Travel photos capture our treasured memories and give us immediate access to revisit the excitement and thrills of holidays and vacations. And we usually take more pictures on vacation than at any other time, so, understandably, it’s important to capture our precious memories in all their glory.
Thankfully, you’re not stuck lugging around a bulky DSLR or fully built mirrorless setup just to get high-quality photos. Granted, you still see the odd tourist sweating it out under the weight of these bulky setups from time to time. No. Friend. You have more options than these typical setups, without the unnecessary strain and hassle.
Sure, you could use your smartphone. And yes, today’s smartphones are incredibly capable and apt for the job. But, a dedicated camera offers better manual control, handling, and far superior image quality. Even more so if you plan on printing images from your trip.
Today’s travel cameras offer DSLR level image quality but are substantially easier to carry. And the best travel cameras combine portability, versatility with outstanding image quality. Many current cameras deliver pro-level quality to showcase your vacation in its full glory.
But, like many areas in photography, there’s more than meets the eye to the perfect travel camera. And there’s plenty of options, depending on your preferences for sensor size, form factor, and versatility. And options range from the ultra-compact point & shoots to mid-range interchangeable lens cameras.
In this post, we’ve compiled a list of the top ten best travel cameras that are perfect for your next trip. We’ve also compiled a detailed guide on how to choose a travel camera. And the considerations you’ll want to think about based on the type of traveler you are.
Jump to a Section
- 10 – Sony a6400
- 9 – Panasonic LX100 II
- 8 – Ricoh GR III
- 7 – Fujifilm X-T30
- 6 – Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II
- 5 – Olympus Tough TG-6
- 4 – Panasonic ZS200 (TZ200)
- 3 – Olympus E-M10 IV
- 2 – Fujifilm X100V
- 1 – Sony RX100 VII
- Buyers Guide
- How to choose the best travel camera?
- Type of Travel Camera
- Compact Zooms
- Premium Compacts
- Mirrorless Cameras, DSLRs, and Compact System Cameras (CSC’s)
- Size & Portability
- Weather Sealing
- Lens & Zoom Range
- Where are you going, and what are you shooting?
- Are you recording video?
- Wireless Connectivity
- Battery Life & USB Charging
10 – Sony a6400
Sony’s a6400 was their first testing bed for their eventual firmware genius. Released in 2019, it features a 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor, 4K UHD 24 fps, and 1080p FHD up to 120 fps. It also has a 3″ tilting touchscreen, an EVF, weather sealing, time-lapse, log profiles, a microphone input, a built-in flash, and wireless connectivity.
It uses Sony’s 425-point phase-detect AF system, a proven system amongst several cameras in the line. However, it was the first camera to debut Real-Time tracking, which uses an element of AI or machine learning for autofocus. This allows the camera to focus in as little as 0.02 seconds, which was class-leading at the time.
With this single innovation, the a6400 single-handled became the strongest APS-C camera released in 2019. Real-time tracking is a game-changing feature that significantly streamlines acquiring focus. Gone are the days of configuring autofocusing settings, setting custom buttons, and the like. Instead, the autofocus just works and is confident at all times. The a6400 was also the first a6000 series camera to debut unlimited video recording time, a key selling feature in the class. Plus, the camera also offers a powerful burst rate of 11 fps using the mechanical shutter with full autofocus support. And combined, it’s quite powerful for capturing tricky sports and wildlife.
Overall, Sony’s a6400 is a substantial upgrade over its predecessor and was the camera to solidify Sony’s dominance in software innovation. And as a package, it’s a strong all-rounder that offers a large APS-C sensor, with class-leading focusing and unlimited video recording time to boast.
9 – Panasonic LX100 II
Panasonic’s LX100 Mark II is their premium compact camera. Released in 2018, it features a 17MP Micro Four Thirds sensor, a 24-75mm equivalent lens, 4K UHD 30 fps, and 1080p FHD 60 fps. It also has a 3″ touchscreen, optical stabilization, an EVF, 4K Photo, Sequence Composition, post focus, focus stacking, time-lapse, stop motion and wireless connectivity.
It uses Panasonic’s 49-area contrast-based AF system with DFD technology. What sets this camera apart is that Panasonic has managed to pack a large Micro Four Thirds sensor into an otherwise small compact camera. And this sensor is 1.6x larger than the comparable 1-inch sensors found in most rivals in this particular category.
And this larger sensor provides superior image quality, dynamic range, less noise, and more fine detail. Plus, it opens the world of large format printing. Panasonic’s even added their famous L. Monochrome picture profiles. And combined with the built-in Grain Effect, you’ll capture, arguably, the best black & white images of all manufacturers. Especially so considering the cameras excellent 3cm macro mode, 11 fps burst shooting, fast f/1.7 aperture, and versatile 3x optical zoom.
Overall, the LX100 Mark II is a powerful all-rounder. Its predecessor was already an excellent camera for traveling photographers. But, this update serves as a welcomed refresh to this popular lineup. And it’s a great option for quality-conscious travelers who don’t mind trading portability for image quality. But, one that delivers near DSLR-like controls in a far more portable package.
8 – Ricoh GR III
Ricoh’s GR III is the 12th iteration of the GR lineup. Released in 2019, it features a brand new 24.2MP APS-C sensor, a 28mm equivalent lens, and 1080p FHD 60 fps video. It also has 3-axis stabilization, a 3″ touchscreen, a built-in ND filter, 2 GBs of built-in storage, multi-exposures, time-lapse, interval composite, HDR, and wireless connectivity.
It uses a brand new hybrid AF system with Face Detection, which offers superior performance over the previous generation. But, notably, Ricoh’s updated the sensor, which is now 1.5x larger than its predecessor’s 16MP sensor. This change significantly boosts resolution and delivers better dynamic range, high ISO performance, and more freedom for cropping.
Additionally, the sensor lacks an Anti-Aisling filter, further increasing fine details. Yet, they’ve also added 3-axis sensor stabilization, which delivers confidence when shooting at 1/2 second shutter speeds to blur motion or improve low light performance. It’s also the first in the line to debut a touchscreen, greatly simplifying the user experience. And it’s bright 28mm f/2.8 lens offers excellent macro capabilities with a 6 cm macro mode. But it also delivers an exciting perspective that immerses the viewer without being too wide. However, if you’d prefer something more telephoto, you can use the 35mm or 50mm crop modes to alter the angle of view.
Overall, Ricoh’s GR III is quite a powerhouse. Yet, it’s palm-sized and can easily slip into a jacket pocket. Sure, it may use a minimalist design without the fancy bells and whistles, and it’s simple and very much understated. But, it’s discrete, and its imagery impresses. Ricoh’s achieved a masterful balance between portability and functionality, and it gets dangerously close to the ultimate point & shoot camera.
7 – Fujifilm X-T30
Fujifilm’s X-T30 is their latest mid-range mirrorless camera. Released in 2019, it houses a 26.1MP APS-C sensor, 4K UHD 30 fps, and 1080p FHD video up to 120 fps. It also has a 3″ tilting touchscreen, a microphone input, a tally lamp, zebras, log profiles, multi-exposures, time-lapse, and wireless connectivity.
In many ways, it’s a miniature X-T3, with a similar high-end feature set without its high-end price tag. And one of its main features is the new 425-point phase-detection AF system with Face detection covering nearly the entire frame. It also obtains Fuji’s full suite of film simulations, including ETERNA, Classic Chrome, and ACROS. And these profiles give its images and video a distinctly vintage appeal, difficult to replicate otherwise. Plus, it obtains a similar 30 fps continuous burst rate without blackout, all in a package that’s more compact and affordable.
Overall, the X-T30 is a perfect opportunity to gain class-leading features from the pricier X-T3 at a far more approachable price. And as a package, it’s a strong camera for quality-conscious shooters wanting a versatile general-purpose option.
6 – Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II
Canon’s G5X Mark II is their latest mid-range compact camera. Released in 2019, it features a 1-inch 20.1MP stacked CMOS sensor, a 24-120mm equivalent lens, 4K UHD 30 fps, and 1080p FHD video up to 120 fps. It also has a 3″ flipping touchscreen, an EVF, optical stabilization, a built-in flash, panorama, time-lapse, HDR, a built-in ND filter, and wireless connectivity.
It uses a 31-point contrast-based TTL AF system with Face Detection. But, it’s key highlight feature is the 180º flipping touchscreen, which is a good option for selfies or vlogging on your trips. However, pro shooters will also rejoice, knowing the camera offers RAW support. Yet, surprisingly, it does so boasting 20 fps continuous shooting. And it even offers 30 fps using the RAW burst mode, which makes it widely capable of capturing virtually anything unpredictable. And its fast f/2.8 lens, 5x optical zoom, and relatively large sensor make it quite versatile and well suited across many lighting conditions.
Overall, Canon’s G5X Mark II offers similar capabilities to Sony’s RX100 line, with an equally fast lens but a longer zoom. And it’s a strong all-rounder that combines a solid feature set with a good selection of advanced functionality. Sure there are other more advanced cameras on the market. However, very few combine such a versatile feature-set at such a competitive price.
5 – Olympus Tough TG-6
The Olympus TG-6 continues their ongoing dominance in the adventure photography segment. Released in 2019, it features a 1/2.3-inch 12MP sensor, a 25-100mm equivalent lens, 4K UHD 30 fps, and 1080p FHD video up to 120 fps. It also has a 3.0″ LCD, image stabilization, HDR, Live Composite, Focus stacking, panorama, time-lapse, a 2x teleconverter, and wireless connectivity.
It uses a 25-point contrast AF system with Face Detection and a 4x optical zoom lens with a fast f/2 aperture. This lens is quite bright for a zoom lens of this range and greatly improves the low light image quality combined with the wide ISO range. The lens also offers a 1 cm super macro mode, which remains superior to rivals at this price point. But, crucially, the TG-6 is the toughest camera in this segment. Not only is it shock-resistant up to 2.1m and crushproof to 100 kgs, but it’s also dustproof, freezeproof, and waterproof to 15m. Simply put, it’s close to indestructible.
And given its exhausting weather sealing, it shines as an underwater point & shoot camera. And one that delivers genuinely incredible images. Plus, it also offers manometers, a temperature sensor, and a compass, in addition to standard GPS. So you’re always aware of your environment and surroundings. Not to mention RAW shooting at 20 fps and 4K video, both rare for underwater cameras.
Overall, Olympus’ TG-6 is ideal for extreme adventure photographers who want class-leading toughness ready to withstand the elements or blatant abuse. Sure, it doesn’t have a large sensor. But, as a camera explicitly designed this way, it shines as the top option in the segment and a must given its durability and quality.
4 – Panasonic ZS200 (TZ200)
Panasonic’s ZS200 is their latest compact zoom camera and direct response to Sony’s high-end RX100 series. Released in 2018, it features a 1-inch 20.1MP MOS sensor, a 24-360mm equivalent lens, 4K UHD 30 fps, and 1080p FHD video up to 120 fps. It also has an EVF, a 3.0-inch touchscreen, 5-axis hybrid stabilization, a built-in flash, focus bracketing, 4K Photo, HDR, and wireless connectivity.
It uses Panasonic’s 49-point AF system with Face and Eye-detection. And in size, it remains similar to earlier ZS models. However, it manages to squeeze in a much larger 1-inch sensor, substantially increasing its low light performance. Plus it has a redesigned lens, providing a class-leading 15x optical zoom or 30x intelligent zoom, key selling features in this segment.
The camera even offers 10 fps burst natively or steps up to 30 fps using the 4K Photo Mode. And it receives the 4K Auto Marking feature, which detects motion automatically and sets appropriate markers to save time digging through the entire sequence. Along with the 4K Live Crop feature, which creates digital pans or zooms in-camera without requiring the technique or post-processing software to do so.
Overall, Panasonic’s ZS200 is an excellent option for those wanting a compact all-in-one camera with plenty of manual controls, excellent image quality, and outstanding versatility. And as a challenger to Sony’s RX lineup, it offers quite a package without the hefty price.
3 – Olympus E-M10 IV
Olympus’ E-M10 IV is their latest release following the company’s sale to JIP. Released in 2020, it features a brand new 20.3MP Live MOS sensor, Cinema 4K 24 fps, and 1080p FHD video up to 120 fps. It also has a 3.0-inch tilting touchscreen, an EVF, 5-axis stabilization, a built-in flash, multi-exposures, Live Composite, HDR, time-lapse, panorama, and wireless connectivity.
It uses the 121-point High-Speed Imager AF system with the same algorithms from the EM-1 Mark III, a substantial improvement in performance. Also new is a redesigned sensor, which is quite similar to the acclaimed Pen F, and a notable update over the predecessor 16MP sensor by contrast. And combined with its 16 Art filters, it’s images offer superior detail with a unique visual flair. Plus, unlike most rivals, it provides a stabilized sensor that compensates up to 4.5 stops of shake, allowing you to confidently shoot at a 1/2 second shutter speed handheld.
Overall, Olympus’ E-M10 Mark IV obtains several high-end pro-level features from their professional lines. And it’s a powerful entry-level mirrorless camera ideally suited for traveling, that’s effortlessly the most stylish.
2 – Fujifilm X100V
Fujifilm’s X100V is their latest option in the popular X100 lineup of premium street cameras. Released in 2020 features a 26.1MP APS-C sensor, a fixed 23mm equivalent lens, DCI 4K 30 fps, and 1080p FHD video up to 120 fps. It also has a 3.0-inch tilting touchscreen, log profiles, an EVF, weather sealing, a built-in ND filter, zebras, panorama, multi-exposures, HDR, time-lapse, a tally lamp, and wireless connectivity.
With this new model, Fuji’s updated both the sensor and overhauled the autofocusing system. And it now uses Fuji’s latest 425-point Hybrid AF system inherited from the X-T3. But, crucially, the 23mm lens, now in its second iteration, has less distortion, better sharpness, and improved macro performance. The camera also brings 4K to the lineup, a notable update over its predecessor, 1080p maximum. Plus, a tilting touchscreen to add much-needed versatility when shooting at tricky angles, along with 11 fps bursts or 30 fps using the electronic shutter and 17 classic film simulations.
Overall, Fujifilm’s X100V is an extensively polished release that’s perfect for capturing street photography. And it follows the tradition of 1950s analog cameras, delivering the feeling of shooting 35mm film in the digital age. But it, simultaneously, builds on the proven successes of the line as the best option to date.
1 – Sony RX100 VII
Sony’s RX100 VII is their latest release in the premium RX100 lineup. Released in 2019, it features a 1-inch 20.1MP sensor, a 24-100mm equivalent lens, 4K UHD 30 fps, and 1080p FHD video up to 120 fps. It also has a 3.0-inch flipping touchscreen, optical stabilization, a mic input, an EVF, vertical video, proxy recording, log profiles, time-lapse, panorama, HDR, zebras, a built-in flash, and wireless connectivity.
It uses Sony’s class-leading Fast Hybrid AF system, with 357 phase and 425 contrast-detect points. And combined, it delivers the fastest autofocusing of all compact cameras at just 0.02 seconds. It also obtains Sony’s Real-Time AF, along with advanced eye-detection for both humans and animals.
Plus, the newly redesigned sensor now offers backside-illumination, which provides faster readout speeds and better color and texture reproduction. The sensor makes 60 autofocus calculations per second, allowing the camera to produce 20 fps burst with AF tracking or 90 fps using the Single Burst Mode. These speeds match their flagship a9. And they make capturing decisive movements an afterthought. Not to mention you also get the High Frame Rate mode, which shoots up to 1000 fps.
Overall, it’s clear why Sony’s RX100 VII is the top traveling camera. Inside this compact body is everything required to take stunning photos and videos. You get a camera with remarkable telephoto abilities using its 8x optical and 4x clear image zoom. And one that receives several class-leading professional capabilities from the a9. Yet, in a form that fits easily into a jacket pocket. The RX100 packs a punch in features and will easily please any skill level, from beginners to experts. While not cheap, if you want the best, this is it.
How to choose the best travel camera?
Whether you’re planning a relaxed local vacation or an international trip, there are several vital factors to consider when looking at options here. And you’ll want to consider not only the camera itself, but also where you’re going, how you shoot, and what you’ll be shooting. The best travel camera will vary based on these requirements and your overall needs.
Let’s cover the full range of factors to consider now.
Type of Travel Camera
Travel cameras come in a variety of different flavors. Below are the four main types, and the pros and cons of each. Ultimately, the main difference comes down to sensor size and the lenses they use. Otherwise, the cameras that fall into these categories are largely identical.
These point & shoot cameras are generally pocket-friendly and ultra-compact. They’re a good option for photographers who want a versatile camera, but one that’s as small as possible. Their lenses also generally have plenty of range. And they provide plenty of freedom to get in close for macro shots or zoom out to capture landscapes.
The downside with the cameras, however, is that the trade portability and size for image quality. And they typically have smaller sensors, usually 1/2.3″ in size, which isn’t great when shooting in low light. A smaller sensor also doesn’t afford much room for post-processing or large format printing.
These are also compact point & shoots, but instead of a versatile zoom lens, they usually use a fixed lens. Or they offer a more narrow zoom range, with less reach. While this is a trade-off, the benefit here is noticeably improved image quality, better sharpness, and less distortion. Zoom lenses, historically, cause more artifacts and a loss in detail.
But, reducing their range or using a fixed lens corrects these issues. These cameras also offer larger sensors, usually 1-inch in size, which provides superior low light performance and overall image quality. So, while you lose the superzoom lens, these are an excellent option for improving image quality.
Mirrorless Cameras, DSLRs, and Compact System Cameras (CSC’s)
These cameras are substantially larger and are best suited for carry-on luggage. But, they offer the best possible image quality, given their size. They also provide interchangeable lenses, giving you more freedom to tailor the lens for the shooting demand. Granted, this increases the hassle while traveling. But, it also simultaneously enhances the camera’s versatility.
As a bonus, their extra size affords improved ergonomics and larger sensors, ranging from Micro Four Thirds to APS-C. So, suppose you’re willing to pack the camera, accessories, and a small arsenal of lenses. In that case, these are your best choice, given their versatility and quality.
Size & Portability
Many will set their sights on something small, compact, and light when looking for a travel camera. And they won’t consider anything else. And yes, the size and form factor are arguably the most important factors. But they’re not the only ones. And yes, ideally, you want to keep the size and weight down. But, there are trade-offs to doing so.
Now, depending on your specific needs, you may want a camera that neatly fits into a coat or pants pocket. But, these cameras trade size for image quality. And they have relatively small sensors, which means they’re images are not well suited for printing and post-processing.
However, if traveling with the camera in this fashion isn’t a deal-breaker to you. Then consider getting a slightly larger camera that offers a larger sensor instead. Despite the added size, larger cameras pay dividends by providing better low light performance, detail, and overall image quality.
How will your camera survive the elements? Weather sealing and resistance is critical if you plan on traveling for adventure photography. Not every camera is weather-sealed and rugged. And the ones that are usually have varying degrees of protection. The last thing you want is to have an unprotected camera destroyed from a sudden downpour.
Lens & Zoom Range
Does the camera offer a fixed or zoom lens? If so, how long is the range? And does that range cover what you plan on shooting?
Ideally, you want a zoom lens with a fast aperture between f/1.8 and f/2.8. These lenses deliver the benefits of being able to zoom and cover a variety of mediums. But, they simultaneously also help produce better low light images. Alternatively, you can use a fixed lens camera with a faster aperture, say f/1.8. Or, even better, use a camera with interchangeable lenses, so you can directly tailor its strengths to the job at hand.
Does the camera offer a stabilized sensor? If not, does it at least have an optically stabilized lens (O.IS)? Stabilization compensates for handshake, letting you shoot at slower shutter speeds to prevent relying on ISO alone. And this feature directly helps keep images sharp and noise-free in low light situations.
How much are you willing to spend? This will dedicate whether you want to focus on the entry-level category or the premium segment.
Where are you going, and what are you shooting?
Where are you going? Are you traveling somewhere wild, say the Amazon? If so, you may want to consider getting a long zoom lens and a weather-resistant camera.
Or are you traveling to another city? If so, instead, you may want to consider a fast lens, a discrete body, and a larger sensor. These will keep you unnoticed and help combat any low light scenes.
Are you recording video?
This is another critical area to consider. Are you focusing solely on shooting stills for your trip? Or do you plan on also capturing videos? Not all cameras offer 4K video. Some only provide 1080p HD. And generally, a 4K capable camera is more expensive than one that lacks it.
Do you plan on sharing the images or videos taken in real-time? If so, you’ll want a camera that offers excellent Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Near Field Communication (NFC) wouldn’t hurt here either. These connectivity features allow you to pair to the camera and transfer images wirelessly to the connected device.
From there, you can edit the photos or videos, then share them directly online. Additionally, you can also geotag images via Bluetooth, which embeds the GPS information in the photo’s metadata. And this is supremely useful when scouting locations you want to revisit to shoot.
Battery Life & USB Charging
The reality is that most compact travel cameras have poor battery life. This is simply a trade-off manufacturers make for their compact size. Thankfully, some cameras offer charging and continuous power via USB, which can be a lifesaver if you run out of battery. But, charging in this fashion is substantially slower than using a wall adapter. So plan accordingly there.
Nevertheless, depending on how you travel, this could be another area to consider.