What’s the Most Efficient Telephoto Lens for Landscape Photography?

Telephoto lenses are very useful in landscape photography, but the fact that they are usually heavier and/or bulkier can sometimes be a concern. How do you know which one is worth picking up?

While ultra-wide-angle lenses are perhaps the most popular among beginner landscape photographers, there’s no doubt that telephoto lenses bring so much in terms of reach and the ability to show a unique perspective of the location. Telephoto lenses not only allow you to take a closer look at the intimate details of a location, but also help you isolate certain patterns and formations that would otherwise be too small or distant to see.

For the most comfortable roadside locations where you drive, shoot and set up a tripod, gear weight is almost never an issue. But if you’re someone who would go deep into the wilderness, atop great heights, or the type who would explore for days on end, you probably know full well that being strategic in your choice of gear is extremely crucial. and that every gram counts. Carrying heavy gear can wear you out, which may very well affect your creativity and even your safety. This is why gear efficiency and not just weight, image quality or range must be considered.

Image quality

It is automatic to consider image quality for any type of lens choice. Who wouldn’t want their photos to be as crisp and detailed as possible, right? Of course, this automatically applies to landscape photographers as well; however, it is quite common and acceptable for us to consider a bit of compromise, especially when the sharpest lens available is considerably heavy and bulky. Another consideration is other applications for your lens if you don’t particularly have the luxury of having multiple choices. For example, choosing a 70-200mm f/4 variant is perfectly reasonable if you don’t need the better low-light capability that comes with an f/2.8 variant.


Focus, specifically focus speed, is probably the factor we all barely consider, as focusing in landscape photography relies entirely on precision rather than speed. However, it would still be a good idea to factor this into the lenses if you are using your gear for another genre, especially if it involves fast people in events or sports or animals in wildlife photography. But if you’re only shooting landscapes, this shouldn’t be a big factor as long as your lens is properly calibrated.


Weight and bulk are perhaps the only two important factors that don’t necessarily affect image quality, but nonetheless have huge implications for the success of the creative process. In reality, all types of lenses and the combined weight of all must be taken into account. However, it’s more common for telephoto lenses to contribute the most to the overall weight of your camera bag.


In landscape photography, it’s generally wiser to use zoom lenses if you don’t have the luxury of carrying too many lenses with you. Wide-angle primes are common; however, when it comes to telephoto lenses, the more versatile zooms are probably more practical. For photographers who shoot many genres, perhaps the most common options are the 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto lenses, especially those that use a slightly larger f/2.8 aperture a lot. However, for photographers who don’t particularly shoot in low light or those who don’t need large apertures, other options might be more practical.

The purpose of using telephoto zoom lenses in landscape photography is usually to get a closer perspective of distant views and to be able to isolate different parts of the view. This not only allows you to take a closer look at the view, but also to dissect the scene into smaller parts that create their own unique patterns. This applies to shooting large mountain vistas, isolating details in the forest, shooting seascapes, and even distant cityscapes. If weight isn’t an issue, a longer scope is always better, but of course weight and optical quality must be considered.

Range and weight Efficiency

The consideration in this topic is primarily whether the telephoto lens will only be used for purposes similar to landscape photography, which does not require a larger aperture. The goal isn’t to sacrifice image quality for a much lighter lens to use, but rather to find the happy medium between the two.

To do this, it is important to consider all the options available for your own camera system and, more importantly, to be able to test and compare them in terms of image quality. The result of your own comparison experience as well as the feeling of handling the lens with your camera can never be considered criteria for choosing lenses. The list below shows the telephoto zoom options for the three common full-frame camera brands and their corresponding lens weights. Third-party options are also viable, but are not included in the table.

Personally, I have always found the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 to be a good choice since it performs very well optically while being almost half the weight of the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM version I. With the development of the second version (momentarily disregarding the cost), the additional features, improved optics and much lighter weight of the second version made it a compelling choice. However, if I had to choose a telephoto lens, even with the extra 350 grams, the 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 would top my list. That means with the extra 350 grams of weight (or technically 100 grams less if you’re coming from the first G Master version) I get double the zoom range with similar image quality but less capabilities low light which I never really need anyway.

These results are primarily based on personal preference and application, so instead of recommending the same setup, it’s best to try the lenses out for yourself if possible (through store demos, rentals or peers). There’s one factor that’s often overlooked when it comes to making gear choices because it’s one that can’t be demonstrated through online articles or videos, and that’s the overall fit of the Equipment in your own hands and in your use of it. An experienced and skilled photographer would be able to take their best shots regardless of the options available, but having lenses suited to your use and personal abilities will definitely help you be more creatively consistent.

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