The factors that go into determining the best travel camera are manifold; they need to be portable enough to fit seamlessly into our handbags as well as versatile enough to capture every trip highlight: a sunset, a monument, a memorable meal or the alluring smile of a travel companion. Our travel photographs allow us to vicariously relive our getaways long after we’ve returned to our everyday grind, thus picking a camera for logging those memorable moments requires careful consideration.
When picking any camera, for travel or otherwise, it is important to pick one that is likely to get used often, i.e. it should be equally suitable for use in an upcoming safari trip as well as a piano recital. Regardless of the monetary investment into the camera, there is no point in purchasing a camera and then never using it again after a trip. A good practice to try out the camera beforehand, getting used to its ergonomics and size prior to purchasing it.
A camera’s portability and its image quality are inversely related thus the more compact a camera, the lower its image quality. Fixed lens cameras of the basic point-and-shoot variety are the best travel camera type because they are the most lightweight, but by default also produce the least crisp photos. A step-up from these models are the premium point-and-shoot cameras or travel compact cameras as they are known. These offer a longer zoom range (typically 10x+) that make them ideal for wider-angle captures. Entering the variable lens camera category, the choice is between DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. DSLRs are the bulkier of the two and their top-notch models still produce the best photographs out there, however the mirrorless premium cameras are said to be more suitable camera for travelling because they offer similar image qualities (to basic DSLRs) and are easier to use for photographers on-the-go.
Other than picture quality, there are certain other camera features that are deemed lucrative in the current market. These include Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/NFC connectivity for easy file transfer to connected devices, the geotagging feature to mark every location visited and 1080p or 4K video recording (matching today’s smartphones). While travelling, it is also important to note that cameras are easy targets for thieving hands and the more discreet a camera, the less likely it is to be stolen. Replacement cost of these cameras should also be considered when making the choice.
This point-and-shoot variety is an Amazon bestseller. Weighing in at 0.22 pounds, it has some impressive features such as its 28x optical zoom telephoto lens with Vibration Reduction. Its CCD sensors offer a 20.2-megapixel resolution and 720p video recording. Its drawbacks are that its video and sound recording capabilities are poor and its slow shutter makes the camera lag. It produces stunning landscape and outdoor photographs thus its quality to price ratio is a good balancing act.
This mirrorless camera, weighing in at 0.76 pounds, is a favorite amongst travel photographers and internet vloggers. Because of its loyal following, the camera is en route to attaining cult status soon. The camera’s highlights include its large APS-C sensor (also found on low-end DSLRs like the Canon ESO Rebel), hybrid autofocus, a 24-megapixel resolution, 4K recording and 425-point detection system (giving it plenty of flexibility). It also comes with inventive features such as weather-sealing covers, a 3-inch tilting LCD display and an OLED electronic viewfinder. The list of its good features continues as it has a good battery life as well as the coveted Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity feature. Because of it is of the interchangeable lens variety, it is compatible with Sony E Mount lenses.
Tipping the scale at 9.4 pounds, this bulky, entry-level DSLR offers an interesting value proposition for its price. Its highlights include an 18-megapixel offering, 1080p HD recording, 9 point autofocusing system and Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity. It offers automatic and scene shooting modes as well as manual and semi-auto aperture priority modes. This allows shooting in raw format as well (useful for amateur photographers looking to hone photo-editing skills). Its native sensitivity remains at ASO100-6,400 and it is compatible with all of Canon’s EF lens range. Its immediate alternative is the Nikon D3300 which offers higher resolution and a better battery life but it is more expensive and it does not offer Wi-Fi/NFC connectivity.
Considered by some to be a travel compact camera or a premium bridge camera, this DSLR-adjacent camera weighs 1.4 pounds and comes highly recommended for various reasons. This has a 1 inch CMOS sensor, a 20 mega-pixel resolution, a 35-mm equivalent optical zoom range, a 24-100 mm lens and a maximum aperture of f/2.8, meaning that it takes good low-light photos. The camera even offers a full manual mode option to extract raw images and it can produce cleaner images with higher ISOs. Its nifty, moveable LCD touchscreen panel enables flexibility for difficult angled shots such as low angle or overhead (a tilting of 180-degree angle upwards and 45 degrees downwards). It also offers built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and 1080p video recording.
This sleek looking camera with a 24-75 mm fast Leica DC lens of maximum aperture of f/1.7-f/2.8 was one of the pioneers of the premium travel compact category. It comes with an excellent viewfinder and manages to stay light at 0.87 pounds. This camera even juts out of the traditional black matte body and adds some much-needed flair with its silver and brown colors. This is also capable of good low-light photos and 30p 4K UHD videos as a 16.8-megapixel camera.
Honorable mention: Go-Pro Hero 5
This motion camera can capture and record dynamic adventure activities. Primarily a video camera, its performance as a regular camera is not stellar but its usefulness increases in underwater settings.
The models above are some of the best travel cameras out there – depending on your needs and preferences, they would definitely be a great companion on your next trip.