In this post, you’ll find honest reviews of the best camera for travel photography and criteria that will help you to buy a digital photo camera that best fits your preferences.
Camera technology has come very far, and today you can find cameras for all sizes and tastes. Point-and-shoot compact cameras, mirrorless cameras, DSLR, action cameras, smartphones… the possibilities are endless.
Choosing the best camera for travel doesn’t have to be a daunting task though. The first and very crucial question you need to ask yourself before choosing the best travel camera is: what are the subjects that you like to capture the most?
Is it people, landscapes, monuments, or are you going to focus on action photography during your travels?
I have used most of the best travel cameras mentioned in this article. For some I’ve done extensive research for you by reading reviews and watching hours of YouTube videos in order to recommend only the best of the best.
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How to choose the best camera for travel?
Here are some of the most important criteria that you should consider before buying a travel camera for your awesome pictures.
Weight and size
Weight and size are some of the most important features you should carefully consider. You wouldn’t like to carry heavy gear all around the world with you, would you? Moreover, it’s not simply a camera you’ll need, but also lenses, batteries, cables, and cleaning kits. All this will add up in weight.
Check the weight of the camera and the lenses you choose. The lighter, the better. You will definitely enjoy walking and sightseeing more, without being knackered by the weight of your gear at the end of your vacation.
Image sensor and megapixel
The larger the sensor, the better the quality of the digital file. But a large sensor is usually more expensive and takes up more space, which you might want to avoid.
You definitely don’t need to buy a full frame camera to take great pictures. But if this is really what you want, opt for a Sony Mirrorless.
The megapixels are not as important as camera makers want us to believe. We are brainwashed to believe that a higher number of megapixels means better quality pictures, which is how producers justify the high price. But it’s the technology of the sensor that is responsible for the quality of your photos. Having excellent lenses matters, too.
More megapixels are useful only if you need to print your photos in huge size, or if you need to crop your files when editing. Just remember that if your camera has a lot of megapixels, it will also create large files, which means you’ll need a lot of memory cards and external drives to store the photos.
Ideally, look for something between 12MP and 16MP. That’ll be sufficient for creating a good digital file.
Best travel camera: a shortlist
Best smartphone camera for travel
A smartphone camera could be easily the ultimate camera for travel. In case you don’t have one, or you are about to switch your old model for a new one, keep reading.
Many brands are now assembling excellent cameras with their smartphones. Apple, Samsung, Huawei, and Sony… you name it. The quality of the pictures taken from a smartphone is improving every year.
Some smartphone cameras work well also in low light conditions and have superb white balance and color rendition for travel photography.
The iPhone 7 features an excellent 12MP camera with an aperture of f/1.8 that is ideal for shooting photos and videos in low light conditions. The optical image stabilization is greatly improved compared to the iPhone 6s.
With the iPhone 7 you’ll always have a great camera in your pocket wherever you go. Buy on Amazon.
Best mirrorless camera for travel
Today the technology of the mirrorless camera is almost equivalent to that of a DSLR. Cameras don’t need a mirror anymore. Many professional photographers use a mirrorless for the majority of their work.
I switched from a DSLR to a mirrorless camera in 2014 and never looked back.
First of all, it’s a huge relief, as you don’t carry heavy gear on your neck and shoulders. Next, you’ll be amazed by the quality, sharpness and low noise of some mirrorless cameras. For this reason I can swear by the Fuji XT1 that I’ve been using for my travel photography since 2014.
The mirrorless cameras are also excellent for people photography. When you visit a local market, nobody notices your camera. It’s small, discrete and most importantly – it’s not intimidating.
Sony A7Rii or Fuji XT2?
The Sony A7Rii and the Fuji XT2 are considered the best mirrorless cameras for travel.
Even if they are both mirrorless, they have one major difference: the Sony is a 42MP full-frame camera while the Fuji features a smaller 24 MP APS-C sensor.
It’s true that a full-frame sensor performs better in low light, and has more control of depth of field and offers better image quality. But ask yourself honestly: do you really need all that?
Don’t get me wrong, the Sony A7Rii probably has the best sensor on the market, but I don’t think that every traveler needs a 42MP gear that creates large files. It’s unlikely that you’re going to print your photos on a billboard, which this camera would allow you to do. And you’ll need more external drives to carry around.
Even if you’ll work for big publications, a 24 MP cropped sensor of Fuji XT2 will be excellent.
Besides, the body and lenses of the Sony camera weigh more than the Fuji. If we assume that traveling light is the most important factor when purchasing the best camera for your trips, then choosing the Fuji is a no-brainer.
Other advantages of the Fuji mirrorless camera:
- Shooting of 14 fps (frames per second) compared to the 5 fps of the Sony. This is great function when you shoot fast moving subjects.
- Better battery life
- Time-lapse recording
- Extra storage slot
On top of that, the Fuji is much cheaper. This is always good as you can invest money on some extra lenses.
All in all, the Fuji XT2 is really the best mirrorless for travel. Buy on Amazon | Adorama | B&H
Read more articles about photography:
- Best Camera Lenses for Travel Photography
- 10 Reasons Why to Visit Romania as a Travel Photographer
- Best Vlogging Camera With Flip Screen
- Best Drones for Travel in 2021: Our Top Picks
- Best vlogging camera for YouTube in 2021
Best Action Camera for Travel
If the weight and size are the most decisive characteristics for the best camera for your travel, then the action cameras are the winners here.
They are small, lightweight, portable, wearable, and some of them are also waterproof. You can mount them basically everywhere, so they are the perfect companions for your adventures around the world.
The best action cameras for travel are able to capture footage at 4k and raw files for pictures. They have usually basic controls, relying on one-button operation, and they can be controlled with apps on smartphones.
One downside of the action camera is the batteries. They drain easily, and last only a couple of hours. To be on the safe side, buy an extra battery if you decide to purchase an action camera.
The Hero5 Black is not a toy anymore. GoPro has come a long way and created an excellent action camera with features like 4K video capability at 30fps, 12MP, 2.0-inch touchscreen and voice-activated camera controls. You can take RAW stills in single, burst, and time-lapse mode.
It’s waterproof at 10m/33ft so you don’t need an extra case. The batteries last much longer (the old ones are not compatible), and with a weight of only 4.2oz/118g it’s one of the lightest cameras you can travel with. Buy on Amazon.
Best compact cameras for travel
A step up from a smartphone, a compact camera is ideal for traveling. It’s small, lightweight, and fits into your pocket.
The camera manufacturers are now integrating better technology, larger sensors, 4k video capabilities and the possibility to connect the camera through built-in WI-FI so you can transfer your photos to other devices or post them directly on social media.
The majority of them have many features that are missing on a smartphone: an optical zoom, the ability to shoot in RAW and better ISO performance for shooting in low light.
If you are a professional looking for a secondary camera to your DSLR or mirrorless, or just an amateur that wants to step up your possibilities to better quality pictures, then a compact camera is definitely a good choice.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100
The Panasonic LX100 is one of the best compact cameras on the market. This camera weights only 14.3 oz. (405 g) including batteries.
Its 13 MP sensor gives you more control in depth of field and blurry background. The f/1.7-2.8 aperture gives you a bright lens that helps with shooting in dim light. With a number of dials, rings and buttons, this camera is excellent for those who want to have manual control. Of course, everything can be set in auto mode, too.
It also features 4K video recording with superb footage quality, an excellent electronic viewfinder, and a 49 zones AF system that works in -3EV light situations, ensuring you can also auto-focus with starlight. Buy on Amazon | Adorama | B&H
Best DSLR camera for Travel
The DSLR cameras are supposed to be the best of the best. Better and bigger sensors, a huge choice of quality lenses available, more megapixels (if needed), their batteries also last much longer, but they are bulky and heavy.
They rely on a mirror that flips up and down to let the light shine on the sensor where the image is captured.
This is a system inherited from the last century. It made sense in the past, when the technology was different. There are still many advantages to having a mirror in a camera, but this comes with more weight and larger size. The full frame DSLRs are really not ideal for traveling, but if you don’t mind carrying around more weight, here’s my advice:
With its 36MP and full-frame sensor it’s probably one of the sharpest high-resolution DSLR cameras out there. It’s super fast with a group-area autofocus that is ideal if you’re shooting a lot of wildlife during your travels.
Nikon has also improved the video quality of this camera that is able to shoot full HD video at 60fps. You’ll be able to shoot for a longer time thanks to the improved battery capacity that allows capturing up to 1200 stills with a single charge.
As I mentioned before, the problem with DSLRs is that they’re bulky and heavy. Only the body of the Nikon D810 weights 980 g (2.16 lb. / 34.57 oz.). You pair that with a few lenses, extra batteries and accessories, and you might end up carrying 3 times that weight.
If you cannot compromise on the high quality of your pictures, then this camera is the best DSLR for your travels. Buy on Amazon | Adorama | B&H
These are my suggestions for the best camera for travel. Remember that at the end of the day, the best camera is always the one you have with you. If you want to travel comfortably and enjoy your travels, don’t forget that the lighter your camera, the better.
Enjoy your travels and happy shooting!
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1 thought on “Best Camera for Travel Photography in 2021”
A brilliant list since many people struggle when deciding what camera to take on their next trip. I have to agree that the iPhone has a great camera and that the GoPro has become my personal favorite off late. I am looking into buying a mirrorless some time soon but still in two minds about it. Till then though the Nikon DSLR is pretty good even though a little bulky.
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