What are the best Nikon lenses for landscape photography? Nikon has made so many great lenses over the years that the answer will not always be obvious. However, after extensive testing both in the field and in the lab, the following lenses are what made the cut. Below, you’ll see which Nikon lenses are best for photographing landscapes and when to use a particular lens, along with plenty of image samples from each lens.
The information below is kept up-to-date on a constant basis. It does not include any third-party lenses, because the list is specific to Nikon’s best landscape lenses.
Table of Contents
Nikon Z Mirrorless Lenses
If you’ve bought into Nikon’s mirrorless Z system, you have a lot of very high-quality new lenses to choose from.
In general, it’s best to use Nikon Z lenses with Nikon Z cameras. However, you can also use Nikon’s FTZ adapter to attach F-mount lenses to Nikon Z cameras! (It’s not true the other way around; you can’t use Z lenses on a DSLR.) So, if you’re a Nikon Z shooter, you’ll want to read the F-mount section at the end of this article, too.
Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S
This is simply one of the best lenses ever made, not just from Nikon. It’s also one of the only lenses that we’ve ever given a perfect 5.0/5.0 star rating at Photography Life, as you can see in the Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S Review that Spencer and I wrote.
What makes this lens so good is that it combines extraordinary optics with a very useful range of focal lengths for ultra-wide landscape photography. The f/2.8 maximum aperture also makes it an amazing choice for Milky Way photography.
The Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S is much lighter than most of its direct competitors. You should be able to hike with this lens all day and reach distant landscapes easily. As someone who prefers using physical glass filters, I love that this lens is small enough to accommodate an ordinary 100x100mm filter holder system. (The lens even takes 112mm screw-in filters with the optional lens hood.)
There really are no meaningful flaws with this lens. The sharpness, colors, flare performance, autofocus, build quality, and handling are all best-in-class. However, it’s not cheap and sells for an MSRP of $2500.
Due to the crop factor, this lens would be overkill for Nikon Z DX shooters, who should probably get the Nikon Z DX 12-28mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ lens instead – a much, much less expensive and lower-end lens, but nonetheless good for landscape photography.
Here are some of my sample images from the Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S:
Nikon Z 20mm f/1.8 S
One of the only lenses to give the Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S a run for its money is the Nikon Z 20mm f/1.8 S. Man, this is a great lens. It’s somehow even sharper than the 14-24mm f/2.8 S, although since it’s a prime lens, it’s important that you really like the 20mm focal length before you commit to it.
With the wide focal length and f/1.8 maximum aperture, this is arguably Nikon’s best lens for Milky Way photography ever made. And if you’re on a budget, you’ll be happy to know that this lens is substantially less expensive than the Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S. Its MSRP is $1050.
For that price, this is one of the top values in Nikon’s entire lens lineup. The “price versus quality” perspective is off the charts. Plus, as a prime lens, it’s smaller than most zooms – thereby making a great choice for long hikes and travel landscape photography.
If you don’t like the 20mm focal length, Nikon also has a 24mm f/1.8 S that is almost as good optically. You can see my review of the 24mm f/1.8 S here. However, the 24mm focal length is covered by a lot of other Nikon lenses. Only get the 24mm f/1.8 S if you adore the 24mm focal length and need f/1.8.
Here are some of my samples from the Nikon Z 20mm f/1.8 S:
See our detailed Nikon Z 20mm f/1.8 Review for more information about this lens.
Nikon Z 24-120mm f/4 S
If I could only have one lens as a Nikon Z landscape photographer, I think it would be the Z 24-120mm f/4 S. This lens is a nearly perfect midrange zoom with remarkable, consistent performance from 24mm all the way to 120mm.
In pure, high-octane sharpness, this is not quite Nikon’s sharpest midrange lens. Some prime lenses are a bit sharper (no surprise there) and the highest-end Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S beats it in a lab setting (see our review of the 24-70mm f/2.8 S). But the 24-120mm f/4 S is more than sharp enough for landscape photography, even out through the corners of the image, and it accomplishes this excellent performance in such a huge range of focal lengths. For this reason, I consider it Nikon’s best all-around midrange zoom ever made, especially for landscape photography.
Here are some sample photos that Spencer and I have taken with the Z 24-120mm f/4 S:
See our detailed Nikon Z 24-120mm f/4 S Review for more information about this lens.
Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S
I was once approached by another photographer, who asked me what lenses I typically take with me when photographing landscapes. When I told him that I rarely leave home without a telephoto, he was rather surprised. He thought that telephoto zooms were too long for landscape photography and asked me why I would even bother taking them along! I showed him a couple of pictures from the day before that I shot with my telephoto lens, and right after he saw my images, he told me that he would buy one as soon as he returned home.
Now, the lens from this story is actually Nikon’s F-mount 70-200mm f/2.8, but the story basically applies to the Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S as well. This is a heavy, bulky lens that most people would think is only suited to wildlife photography. But I will try to change your mind with the sample photos below.
Did that change your mind? By the way, the last photo of that set is one of Spencer’s pictures that won the prestigious Natural Landscape Photography Award’s “intimate landscape” category. So, don’t tell me that landscape photography is only for wide angles!
In short, if you’re willing to carry heavy glass like the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S, it can be highly rewarding. The lens itself has stunning image quality and Nikon’s best-in-class handling and build quality. The MSRP of $2700 and the bulky design are the only two negatives for landscape photography. (If you already have the Nikon Z 24-120mm f/4 S in your bag, you can leave the 100-400mm at home whenever weight is important, since the 120mm focal length is already a pretty solid telephoto.)
See our detailed Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S Review for more information about this lens.
Honorable Mentions and Budget Choices
The four lenses above represent, to me, the best-of-the-best landscape photography lenses that Nikon makes for the Z system. However, there are so many other good lenses that I’d like to take a moment to point out some of my favorite landscape photography alternatives.
First, the Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S and Z 17-28mm f/2.8 make for very compelling choices if you want a zoom on a budget. Neither of them is as sharp as the Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S or the Z 20mm f/1.8 S, however, for landscape photography at f/8 through f/16, they are nearly as good. I would lean toward the 14-30mm f/4 S for landscape photography, except for Milky Way photography, where the 17-28mm f/2.8’s larger maximum aperture is pretty helpful.
As for midrange lenses, I already noted that the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S is best-in-class for sharpness. I think the Z 24-120mm f/4 S represents a more versatile choice because of its longer range of focal lengths, but I could hardly fault you for going with the 24-70mm f/2.8 S instead. I’m also a big fan of another midrange Nikon Z zoom, the 24-70mm f/4 S. This lens is basically on par with the 24-120mm f/4 S in performance, so if you don’t need those longer focal lengths, you can save a bit of weight and money by getting the 24-70mm f/4 instead.
In the telephoto range, Nikon’s 70-180mm f/2.8 represents a less expensive, lighter weight alternative to the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S. It’s even compatible with Nikon’s teleconverters if you need to reach up to 360mm (with some loss of sharpness). The performance is also surprisingly good, although the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S is still better.
I personally love prime lenses, and Nikon’s Z-series primes have mostly been excellent so far. A few standouts are the 20mm f/1.8 S, of course, along with the 35mm f/1.8 S, 50mm f/1.8 S, 85mm f/1.8 S, and 105mm f/2.8 Macro S. Together, that would be a really exciting 5-lens kit for landscape photography with the Z system. However, you may still want something longer than 105mm, and there aren’t any obvious choices around the 200mm mark.
Finally, for traveling as light as possible, the Nikon Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR is hardly a perfect lens, but it’s pretty good at landscape apertures like f/8 and f/11. It’s basically a do-it-all lens, so if you’re on a budget (or are traveling light), I wouldn’t hesitate to get it. The Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 and Z 40mm f/2 are also good ultra-light budget lenses, although I would skip the overly expensive and not-so-sharp 26mm f/2.8.
Nikon F-Mount DSLR Lenses
Even though all the hype these days is around Nikon’s newest Z-series mirrorless lenses, Nikon also made dozens upon dozens of incredible lenses for their F-mount DSLRs over the years. And, again, all of the following lenses are also compatible with the Nikon Z cameras so long as you have the FTZ or FTZ II adapter.
Here are the all-time best Nikon F-mount lenses for landscape photography.
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G
Let’s start out with a lens that I have a love and hate relationship with. On one side, the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G is one of the sharpest lenses ever produced for a DSLR (though the Nikon Z version somehow beats it). It has phenomenal optics center to corner, throughout the frame and aperture range. The lens also has beautiful colors, super fast autofocus, and an extremely useful focal range for wide-angle photography.
On the other hand, it is a heavy, bulky and expensive lens that cannot accommodate filters. Sadly, the round front element shape and the built-in lens hood just make it impossible to use filters, except for the most massive 150x150mm filters with a specialized, bulky, expensive holder.
If you do not heavily rely on various filters like I do, then you will never be disappointed with this lens – yes, it is that good. If ability to use filters is a must, the obvious alternative for F-mount is the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 VR lens (see my Nikon 16-35mm VR Review). If you are a DX shooter, I would not bother with these FX lenses and would go with the inexpensive, but surprisingly solid, Nikon AF-P 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR instead.
Here are some sample images from the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G:
See my detailed Nikon 14-24mm Review for more information on this lens.
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E VR
Before I switched over to the Nikon Z system, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E VR was my #1 most used workhorse lens for landscape photography. It has a lighting quick AF, beautiful color rendering, extremely useful zoom range on full-frame cameras, and it takes filters! But similar to the 14-24mm, it is also bulky, heavy, and expensive.
Although I am also a fan of Nikon’s great F-mount 24-120mm f/4G VR (see my Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR Review), there is no question that the f/2.8E lens is better built, more weatherproof, and sharper. The Nikon 24-70mm is built like a tank and has suffered all kinds of abuse over the years. I have dropped it, exposed it to sub-zero / extremely hot temperatures, used it in very windy and dusty environments, exposed it to extreme humidity, and the list goes on and on… It has survived it all and it is still performing like a champ. I honestly do not think the 24-120mm would have survived all that.
I would not recommend it for DX shooters, because it has a not-so-useful 36-105mm equivalent focal length due to the 1.5x crop factor, so something like the Nikon 16-85mm VR would be a great low-cost alternative. Even though I now shoot with the Z system, I always think back to this lens very fondly.
See my detailed Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E VR Review for more information on this lens.
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL
I’m sure you saw this coming – how could I have the whole “f/2.8 trinity” of F-mount lenses without including the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL?
As I discussed in my list of Nikon Z lenses, landscape photography is not always just about capturing wide-angles and endless panoramas. I find myself often discovering interesting subjects that my 24-70mm is not long enough to capture, and that’s when I switch to the 70-200mm to get close and tight.
The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL is definitely not just a portrait and wildlife lens. Its optical performance is phenomenal for pretty much any kind of photography. The only thing you have to be careful about when shooting landscapes with a long lens is the shallow depth of field. This is true of any telephoto, but it means that the 70-200mm f/2.8E FL is best used for landscape photos where your subject is pretty far away and you don’t need to worry about depth of field. (Or, you can also use it for intimate landscapes where the background is deliberately out of focus.)
In short, this lens is ideal any time you want that longer perspective. Every once in a while, I use the 70-200mm to shoot large panoramas as well. The big downside of this lens, however, is its bulk and weight.
Here are some image samples of landscapes that I have shot with the Nikon 70-200mm lens:
If you have a DX camera, I would skip this lens and rather have a two lens kit comprised of the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 VR and Nikon 24-120mm f/4 VR, which would cover most of your needs. These two lenses are also great for full-frame cameras as a lower-cost alternative to the Nikon “trinity”.
See my detailed Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL Review for more information on this lens.
Nikon 70-200mm f/4G
This lens is the smaller, lighter, more agile cousin of the 70-200mm f/2.8E FL. It doesn’t reach quite the same level of sharpness, but in exchange, you have a much more portable and less expensive lens which is still sharp enough for large prints. It’s become one of my all-time favorites for landscape photography, and I’ve used it extensively on both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.
One underrated feature of this lens is that it’s an internal zoom – meaning that the barrel doesn’t extend as you adjust your focal length. This is a highly underrated quality for landscape photography, where you will often be dealing with rain, dust, and sand that can easily get into a lens. The 70-200mm f/4G feels purpose-built for landscape photographers.
See my detailed Nikon 70-200mm f/4G Review for more information on this lens.
Nikon PC-E 19mm f/4 Tilt-Shift lens
The Nikon PC-E 19mm f/4 is a special-purpose wide-angle tilt/shift or “perspective control” lens that is ideal for landscape photography. One of the biggest challenges of landscape photography is to bring everything from the closest foreground element to the farthest object in the background into perfect focus. While stopping down the lens certainly helps, you will often find yourself in situations where even f/11 or f/16 is not sufficient. (And those apertures are blurrier anyway, due to diffraction.)
I personally hate focus stacking, since it falls apart if anything in your photo is moving. So, the best way to get sharp results from front to back is to use a tilt-shift lens like the Nikon PC-E 19mm f/4.
Tilt-shift lenses allow you to tilt the focus plane in such a way that you could bring the entire scene in perfect focus even at large aperture values. The lens physically tilts up, down, left, and right to give you full control over depth of field.
Nikon’s F-mount tilt-shift lenses are very specialized and manual-focus only. They require a lot of skill and patience to use, especially when using the “tilt” functionality to adjust your depth of field. But they are extremely rewarding, and the 19mm f/4 PC-E is especially excellent. It is totally sharp and simply a phenomenal lens in every way. However, as such a specialty lens, there is no reasonable way to use filters with the 19mm f/4 PC-E. It is also very expensive. But quality of this level is very rare, and this makes for one of the all-time best Nikon lenses for landscape photography, both on a DSLR and on mirrorless.
Here are some of our image samples from this gem. It is often considered an architectural lens as well as a landscape lens, but a good wide-angle for architecture is also a good wide-angle for landscapes:
See our detailed Nikon 19mm f/4 PC-E Review for more information on this lens.
Nikon 20mm f/1.8G
Although this lens got a bit overshadowed by the newer, Nikon Z version, it’s still one of Nikon’s all-time best wide-angle lenses for landscape photography.
To start, the Nikon 20mm f/1.8G has excellent optical performance, and it’s nice and portable as well. The sunstars on this lens are some of the best in the world (AKA the sunbeams that appear when a bright light is in your frame, and you use a narrow aperture). It simply leads to excellent landscape photos, assuming that you do your job right and point it at some amazing scenes!
Perhaps the biggest reason to get the Nikon 20mm f/1.8G is for Milky Way photography. It’s amazing how much light f/1.8 lets in, and the 20mm focal length is great for capturing a lot of the Milky Way. Even though this is a fixed prime lens, it’s one of the most versatile F-mount lenses out there for landscape work.
Here are some sample photos that Spencer and I have taken with the 20mm f/1.8G over the years.
Nikon 28mm f/1.4E
If you are looking for one of the sharpest lenses Nikon has ever produced, check out the Nikon 28mm f/1.4E – it is practically flawless in terms of optical performance. This is one lens that I would not hesitate using on any camera body, even the highest-resolution mirrorless bodies, because it is one of those lenses that will out-resolve any sensor out there.
Aside from its astounding sharpness, contrast and colors, it has a very wide maximum aperture of f/1.4, giving you the versatility to use it for regular landscape photography as well as Milky Way work.
See my detailed Nikon 28mm f/1.4E Review for more information on this lens.
Nikon has made a lot of incredible lenses over the years for landscape photography. The list above may only scratch the surface, but the lenses above are guaranteed to be excellent for the job. They are some of the highest-quality optics that have ever passed through our hands, both in the lab and in the field.
If you have a favorite Nikon lens for landscape photography that is not listed here, feel free to add a comment below with some information and links to pictures (if you have any that you would like to share). Again, there are many other great options out there, and I look forward to seeing your favorites.
Please let me know if you have any questions!