a slot canyon is revealed with stunning colors in the desert southwest of the USA

What is the BEST lens for photographing the Canyons of the American Southwest?

When photographing a place as amazing as the deserts and canyon country in the American Southwest, it’s hard to think of a single lens that can do it all.  While landscapes are definitely the highlight and primary attraction, you’ve also got wildlife, general travel photography, and some tight places that really require a suite of options.  If you want to see my full list of camera gear for adventures in Utah and Arizona, check out my article here.

However, this article is about the best lens and for that there can be only one.

But how do you combine a great landscape lens with some ability to get wide, while also having a little bit of zoom?

a photographer takes photos from below the rim in bryce canyon

To me, the only real choice for best is the 24-105mm (or 24-120mm, depending on your platform) class of lenses.  This is comparable to something like an 15-70mm lens for those with crop-frame sensors. (and for Olympus friends, they have a sensational 12-100mm f/4 lens)

The reasons are simple.

With this lens you have a fantastic zoom landscape lens that allows you to get rather wide for those massive vistas.

a colorful sunset emerges over the rim of bryce canyon national park

But then at the same time, with upwards of 105 or 120mm (again, 70mm on a crop frame) you are able to crop your landscape shots as you please and can even get some wildlife shots here and there.

a slot canyon is revealed with stunning colors in the desert southwest of the USA

Plus, this range is excellent for travel and people photography.

a traveler stares out at the main Zion Canyon from an overlook

And finally, this class of lens is actually quite fantastic for close-up “macro” photography of things like wildflowers, rocks, and perhaps even butterflies.  (check out my “how to get a macro shot without a macro lens” article for a how-to guide).

While there is always an occasion to bring a larger telephoto lens like a 70-300mm or 100-400mm, which can be excellent for wildlife photography and even long distance landscape photography, you now have our advice on the single best lens for canyons photography.

the narrows in Zion National Park with golden lighting and beautiful water of the virgin river

If you’re headed to this magical part of the world on a Southwest photo adventure, be sure to pack your 24-105mm along and get some sensational photos!


Court Whelan Signature