This post has been updated and re-released to reflect recent recommendations.
Many people initially get into photography because they want to be able to take photos while traveling. Being able to take stunning photos in amazing places and share them with your friends and family is very rewarding. And while traveling is often a good motivator to get into photography, many people find that photography can soon become a good excuse to plan a trip.
Whether you’re hoping to sell pictures at a gallery or art fair or just share them with friends on Facebook or Instagram, travel photography can be a lot of fun. Of course, the right equipment can make all of the difference, so you’ll probably want to find the best cameras for travel.
Travel photography is a unique and interesting realm of photography that encompasses a surprisingly wide range of needs and styles. This means there are some important factors to consider when choosing a camera for travel photography. Thinking about your specific photographic needs and keeping informed about what camera options are out there can help you to choose the perfect camera. We’re here to help you out with this decision.
Table of Contents:
How To Choose a Camera For Traveling
What Type of Photography Are You Going To Do?
Travel photography encompasses a lot of different styles of photography. You might approach it from the perspective of a street photographer, capturing images that attempt to replicate features you see when walking around. Or perhaps you more closely match a photojournalist, capturing people and events unfolding around you. Maybe you like to focus on landmarks and fall closer to architecture photography.
On the other end, maybe you do more nature photography, which in itself can incorporate multiple approaches, such as a landscape photographer who hikes to remote areas to capture a stunning sunrise or a wildlife photographer who captures animals in their natural settings. Each of these styles of photography will have their own unique set of features that are most beneficial.
What Size Camera Do You Want?
One important consideration is the size of camera that will best suit you.
Some approaches, such as street photography, benefit from the smallest, most unobtrusive cameras possible. Similarly, if you want to take your camera absolutely everywhere, some places and events ban larger cameras that “look professional” but let smaller cameras/lenses in.
Landscape photographers often like to strike a balance where they can use larger cameras, but are still aware of not wanting to lug around too much weight. Alternatively, if you’re putting yourself into the most extreme environments, you might want a camera that has the most comprehensive weather sealing and the most robust build quality.
What Camera Format is Best for Your Needs?
Although many consider full frame mirrorless cameras to be the ultimate solution for any situation, the reality is that every format has its advantages and disadvantages.
Point and Shoot
Point and shoot cameras have a reputation for being low quality, but you can get some top notch point and shoot cameras that are small enough (and inconspicuous enough) to let you take pictures virtually anywhere.
While the typical consumer has already moved away from point and shoot cameras, you might want to reconsider this notion when it comes to travel. Point and shoot cameras are not only compact and versatile, but they come with a variety of benefits including better lens optics and larger sensors than your smartphone. Take the Canon Powershot G5 X Mark II for example, this camera features a new 1.0-inch 20.1 Megapixel stacked CMOS sensor, which helps achieve high image quality and high performance at the same time. For comparison, the three cameras on an iPhone 12 Pro are backed by 12 Megapixel sensors.
Sony’s Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VII is another excellent point and shoot camera with a sensor size that, at 20 Megapixeles, also surpasses the sensors of the iPhone 12 Pro. This compact camera is vastly superior when it comes to low-light or mixed light situations as the larger sensor allows it to capture more information. It’s 24-200mm zoom equivalent is also far superior allowing you to capture detailed pictures of nature that you won’t otherwise capture with an iPhone.
Crop Sensor vs. Full Frame
The pros and cons of crop sensor cameras compared to full frame sensors are constantly being debated. If you need as much reach as possible, a high quality crop sensor camera can give you just as good image quality and make your long lenses seem a little bit longer. Full frame, on the other hand, can help you get wider angles, creamier background blur, and often perform better in low light conditions. Learn more about how sensor size and aspect ratios impact the quality of an image.
Mirrorless vs. DSLR
What’s the difference between mirrorless and DSLR? Mirrorless cameras often pack the latest and greatest technology, such as in-body image stabilization (IBIS), and having electronic viewfinders which allows you to see your exact exposure in your viewfinder can be hugely helpful. Plus they tend to be smaller and more portable. DSLRs, on the other hand, blow mirrorless cameras out of the water when it comes to long battery life and being able to shoot all day, particularly if you’re not relying on live view. Think about the features of different formats and how they can best meet your individual needs.
Do You Only Want Pictures or Do You Want Video as Well?
Not long ago, any discussion about best cameras would be safely assumed to be talking exclusively about photography. Nowadays, many people want cameras that serve double duty for both still shots and video.
There are a lot of features in cameras that are invaluable for video use. IBIS, for example, is very helpful in still cameras but can make an even greater impact on video. Factors like video resolution, frame rates, bit rates, and microphone/headphone ports can be very important for video features but relatively pointless if you only want to shoot pictures.
What’s Your Budget?
It would be nice if all of us had unlimited budgets, but that sadly is not the case. So budget will always be a consideration.
Also consider that travel has the tendency to be rough on your equipment. From bouncing around or even being lost on a plane to being pushed into harsh environmental conditions to the potential to be stolen, there are risks involved with taking expensive equipment traveling with you. Think about what you’re comfortable spending (and potentially losing).
What is the Best Travel Camera?
With these considerations in mind (and perhaps others that you have thought of that we didn’t mention), let’s look at some of the best travel cameras broken down by what kind of uses you might need them for.
1. Sony Alpha a7C
For a great all around travel camera, it’s really hard to beat the Sony a7C. With the rise in popularity of mirrorless cameras, the a7C has become a travel vlogger’s best friend, offering design features including a fully articulating LCD screen, wireless shooting grip and ports for both a mic and headphones.
It offers unlimited 4K recording, as well as HD options for 5x slow motion. Not to mention the 5-axis in body image stabilization if you’re shooting video by hand and on the go, which, let’s be honest, is a regular occurrence while traveling.
When it comes to photos, this camera offers a lot of the shooting prowess that the beefier a7 cameras pack, but all with a sleek design and uncompromised full frame image quality that makes it the perfect on-the-go camera. The a7C is a full frame E mount camera but is fully compatible with crop frame E mount lenses when the camera is in the APS-C crop mode.
Coming in at less than 1.1 lbs, the a7C is not the smallest possible camera but it’s significantly smaller than your average DSLR, making it easier and lighter to keep with you as you move around.
Of course, all of these features don’t come without a price tag. The a7C retails around $1,800 depending on the seller, but if you want a relatively compact travel camera with solid video and photo capabilities, it’s hard to argue against the a7R IV.
2. Canon EOS R6
Another mirrorless option makes our list of best travel cameras — Canon’s EOS R6. Part of Canon’s next-generation fleet of full frame mirrorless systems, this camera is geared towards enthusiast photographers and videographers alike.
The R6 offers a new 20.1 Megapixel sensor with a DIGIC X processor for improved autofocus performance, lower noise and faster image processing speeds. Again, this is a great option for travel vloggers as it offers 4k 60p recording and in-body image stabilization (IBIS), which is a first for Canon.
Canon’s R-mount lenses are some of the most exciting lenses currently available, but often come at extraordinarily high prices. Nevertheless, Canon offers a fantastic EF/EF-S to R Lens Adapter to give you access to decades worth of top notch lenses, many of which can be found quite affordably.
This camera’s phenomenal resolution options, overall speed, and enhanced operating controls makes it a must-have for multimedia shooters who move between still photography and filmmaking while on-the-go.
3. Fuji X-E4
Slated for a release in early 2021, the highly anticipated Fujifilm X-E4 will be next in the lineup of Fuji’s X-series. Fuji has been somewhat more of a niche manufacturer for a while, so it’s easy to overlook their cameras. But the Fuji X-E4 is said to offer powerful and well rounded capabilities that improve upon the existing X-T4 — one of the most versatile crop sensor mirrorless cameras available today.
While it’s rumored to reuse current X-Trans sensor, it’s set to abandon the usual fixed screen design that has been a staple of the camera’s predecessors. A tilting screen would make this desirable for travel photographers who wish to easily take shots in a less conspicuous way and while on the fly.
Other likely features for the X-E4 are the inclusion of 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, weather sealing — good for shooting in varied conditions — and possible in-body image stabilization, which would be a game changer for travel photography. Regardless, consumers will be looking at a popular compact, powerful camera for street and travel photography.
What is the Best Small Camera for Travel?
As we looked at earlier, there are a wide range of needs for travel photographers, and for a lot of people cameras that are very small, very portable, and very unobtrusive are important. There are some great compact travel cameras that don’t require too much compromise.
4. Sony RX100 VII
Sony’s RX100 series has led the pack for point and shoot cameras for a while, and the RX100 VII continues that tradition. Packed inside of a tiny body is a 24-200mm equivalent lens to give enormous flexibility over what you shoot.
5. Canon Rebel T8i
Canon’s Rebel line has long been the favored DSLRs of beginner photographers — the perfect combination of price point and features for those diving into photography. However, the Rebel T8i is the first in the Rebel lineup to offer some of the high-quality video and photo specs of Canon’s larger, more powerful systems, making this a powerful little camera for travel.
Some of the standout features include UHD 4k video recording at 24p for high definition, cinematic results. Not to mention, vlogger-friendly vertical video, which is also a first for a Canon EOS DSLR — meaning you can shoot with Instagram videos in mind.
This camera offers up Movie Servo AF mode that performs smooth and natural focusing when switching subjects or changing distances within the same scene. The mode also allows you to specify tracking sensitivity, AF speed, and Face Tracking priority, which are all easily accessible by touching your LCD screen.
6. Fuji GFX 50R
Fuji’s GFX 50R is a favorite among street, documentary and travel shooters alike. This medium format mirrorless camera offers a rangefinder style alternative to the Fuji GFX 50S in that it allows you to more easily keep one eye on the action and the other in the viewfinder — all with a slightly smaller and less expensive package.
One of the primary draws with the GRX 50R is it’s large 51.4 Megapixel medium format sensor that allows the camera’s ability to capture rich, lifelike, skintones, extreme detail and beautiful colors. This makes it an ideal camera for capturing images for commercial projects (8256 x 6192 pixel files) and artwork that will later be printed.
Not only does the large sensor give photographers the ability to capture one of a kind images, but it allows videographers unique shallow depth of field shooting opportunities.
It also offers a large, 3.2 inch tilting LCD screen and 117 focus points in 6 different Focus Area sizes that allow for fast and intuitive focus framing. The GRX 50R also sports a seriously durable body with a strong, yet lightweight, magnesium alloy body that’s extremely durable. Weather sealing allows you to take this camera in nearly every weather condition and the body has a rubberized and comfortable grip.
7. Hasselblad X1D II 50c
The Hasselblad X1D-50c is another mirrorless medium format camera on our list. It’s primary appeal lies in the fact that it’s the smallest camera by far to feature such a large sensor, making it an ideal professional choice for extremely high quality images desired in street photography, landscapes and fine art.
This 50 Megapixel mirrorless medium format camera is built around a 44 x 33mm sensor that’s 70% larger than “full frame,” giving it the ability to capture greater image scale, detail and depth of field. So, while many of today’s popular, full frame mirrorless cameras may offer comparable resolution, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to do what this medium format Hasselblad can.
While its predecessors may have offered slower connectivity and workflow, this version offers a quicker overall response when navigating through its menu system. Both refresh rate and shutter lag and blackout time between frames has been reduced.
It’s important to note that lenses in the XCD lineup are among the highest quality optics available today while maintaining a very portable form factor. Each lens is designed specifically for handling sensors even above 100 megapixels. That being said, this camera and its respective lenses don’t come without a large price tag. So while it’s compact nature is appealing for travel, it typically lends itself to professional photographers.
The Best Nature Cameras
While it’s easy to think of travel as going to cities and urban areas, for many people travel means getting back in touch with nature. Nature photography incorporates a wide range of styles so you’ll need to think about what kinds of photo excursions you’re going to be planning to decide what camera would be best for you.
8. Nikon Z7
When looking at cameras for taking out into nature, the question of mirrorless versus DSLR becomes a bit more central. DSLRs definitely have the benefit from better battery life when you’re out with nowhere to recharge, but it’s hard not to give the edge to the size benefit of mirrorless.
Short of the specialty niche filled by flagships (more on that below), the Z7 is Nikon’s most advanced camera, perfect for landscape photographers. You get Nikon’s trademark fantastic dynamic range and low light performance. The high resolution (~47MP) full frame sensor has remarkable sharpness, thanks in part to the lack of a low-pass filter. The Z7 brings IBIS to professional level Nikons, and you get a fantastic selection of lens options. Z mount lenses are still somewhat limited, but you can use all of Nikon’s top tier F mount lenses through using an optional adapter.
And all of this comes in a package significantly smaller than an equivalent DSLR.
Are you going on an African safari? How about Antarctica to photograph penguins? You can always rent this camera equipment if you want to test out different bodies and lenses.
If you’re looking to pick one of the best cameras for travel, there is a huge range of options to meet the needs of different types of travel. What is best for one type (e.g. street) likely won’t be best for another (e.g. wildlife). Choose based on the travel you do and types of subject matter you want to shoot.