I'm going to be travelling to the Middle East soon and was wondering what the best setup for photographing desert landscapes would be. Here's what I have:

Canon 7D

EF 50mm f/1.8 II

EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

It turns out the above lenses are not weather-sealed. I can probably go to a lens rental service. In this case, what are some good Canon (or any EF-mount) lenses that are weather-sealed and good for desert photography?

UV Filter


Also, does anyone have any general guidelines/tips for photographing in the desert?

  • I've included the two recommendations in my answer and I would go with the longer one. A lot of deserts look much more interesting with the compression afforded by telephoto lens like a 70-200mm.
    – Itai
    Jan 29 '12 at 17:18

Those lenses will die in seconds in the desert if there is wind. Actually I saw another non-weathesealed Canon lens stop working in less than 10s while in the Peru desert. In Egypt we had more luck but still a lot of people in the group had sand infiltrate their lenses. This is a good time to use a Clear or UV filter too as even a weather-sealed lenses get scratched, the filter will be ruined after that. I had an expensive polarizer damaged on the first sand-dune, luckily nothing happened to the weather-sealed lens I had.

Fortunately you have a weather-sealed camera and you shout match it with weather-sealed lenses. There are plenty for Canon mount. Normally for landscapes people go with something on the wide side but a medium telephoto is good to compress perspective which renders desert photos more interesting. The 17-40mm F/4 or 24-105mm would both make great choices. On the 7D the 24-105mm does not give you wide-angle, so you probably want a wider lens for monuments and such.

  • Thanks. How about in cities? Will the weather be a little more forgiving there? I'll be in Doha, Qatar to be exact.
    – jp89
    Jan 28 '12 at 3:08
  • Yes, cities are good. The desert just does not have much to stop wind and sand picks up speed quickly. I would still keep the lens cap on as much as possible and zip your camera bag closed when not in use. Particularly even they have not invented weather-sealed lens caps yet, so the lenses in my bag kept getting sandy :(
    – Itai
    Jan 28 '12 at 3:15

I do not shoot in such condition, but there are those neoprene lens protections like LensProtect which they tested during rallye Dakar - there is a nice article about it (original is in Czech) but here is a Google translation in English. And the prices of particular lens cases are very good. Could be also helpful for you.

  • the lens protect looks pretty awesome. Thanks for the link ; )
    – xtarsy
    Feb 10 '12 at 9:50

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