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If you are in the market for a new digital camera, the choices out there can be incredibly overwhelming. There is no one answer to the question “What is the best travel camera?” The options vary from DSLR cameras, mirrorless cameras, point and shoot cameras, and action cam – there are lots of categories and many options for each type of traveler.

The choice is not easy, but let me try to help and break down the options for you.

Types of Travel Cameras

First things first. Let’s rule out one big category – DSLR Cameras. As avid photographers, we used to be huge fans of Canon DSLR cameras, but in late 2015, we made a switch to a Sony Mirrorless System and we never looked back. If you are looking for truly the best travel camera, DSLRs should not even be on your list. They are bulky, heavy, expensive, and these days, their quality is actually sub-par to the mirrorless options below. 

Now that we have eliminated DSLRs from the list, let’s take a look at the different types of cameras you might consider for travel photography. 

Camera TypeProsConsBest used for
Smartphone cameraEasy sharing. Image quality can rival that of budget compacts.
Always have it with you.
Small sensors, no optical zoom (other than newest iPhones and Androids).Those that travel light and don’t want to worry about charging another battery or losing another device.
Action camera/ Waterproof (Eg. GoPro)Great for video. Sports, snorkeling, and to capture those moments where you wouldn’t normally take a fragile camera.Photo quality varies depending on what you buy.Those that live on the wild side and can’t afford to carry around something that will break when they toss their backpack in the back of a truck.
Budget Point and Shoot/CompactOptical Zoom. Better than phone in low light. Battery life is longer.Marginal upgrade in quality over top of the line phone cameras.Those looking to have a dedicated camera and don’t want to always rely on phone.
Premium Point and Shoot/CompactHigh-quality lenses, sensors, and optical zoom. Can include manual controls, high-quality video, stabilization, Raw, etc No upgrade path. You are stuck with what you originally purchased. Low light photography is average but not good because of size of sensor.Those looking to take photography more serious but don’t want to spend their life savings on lenses and advanced cameras.
Entry Level MirrorlessInterchangeable lenses, full range of features. Can be affordable, significant quality increase over compact cameras.Expensive to buy into a system, and once you are in, very hard to switch brands. Focus system lags behind traditional DSLR Those people who want more flexibility with their photography and to make it a more predominant aspect to their travel
Pro MirrorlessSome of the most innovative technology. Lighter than DSLR counterparts. Electronic Viewfinder.The most expensive category of the bunch (High-end DSLR’s are more expensive though).Those people looking to buy into a system and stick with it, usually people that also rely on their photography as a job or to build a brand.

 

Best Action Cam/Waterproof Cameras

GoPro HERO6. Photo via Amazon
GoPro HERO6. Photo via Amazon

When it comes to purchasing an action camera, GoPro is the first name that comes to mind. This is no mistake. GoPro pretty much created the category and has been refining their products over the year. They don’t always release the newest features first, but like Apple, they release them in the most user-friendly package. It is for this reason that our main recommendation would be to get a GoPro. There are many to choose from depending on your budget, with the newly released GoPro Hero 6 and GoPro Fusion leading the way.

GoPro Hero 5 Session ($299) – Smallest

Pros

  • It has a super small form factor
  • It produces good quality videos and photos
  • GoPro is the market leader and is a brand that can be trusted
  • The camera can be used without a case down to 10m underwater
  • Digital stabilization
  • Large ecosystem of accessories
  • Photo: 10MP, Video: 4K @ 30fps, 1080p @90fps

Cons

  • There is no screen on the unit, in order to preview footage you need to connect to the smartphone app
  • Does not have the ability to shoot raw photos
  • Contains a non-removable battery
  • No optical stabilization

Learn More About GoPro Hero 5 Session & Buy HERE

GoPro Hero 5 ($399)

Pros

  • It has all of the same great features that are found on the GoPro Hero 5 Session
  • Allows you to capture raw photos for advanced editing
  • Touchscreen
  • Digital stabilization
  • Large ecosystem of accessories
  • Photo: 12MP, Video: 4K @ 30fps, 1080p @120fps

Cons

  • No 4k @ 60fps
  • No optical stabilization

Learn More About GoPro Hero 5 & Buy HERE

GoPro Hero 6 ($499) – Top-of-the-line action camera

Pros

  • Latest and best action cam available from GoPro
  • Better dynamic range and low light over previous generation
  • Better digital stabilization than previous generation
  • Photo: 12MP, Video: 4K @ 60fps, 1080p @240fps

Cons

Yi 4K ($189) – Best budget action camera

Pros

  • Similar feature set to the GoPro Hero 5
  • Better touchscreen than GoPro Hero 5
  • Slightly better battery life than GoPro Hero 5
  • One of the cheapest quality 4K cameras available
  • Digital stabilization
  • Photo: 12MP, Video: 4K @ 30fps, 1080p @120fps

Cons

  • Does not have the ability to shoot raw photos
  • No 4K @ 60fps
  • No optical stabilization
  • Need a case for waterproofing
  • Smaller ecosystem of accessories

    Learn More About Yi 4K  & Buy HERE

Yi 4K+ ($339) – Best intermediate action camera

Pros

  • It has all of the same great features that are found on the Yi 4K
  • Allows you to capture raw photos for advanced editing
  • Digital stabilization
  • Photo: 12MP, Video: 4K @ 60fps, 1080p @120fps

Cons

Sony FDR-X3000R/W 4K ($518) – Best stabilization in a action camera

Pros

  • Top of the lines quality in terms of video and photos.
  • Best dynamic range
  • Only action camera with Optical Stabilization which is far superior than digital stabilization.
  • Kit includes the underwater case and live view remote
  • Allows you to capture raw photos for advanced editing
  • Photo: 12MP, Video: 4K @ 30fps, 1080p @120fps

Cons

  • One of the most expensive options (note: opts for the FDR-X3000 for $150 if you don’t need optical stabilization)
  • Smaller ecosystem of accessories
  • Not everyone will like the form factor

    Learn More About Sony FDR-X3000R & Buy HERE

Best Budget Cameras (Under $500)

Many people ask us what we recommend for anyone looking to get a budget travel camera. We always tell people that the best camera is the one you have with you, so don’t go out and buy a dedicated camera unless you are willing to commit to carrying it and learning the features.

On the Cog Train to Pikes Peak, Colorado, USA
Sony A6000 in action

If you don’t want to learn then stick with any of the latest mobile phones which come equipped with very good sensors and dual lenses for a little zoom. But if you do want to take some nicer pictures we recommend one of two cameras in our best budget camera picks. The first is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS70k, which can do it all in a small package. If you are looking for a camera that you can grow with than we recommend the Sony a6000 as it is a great budget mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses that will allow you to upgrade as you wish.

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS70k ($449) – Best compact travel camera

Pros

  • Compact point and shoot camera
  • 30x optical zoom (24-720mm)
  • Optical stabilization
  • Touchscreen
  • Focus stacking
  • Has a pop-up flash for night-time or difficult lighting situations
  • Built in viewfinder
  • Photo: 20MP, Video: 4K @30fps, 1080p @60fps

Cons

Sony DSCHX90/B ($448)

Pros

  • Compact point and shoot camera
  • 30x optical zoom (24-720mm)
  • Optical stabilization
  • Has a pop-up flash for night-time or difficult lighting situations
  • Built-in viewfinder
  • Photo: 18MP, Video: 1080p @60fps

Cons

Sony a6000 ($449 body only) – Best budget camera, high quality

Pros

  • Great APS-C sized sensor camera for the price
  • Interchangeable lenses allow upgrade path
  • Shoots 11fps and has great autofocus.
  • It is small and lightweight
  • Has a pop-up flash for night-time or difficult lighting situations
  • Built-in viewfinder and a hot shoe.
  • You can often find sub $500 deals with the kit lens included.
  • Photo: 24MP, Video: 1080p @60fps

Cons

Canon EOS M10 w. 15-45mm Kit Lens ($449)

Pros

  • Good APS-C sized sensor
  • Interchangeable lenses allow upgrade path
  • Shoots 4.6fps and has ok autofocus.
  • It is small and lightweight
  • Has a pop-up flash for night-time or difficult lighting situations
  • Access to all of Canon’s lenses through an adapter
  • Photo: 18MP, Video: 1080p @30fps

Cons

Best Compact / Best Point and Shoot Cameras (Premium)

If you need a compact or all around camera that will suit all your needs without the fuss of carrying around bulky lenses than Sony’s RX line of cameras are an excellent choice.

The Sony RX100 V is a great all around premium compact camera while the Sony RX10 IV will allow you to shoot wildlife and sports with ease. If the price is a factor than either of the Panasonic options offer great functionality at a reduced price.

Sony RX 100 V - our favourite compact travel camera
Sony RX 100 V – our favourite compact travel camera

Sony RX100 V ($998) – Best premium compact camera

Pros

  • Top-of-the-line Sony premium compact camera
  • 1” sensor is an upgrade from the budget sensors
  • 3x optical zoom (24-70mm) with fast f1.8 lens
  • Optical stabilization
  • 24fps continuous shooting
  • Super slow motion video with 1080p @ 500 fps or 720p @ 1000fps
  • Has a pop-up flash for night-time or difficult lighting situations
  • Built-in viewfinder
  • Photo: 20MP , Video: 4K @30fps, 1080p @500fps

Cons

Sony RX10 IV ($1,698) – Best do-it-all compact point and shoot

Pros

  • It has all of the same great features that are found on the RX100 but in a DSLR like body
  • 25x optical zoom (24-600mm) with f2.4-4
  • Anti-distortion shutter
  • All in one camera that allows you to shoot just about anything without additional lenses.
  • Photo: 20M , Video: 4K @30fps, 1080p @500fps

Cons

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX10K ($648) – The best for less

Pros

  • 1” sensor is an upgrade from the budget sensors.
  • 3x optical zoom (24-72mm) with fast f1.4 lens
  • Has a pop-up flash for night-time or difficult lighting situations
  • Optical stabilization
  • Photo: 20MP, Video: 4K @30fps, 1080p @120fps

Cons

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS100 ($648)

Pros

  • 1” sensor is an upgrade from the budget sensors.
  • 10x optical zoom (25-250mm) with f2.8-5.9 lens
  • Has a pop-up flash for night-time or difficult lighting situations
  • Optical stabilization
  • Built-in viewfinder
  • Photo: 20MP, Video: 4K @30fps, 1080p @120fps

Cons

Best Mirrorless Cameras (Entry level, Under $1,000)

If you already have had a budget camera for a while or are looking to jump into photography with a bit more vigor than we recommend getting the Sony a7 as it is the only full frame mirrorless camera under $1,000.

Max & Oksana in Chefchaouen, Morocco
Max carrying Sony A7 as we explore Chefchaouen, Morocco in 2015

We can also stand by the decision because we owned it for 2 years before upgrading to the Sony a7R II. If you dont have $1,000+ to spend on a camera body and lens, then we recommend looking into the YI M1 4K. Priced at $379 with two lenses included, the camera could easily be a top choice in the budget category as well. The company behind the YI M1 4K is Xiaomi, a Chinese company that is often referred to as China’s Apple clone.

YI M1 4K w. Kit and Prime Lens($379) – Best budget mirrorless camera

Pros

  • A Micro Four Thirds Sensor (MFT Sensor) that is equivalent to some of the $1000+ MFT cameras on the market.
  • Comes with kit lens 12-40mm f3.5-5.6
  • Comes with prime lens 42.5mm f1.8
  • Touchscreen
  • Many of the advanced functions of a prosumer camera
  • Hundreds of MFT lenses to choose from.
  • Frequent updates unlocking new functionality or improving camera.
  • Photo: 20MP, Video: 4K @30fps, 1080p @60fps

Cons

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II ($898)

Pros

  • Great photo quality for a MFT sensor
  • Optical stabilization
  • All the advanced functions of a prosumer camera
  • Hundreds of MFT lenses to choose from
  • Touchscreen
  • Photo: 16MP, Video: 1080p @60fps

Cons

Sony a7 ($998) – Best budget full frame camera

Pros

  • The only full frame sensor camera under $1,000
  • Great low light performance
  • All the advanced functions of a prosumer camera
  • Large selection of lenses to choose from including vintage lenses via adapter
  • Photo: 24MP, Video: 1080p @60fps

Cons

Best Mirrorless Cameras (Professional)

Most people looking for cameras in this range have already done their research and know what they want. These are people that either have high budget to pursue their hobby or earn an income from their work.

Best travel camera: A7RII featured with 28-70 Sony lens
A7RII featured with 28-70 Sony lens

In this category, we have to recommend the Sony a7R II as our top choice. Not only have we happily used this camera for the last 2 years. But we aren’t even considering upgrading to anything else as it does everything we need at the moment. If you are looking for a sports or wedding mirrorless camera, than the Sony a9 is your answer.

Sony a6500 ($1,398)

Pros

  • Great APS-C sized sensor camera
  • Shoots 11fps and has great autofocus.
  • It is small and lightweight
  • Has a pop-up flash for night-time or difficult lighting situations
  • Built in viewfinder and a hot-shoe.
  • Great autofocus
  • Optical stabilization
  • Large selection of lenses to choose from including vintage lenses via adapter
  • Photo: 24MP, Video: 4K @30fps, 1080p @120fps

Cons

Sony a7R II ($2,898) – Best landscape and all-around mirrorless camera

Pros

  • One of the best (if not best) full frame mirrorless sensors
  • Built in viewfinder and a hotshoe.
  • Great autofocus
  • Optical stabilization
  • Large selection of lenses to choose from including vintage lenses via adapter
  • Photo: 42MP
  • Video: 4K @30fps, 1080p @60fps

Cons

Sony a9 ($4,498) – Best sports and wedding mirrorless camera

Pros

  • Newest offering from Sony with the best autofocus in a mirrorless camera
  • 20fps silent blackout free shooting.
  • New redesigned ergonomics
  • Optical stabilization
  • Large selection of lenses to choose from including vintage lenses via adapter
  • Built in viewfinder and a hotshoe.
  • Longer lasting battery.
  • Dual Card
  • Touchscreen & Joystick
  • Photo: 24MP, Video: 4K @30fps, 1080p @120fps

Cons

Panasonic GH5 ($1,998) – Best mirrorless camera for video

Pros

  • Great MFT sensor makes it one of the best prosumer video cameras that also shoots stills
  • Large selection of lenses to choose from
  • Features geared towards film makers
  • Optical stabilization
  • Dual Card
  • Touchscreen & Joystick
  • Photo: 20MP, Video: 4K @60fps, 1080p @180fps

Cons

FUJIFILM X-T2 ($1,899)

Pros

  • Great APS-C sized sensor camera
  • Large selection of lenses to choose from
  • Dual Card slots
  • Photo: 24MP, Video: 4K @60fps, 1080p @60fps

Cons

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II ($1,999)

Pros

  • Great MFT sensor camera
  • 18fps continuous shooting
  • Large selection of lenses to choose from
  • Optical stabilization
  • Great autofocus
  • Photo: 20MP, Video: 4K @30fps, 1080p @60fps

Cons

 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which means that we receive a small commission on your purchases at no additional cost to you

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