The Best Travel Cameras of 2018 (And How to Choose One)

Ample magazine
Ample magazine

While working as a professional travel photographer over the last 10 years, I’ve scoured the internet and tested camera gear in order to find the perfect travel photography kit. When readers and members of our Instagram community ask us what camera we use, I always tell them that what works best for us won’t necessarily be the best fit for them. Choosing the best travel camera for 2018 is more about finding one that allows you to shoot the photographs you want.

Finding the best camera for travel photography is different from choosing a professional camera for things like wedding photography and portrait photography, or even just everyday use at home. With so many camera options on the market, it can be a little intimidating when you start your new camera search.

In this complete buyer’s guide, we’ve listed the best travel cameras for every budget and how to choose the right camera based on your travel style!

How to Choose the Best Camera for Travel

How to Choose the Best Travel Camera for Your Needs

There are several types of travel cameras on the market (Point and Shoot, Advanced Compact Cameras, DSLR, Mirrorless) and each one has its own list of benefits. First, and most importantly, you should consider what is most important to you – size, weight, price, ease of use, etc. Below, I’ve listed the benefits and limitations of each type of camera as well as the top cameras in each of those categories.

How to Choose the Best Travel Camera

Compact Digital Cameras (Point & Shoot)

If your main concern is price, weight, and purchasing a travel camera that is easy to use, then you will want to look at purchasing a Compact Digital Camera. This type of camera won’t weigh down your luggage and it will easily fit in a small backpack or purse.

Compact Digital Cameras are perfect if you don’t want to be hassled with too many controls and you want the least expensive option. Nowadays, you can still find a Point and Shoot camera that takes great photos. That’s not to say you should pick just any Point and Shoot because they are not all created equal. Here are the best travel cameras under $450.

* Best Compact Camera for Travel

Best Travel Cameras - Canon PowerShot SX720

Canon PowerShot SX720  ($285)

Details: Built-in Wifi, 20.3 megapixel, 40x optical zoom, 3″ LCD, 1080p Full HD video

Best Travel Cameras - Canon PowerShot G9 X

Canon PowerShot G9 X  ($379)

Details: 20.2 megapixel, outstanding low light performance, 12,800 ISO, ultra slim, 1080p Full HD video

Advanced Compact Digital Cameras (High-End Compact)

Advanced Compact Digital Cameras are similar to Point and Shoot cameras, but they come with a few more bells and whistles. They are the high end of compact cameras with built-in lenses.

Advanced Compact Cameras are similar in size to the above-mentioned ones and they offer full manual mode in addition to auto mode. (Note: Both of the cameras listed in the above section offer manual mode as well.) They also usually have the ability to capture photos in RAW format — which is important if you plan to make any edits to your photos once you upload them to your computer.

These cameras tend to be slightly more expensive than the regular compact cameras, but less expensive than DSLR or mirrorless cameras.

Best Compact Cameras for Travel

* Best Advanced Point-and-Shoot Travel Cameras 

Best Compact Travel Cameras - Canon G7 X Mark II

Canon G7 X Mark II  ($649)

Details: Built-in wifi, 13.1 megapixel, full manual mode option, captures RAW & JPG, ISO 100-12800, 24-120mm equivalent F2-3.9 lens. We’ve used the Canon G series for over 7 years now and absolutely love this line of cameras! It’s perfect for those times when we don’t want to lug around our heavier equipment. This camera is also comes highly recommended for video!

Panasonic Lumix FZ1000

Panasonic Lumix FZ1000  ($698)

Details: 21.1 megapixels, 4K video, Leica 16X f2.8-4.0 zoom lens. We own a mirrorless Panasonic camera and have been very happy with its performance. Panasonic gets great reviews for their compact and mirrorless models.

Best Compact Travel Cameras Sony RX100 III

Sony RX100 III  ($698)

Details: 20.9 megapixels, 24-70mm equivalent F/1.8-2.8 lens, continuous shooting up to 10 FPS, ISO 160-12800. Sony has come a long way with their camera technology in the past few years. Their mirrorless cameras are extremely popular and this has many of the features that people have come to love with those (like low noise at high ISO) at a more affordable price.  

Mirrorless Cameras

If image quality, size, and weight is the most important factor, you will want to look at purchasing a mirrorless camera. What is a mirrorless camera, you ask? Unlike a Digital SLR, this type of camera does not have a mirror reflex optical viewfinder — hence, the name mirrorless.  This type of camera is perfect for people who still want an interchangeable lens without the weight of a DSLR.

Another plus for mirrorless is the electronic viewfinders because you can view the realtime effect of aperture and ISO adjustments, unlike a DSLR. If you want to take some of the guesswork out of your photography, then mirrorless is the way to go.

How to Choose the Best Travel Camera

* Best Mirrorless Travel Cameras

Best Mirrorless Camera for Travel Sony A7II

Sony A7 II  ($1298)

Details: 24.3 megapixels, enhanced fast hybrid AF and 5 fps burst, world’s first 5-axis in-body image stabilization in a full-frame camera, ISO 100-25600. Almost every travel photographer I know that owns a mirrorless either has the Sony A7 or the Fuji X-T1 (below). The A7 II touts a 30% faster auto focus than the older version. If you are considering purchasing this camera, read our full review of the Sony A7ii here.

You can get the A7 II body for about $1298 new or buy it with a 28-70mm lens for just a few hundred dollars more. If faster auto focus or in-camera image stabilization is not as important to you, the slightly older version (Sony A7) is a fraction of the price.

Best Mirrorless Travel Camera Fuji XT-1

Fuji X-T1  ($1299)

Details: 16.3 megapixels, water and dust resistant, up to 8 FPS continuous shooting, 3″ tiltable LCD. Travelers love this camera. It’s lightweight and takes amazing photos. Purchasing the Fuji X-T1 with the 18-135mm lens makes this the ultimate travel camera.

Digital SLR Cameras

Mirrorless cameras have come a long way and many photographers have decided to ditch their bulky DSLR cameras for this lighter option — including me!

DSLR cameras are better suited for sports, wildlife, and other types of action photography. If these types of photography don’t interest you, then you will probably be fine with a mirrorless. I often travel to photograph wildlife and I need a capable zoom lens, which is why I hesitated about switching completely to mirrorless.

However, there are a few zoom lens options out there for mirrorless cameras, just not as many. I currently use the Sony 70-200mm with my Sony a7ii and it gets the job done in most cases. I opted for the F4 instead of the Sony 70-200mm F2.8 in order to keep my kit light.

Choosing a DSLR means you will have more lens options, faster focus (although mirrorless is following close behind), and a slightly longer battery life. Eventually, I’m sure DSLR cameras will become obsolete, but we are still a little way off from mirrorless replacing traditional DSLR cameras entirely.

How to Choose the Best Camera for Travel Photography

* Best DSLR Travel Cameras

The following DSLR camera is great for entry level or intermediate photographers who still want the benefits of more lens selection, longer battery life, great low light capabilities, and faster focus.

Best DSLR Cameras for Travel Photography

Canon Rebel SL1  ($519)

Details: 18 megapixels, compact, under $400 for the body, 3″ touch panel LCD, ISO 100-12800. I’m a huge fan of Canon Rebels. I have owned two Rebels over the years and the only reason I upgraded to a Mark II was because I wanted a full frame camera. For the average photographer, a Canon Rebel is a wonderful camera. The Rebel SL1 is as small as DSLR cameras come and it’s extremely affordable.

Underwater Travel Photography

This post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention underwater photography. If you are anything like us, then you love to play in any body of water and who doesn’t want to get the best underwater photos on vacation?

We’ve tried a handful of point and shoot underwater cameras, which have taken decent photos, but ever since GoPro came out with their Hero6 Black with LCD screen, this is now our favorite underwater camera for travel. The issues I had with their previous versions (fogging, no LCD screen, ultra wide angle lens) have all been fixed on the Hero 5 & 6. It’s great for action selfies on land too!

How to Choose the Best Travel Camera

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