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Lens for Waterfalls/Landscape

K Meade , Dec 21, 2012; 12:20 a.m.

I'm looking for advice on a wide angle zoom lens that would be good for waterfall and landscape photographs. Currently I have a Canon Rebel T2 film camera, but there's a good chance that I shall be going digital in the near future with a full-frame Canon D6. I only have 2 lenses right now: Canon EF 50mm 1.4 USM prime and Canon EF 28-135mm 3.5-5.6 IS USM zoom.

I don't think that the 28-135mm zoom lens that I currently have is the quality that I want as well as I might need something a bit wider for some of the waterfalls. I am prepared to spend anywhere from $500 to $750, but I just want to make sure that it's a good (not mediocre) lens. I do want to stick with Canon lenses.


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Sheldon Nalos , Dec 21, 2012; 12:40 a.m.

Canon 17-40mm f/4 L lens is probably your best bet. Very good for landscapes when stopped down, right in the middle of your budget range on the used market, weather sealed when used with a filter, covers a good focal length range on full frame. I shot this picture with a 17-40, it was VERY wet in the spray from the falls at this position.


K Meade , Dec 21, 2012; 03:25 a.m.

Thanks, Sheldon. I live right outside the Columbia River Gorge in Portland and have been to most of the waterfalls on both the Oregon and Washington sides, but I only had a point-and-shoot with me (w/o tripod) on all my visits. I now want to actually seriously photograph them with my SLR instead of just snap shots, and many of them require you to get pretty close to where you need wide angle to get good composition.
Just one question about the Canon 17-40mm that you recommended (and I know I'll probably sound like an idiot asking this). On amazon.com there are 2 listings for that lens with similar descriptions but slightly different pricing. Is the only difference that they ship from different places (1st from amazon, 2nd from TheImagingWorld)?:
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Ultra Wide Angle Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras ($699)
Canon 17-40mm f/4L EF Ultra Wide Angle ($739)

Jeremy Richter , Dec 21, 2012; 06:52 a.m.

TheImagingWorld is a retailer that uses Amazon's services as a conduit to sell its products. If you are willing to consider buying used and possibly saving some cash, KEH.com is widely respected.

Tudor ApMadoc , Dec 21, 2012; 11:00 a.m.

For waterfall work, I use various lenses

  • 16-35 F2.8 II USM
  • 24-70 F2.8 II USM
  • 70-200 F2.8 IS USM
  • I used to use a 24-105 F4 IS USM

Which I use depends on the fall and how close I can get. Some examples:


Kerry Grim , Dec 21, 2012; 03:11 p.m.

If not wanting a zoom, the Canon 24 IS is being discounted right now and is currently about $700.00 B&H price. Adorama may also have it discounted. I use the 17-40 but if I know there is a chance of waterfall photos, I will take my EF 24 2.8 along since I have a ND filter that fits it. So you may want to factor in prices of a 58mm ND filter and/or 77mm filter and whether you have other lenses that already take a 77mm filter.If I had a 77mm ND filter, I would consider my 17-40. A 16-35 F2.8 II USM would be excellent, but remember it takes a huge 82mm filter which is expensive. All of these lense should be optically excellent.

JDM von Weinberg , Dec 21, 2012; 03:37 p.m.

The one-size-fits-all lenses have to be compromises. That is true of even the classics like the EF 24-105mm L lens and many others, and it is all the more true as the range of the zoom increases and the price decreases, as a rule.
That being said, most lens respond well to being stopped down from their maximum aperture.

I can see no reason that you need to buy a new lens to shoot waterfalls and landscapes, especially if you go for the 6D, since your zoom at 28mm is a respectable wide angle lens on that body.

If you want to blur the water, get some stronger ND filters. A tripod would be another good investment, since IS has its limits (greater or lesser depending on the generation of the IS feature).
Now if you just WANT to buy a new lens, do so. Spurn rationalization and indulge yourself. After all, you just survived the end of the world, right?
By the way a D6 would be a Nikon sort of name. In Canon cameras (nowadays, at least), the D follows the number = 6D. It may turn out to be just fine, but you shouldn't feel you have to go "full-frame". The APS-C cameras like the 7D are also excellent.
Best of all is having one APS-C camera and one 35mm-sensor camera, but save that for later. ;)

Sheldon Nalos , Dec 21, 2012; 05:54 p.m.

many of them require you to get pretty close to where you need wide angle to get good composition.

Very true. You do want a lens wider than 24mm for most of what you'll be shooting in the gorge.

Just one question about the Canon 17-40mm that you recommended (and I know I'll probably sound like an idiot asking this). On amazon.com there are 2 listings for that lens with similar descriptions but slightly different pricing.

Same lens. Check out Portland Craigslist, shouldn't be hard to find one locally for $550 or so.

Colin Carron , Dec 22, 2012; 07:28 a.m.

...and don't forget your tripod. As I expect you know you can get a wide variety of moving water effects with different shutter speeds and the longer ones often give very pleasing effects. As Tudor says, the lens depends on how far away you are. And the 24-105 as mentioned by JDM is a fine lens too and should be an improvement on your 28-135.

John Crowe , Dec 22, 2012; 08:52 a.m.

I would consider a Canon EF 17-40/4 L or used Canon EF 17-35/2.8 L, or used Canon EF 20-35/2.8 L.

Before relying on ND filters to get long exposures with wispy water trails, you can start by using a tripod, setting the aperture at the smallest size ie. f22 to f32, and setting the ISO to the LO setting, which on most cameras gets you one more stop, down to 50 ISO.

As in most photography the focal length you will chose will depend on the subject size, your subject distance, and the effect (composition and perspective) that you want to create. My typical "waterfall" lenses, and landscape lenses for that matter, would fall into the 12-24mm range, in focal length, on full frame.

With the 24-105 IS you are paying more for IS than glass, any non-IS L lens with a similar range, and price, will be sharper even at closed apertures, have higher contrast, better control over chromatic aberation, and better control over flare.

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