does everything really well.

Sony A7III

The Sony A7III is…

CLICK below to compare prices…

The Sony A7III is arguably one of the best cameras on the market today. You could consider it their “basic” full-frame model but I think it is more accurately characterized as a utility camera because it does everything pretty good and at a lower price than high-resolution A7RIV.

A full-frame sensor means higher quality images compared to the crop-sensor cameras on this list as well as much better performance in low light situations. This camera uses a back-side illuminated (BSI) sensor to deliver great quality in low light.

The larger sensor also makes it easier to blur the background of your photos for that professional portrait look.

The camera has a touch screen with one odd caveat. You can use the touch screen to set focus, which is extremely helpful compared to using buttons or a joystick to move the focus points. However, the touch screen doesn’t work for accessing menu options in the camera. The focusing is probably more important, but it seems weird to make that distinction.

As the third version of the R7 model, this camera has made some important improvements over its predecessors. One of the most important for you is probably the battery life. Sony’s first attempts at mirrorless cameras had terrible battery life and required you to carry a handful of batteries with you for an extended outing.

The R7III has made significant improvements on battery life, just about doubling that of its predecessor. You can expect around 700+ shots out of one fully charged battery under most circumstances.

When it comes to video, the Sony A7III is one of the best around outside of the dedicated cinema cameras. A good number of professional videographers use this camera for handheld or on the go shooting.

Sony RX100VI | Best Point and Shoot

While point and shoots are slowly being replaced by cell phone cameras, a high-quality point and shoot camera can be just as good as an interchangeable lens camera in many situations and much more compact. The Sony RX100VI is at the top of this narrow field of exceptional point and shoots that are still worth it.

Sony RX100VI

With a massive zoom range of 24-200mm and very good image quality for such a small form factor, the Sony RX100VI could be the camera that you always have in your bag for those sudden family photo ops.

CLICK below to compare prices…

This camera may seem a little pricey for a “point and shoot” but it really deserves to be compared to the other interchangeable lens cameras on this list because of its capabilities. In fact, this is one of the only point and shoot cameras that is worth buying.

If you don’t want to step up to this price range for a point and shoot, then you’ll probably be better off just sticking with your cell phone or checking out the budget-friendly DSLR above.

First, let’s talk about the image quality and the sensor on this camera. It is a 1-inch sensor which is smaller than the crop-sensor cameras here and much smaller than the full-frame Sony A7III below. Compared to the full-frame camera, this camera has a crop factor of 2.7.

But Sony’s listed 24-200mm focal length is the full-frame equivalent. The actual physical focal length of the lens is 8.8-74mm, so rest assured you are getting the actual 24-200mm field of view and don’t have to worry about the crop factor.

In general, a larger sensor will give you better image quality and perform better in low light. So if you plan on taking a lot of photos in low light situations then this may not be the best option.

That being said, everything else about this camera is pretty great. It has an aperture of f/2.8-4.5 and a zoom range of 24-200mm. So you’ll be able to get the shot you want in a wide variety of situations. It’s this zoom range that really sets it apart from any cell phone camera.

If you’ve ever tried shooting your kids game with your iPhone only to realize that they are a tiny spot in a super-wide photo, then you’ll see a massive difference with this zoom.

Keep in mind that the lens on this camera is fixed, which means you can’t swap it out like you can on every other camera here. That plus the smaller sensor is why Sony is able to make this camera so small.

It does come with image stabilization which is very helpful when shooting at the 200mm end of the zoom range or when shooting video at any focal length. Speaking of video, you can shoot 4k video with this camera as well.

What You Should Look For When Choosing A Camera For Family Photography

If you’re reading this then you’re not necessarily looking for the perfect camera…you want a camera that will work great as a family camera. One that you can have with you for pictures of the kids and other family members.

So rather than just give you a list of the best of the best, you can see above I tried to focus on features that would be useful for your needs. Here are the factors that weighed most heavily in making those picks…

Ease Of Use

Your camera is no good to you if it’s too complicate to learn.

If you want to capture those great family moments then you need to be able to grab your camera quick and get the photo. So a camera that is easy to use and get results with is essential.

Pro-level cameras can create incredible images but they also carry with them a bit of a learning curve. They are amazing tools IF you take the time to learn how to use them.

But if you are looking for a camera that is ideal for family photography like vacations, birthdays, and everyday candid photos, then some of the mid-level cameras (like most of the options on this page) are ideal. These models tend to be smaller and more user friendly than their bigger more powerful pro level cousins.

Image Quality

Any decent camera will be an investment, so you want to make sure that you’re getting high quality images from the camera. After all, if you want just average quality images, you can just use your cell phone.

Generally speaking, larger sensors on cameras will produce higher quality images, but they are also more expensive. Many pro-level cameras, like the one on this list, are often “full-frame” sensors. That means the sensor is approximately the same size as a frame of 35mm film.

The next step down in size is often referred to as a “crop sensor.” Crop sensors are a great middle ground of good image quality while also being more compact and affordable. That’s why most of the cameras on this list are crop sensor cameras.

One of the biggest benefits of a full-frame sensor is the ability to get high quality images in low light situations. This can be especially helpful if you think you’ll be shooting a lot indoors where you can’t use a flash or shooting indoor sports.

Versatility

Family photography can cover a lot of different genres of photography. You’ll end up shooting portraits, sports, travel, indoor events, and probably even some landscape photos.

Cameras with interchangeable lenses make it very easy to adapt to all these different situations.

You can start off with a lens that covers commonly used focal lengths such as 35mm and 50mm and then add more lenses in the future as your budget allows.

Build Quality

You want to make sure you get a camera that lasts, especially since you are going to invest a good chunk of money on the camera.

Some cameras are just more rugged overall. At some point you are going to drop the camera or bump it into something…especially when there are kids involved.

An important feature to look for in a camera is weather sealing. This helps the camera resist the elements. This doesn’t mean the camera is water proof, just that it can be resistant to things like a splash of water, light rain, sand, or dust.

Video Capability

Everyone loves to shoot and watch home movies. Unless they are someone else’s home movies, then you just sit and pretend it’s interesting.

But having a camera that can handle video shooting in addition to still photography is a great benefit to most families. Sure, you can use your phone for most video shooting duties nowadays, but for those special moments, that little extra bit of quality really makes a big difference.

Also, dedicated cameras do a MUCH better job shooting video in lower light situations (like singing happy birthday when the only lights on are the candles on the cake). So in choosing the cameras above, I made sure to consider their ability to shoot quality videos.

DSLR or Mirrorless For Family Photography?

If you’ve spent any amount of time researching new cameras, then you’ve probably noticed that there is a big deal being made between mirrorless and DSLR cameras.

The truth is that most of the hype is marketing. Mirrorless cameras are just DSLR cameras with the internal mirror removed. The mirror is what allows you to look into the viewfinder and view your frame through the lens. With a mirrorless camera you simply use the rear LCD screen or a tiny screen in the viewfinder to see through the lens.

A major benefit of mirrorless cameras is that you can see a preview of the exposure exactly how it will turn out when you take the picture. So you can make adjustments and see them in real time.

This makes learning to use the camera much faster and easier. That’s why most of the cameras on this list are mirrorless models.

Mirrorless cameras are also generally smaller and lighter than DSLRs, which is helpful when you want a camera to have with you on a regular basis during family activities.

Best Walk Around Lens For Nikon

Important SpecsView On Amazon
Top Pick
Nikon 24-120mm f/4G ED FX
Max Aperture: f/4
Weight: 25.1 oz
Full Frame
77mm Filter
Budget Pick
Nikon 50mm f/1.8
Max Aperture: f/1.8
Weight: 6.6 oz
Full Frame
58mm Filter
Crop Sensor Pick
Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 Contemporary
Max Aperture: f/2.8-4
Weight: 16.5 oz
Crop Sensor
72mm Filter
High-End Option
Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8
Max Aperture:
Weight: 31.7 oz
Full Frame
82mm Filter
Z Mount Pick
Nikon S 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR
Max Aperture: f/4-6.3
Weight: 20.2 oz
Full Frame Z Mount
67mm Filter
Largest Zoom Range
Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Contemporary
Max Aperture: f/3.5-6.3
Weight: 16.5 oz
Full Frame
72mm Filter
Runner-Up
Tamron 35-150mm f/2.8-4
Max Aperture: f/2.8
Weight: 27.9 oz
Full Frame
77mm Filter

So you’ve got your new Nikon camera and the (probably mediocre) kit lens that came with it.

Now you want to take the camera out on your daily adventures or to that upcoming trip, but you want a lens that you can leave on the camera for walking around and still be able to cover most of the photo opportunities that present themselves.

To help you narrow it down, here are my top picks for the best walk around lenses for Nikon cameras.

Top Picks

Click below for detailed reviews

Nikon 24-120mm f/4G ED FX | Top Pick

With a big zoom range in a relatively compact form factor, the 24-120mm lens from Nikon is an ideal walk around lens.

Best Walk Around Lens For Nikon

Nikon 24-120mm f/4G ED FX

The 24-120mm makes the top spot as the best walk around lens with a combination of a big zoom range with a consistent f/4 max aperture to give you the ability to handle a wide range of shots.

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 lens is a high quality full frame lens (which will also work on crop sensor Nikon bodies). It is designed for the advanced amateur or even professional who needs a lot of versatility.

The constant f/4 aperture is a useful feature commonly seen on professional level lenses. It means that as you zoom the lens in and out, the aperture will remain constant so you don’t have to worry about adjusting the exposure.

The best feature of this lens is the big zoom range.

24mm is wide enough for shooting landscapes or wide shots of large indoor spaces while traveling. On the other end, the 120mm focal length is great for tight portraits and getting close to subjects like animals.

For such a wide zoom range, this lens also has very good image quality. It was originally designed with and sold as a kit with the Nikon D750 camera which was a very capable high-quality camera. This lens will hold up even on higher resolution bodies such as the D850. It also works with the new Z series cameras with the FTZ Adapter.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 | Budget Option

The “Nifty Fifty” is an affordable, very high quality lens that every photographer should have in their bag. While it lacks the versatility of a more expensive zoom lens, the 50mm f/1.8 from Nikon makes for a great walk around lens.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8

The 50mm should be in every photographer’s bag and it makes a compact, high-quality option as a walk around lens that also handles low light shots with a wide max aperture.

The biggest advantage the 50mm has over some of the other lenses on this list is the wide 1.8 maximum aperture. This will give you the ability to get well exposed images even in lower light situations.

Prime lenses are much less expensive to design and manufacture and typically deliver much higher image quality than zoom lenses. Of course in exchange for the image quality and the fast maximum aperture, you give up the versatility of a zoom lens.

This lens is also much smaller and lighter (6.6 oz) than any other lens on this list.

50mm is often referred to as a “normal lens.” This is because on a full frame sensor it gives a field of view and perspective that is very close to what we see with our own eyes.

This “middle ground” focal length means that you can photograph a wide range of subjects. You won’t be able to get the magnification of a long telephoto or the wide angle look, but for a prime lens, this will be quite versatile.

Remember, if you have a crop sensor camera body, this lens will have the field of view of a 75mm lens. Which you might find too long to be a useful walk around lens.

The DX (crop sensor) equivalent to this is the 35mm f/1.8 for about the same price. CLICK HERE to check availability on Amazon.

Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 Contemporary DC OS HSM | Crop Sensor Pick

For those of you that use a Nikon crop sensor (DX) camera, the Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 Comtemporary model is the lens that you’ll end up leaving on your camera most of the of time.

Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4

The wide zoom range and a max aperture that is hard to find on lenses this compact make the Sigma 17-70mm a great choice for crop sensor shooters.

There are more Nikon crop sensor shooters out there than full frame. Now, every Nikon full frame (FX) lens will work on a Nikon crop sensor (DX) camera too. But if you don’t have any intention to ever upgrade to an FX camera, then buying an FX lens is overkill.

Sigma built this lens with a composite material rather than plastic or metal which makes it lighter while at the same time making it fairly durable and rugged.

The image quality is very good in this lens, especially when compared to the kit lenses that are often sold in a bundle with Nikon crop sensor cameras. Even when shooting at f/2.8 or f/4 you’ll get great sharpness, especially in the center of the image.

The lens extends when zoomed in but the front of the camera does not rotate when you zoom in and out or when you adjust focus. This is really useful if you are using a filter on the front of the lens that will affect the image when rotated, such as a circular polarizer or a graduated ND filter.

One thing to be aware of with Sigma lenses is that the zoom ring rotates the opposite direction of Nikon lenses. So if you are a long time Nikon shooter, this takes some getting used to. I used a Sigma lens for a long time on my Nikon camera, though, and it doesn’t take that much time to get used to.

One thing to keep in mind is that the 2.8 aperture is only available at the widest zoom setting of 17mm. Once you zoom in from there it quickly goes up to an f/4 maximum aperture. But for a small and light lens with this much of a zoom range, f/4 is pretty impressive.

If you like to shoot macro photography during your photo walks, this lens has a minimum focusing distance of 2″ from your subject, allowing you to get real close. That is also helpful when you want to shoot a landscape and get real close to something interesting in the foreground.

Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 | High-End Option

If you want to invest in a high-quality full frame lens that is perfect as a walk around lens, the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 is a professional level mid-range zoom lens with amazing image quality that is about half the price as its Nikon brand equivalent.

Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8

The middle piece of a full-frame lens “trinity,” a fast 24-70mm lens is a workhorse that many photographers use more than any other lens. This is an investment that you’ll never regret.

The 24-70 f/2.8 lens is a common focal length/aperture combination used by all genres of professional photographers. The 2.8 maximum aperture is large enough to create portrait style photos with that beautiful shallow depth of field. In addition, the image quality is good enough to shoot razor sharp landscape images.

So basically you can use this lens for just about anything and get amazing result.

There are two downsides to this lens.

The first downside is the cost. Coming in at over $1000, this is the most expensive lens on this list. However, this Tamron version of the 24-70 is still half the price of the Nikon version.

The other downside to this lens is that it is the heaviest lens on this list as well. Although the overall weight difference isn’t that much more than some of the others here.

If you are willing to make the investment in a lens like this, though, you’ll have one that has the versatility to be everything from the ultimate walk around lens to one that you can shoot professional level work with.

Nikon S 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR | Nikon Z Mount Pick

The new Mirrorless system from Nikon is really exciting. Smaller size, lighter lenses, great image quality, and advanced technology built in to the cameras and lenses make the Z Mount system (the compatible lenses are designated as “S” lenses) ideal for an everyday camera that you can keep with you for those unexpected photo opportunities.

Nikon S 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR

The Nikon S 24-200mm is the perfect every day lens for the Nikon Z Mount system. Paired with the Z6, Z7, or even the crop sensor Z50, this lens gives you all the versatility you could need for a walk around lens.

The Nikon S 24-200mm f/4-6.3 has a big zoom range, decent aperture, incredible sharpness, and comes in a light package that makes it ideal as a walk-around lens.

One of the undeniable features of all the Z-Mount lenses is the image quality. The larger Z mount makes it easier to direct the light entering the lens onto the sensor without as many glass elements as may have been needed for the older F-Mount. This means cleaner images and higher resolution. Seeing as the Z7 offers 45.7 megapixels, the Z lenses need to be up to the task.

In addition, the 24-200mm zoom ranges is one of the best on this list, second only to the Sigma lens below. But the Nikon S 24-200mm is superior to the Sigma in image quality. So if you have a Nikon Z camera, this is the clear winner.

Tamron 35-150mm f/2.8-4 | Runner-Up

The Tamron 35-150mm f/2.8-4 was a close second to my top pick above. But that doesn’t mean this is a bad lens, in fact there are a lot of reasons you may want to choose it over the Nikon above.

Tamron 35-150mm f/2.8-4

The Tamron 35-150mm is a less expensive alternative to my top pick above and the longer max focal length plus the wider max aperture at 35mm might even make it the best option for many photographers.

To start with, this lens is a few hundred dollars cheaper than the Nikon 24-120mm. It also gives you more reach on the long end with a 150mm max focal length as well as a wider aperture at the 35mm end with f/2.8.

The extra reach is useful if your every day activities include more telephoto intensive types of photography such as shooting your kid’s sports.

One of the downsides to this lens is that it isn’t quite as wide as some of the other options here with the widest focal length being 35mm. If you tend to shoot a lot of landscapes or just like using wider focal lengths, then this lens may not suit your needs as well as some of the others here.

But if your typical photo walk includes more people and details rather than wider shots, then this may be perfect for you, especially if you are able to take advantage of the wider aperture at 35mm.

Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Contemporary DC OS HSM | Biggest Zoom Range

If you are looking for a huge zoom range and maximum versatility, then the Sigma 18-300mm is a great option.

Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3

The Sigma 18-300mm has a massive zoom range and a surprisingly wide max aperture at the wide end to make it the ultimate in versatility (as long as you don’t need to shoot in low light above 18mm).

You’d be hard pressed to find a subject or situation that can’t be covered well with that zoom range.

However, you do give up some image quality and have to contend with a smaller maximum aperture of f/6.3 at the long end of the zoom range. On the plus side, however, the f/3.5 maximum aperture at the wide end is actually better than the top pick above.

What To Look For In A Walk Around Lens

Versatility (Zoom Range)

If you’re looking for a goof walk around lens then the ability to use the same lens in a wide variety of situations should probably be your primary concern.

Build Quality

A “walk around lens” usually means a lens that you can keep on your camera most of the time during your every day travels or even a lens that you would keep on your camera during a vacation just to have with you for unexpected photo opportunities.

That means that the lens will get a lot of use. So you need a durable lens.

All of the lenses above have good to excellent build quality. Higher end models like the Tamron 24-70mm are “pro” lenses and have excellent build quality as well as weather sealing. Pro photographers put their cameras and lenses through a lot of use and sometimes in harsh conditions. So you can feel confident that a lens like that is going to last.

But even below that pro category, every other lens on this list is going to take repeated use and still perform as if it was new.

Image Quality

I listed this factor third because if you are looking for a “walk-around” lens then you’re probably weighing convenience much higher than impeccable image quality.

It’s hard to make generalized statements about image quality, but typically lenses with huge zoom ranges tend to sacrifice a little bit of sharpness in exchange for that versatility. Cost is also a factor as you typically get what you pay for when it comes to lenses.

That being said, modern lenses are all pretty good when it comes to image quality, so unless you are shooting professionally for a very demanding client, any of the lenses on this list are going to give you really sharp crisp images with good shooting technique.

Affordability

Cost and budget is always going to be a factor in every lens purchase. Let’s face it, lenses are expensive.

The good thing, however, is that investing in a quality lens means you’ll have that lens for years or even decades. While camera bodies become outdated in a few years, good glass never loses its usefulness.

So in creating the list above, I did my best to give you a range of price points to choose from.

So if budget is a major concern, check out our budget pick above.

Portability

This factor is usually directly at odds with the versatility and zoom range. In order to get more of a zoom range in a lens, it usually needs to be bigger.

But, something a lot of people don’t consider is that one somewhat larger lens is always going to take up less space than two lenses. It also makes getting the shot a lot easier. So don’t be afraid of a little extra size if getting the shot is important to you.

Best Canon Lens For Family Portraits

Taking photos of family and friends is likely one of the reasons you are using a digital camera. Or perhaps you are hopeful about using your camera to make a profit from taking family portraits for others.

Canon full-frame DSLRs are capable of making excellent images when used properly. Part of making good use of your Canon DSLR is choosing the right lenses and accessories for your picture-taking needs. Here are some top choices for Canon EF Mount lenses to use for family portraits.

Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM – Best Overall

There are good reasons that the 50mm lens became the normal lens for full-frame 35mm photography. In addition to being close to the diagonal measurement of the 35mm film frame, the standard lens delivers a pleasing perspective, can be found with fast maximum apertures, and is often one of the least expensive lenses available for most camera brands, including Canon.

Top Pick For Family Portraits

Canon 50mm f/1.8 II

The 50mm prime is Canon’s most inexpensive prime lens and also one of the most useful portrait lenses, especially when you’re shooting more than one person.

These characteristics fit well with the needs of family portrait photography. The current basic normal lens from Canon for their full-frame EOS digital cameras is the EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens. It is one of the least expensive lenses you can purchase for the Canon full-frame digital cameras. It actually costs less than many camera bags found at discount stores.

Part of the appeal for using this lens for family portraits is the optical characteristics inherent in a fast normal lens. Since the Canon EF is 50mm, the perspective issues and distortion effects are virtually eliminated when used at medium distances.

If you get really close, such as for a frame-filling face picture, you will still get some perspective issues and slight distortion of facial features. But since we’re looking at family portraits, that won’t be an issue. To capture a family of 3, 4, or 5 people, you will definitely be at a medium distance.

At wide-open apertures, the bokeh, or out of focus highlights, are very open, airy, and pleasant. The faster a lens, the more options for selective focus you have. With the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM, the f-stops that will give you creamy bokeh start at about f/4.0 to the wide-open f/1.8. Of course, some of that quality will also depend on the specifics of how you line up the scene.

An f-stop of f/1.8 also gives you a lot of leeway in using natural light, even in lower light levels. Canon does have another 50mm lens that is slightly faster, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM. STM is a stepping motor for focus, USM is virtually silent which is also an upgrade. The f/1.4 is about ½ f-stop faster, so it gives more control over selective focus and natural light exposure. It’s also almost triple the cost of the f/1.8 lens.

By the way, I’ve mentioned “full-frame” a few times already. These recommendations are based on using Canon full-frame format DSLRs. If you are using one of Canon’s fine APS-C cameras, the crop factor of 1.6X will need to be accounted for, which changes up things quite a bit for lens coverages.

CLICK HERE to check availability on Amazon.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM – Runner Up

Short telephoto lenses are good lenses for portraits, including multiple person images. The posing and framing used with a short telephoto can lead to incredibly flattering images for portraits.

Runner-Up

Canon 85mm f/1.4 IS USM

With top-notch image quality and a 1.4 maximum aperture, the Canon 85mm f/1.4 is a must-have addition to the bag of any photographer looking to take their family portraits to the next level.

The Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM telephoto is one of the sharpest lenses in full-frame digital photography. Canon reserves the “L” label for their best lenses, the lenses sought after by professionals and other advanced users for exceptional optical quality and heavy-duty construction.

Size and weight are a consideration for many concerning this lens, as it is rather large and heavy for a lens of this focal length. The increase is due to the extremely fast aperture for a short telephoto. The L quality and fast f-stop also make this lens rather pricey. The cost of this fast telephoto is around the range of several of Canon’s full-frame cameras.

At a medium distance, you can capture a ¾ length portrait of a person, two or three if they’re good friends. The resolving power of the 85mm L lens is so high, you may want to look at softening effects in your post-processing program.

A fast aperture short telephoto lens can allow for quite a lot of freedom in regard to selective focus techniques. Bokeh from this lens is one of the reasons this lens is a favorite of many portrait photographers. You can see decent bokeh from around f/5.6 to wide open.

Canon has two other versions of 85mm. A regular series budget-friendly  f/1.8 with very good image quality, and a dream high-speed lens 85mm f/1.2 L which costs slightly more.

Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 – Best Zoom Lens For Family Portraits

Many camera manufacturers have a set of f/2.8 pro series zoom lenses, one of which is a focal length range I like to call a normal range zoom. Normal range because it has the normal 50mm focal length in the zoom and also because it covers most ‘normal’ photographic situations a photographer may come across.

Best Zoom For Family Portraits

Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2

If you’re looking for a great balance between image quality and versatility at a more affordable price than the Canon version, then the Tamron 24-70mm is an ideal choice.

The camera brand’s f/2.8 zooms are often kind of expensive, but the Tamron version offers significant price reduction without sacrificing image quality. It’s about 2/3rds the price of the Canon brand.

A lens with this range of focal lengths is an extremely versatile tool for all sorts of photographic applications. For family portraits, you can capture everything from an entire large group to a head and shoulders single person portrait.

Close focusing is an added extra capability for the Tamron zoom. Not quite macro, but very close focus. That also adds to the versatility of what you can accomplish with this lens.

Since it has a maximum aperture of f/2.8, you still have the capability for selective focus techniques to isolate your subjects from distracting backgrounds. The f/2.8 aperture also provides some nice, smooth bokeh, more so at the telephoto end of the zoom than the wide-angle.

Though a third party manufacturer lens, it meshes perfectly with all of Canon’s features. The ultrasonic motor focuses the lens quickly, smoothly, and mostly silently. That makes it a great lens for video, too.

Anti Flare multi-coating means you won’t be bothered with backlight causing a lot of lens flare. So, you can use this lens for environmental family portraits in outdoor settings.

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art – Best For Environmental Family Portraits

Sigma Art lenses are some of the best lenses from any manufacturer, much less a third party brand. Super sharp, low distortion and flare, great bokeh, and silent focusing makes the appeal of these fine lenses pretty obvious.

Best For Environmental Portraits

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art

Sometimes you need a little bit of a wider angle lens if you want to shoot portraits with more of the environment without introducing too much distortion. The Sigma 35mm Art lens does just that.

A focal length of 35mm on a full-frame camera is just a little bit wider than a normal lens, making them a good choice for environmental portraits and small groups. Sigma’s maximum aperture of f/1.4 for this lens allows for using it for natural light portraits even in challenging lighting conditions.

For a wide-angle lens, the bokeh it’s capable of producing is incredible. Besides the aperture of f/1.4, the optical excellence of this lens helps produce that. It’s extremely sharp and has excellent contrast. A lens that resolves exceedingly well but that is too soft or too hard, in contrast, might as well not be so sharp for all the good it’ll give you.

Bokeh isn’t all that’s important, stopped down, this lens also delivers a pleasing feel to the entire image area. Flare is very well controlled with this lens and it is sharp and even all the way across the image area.

Close focusing is an added benefit, but you may want to guard against framing very close due to the apparent perspective issues involved. Focused close up on a person’s face, the elongation of facial features is not flattering for most people. But for full-length portraits at a medium distance or for a small group, this is an excellent choice.

Since it is also very fast, natural light environment portraiture is easy to accomplish. At wider apertures, you could also employ selective focus even when used at a medium distance as a slight wide-angle.

What To Look For When Choosing A Canon Lens For Family Portraits

With so many quality choices in front of you, how do you choose a good lens for your own family or group portrait work? There are a few helpful hints of what should be considered in regards to lenses to family portraits

Wide Maximum Aperture

Making use of your knowledge of the exposure triangle and camera settings, you can control your depth of focus from shallow to deep to take advantage of what is necessary for the images you’re trying to capture.

If the lens has a wide or fast aperture, you have more options to make the selective or deep focus effects.

Another advantage of fast apertures is that it opens up the ability to shoot in more places under more lighting conditions. Since many family portrait situations are environmental portraits, the fast f-stop can become very important.

Image Quality

You don’t want just any fast lens for family portraits, you want that lens to deliver image quality worthy of hanging on your wall, posting to social media, or selling the images to a client.

Image quality is more than merely being a sharp lens. You want a lens to be free of other optical defects such as distortion, excessive flare, or flimsy construction. The lenses on this list have great sharpness and pass on all the other criteria, too.

In addition to image quality, I also like to look at how rugged a lens is and how easy it is to add filters to. Lenses with very large filter diameters mean you spend more on filters if you can even mount them on the lens at all.

Moisture resistance is another plus to consider for environmental portraits, as is having a low noise focus motor for swift adjustment. Low noise focusing is actually necessary if you will be shooting video as part of your family portrait work.

Versatility

I love using ultra wide-angle lenses for architecture and nature scenes and super telephotos for wildlife and sports, but those lenses aren’t very practical for family portraits. A versatile lens for this job covers enough field of view without causing distortion or unnatural perspectives.

Which is one reason why I like the Nifty Fifty most of all for family portraits. The small size, fast aperture, natural perspective, all add up to an extremely useful lens. You’ll notice I didn’t stray too far from that 50mm choice for all four of my recommendations.

Value For The Money

You don’t need to spend exorbitant amounts of money to get quality equipment. These lenses from Canon, Tamron, and Sigma are some of the best performing optics available, yet they don’t cost a ton of money.

Sure, you may need to pay more for extended range of zoom or faster apertures, but the basic 50mm normal lens shows that you can achieve amazing results without much expenditure.

Value in photography often is more than mere dollar costs. A truly valuable piece of photographic equipment will allow you to do the job you intended. Sometimes that does mean spending a little more for certain features or optical quality gains.

What Lens Is Best?

After weighing all the factors, the best lens for your family portraits is the lens that lets you capture as a digital file what you have already envisioned in your eye. You’re already using a great camera system when shooting with Canon full-frame DSLRs. Take it a step further with an upgraded lens choice and make great family or group portraits.

Best Nikon Z Lenses For Portraits

Top Pick For Nikon Z Portrait Lens

50mm f/1.8

The Z version of Nikon’s nifty fifty brings image quality improvements courtesy of the new Z mount.

The Mirrorless Nikon Z system is the latest and greatest from Nikon.

With some incredible portrait features like eye autofocus, the Z system is ideal for Nikon portrait shooters looking for a mirrorless option. In fact, the Z50 was one of our best cameras for family photography.

But does the new Z system have enough of a selection of lenses to satisfy the most demanding portrait shooters?

Actually, it does.

So here are our picks for the best Nikon Z lenses for portraits.

50mm f/1.8S | Best Overall Z Portrait Lens

The 50mm 1.8, sometimes affectionately known as the “nifty fifty,” is often the first wide-aperture lens that a photographer will start with. That is mostly because it is the most affordable way to get a wide aperture.

Top Pick For Nikon Z Portrait Lens

50mm f/1.8

The Z version of Nikon’s nifty fifty brings image quality improvements courtesy of the new Z mount.

The same is true for the Nikon Z camera system. Their 50mm 1.8 lens is one of the most affordable lenses in the lineup and easily the least expensive 1.8 max aperture Z lens.

The 50mm makes the top spot because of the affordability combined with the versatile nature of the 50mm focal length.

But the lower price tag certainly does not mean sacrificing quality in this instance.

The new Nikon Z mount is larger than the predecessor F-mount. This larger mount and shorter flange distance (the distance from the camera sensor to the rear glass element of the lens) allows for a much more advanced lens in terms of image quality.

The Nikon 50mm Z lens is incredibly sharp from edge to edge. I have been shooting the Nikon system for years and frequently use the F-mount 50mm. Often when wide open (shooting at f/1.8 you start to see a little sharpness loss on the edges of the frame. I really did not detect that on the Z version.

In addition, this lens does a great job of controlling vignetting. That means that even at the widest aperture (f/1.8), you aren’t going to see any darkening around the edges of the frame.

This lens also uses 2 Extra-low Dispersion (ED) and 2 Aspherical (AS) lens elements plus a Nano Crystal coating to control flare, ghosting, coma or chromatic, spherical and axial aberration. Those are things that you usually don’t notice right away but become apparent in the right conditions and can occasionally ruin a photo. This lens does an excellent job of virtually eliminating those issues.

If you like to shoot video as well, the lens also provides 5-axis image stabilization when combined with a Z6 or Z7 camera and has excellent autofocus.

CLICK HERE to check availability on Amazon.

85mm f/1.8 S | Runner Up

I picked this one as the runner up because it is slightly less versatile than the 50mm but it does create beautiful portraits.

Runner Up

85mm f/1.8

For professional individual portraits, the compression and bokeh of the 85mm f/1.8 is an ideal choice.

Many professional portrait photographers use an 85mm lens for most of their portraits. If you tend to shoot a lot of individual portraits then this may be the perfect option for you.

The longer focal length tends to be more flattering for portrait shooting. When you use a longer focal length, it creates what photographers call compression. Compression is the effect that happens with longer focal lengths where objects tend to look flatter. Think about how faces become distorted with a wide-angle lens…the opposite happens with longer focal lengths.

Without getting into the physics of compression…suffice it to say that it tends to make people look better.

In addition, the 1.8 maximum aperture on a longer focal length means that you can achieve an even more shallow depth of field than the 50mm. While you may not want this all the time, it can be useful in certain circumstances.

This lens could easily be the top pick. But the added cost might put it out of reach for a lot of amateur photographers. So the cost combined with the more specialized focal length makes it a very solid runner up.

If you tend to shoot a lot of individual portraits and are willing to spend a little more money, then the 85mm could be the right choice for you.

CLICK HERE to check availability on Amazon.

24-70mm f/2.8 S | Best Zoom Z Lens For Portraits

Sometimes versatility is more important than perfect image quality. After all, if you miss the shot, it doesn’t matter how the background bokeh looks.

Best Zoom Z Lens For Portraits

24-70mm f/2.8

For the versatility to grab the shot without changing lenses, a 24-70mm zoom lens has been the go-to option for pro photographers for decades.

The 24-70mm lens is a favorite of professional photographers because it covers a range of focal lengths that are quite useful for portraits.

24mm is wide enough to shoot large environmental portraits and large groups and 70mm combined with the large f/2.8 aperture will give you that classic compressed portrait look for individual portraits.

Much of the same characteristics mentioned in the earlier sections apply to this lens as well. It does a great job of controlling things like chromatic aberration, coma, ghosting, and vignetting. Much of this is related to Z mount itself so it makes sense that all Z lenses would do well in that respect.

This lens also uses two autofocusing motors to help you achieve focus very quickly. Combined with the Z system’s excellent autofocus system (and the very impressive February 2020 firmware update), this makes it so you can focus just about as fast as you can point the camera at something.

In addition, it is one of the quietest focusing motors I’ve used.

So if you want a one-stop-shop kind of lens for your portraits, then the 24-70mm f/2.8 should probably be the one. The fact that it covers multiple focal lengths makes the added cost easier to deal with since it takes the place of 2 or 3 primes.

CLICK HERE to check availability on Amazon.

35mm f/1.8 S | Best For Environmental Portraits

Sometimes you need a wider look for a portrait, especially if you like to shoot environmental portraits.

Best For Environmental Portraits

35mm f/1.8

With a wider field of view but not too wide to distort your image…plus a 1.8 max aperture, the 35mm is ideal for portraits where you want to capture more of the scene.

These kinds of portraits are very useful for professionals and branding portraits where you want to shoot a person in their environment doing what they do every day.

So unless you already have the 24-70mm above, you’ll need something a little wider than 50mm to really make sure you capture the person’s surroundings.

A 35mm prime is perfect for that.

Crop Sensor Side Note: If you are looking for a portrait lens for the Z50, then it would probably be my top pick over the 50mm. On a crop sensor, the 35mm gives you an effective field of view of 52.5mm.

What I like about using a 35mm f/1.8 as opposed to other wide-angle lenses is that it is right at that sweet spot focal length where you can get a lot of the environment in the frame, but aren’t quite getting any of that unsightly wide-angle distortion.

Also, you get less background blur at wide angles, so the 1.8 maximum aperture will be an advantage over the 2.8 of the 24-70mm.

So if environmental portraits are your go-to type of shots (or you’re shooting a Z50), then the 35mm f/1.8 should be in your bag.

CLICK HERE to check availability on Amazon.

What To Look For In A Nikon Z Lens For Portraits

Wide Maximum Aperture

One thing every portrait shooter wants (needs) at their disposal is the ability to shoot with a wide aperture. You may not use it every time, but it’s quite useful to have.

A wide maximum aperture is what allows you to both let in a lot of light and create a shallow depth of field.

That shallow depth of field will create blurry backgrounds and separate your subject from the background by keeping them in focus.

Image Quality

Overall image quality is a major factor when selecting a lens of any type.

You have to look for things like blurry edges, lens distortion, vignetting at wider apertures, and overall sharpness and contrast (which tend to go together.

Overall, the Z series lenses are a very high caliber of lenses. You really don’t need to worry about poor quality with any of these lenses listed above.

Versatility

Depending on what kind of portrait shooting you do, you may need to adapt quickly. Sometimes you don’t have the time to swap out lenses before you need to get that next shot.

Some lenses are more versatile than others.

Of course, zoom lenses are going to be your most adaptable lenses. The ability to change the focal length on the fly without changing the lens can be a very valuable

Best Nikon Lens For Family Portraits

Best Nikon Lens For Family Portraits

Nikon 50mm f/1.8G

The Nikon Nifty Fifty should be in every portrait photographer’s bag. The combination of low cost, great image quality, and wide aperture make it the easy top choice here.

The desire to capture moments in human history through portraiture has existed since early hominids drew stick figures on cave walls. Since the invention of the camera, no longer do you have to sit for days while an artist paints your likeness, these moments in a fraction of a second with a shutter click.

Photography has never been more accessible, but to stand out above the rest you’ve got to have the right gear. A lot of you out there are Nikon shooters and there are two Nikons in our picks for the best camera for family photography.

Whether your intent is making money with your camera or expressing your artistic vision, I will break down some of the essential lens considerations when shooting family portraits.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 | Best Overall For Family Portraits

The 50mm lens has been a staple in the photographer’s arsenal since the inception of the handheld camera. It became standard in the early 1900s as the most effective focal distance for shooting onto 35mm film and was understood at the time to be an equivalent angle of view to the human eye.

Best Nikon Lens For Family Portraits

Nikon 50mm f/1.8G

The Nikon Nifty Fifty should be in every portrait photographer’s bag. The combination of low cost, great image quality, and wide aperture make it the easy top choice here.

The beauty of the Nikon 50mm lens is in its simplicity and time tested usability. Prime lenses are simple and easy to use – you move around until your frame is desirably filled, then you shoot. Want more space around the subject? Take a few steps back. Want your subject to fill the frame a little more? Take a few steps forward. It’s really that simple.

When shooting family portraits it is important to balance the desirable “compression” given to an image shot at a higher angle, with having a wide enough view to capture the entire subject or scene. The 50mm sits right in that sweet spot. The medium focal length gives just enough compression to make your subjects look attractive, and just wide enough that you don’t have to walk half a football field away to get the whole family in the shot.

The large aperture value of the Nikon 50mm is certainly a selling point, and another reason to have this lens in your camera bag. Being able to really open the aperture up makes this lens invaluable when shooting in low light. Maintaining a higher shutter speed will help reduce motion blur, giving sharp, well-exposed images of your subjects. This is especially useful for freezing the action of large groups, or families with small children when it can be difficult to maintain everyone’s attention on the camera. The wide f1.8 aperture of the Nikon 50mm, when used at its full capacity, provides great foreground and background blur (or bokeh) while leaving your subjects in perfect focus. This is seen as more beautiful and produces more striking, professional-looking images.

When talking about portrait photography it is worth differentiating between art and commercial photography. Time is money, and when shooting commercially you want every shot to count. Likely this would mean running your camera settings more conservatively – more than likely a higher f-stop to ensure that more of your subject is in focus and less out of focus shots are left on the cutting room floor. But, if your focus is high-end art portraiture then Nikon does offer a version of the 50mm lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.4. This will allow more background blurring and a smaller area of sharp focus. Think photographs where the eyes of your subject are in focus, but the tip of the nose, the ears and the rest of the head are blurry.

All things considered, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 is truly a portrait photography classic, made popular by its simple design, usability, and ability to produce professional eye-catching images.

CLICK HERE to check availability on Amazon.

Nikon 85mm f/1.4 | Best Image Quality

A general rule of thumb in photography is that the longer the focal point the less distorted the image will be. You may have heard of this referred to as “image compression”. Distortion is not so problematic when shooting landscapes, but becomes obvious when shooting photographs of people and faces. You might notice straight lines (such as a fence) appearing curved towards the edges of an image, or the appearance of bulging noses and facial features of images taken with a wide-angle lens. This is distortion.

Nikon 85mm f/1.4G

The longer focal length of the 85mm is more limiting and it costs more than the 50mm, but the 1.4 maximum aperture and the top-notch image quality make it a great lens for family portraits.

When photographing people the longer your focal length, the more compresses, and therefore more attractive your subjects will appear. Nikon 85mm really plays into this, producing sharp, attractive images, with very little noticeable distortion. Again, this is a prime lens (fixed focal length), so it is simple and easy to use – slap it on and what you see is what you get. Move around, fill the frame, take the shot.

Typically, as focal length increases the maximum aperture decreases (a larger f-stop), and less light makes its way through your lens to the camera sensor. Nikon has managed to overcome this, equipping the 85mm lens with a wide f/1.4 aperture, making it highly capable of producing high-quality images in low light, and beautiful background bokeh.

This lens is great for shooting single portraits, but when considering this lens as an ideal candidate for shooting family portraits, its long focal length becomes less ideal. Getting an entire family framed nicely in a shot with an 85mm lens will mean having to move quite far from the subjects. If you are shooting inside, or in a studio, it might be impossible to back up far enough. If it were your only lens you would be in trouble. But for grabbing beautiful headshots and close-ups, this is your go-to.

Consider the Nikon 85mm as a specialty second lens to something wider, like the Nikon 50mm… or roll it all into one, like the Tamron 24-70mm.

CLICK HERE to check availability on Amazon.

Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 | Best For Versatility

The previous two Nikon lenses have both been fixed focal length prime lenses… So, let’s delve into the world of versatile zoom lenses with the Tamron 24-70mm lens!

Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2

A mid-range zoom lens covers everything you need to shoot family portraits and the Tamron 24-70mm G2 is just as good as the Nikon version at about half the price.

Every photographer desires versatility. Versatility means fewer lenses to carry, fewer lenses to purchase, and less time spent changing lenses and exposing the innards of your camera body to the environment.

For less than the price of the two previous Nikon lenses, you can have one lens that does it all. Time is money, and for the commercial portrait photographer versatility in your gear is a premium. Throw this lens on and get the job done!

The Tamron 24-70mm allows you to capture the whole family, then immediately zoom to photograph the laughing faces of the children. Fluidity is key in family portraiture, and being able to zoom and capture those candid moments during the shoot will result in unique photos, impressed clients, and more money in your pocket.

As I mentioned before, there is a distinction between the needs and desires of the art and commercial photographer. This lens is truly geared towards the commercial family portrait photographer. The f/2.8 aperture may appear less desirable than its Nikon prime lens counterparts, but in a commercial setting, it is unlikely to be running the aperture that wide anyway. If you are working in a studio with a flash unit, then your shutter speed will likely be synced at 1/200 of a second, and your aperture much smaller to compensate, making wide maximum apertures a moot point in the decision to purchase. Furthermore, I wouldn’t be concerned about shooting in low light with this lens. The f/2.8 aperture is still acceptable, and modern camera bodies are capable of handling higher ISO levels with little noticeable grain.

I will choose to take a zoom lens over a prime lens for any commercial job where I am on the clock. The confidence in knowing that the one lens on my camera can get it all done is key. When working with a family, especially one with young children, you don’t have all the time in the world to change lenses and restage shoots. You need to be able to capture those candid moments, and the Tamron 24-70mm won’t let you down.

CLICK HERE to check availability on Amazon.

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art | Best For Environmental Portraits

As the name implies, the Sigma 35mm is geared towards the art photographer and is a more niche product than a camera-bag staple. But, the large aperture and high-quality glass make it an intriguing lens choice for any professional photographer looking to up their game.

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art

If you are looking for a wider prime or shooting on a crop sensor camera, the Sigma 35mm Art is a great option.

At 35mm, this lens is great for capturing wide shots. You can feel confident getting the whole family in the frame when shooting in tighter spaces. And, while not as compressing as the Nikon 50mm or 85mm, image distortion will appear minimal with good distance to your subjects. But get up close and you will notice the bulging features and less attractive qualities associated with wide-angle photography.

One of the main selling points of the Sigma 35mm is the large f/1.4 aperture. This lens excels in low light conditions. Shoot confidently, with crisp focus and beautiful background bokeh without having to crank the ISO. When wide open you can achieve an extremely shallow depth of field – a trademark effect for the professional art-portrait photographer.

The Sigma 35mm is a high-quality lens, and it is obvious in the images it produces. You will notice a distinct sharpness in the photos you take, and good contrast, even with your aperture wide open. As I mentioned, the lens is a niche product, and not necessarily one I would recommend to the photographer beginning to dabble in family portraiture. But for the professionals looking for a high-quality product to add to their arsenal, the Sigma 35mm has what it takes to inspire a new photographic direction.

CLICK HERE to check availability on Amazon.

What To Look For When Choosing A Nikon Lens For Family Portraits

The first step in choosing a lens for family portraits is to define your intentions as a photographer. Are you pursuing high-end fine art portraiture, shooting commercially in a studio, or just photographing family and friends as you build your skills and portfolio? There are no right or wrong answers when choosing a lens – your direction ultimately defines your requirements.

Large Maximum Aperture

Wide maximum apertures will surely be a strong selling point for shooting family portraits. Shooting at f/1.4-1.8 will give your images a deep and appealing background blur, with beautiful bokeh, and with such a shallow depth of field you can really focus the viewer’s attention on minute details in your images.

The maximum wide aperture is also going to be important if you are going to be frequently shooting at night, or in low light situations. Having your aperture opened wide will let more light onto your camera sensor, and allow you to maintain a high enough shutter speed to eliminate any motion blur or camera shake.

If you are shooting commercial family portraits, then maximum aperture may not be as important as versatility, or usability. You’re going to want something that you can rely on to get the job done. The Nikon 50mm lens is a tried and true classic – a wide enough angle to capture an entire scene, yet just narrow enough to avoid significant lens distortion. It’s so easy to use and capture great images, it’s almost a crime!

Versatility

The Tamron 24-70mm similarly fits into this category, but with the added versatility of zoom capabilities. No longer do you have to take a few steps back to fit the whole family in the frame, but just a little twist of the wrist, and a click of the shutter. You can go out on the job with only this lens and be confident in getting all the shots you need, and getting it done with ease.

Finally, it is worth noting the value of inspiration in photography. A new piece of gear always inspires a new vision. It’s a new toy to play with. A new way to view the world around us. Consider the gear you have, and choose something different from the rest. Get the lens that fills the gap in your camera bag. There is something so satisfying in the simplicity of prime lenses, that will fill you with a renewed joy in photography if you have not owned one before.

I could say the same about zoom lenses if you had only owned prime lenses. It is so exciting to be able to quickly zoom and immediately grab that piece of the action, that you otherwise would have been unable to capture with a fixed-length lens.

Weigh up your intentions and what you value. But don’t be afraid to follow your heart. There are no wrong decisions. After all, an inspired photographer is a successful photographer.

Best Lens Filters (Top 2020 Recommended Filters)

You may think that filters are no longer necessary and that you can accomplish everything you need in your photo editing software.

You’d be wrong. Filters still play a vital role in digital photography.

Controlling the amount and quality of light that reaches your sensor is essential to creating high-quality images. But keep in mind that adding a filter in front of your expensive lens can have negative effects as well.

So avoid those cheap filters that camera stores try to bundle in with their cameras. Better to go without one for now and save up for a quality filter.

Here are the ones we recommend…

Circular Polarizing Filter

The circular polarizer is probably the first filter you want to get. This type of filter will help you control reflections and glare off shiny and wet surfaces. It will also let you eliminate the reflections of the top of water and allow you to see (and photograph) whats under the surface more clearly.

Another type of polarizing filter is a “linear polarizer” but don’t get those. They were useful back in the film days but don’t work with digital cameras.

My Top Recommendation | Breakthrough Photography X4 CPL

I’m going to be honest here. All of our top recommendations for filters are going to come from Breakthrough Photography (at least until another company can produce something better). We have no affiliation with the company. They just produce great quality glass.

So aside from the excellent image quality that Breakthrough Filters provide, what I like most about them is the build quality.

Many CPL filters are a pain to get onto the lens and even more of a pain to rotate without having them come loose.

The Breakthrough lenses have ridges all around that make it easy to get on and off and easy to rotate when you are shooting. This also makes them a little more rigged and durable. I have dropped them and so far haven’t broken one.

If you want the best CPL out there, then Breakthrough is where you should be looking.

Budget Option | K&F Concept

K&F Concept filters are a relatively new player to the game and very well might be the best performance to dollar value filters on the market.

Click below to check availability and pricing…

Normally, I avoid budget filters at all costs because they do more harm than good to your images but these are different. You won’t get the same image quality and performance as the Breakthrough Filters above, but at a fraction of the cost you can get about 80% of the way there.

My favorite use case for the K&F Filters are for my smaller backup camera that I keep with me for personal use, family outings, etc. I still use the higher end filters for professional work, but the cost savings make these perfect for casual use.

PRO TIP: You don’t need a separate filter for every size lens. Just get all your filters in the 82mm size and use step up rings for smaller lenses.

You just need a step-up ring for any lens that has a filter diameter smaller than 82mm. For example, if you have a lens that takes 77mm filters, you just need to use a 77mm to 82mm step-up ring.

Neutral Density Filter (“ND”)

The Neutral Density (“ND”) filter is the best friend of the landscape photographer. They are essential if you want to shoot long exposure photography.

An ND filter blocks a specified amount of light from reaching your lens without affecting the color or sharpness of the image (at least the best ones do). This allows you to shoot at longer shutter speeds (and get all the cool effects that slow shutter speeds provide) even when it’s not dark enough outside.

Portrait photographers will find these useful as well. An ND filter can make it possible to shoot at wide open apertures (and blur your background) even in the brightest of sunny conditions. They can also be helpful if you are using a flash during the day.

My Top Recommendation | Breakthrough Photography X4 ND

Just like the CPL above, the Breakthrough Photography ND filter is the best on the market. As an added bonus, it’s not the most expensive. You could pay upwards of $400 for an ND filter and still not get the sharpness and color neutrality of the Breakthrough filters.

Start with the 3-stop and the 6-stop before you go for the 10-stop. You can always stack the 3-stop and 6-stop together if you need more strength. Eventually, you’ll want to have a 10-stop as well.

Breakthrough also has a 15-stop which is overkill for 99% of shots but can let you create some cool long exposure shots even in daylight.

Graduated ND Filter

This filter is similar to an ND filter in that it blocks a specified number of stops of light from reaching your lens. The difference is that it only blocks the light on half the frame. This allows you to darken half the image and not the other half. The typical use case for a graduated ND filter is to darken the sky and not the ground so that you can capture the entire range of brightness is a single shot.

The graduated filter may be one filter that is becoming obsolete as a result of improved post processing. You can accomplish virtually the same thing by taking 2 shots of different exposures (bracketing your shots) and blending them later in Photoshop. This take a little skill with the software but can often lead to better quality results.

Graduated ND filters don’t work too well when your horizon is uneven. Things like trees, mountains, buildings, and just about anything sticking up in front of the sky will get darkened as well. Just about the only time they work perfectly is when your horizon is the ocean or some other large body of water.

Our Recommendation: None…learn to blend images in Photoshop instead

UV Filter

A UV filter does exactly what it sounds like, it blocks UV rays. May people also buy it to “protect” the front of their lens. A UV filter has absolutely zero positive effect on your image quality and the lower quality UV filters can hurt your image quality.

The only time they might be useful is if you are shooting in harsher conditions and want to keep the conditions off your lens. For example, a windy day at the beach where the sand is blowing in your face might be a good time to use a UV filter. However, you can also just use a polarizing filter for those rare instances.

Our Recommendation: None…save your money and get something more useful.

Filter Holder Systems

A filter holder system is a necessary piece of kit IF you are using square filters.

Keep in mind that some lenses have front elements that stick out. For these you will likely need a specialized filter holder system AND larger square filters. These can be very helpful when shooting landscapes and stronger ND filters. The holder easily snaps on and off so you can get your focus and composition while the scene is visible, then snap on the holder with the filter in it and take the photo.

Our Recommendation: Breakthrough Photography X100 Holder

If you’re going to go with the Breakthrough filters, then you might as well get their holder. Actually, as far as holders go, it’s one of the less expensive options out there at $49.00 and it’s every bit as good as any of the options out there.

CLICK HERE to check out the X100 Filter Holder.

Variable ND Filters

Variable ND filters are a tempting option for some beginners. You can have one filter and adjust it to varying degress of ND strength. They do this by putting two pieces of glass together on one filter. As you rotate the front one, the glass matches up in some way to block more or less of the light.

The downside to variable ND filters is that by the very nature of how they work, they will negatively affect image quality compared to a standard (single strength) ND filter. They simply aren’t as good. Better to get 1 or 2 standard ND filters to start and pass on the variable.

However, if you want to shoot video, a variable ND filter can be very handy to have. Video shooters use them all the time. The loss in image quality is less of a concern because (1) the image is moving and any sharpness loss is less perceptible, (2) even 4K video is much lower resolution than most dSLRs and Mirrorless cameras, and (3) the ability to adjust the ND strength without removing the filter is extremely valuable to video shooters and outweighs any sharpness concerns.

Our Recommendation: None…unless you shoot video.