best landscape camera

How to Choose the Best Landscape Camera: Beginners Buying Guide

Landscape photography is one of the most rewarding types of photography for a wide range of reasons, but capturing the beautiful scenes around you can be more difficult than it might first seem.

There are a huge number of equipment choices you have to make before you can start but nothing is more important than knowing how to choose the best landscape camera for you.

From lightweight point-and-shoot cameras to bulky medium-format cameras, your photographs - and what you can do with them - will change dramatically based on the landscape camera you settle on.

While you can shoot landscapes with any camera, not all cameras will perform equally well. Some cameras are better for simple family snapshots, and others are better for creating gallery-quality fine art prints.

It can be hard to decide which is right for you, especially when you're working on with a limited budget.

So how to choose the best landscape camera for you?

In this post, we'll take you through all different aspects you need to consider when selecting the best landscape camera, and showcase a few of our favourite options.

By the time you're done reading, you'll know everything you need to get the most out of your next camera purchase.

Essential Features for a Landscape Photography Camera

High Resolution

Choosing a camera with a high resolution sensor is extremely useful for landscape photography for a number of reasons, but the most important reason is the level of flexibility it provides.

Once you've captured your images, higher resolutions mean you can crop unwanted aspects out of the image and still have a photo with a resolution high enough to print. You'll also be able to print extremely large-format prints without any loss of quality.

When you're printing images, photographic quality is usually considered as 300 pixels per inch or above.

This means that if your camera captures images at 24 megapixels, your image files will be 6000 x 4000 pixels.

Dividing those numbers by 300, you'll be able to print a photo-quality image at a size of 20" x 13.3", or even larger if you're willing to sacrifice a bit of image quality up close.

One of the biggest mistakes that beginner photographers make is assuming that a camera with a higher megapixel count is automatically better.

This is sometimes true, and you will always gain more flexibility with extra megapixels, but the quality of the sensor and the quality of your lenses are just as important as the number of megapixels captured.

Shooting Raw

Choosing a camera that can shoot in RAW mode will provide you with the best possible image quality, because RAW mode creates images that are completely unprocessed by the camera.

The RAW file is just a straight dump of the image sensor's data, without any of the compression and loss of quality required to turn a RAW image into a standard JPEG file.

The image bit-depth is much greater, and many of the photo settings such as white balance, sharpening and noise reduction can be adjusted at any point later during the editing process.

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range is a measure of how much of a photograph falls within a proper exposure.

Any underexposed or overexposed parts of a photograph are considered outside of the dynamic range of the camera's exposure, so choosing a camera with a wide dynamic range will give you much greater flexibility when it comes to your exposure options.

Most cameras have a fairly similar dynamic range, but there is some slight variation between the various types, and some cameras also offer special modes to expand their capabilities.

Pro Tip: Bracketing and Dynamic Range

In order to maximize the dynamic range in a scene, you can use a function known as 'bracketing' to create anywhere between 2 and 9 images of the same scene with different exposures.

This will allow you to capture all the details of a brightly lit sky as well as any details in any darker, shadowed areas of the scene, even if you can't expose properly for all these elements in a single shot.

You can then combine this series of images using Photoshop or dedicated HDR software such as AuroraHDR or Photomatrix Pro, creating what's known as a high dynamic range (HDR) image that more closely matches the way the human eye - and the human brain - works to show us the world.

Weather Sealing

Weather sealing is of special concern to landscape photographers, because there's nothing worse than having to abandon a beautiful scene just because the weather has started to turn nasty!

As you would expect from the name, weather sealing protects the camera body from any kind of external weather and humidity issues that might otherwise ruin your expensive new equipment.

Most professional-grade DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras offer weather sealing as a standard feature, but it's less common with other camera types.

Live View

Live view is one of the most useful features you can have on a modern digital camera, because it allows you to preview the results of a shot before you've even clicked the shutter.

Of course, this won't help you when you're shooting a long exposure, but it can be very helpful when it comes to shot composition and general exposure decisions.

Unfortunately, live view can be a major drain on your battery life, so it's best to use it sparingly instead of leaving it enabled all the time.

Battery Life

As with all high-tech equipment, battery life is the final word on capabilities - you could have the best digital camera in the world, but it's completely useless without power.

Battery life will mostly be used up when taking photos, but using Live View or reviewing pictures constantly can also be quite a drain.

Most professional DSLR cameras have accessories that act as both secondary grips and extra batteries, but you probably won't be able to find something similar for a smaller point and shoot style camera.

Weight

The vast majority of stunning landscape photographs are captured away from the comforts of civilization, and that means that you're probably going to have to carry your camera (and all your other equipment) with you over some rough terrain in order to get really incredible shots.

While it might seem like no big deal when you're testing out cameras in your local store or at home, the weight of your camera and equipment can really start to be an issue when you're the only one around to carry everything you need for a day of shooting.

Some photographers are lucky enough to have assistants for that sort of job, but for the rest of us, choosing a camera that provides the right balance of capabilities and weight is crucial for getting the most out of your next landscape photoshoot.

Types of Camera

Point and Shoot

Most photographers look down their noses at the humble point and shoot camera, but they can be a great opportunity to start exploring the world of photography without spending a huge amount of money on a camera.

They rarely produce good quality images, and they don't really have many advantages for landscape photography other than the fact that they are extremely portable, but they can be a good starting point for beginners not yet sure on investing bigger sums of money for higher end cameras.

On the plus side, they are usually quite inexpensive and lightweight, which makes them easy to take with you everywhere.

If you spend your time focusing on composition, they can be a good way to practice your skills before you take the plunge and buy a more powerful camera.

However, with the rise of smartphones equipped with high resolution cameras, the point and shoot camera might soon be a thing of the past.

Mirrorless

Mirrorless cameras are an interesting subcategory that fits somewhere in between the point and shoot and a DSLR camera.

Mirrorless cameras are small, lightweight and portable like point and shoots, but they usually also feature a range of interchangeable lenses like you find on a DSLR.

This can provide a lot more composition options than a simple point and shoot camera, without requiring a heavy kit bag to transport all that potential around.

Unfortunately, the mirrorless class of camera gets its name from the fact that they don't have the mirror required to support a true optical viewfinder.

This means that you're stuck using Live View mode all the time, and you'll find your battery doesn't last nearly as long as you would like.

Live View makes composition and exposure easy to see for photographers just getting a handle on setting exposures, but you might find yourself in the middle of a shoot with a dead battery if you have not taken a handful of spare ones in your bag.

DSLR

DSLR (or digital single lens reflex) cameras offer the perfect balance of functionality and portability.

They feature a huge range of interchangeable lenses from multiple manufacturers, and you'll be able to keep all your old lenses every time you buy a new camera as long as they are from the same manufacturer such as Nikon or Canon.

Each manufacturer has a different lens mounting system, so you won't be able to use a Nikon mounted lens on a Canon camera body.

DSLRs are available in two formats: those with full-frame sensors, similar to a 35 mm film camera, and those with cropped or APS-C size sensors that are a fraction of the size.

Full frame cameras usually provide much better image quality because the sensor pixels don't need to be compressed into a smaller space, but they also require the use of more expensive full-frame lenses.

APS-C format cameras can use both full frame and crop sensor lenses, but full frame lenses will have a different effective focal length than stated on the lens due to the way light is focused onto the smaller sensor.

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Medium Format

Medium format cameras can create incredible images suitable for fine art printing at extremely large sizes, but their incredible image quality definitely comes with a few tradeoffs.

For one thing, they are incredibly expensive, usually well over $10,000 for a basic model and sometimes over $30,000!

Additionally, they have much more limited lens options, and they're often quite heavy, although more recent models are much more portable than original medium format digital cameras.

Even still, you definitely get what you pay for with a medium format camera.

Their image quality is unmatched by any of the other types of camera discussed here, and their dynamic range and depth of colour is extremely impressive.

If you're hoping to make large high resolution fine art prints of your work, a medium format camera is definitely way to go - if you can afford it.

Recommended Medium Format Cameras

Let us know if you have any questions by leaving a comment below. We also love to know if this post helped you in anyway in your quest for the best camera for you.

best landscape camera

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About the Author Luca

Hi, I am Luca, founder and editor in chief at photographyambition.com. I am crazy about photography and I always have a camera with me. When I am not busy with my day job, enjoying my family or taking photos, I am on Photography Ambition to share what I have learnt so far.

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