Finding the best camera for travel photography is a surprisingly complicated decision-making process! We want it to be small and lightweight, yet have lots of megapixels and long battery life. We want lenses that can go from ultra-wide-angle to super-telephoto; sometimes we want a zoom, other times a prime is perfect.
Oh, and we travel photographers want it to all fit in our budget, of course! Simply put, it is a never-ending challenge, because better and better cameras keep coming out, and in smaller and smaller packages. That is a very good thing, of course; thankfully technology is advancing very rapidly and providing us with excellent options. Today, more than ever before, get can expect professional capability out of a camera that is nearly pocket-sized!
As a long time photographer and very frequent flier, I have owned several DSLRs, mirrorless systems, and even medium & large format cameras, as well as “Point & Shoot” cameras. If you’re like me, you WANT to “bring it all” when you travel. Unfortunately, if you bring all of the biggest, most exotic lenses, you might seriously regret having to carry around so much weight!
If you value your travel experience itself, the adventures, and the vacation/holiday memories themselves, the smart thing is to invest in a dedicated travel camera. The balance of portability and performance will allow you to capture beautiful images, and return with equally vivid, fond memories of the experience itself.
What Makes The Best Camera For Travel Photography?
Just like I stated in the Best Landscape Photography Camera article, the best camera for travel photography isn’t necessarily the best choice for all types of photography. Many high-performance features will be less important, depending on the exact subjects you’re photographing. Other features or specifications, however, are more important when traveling.
Big cameras like the Canon EOS R3, Nikon Z9, or Sony A9 II might be “flagship” cameras that are excellent choices for professional photography, but there are many better-suited (and more affordable) cameras for you to bring with you on your travels.
Basically, when traveling, most photographers (and all content creators) will not need a “flagship” camera. What you’ll need is something small and lightweight, that gives you full manual control, has decent image quality and resolution, and has a good variety of zoom lenses with similar qualities. (Portable, good image quality…)
Last but not least, you’ll want a camera that can survive the elements! Who knows where you and your camera will be next; the extremely hot, dry desert, or the humid, cold, rain of the UK or Newfoundland? Either way, you’ll want to have a camera and lenses that offer good weather-sealing.
Of course, this does create a slight catch-22: Beware, because many of the small, compact, and affordable cameras are aimed at beginners, and they may not have weather sealing or durable build quality at all. Furthermore, they may only offer a restrictive level of manual control that will leave serious photographers a bit frustrated.
For this reason, we pay very special attention to exactly which cameras are the best for travel photography!
Today, we’ve compiled multiple lists of cameras that you can trust to deliver the performance, features, and image quality for your travel photography needs. HINT: the list you’ll want to focus on will depend on very basic things such as, will your travel photography mostly involve pictures of people, wildlife, or landscapes/cityscapes?
Remember, these are just lists; for more information about the strengths and weaknesses of a specific camera, read our reviews of those camera!
[Related Reading: 5 Useful Photography Travel Tips From A Pro]
What Features To Look For In A Good Travel Photography Camera
We have agreed that the best travel camera is one that combines portability, performance, reliability, image quality, and obviously, value/price. A more subtle aspect is this: a good travel camera doesn’t get in the way of you enjoying your adventure! Indeed, the best camera for travel photography is one that allows you to capture great images AND create lasting memories.
Here are the key features you should be aware of when picking a travel camera
- Price – Obviously, value is important. Thankfully, there are a lot of cameras that offer excellent performance and features at an affordable price.
- Portability – While we may want the control and quality of a giant flagship camera, and the range of a whole bag full of exotic lenses, the optimal cameras and lenses for travel photography are small and lightweight, yet still pack a punch.
- Image Quality & Resolution (Megapixels) – A high-megapixel camera with a large full-frame sensor will give you a more detail image, allowing you to crop in more without reducing much quality. However, a smaller ASPC or Micro Four Thirds sensor will still offer you excellent image quality, in a significantly more portable package!
- Weatherproofing – This one is very important for most, but not all, travelers. You may one day find yourself atop a snow-packed mountain, or in the middle of a rainstorm, a dust storm… Just about the only subject you shouldn’t worry about is hot lava. (Stay away from that stuff, no matter how cool the “influencers” make it look!)
- Underwater Camera? – Some folks may be adventurous enough to try and create content underwater! In this case, you’ll have to consider a camera that can go underwater, or a watertight case for your existing camera.
- User-Friendly – This is a difficult one: You want a camera that is intuitive and easy to use, but you also don’t want a camera that is so “beginner friendly” that it restricts your needs for manual control and performance.
- RAW Image Files – Raw files capture the image data without any editing applied, as opposed to JPG images, and this provides you with a larger file that contains much more information. This gives you more control over your final edits, but it also requires a little more work in post-production. (Beginners can always use RAW+JPG!)
- Stabilization – Some cameras can provide a stabilization feature to compensate for your shaking hands, or slower shutter speeds. This can be incredibly useful when photographing low-light scenes at times when a tripod is not an option. Many cameras have built-in sensor-based stabilization, and some cameras can even combine sensor and lens-based stabilization for maximum stability! Also, video-oriented cameras can use sensor cropping to offer truly stunning, stabilized video footage.
- Video – Virtually all photography and “hybrid” cameras today have the ability to record excellent 4K video, and some cameras like the Canon R5, Sony A1, and Nikon Z8 can capture 8K video and/or RAW video! This is much more than most folks will ever need, however, if you’re specifically a travel vlogger, or you create high-end travel/outdoor videos and/or time-lapse, you’ll have to closely compare video specs, of course.
- Interchangeable Lenses vs Fixed Lens– Most of the best cameras for travel photography are mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras. This is because they offer the widest variety of lens options, from wide-angle to telephoto. Even if you’re traveling with just one lens that never leaves your camera, this is probably your best option!
However, There are a few excellent cameras with fixed (zoom) lenses that create a very unique offering: The Sony RX100 series, for example, is a truly pocket-sized camera with the performance of a large pro camera, and an incredible 24-200mm equivalent f/2.8-5.6 zoom lens! Oppositely, for those who may be doing lots of telephoto wildlife photo/video, for example, there is the much larger Nikon P950 and P1000 cameras, which offer super-telephoto zoom lenses with jaw-dropping focal lengths such as 2000mm and 3000mm! (No, those aren’t typos!)
- Wifi / Bluetooth Mobile Device Connections – Most cameras have the ability to connect directly to your mobile device and transfer either JPG or even raw image files! This allows you to transfer and share images immediately while traveling, which is especially important if you are on social media, and/or don’t have easy access to your main computer.
- Battery Life & USB Charging – When you travel around the world, it’s great to have a camera with long-lasting battery life! Also, inevitably, finding the right power outlet adapter and/or charger can be tricky, and we have a work-around for you. Most all cameras now allow USB charging, so you don’t have to worry about finding the right outlet adapter; all you need is a large (Anker etc) USB battery pack. Just remember to check your camera’s exact charging specifications; some only accept USB-PD with the highest-power voltage, while others may only charge very slowly with regular USB.
- Image Backups and Recovery – Making regular backups of photos is a must, yet it’s not always practical to get out your laptop computer and perform a full download & backup workflow. For this reason, we try to only recommend cameras that have two memory card slots, which allow you to record raw images to both cards and create a backup you can keep in your pocket or somewhere safe as your travels continue. As a last resort, it is always good to fully understand proper photo recovery procedure in case you accidentally format a memory card while traveling, or one starts “going corrupt”…
Let’s Look At The Best Cameras For Travel Photography
These recommendations are based on our own experience using and traveling with these cameras. (We aren’t just pulling a “Top 10” list from popular retailers!) Simply put, these are all systems we’d recommend to our friends and family to take when them on their travels, because we have been traveling with them ourselves and loved the experience.
First, let’s get right to the overall list. Then, we will suggest individual cameras in different categories based on the types of photography you’re doing, and/or your budget:
- Sony a6700
- Fujifilm X-S10 / Fujifilm X-S20
- Olympus (OM Systems) OM-5
- Fujifilm X-T4 / Fujifilm X-T5
- Sony RX100 VII
- Leica Q3
- Panasonic Lumix G100
- Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS80
- Nikon P950 (Ultra-telephoto super-zoom)
- OM Systems Tough TG-7 (Waterproof)
- GoPro Hero Series (Waterproof, “indestructible”)
Best Travel Cameras On A Budget
Okay so we’ve got a great list of travel cameras, but what if your biggest requirement is staying within a budget? Lets figure out which cameras provide some incredible performance, but won’t break your bank…
- Nikon Z50, ($806+) Nikon Zfc ($856+)
- Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV ($699+)
- Fujifilm X-S10 ($899+)
- Panasonic Lumix G100 ($497.99)
- OM Systems Tough TG-7 ($549) (Waterproof)
- GoPro Hero ($349+) (Waterproof, “indestructible”)
Thankfully, quite a few excellent cameras fall into the “around $500” range, or at least the “under $1,000” range. Mirrorless camera bodies will require an additional purchase of a lens, of course, but in every case there is a highly affordable option.
Either way, we chose these cameras specifically because they are a great balance of not just affordability, but also image quality and durability, the two most important things for any travel photographer. For more specialized recommendations, read on!
Best Cameras for Travel Photography (People & Events)
Whether you are a serious professional who already owns a bunch of high-end portrait photography gear, or you are a hobbyist who is looking to only own one camera, there are excellent options for capturing beautiful photos of people, whether posed portraits or candid, journalistic moments…
- Sony A6700 ($1298) – With the most diverse range of portrait lenses on the market, Sony’s premier APSC camera gets our highest recommendation. We are especially fond of portrait lenses such as the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 and , as well as wide-angle photojournalism lenses such as the Sony 15mm f/1.4 G. Also, Sony’s face & eye autofocus is the best in the industry.
- Fujifilm X-S20 ($799.95) – With an incredible value, the Fuji X-S20 (and the X-S10 for a tighter budget) is one of the only cameras under $1,000 with stabilization, a very useful feature for all candid photographers. Pair this camera with a portrait lens such as the
- Sony A7C II ($2,198) – For those with an expansive budget, the ultimate in portability and image quality is a full-frame mirrorless camera, of course. Sony’s compact, decently priced A7C II, plus the even more affordable Sony A7C, ($1,598) both provide access to the incredible array of Sony (and third-party) E-mount lenses, from the ultra-compact Samyang 75mm f/1.8 to the highly exotic Sony 50mm f/1.2 GM.
The above cameras, and just as importantly their lens systems, offer an excellent library of lenses available for all types of portrait and candid photography. We recommend having at least one fast-aperture prime in your camera bag, of course, whether it is a wide-angle, standard, or telephoto/portrait prime, to accompany your standard all-around travel zoom lens.
Best Cameras for Travel Photography (Wildlife & Action)
Once again, we are going to make a couple recommendations that are based more on the lenses available than the cameras themselves. Indeed, aside from a camera’s autofocus capability and shooting speed & buffer, wildlife photography and most action sports are all about the lenses!
- Sony A6700 ($1,398) – Continually at the top of many of our lists, this camera provides the best-in-class autofocus performance with face & eye detection for virtually all imaginable types of animals. Also, the lenses available are truly the best in terms of portability & telephoto range, from the lightweight & compact Tamron 70-300mm, to the super-telephoto Tamron 150-500mm and Sigma 150-600mm.
- Canon EOS R8 ($1,299) – Known for its amazing lenses just as much as (or more than) the camera bodies, Canon’s EOS R8 benefits from an incredible array of lenses that are perfect for travel photographers who are always capturing distant subjects of any type. There are the compact, affordable, excellent telephoto/superzooms such as the Canon RF 24-240mm and 100-400mm. Also, there are some truly exotic, unique lenses such as the Canon RF 600/800mm’s, and the Canon RF 200-800mm.
- Fujifilm X-H2S ($2,299) – Not to be outdone by either Canon or Sony, Fuji’s flagship action camera offers a complete host of features such as dual card slots, blazing fast speed, and a fully professional control layout, in a relatively portable package. There’s good news and bad news: the bad news is that this camera is a “compact flagship”, at about #2.3K. The good news is that Sigma and Tamron are helping you out with budget concerns, making many of their excellent telephoto zooms available on the X-mount.
- Nikon P950 ($796) – Although Nikon’s compact mirrorless system is impressive, it’s still in its early stages. Plus, we can’t pass up the opportunity to recommend this truly mind-boggling telephoto zoom lens (built-in) camera! The Nikon P-series in general has offered staggering telephoto reach, equivalent to 2,000mm with the Nikon P950 and 3,000mm with the Nikon P1000. There is simply no other camera or lens that offers these focal lengths, let alone in such a portable, affordable package!
Best Cameras for Travel Photography (Landscapes, Cityscapes, & Nightscapes)
If your travels take you to places because of the beautiful landscapes, cityscapes, seascapes, etc, …then you’ll be looking for a polar-opposite set of lenses, of course. Thankfully, some of the same cameras will make an appearance in this list, but for very different reasons…
- Sony A6700 ($1,398) – Once gain at the top of a list, the A6700 is here for very different reasons: The sensor itself offers incredible dynamic range for those epic sunset/sunrise scenes, and the wide-angle lens selection is by far the biggest of any compact camera platform. If you photograph traditional scenes, ultra-wide zooms such as the Sony 10-20mm PZ are fantastic for photo+video content creators, while the the Sigma 10-18mm f/2.8 is an incredible value at a mere $599. Alternatively, if you photograph nightscapes such as the Milky Way, Sony’s 11mm f/1.8 is amazing, while the Sigma 10-18mm f/2.8 and Tamron 11-20mm f/2.8 are highly versatile options.
- Fujifilm X-T5 ($1,699) – For the most serious, adventurous photographers who want a truly flagship-style camera in a portable package, the Fuji X-T5 has it all: all the physical controls, dual card slots, excellent IBIS, professional weather sealing, and at 40 megapixels, one of the highest-resolution sensors of any compact camera system! Also, the lens selection is excellent, since it offers some unique options such as the Fujifilm 8mm f/3.5, as well as most of the Tamron and Sigma options.
- Olympus (OM Systems) OM-5 ($999) – Olympus is our champion if you want absolute maximum portability, yet also require maximum durability. Known for their flagship-grade durable construction and full weather-sealing, this relatively compact, flagship-style camera does indeed match the durability of Canon, Nikon, and Sony’s “gigantic” (and expensive) flagship cameras.
Best Cameras for Travel Photography (with a Fixed Lens)
If you’re looking for the most compact, convenient camera possible for your travels, you’ll likely be looking for something that has a fixed lens (prime or zoom), making your only tough decision being “how to frame your shot.” These cameras we’ve found will help make capturing your memories on the road a breeze.
- Leica Q3 ($4,995)
- GoPro Hero ($449)
- Sony RX100 VII ($1,298)
- Sony ZV-1, ($648) Sony ZV-1 II ($799)
- Ricoh GR IIIx ($899.95)
While the Leica Q3 is definitely on the “luxury” side of things, each of these fixed lens cameras are incredible options for you to bring with you on vacation. The Sony is one of the top rated cameras for candid/street photos on the market in its class, while the Sony RX100 and ZV-1 series offer some of the best image quality around, despite their ultra-compact size.
NOTE: The Sony RX100 series and ZV-1 series share similar physical form factors as well as similar sensors. However, the ZV-1 series is exclusively designed for vloggers, with the ZV-1 II offering a unique 18-50mm equivalent lens. Oppositely, for those who do a wider range of photo & video, the RX100 series includes a highly useful electronic viewfinder, and a very impressive 24-200mm equivalent zoom lens.
Best Cameras for Travel Photography that are Waterproof
If you’re anything like me, you’re going to want to go swimming (weather permitting), or still head out to take photos when it’s pouring rain or icy snow… So, it’s important that you have a camera with great weather sealing that’s designed to take on the elements, or in a few cases, go directly underwater!
While most of the cameras on this list have pretty great weather proofing/seals, only 2 are designed to specifically go into the water with you. So if you think you’ll be capturing some images in and around the water, these are the rigs for you!
We listed both of these cameras earlier, however, under this specific heading we need to offer some caveats: Both of these cameras, and almost all dedicated underwater cameras, come with a few significant drawbacks. In act, across the board, from their image quality to their zoom range and overall ease-of-use, none of them can match the other cameras we’ve listed. So, you should ONLY buy one of these if you are going to be using it almost exclusively underwater. Otherwise, we highly recommend using your normal camera, and purchasing an underwater housing for it.
Best All Round Travel Camera
At the end of the day, there are a ton of factors to consider, and personal choices to make. However, we have to ask ourselves, “what if we just want to do it ALL, and do it well? Few cameras can do virtually everything, yet keep the price affordable and the package compact. Of course, you guessed it, that camera is currently the Sony a6700!
This mirrorless APS-C camera from Sony has an excellent 26-megapixel sensor, in a body that is impressively lightweight at just around 1lb. Whether you are capturing exclusively still photos, or you are creating vlogs, or even cinematic content, the A6700 is just an impressive all-arounder.
The Sony A6700 also offers access to the impressive array of E-mount lenses, further solidifying the camera’s position as one of the best choices if you might be going from capturing portraits one moment, to wildlife the next, and a dramatic sunset later.
While the Sony a6700 costs over $1,000 even without a lens ($1,398 without a lens, $1,798 with a zoom) there are just so many features, manual control, and benefits to this camera that make it a perfect choice that’ll serve you for ages in your travel photography, while saving you a ton of space and weight in your bags! It truly is one of the best APS-C sensor cameras available and definitely deserves a slot on your travel bag.
We’ll update this list if new cameras come out that are optimal for travel photography! Also, remember, even if you don’t see your camera on this list, you can still get out and create beautiful photos with whatever camera you already have, including your phone. Plan (and budget for) your travels first, enjoy the experience, and then think about capturing phototos & videos of your travels…
(This list was up to date as of 2023)