If renowned landscape photographer Ansel Adams were alive today, he would surely be astounded at the variety of cameras available. When compared to his hulking 8x10 view camera, today’s cameras look like child’s play. He would also be flabbergasted at the image quality these little devices produce.
In 2023, we have a bottomless well of cameras from which to choose. To help narrow down your options, we’ve compiled a handful of cameras that are at the top of their class this year, in terms of landscape photography.
Sony a7R V and Sony a7CR
The most obvious advantage that the Sony a7R V and the slightly smaller a7CR have over most landscape cameras is their extraordinary sensor. Both cameras come with a whopping 61MP full-frame sensor and a state-of-the-art BIONZ XR processor, allowing them to take high-resolution images with impressive clarity, low noise, and high sensitivity.
Both cameras are equipped with Pixel Shift Multi Shooting technology that allows the camera to create a composite of 16 images for a single 240.8MP image. This gives you a higher-resolution image than normal shooting alone and is an amazing feature for landscape photographers looking to make large prints of their images.
The main differences between the a7R V and a7CR, however, are size, video recording capabilities, in-body stabilization, and continuous shooting.
Slightly larger, the a7R V is also the more expensive of the two cameras. For that extra money, you get 8K video recording and up to eight stops of in-body stabilization (compared to the a7CR’s seven). The a7R V can also shoot up to ten frames per second, while the a7CR tops out at eight frames. Continuous shooting is important if you’re thinking about using your camera for other enterprises besides landscape photography, like taking pictures of birds or other wildlife.
Ultimately, while the a7R V is the better all-around camera, the a7CR is nearly half a pound lighter, making it a better choice for backcountry photographers. When you’re hiking with your gear dozens of miles into the wild, every extra ounce counts. If you’re planning to do mainly day hikes or shooting with a tripod from the back of your car, however, perhaps you’d be happier springing for the extra features in the a7R V.
Another heavy hitter in terms of the sensor is the Nikon Z8. While not quite as colossally high as the Sony cameras, the Z8’s sensor is nothing to sneeze at. It rocks a 45.7MP stacked back side illuminated CMOS sensor that’s great for capturing all the intricate details that landscapes have to offer.
It’s also outfitted with a robust EXPEED 7 image processor. Ten times faster than its predecessor, the Z7 II, the EXPEED 7 ensures that the Z8 has fast autofocus and burst rates with low buffer rates. Furthermore, the 493-point phase-detection autofocus system covers the sensor’s entire surface area—beneficial when shooting in low-light scenarios. It even comes with a Starlight mode for astrophotography that allows you to focus down to -9 EV. This is helpful whether you’re photographing the fleeting northern lights or fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Imagine you are driving down the road and see a spectacular view. The sun is setting, bathing the scene in beautiful, golden light. You barely have time to pull over, get your camera up, and take a couple of shots before the sun dips below the horizon. That’s when you’ll want the Z8’s six stops of camera-shake stabilization. Even if you’re planning to use a tripod for most of your landscape photography, it’s still helpful to have in-body stabilization.
Nikon released the Z8 in hopes of replacing the Nikon D850, but many landscape photographers might want to take a look at the old DSLR king, especially those who still crave the optical pentaprism viewfinder and maybe have a stable of F-mount lenses. These days it seems counterintuitive to invest in DSLRs, but the D850 has managed to hold its ground despite the industry moving in the opposite direction.
Canon EOS R5
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the Canon EOS R5.
Aimed squarely at landscape photographers, the R5 contains an impressive full-frame 45MP CMOS sensor, paired with a DIGIC X processor. This combo allows for 12 fps continuous shooting and 5-axis sensor image stabilization for stable handheld shots, even in bad light.
The R5 contains one of Canon’s best sensors, which means you should be able to capture more than enough dynamic range to play around with in post-production. It also comes with a high-resolution 5.76m-dot electronic viewfinder and 3.2" LCD touchscreen. This is imperative when out in the field so you can check and make sure your images are properly exposed.
The R5 has an extremely durable, weather-sealed body so you don’t have to worry about taking it out in inclement weather. That also makes it more attractive to backpackers, although its considerable bulk might give some people pause. At 1.62 lb, the R5 isn’t the heaviest camera on our list but it’s also not the lightest.
If you’re planning to use your camera for other things besides landscapes, the R5’s fast autofocus, 20 fps burst rate, and ability to shoot 8K raw video, makes it an enticing option. Even if you’re not planning to do video or take wildlife photos right away, it’s comforting knowing that you own a camera that can grow with you.
Not only can you make beautiful, large prints from the R5, it also comes equipped with Canon’s color science, world-class image stabilization, and excellent dynamic range. If you can afford it, this camera is one that would serve you well for years to come.
Hasselblad X2D 100C
For the pixel peepers out there, we’ve included the Hasselblad X2D 100C.
Unlike the other cameras on this list, the X2D 100C is a medium format mirrorless camera, meaning its sensor is about twice the size of a full-frame camera’s. That large, 100MP BSI CMOS sensor commands an impressive 15 stops of dynamic range with 16-bit color depth. And when applied to landscape photography, it makes scenes appear almost lifelike. With vivid color and impressive depth in the highlights and shadows, this is truly a magnificent camera.
Sensor aside, the X2D 100C also comes with seven stops of in-body stabilization for capturing stable, handheld shots. On the back of the camera is a beautiful 3.6-inch tilting touch screen with 2.46m-dots of resolution and a 5.76m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder. These two tools are crucial for assessing images out in the field.
One thing to note is that this camera is built for photography. There are no video functions. This camera, instead, prioritizes simplicity and elegance. For example, it has a menu layout that is easy enough for a child to understand.
More than anything though, the body design makes the X2D 100C feel like a premium camera. It’s crafted from weather-resistant aluminum alloy, ideal for the outdoors in less than ideal conditions. It also comes with a large grip, necessary for holding the nearly two-pound body. At this weight, this camera is clearly not ideal for backpacking. However, it will undoubtedly give you the incredible, sharp, beautiful images that you would expect from a Hasselblad.
Last but certainly not least, we’d like to give a shout out to the Leica Q3.
Small but mighty, the Q3 has an awesome 60MP BSI-CMOS sensor (like the one found in the Leica M11) and a built-in 28mm f/1.7 lens. With this sensor and lens combination, the Q3 enjoys an expanded digital zoom range, allowing users to digitally crop to focal lengths 35, 50, 75, and 90mm.
The 60MP sensor also ensures sharper, more reliable image quality while using the digital zoom and increases the camera’s ISO range from 50 to 100,000. This impressive sensor works in conjunction with the camera’s Maestro IV image processor to ensure lightning-fast speed while producing images with 14 stops of dynamic range.
The Q3 is a good option for the casual landscape photographer. The non-interchangeable Summilux 28mm f/1.7 wide-angle prime lens is great for capturing entire scenes but isn’t necessarily good for someone who likes to change lenses frequently (or at all).
Instead, we’d recommend the Q3 for someone who wants to take the occasional landscape photo along with other subject matter like portraits, street, or family photography. It’s a wonderful, dynamic, travel camera that’s small enough to go with you everywhere but powerful enough to get the shots you want.
Did you stumble upon a new favorite landscape camera this year? Leave us a comment in the section below.