- What Makes a Good Camera For Travel
- How to Choose a Travel Camera
- Features You Should Look For
- Top Travel Camera Recomendations
If you’re into travel—and you’re here on a travel blog, so—then packing the right camera will help you capture amazing memories and bring back photos that you’ll cherish forever! But what’s the best travel camera for capturing these special moments on your journey? There’s no easy answer to this question. Different people will have different requirements and budgets.
If you want to skip all the fluff: CLICK HERE TO SEE OUR FAVORITE TRAVEL CAMERA!
When readers or members of our Instagram and Facebook communities reach out wanting to know what gear we shoot I always make it known that the best camera is the one you have with you and that within reason it’s the photographer who makes a photograph, not the gear. (That said, the best travel camera could definitely help!)
That said the gear we use may not be the best solution for your situation, but I’m hoping to help you figure out what is!
How To Choose The Best Travel Camera
Choosing the best travel camera is more about finding the one with the features that allows you to shoot the photos you want to take. If you’re simply looking to create snapshots of your travels the best travel camera for you could be an easily portable & always available point and shoot. On the other hand, if, like me, you love nothing more than hanging a huge new photo from your last trip on your wall when you get home you’ll bypass that point and shoot to invest in a high-megapixel monster.
Unlike choosing a DSLR or Mirrorless camera for other photographic work like weddings or portraiture choosing the best camera for travel photography is a real balancing act. To find the right travel camera for you you’ve got to first consider which points are most important to you. Size, weight, price, ease of use, etc. all play a roll in selecting the correct camera for your needs. No one camera is perfect —Some are starting to come close though!
In this guide I’ll walk you through some of the best travel cameras on the market and recommend something for any budget level!
What Makes a Great Travel Camera
The best travel cameras all have a few key things in common. They’re compact, relatively light weight and feature rich. A heavy or large camera system tends to get left behind more often, resulting in missed opportunities. A camera without the necessary features can end up disappointing when the magic light finally appears. These are just a few reasons that you should consider the above points when planning your purchase.
Everything is a trade off, light weight, low cost or high quality, you can have 2 of the three. If it’s Light weight and low cost it wont be quality. If its high quality and light weight it wont be cheap.
A truly great camera for travel photography is small in size, but not in features. Point-and-shoot cameras are the smallest and least expensive option, but have some limitations in terms features and image quality. Still, the real benefit of these tiny cameras is that you tend to pack them everywhere. Thus you’re never without your camera.
Moving into Advanced Compact Cameras and Mirrorless Camera Systems we trade off pack-ability for extended features and quality. Its not uncommon to see compact cameras with 1000x zoom lenses where their point and shoot cousin’s are likely maxing out at 3x.
Weight is a huge consideration when buying a camera for travel. Not only do you have to keep your bags within airline limits—admittedly mine isn’t—but you also have to be willing to carry the weight as you explore your destinations.
For years I tried to use my professional Nikon Cameras and lenses for travel photography, and while people do make it work it wasn’t for me. Bringing a 2kg camera and three to five lenses, each weighing up to 3kg, was a big strain not only on my back but mentally as well. After switching to a smaller, lighter system I travel happier and bring all my gear to more places. By always having my complete camera system I manage to get shots I might not have if it was heavier.
When searching for travel cameras there are certain features you want to keep your eye out for. At the top of my list when considering travel cameras are, in no particular order:
MANUAL SETTINGS – Photographers want the ability to fully control the settings of their camera so they can dial in the perfect shot in all kinds of different situations. There’s nothing worse than having a camera think its smarter than you ruining your shot!
FAST LENS – Lens aperture is measured in f/numbers, like f/1.4, f/2.8, f/4, etc. The lower the F number, the more light the lens will let in and the better it will perform in low-light situations.
WEATHERPROOFING – How will your travel camera hold up against the elements? Some of the best photos are captured in the worst weather. Some cameras are better protected from moisture and dust than others and depending how you use your camera this could be important.
Read More: How To Take Better Travel Photos
Best Point & Shoot Camera for Travel
Point and shoot cameras while lacking a lot of functionality and some image quality are great because they’re easy to slip into any pocket or backpack to carry with you. A vital member of the #squad this piece of gear can capture all your spur of the moment memories.
Canon PowerShot SX720 HS
Canons Powershot SX720 HS is the company’s flagship super zoom point and shoot camera. Sharing the same proven 20 megapixel sensor as its predecessor the SX710 HS, while extending the zoom range from the previous generation’s 30x to a lofty 40x.
The SX720 HS lags behind some of its competition, lacking a viewfinder, touch-screen, 4k video and RAW recording. Canon hasn’t let these misses dampen its resolve though and instead focused on delivering the longest zoom in the smallest body and in those terms this camera doesn’t disappoint.
Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-ZS50 is a fine example of a compact super-zoom camera. Its 12-megapixel sensor does a better job capturing details in low light than many competing models and Its 30x zoom lens covers an incredible range. while this tiny pocket camera can’t match an SLR or mirrorless camera in terms of image quality, it certainly trumps both when it comes to form factor and versatility.
One of the slimmest compact cameras to feature a 1″ sensor and fast lens the Canon G9X is the king of quality for this style camera. You’ll loose out on the impressive zoom range of some of the other models in this class but the 3x zoom still covers everything from a wide landscape to tight portraits with ease. the touchscreen interface, small size and great image quality make this one well worth considering.
Don’t bother buying the—only slightly—upgraded G9x mark II, its performance increase falls flat for nearly $50 more…
Best Compact Camera for Travel
Advanced Compact Cameras differ from traditional point and shoot systems by offering pro-sumer level features in a point and shoot style package. Typically these cameras will offer higher quality lenses—sacrificing some of that frivolous point-n-shoot zoom—, bigger sensors—for better image quality—and more advanced shooting modes for enhanced creative control.
In my opinion, a mid-range to high-end compact camera is the best option for most amateur travel photographers. They combine the perfect mix of portability, power, and budget-friendliness.
The Panasonic DMC-LX10‘s excellent photo quality for the money, good lens and broad feature set highlight why its consistently one of the top choices for a compact camera. My only complaint with the camera is its relatively mediocre battery life.
One innovative feature that caught my eye was the Panasonic’s “Post-Focus” mode in which you’re able to change the focus of your image after you’ve taken it. While I don’t know how useful this would be in real world scenarios it’s interesting to see what the manufacturers are doing to stand out from the pack!
The higher end cousin of the G9x point and shoot above, the G7x is a powerhouse of a camera! Competing against some stiff competition in this segment the Canon G7x pulls ahead with a fast lens, increased zoom range and a great flip out, fully articulating, “selfie” LCD.
The large 1″, 20 megapixel sensor captures crisp clean images even in low light. There’s a reason why this camera is a favorite among the growing vlogging community.
Sony’s entry into the advanced compact camera market makes a great travel camera. A fully articulating screen (including a front facing selfie mode), slow motion video at up to 120FPS (5x slow motion), fast high-quality lens and awesome image stabilization leave little to be desired.
On the downside, you’ll have to deal with the less than intuitive Sony camera menu’s and it’s a bit pricey. If you can do with a slightly downgraded focus system (still segment leading) the previous version, the Sony RX100 Mark IV is still available for a few hundred dollars less!
Best Mirrorless Camera for Travel
Mirrorless Cameras were originally developed to be a stepping stone between consumer grade point & shoot’s and professional level DSLR cameras, however they’ve become a strong competitor in their own right. Offering size & weight savings over comparable DSLR’s and image quality well beyond what most point and shoot cameras can offer, these mirrorless cameras are a godsend for the photo traveler.
I believe that mirrorless Cameras are the future, so much so that I sold all of my Nikon equipment last year to put a Sony A7Rii System in my camera bag.
Read More: Whats in My Camera Bag??
When readers and followers ask what they should consider for a camera dedicated to travel photography I’m quick to recommend a mirrorless system. The weight and size savings alone are worth the costs when you’re travelling frequently and the benefits of a less pronounced camera system let me get in to photograph some locations without being noticed as a pro photographer.
Mirrorless cameras run the gamut of pricing. Everything from Under $1000 Mirrorless Cameras to systems that can cost a months wages or more are available. So which should you consider?? I’ve laid out my top choices for a few different price points below:
In my humble (but awesome) photographer’s opinion, this is the most inexpensive but worthwhile system to consider when looking at a mirrorless camera. Going to any of the cheaper systems (some as low as $299) you’ll be hugely compromising on features and image quality to the point where you may as well have purchased a point and shoot.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 II
Sporting the lowest resolution and smallest sensor of the group doesn’t automatically leave the Olympus OM-D E-M10 II at the bottom of the pile—though these guys really need to work on your naming scheme.
The E-M10 II has been lauded for its unparalleled auto focus system. Some say it’s better than cameras twice its price. Olympus has also worked hard to improve the low-light performance of this system and it’s especially noticeable in the video quality.
This is a great value choice for those of you who’ve been considering getting a seriously capable camera. As a plus, the micro 4/3 lenses are cheap and plentiful so you wont break the bank!
Best Travel Camera for Consumers
The little brother to the Sony A7 we discuss in a moment the Sony A6300 (and now updated A6500) series is a well rounded contender. This interchangeable mirrorless camera sports an APS-C sensor, 4K video capabilities, amazingly quick auto focus and more features than most enthusiasts will ever need.
You get top of the line features and image quality from this semi-pro camera without dropping huge amounts of cash.
Best Travel Camera for Professionals
This recently released mirrorless has been unanimously dubbed the “best camera you can buy for less than $2000”. The Sony A7 series was the first mirrorless camera to incorporate a professional full frame sized sensor and continues to be the mirrorless camera system that everyone else is playing catch up to.
Sporting mind-blowing image quality, night-vision-like low light abilities and refined ergonomics this is likely the best camera Sony has ever made! I’ve currently got one on order for my kit!
If, like me, you’re the type to print huge and hang things on your wall you might be interested in the monster 42 megapixel Sony A7Riii.
Best DSLR Camera for Travel
For years the DSLR was the mainstay of professional camera users. Recently though this idea has been challenged by mirrorless camera systems. Still, Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras (DSLR’s) offer amazing features and lens selections at the expense of size and weight for much less cost than comparable mirrorless systems. DSLR’s are great camera’s but I’ve moved away from recommending them as a travel camera unless you’re already invested in the system (own lenses etc) in which case these are my picks:
Best Action Camera for Travel
From Jumping off waterfalls to snorkeling with whale sharks there are some tasks that your typical camera system just isn’t up for. In these situations an action camera becomes the go-to. Even though the market is saturated with competitors and even Chinese clones the same few action cameras tend to rise to the top no matter the test. Whatever your thoughts, an actin camera could easily be the best travel camera for you!
Read more: Best Budget Action Camera Alternatives Under $100
The Top Action Cameras for Travel are:
GoPro Hero (2018)
Recently, in an effort to compete with cheaper entries into the market, GoPro released this stripped down version of their Hero 6 action camera. By loosing out on many of the features that make the GoPro Hero 6 such a great action camera the GoPro Hero is able to compete with some of the lesser known Asian actions cameras that have been popping up on the market.
Loosing out on 4K footage, Advanced ProTune image settings, GPS location tagging and advanced image stabilization it manages to keep the great touch screen and waterproof design. While its not the camera to film your next feature length film on for most travellers this is a great option.
GoPro Hero 7
GoPro Arguably created the action camera market and has been the unchallenged leader in the segment forever. Now though, the frequently updated GoPro Hero series is facing stiff competition, even if it’s the gold standard to which all others are compared. The Hero 7 has improved image quality, intrinsic waterproofing and even electronic image stabilization to help smooth out your bumpy footage.
The issues previous versions were known to have (fogging, no LCD screen, ultra wide angle lens) have all been taken care of on the Hero 7 too! You wont be disappointed.
As Sony’s answer to GoPro’s market dominance the FDRX3000 (say that 3 times fast) sports a ton of features! Optical image stabilization delivers best in class video, besting even the Hero6’s electronic stabilization. Standard HD & 4K video modes and slow motion ability will have you creating epic montages out of the box. Optional wireless live view remote control and mounts for every situation you could imagine are also on offer.
The Take Away
Contemplating purchasing a camera for travel is big step. The best travel camera for you is likely on this list, do you need something small and portable? or something with the best image quality? Interchangeable lenses? or an all in one solution? While everything on this list will take a great photo if you put it in the right location, but some will work better for you than others, and that one, is the best travel camera.
Keep in mind that there’s no need to drop a boatload of cash… The photographer makes the photo, the camera only takes it. While some cameras may make it easier, remember that without you they’re nothing. So grab your camera bag, pack your backpack or luggage and get out there to Explore, Create & Educate!
Did you pickup one of these cameras? Is there something we missed that you think should be on this list?? We’d love to hear from you! Drop us a comment below or reach out on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!
Last update on 2020-10-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Unbelievable post on understanding compact cameras. I saved this to my travel board on Pinterest!