Aya Sofia, Istanbul

If you’re into photography more than the regular tourist with their tiny digital camera, you probably plan well before you travel. Knowing which types of camera lenses to take with you, depending on what awaits you at your destination, is an important choice, given luggage limitations. After all, even the most committed among photographers need to have a few clothes to change.

When it comes to Istanbul, you need to consider three types of lenses, some of which classic and common, others somewhat exceptional. Three lenses for three types of photos that you’ll be making: on the streets, the markets, in the mosques or on a Bosphorus cruise. So here they are: 

A Lens to Capture the Minute Details

Istanbul par la mer

The minute details. Istanbul is full of them. The ornaments on the tiles in the mosques, the crimson red gills of the fish on the market that resemble blooming flowers. The flowers themselves, such as the millions of tulips in April and the butterflies. Or the miniature details at your local cafe such as the ones on your teaspoon, on your cup or plate.

cats of istanbul

If you’d like to capture these then, apparently, you need a macro lens with you. Depending on your camera, we suggest you pack a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM or a Nikon 60mm f./2.8 Micro lens. Both of these are great for a number of other shots apart from macro, such as portraits, art photography or even animals.

A Lens for Portraits, Street Photography and Unexpected Glimpses

Lust for Life...

While you could probably handle your trip even with only one of the above camera lenses, this is not advisable. Istanbul offers too many precious opportunities for world-class shots, that you’ll probably end up having regrets. Therefore, a lens for street photography is highly recommended. With 14 million inhabitants, Istanbul is rich in faces you wouldn’t want to miss.

Breathing Istanbul

And since street photography is common and accepted in Istanbul, there is no problem with you making shots of random people, catching a glimpse of their inner workings. The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II or its more expensive but better version, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM are two possible choices here. For Nikon users, I advise taking the Nikon 17-35mm f./4 VR to make the most out of the many possibilities for street photography that Istanbul offers.

A Lens to Zoom in on the World

Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) and Hagia Sophia, Istanbul in the evening sun

Finally, to complete your set of lenses and to cover for situations that require versatility, you should consider something that can go from near to far, and back in an instant. Longer focus or telephoto lenses are the right thing to include. Capturing minute details with macro is great, but what do you do if they’re far away and you can’t get closer?

Istanbul (Turkey) - Sultan Ahmet Camii (Sultan Ahmed Mosque)

Such as, for example, a pattern on the ceiling of a mosque. Or what about a building you’d like to zoom in on as you drift by on your Bosphorus cruise? Of course, we’re not speaking of the high class of telephoto lenses, from 300mm-400mm and up, though these are nice to have. A lens that goes up to 200mm would do perfectly. Consider, therefore, the Canon EF-S 18mm-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS or the Nikon 70-200mm f/4.

Make the Most of your Istanbul Trip

If you like your travels off the beaten track, you need to plan well in advance because there’s plenty of things that await you there. The major tourist destinations are a must, but so are the small and unknown neighbourhood streets with their local restaurants and shops.

Are there other types of lenses you think one should take along? Leave us a comment, we’d love to hear what you think!

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