Courtesy of Sony
The new Fujifilm X-T4 is an excellent mirrorless camera for travelers.
Courtesy of Fujifilm
Whether you’re an amateur shutterbug or constantly honing your travel photography skills, these excellent options make finding the right camera for you a snap.
Unless you’re a professional photographer or an obsessed hobbyist who loves researching features and specifications, choosing the right camera can be an overwhelming process. There is no “one size fits all”; the way you snap pictures is as personal as the way you pack your suitcase.
If you’re a carry-on-only type of person and just whip out your camera to remember certain moments, you’ll want something small and intuitive, like a point-and-shoot camera. But if you travel in order to take pictures, you’ll want something that gives you more creative control over your shots, and the extra weight of a DSLR camera with interchangeable lenses will be worth it. In some cases, your iPhone or Google Pixel camera might be all you need.
If you’re not sure where to start, our guide to the best cameras for travelers will help you find the perfect one for you, whether you’re planning for your next safari or simply want to capture the sunset on a weekend hike.
To find the right camera for you, first consider the type of traveler you are and the type of photography you’re interested in. Once you understand your needs, you’ll be able to better assess what features you value and which you don’t. Here are a few to consider:
Are you an active traveler who needs a compact camera that won’t take up much space in a daypack or backpack? Or do you tend to travel with a checked bag that can accommodate a bigger camera? Larger cameras, like DSLRs or mirrorless cameras with lens kits might be bulkier, but they’re also harder to leave behind at a train station than a small, inconspicuous point and shoot.
Along with size, the weight of a camera is one of the most important considerations for travelers, and not just because airlines are increasingly strict about weight limits. A heavy DSLR means more bells and whistles to play with, but lugging one around on a day of sightseeing and spending hours holding it up while you shoot pictures can take a toll on your neck, shoulders, back, and arms.
Generally, cameras with sensors that can capture more pixels (MPs, or megapixels) produce images with better resolution (though there are other factors that can complicate the issue). But if you’re mostly posting your pictures to Instagram, you don’t need to capture the large, high-quality pictures that top-of-the-line cameras produce. If you enjoy wildlife photography, you might want a camera that shoots fast (around 30 frames per second, or fps). And if you love street photography in marketplaces and other low-light areas, you’ll want a lens that works at low f-stop numbers, because you’ll want that wide aperature to let in as much light as possible when there isn’t much available. And if you crave a lot of creative control, it’ll probably be worth it to you to invest in a camera with manual settings, interchangeable lenses for multiple focal lengths (that is, ability to zoom in), and excellent resolution. Additionally consider whether you’re a photo-only type of person or if you want the option of shooting video.
The way the dials, buttons, screen, and viewfinder of a camera are laid out actually affects how much you enjoy using it. Some setups are just awkward. The best way to figure out if you like the way a camera is set up is to go into a store and test it out.
A small consideration but an important one nonetheless, battery life can make or break your travel photography experience. It’s frustrating to bring a camera halfway around the world, only to have it die two hours into your day.
Aside from optional accessories—padded bags, straps, and tripods—you may have to invest in (and tote around) other accessories to use the camera; these include additional lenses for your DSLR, backup storage options, and battery packs.
Photography can be an expensive hobby. But the most expensive camera isn’t always the best camera for you. Camera companies release updated versions of popular lines every few years, and the newest, most advanced models with cutting-edge technology will always be expensive; you can usually save a few hundred dollars but still get many of the same features and comparable quality if you opt for the previous model.
While there many different styles and configurations of camera, the main types of travel cameras include point and shoots, bridge cameras, mirrorless, DSLRs, and action cameras.
Unless you’re an enthusiastic hobbyist or a professional, a point-and-shoot camera is probably going to suit your purposes perfectly. They are generally small, produce good pictures, and are easy to use—you don’t need to have in-depth knowledge of f-stops, ISO, and file types. You simply point it at your object, click the shutter button, and voila! Picture captured. The trade-off is that you don’t have a lot of control over the final image—these cameras are made for auto mode and often lack advanced manual controls, they only allow you to zoom in so much, and you can’t switch out the lenses. And they generally don’t perform well in low-light situations, though most have a built-in flash.
You likely won’t hear about bridge cameras as often as you will the other cameras on this list. These types of cameras offer more manual control than point-and-shoot options as well as powerful zoom lenses. However, the lens is permanently attached to the body. They’re a good choice for photographers who don’t want to mess around with different lenses but do want to play with more controls than a point-and-shoot camera has.
Think of mirrorless cameras as the next step toward DSLRs. They produce higher quality photos than point and shoots, though not quite as high quality as DSLRs. However, weighing in around 1.5 pounds, they are compact cameras, much smaller and lighter than their more advanced cousins. (The name “mirrorless” comes from the way they capture images—DSLRs project the image through the viewfinder using a mirror, which flips away when you press the shutter button to expose the sensor that actually captures the image. Mirrorless cameras do away with the mirror, making the whole process digital and the camera itself much lighter.) They also feature the manual controls that allow you to adjust exposure, shutter speed, depth of field, and more, and you can swap out lenses. These are a good pick if you’re interested in the art of photography but don’t want to dive into the deep end yet. Many pros also use mirrorless cameras as backups.
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Not only does DSLR (digital single lens reflex) deliver high-quality photos with great resolution, but it is also built to last. These cameras are all about versatility. They have the manual functions that allow you a huge amount of creative control over the resulting photo. They’re also made to be used with a number of different lenses. And many of the new models can produce incredible video as well. DSLRs even capture RAW files, which save more information and allow you more control when you’re editing images, as well as the compressed JPEG files. The trade-off, however, is that they’re heavier, bigger, and more expensive than other cameras. And you’ll probably find yourself needing to invest in more accessories, such as external flashes, bounce cards, remote shutter releases, and microphones, than you would for any other type of camera.
Some travelers may be less interested in the amount of artistic control they have over the pictures they take and instead are looking for a rugged camera that will survive a series of extreme adventures. These sorts of cameras should be durable, waterproof, dustproof, and able to withstand long drops. And many don’t even look like traditional cameras—think of GoPros, which bear no resemblance to any of the other cameras on this list; they are extremely hardy and meant to be mounted on helmets, surfboards, selfie sticks, and more, allowing the user a hands-free experience.
Sony’s RX100 line has long been at the top of the list of quality point and shoots, and the new, sleek VII model packs a professional punch for such a small body. It has a versatile 24–200 mm zoom range, a powerful one-inch, 20.1 megapixel sensor, and shoots sharp images at almost any setting. It also records RAW images and features Wi-Fi, which is great for transferring photos from the camera to a phone or computer to quickly post to social media. Its three-inch touch screen can rotate a full 180 degrees, which is great for solo travelers trying to take selfies. The RX100 VII also records 4k (a measure of resolution) video—the kind of quality that vloggers look for. The best part? The VII’s autofocus technology rivals that of Sony cameras with interchangeable lenses; it allows users to track moving subjects and it also detects faces and eyes for both humans and animals. The RX100 line also has a good range of underwater housings for divers.
The Canon PowerShot G7X Mark II is small enough to fit in a jacket pocket, but with its one-inch, 20.1 megapixel sensor captures clear photos even in low-light situations. Give it a try in those notoriously hard-to-capture twilight hours, during evening strolls and end-of-the-day cocktails. The control rings make satisfying clicky noises, and the zoom lens has a solid 24–100 mm focal length range. The three-inch LCD screen is tiltable, which helps with overhead or low-level photography, and like the Sony RX100 VII, Wi-Fi capabilities allow you to easily transfer images, which can save in both RAW and JPEG formats. The autofocus is responsive but can’t focus continuously (so you can’t track subjects while shooting in burst mode). It even shoots video at an admirable 1920 x 1080 resolution. The only drawback to the G7X’s slim body is that it lacks a viewfinder, though for some people, using a viewfinder with a camera this small is awkward anyway.
If the zoom on a point and shoot just isn’t enough for you to capture the banks of the Bosphorus from a boat, the Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ1000 II’s 25–400 mm long-range zoom on its fixed lens might be exactly what you’re looking for. The one-inch, 20.1 megapixel sensor captures high-resolution photos in most situations, and an internal image stabilizer works on five axes to help keep your framing consistent even when zoomed all the way out. The camera also records 4k video and features Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections and a three-inch articulating LCD screen that flips out 180 degrees to the side and tilts 270 degrees. Plus its ergonomic design fits comfortably into most hands and makes this camera feel more like an interchangeable lens camera than a point and shoot.
The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III is a perfect entry-level mirrorless camera—it’s affordable, but still has the DSLR styling and sophisticated technology that makes it a step up from most entry-level mirrorless models. It holds its own with the fancy features that have become standard, such as five-axis stabilization, three-inch tilting touchscreen LCD, and 4k video recording. The solid 16.1-megapixel sensor and the processor produce sharp photos. An electronic shutter function makes for faster shutter speeds and can also be used in silent mode, making your clicking less conspicuous in museums or temple courtyards. The E-M10 Mark III is a micro four thirds camera—meaning it’s smaller than usual and lighter too—and stacks its large, easy-to-use dials on the top of the body without feeling cramped. It also has a built-in flash. The electronic viewfinder has a great 1.23 magnification, which is helpful when you’re using it for long periods of time.
With the brand-new X-T4, released in February 2020, Fujifilm took the already exceptional X-T3 and made it better. The same 26.1MP X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor captures beautiful quality pictures, and the X-T4 also shoots 4k and HD video better than most cameras on the market. But the new model has a much better battery life, snapping around 500 shots on a charge as opposed to the X-T3’s 390. The X-T4 also features in-body image stabilization that uses magnetic force as well as the camera structure to absorb shock. It also boasts fast shutter speeds (30 fps in burst mode), Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, and it is weather sealed, keeping dust and dirt particles kicked up by the wind—whether you’re in Tierra del Fuego or Chicago—out of the camera body. Like many Fujifilm cameras, the X-T4 has a retro look and mimics the setup of a classic 35 mm film SLR, with the aperture rings on the lenses.
If you’re hesitant to spring for the newest and priciest model, rest assured that X-T line has something for every level of photographer. The last model, the X-T3 ($1,499, bhphotovideo.com; amazon.com), lags behind in terms of battery life, but it has a lot of the same features and capabilities as the X-T4 and a lower price tag. The X-T30 ($899, bhphotovideo.com, amazon.com) is another fan favorite, ditching the weatherproofing and a few buttons to knock off another $500 or so.
The aR7 III isn’t the newest kid on the block in Sony’s high-end mirrorless AR7 series, but the aR7 IV ($3,498, bhphotovideo.com, amazon.com), its pride and joy, costs considerably more and is really aimed at professionals. Of course, if you want to spring for the aR7 IV’s whopping 61-megapixel sensor, which surpasses that of even some full-frame DSLRs, no one will be checking your credentials.
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But the a7R III is still an incredibly powerful camera with a huge 42.4-megapixel sensor and noticeably fast shutter speeds and autofocus capabilities. It also shoots fast (30 fps) 4k video, has five-axis stabilization, and its long-lasting battery can run about 600 shoots. One feature that makes the aR7 III a joy to work with is the electronic viewfinder, which produces bright, clear views and refreshes at lightning speed, with none of the lag that others experience. The aR7 isn’t an outstanding performer at low lights, struggling a bit below one-fourth second shutter speeds, but the electronic viewfinder plus weather-sealing makes this a great pick for landscape photographers.
Leicas are the Bugattis of cameras—ultra high end, super stylish, and exquisitely crafted. No, the Q2 isn’t the type of travel camera you’d toss in a backpack or casually sling over a shoulder, but if you dream of strolling through the Marais with a retro-cool Leica in hand, the Q2 is the one you want. The brand’s reputation for extremely high-quality images with unparalleled color fidelity is well earned, and the Q2 boasts an incredible 47.3 megapixel full-frame sensor. It is also weathersealed, which is always a plus for a traveler, can capture 4k video, and is priced on the lower end of the scale, relative to other Leica models.
What makes the Q2 a good pick for the curious traveler is its fixed 28 mm f1.70 lens and manual focus. Yes, really. While many photographers would argue that the fixed lens is a drawback, it actually forces you to get more involved with the things you shoot. You can’t stay on the fringes of the crowds at Boudhanath Stupa in Nepal, zooming in on interesting characters. You have to join the fray and get almost uncomfortably close to the subjects you want to capture (though, remember to be respectful and ask permission when doing so). Similarly, the manual focus—a feature that all Leicas have—keeps you more in the moment, forcing you to slow down and engage with the scene in front of you. The Q2 does make some concessions—it has macro focusing and 35 mm, 50 mm, and 75 mm crops so you can simulate different zoom lengths. And unlike other Leica cameras, the Q2 also has autofocus, and a quick one at that, which travelers will find useful in busy street scenes.
With the EOS Rebel SL3, Canon took one of its best ultra-compact entry-level DSLRs and made it better. Since 2017, the Canon EOS Rebel T7i ($700 [was $750], bhphotovideo.com) has been considered one of the best DSLRs for beginners on the market, offering approachable features and imaging technology inherited from Canon’s previous cameras aimed at professionals; the SL3, released last year, is almost identical and shares just about all the important features: Both cameras offer a resolution of 24 megapixels and have the same sensor (the APS-C). Both are compatible with Canon’s comprehensive system of lenses—one of the largest lineups available—which gives new and seasoned photographers a lot of room to play.
The T7i is a little faster than the SL3, but the slightly slimmer and lighter SL3, our pick for a better travel camera, has a much longer battery life, clicking away through 1,070 photos as opposed to the T7i’s 600. And unlike its predecessor, the SL3 can shoot 4k video, which more and more travel photographers consider the standard. To top it all off, the SL3 is about 20 percent cheaper.
Nikon’s D850 was released in September of 2017, but the powerhouse DSLR is still a favorite for prosumers, or photographers who straddle the consumer and professional worlds. The D850’s 45.7-megapixel sensor produces crisp photos with beautiful resolution, and it is backside illuminated: The parts of the sensor that capture light are closer to the surface, resulting in sharper pixels at the edges of the image. It also tolerates more light in bright conditions and performs well in low-light conditions too. Nikon is known for its fast, accurate focusing, and the autofocusing on the D850 would thrill any sports photographer. Another great feature of the D850 is its viewfinder, which, with its 0.75x magnification, gives the user a wonderfully realistic view. It also shoots 4k video, and its 3.2-inch touch screen is larger than that of most other cameras.
True, the D850 is a hefty model at 26.63 ounces (about two pounds), but sometimes it’s OK to throw a little weight around, especially if you’re doing the kind of tripod-friendly wildlife or cityscape photography that this camera does so well.
The newest member of the GoPro family proves that you don’t have to be an adrenaline junkie to own a GoPro. One of the major upgrades that makes the slimmer Hero8 much more approachable is that it doesn’t require extra hardware to attach it to things like grips, dashboards, and helmets; previous models needed the help of a frame, but the Hero8’s attachments are built into its body. But that’s not to say the Hero8 is any less rugged than other GoPros—it’s still waterproof to 33 feet, and the new model has a Gorilla Glass lens that GoPro claims is twice as impact-resistant as previous lenses.
Rugged features aside, the Hero8 has photo-capturing capabilities that any travel photographer would appreciate: The super-smooth image stabilization obliterates the need for stabilizing accessories, eliminating most of the bounce from footsteps in slow motion. There’s also a touch screen with four adjustment buttons, four digital lenses with different aspect ratios, and the Hero8 can shoot vertically for those who post mostly to Instagram Stories or TikTok. The sensor captures 12 megapixel stills and 4k video. It even supports livestreaming to Facebook, though at a slightly lower 1080/240 resolution. The Night-Lapse function lets you to capture beautiful 4k timelapses of the night sky or a bioluminescent ocean.
Snorkelers, river rafters, and anyone who refuses to let a little rain dampen a trip, this one’s for you. Technically, the Olympus Tough TG-6 is a point and shoot, but the pocketable waterproof camera was built for adventure—a sort of a middle ground between a traditional point and shoot and a GoPro. Not only is it waterproof up to 50 feet, but it’s also crushproof (up to 100 kilograms of force) and freezeproof (down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit). Yet the 12-megapixel sensor still delivers beautiful photographs in both RAW and JPEG formats, and the TG-6 can also shoot 4k video.
Like all waterproof cameras, the TG-6 keeps its lens safely inside the body, and its 25–100 mm zoom range doesn’t rival that of some of the other point and shoots on this list. However, its macro shooting capabilities are superior to others in the class. Botany enthusiasts will find this useful for snapping up-close shots of rain forest flora without worrying about wet conditions. It performs decently in low-light conditions, but not if you’re zoomed in. And you might want to pack an extra battery; this one won’t break any records.
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