What is the best Nikon camera for photographing landscapes? The answer isn’t so simple. After all, a good camera for daytime landscape photography may not be the right choice for something like Milky Way photography. But if you’re interested in photographing landscapes and want to understand Nikon’s options, this guide should help!
I’ve personally used nearly all of Nikon’s DSLR and Z mirrorless cameras, past and present, during the course of writing reviews at Photography Life. What I’ve found is that every single modern Nikon camera can be used to take high-quality landscape photos, without exception. Still, some are better-suited to the task than others. This article explains how they stack up, based on my experience.
The rankings below are obviously subjective, but it should give you a good idea of which Nikon cameras are better than others for landscape photography. Note that I’ve ranked the following cameras by quality and not by price, so depending on your budget, some of the later cameras on the list could easily be the right choice for you.
#1: Nikon Z9
By almost every metric, the Nikon Z9 is Nikon’s best, most advanced camera yet. Even though it’s primarily geared toward sports and wildlife photographers, the Z9 also has Nikon’s most advanced features for landscape photography.
Alongside the 45-megapixel sensor and base ISO of 64, the Nikon Z9 has some features found on few, if any, other Nikon cameras. These include amazing astrophotography features like illuminated buttons, “starlight view” autofocus, and a dim red-light mode for the rear LCD. There’s also a built-in GPS, a dual-axis tilting LCD, and a sensor curtain to protect from dust – a common issue for landscape photographers shooting at f/11 or f/16.
Even so, the Nikon Z9 almost ended up in second place in my rankings for one reason: it’s chunky. The Z9 is easily the biggest and heaviest camera on this list. If you’re the type of landscape photographer who tends to hike long distances or run around while the light is changing, the Nikon Z9 may not be the best choice. (It’s also the most expensive camera on this list at $5500.)
#2: Nikon Z7 II
Another excellent option for Nikon-based landscape photographers is the Nikon Z7 II. Like the Nikon Z9, it has a 45-megapixel sensor with a base ISO of 64. The Nikon Z7 II is also much lighter than the Z9, weighing just 705 g / 1.55 lbs.
As much as I like the Nikon Z7 II, it could be better for landscape photography if it stole a few features from the Z9. For example, the Z7 II’s autofocus system usually can’t autofocus on the stars, and it doesn’t have illuminated buttons for Milky Way photography. Plus, the rear LCD has single-axis tilt rather than dual-axis tilt, which isn’t helpful for low-angle vertical photos from a tripod.
That said, the Z7 II is still a phenomenal camera for landscape photography. It could easily be #1 on this list if you prefer minimal weight rather than maximal features. It’s also about $2500 less than the price of the Nikon Z9. That’s a lot of money to put toward good lenses (or travel).
#3: Nikon Z7
This one was a very close call between the Nikon Z7 and the #4 camera on this list, the Nikon D850. Frankly, I could have flipped a coin between these two, but I’m leaning slightly in the Z7’s direction because it has access to the newest Z lenses, some of which are great options for landscape photography with no F-mount equivalent (like the 14-30mm f/4 S).
One drawback of the Nikon Z7 is that it only has one memory card slot. This was solved with the Z7 II, but it makes the Z7 less attractive for multi-day landscape photography trips, where you’ll appreciate the peace-of-mind of a backup memory card. The Z7 also lacks some refinements that the Z7 II later added, like a “clean” view of your composition on the rear LCD. (The icons for your camera settings cover a small part of the frame at the bottom.)
But considering the headline features – the light weight, 45-megapixel sensor, base ISO 64, and broad lens selection – it’s hard to rank the Nikon Z7 outside the top 3. The camera isn’t available new in all markets any longer, but it’s selling for good prices on eBay at around $1400. For landscape photographers on a tighter budget, a used Nikon Z7 would be one of my top recommendations on this list.
#4: Nikon D850
If you’re a DSLR fan at heart, the Nikon D850 could easily jump higher than #4 in your ranking. After all, it has amazing battery life, a rugged build quality, and even illuminated buttons for astrophotography. Just like the #1, #2, and #3 cameras above, the D850 has a 45-megapixel sensor with a base ISO of 64. In practice, all four of these cameras have the same image quality – so it all comes down to their other features.
The two main issues with the D850 for landscape photography are the moderately high weight and the lack of access to native Nikon Z lenses. It could be the case that neither of those issues matters to you. I’m particular, there are a ton of good F-mount lenses for landscape photography, and you may never feel that “the grass is greener” with the newer Z-series glass.
It’s also true that the Nikon D850 is a better sports and wildlife camera than the Z7 or Z7 II. So, if landscape photography isn’t your only concern, the versatility of the D850 could put it at the top of your list. (The Z9 still beats the D850 in versatility, but it’s much more expensive.)
All in all, even though the Nikon D850 is more than five years old, it’s one of the most appealing cameras available today. That’s a huge testament to the quality of this DSLR.
#5: Nikon D810
Now that we’re out of the top four, the cameras on this list are starting to have some more compromises. In particular, we’re done with Nikon’s 45-megapixel sensors. But Nikon does have one other camera with a base ISO of 64 and class-leading dynamic range: the discontinued Nikon D810.
The 36-megapixel sensor in the Nikon D810 holds up extremely well today, and I’d prefer it over any of Nikon’s 24 megapixel sensors as a landscape photographer. With the D810, you can get image quality and dynamic range that rival the best cameras of 2023. Considering that the D810 was released in 2014, that’s pretty remarkable.
Unfortunately, the Nikon D810 lags in other areas. Its rear LCD is fixed in place and can’t tilt at all. Also, the camera’s low-light autofocus has room for improvement, and there’s no built-in focus stacking feature. The camera doesn’t even have a touchscreen! (Although, if you’re like me, maybe you disable touchscreen on your cameras anyway.)
The good news is that the Nikon D810’s used prices are excellent. You can find it on eBay for about $700, which is much less than any of the cameras above. If you don’t mind the weight of a DSLR – and you don’t need any of the Z mirrorless lenses – I think the Nikon D810 is the best value on this entire list.
#6: Nikon Z6 II
Although the Nikon Z6 II has a 24 megapixel sensor and base ISO 100 instead of 64, don’t count it out for landscape photography. It still has good dynamic range, and 24 megapixels is plenty for most prints. Meanwhile, almost all of its remaining features are the same as the #2 camera on this list, the Nikon Z7 II.
There’s another reason to consider the Nikon Z6 II for landscape photography: high ISO performance. It’s not something that matters most of the time for tripod-based landscape photography, I admit. But if you’re photographing the Milky Way, the Nikon Z6 II is one of the best choices on this list – and it’s not bad for other landscapes, either.
#7: Nikon Z6
If the Nikon Z6 II sounds appealing to you as a landscape photographer, you may want to look at the original Z6, too. Although it’s no longer available new from most retailers, there’s a healthy used market for the Z6 and some amazing prices to be found. With used prices currently around $900, the Z6 is a very good deal.
Compared to the newer Nikon Z6 II, the original Z6 has broadly similar features for landscape photography, including the same 24 megapixel sensor. It lacks a second memory card slot, though, and has some of the same “first gen” issues that I mentioned regarding the Z7 a minute ago (like the clean live view display).
Still, the Nikon Z6 is a very capable mirrorless camera. If nothing else, it’s an appealing choice for a backup / travel / astrophotography camera to pair with something else like the Z9, Z7 II, or D850.
#8: Nikon D780
Coming in at #8 is the Nikon D780 – a DSLR that borrows many of the best features from the Nikon Z6 and Z6 II. It’s a great jack-of-all-trades camera, and it’s one of Nikon’s lightest DSLRs ever. Like the Z6 and Z6 II, the D780 has Nikon’s newer 24 megapixel sensor with excellent high-ISO performance.
I ranked the Nikon D780 at #8, but it could jump higher depending on your needs. It’s basically a “DSLR Nikon Z6 II,” after all. The D780 has great battery life and an optical viewfinder, but it lacks access to Nikon’s mirrorless lenses. It’s up to you whether that tradeoff favors the D780 or the Z6 / Z6 II.
#9: Nikon Z5
If your priorities are light weight and low price, the Nikon Z5 might strike the perfect balance for your needs. This camera definitely lacks some features for fast-paced sports and wildlife photography, but that’s not what this article is about! For photographing landscapes, it’s on a very similar level as the Nikon Z6, Z6 II, and D780.
The biggest drawback compared to those cameras is that the Z5 has Nikon’s older 24 megapixel sensor, which has slightly worse dynamic range and high ISO performance. But it’s still a full-frame sensor, and the differences will be hard to notice outside of Milky Way photography.
The Nikon Z5 also has some nice features like dual card slots and in-body image stabilization – better than expected for such an inexpensive camera. The fact that the Z5 is “only” #9 on the list shows that Nikon has a lot of good options for landscape photographers to choose from. It’s not a slight against the Z5 itself.
#10: Nikon D800 / D800E
When the Nikon D800 and D800E were originally announced in 2012, they were a bit of a revelation. 36 megapixels! In a world where 12 megapixels was the norm, and 24 megapixels was the limit, Nikon seemed crazy (albeit in a good way).
As of 2023, the Nikon D800 and D800E are definitely out of date and seriously showing their age – but that’s mostly true of their features for sports and wildlife photography. For slow-paced landscapes, these cameras are still good choices today.
You won’t get many of Nikon’s newer or more advanced features – no touchscreen, focus stacking, or even electronic front-curtain shutter – but you will get a camera with excellent image quality. 36 megapixels is enough for large prints, and I don’t think that most landscape photographers need more than that.
#11: Nikon D750
For years, the Nikon D750 was the best all-around camera that Nikon users could buy, thanks to its combination of great image quality, price, and features. Although it’s been surpassed in recent years (after all, it came out in 2014) it remains a strong camera for landscape photography even in 2023.
At the heart of the Nikon D750 is a 24 megapixel sensor, albeit the older-generation version that has slightly worse high-ISO performance. The camera has a single-axis tilting LCD, dual memory card slots, and good low-light autofocus. If you find a good deal on the D750, I wouldn’t hesitate to use it as a landscape photographer.
#12: Nikon D610 (and D600)
Did you forget about these cameras? Well, that’s probably what Nikon wants. The Nikon D610 only exists in the first place because the original Nikon D600 was plagued by sensor oil and dust issues; Nikon needed to reset their PR with a new model name.
But that doesn’t make the D610 a bad camera. It has a very capable 24-megapixel sensor that mimics the Nikon Z5 and D750 in image quality. The D610 is also reasonably light for a full-frame DSLR, weighing 850 g / 1.9 pounds. Meanwhile, the original Nikon D600 is basically identical to the D610 in every way.
As for the downsides, the D600 and D610’s low-light autofocus leaves something to be desired, and it has a fixed LCD. But beyond that, it doesn’t lose much compared to the D750, at least for landscape photography. Considering the crazy low prices on the used market, the D610 would still be a good choice today if you’re on a budget. Even the D600 could be an option if you find a copy without the sensor dust issue.
#13: Nikon D5600
Now we’ve reached Nikon’s APS-C cameras (also known as their DX cameras) with a smaller sensor. These cameras don’t have as much dynamic range as Nikon’s full-frame cameras above, and they aren’t as good for Milky Way photography due to worse lens selection and high ISO performance. But they’re still good cameras in their own right.
The Nikon D5600, for example, has a fully-articulating LCD and a lightweight design that could make it an appealing choice for landscape photography. It also has a 24-megapixel sensor that’s capable of high levels of detail, even though it’s DX rather than full-frame. There are definitely better options, but I wouldn’t hesitate to bring the D5600 on a landscape photography trip.
Note that older cameras in the D5600 lineup are very similar – specifically the D5200, D5300, and D5500. All four of these cameras have similar features and share a 24-megapixel sensor, so they’re pretty interchangeable. Actually, the Nikon D5300 may be the best of the bunch for landscape photography because it has a built-in GPS.
#14: Nikon D7200
Also in the world of DSLRs, the Nikon D7200 takes the #14 spot on this list. Even though it’s a more advanced camera than the D5600, most of its improvements aren’t geared toward landscape photography. Not to mention that the Nikon D7200 is larger and heavier than the other APS-C cameras on this list, and it has a fixed LCD that can’t tilt or flip.
That said, the D7200 has the same great 24-megapixel sensor as the Nikon D5600, a more advanced control layout, dual memory card slots, and better weatherproofing. If those concerns outweigh the D7200’s higher weight and fixed LCD for you, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick it instead.
#15: Nikon Zfc
As with the Nikon D5600, the Nikon Zfc is a crop-sensor camera with a fully articulating LCD. This time, though, it’s mirrorless rather than DSLR, and it has a 20 megapixel sensor rather than 24.
The reason that I ranked the Nikon Zfc lower than the D5600 and D7200 for landscape photography is because of lens selection. Even though Nikon’s existing Z DX lenses are good, there aren’t many of them. Huge gaps remain, especially on the wide angle side of things (pretty important for landscape photography)!
Most likely, Nikon wants you to fill these gaps by using the FTZ adapter with older F-mount lenses. But at that point, you’ve lost the weight / size advantages over something like the D5600 in the first place. The Nikon Zfc is hardly a bad camera, and I would probably rank it higher than the D5600 if there were more native Z DX lenses. But there aren’t, so this is where I’m ranking it.
#16: Nikon Z50
Very similar to the Nikon Zfc is the Nikon Z50. Aside from the Zfc’s retro-like design, the biggest difference is that the Z50’s rear LCD tilts along a single axis, rather than articulating fully. Compared to the Z50, the Nikon Zfc also has manual shutter speeds up to 900 seconds (rather than 30 seconds), and the low-light autofocus is a smidge better.
These aren’t major differences, but they all lean in favor of the Zfc. If you find a good deal on the Z50, go for it – otherwise, the Zfc is a slightly better choice for landscape photography.
#17: Nikon Z30
Rounding out this list is the Nikon Z30. It’s not the worst landscape photography camera that Nikon has ever made (see the “Other Cameras” section below) but it also doesn’t bring much to the table compared to the cameras above.
Like the Nikon Zfc, the Z30 has a 20-megapixel sensor, a fully articulating LCD, and a lightweight design. It’s actually the smallest, lightest Nikon camera on this list, which is great for landscape photography. Unfortunately, the Z30 is so small because it doesn’t have a viewfinder! The only way to compose is via the rear LCD.
Although landscape photographers tend to use the rear LCD pretty often, there are plenty of situations where a viewfinder makes a difference. For example, in bright conditions, the rear LCD may be hard to see properly. And if you’re shooting handheld, it’s easier to keep the camera stable if you can hold it to your eye. That’s why I’d prefer any of the cameras above instead of the Z30.
It might seem like I’ve gone through Nikon’s entire camera lineup here, but there are plenty of Nikon cameras that I haven’t talked about yet. Many of them aren’t targeted directly at landscape photographers, but they’re still highly capable cameras. In no particular order, here are my thoughts on some of them:
- Nikon D3X: A 24-megapixel, full-frame camera in a near-indestructible package. Even though used prices on the D3X are pretty good, there are lighter, less expensive Nikon cameras with better image quality. For example, I recommend the D800 or D800E instead if you’re intent on buying an old, high-res Nikon. The Nikon D810 also sells for about the same price as the D3X used.
- Nikon D500: Even in 2023, this camera is easily in the top 5 of Nikon’s cameras for sports and wildlife photography. But if you’re only focused on landscapes, it doesn’t make much sense compared to other options. For example, you can save money and weight – and get a bit more resolution – with something like the Nikon D7200 instead. Or even a full-frame mirrorless Z5. Of course, if you already have a D500, there’s no need to switch; it’s still capable of high-quality landscape photos.
- Nikon D7500: Read my thoughts about the D500; I could say the same things about the D7500, too. Don’t get me wrong, the D7500 is a great jack-of-all-trades camera, and it’s an improvement over the D7200 for sports and wildlife photography. But if you’re asking just about landscape photography, there isn’t much reason to pick the D7500 over the D7200.
- Nikon D3500 / D3400 / etc.: These cameras are very light, inexpensive DSLRs with good image quality (at least on the later models with the 24 megapixel sensor). But they have pretty bad ergonomics, and I’d prefer the better build quality of the other cameras above for landscape photography in rainy or dusty conditions.
- Nikon D4 / D5 / D6: These cameras are so heavily specialized for sports and wildlife photography that they just don’t make sense for a landscape-oriented list like this. They’re huge, heavy cameras with lower-resolution sensors. That said, they have great high ISO performance and build quality, so there are some specialized landscape photography applications where I’d be happy to have one with me.
Nikon has made other cameras in the past – the D700, the Coolpix A, the Nikon 1 lineup, point-and-shoot cameras, etc. – that don’t warrant much of a mention for landscape photography. It’s not that you can’t take good landscape photos with these cameras. It’s just that they’re designed for other purposes, or that they’ve been surpassed by newer Nikon cameras.
If you’re a landscape photographer who’s looking for a Nikon camera, maybe your first takeaway from this article is that there are a million options. But I hope that your second takeaway is that you learned something useful for making your decision!
Of course, this list is just based on my personal experiences and impressions, and the best camera always depends on your situation as a landscape photographer. Based on how your prioritize image quality, weight, and modern features, your rankings could easily shift. The same is true if one of these cameras has an unique feature that’s critical to your work. Or, maybe it could shift if you already have one of these cameras and want to justify your purchase :)
If you have any questions about these cameras or my ranking system, feel free to ask me below. As I said in the introduction, I’ve personally used almost all of these cameras, so hopefully I can help if you’re wondering about any of them. I’ll try to respond to every comment and answer your questions to the best of my ability.