Bags packed for your next adventure? All you’re lacking is the best travel camera for your buck. The ideal travel camera fuses lightweight, durability and is packed with features. No one wants to haul around an entirely separate bag for lenses and camera bodies for a family vacation. Unless you’re me and are completely obsessed with camera gear.
Some will think you have a camera in your pocket. Your smartphone. That’s true but stick with it for the selfies and quick pictures you’ll take on your travels. For better image quality, you can’t go wrong with a dedicated camera – be it a point-and-shoot, mirrorless or DSLR.
Smartphones do everything. Cameras stay in their lane and do one thing (or two) extremely well – pictures and now video.
Below are our picks for the best travel cameras of 2018. You’ll see the cheap, but solid options. Then there are the mid-range and the pro-level options. If you want a camera that lasts and is packed with features, there’s plenty of options from the point-and-shoot category all the way to full-frame professional cameras.
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 V 20.1 MP Digital Still Camera with 3" OLED, flip Screen, WiFi, and 1” Sensor DSCRX100M5/B
Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II Compact Digital Camera w/1 Inch Sensor and 3inch LCD - Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth Enabled (Silver)
Canon PowerShot Digital Camera [G7 X Mark II] with Wi-Fi & NFC, LCD Screen, and 1-inch Sensor - Black
These are the only cameras on the list which truly fit in your pocket. While not as feature-packed as a mirrorless or DSLR camera, the point-and-shoot market has stepped up its game in recent years, packing an insane amount of features into the perfect size. You won’t be swapping out lenses, and if you need a grab-and-go setup, these won’t steer you wrong.
1. Sony RX100 VI
Want the most feature-packed camera with a point-and-shoot footprint? The new Sony RX100 VI fills that role and then some. It’s the successor to the RX100 V and is on its way to claiming the mantle as the best all-around travel camera. If you’re not a photographer, you can make the argument it is the best camera for the average person.
Whereas the RX100 V kept within the 24-70mm (35mm equivalent), the RX100 VI stretches out with a 24-200mm equivalent zoom. You lose a bit on low light, but for travel purposes, it won’t show.
Like the camera before it, the RX100 VI has a blistering fast AF system, shoots 4K video (adding HDR in this generation) and bursts up to 24fps for 233 shots. It starts to show some strain on the processor and AF if you’re looking to push the camera to its limits.
What You’ll Love: It does damn near everything. 4K video with HDR. Extremely fast burst rate. All in the palm of your hand.
What You Might Not Like: It’s expensive. The RX100V is just as capable for a couple of hundred dollars less. However, if you’re looking for a travel camera, the 200mm zoom is one hell of a selling point.
2. Sony RX100 V
Now the older sibling, the RX100 V comes complete with 4K video, a burst rate of 24 frames per second and a 315-point phase detection autofocus system.
For comparison, all previous RX100 models used contrast detection. You are getting professional level features in a camera that fits in your pocket. It’s paired with a Carl Zeiss 24-70mm lens and an electronic viewfinder. All of this comes with a price tag of nearly $900, but the Sony RX100 V is the best point-and-shoot travel camera on the market in terms of value.
Weight: 10.6 oz.
What You’ll Love: It does damn near everything. 4K video. Extremely fast burst rate. All in the palm of your hand.
What You Might Not Like: While cheaper than the new RX100 VI, it still hits $900 placing it out of reach for budget travelers. In the $1000 pricing area, you are edging close to affording a mirrorless or DSLR. The flipside of the argument is you want a point-and-shoot for a reason. No dealing with extra lenses and it fits in your pocket.
3. Sony RX100
The counterpoint to the Sony RX100 V is the first-generation RX100. If you don’t need 4K video and all the latest technology, it gives nearly the same image quality in a package under $400. The six hundred dollar difference does have a lot of features being left on the table.
There is no electronic viewfinder, and the autofocus is orders of magnitude inferior to its latest successor. But, it does feature a Carl Zeiss 28-100mm lens giving it a slight edge over the RX100 V. Not bad for a camera showing its age against the current generation of point-and-shoots.
Weight: 10.5 oz.
What’ll You Love: It’s one hell of a deal at sub-$400.
What You Might Not: It lacks 4K video, the burst rate and there’s no electronic viewfinder.
4. Panasonic Lumix FZ1000
Not a personal preference, but if you want an all-in-one point-and-shoot, the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 will be of interest. It tips the scale at similar weights of a DSLR or mirrorless camera, but you don’t have to worry about changing lenses out. It features a 25-400mm dedicated zoom lens.
It comes down to personal preference and while technically a point-and-shoot (actually more of a superzoom), you’re not fitting this in your pocket. Other features include the ability to shoot 4K video. If you know you don’t want the hassle of swapping lenses but need some serious telephoto capability, the FZ1000 has you covered.
Image quality is on par with the Sony cameras above, but it suffers once you head into a low light situation.
Weight: 29.3 oz.
What You’ll Love: It’s a true all-in-one. The zoom is incredible, and if you want one camera without the stress of adding lenses, it has you covered.
What You Won’t: It weighs the same as a DSLR or mirrorless without the versatility to swap lenses depending on the situation. The low light issues are a problem which may crop up on your travels.
5. Canon Powershot G-Series
Three cameras at varying price points. The budget Canon is the Powershot G9 X. It lacks some of the features and zoom of its pricier siblings, but at $429, you’re getting the same image sensor as the pricier G5 X. What you’re not getting in the Canon PowerShot G9 X is an optical viewfinder or articulating LCD screen.
Canon has been coming on strong of late with its point-and-shoots to counter Sony’s mad rush into the market. They may not have the absurd features of the RX100 V, but don’t sleep on Canon. It’s a stalwart in the photography industry for a reason.
Rounding out travel point-and-shoots is Sony stretching the definition to a breaking point. If you like the feel of a pro-style DSLR or mirrorless ILC, but don’t want to buy one, I present the RX10 IV.
Imagine the RX100 VI went cannibalistic for a minute and ate two of its pals. That’s what the Sony RX10 IV. 200mm not enough zoom for you? No problem, because here’s a 600mm equivalent.
If you know without a doubt this is the camera for you; then it has everything you like about a pro-style camera without the downside. 4K video, high burst fps, a Zeiss 24-600mm f2.4-4 lens and a 315-point phase detection AF system. Priced at $1700.
What You’ll Love: The ultimate travel camera. While it’s hard to call it a point-and-shoot, it technically is making it the most feature-packed on the list. The zoom is incredible, and if you want one camera without the stress of adding lenses, the RX10 IV is that camera.
What You Won’t: It’s the same size as most DSLR or mirrorless ILC cameras. And for some, more expensive. And only having a one-inch sensor hampers it when you start talking image quality. It’s my inner photographer screaming, but there are other options. But my wishlist isn’t yours. The RX10 IV is the complete travel camera.
Want more than a point-and-shoot? A DSLR fills that void and offers an array of options for any budget. Like a mirrorless camera, you will need lenses, so it’s best to find a prime and zoom to fill out your kit. You want to maximize weight and versatility.
Most DSLRs at even the lowest price points come with built-in WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, and the manufacturers own app to easily port pictures to your phone or laptop.
1. Nikon D3400
The latest in the D3000 series from Nikon, it is one of the best entry-level DSLRs on the market. It’s lightweight. Doesn’t bog you down with tons of features and menus to customize. You grab and go with a reliable kit lens for under $400.
At 24.2 MP, image quality is great for the price. The EXPEED 4 processor is fast, and it’s compatible with Nikon’s Snapbridge app. Thankfully, the app has come a long way and now works as it should. The included AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR kit lens is a welcome improvement over the D3300 lens. You can opt for the deluxe kit which includes a 70-300mm lens, and you’re set for just about any travel situation with the family.
My take is to add a prime lens – a dedicated 35mm or 50mm. Once you start shooting with a prime lens, it’s hard to go back to the kit lenses.
Weight: 0.87 pounds
What You’ll Love: It’s a damn steal at less than $400. Prepare to be hooked on photography once you learn the ins and outs of the camera.
What You Might Not: Once you’re hooked, you’ll want something better and faster. It’s the nature of the hobby. Still a great starter camera.
2. Nikon D500
The flagship APS-C camera from Nikon. Imagine the D3400 went off to college as the ugly duckling and came back a swan. There’s that much difference between the two. It’s award-winning and is on par with the Nikon D5, the flagship full-frame for a fraction of the cost.
It is simply a dream to shoot. Dual memory card slots, including one for XQD memory, excellent battery life, a continuous shooting speed of 10 fps, 4K video and incredible low light capability. It’s pricier, but more than worth the cost. You are getting everything in the D5 crammed into the D500.
Weight: 1.9 pounds
What You’ll Love: Everything. It’s my favorite camera. Well, you may hate life with snapbridge, but Nikon is working on getting it fixed.
What You Might Not: Snapbridge. Honestly, I’m used to popping the SD card out and heading for a laptop, but I see the benefits of having all the images transferred via Bluetooth to my smartphone. It makes for easy sharing on social media. And I wish it had a better LCD screen, but that’s the argument for every camera.
3. Canon EOS Rebel T6
It’s a similar setup as Nikon. You have the entry-level Canon EOS Rebel T6 with an EF-S 18-55mm and EF 75-300mm for under $500. The 18-megapixel APS-C sensor is more than enough to capture high-quality images.
It is slightly heavier than the Nikon D3400, but when you’re in this territory, it comes down to brand preference. Both are solid starter cameras and would be perfect travel cameras. The AF isn’t too dissimilar from the D3400 with nine selectable points.
Weight: 1.33 pounds
What You’ll Love: The value. Camera body and two lenses for under $500? That’s hard to beat.
What You Might Not: It’s a bit bulkier than the Nikon, but still one hell of a deal for those getting started.
4. Canon EOS 7D Mark II
We had the entry-level for Nikon and then the flagship APS-C D500, what about Canon. You’ll find that with the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. A 20.2 megapixel that matches the D500 on continuous shooting at 10fps. While it doesn’t shoot 4K video, it does have the Dual Pixel CMOS AF to allow for crisper video at 1080p. It’s a bit of bummer Canon continues to lag in the race towards 4K.
The 65-point cross-type AF makes for a great travel companion, and the price tag does include an 18-135mm IS STM Lens. There are some tradeoffs between it and the Nikon D500, but once you get into these prices, it becomes about brand preference over features.
Weight: 2.01 pounds
What You’ll Love: The speed of firing off ten frames per second is great. It never gets old.
What You Might Not: No 4K and the AF system is not as good as the Nikon D500. Seriously Canon, where is the 4K?
Travel Mirrorless Cameras
What about fusing the best of a point-and-shoot and a DSLR. That’s what you’re getting with an interchangeable lens mirrorless camera. We enjoy the compact design and the versatility of adding lenses to fit whatever situation we run across. Be sure to check out our best mirrorless camera guide.
1. Sony a7 III
It’s in our mirrorless camera guide, but right now, there’s not a better full-frame mirrorless on the market in terms of value. It’s a sub-$2000 full-frame camera with features borrowed from Sony’s flagship, the a9. It hits all the right notes and more than outstrips its competition.
Sony refers to it as the basic model, but the list of features is anything but basic. It may not have the obscene MP count as the a7r III, but the new 24MP sensor handles itself quite well in the sharpness, detail and low light categories. And it launched at the perfect time. Sony’s E-mount system is enjoying a surge in third-party support. Sigma announced its entire Art line would be available as native E-mount lenses. Granted, it looks like Sigma just attached the adapter to it permanently, but it does work.
Those in the market for a great camera at an even better price can’t go wrong. Now you have to find one in stock.
Before the launch of the a7 III, Sony’s a7r III was heralded as the best mirrorless ILC on the market. And for some, it still retains the title. The megapixel count is outstanding, and while it didn’t grab the AF system from the a9, the a7r III did borrow the battery tech from the a9, and its AF is no slouch. It’s a bit more expensive than the a7 III, but considering its competition the price range, it is one of the better values.
A few negatives on both Sony cameras are the lack of weather sealing and its odd resistance to making use of its touchscreen. On the weather sealing, there is some, but not on par with what you find on Canon and Nikon. The touchscreen? I honestly have no idea why Sony doesn’t use the feature for its cumbersome menu system. Maybe one day. Neither issue is a deal breaker, but something to know before you decide which camera earns a spot in your suitcase.
3. Fujifilm X-T2
Want to make new friends on your travels? Have a stylish camera. Fujifilm wins that race every time with the X-T2 camera. The mix of technology with a retro design is the perfect conversation starter.
The options are as limitless as your destinations of choice. Do you pick the point-and-shoot or opt for the versatility of a mirrorless or DSLR? There is something for every budget above. It all comes down to the person behind the camera. Learn how to use it, and the images will be as stunning as the memories you create on the road.
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