All You Need to Start Landscape Photography in 2021: Part One

What better time than now to pick up a new hobby where you avoid people and find yourself alone in the wilderness?. Here is all you need to get started with landscape photography right now!

Whether you're just starting out in photography or looking for new ideas, this article and video might give you new inspiration for the coming year. I personally got into landscape photography because it can be almost therapeutic to push myself to visit new locations, watch the sunrise, or simply shed new meaning into the world around us. If you've been thinking about dabbling in a new area of photography or you're just looking into photography for the first time, this article and video should help guide you in exactly what you need to get started regardless of where you are in your journey!

A disclaimer before starting is that this is not a buying guide. My goal is to give you the knowledge of what's important but not focus on megapixels, apertures, brands, or prices. I will make suggestions within each section of great items to start out with but also recommend doing more research into a particular purchase.

Camera or Phone

If you have absolutely nothing photography-related but want to start learning, you can do a lot just using your phone. My video on this is a few years old, so you can imagine phone cameras have gotten even better since then. That said, if that's where you're at, I highly recommend starting with my video and figuring out if you want to invest in more equipment to further your exploration into landscape photography. 

Assuming you've decided to take the plunge and purchase your first camera or maybe you already own one, it goes without saying that you need something to take the actual photos on — duh. My intention within this article isn't to tell you exactly what equipment you need, but I will provide some suggestions and answer a few common questions you might be asking yourself as you try to decide what you you want.

Mirrorless APS-C Sensor

Do I need Full Frame, APS-C, or Micro 4/3rds sensor size?

The reality here is this doesn't matter, especially when you're starting out. You can consume a ton of material that will tell you what is better or what you should be using. Personally, I think it's extremely irrelevant when you're starting out, but if you absolutely need a recommendation, I would suggest an APS-C camera. Full Frame bodies tend to be outside of budget options, and Micro 4/3rds is much more common in cameras made for video. 

Canon, Sony, Nikon, Fuji, or Another Brand?

I decided to buy my first camera in 2009 by walking into the store and holding a Nikon D300 and a Canon 50D (note that Fuji and Sony were essentially nonexistent at the time). I had researched both cameras extensively and realized they were neck and neck when it came to features and specs. I ultimately decided on the Canon because it felt better in my hand, that's it. The important thing here that might not be obvious when you are buying your first camera is worrying less about specs and stats and more about how the camera functions and feels to you. If you can find a store to hold a camera and try out its ergonomics and menu systems, do that before ever focusing on megapixels or dynamic range. While you can change systems later, if you do plan on developing your skills and upgrading later, it's very likely the first brand you buy will continue to be the system you shoot on, so make sure you like their cameras.

Photo courtesy of Nando Harmsen!

DSLR Versus Mirrorless

A few years ago, this was still a debate, but coming into 2021, there really isn't much left to discuss; specifically if you're buying a new camera, I would highly recommend a mirrorless system. Some manufacturers don't even make DSLR cameras to begin with. The drawbacks mirrorless had a few years ago such as the electronic viewfinder being poor, bad battery life, or worse weather-sealing have mostly come to match that of what you'd expect from a DSLR. On top of all this, it's important to try to buy into a system you can grow with, and like I said, most manufacturers are moving away from DSLR cameras. Now, with all of that said, many of the best-selling camera kits under $1,000 are DSLR cameras, mainly the Rebel line from Canon. If you're looking to buy used, which can get you more for your dollar, and it happens to be a DSLR, don't fret, they still take amazing images, and you might even enjoy them more. This isn't a matter of which type of camera takes better images, because they are both superb. I say all of this as someone who still uses a Canon 5D Mark IV for photography and am a big proponent of your camera not mattering all that much. This is more from the perspective of the market and what camera manufacturers are putting their futures into, and it's heavily mirrorless with very little emphasis on DSLR cameras. Thus, if you're buying today and care about your investment, you should be choosing a mirrorless system.


So, what do I recommend? Each of these will be kits that include a lens with the assumption you need one, but I'll go into more detail on lenses in part two of this series. Lastly, everything here is under $1,000 at the time of writing.

  • Fujifilm X-T200: There are two great reasons to start your journey with a Fuji camera. The first is that many people who try them, use them, or even move to them professionally say they are just fun to shoot with. This isn't something people say about any of the other brands nearly as much, and there is something unique about the Fujifilm system. The second reason is that there is room to grow within this system. Fujifilm offers a lot of high-quality lenses and upgrade paths for the future that are not nearly as confusing as other manufacturers. I say this because they don't have a full frame body, thus every lens on their X mount system will work without needing to worry about the lens being APS-C or full frame. For example, Elia Locardi uses Fujifilm cameras throughout "Photographing the World."
  • Sony a6100: The Sony system has the most potential to grow out of any of the cameras here. Not only are all of their cameras mirrorless, so their lens lineup is a bit more straightforward, but they offer some of the absolute best cameras you can buy. Keep in mind that the a6100 uses their APS-C line of lenses but can use their full frame lenses as well. Overall, the biggest drawback for the a6100 is the form factor. Yes, it is small and compact, but many find the ergonomics to be lacking, and you might find it the least enjoyable to shoot with.
  • Nikon Z 50: Both Nikon and Canon suffered a bit from their transitional period of moving from DSLR to mirrorless systems. The Z 50 uses Nikon's Z Mount, which is their mirrorless lineup of lenses, but you'll need an adapter for any of their older DSLR lenses — not really a big deal, just something you should be aware of. The good news is there is plenty of room to grow if you ever plan to upgrade later to a new camera or lens. My only concern with Nikon is what their future holds as a camera business.
  • Canon M50 Mark II: This is where things get a little tricky. The problem with Canon is their entry-level mirrorless lineup uses a specific lens mount (EF-M) that only exists on their entry-level cameras. All three other manufacturers have room to grow if you purchase new lenses and upgrade your camera down the road. Canon offers affordable and capable lenses for the EF-M system, but if you continue your journey and want to upgrade your camera, there aren't many good options and you'd be stuck with a bunch of lenses for an entry-level system. One option here is to get a Canon RP body, which is full frame, but that's right at $1,000 without a lens. Technically, you can use adapters on EF-M mount cameras, but that is a lot when there are better options above. It's also rumored that Canon is going to phase out this system completely in 2021. As a Canon shooter, I would avoid this system and rather wait until they make an entry-level camera using the RF mount system. 

With all of that said, if you can find a good deal on an older used DSLR don't hesitate. Spending $300 on a full setup to get your feet wet is a great option. My recommendations are assuming you buy new and are focusing on your future growth rather than which camera has the best image quality or better features. I guarantee you cannot go wrong with any of the cameras I listed above in terms of capability, but like I said before, go try to hold them in your hands and see which one feels right to you. Read or watch some reviews before you make such a large purchase. 

In the next part of this series, I'll go over the other two things you need, a lens and tripod. I hope this part was helpful and a bit different than guides you'll typically find when it comes to picking out your first camera. Absolutely let me know what you think down below or if you have other suggestions for cameras people may be interested in. Thanks for watching or reading, and be on the lookout for part two.

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Jason Savelsberg's picture

"My only concern with Nikon is what their future holds as a camera business."

It is irresponsible and unethical for Fstoppers and others to keep on pushing the Nikon is doomed message. Especially in articles aimed at new photographers. It makes me question Fstoppers' integrity, and whether for some reason Fstoppers wants Nikon to fail.

Alex Armitage's picture

Personally I think it would be unethical to recommend a brand or camera without disclosing my genuine thoughts. Will Nikon fail as a camera business? I truly don't know and I certainly hope not. That would hurt quite a lot of people, even people I personally know. However my honest opinion is that I would be cautious.

You might be grasping from other articles written here but those are not my work nor do I necessarily share the same thoughts as whatever else you've read. All I said was I am unsure what their future holds.

Jason Savelsberg's picture

Yes I am taking other articles I have seen from Fstoppers (and others) into account. As well I should. This non-stop doom posting about Nikon is journalistic malfeasance. If there was the same doom and gloom posts/articles about other brands I would criticize that as well.

Photographers need to start calling this nonsense out. Things are hard enough on the entire camera industry right now. The last thing needed are articles and posts seemingly rooting for their demise.

Jason Savelsberg's picture

Matt Irwin starts to talk about this better than I do at about 8:40 into the video:

Juan Carlos Ayala's picture

Of this crop of cameras the Z50 seems the best bang for your buck. Z lenses are fantastic, the Nikon colours straight out of camera are really good. Sony menus suck and the a61000 form factor doesn’t inspire.

I own both Fuji and Nikon bodies and though the former can be fun, that’s more XT-4/XPro-2/3 territory.

Seems like a no brainer to me. Funny how that’s coincidentally the brand you’ve referenced concern about. The Nikon base is huge and the world of camera users is significantly larger than social media audiences. Feels you’ve fallen into the YouTube echo-chamber. You should probably first give the Z50 a spin. As you said, what primarily matters is how it feels in your hand no?

Alex Armitage's picture

Hey I have no problem at all recommending the Nikon! I specifically said to avoid the Canon camera for example where I didn't say that for the Nikon. Maybe my opinion is wrong and it's entirely possible I'm overly concerned because of a small amount of information out there. Truth is more companies gives us more options and I have no ill-will towards Nikon. I'll do some more research and get more information.

Juan Carlos Ayala's picture