The Best Digital SLR for Landscapes

Page updated: June 2009

When you're looking for the best digital SLR for landscapes, I think that the defining feature is image stabilization.

Here's why:

  • Image stabilization helps you take clear pictures - but only when the subject isn't moving
  • Stabilization lets you use slow shutter speeds to create dramatic effects
  • A camera with stabilization means that you don't have to lug around a tripod all the time

I see that all three of these are beneficial to the landscape photographer.

Some fabulous landscapes aren't right in your backyard - you're going to have to hike to get there. Carrying a tripod in addition to your camera can be a lot of extra weight.

Freeing yourself of the tripod means that the camera might shake when you hold it in your hands which can lead to blurry photos.

But it's exactly this type of shake that stabilization systems correct - providing you with nice sharp images, regardless of the amount of available light.

And speaking of available light...when you're a landscape photographer, you have to take pictures in whatever light Mother Nature provides. While portrait photographers can use flash to light up a subject, this won't work on a landscape.

What to Choose?

pentax k20d

My pick for the best digital SLR for landscapes is the Pentax K20D.

There are several features on the K20D that make it appealing from a landscape photography standpoint:

  • Built-in Image Stabilization
  • High Megapixel Count
  • Live View
  • Weather Sealing
  • Color and Monochrome Control

Built-in Image Stabilization

The image stabilization built in to the K20D body works with tons of Pentax lenses - even really old ones.

For great landscape photography, you'll also want a great wide-angle lens, and it's good to know that any Pentax lens you find will wind up being stabilized when used on the K20D.

Stabilization provides two benefits to the landscape photographer:

  1. It lets you take clear pictures in dim available light when you hold the camera in your hands
  2. It lets you take clear pictures with more depth of field — greater depth of field is achieved by narrowing the lens aperture which in turn slows down the shutter speed and can introduce image blur

High Megapixel Count

The massive 14.6 megapixels captured by the K20D's sensor allow you to make HUGE prints of your photos if you so desire.

Since landscape photos have much more impact when viewed large (even an 8x10 is better than a 4x6) you'll want an image that won't lose quality even when you blow it up.

Images taken with the K20D can be printed all the way up to 14x17 inches - that's pretty good for hanging on the wall.

Live View

The reason that I think live view is important for the best digital SLR for landcapes is because sometimes a great landscape image requires a unique point of view.

If you'd like to take a picture from a worm's eye view, you can certainly lie down wherever you are to get the shot.

But it's much easier to activate the live view mode and take pictures using the LCD in this situation.

While live view doesn't work well for moving subjects, landscape photographers don't have to worry about this problem - even if it takes several minutes to capture a shot (and live view isn't that slow) your landscape won't run off on you.

Weather Sealing

Unless your only a fair-weather landscape photographer (and where's the fun in that?) at some point you will probably expose your camera to the elements.

And by elements, I don't mean taking your camera out in torrential downpours — the mere act of taking your camera to the beach and exposing it to sand and salt spray can cause problems with the electronics inside a digital SLR.

This is why weather sealing can be useful - all the gaskets on the K20D are designed to protect the internal camera components from grit and water so you can feel comfortable taking landscape pictures without having to worry about damaging your camera.

Color Modes


When it comes to landscape photography, color control is crucial (even in the absence of color).

The K20D offers plenty of options when it comes to customizing the color in your photos: you can choose to make some colors stand out more than others, or you can ensure that all the colors in your photos are bright and vibrant.

If you're a black and white enthusiast, the K20D also satifies, offering up a variety of digital filter affects that can be applied to a photo the moment you take it (including one that simulates infrared photography).

While some people may never leverage all of the custom color control available on the K20D, it's good to know that it's there if you need it — it provides an additional layer of control over how your landscape images look.

Cost Analysis

The K20D is actually less expensive than other cameras with similar features. While it's certainly not the least expensive digital SLR you can get your hands on, the additional price you pay is for some of the features listed above.

You can either get the camera body on its own and purchase a lens separately or you can buy the kit with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL II lens.

K20D body only (no lens)$632 USD Amazon | Adorama | B&H Photo
K20D with 18-55mm lens$770 USD Amazon | Adorama | B&H Photo

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