The Best Digital Cameras for Travel
While some travelers are content with a camera that takes great photos while requiring the least amount of photography knowledge, others want a camera that can go far beyond the typical travel snapshot. Some travel enthusiasts just want a tiny camera that can fit into the pair of shoes packed in their luggage, while others would rather leave that pair of shoes at home in favor of bringing a bigger camera.
Whether your idea of travel is a luxury vacation to Paris or an expedition into the rainforest, you will want some kind of digital camera to capture your travel memories with as you explore your destination. From small digital compact cameras that can fit into a pocket to slightly larger mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras to larger still DSLR cameras, we’ve got something on this page for everyone and every kind of travel. Be sure to take a look at our tips for travel photography and traveling safely with camera gear too before you venture off!
Advanced Compact Cameras
For travelers who don’t have much room for a big camera but still want to take great photos, one of the best space and weight saving options is an advanced compact camera. While a compact camera doesn’t offer the versatility of interchangeable lenses, creative control is still simple with these very full featured cameras that can take photos rivaling the quality produced by many larger cameras.
If you’re traveling to a place where theft is common, carrying around a big camera bag filled with lenses and gear can be like painting a big target on your back. Compact cameras are small enough to fit in pockets and purses and in tiny backpack pouches — they don’t make you immune to thieves, but they’re easier to keep track of and don’t attract as much attention as a DSLR does.
Waterproof to 33 feet, the lightweight Sony TX30 is a stylishly designed camera with impressive optical performance even in low light. The TX30 looks more like a traditional compact camera than a waterproof camera built for the outdoors and underwater, but it’s shock proof from drops of up to 5 feet and can operate in temperatures as low as 14° F. For travelers headed to destinations off the beaten trail, the TX30 is a great camera to bring along for the adventure.
The Canon G1X Mark II is a camera that’s well suited to travel, featuring a 24-120mm equivalent F/2-3.9 lens. Although its 12.8MP sensor doesn’t pack as many megapixels as other compacts, the sensor itself is large — 1.5 inches, nearly as big as the APS-C sensors found in many DSLR cameras. The three inch tilting touchscreen LCD makes it easy to shoot from the waist and overhead. The autofocus system is quick and accurate, and for capturing quick action sequences the G1X II can shoot at up to 5.2 frames per second. For lower light situations, optical image stabilization minimizes camera shake.
With an 18.1 megapixel sensor and a huge 35mm equivalent optical zoom range of 24-720mm, the small Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS40 is a compact camera especially well suited to use as a travel camera. The ZS40 squeezes in many features found on more expensive cameras like built in Wi-Fi, GPS, and RAW capture. Hybrid optical image stabilization helps to minimize the effects of camera shake and for low light shooting, the ISO range can be expanded to ISO 6400.
The Sony DSC-RX100 IV is the fourth generation of the highly successful RX100 series which have proven to among the most popular travel cameras on the market. The RX100 IV features an F/1.8-2.8 24-70mm 35mm equivalent Zeiss lens and has a large one inch 20.1 megapixel sensor that produces great image quality. It is also the first version of the RX100 to allow recording of video in 4K, a great feature for filmmakers. A pop-up electronic viewfinder and tilting 3 inch LCD screen make composing shots easy. Image stabilization reduces the effects of camera shake for both video and still image recording and a top ISO 12800 can be expanded to 25000 for ultra-low light photography. With its small size and robust features, the RX100 IV is one of the current best compact cameras for traveling.
Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras (MILCs)
Mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras, usually just referred to as mirrorless cameras or, for people who really love acronyms as MILCs, are a relatively new breed of camera that form a sort of missing link between the small, fixed lens compact cameras and the larger DSLR cameras. For photographers who want the creative control that comes with being able to select the perfect lens for every situation without having to carry around the bulkier camera body of a DSLR, mirrorless cameras are a great option to consider for traveling.
With a 24.3 megapixel APS-C size sensor, the small Sony Alpha a6000 mirrorless camera produces photos that are every bit as good as those taken with high-end DSLR cameras. Its small size makes it a great choice for traveling, and the Sony E-mount means that it can be used with several lenses and lens mounts. For action shooting, the a6000 can shoot up to 11 frames per second and for low light conditions, the maximum ISO is 25600.
The 16 megapixel Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5 is a low profile mirrorless camera with a magnesium alloy body that’s especially well suited to use as a well-rounded travel camera. A wide variety of Lumix G lenses gives this micro four thirds system good flexibility. For candid travel shooting, a silent mode switches the shutter from mechanical to electronic, and a high resolution electronic viewfinder makes it easy to compose your shots even in bright sunlight. For low light photography, the ISO range extends to 25600.
While not the smallest mirrorless camera on the market, the 24.3 megapixel Sony Alpha a7II has lots of features that set it apart as a great camera for traveling. A weather resistant magnesium alloy body makes it a good option for rugged adventures to inhospitable places and in-body stabilization with 4.5 stops of compensation for camera shake combined with a maximum ISO of 25600 makes this one of the most versatile digital cameras on the market.
Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras, commonly known as DSLRs, are bulkier than compact and mirrorless cameras, but historically they have provided some of the most impressive features for still photography and for recording HD videos. While mirrorless camera systems are quickly catching up on features, most DSLR systems still have a wider variety of compatible lenses, making them a favorite choice of many pros.
Despite their larger size, DSLR cameras are still a great option for lots of travel photographers. Some are even built to handle incredibly tough environments, making them ideal for the travelers who live on the wilder side.
The 18 megapixel Canon SL1 is currently the world’s smallest and lightest DSLR. The Canon SL1 has a high maximum expandable ISO of 25,600 for impressive low light performance and also features continuous autofocus in movie mode with subject tracking. Compatible with the full range of Canon lenses, the SL1 is a great choice for photographers who want to use multiple Canon lenses during their travels, but don’t want a heavier DSLR to carry around.
Small and reasonably priced, the Nikon D3300 features a 24.2 megapixel sensor. For action shooting, the D3300 can shoot at up to 5 frames per second, and in low light conditions the ISO range can be expanded to 25600. Image quality from the D3300 is excellent and sharp thanks to the sensor’s lack of an optical low-pass filter, and if you’re a Nikon shooter, this is an great lightweight DSLR camera to bring along on your travels.
With a 24 megapixel APS-C size sensor, the Pentax K3 II is an advanced DSLR with a weather resistant magnesium alloy and stainless steel body. With 92 seals, the Pentax K3 is weather, cold, and dust resistant to ensure continuous operation in a diverse array of environments, making it a great camera for adventure travel use. Low light, high ISO shooting is possible with great results, with a maximum ISO of 51200. Continuous shooting can be done at up to 8.3 frames per second for up to 23 consecutive RAW photos or 60 JPEGs. Although it’s a heavy camera at 1.5 pounds without a lens mounted, the Pentax K3 II is one of the best DSLR cameras for travelers who need a very rugged, weather sealed camera.
In body shake reduction allows the K3 II to capture sharp images even in lower light, and an anti-aliasing filter simulator helps to minimize moiré. Particularly useful for travel photographers is the built in GPS module which records location, latitude, longitude, and altitude.