Best Canon Lens For Landscape Photography

No matter what Canon camera you have or what your budget level, there’s a landscape lens that will work for you.

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Below we’re going to look at my top five lens choices for Canon DSLRs.

I’ve included options for DSLRs, mirrorless, and crop sensor cameras…as well as a budget option to get you out shooting beautiful landscapes without breaking the bank.

Top Pick | Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM

The 16-36mm f/2.8L III is the quintessential landscape lens in the Canon system. The 16-35mm range will cover just about all of your wide angle landscape needs.

When the company decided to make the 16-36mm f/2.8L III, they focused a lot on the build quality. It looks great and is durable and weather-sealed with a polycarbonate barrel and premium fluorine scratch-resistant glass.

This Canon lens should be perfect for shooting valleys, fields of flowers, or tall trees. Landscape lenses are known for their wide-angle, and this Canon lens fits the bill.

The one thing to note about wide-angle lenses is that there can often be distortion. The 16-35mm isn’t completely immune, but distortion is pretty well controlled. Also, the more you zoom out, the less distortion there is.

One thing I really like about this lens is that even with the wide 16mm, you can fit an 82mm filter on this lens. Some wide-angle lenses have large front elements that require you to get a special filter holder and use large square filters. Filters are essential for landscape photography so being able to use standard filters makes things a lot easier.

Another thing to note is that there’s a slight vignette around the edges when used wide open. But unless you’re shooting astrophotography, you’ll probably be stopped down to at least f/8.

Runner-Up | Tamron 17-35mm F/2.8-4 Di OSD

The runner-up pick is the Tamron 17-35mm wide-angle zoom lens. Although the combination of exceptional image quality, compact design, and affordability could make it a first choice for most of you.

Third party lens makers like Tamron have really been stepping up their game in the last few years. This lens is a great example of that. It is a pro quality wide lens at about one third the cost of the Canon lens above.

When it comes to the build, this matte black Tamron lens is surprisingly lightweight and compact. But it still feels solid in your hands and is rugged enough to take on photo excursions.

This lens also accepts regular filters and has a 77mm thread.

Because this is a wide-angle lens, you’d expect to have some distortion as you zoom out but Tamron did a great job correcting it.

Overall, this is an excellent option if you want exceptional image quality that is a little more affordable than the Canon and has less compromises than the budget pick below.

Budget Pick | Tokina 17-35mm f/4 Pro FX Lens

With camera bodies costing hundreds to thousands of dollars, not everyone has the same amount to spend on lenses. If you’re looking for a budget option that still delivers stunning results, consider the Tokina 17-35mm f/4 Pro FX lens.

There is a previous f/2.8 rendition of this lens, but this one delivers better image quality and unless your shooting night sky images, the f/2.8 isn’t really necessary for landscapes.

The image quality isn’t as great as the more expensive options on the market but you also don’t have to compromise a lot either.

Tokina still makes high-quality lenses and the 17-35mm f/4 is durable and lightweight. If you enjoy using filters, you’ll like that you can easily add one without needing an extra connection piece.

Crop Sensor Pick | Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM

The Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens is perfect for landscape photography on a crop sensor camera.

Many Canon users are working with crop sensor bodies, like the 60D. If you’ve tried your hand at landscape photography while using a crop sensor body, you’ve likely gotten frustrated as the 1.6x crop factor means that even a 16mm lens gives you a field of view of about 26mm.

So the 10mm wide end of this lens is going to give you the field of view of a 16mm on a full frame camera.

It’s also relatively inexpensive when compared to other lenses.

The distortion is minimal and vignetting doesn’t even exist with this bad boy. Ghosting and flares are also well controlled with this lens.

When it comes to build quality, it is designed pretty well. It’s not quite up to the same quality of the full-frame Canon L lenses but it’s pretty solid. This is basically what you would expect from a crop sensor camera.

RF-Mount (Mirrorless) Pick | RF 15–35mm F2.8 L IS USM

If you’re working with a mirrorless camera, then Canon’s RF 15-35mm F2.9 L IS USM is the perfect wide-angle landscape lens.

With Canon (like the other big manufacturers) putting much of its development into their mirrorless system,

There is very little distortion and no vignetting with this lens. The optics are above the standard and deliver crisp and beautiful RAW images. What stands out most about this lens for me is the build quality.

It has weather protection on the exterior and the high-quality glass is finished with a fluorine coating. You won’t have to worry about dust getting in or the glass getting scratched. It has threaded filter support, making it easy to throw on a filter at any time without any extra attachments.

I will say that though the build is fantastic, the stabilization system makes this lens a bit bulkier. This generally isn’t a big problem for the majority of photographers as the stabilization system is seen as a huge pro.

What To Look For When Choosing A Landscape Lens

Just like when you’re buying anything else, it’s a good idea to know what you’re looking for.

Whether you’re an amateur photographer or you’re a seasoned vet, this buyer’s guide will help inform you of what features should be compared when shopping for a new lens for landscape photography.

Overall Image Quality

I know, I know, hearing that image quality is important seems redundant but hear me out. When a lens is built to shoot wider shots, there can be things like ghosts, flares, vignetting, and distortion to the RAW images.

Can you imagine going on a trip to the Grand Canyon only to get home and see that your photos all have these types of “defects” on them? This is why it’s crucial to read reviews before buying a camera lens.

Build Quality & Weatherproofing

Let’s keep going with this Grand Canyon scenario. You’re outdoors, taking the best photos you’ve taken in months and suddenly it starts raining. You want to keep shooting but you’re working with a lens without weatherproofing.

You’ll have to pack up and wait for the clouds to clear until you can continue. When you choose a lens with weatherproofing, it keeps the equipment safe from dust, dirt, rain, and other elements. Many lenses have fluorine protection on the glass that keeps it safe from these things, along with scratching.

Consider what the exterior of the lens is built with. If it’s made of cheap plastic, expect it to work accordingly. Opt for a lens with a sturdy and dependable build quality that you can rely on day after day.

Wide Angle Is The Most Used For Landscapes

Using a wide-angle lens for landscape photography is a no-brainer. It’s the most commonly used and for good reason. When you think of landscape, what do you picture? Maybe a field of corn, a towering mountain range, an ethereal forest, or a relaxing beachfront.

Whatever the case may be, you’ll need a wide-angle lens to capture everything in the area. Landscapes are known to be vast and expansive. If you’re using a standard lens, it likely won’t be able to get everything into the frame. Having a wide-angle lens on hand allows you to be more in control and get the shot you want without compromising.

Something else to consider as well as how much space you have to work with when you’re in nature. If you have a standard lens, you may not be able to physically back up enough to get the shot you want. Having a high-quality wide-angle lens will get the job done with ease.

Ability To Use Filters Is Important

Speaking of not being able to control your environment when you’re shooting landscapes, you’ll want a lens that can easily attach filters. No one wants to carry more gear than they have to, especially when hiking a long way to the location.

Plenty of lenses designed for landscape shooting have the ability to attach a filter without the need for extra equipment. Because wide-angle lenses are known to pick up on things like glares or reflections, filters can help minimize that.

They can also enhance colors and reduce the amount of light coming into the lens. If you haven’t played around with filters before, I highly recommend giving it a try.

Best Nikon Lens For Astrophotography

If you’ve ever tried to capture the beauty of the moon or the big dipper with your phone, then you’ve learned that astrophotography requires a good camera with the right lens.

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You can dabble in shooting stars with your kit lens but if you’re looking for the best Nikon lens for astrophotography, keep on reading!

Top Pick | Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8

If you’ve got a decent budget and want to invest in the best of the best, you’ll want to take a look at the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8. With an f/2.8 aperture, it allows you to capture sharp stars without the need for exposures that are too long or stacking images.

Specs:

  • Focal length: 15-30mm
  • Minimum aperture: f/22
  • Maximum aperture: f/2.8
  • Image stabilization: Yes
  • Minimum focal distance: 11.02″ / 28 cm
  • Weight: 2.42 pounds

This Tamron lens may be one of the sharpest DSLR lenses on the market today. It rivals even the much more expensive Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 and does so at a much lower price point.

It has optical stabilization built-in as well. The entire thing has a fluorine coating finish and an all-weather build that will keep in safe from the elements.

The 15-30mm offers an ultra-wide angle of view, while still being usable on a full-frame body. The one negative is that the Nikon version doesn’t support rear filters. This lens is on the bulky side, which is something to keep in mind when you’re shopping around, but still a little lighter than it’s main competitors.

Budget Pick | Rokinon/Samyang 14mm f/2.8

If you’re on a pretty tight budget then this lens is your entry point to astrophotography. While investing in your kit is great, if you’re just dabbling in astrophotography, the Rokinon/Samyang 14mm lens is a solid choice.

Specs:

  • Focal length: 14 mm
  • Minimum aperture: f/22
  • Maximum aperture: f/2.8
  • Image stabilization: No
  • Weight: 1.2 pounds

This lens is as close as you can get to an astro-specialized lens. It checks all the boxes for shooting stars…wide max aperture, good edge sharpness, and relatively lightweight.

It’s fairly compact, making it easy to fit in a bag or pack as you head out the door late at night. The barrel is made of durable metal, keeping the components safe from falls or dings.

If you are getting this lens to shoot astrophotography, don’t be discouraged by it being a manual focus lens. You’ll almost never be using autofocus when shooting the night sky.

Like the previously mentioned lens, this 14mm one has an ultra-wide angle of view, perfect for capturing the cosmos. One thing I will note about the Rokinon/Samyang option is that it is prone to flare at times. If this is something you could work with, the price tag makes it well worth it.

Z-Mount Pick | Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S

Nikon is still building their Z-mount lenses but this new release might just be the ultimate landscape (and astrophotography) lens. The Nikkor Z 14-24mm will have you capturing photos of the moon, planets, and anything else in the sky with ease.

Specs:

  • Focal length: 14-24mm
  • Minimum aperture: f/22
  • Maximum aperture: f/2.8
  • Image stabilization: No
  • Minimum focal distance: 11″ / 28 cm
  • Weight: 1.4 pounds

There are so many impressive things about this lens, I almost made it the top pick. But since most of you have DSLRs, we gave Z-mount users their own sub-category here. It will be like that for a few years as Nikon shooters begin to see how incredible the Z system is and make the move.

First off, it’s light and compact compared to similar lenses, making it a photographer’s dream if you’re scouting locations with a ton of gear. The optics are crisp and deliver photos with minimal distortion and exceptional sharpness even on the 45.7 Megapixel Nikon Z7ii.

The exterior of the Nikkor Z 14-24mm lens has fluorine protection and is dust and splash-proof. It can easily support front filters, and filters are essential for landscape photography.

One reason why this is a great pick for astrophotography is that the autofocus works great even in low light, meaning that there will be times (even when shooting the night sky) when you might be able to use autofocus.

Overall, this is darn near a perfect lens for any type of landscape shooting, including astro.

Best Prime Astro Lens| Nikon 20mm f/1.8G ED

Wide angle primes are perfect for several shooting subjects, including the stars. The Nikkor 20mm lens also falls within a decent price range, making it an affordable option for those who don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a new lens.

Specs:

  • Focal length: 20mm
  • Minimum aperture: f/16
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.8
  • Image stabilization: No
  • Minimum focal distance: .66 feet
  • Weight: 12.6 ounces

Not only does it offer an ultra-wide field of view, but the aperture is wide as well. The 20mm focal length combined with the shallow depth of field that f/1.8 maximum aperture delivers will have your raw photos standing out from the rest.

It doesn’t matter if you’re shooting in the dead of night, this thing will capture whatever is in the sky. Like other options already listed, this lens is nice and compact. The only con I can see in relation to this prime lens is that it doesn’t provide optical stabilization.

Ultra-Wide Option | Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D

Venus Optics is slowly but surely becoming more and more known, thanks to their Laowa 12mm f/2.8 lens. The first thing I want to mention about this lens is that it’s a manual focus lens. I understand that’s not for everyone, so I just want to get it out of the way.

The Laowa 12mm lens offers an outstanding ultra-wide angle of view. You can shoot majestic mountain ranges by day and outer space by night. You don’t have to worry about any barrel distortion with this lens either.

When you attach the Laowa 12mm to the Nikon body, you’ll get complete aperture control and full-frame coverage. There is a fluorine coating on the lens that keeps out dust and prevents scratching. As a Nikon user, you’ll likely enjoy that this lens offers front filter support.

One thing I will note is that I’ve noticed a bit of bokeh effect on some of my raw images while using this lens. Personally, I like the look that it gives, but understandably, not everyone will.

Specs:

  • Focal length: 12mm
  • Minimum aperture: f/22
  • Maximum aperture: f/2.8
  • Image stabilization: None
  • Minimum focal distance: 7.09″ / 18 cm
  • Weight: 1/34 pounds

What To Look For In An Astrophotography Lens

Whenever you’re considering spending hundreds to thousands of dollars of your hard-earned money, it’s a good idea to know what to look for in a product. Being able to capture the beauty of the sky at night is one of the great delights of astrophotography.

The lens you choose to work with will make or break what your photos will look like. Let’s take a look at what you should be looking for in an astrophotography lens.

Wide Max Aperture

Have you ever tried shooting the stars but had to wait what felt like forever for the photo to be taken? While long exposure is great for time-lapses, not every photographer wants that. This is why you’ll want to keep your eye out for a wide max aperture.

It will save you time behind the camera and you’ll still be able to see all of the stars. Another great thing about a wide aperture is that it decreases the depth of field in a shot. This can benefit you if you choose to use the same lens for product or portraits as you do for astrophotography.

Good Coma Control On The Edges

This happens most often when you’re photographing a light source, such as stars. You’ll want good coma control so that you can avoid having any trailing light or flares that are unwanted.

Most modern lenses struggle with astigmatism aberration, rather than comatic. If you have a lens that you already love but it lacks coma control, you can adjust the aperture. It’s not common for lenses to come with coma control or protection.

So, how do you know if a lens will provide this without testing it first? Well, you’re already doing it! Reading reviews from experienced photographers is the best way to tell if any lens is right for you. The Rokinon/Samyang 14mm f/2.8 is a great option if you’re worried about comatic aberration while photographing the night’s sky.

Wide Angle Lenses Are The Best Place To Start

Astrophotography is often seen as difficult because you can’t exactly look in the viewfinder and see what you’re shooting. When in doubt, opt for a wide-angle lens. They offer photographers so much creative freedom.

You can use them for just about anything and wide-angle lenses provide more depth of field. They’re known for capturing greater detail than other styles of lenses. While wide-angle lenses tend to be on the more expensive side, any photographer you ask will say it’s well worth the cost.

If you’re considering dabbling in astrophotography, look for a wide-angle lens that has been raved about by other photographers and you’ll be set. Remember to have fun while you’re shooting! Good luck.

Best ND Filters For Landscape Photography

ND Filters are an essential piece of any landscape photographer’s kit. You need them in your bag if you want to be able to capture the best landscape shots.

Best ND Filter For Landscape Photography

My favorite ND filters to use when shooting landscapes is the Kase Wolverine Filter System. These magnetic filters are both optically exceptional and extremely easy to work with.

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There are a lot of ND filters out there with excellent quality glass, but what really sets the Kase Filters apart for me is how easy they are to use.

Instead of screwing on and off each individual filter, they use a magnetic adapter that you screw onto your lens. The filters themselves then simply pop on and off using the magnets.

You can even stack multiple filters on top of each other, which is really useful for using an ND filter on top of a polarizing filter.

I’m not a big fan of the square filter systems, either.

They take up more space in your bag and the biggest benefit of using them (the ability to pop the filter on and off easily) is solved in a more elegant way with the magnetic system.

When you are using ND filters, it can be difficult to compose and focus while the filter is on the lens.

My workflow is to compose the image and get focus with the filter off of the lens, then put the filter on and adjust the exposure to compensate. The magnetic system makes that easy.

Budget ND Filter

Filters can get expensive and if landscape photography is just a hobby, then you may not be ready to make that investment.

I do think that a good ND filter is very much worth the investment and can have even more of an impact on your photos as a new lens. Be careful about “budget friendly” filters. There are a lot of garbage filters out there that are marketed well but can ruin your images.

The best budget filters I have found so far are those by K&F Concept. They aren’t as good as the Kase Wolverine filters above so you’ll have to accept some loss of image quality, but if your budget is tight, they are a good option.

CLICK HERE for an affordable kit that includes a 3-stop, 6-stop, and a circular polarizer, and CLICK HERE for their 10-stop filter.

Why Use ND Filters For Landscape Photography?

ND Filters allow you to have greater control over the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor.

There are a lot of situations where you want to use a slower shutter speed than can be achieved just from adjusting the aperture.

With control like this, you can do things like blur waterfalls and streams, create light trails from moving cars, smooth out crashing waves, use motion blur to create smooth time-lapse videos, or any other kind of long exposure photography.

Which Strength ND Filter Should You Get?

It’s good to have a range of ND filters so you are prepared for a variety of situations.

The three that I keep in my bag are a 3-stop, 6-stop, and 10-stop. That covers just about everything I need.

If you want to get one at time instead of the entire set at once, the ND filter you choose first depends a lot on the types of photos you normally take.

For example, if you often find yourself shooting rivers and streams and need to knock down the exposure just a little bit to get around a half second for a little bit of blur in the moving water, then a 3-stop will work for you.

For longer exposures like 10 to 30 seconds that will show motion blur in clouds and smooth out ripples in lakes, the 6-stop is a good choice.

If you want to shoot extreme long exposure images of a minute or more, then a 10-stop ND filter is going to be necessary for many situations.

The Kase Wolverine filters offer a kit that comes with a 3-stop, 6-stop, 10-stop, and a circular polarizer.

Do You Need Graduated ND Filters?

Graduated ND Filters are no longer necessary. You can get better results by bracketing your shots and blending them together later in Photoshop.

A graduated filter is one where half the filter is dark and it gradually fades to clear. This allows you to darken a bright sky without making the foreground too dark.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of limitations to using graduated ND filters. The dividing line between the dark and light halves is a straight line.

So when you have any part of the foreground sticking up over the horizon like trees, mountains, or buildings…they will end up too dark.

Can You Use Variable ND Filters For Landscape Photography?

You can use variable ND filters for landscape photography but they are typically going to cause more sharpness loss and color cast than a standard ND filter.

Variable ND filters are very common for video shooting because you need to be able to make small adjustments to the amount of density on the fly as you are shooting. But you don’t have that problem when shooting stills.

Since you only need a few different strength filters to cover the range you need for still shooting, it makes more sense to have the standard ND filters and avoid the negative impact on image quality that a variable ND filter can cause.

Best Lens Filters

Updated January 2021.

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.

Top Pick | Kase Wolverine

Before deciding to write this article and looking for as many filters as I could try, I hadn’t really heard of Kase Filters. But I am really happy I discovered them.

Click below to check availability and pricing…

There are a lot of good filters on the market. They are getting better and better with every new one that comes out.

So much so that we’ve reached a point where the differences between the image quality among the top options is so small that it’s almost impossible to tell them apart with the naked eye.

This is why Kase made the top spot on our list. They are right up there with the best of the best when it comes to image quality. But what sets them apart is that they are just so easy to use. All you need is an adapter ring for each of your lenses and the filters just snap on magnetically.

The polarizing filter turns freely while staying securely attached with the magnet and its incredibly easy to stack other ones on top of it.

Spoiler Alert: Kase is our top pick for the ND Filters below too…

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.

Best Screw On Filters | Breakthrough Photography X4 CPL

Breakthrough produces great quality glass and their screw on filters are easy to grip and work with.

Click below to check availability and pricing…

After testing a number of filters, the Breakthrough Filters were at the top of the list when it came to image quality along with the Kase Filters. I saw no color cast and minimal to no loss of sharpness.

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.

Despite these benefits, the reason Breakthrough Filters aren’t my top pick is that the magnetic Kase filters are just so much easier to work with and offer equal image quality.

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 | Kase Filter System

Same as the CPL above, my favorite ND Filter to use is the Kase. Since it is really more of a complete system then a single filter, this is really the exact same thing as the link above.

Click below to check availability and pricing…

I would recommend getting the package equal to your largest diameter lens (for me that’s an 82mm) and then getting adapters that fit each smaller lens.

Kase does have step up adapters (for example an adapter that fits on a 72mm lens thread but takes an 82mm filter). That way you don’t need any step-up rings either, which helps to eliminate or minimize vignetting.

The magnetic system really shines when you are using the ND filters. Especially when it comes to the stronger NDs, you will need to take it off to compose the image and focus and then put it on to shoot.

So being able to do that without having to screw it on and off saves a ton of time and that can be the difference between getting the shot and missing it.

Runner-Up | Breakthrough Photography X4 ND

Same as above, the Breakthrough Filters are exceptional. If you prefer a more traditional screw on filter, then these are the way to go.

Click below to check availability and pricing…

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.

Best Nikon Lens For Family Portraits

Photography has never been more accessible, but to level-up your family photos, the right lens helps. A lot of you out there are Nikon shooters and there are two Nikons in our picks for the best camera for family photography.

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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.

If you’ve jumped to the Nikon Mirrorless system, check out my pics for the Best Nikon Z Lenses For Portraits.

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

The 50mm lens has been a staple in the photographer’s arsenal since the inception of the handheld camera and 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. 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.

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.

Best Image Quality | Nikon 85mm f/1.4

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.

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.

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.

Professional Pick | 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.

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!

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.

Best For Environmental Portraits | 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.

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.

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.

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 Landscape Lenses For Nikon

There are many important factors when you’re photographing the great outdoors, and the type of lens you’re using is essential.

It doesn’t matter if you’re on a budget or have thousands of dollars to spend. Below are some of the best landscape lenses for Nikon cameras.

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I’ll also touch on the most crucial things amateur landscape photographers need to keep in mind when shooting. Let’s get on with the reviews.

Top Pick | Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G

Out of all of the available lenses that work well with a Nikon, I the Nikon 14-24mm as the best of the best. This lens has been on the market for over a decade and still produces stunning images.

NOTE: This is a DSLR F-mount lens. If you’re shooting Nikon mirrorless, check out the even more impressive Z-mount version below.

Click below to compare prices and check availability…

In fact, it’s the lens that most landscape photographers pick over others. You can’t go wrong with an aperture wide open at f/2.8 but of course, you can always adjust that for more traditional shots.

One thing I will add is you’ll want a special filter system on your camera in order to use filters on this lens. It has a large front element that sticks out so standard filters won’t work. I use filters often with landscape photos so this was a big deal for me and made me go with the Tamron below.

But, if you don’t use filters, this shouldn’t be an issue and the image quality is hard to beat.

The images are razor sharp without adding any distortion, excessive vignetting, or flares. If you’re shooting in extreme conditions, the Nikon 14-24mm is very durable and reliable.

It’s weather-sealed, making it safe to use in snow, rain, or even sandstorms. The metal exterior makes it tough, yet still looks great on the camera body.

  • Lens Type: Zoom
  • Focal Length: 14-24 mm
  • Image Stabilization: No
  • Lens Mount: Nikon F (FX)
  • Max Aperture: F2.8
  • Min Aperture: F22
  • Minimum Focus: 0.28 m (11.02″)
  • Length: 970 g (2.14 lb)
  • Weight: 132 mm (5.18″)

Runner-Up | Tamron 17-35mm F/2.8-4 Di OSD

Coming in at second place is the Tamron 17-35mm ultra-wide-angle zoom lens. One of the reasons I added this lens to the list is how unbelievably lightweight and compact it is.

Click below to compare prices and check availability…

Plus, this lens makes it easy for beginners to learn how to use it. You can use the wide lens to shoot a mountain range or zoom to 35mm to focus on a single subject without compromising the background.

Another reason this Nikon lens made the cut is that it’s wildly versatile. If you shoot more than just landscapes, such as weddings or concerts, you’ll want this lens.

It’s powered by Tamron’s iconic Optimized Silent Drive mode, making it whisper quiet. The only complaint I have about it is that the autofocus is slower than other lenses, but not slow enough that I wouldn’t use it. Like other Tamron lenses, it has a sleek matte black finish.

  • Lens Type: Zoom
  • Focal Length: 17-35mm
  • Image Stabilization: No
  • Lens Mount: Canon EF and Nikon F (FX)
  • Max Aperture: F2.8-4
  • Min Aperture: F16-22
  • Minimum Focus:0.28 m (11.02″)
  • Length: 93 mm (3.66″)
  • Weight: 460 g (1.01 lb)

Budget Pick | Tokina 17-35mm f/4 Pro FX Lens

Not everyone has several hundreds of dollars to spend on a new lens and that’s where the Tokina 17-35mm comes in. It provides an ultra-wide angle focal range while keeping a fixed max aperture.

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If you’re shooting a lot of landscapes, you’ll prefer the f/4 version of this lens, compared to the f/2.8 and save some money. This lens is lightweight and can be paired with standard filters without adding an extra connection piece.

Even though it’s compact and affordable, it’s still durable and reliable.

The low price tag does come with a couple of things to note. For starters, there are better lenses available when it comes to image quality. That being said, it still produces very sharp images without compromising the photo.

The autofocus could be improved as well, but again, not a major deal to most photographers. The zoom ring moves effortlessly and is perfectly positioned. Overall, the Tokina 17-35mm is a solid choice if you’re on a budget.

  • Lens Type: Zoom
  • Focal Length: 17-35mm
  • Image Stabilization: No
  • Lens Mount: Canon EF and Nikon F (FX)
  • Max Aperture: F2.8–4
  • Min Aperture: F16–22
  • Minimum Focus: 0.28 m (11.02″)
  • Length: 93 mm (3.66″)
  • Weight: 460 g (1.01 lb)

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

For those of you working with crop sensor cameras, it’s important to pay close attention when shopping for a landscape lens. The Nikon Nikkor 16-80mm is one of my favorites because the f/2.8-4 aperture is surprisingly fast.

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You can easily soften backgrounds or foregrounds while keeping your subject perfectly in focus. This lens has just about everything you need to shoot jaw-dropping outdoor photos.

The VR image stabilization makes it perfect for those shooting in windy or unstable areas. The Nikkor 16-80mm is the world’s lightest 5x zoom lens available. If you already have a heavy gear bag, this won’t make a dent.

It also works great with video if you want to capture that as well. It has a Nano Crystal Coat which eliminates glare and color aberration, while enhancing contrast and sharpness.

  • Lens Type: Zoom
  • Focal Length: 16–80 mm
  • Image Stabilization: Yes (4 stops)
  • Lens Mount: Nikon F (DX)
  • Max Aperture: F2.8–4
  • Min Aperture: F22–32
  • Minimum Focus: 0.35 m (13.78″)
  • Length: 86 mm (3.39″)
  • Weight: 480 g (1.06 lb)

Z-Mount Pick | Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S

The Nikon Z 14-24mm lens represents the next generation of landscape lenses for Nikon. The color game and contrast is unmatched compared to any other lens here and tt has flawless edge-to-edge performance.

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Like almost all of the new Z-mount lenses, the image quality is impeccable. This is one of the few wide angle lenses out there that surpasses the 14-24mm that topped our list.

The feature that excites me the most about this lens for shooting landscapes is that even with a 14mm wide field of view, it doesn’t have the massive front element sticking out that is common on this zoom range.

That means that you can use 112mm screw-in filters with the included HB-97 lens hood. So while you may need some larger filters, there’s no need for one of those bulky filter holder systems and unwieldy square slide in filters.

In addition to the image quality and usability that is important to landscape photographers, this is comparatively compact for a lens of this aperture and quality. At 650 grams, it comes in at only 67% of the weight of the DSLR counterpart above.

The one downside to this Z-mount lens is the price tag. Nikon’s Nano Crystal Coating helps to make up for these downsides and provides stunning photos by reducing flare and ghosting.

It also has a dust and moisture-resistant body that’s incredibly durable. If you’re becoming more serious about landscape photography, this isn’t just a great option, it is legitimately good enough to be a compelling reason to switch to the Nikon Mirrorless Z-mount system.

  • Lens Type: Zoom
  • Focal Length: 14-24mm
  • Image Stabilization: No
  • Lens Mount: Nikon Z
  • Max Aperture: F2.8
  • Min Aperture: F22
  • Minimum Focus: 0.28 m (11.02″)
  • Length: 125 mm (4.92″)
  • Weight: 650 g (1.43 lb)

What To Look For When Choosing A Landscape Lens

When you’re shopping around for a landscape lens, there are certain factors you’ll want to keep in mind.

Landscape lenses offer different capabilities than other gear options on the market. Here’s what you’ll want to be on the lookout for when comparing one lens to another.

Overall Image Quality

For starters, the overall image quality of any lens should be one of the main reasons why you spend your hard-earned money on it.

If you shoot sunrises over the ocean or wildlife in the evening, you’ll want something that works well in low lighting and that has a larger aperture. You’ll also want to be on the lookout for a wide ISO setting.

This makes it easier to control the light and shoot on a lower ISO to keep the visual noise to a minimum. Having a fast shutter speed can also contribute to your image quality, especially when shooting animals. Lastly, consider image stabilization, as it can help for those who aren’t using a tripod.

Build Quality

Whenever you’re photographing the great outdoors, you’ll want to consider your surroundings. If you’re taking photos in a wide open field or shallow valley, you may not worry about the build quality of the lens too much.

But for those of us that enjoy photographing landscapes in areas that are a bit more rigorous, it’s important to make sure our gear can handle the surroundings. If you can, opt for a lens that’s made of metal, instead of plastic.

You’ll also want to get a lens that has some sort of weatherproofing or resistance to dust or water.

Focal Length

Landscape photography works with four main types of lenses. There are prime lenses, telephoto lenses, standard zoom lenses, and ultra-wide angle lenses. Which one you’ll want depends on what exactly you’re shooting. Most photographers like using a standard zoom lens for their everyday landscape shots.

If you need something that can capture large areas like savannahs or mountain ranges, you may want an ultra-wide angle. Telephoto lenses are great for those shooting objects that are far off in the distance.

For people shooting the moon or animals in their natural habitats, you’ll want a telephoto lens. Lastly, a prime lens is also known as a fixed lens. It doesn’t zoom but is great for shooting the night sky during a meteor shower!

Ability To Use Filters

The last point I want to touch on is getting a lens with the ability to use filters. As a landscape photographer, whether you’re professional or amateur, you may want to play around with lens filters. This may also be a must-have factor, depending on your shooting environment.

Having a camera that makes it easy to twist on a filter and start shooting is great.

Some lenses require an additional piece of gear to add onto your lens before being able to put on a filter. This can be more work and ultimately more expensive, but it will still get the job done.

As long as you know what you want out of a lens, you’ll have no problem picking the perfect one for your needs! Happy shopping and always remember to have fun when you’re shooting!

Best Camera Under $300

Photography is a fun and creative hobby that can eventually lead to a full-time career but getting started can be expensive.

Our top pick, the Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80 has everything a beginner needs.

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This guide will help you get started with the best camera under $300 so you can learn photography without breaking the bank.

Best Overall | Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80

The overall best camera you’re going to find under $300 is the Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80. This is a point and shoot camera that can capture things up close or far off in the distance. The convenient 3-inch LCD screen is touch enable, making it easy for newbies to use things like autofocus.

  • Body Type: SLR-like (bridge)
  • Max Resolution: 4896 x 3672
  • Effective Pixels: 18 megapixels
  • Sensor Size: 1/2.3″ (6.17 x 4.55 mm)
  • Sensor Type: BSI-CMOS
  • ISO: Auto, 80-3200 (expands to 6400)
  • Focal Length: 20–1200 mm
  • Max Aperture: F2.8–5.9
  • Screen Size: 3 inches
  • Max Shutter Speed: 1/2000 sec
  • Storage Types: D/SDHC/SDXC card
  • Format: MPEG-4, AVCHD
  • Dimensions: 130 x 94 x 119 mm (5.12 x 3.7 x 4.69″)

If you’re big into making videos too, this is a solid choice. It shoots crisp 4k video and gives you multiple different saving modes. One of the coolest features of this Panasonic camera is the low light capture.

On dark cloudy days or in rooms with less than adequate lighting, you’ll still be able to get well-lit photos. No one wants a grainy picture and you won’t be getting that will this camera.

It also has USB charging and Wi-Fi connectivity. This makes it super easy to snap some pictures and upload them directly to your phone to share with your friends and family. Comfort Grip and High-Resolution Viewfinder

This camera’s high-resolution 1,170K-dot viewfinder and rear touch-enabled 3-inch LCD display are clear even under bright light. The LUMIX FZ80 fits comfortably in your hand with an ergonomic grip and lightweight feel. Overall, it’s a nice camera to take with you on the go or just shoot at home.

Runner-Up | Nikon Coolpix B500

Nikon has come out with several different models of the Coolpix throughout the years but the B500 is easily one of the best on the market. You can expect to get incredible photos thanks to the maximum resolution of 4608 x 3456. This camera shoots full HD 1080p video, which is great for vloggers or video enthusiasts.

  • Body Type: SLR-like (bridge)
  • Max Resolution: 4608 x 3456
  • Effective Pixels: 16 megapixels
  • Sensor Size: 1/2.3″ (6.17 x 4.55 mm)
  • Sensor Type: BSI-CMOS
  • ISO: Auto, 80-3200
  • Focal Length: 22.5–900 mm
  • Max Aperture: F3–6.5
  • Screen Size: 3 inches
  • Max Shutter Speed: 1/4000 sec
  • Storage Types: MPEG-4, H.264
  • Format: SD/SDHC/SDXC
  • Dimensions: 114 x 78 x 95 mm (4.49 x 3.07 x 3.74″)

Even though it’s less than $300, the way the sensor is constructed allows for extremely clear image quality. You can also shoot at a variety of distances by using the 40x optical zoom that gives a wide focal range. If you don’t use a tripod, no worries! The lens on the Nikon Coolpix B500 has Vibration Reduction to reduce any appearance of camera shake.

Easily one of my favorite things about this camera is that it has Bluetooth low energy built-in, along with NFC and Wi-Fi connectivity. You can send photos to your phone, television, and other devices. This is perfect for photographers who want to easily send the photos from the device to their editor.

There are also 18 different scene modes built-in which is wildly convenient for the person just starting and learning the ropes. Lastly, the Nikon Coolpix B500 features three ED lens elements that allow the camera to deliver high-quality photos without costing you a fortune. 

Action Cam Pick | GoPro Hero 8 Black

When GoPro first hit the market, they revolutionized the way people made videos. Vloggers, hobbyists, and professional filmmakers couldn’t get enough of the incredible shots these tiny cameras get. The Hero 8 delivers smooth video and because it’s an action camera, it has three levels of built-in stabilization.

  • Body Type: VR/Action camera
  • Effective Pixels: 12 megapixels
  • Sensor Type: CMOS
  • Storage Types:
  • Format: H.264, H.265
  • Dimensions: 66 x 49 x 28 mm (2.61 x 1.91 x 1.12″)

If you’re wanting to get really good at time-lapsing, this is the camera for you. With the time warp feature improved from previous GoPro products, the camera will automatically adjust speed based on the motion it’s detecting. You can speed up or slow down this effect with a single tap.

The Hero 8 has a live burst feature that will record 1 ½ seconds before and after you shoot, similar to “burst” mode on the iPhone. This makes it easy to choose the best frame out of the lot. It’s also smart remote compatible and has everything you need already built-in. If you’re someone who spends a lot of time outdoors or you want to give a realistic POV as you work on a project, this action cam is the best choice.

Compact Travel Pick | Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

I like to think of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS as a good starter camera for anyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re going on vacation, throwing a birthday party, or just snapping cute pictures of your pets. It’s incredibly compact, ergonomic, and can easily fit in your pocket or purse.

  • Body Type: Compact
  • Max Resolution: 5184 x 3888
  • Effective Pixels: 20 megapixels
  • Sensor Size: 1/2.3″ (6.17 x 4.55 mm)
  • Sensor Type: BSI-CMOS
  • ISO: Auto, 100-3200
  • Focal Length: 24–960 mm
  • Max Aperture: F3.3–6.9
  • Screen Size: 3 inches
  • Max Shutter Speed: 1/3200 sec
  • Storage Types: SD/SDHC/SDXC card
  • Format: MPEG-4, H.264
  • Dimensions: 110 x 64 x 36 mm (4.33 x 2.52 x 1.42″)

It has a built-in 40x Optical Zoom that makes it seamless to capture objects close or far from you. One reason why this is a fantastic travel camera is because of the built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity. This means you can leave your laptop at home and edit the photos straight on your phone. You won’t need a USB cord, card reader, are anything in between.

With the help of the CMOS sensor and the DIGIC 6 Image Processor, this Canon camera delivers beautiful photos. There’s also a unique highlights feature that gives the user a mini slideshow of compiled photos and videos from each day. Overall, it’s a fantastic and compact camera that anyone would enjoy.

Waterproof Pick | Olympus Tough TG-5

Last but not least, the Olympus Tough TG-5 is the best waterproof camera for under $300. Not only is it waterproof, but it’s also shockproof, crushproof, freezeproof, and more. If you live in an extreme climate or like to take photos of epic adventures, this camera is your new best friend.

  • Body Type: Compact
  • Max Resolution: 4000 x 3000
  • Effective Pixels: 12 megapixels
  • Sensor Size: 1/2.3″ (6.17 x 4.55 mm)
  • Sensor Type: BSI-CMOS
  • ISO: Auto, 100-12800
  • Focal Length: 25–100 mm
  • Max Aperture: F2–4.9
  • Screen Size: 3 inches
  • Max Shutter Speed: 1/2000 sec
  • Storage Types: SD/SDHC/SDXC card (UHS-I compatible)
  • Format: MPEG-4, H.264
  • Dimensions: 113 x 66 x 32 mm (4.45 x 2.6 x 1.26″)

Another reason why this is the best camera for outdoor adventures is the imaging power it has. With a specialized image sensor and dual quad-core TruePic VIII Processor, it delivers stunning photos without a lot of noise or overexposure. The lens has an anti-fog feature and is also capable of shooting 4k video.

You’ll be able to shoot up to five frames with the touch of a button with this Olympus camera. On top of quality video, you can shoot raw images as well. Lastly, like the other cameras listed above, this incredible camera has built-in Wi-Fi capabilities, perfect for on-the-go.

What To Look For In A Budget Camera

It’s always a good idea to know a few things about a product before you shell out hundreds of dollars for it. Here are some of the main focal points you should be aware of when comparing cameras online or in person.

Megapixels/Image Quality

A camera’s resolution is measured in megapixels. The higher the megapixels, the better quality photo you’re going to get. The sensor plays a part as well when it comes to image quality. You can have a camera with fewer megapixels but a fantastic sensor, making up for the lack of megapixels. Professional cameras have 25 megapixels or higher, and you should never dip below 12 megapixels to ensure you’re getting clear and crisp photos.

Manual Controls

If you want to be in control, you’ll need controls. Many point and shoot cameras give you the basics without allowing you to customize things like ISO, aperture, and the like. Look for a camera that has plenty of manual controls if you’re looking to be more professional. On the other hand, if you’re just starting out and don’t care about the specifics, you may not need all of the extra controls and features.

Shooting Features

Speaking of features, there are several you should be on the lookout for. When you’re just starting out and getting into photography, these features will be crucial. Some of the most common features on inexpensive cameras are:

  • Auto
  • Scene
  • Manual
  • Video

Along with exposure modes like P, S, A, and M. You may also want to look out for continuous shooting and burst mode as well.

Peak Design Travel Tripod Review

Peak Design is a company that puts a lot of emphasis on design and usability…and they aren’t afraid to try something new or different in an industry that tends to be a little on the traditional side and their travel tripod is no exception.

The Peak Design Travel Tripod is a very compact and light tripod with a unique design that gives it advantages in some areas and disadvantages in others. Overall, it’s a great option for those looking for a tripod that is light and easy to pack.

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CLICK HERE to check the price and availability on their website.

I definitely appreciate a company that thinks out of the box to try finding better solutions.

That different approach shows with this tripod (but was it a swing and a miss or a home run?).

First of all….It looks different than any other tripod out there.

But do these innovations actually make it a better tripod?

Let’s take a look…

Portability

This is a travel tripod so the primary purpose is to be easy to travel with and carry in or on a pack when hiking to your next photo destination.

The Peak Design tripod is unique compared to many other tripods on the market. The ball head is especially unique (more about that later). It’s this unique design that allows this tripod to be very compact.

It measures 15.4″ when fully collapsed. That means it can fit in any normal-sized suitcase and will be easy to strap to the side of a backpack when hiking.

Here’s an illustration from the Peak Design website that shows the design differences from most tripods.

It is extremely efficient in its use of space, with almost no gaps when folded down.

Peak design claims that it folds to the size of a water bottle. Check out the photo below to see for yourself…

One thing that Peak Design does really well is their presentation and their packaging. 

When you first get it, you’ll see that it comes in this nifty box. This is probably the nicest box I’ve ever gotten a tripod in (if not especially useful).

Inside that, you have a pretty nice soft case that would be very useful to travel with.

Now let’s move onto the other features…

The (Infamous) Ballhead Design

The ballhead is probably where Peak Design took the most risks.

Like I mentioned earlier, they went very different from the traditional ball head design in order to make it more compact. They definitely succeeded on the compactness but what about the actual functionality of the ball head.

Overall, I like the feel of it and the ball head tightening mechanism. It’s not as sturdy as bigger and heavier ball heads, but for a travel tripod, it is quite sturdy.

I have seen some complaints that portrait orientation only tilts to one side. But that’s how most of the tripods out there work. An L-bracket is a better option for almost every circumstance.

That takes away the benefit of travel compactness, but you can always pack your ball head separately. If you do a lot of landscape shooting, then you probably have a favorite ball head anyway.

The one thing I don’t like is that the plate requires an Allen wrench to attach to your camera. However, it is small enough that you can leave it on the camera and it won’t get in the way of handheld shooting.

On the very positive side, the mount is Arca Swiss compatible so you can use Arca Swiss plates and more importantly, L-brackets on this tripod.

PRO TIP: Instead of just flopping the ball head over to the side for portrait orientation, grab an l-bracket so you can keep the ball head in the exact same position and just flip into portrait orientation.

I highly recommend the 3-legged Thing Ellie PD l-bracket. It is really well made and works great with this tripod as well as any other Arca Swiss compatible tripod. I leave one on my main camera almost all the time.

CLICK HERE to check the price on Amazon.

In addition, you can add a universal plate to the tripod and use your own ballhead if you prefer. That will add some weight and bulk to the tripod overall, but I like that Peak Design recognized that their ballhead may not be perfect for everyone and made that option available.

Invertible center column

Center columns are a mixed bag.

They let you easily adjust the height of the tripod, but the more they are extended, the less table the tripod becomes. Unless I really really need the height, I try to never use the height of the center column

The Peak Design center column is thinner than most, but well designed so it doesn’t seem less stable. It’s sort of a diamond shape rather than round which seems to give it more stability for the size.

That small size works with the overall design to add to the compactness of the tripod.

It’s easy to adjust up and down and the tightening knob pushes in to get out of the way. That’s a good feature because it gets out of the way of the ball head adjustments when you are ready to shoot.

My favorite feature is the ability to shorten the center column.

Getting low to the ground is very important if you like shooting landscapes so I was happy to see that Peak Design thought about this.

They made it pretty easy to switch over to “low mode.” Once you remove most of the center column, you can splay the legs out wider and get real close to the ground. More on that below…

Legs

The first thing you’ll notice is that the legs are not your typical round cylinders (like the center column).

This is for two reasons as far as I can tell.

First, it certainly adds to the rigidity of the legs. So even though they are relatively small in diameter, they are pretty sturdy.

Second, the flatter shape allows the legs to fold down more compactly, another factor that contributes to the small form factor when folded.

Tripod Height

This is one aspect of this tripod that I really liked and I think gives it a leg up (pun intended) on a lot of the other travel tripods on the market.

Maximum Height

Max height (center column raised): 152.4 cm (60″)
Max height (center column down): 130.2 cm (51.25″)

60/51 inches is pretty good when it comes to max height for a travel tripod. Even with the center column all the way down, you’re still getting about 4.25 feet of height.

Having a tripod with a decent maximum height gives you a lot more flexibility with your shooting.

If you are shooting people, you can get the camera at eye level as opposed to looking up their noses. This is helpful if you want some travel photos with you actually in the photo.

Also, even if you are shooting landscapes, having that extra height lets you extend one leg more to compensate for uneven terrain and still keep your tripod at a workable height.

That being said, for maximum stability, I would recommend using the tripod with the bottom section (smallest legs) not extended and the center column as low as possible. That will add a lot more stability.

Minimum Height

If you like to shoot landscapes with wide angle lenses, then you probably know that the ability to get low to the ground can really help you add a compelling foreground to your images.

Peak Design has a “low mode” where you remove a section of the center column which lets you extend the legs out wider and get the camera real low.

Min height (low mode): 14 cm (5.5”)

To be honest, I’ll probably leave the tripod’s center column in “low mode” because its rare that I extend the center column of any tripod.

Although, I did notice that you do need to move even the center column up about an inch or two in order to have full mobility of the ball head.

Clips vs. Twist

The locking mechanisms for the legs are clips instead of the twisting rings you see on a lot of tripods. Each approach has it’s pros and cons.

The clips flip out quickly and you know the tripod is unlocked. There were plenty of times I thought I tightened all the legs of a tripod with the twist rings and one section gave way when I put it on the ground.

The biggest downside to clips is that they’re either open or closed and you can’t tighten them more or less. This can be a problem with weather changes as the tension needed to lock them might vary.

Peak design fixes this by allowing you to adjust the tension of each individual clip with an allen wrench if they get loose or tight. It is an added step that requires a tool, but you shouldn’t have to do it very often.

Clips can sometimes get caught on things though. So be aware if you are walking with the tripod on your backpack.

Stability

Overall, the stability is pretty good for a super lightweight tripod

But that doesn’t mean its rock solid compared to the bigger heavier models out there.

Lightweight means less stability (just physics can’t design around that)

Weight

Alloy: 1.56 kg (3.44 lbs)
Carbon: 1.27 kg (2.81 lbs)

Difference: 0.29 kg (0.63 lbs)

It does have a hook on the bottom of the center column for adding weight. You can hang your camera bag there and it should make it more sturdy. Just be careful of doing that in the wind because a swaying camera bag will add to the camera shake.

No tripod is not perfect and you should use things like a remote trigger or the timer on the camera to get the best results when shooting at slower shutter speeds to avoid camera shake.

It can handle payloads up to 20 lbs.

But I wouldn’t use it for everything.

If you are shooting with a big telephoto lens for things like wildlife or birds in flight, you probably want a heavier duty tripod with a gimbal head.

Should You Get Aluminum or Carbon Fiber?

There’s about a $250 difference between the two options so this is a significant decision for most photographers.

The biggest benefit of choosing carbon fiber saving weight while maintaining rigidity and some degree of vibration dampening. Both of those things help you avoid camera shake from things like shutter vibrations or placing your tripod in moving water.

However, that range of vibrations that are small enough to be dampened by carbon fiber but big enough to affect your image is so small that you probably won’t notice any difference in practical use.

So the biggest differentiating factor is the weight. In this case, that is a difference of 0.29 kg (0.63 lbs).

So when choosing which one, you have to ask yourself, “how valuable is about half a pound?”

If you do a lot of hiking long distances or find yourself constantly up to the weight limit in your luggage, then the extra $250 could be worth it to you. A half a pound savings can feel massive for a 20 mile hike for sure.

But the average photographer is going to see very little practical difference between the two tripod, so for most of you, I would recommend the aluminum.

Other than that, they are identical in every way. I did actually reach out to the company rep and confirm that I wasn’t missing anything and that this is actually the case.

Accessories

Inside the center column, they stuffed a little phone bracket that lets you mount your phone to the tripod. I give myself about 45 days before I lose this thing, but it is really useful for anyone that likes to shoot with their phone on a tripod.

Peak Design sells spikes for the feet separately. These can be useful when shooting in areas that have sand or soft ground.

They also let you replace the ballhead with a universal base that can fit any ballhead.

I really like this approach. The Peak Design ballhead is good and very light and compact, but it lacks some of the functionality of the bigger ballheads. So you can use the Peak Design ballhead when you need the minimum weight and size and then switch over to your favorite ballhead when you want the more robust option.

So should you buy the Peak Design Tripod?

This is a great tripod. The unique design makes it perfect for travel.

If the quirks of the ballhead aren’t an issue to you, then you’ll be very happy.

So yes, I do think it’s worth the investment for a lot of photographers.

But do you need the carbon fiber version?

Honestly, probably not.

Unless you do a lot of hiking and that 0.63 lbs. will make a difference to you. On longer hikes, every half a pound counts.

But for normal travel use, I’d say save the $250 and go for the aluminum version.

So there you have it, great design, unique approach to a ball head, and gets a lot of things right for the lightweight travel tripod user.

CLICK HERE to check the price and availability on their website.

Best Mirrorless Camera Under $1000 (2021 Top Picks)

In a few years, mirrorless cameras are going to be the only options out there. They are smaller, lighter, have more features, and no clunky mirror to break.

So to help you break into the world of mirrorless without breaking the bank, I compiled a list of the best mirrorless cameras under $1000.

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All the big manufacturers are taking the opportunity to upgrade their lens mounts along with their new mirrorless lineups, so if you didn’t already have enough reason to invest in a mirrorless system…all the upcoming top quality lenses are going to be mirrorless as well.

So let’s dig into the reasons for the picks and give you a few additional options as well.

Best Overall | Sony A7II

The Sony A7II might just be the best value on the camera market today. You’ll get a 24MP full-frame Sony Mirrorless camera, great low light performance, and open up the possibilities of the great new Sony mirrorless lenses…for under $1000.

  • Release Date: 2014-11-20
  • 24MP – Full frame CMOS Sensor
  • ISO 100 – 25600 (expands to 50-51200)
  • Sony E Mount
  • 5-axis In-Body Image Stabilization
  • Tilting Screen
  • 2359k dot Electronic viewfinder
  • 5.0 fps continuous shooting
  • Full HD video resolution (1920 x 1080)
  • Built-in Wireless
  • 599g
  • 127 x 96 x 60 mm
  • Weather-Sealed Body

Now, you may be wondering if I am crazy for calling a camera from 2014 the “best mirrorless camera for under $1000.”

I may be crazy, but not based on this.

While it does lack some of the more impressive features of the newer Sony A7III…that camera will cost you about $700 more.

What you get with this camera is an admission into the world of full-frame Sony mirrorless.

While Sony is a newer player in the camera market, they are producing some of the best cameras and lenses out there today. The A7II lets you start building up your Sony full-frame kit piece by piece while at the same time providing some top quality images.

DXO gave this camera a rating of 13.6 when it comes to stops of dynamic range. The other full-frame camera on this list is the Canon EOS RP, which has a DXO dynamic range rating of 11.9.

So while it doesn’t sport the back-side illuminated sensor of the newer A7III, it still delivers exceptional dynamic range and low light performance.

The autofocus on the A7II is plenty capable for most all types of photography, excpet for maybe very fast moving sports. The sensor has 117 phase and 25 contrast detection points. So while it doesn’t have the autofocus of newer Sony cameras, its still pretty good.

It also has 5-axis in body image stabilization, being one of the first cameras to implement that feature. This means that your shaky hands won’t ruin as many photos and any video footage you shoot will be a lot steadier.

Now on the subject of video…

One area where the A7II falls a little short is in its video capabilities. It can record in Full HD up to 50/60p and 50Mbps. It does have dedicated picture profiles and S-Log2, but the quality isn’t as good as some of the other options below and it has some visible aliasing. That being said, its still very capable when it comes to video, but it does show its age in that respect.

If your primary focus is on the best quality still images you can get for under $1000 and investing in a mirrorless system that is among the best around, then the Sony A7II might just be the perfect camera for you at this price point.

Budget Pick | Fuji XT-200

Coming in as the least expensive camera on this list, the Fuji XT-200 has a classic look and feel to it with some great modern technology built-in at a price that is a great entry point for beginners.

  • 24MP – APS-C CMOS Sensor
  • ISO 200 – 12800 (expands to 100-51200)
  • 3.5 Fully Articulated Screen
  • 2360k dot Electronic viewfinder
  • 8.0 fps continuous shooting
  • 4K (UHD) – 3840 x 2160 video
  • Built-in Wireless
  • 370g
  • 121 x 84 x 55 mm

Fujifilm takes a unique approach to their camera design and technology and if you like the look and feel of Fuji cameras then this is a good option to get started with.

This is an APS-C sensor (a.k.a. a crop sensor) which means it is smaller than the Sony A7II and Canon EOS RP on this list. The sensor is the same size as the more expensive Nikon Z50 (although I would choose the Z50 over this one if it’s in your budget).

Like almost all of their newer cameras, the XT-200 uses the Fuji X-mount. With the recent increase in popularity of Fuji cameras, they have built out a pretty robust lens lineup. Fuji focuses mostly on crop sensor cameras and lenses so you can rest assured this lineup is their priority.

As far as the looks go, you either like it or you don’t. Fuji goes with the more traditional look and feel in their cameras and the XT-200 is no exception. You can get it in all black or the black and silver look that was popular in older film cameras. In fact, it looks a lot like the first film camera I ever bought when I was in high school.

I like that Fuji has included physical dials on the top of the camera. This is helpful for someone making the transition from a cell phone camera and allows you to make exposure adjustments quickly and without looking at the screen.

As for image quality, Fuji has done a really nice job with this camera, especially at this lower price point. You’ll get crisp, sharp RAW images and the JPEG processing by Fujifilm is among the best out there. So if you prefer to skip the RAW editing and shoot JPEG, then this is a great option for you.

On the video front, it shoots 4K video and looks pretty good. The HD video seems a little soft, but not bad. It has a feature called “digital gimbal” which is essentially built in digital image stabilization. It does that by cropping in and shooting at 1080p. It’s really great if you like to shoot handheld video and don’t want to bother doing the stabilizing in software after the fact.

The digital gimbal somewhat makes up for the fact that it doesn’t have in-body image stabilization like the Sony above.

Overall, this is a great affordable camera and a good option for someone who wants to upgrade from their cell phone and learn photography.

Runner-Up | Canon EOS RP

The Canon EOS RP is the least expensive entry point into the new Canon mirrorless system. Although Canon’s mirrorless lens lineup isn’t as built up as Sony’s (yet), Canon has a ton of great glass that you can add to the EOS RP with an adapter, and the mirrorless EF-M mount will surely catch up quickly.

  • 26MP – Full-frame CMOS Sensor
  • ISO 100 – 40000 (expands to 50-102,400)
  • 3 Fully Articulated Screen
  • 2360k dot Electronic viewfinder
  • 5.0 fps continuous shooting
  • 4K (UHD) – 3840 x 2160 video
  • Built-in Wireless
  • 485g
  • 133 x 85 x 70 mm
  • Weather Sealed Body

It’s a tough call between the older Sony A7II and this Canon camera. Both are affordable entry points into each brand’s mirrorless system for under $1000. I think the Sony will give you better still image quality and sensor performance, but the Canon is newer and the overall features and shooting experience reflects that.

No in body image stabilization

One area where the Canon certainly outperforms the older Sony is with the autofocus system. The EOS RP uses Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF. It has a total of 4,779 AF points. Canon claimed when they launched the camera that is sported the world’s fastest AF speed of 0.05sec.

More importantly, this camera makes use of Eye AF, which has gotten a lot of praise in recent years. This means that the camera will autodetect the eyes of your subject and make sure it’s focusing on the closest eye and not the nose or hair or something else. While it’s not perfect, it certainly increases the number of perfectly focused images overall.

If you are looking for a camera to shoot sports or fast-moving action, be aware that the EOS RP only has a 5fps continuous shooting speed, and this drops to 4fps with AF Tracking enabled. So if you are grabbing a camera to shoot your kid’s soccer games, the Nikon Z50 below is a better option with 11fps.

One notable downside of the autofocus is that Dual Pixel CMOS AF is not available when shooting 4K video. 

Another downside to video shooting is that there is a heavy crop when shooting 4K video footage. So you’ll have to factor in a significant change to the field of view of your various lenses when shooting 4K video.

Best Crop Sensor Option | Nikon Z50

This is the camera I chose as a backup/carry-around camera to use when I didn’t feel like taking my larger full-frame Nikon with me. The image quality is excellent and Nikon really nailed the ergonomics and handling, which makes the Z50 incredibly easy and fun to use.

  • 21MP – APS-C BSI-CMOS Sensor
  • ISO 100 – 51200 (expands to 204800)
  • 3.2 Tilting Screen
  • 2360k dot Electronic viewfinder
  • 11.0 fps continuous shooting
  • 4K (UHD) – 3840 x 2160 video
  • Built-in Wireless
  • 397g
  • 127 x 94 x 60 mm
  • Weather-Sealed Body

It’s right up at the high end of this price range, but carries with it a lot of exceptional features in a small crop sensor body AND works perfectly with full-frame Nikon Z lenses so you don’t have to invest in two sets of lenses.

If you are familiar with the Nikon lineup, it probably fits somewhere between the D5600 and the D7500 as far as features and functionality, although it is much smaller than most.

The sensor in the Z50 is essentially the same as the one in the very popular Nikon D500 (considered by many to be one of the best crop-sensor DSLRs around). So while it’s not quite as good as the full-frame cameras on this list, it holds its own and is very close.

The Z50 is one of the few cameras under $1000 to come with a back-side illuminated (“BSI”) sensor. BSI sensors help a lot with low light performance and this is what helps the Z50 compete with some full-frame cameras in terms of high ISO and low light.

One of the things I love about this camera is the 16-50 kit lens. Just looking at the specs, it seems a run of the mill kit lens with a variable f/3.5-6.3 aperture, but it turned out to be impeccably sharp corner to corner and combined with the compact size it folds down to, turns the Z50 into a very compact APS-C sized camera that you can easily throw in a small bag for any excursion.

Nikon also has a 50-250mm crop sensor lens (Nikon calls its crop sensor lineup “DX”) that is equally sharp and, combined with the 11fps continuous shooting, makes it a great option for shooting sports.

The Z50 also has Eye Autofocus and it works great. I think Nikon has been a step behind Sony and Canon with this technology but they have a history of creating the best AF systems in the world and are catching up quick. They are regularly releasing firmware improvements to the AF systems in their mirrorless cameras as well.

The Nikon Z50 is a great option if you want to get into the Nikon Z system. You can start upgrading to the full frame Nikon Z lenses and use them with this camera before investing in a full-frame Nikon mirrorless.

Nikon has lost a little market share to Sony in recent years, but they still make some of the best cameras around when it comes to image quality and you can’t go wrong buying into their new mirrorless system.

Best Micro Four-Thirds Option | Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV

For you micro four-thirds enthusiasts out there, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is a compact little powerhouse that is a joy to carry around with you and can produce some big results.

  • 20MP – Micro Four-Thirds CMOS Sensor
  • ISO 200 – 25600
  • 5-axis In-body Image Stabilization
  • 3″ Tilting Screen
  • 2360k dot Electronic viewfinder
  • 15.0 fps continuous shooting
  • 4K (UHD) – 3840 x 2160 video
  • Built-in Wireless
  • 383g
  • 122 x 84 x 49 mm

The biggest appeal of a micro four-thirds (“MFT”) camera is that the camera plus a good kit lens is small enough to carry with you almost anywhere yet powerful enough to get most of the shots you’ll want. That aspect alone is enough to make it an easy choice for someone who travels a lot and doesn’t need high-end low light performance.

This model is an upgrade in quality and price from the beginner-focused E-PL series. With a 20MP sensor, you’ll get a lot of detail in your images even with the smaller sensor.

It’s smaller than the Nikon Z50 above, although not by a ton, and the Z50 will most likely give you better image quality.

One advantage the Olympus has in the 5-axis in-body image stabilization. With the smaller sensor they can fit the stabilization tech into the camera body while keeping the small form factor.

Like the Fuji, this camera adopts a classic look and feel, with the silver trim and multiple physical dials. This may seem antiquated in a world of touch screens but physical dials can be the difference between making quick adjustments and getting the shot or not.

The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is for anyone that wants the most compact option available while maintaining great image quality and the ability to shoot great quality 4K video.

What To Look For When Choosing A Mirrorless Camera

Lens Compatibility/System

Camera bodies are upgraded on a regular basis and there will always be newer and better ones out there, but a good set of lenses can last well over a decade.

So one of the most important considerations when choosing a new camera (especially if you are jumping into a new mirrorless system for the first time) is the overall system and the lenses that are available (or will be available) in that system.

This is where the big three camera companies dominate. Canon, Nikon, and now Sony have the most complete lens lineups out there. Canon and Nikon have been around a lot longer, so you’ll see a lot more affordable older and used lenses in their systems overall, but when it comes to mirrorless specifically, Sony has aggressively built up their system.

Just on pure specs, I think the new Nikon mirrorless mount and system has the most potential. It’s the largest mount size and the closest to the sensor. Those two features may seem insignificant, but they allow Nikon to push the limits of physics a little further than their competitors when it comes to lens development.

That being said, you really can’t go wrong with any of the options on this list. While the big three have more options, all the systems represented here are well fleshed out and have a lot of great options at various price points.

Sensor Quality

The next most important thing when choosing a camera body is the sensor, which directly affects image quality.

There are three main aspects of a sensor that impact the image quality.

Megapixels (“MP”) is the one sensor feature that everyone knows. More MP means more detail. but it also means larger files. So if you shoot a lot and have a high MP camera, you’ll need more storage space on your hard drive.

The benefits of a high MP camera are more fine detail in the images and the ability to crop in after the fact without losing much visual quality.

Dynamic range and low light performance. This is the sensor’s ability to handle a wide range of light situations. Typically good dynamic range and good low light performance go hand in hand. Better sensors in this area will let you use high ISOs or brighten up dark areas after the shot without creating noise in the image.

Shooting Features

Shooting features can cover a lot of things and it’s mostly up to you and what you typically shoot that determines which of those things are important.

Some of the important ones to look at are autofocus, continuous shooting speed, and video capability.

There have been a lot of improvements in AF systems in recent years. Eye AF is the latest technology and is getting a lot of hype (for good reason). I’ve been using the Eye AF in the Nikon Z50 and it makes a big difference when shooting people. It let’s you grab perfect focus of the eyes much more quickly than having to move the focus points manually.

Continuous shooting is very important if you want to shoot any kind of fast moving action. This can mean anything from sports to just kids playing. More frames per second means less missed moments.

Video quality in mirrorless cameras could be its own 5000 word article on here, but I’ll try to break it down to the most basic points. 4K video is where things are headed. Many of us have 4K TVs already and even if you want to view the video in HD, shooting 4K allows you to crop in after shooting without losing any quality. So if video shooting is important to you, 4K is a must.

Best Macro Lens For Canon Shooters

Entering the world of macro photography, you’ll face a surprisingly wide variety of lens choices as you continue researching one of the most challenging, yet rewarding genres of photography.

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Any of the lenses included below, as well as many others, are capable of producing high quality images.

The choices below offer value, quality and impressive flexibility. There aren’t any poor selections here, but how you plan to use your new lens is critical. 

Best Overall | Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD

With a longstanding reputation as a cutting edge optics firm known for the precision and quality of their work, Tamron is a favorite of many photographers.  

This 90mm EF mount selection features a 1:1 ratio for true-to-scale representation. Additionally, this focal length also works well with portraiture, adding to its value. The glass is coated to repel both water and fingerprints, as well as to reduce lens flares and other distortions. Their use of a circular aperture helps provide images captured with this lens an appealingly blurred background (bokeh). 

It also features an image stabilization system paired with a silent, fast focusing motor with a floating glass design in a dust-resistant package. At this focal length, the minimum focusing distance is rated at 11.8 inches. It uses 62mm filters, has a 27-degree angle of view with full-size formats, and weighs 21.5 ounces. Tamron also includes a six-year warranty.  

Having a Tamron as the best overall option in a list of lenses for Canon users was not expected when this began, but as research continued it became clear it deserved it. You have to admit that’s a really nice lens for a great price. It’s why so many veteran photographers love Tamron. If nothing else, it shows how many options modern photographers enjoy.

It’s a flexible, well regarded and affordably priced macro lens that’s right in the sweet spot of focal length, cost and capabilities. 

Budget Option | Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM

This option may be budget friendly, but it’s not short on great features. For example, this lens will give you built-in ring lighting with individual control over the left and right sides, as well over as the light’s intensity.

While 35mm means you’ll have a closest focusing distance of roughly five inches, a challenge with some aspects of nature photography, the classic 35mm format also means it’s going to work well as a versatile option for a wide variety of other situations. 

Also offering image stabilization and auto-focus systems, this choice weighs in at a mere 6.7 ounces and was engineered to be a compact addition to your gear bag. And for those who  enjoy shooting video as well as macro photography, the focusing servos were designed with you in mind. They offer smooth, silent operation along with full-time manual focusing capabilities.

This lens takes 49mm filters and design features also include a circular aperture for pleasing bokeh and a 42 degree diagonal angle of view at 35 feet. 

High End Option | Canon EF 180mm f/3.5 Macro USM 

Priced at $1,399 on Canon’s website and tipping the scales at 2.4 pounds, this one will hit both your wallet and your gear bag. But the longer focal length means a 1.6 foot closest focusing distance which will let you have an easier time capturing wary subjects at a life size 1:1 ratio. 

Utilizing their USM auto-focusing system and a floating glass design, this Canon will lock in your subjects with a beautiful clarity. With its heft and lack of an image stabilization system it will be helpful to have a tripod involved in your shoots. Along with its macro performance, this lens also performs well when taking advantage of its focal length in other situations. 

It’s 7.3 inches in length, takes 72mm filters and has a 13 degree diagonal angle of view at 30 feet. Even in five-star reviews of this lens there are mentions of the weight felt from carrying this one around, so, you’ve been warned.

Runner-Up | Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro IS USM

This is Canon’s first mid-telephoto macro lens to include image stabilization capabilities, which, combined with the image quality, makes it another excellent choice for Canon macro shooters. 

When working with the small subject areas associated with macro photography, any help to minimize camera movement is a valuable addition. In addition to manual focusing, it also features Canon’s Ultrasonic Motor (USM) auto-focusing system and a floating glass design. Fans of this lens are quick to point out its focusing speed and are also appreciative of the blurred backgrounds the f/2.8 maximum aperture can create.

This focal length has a minimum focusing distance of nearly one foot, allowing nature photographers to maintain some distance between their lens and subjects. You’ll also find it works well as a portrait lens, adding to its value and worthiness of a spot in your gear bag. 

It provides a 1:1 image ratio, takes 67mm filters, has a 23.4 degree diagonal angle of view and comes with a one year warranty. At 22 ounces, it’s not necessarily a lightweight lens, but it is a worthwhile weight to carry and fans love the speed and accuracy of the focusing.

Runner-Up | Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro

When learning about macro photography you’ll see countless mentions of 1:1 image ratios. Now imagine how much fun could be had with a 5:1 magnification ratio. A significant investment at $1,049 on Canon’s website, it’s an EF mount, manual focus only lens with a floating glass system. 

The closest focusing distance is 9.6 inches, which isn’t too bad for those hoping to capture the smaller members of wildlife. That’s a workable challenge, and the results of having that much magnification power could be stunning. If you can fill your frame with the face of a bumblebee there will be some incredible details revealed. That’s just the thing to help justify buying another lens and feel great while doing it. 

However, a word of caution; if you’re new to macro photography, the learning curve with this lens will probably be steeper than a standard 1:1 macro lens. 

It takes 58mm filters, weighs 25.8 ounces and is compatible with Canon’s macro lighting systems.

What to Look for in a Macro Lens

Usually a larger maximum aperture is desirable because it helps create the blurred backgrounds that are visually appealing. But in macro photography you usually need to close your aperture some in order to create a greater depth of field, so it’s not as much of a factor in this genre.

And most lenses will offer similar, carefully engineered features such as floating glass construction and coatings to reduce flares and eliminate chromatic aberrations. Overall quality won’t be a problem, but there are some helpful features to have in your lens, as well as some other specifications to consider before purchasing a lens.  

Image Stabilization

This is a feature that can’t be overlooked when so many lenses offer it. When working in nature with a hand-held camera while up close and with a frequently moving target, image stabilization will be an invaluable asset to helping you get the image you want. A tripod will still likely be the surest route to stability, but you can’t always work like that.

Auto-Focusing Systems 

This won’t be a hard feature to find, especially if image stabilization is included, and a sharp, fast focusing system is always appreciated. However, one of the many challenges involved with macro photography is that when you’re working so closely with your subject it can cause the focal point to jump from area to area, or “hunt”. Usually this can be resolved by just moving back a bit, or, a single point can be pre-selected. Some macro photographers choose to work around this issue by focusing manually, so the lack of an auto-focusing system doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker. 

Closest Focusing Distance

The shorter the focal length, the closer you’ll be able to focus on your subject. If you’ll be working in a studio with a 35mm lens and a piece of jewelry, it won’t be an issue to be within a few inches of your subject. But, if you were trying to capture a macro portrait of a wasp you’d surely appreciate the extra space a 100mm lens would allow. 

Weight 

This is an easy one. It may not be the deciding factor in which lens you ultimately choose, but gear bags get heavy and shoulders get sore when you’re out all day. Length can be another consideration in this area where certain gear bags are concerned. 

Flexibility 

A surprising bonus with macro lenses is they all have situations outside of their intended genre in which they excel. Some help create great portraits, and others video work. Longer focal lengths can also work as telephotos. It could be helpful to consider where a certain lens excels when considering which lens to purchase.

Accessories

Canon has developed multiple lighting rigs for macro photographers. As well as designing lenses with built-in controllable lighting, there’s also a two light package with removable, independently controlled lights. Another uses twin tubes of different types of controllable LED lighting in a ring design to provide beautifully lit images. These provide a convenient and valuable addition to a Canon macro lens and are also compatible with the company’s other lighting systems.

So Which One Do I Pick?

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all macro lenses. It’s a simple group demonstrating a variety of choices across a range of prices. 

You could take any lens listed here and get nice shots while enjoying yourself. 

The best path to follow is to decide which lens most closely falls in line with what kind of macro photography you’ll be pursuing. And even if you don’t follow that advice, you’re still going to own a great piece of gear that you’ll have a lot of fun with as you explore its potential.

As I said before, as far as modern photography gear goes, you can’t really make a mistake, so try the one that seems like it suits you best and get out there and start shooting.