As cameras continue to evolve and impress, their newest features often play to the fast-paced multimedia world. For landscape photographers, the ability to minimize or eliminate the time it takes to print an image or display it online can have limited use, and tends to overshadow a range of core camera functions that appeal to our genre of photography.
Landscape photography can arguably be one of the slowest-paced schools of image-making. As such, it does not have the same subset of requirements as many other categories of photography. Ranging from the most basic features to some of the most advanced technologies, this article strives to highlight a range of specs to look for when shopping for a new camera with the intention of making landscape photographs.
“Landscape photography can arguably be one of the slowest-paced schools of image-making.”
When looking for a camera suitable for landscape photography, a number of factors come into play that might not be considered when browsing cameras for other applications. Speed is not nearly as important a feature as image quality, for instance, and exposure control is paramount among most other concerns. High-resolution sensors tend to be most highly favored due to the immense detail they can garner, as well as the larger print sizes made possible by the files they produce.
Unlike sports, wildlife, or street photography, landscape shooting tends to be slow and methodical; lower ISOs, slower shutter speeds, smaller apertures, and working from a tripod are essentially obligatory, whereas with other genres of photography, high ISO sensitivities, fast continuous shooting rates, and quick autofocus systems tend to be the most prized elements of a camera system. This isn’t to say that those features should be overlooked—they are often welcomed—but they are not nearly as crucial to landscape work as they are to faster-paced shooting applications. Fewer frames will also be recorded during a day of shooting in the wilds of Yosemite versus shooting the Formula 1 Grand Prix du Montreal, so file size, buffer capacity, and card speeds do not stand as much of a limitation for the work you can do.
Here is a list of topics and camera functions you should consider when selecting a camera for landscape shooting.
Without trying to start a debate about the merits of various sensor sizes, it is fairly safe to say that in the realm of landscape photography, bigger is better. Dynamic range, ability to work with a variety of wide-angle lenses, lower noise levels, and sheer image quality are all benefits of larger sensor sizes, whereas longer reach and a more compact form factor are the main benefits of smaller sensors and, as such, are not hugely beneficial to landscape shooting.
Along with sensor size, high-resolution sensors are also favored by landscape photographers due to their ability to decipher fine details more clearly and produce image files that hold up better to larger print sizes. A high-resolution sensor’s main drawbacks are a typically lower usable ISO range, which does not truly affect photographers working from a tripod, and larger file sizes that slow down the overall workflow, which is also not a bad thing when you take into account the considered pace of landscape photography.
Optical Low-Pass and Anti-Aliasing Filters
A beneficial side effect of higher-resolution sensors, and those with denser photodiode structures, is the ability to remove the conventional optical low-pass or anti-aliasing filter from the sensor’s construction. Many cameras completely remove this filter, and others introduce a secondary filter or technology to negate the effect—either way, this omission leads to sharper imagery at the expense of potentially running into issues with moiré. Luckily, instances where moiré can occur are seldom seen in nature.