I already have a decent wide angle zoom for landscape photography and I would like to get and additional standard zoom lens. Sometimes those wide angles feel a little too wide - especially in the forest. I think about getting the cheaper 24-85mm F/3.5-4.5 from Nikon or the more expensive 24-70mm F/2.8.

Recently I saw video courses from Elia Locardi and Daniel Kordan. Both seem to have the 24-70mm F/2.8 lens in their kit. I wonder if they are just sponsored having this lens as it is part of the "holy trinity" or if there is a good reason why one would prefer the heavier F/2.8 lens for mostly tripod work since it is significantly heavier. Maybe they just need to have the best as professionals - they need something reliable - but what could be a reason for me carrying this lens when you exclusively shoot on a tripod and stop down the lens to F/8 anyways?


2 Answers 2


Definitely the better lens is better! The real question is whether the difference is important to you. Even though the slower lens gets sharper when stopped down it never becomes as sharp as the 24-70mm F/2.8 wide open and the difference becomes even more significant with the F/2.8 stopped down.

  • Sharpness would be the first reason. While lens sharpness can be measured scientifically, once details are scaled into a certain print size or online image size, the perceived difference diminish or disappear.

There are way more reasons to get the 24-70mm F/2.8 than sharpness. This lens is better build and this means you can count on it more and it can handle rougher treatment. This lens is also weatherproof which lets you use it when it is raining or snowing. As a professional, you often need to keep shooting regardless of the weather and so having equipment that stands the elements is pretty much required.

  • Weatherproofing is the second reason: Do you go home when it rains or snows, or there is incoming sandstorm? Once I was with a group in Peu on the world's highest sand dunes and people took their cameras out when we reach the summit. In under 15s a Canon EOS Rebel and Powershot died. The fine sand entered in the unsealed lens barrels and ever movement of the lens or AF had so sound me sand scraping metal inside the lens barrel. My while mutli-coated polarizer was very scratch, my Pentax DSLR, a K-5 just need a rince under the faucet to clean it up but it never stopped working

Travel photographers in particular are very specific about equipment choice because versatility is key. Weight and size limits what you can have available and so we tend to choose more versatile gear, so even if there is another lens that can take better or equally well a particular photo, other photos on the same trip must also be considered when choosing what gear to carry. Lens selection for travel photography requires careful planning and I can say that it often takes me hours or days to decide on which lens to take and I usually work back from those to figure out which cameras, plus all carry-on and hand-luggage restrictions need to be checked against that selection, so I often have to refine it. Of course, sometimes we are required to take certain gear and in that case then I have to figure which one to complement the gear provided by the manufacturer.

  • Versatility a great reason: After you take those forest shots at F/8, do you intend to go get the heavier lens before heading to the next place? What if on they way back in low-light, we see something your cheaper lens is too slow.

The best advice I can give is buy the best gear you can afford if you cannot buy it all. Top-gear lasts very long and so you will generally get very good use out of it but cheap gear will most likely be sold at a least when you want to upgrade. My new moto is:

Strive to have fewer better things!

Just apply this using your own definition of better.


The biggest reason many folks who use an f/2.8 lens for landscapes shot at f/8 do so is because they already have an f/2.8 lens anyway for when they need f/2.8 in other shooting scenarios.

It is generally true (though there are always exceptions) that f/2.8 zoom lenses are built more robustly than narrower, variable aperture lenses. Thus they can withstand a bit more abuse in the field and will hold up to steady daily use over the years.

It's also generally true (though there are always exceptions) that f/2.8 zooms tend to be sharper, even when stopped down, than their variable aperture counterparts. The difference by f/8, though, is usually fairly negligible.

The biggest differentiator between most "pro" landscape photographers and their "amateur" counterparts is technique while shooting and post-processing skill.

There are, however, more than a few specific examples where a narrower aperture zoom is sharper at common focal lengths and apertures than a more expensive wider aperture counterpart from the same manufacturer.

Take, for example, the original Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L. Though it is plenty sharp, it's not quite as sharp at many common focal lengths and apertures as the newer EF 24-70mm f/4L IS. Even the newer EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II is not noticeably sharper at f/5.6 and f/8 than the f/4 that costs $1,000 less. The f/4 lens is also lighter, smaller, cheaper than both the original f/2.8L was when it was in the catalog and the current f/2.8L II, has a shorter minimum focus distance for higher maximum magnification, and has Image Stabilization that both of the 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses lack.

Another example would be comparing the EF 16-35mm f/4L IS to the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III. Again, the f/4 IS lens is smaller, lighter, cheaper, has IS, and costs about $1,100 less than the f/2.8 III. Yet the $1,000 f/4 is as sharp as or sharper than the $2,100 f/2.8 at all focal lengths and common apertures other than at 16mm, where the f/4 is sharper in the center but the f/2.8 III is slightly sharper on the edges and in the corners.


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