Few travellers leave without a camera! Many people want to keep track of their trip through photos. But in the digital age the possibilities are numerous, almost infinite! So, which is the best travel camera for you then? How to choose your camera? Which camera to buy for a trip?
The purpose of this article is obviously not to mention and list all the possibilities. The purchase of a camera for a trip depends on many things, mainly your needs, your interests and especially your budget! I will not talk about all the camera accessories linked with the purchase of a camera, especially for a DSLR camera. This is because they are the subject of another detailed full article on the list of useful photo accessories when travelling.
In the meantime, are you wondering how to choose a camera to travel with? Which first camera you should choose? Should I choose a mirrorless or a DSLR camera? Which is the best travel camera for you? Which camera should you pick for a round the world trip? I attempt to answer all these questions in the article.
Date of update of the article: 13/05/2020
Before blindly embarking on the purchase of a camera for a trip, you need to ask yourself a few questions. Indeed, according to the answers to the questions below, I would tend to refer you to one type of cameras more than another.
Between us, there are no good or bad choices on the camera you want to buy for travelling. All you have to do is find the one that best suits your use/needs, your budget, or your style of trip. It’s all about explaining how to choose the right camera depending on different criteria.
First of all, you have to ask yourself what you want to use your camera for? You will probably say for taking pictures!
More seriously, what is the purpose of buying a camera for travel? Is it simply to capture moments and take photos of your travels (which will end up left on a hard drive somewhere?) Or rather to share the photos with the family and on social networks? Would you like to print the photos when you get home or have them enlarged? Would you like to sell your photos? Simply enjoy your passion for travel photography? What particular type of photos would you like to take? What exactly do you want to shoot?
In short, you might have come to understand that there are as many uses and reasons to buy a camera to travel as there are cameras (I’m exaggerating but not completely)!
Basically, identify what you want to do with your camera! In my opinion, this is the most important element in choosing your new camera.
And yes, unless you are a millionaire (knowing that if you are on this page it is probably because you are looking for advice instead of just buying the most expensive one!), you will have to set yourself a budget.
In any case, it is important to remember that this is one of the most important factors that will influence the type of equipment you buy. If you want to: sell your photos plus make prints and enlargements and focus on wildlife photography in the woods, all with a budget of 300€…well you are in trouble!
Even if the prices of cameras have decreased in recent years (even for DSLRs), some types of cameras are still quite expensive and, depending on the type of photos you want, you will have to pay the price.
The following points should be remembered: a compact camera will generally cost less than a mirrorless camera, which in turn will be cheaper than a DSLR camera. Although, this is an estimation and not a fact in itself, because there are very expensive mirrorless cameras on the market too.
This is one of the elements that will also be taken into account for some people. Indeed, if you go hiking across the Rockies in Canada or if you go hanging out between the temples and beaches of Southeast Asia, it will be quite different. For safari fans, I wrote a complete detailed article on which photography equipment to choose for a safari?
You may regret carrying 5 kg or more of camera equipment if you have to save space for your hiking equipment. You may end up having more space for other types of trips.
If you are going on holiday for a few weeks, a few months or a whole year, it will also change things. You may not have any worries about carrying a big DSLR and a few lenses for a weekend…but over a year travelling around the world? Do you feel capable of wearing a DSLR camera for months or would you prefer to make a compromise by choosing a smaller digital camera?
Photo enthusiasts will not skimp on the kilos in terms of camera equipment but rather in terms clothes (we recognize ourselves…).
This may be less important to consider, but your level of photography could help you choose the camera you want to take when you travel. This element can also be directly linked with personal priorities for your photos.
If you are a complete novice and that you don’t feel the need to improve, you may not need to spend millions on a camera that you are not going to know how to master or want to take the time to master.
But you can also be a novice, want to learn photograph and get experience because you simply enjoy it. You may already be a photo enthusiast but you’ve never taken the plunge to buy a nice camera, who knows? Maybe you’re tired of using the automatic mode? Would you like to understand the more technical concepts of depth of field, shutter speed, white balance?
To sum up, evaluate your photography level and think about what you want to do next.
Other more technical aspects should be considered when choosing your travel camera.
The size and weight?
This is a very important element to take into account.
Do you feel able to carry a one-kilo camera body with a lens of the same weight…so a total of 2 kg in your arms all day?
Do you prefer the lightness and small size of a smaller camera that you keep in your pocket and that you can take out at any time? What will be an appropriate weight as a result?
To change lenses or not?
There is also a more technical question that you will have to ask yourself. Concretely, do you see yourself changing camera lenses during a trip, a weekend or a vacation? Having to change your lens in a place to be able to go from landscape photography to capturing a particular detail, how imagine that being? Too restrictive? Boring as hell? Not a problem, this is actually the norm?
If you choose a DSLR, there is a good chance that you will need a telephoto lens, a wide-angle lens or even a macro lens if you like to shoot small animals.
This will definitely influence your choice of cameras when travelling. If you don’t want to change your lens during your trip, you won’t necessarily bother with the DSLRs and mirrorless cameras but me more interested in bridges or point and shoot cameras.
Having to buy accessories for the photo?
And yes, depending on the camera you have, you will probably have to buy photo accessories. So when you think about it, how do you feel? Is this idea a little annoying, because you just want to take pictures? Maybe this isn’t such a bad idea to consider in the end? You’re not even seeing what the trouble is?
Obviously, we will have to think about the budget aspect here too. A compact camera does not require any special accessories to operate (except possibly a Gorillapod for travel).
A mirrorless camera will usually require several lenses, a tripod (depending on the photos you want to take), filters, etc.
A DSLR camera will require, as you improve, many more or less useful accessories!
Working on your pictures in post-processing?
In the post what? If you are not familiar with post-processing, it is likely that you are a novice (not an issue, of course). Just ask yourself if you’ll feel comfortable spending hours sitting in front of a computer to improve your photos?
How do you see it? Do you just want to take pictures and that’s it? Not really wanting to stay behind a Laptop at home editing photos. Would it not bother you as long as you are looking at all the memories? You may already know about post-processing and that it won’t bother you to edit photos that were taken in RAW during the shooting?
In any case, depending on your motivation to edit the pictures afterwards, it is another element that will help to make a decision
These are the main questions to ask yourself about which camera to choose when travelling. If you can already answer all these questions, it will definitely make your choice easier!
Even if the subject often comes up on travel blogs, I will make a small inventory of the different possibilities to know on which camera to choose for a trip. There are many varieties of them. Here are the main ones in my opinion. I will give you the main advantages and disadvantages according to different needs that we look over together previously.
Let’s be clear, if you only travel with a smartphone, it’s because you’re not a big fan of photography. So yes, I know that some will say that smartphone cameras have improved (it’s true), but it still remains…hang on…a phone!
At the moment, the 3 smartphones below are ranked as the best!
They’re suitable for those who are too lazy to go out with a camera and who want something very light that fits in their pocket. No need to think about editing your photos, printing them or enlarging them, I guarantee you, the result will be more than mediocre…
It is one of the first cameras that everyone buys. Its main advantages are: its lightness and compactness, the cheaper price, the ease of use for the most novices and finally the discretion. They are perfect especially for everyday photos! In addition, there is a series of new “waterproof/rugged/durable” compacts cameras, perfect for travel or sports holidays.
However, there is now a whole range of “compact experts” who can very well match what you are looking for. The latter are of much better quality than the standard ones at lower prices and clearly have better features. Here is for example the selection of the best compact expert travel right now.
On the other hand, compact cameras are limited for people who want to take specific types of pictures such as wildlife. Additionally, for those who want to make enlargements (sensor too small), sell photos, or play on depth of field.
They remain an economical solution for people who are new to photography, want to travel light, and keep their photos on a hard drive. Finally, in some situations, owning a small compact will always be better than a large, eye-catching camera!
For a compact travel camera, I particularly recommend the Olympus Tough TG-6 that I use personally (weekend, short trip when I want to be discreet, and underwater). I also use it for diving using a waterproof case.
However, there are much cheaper compact cameras to start with, such as the Nikon Coolpix A100. To finish off, some brands have released expert compact cameras of very good quality as well, such as the Sony Rx-100 III. This is an example of a well-rated digital compact. There are others.
Depending on what you really want to do with your compact, it may sometimes make more sense to turn to a smartphone!
It is the “middle ground” between compact cameras, mirrorless cameras and then DSLRs.
I’m not sure they currently offer the best options for a travel camera.
The main advantages: larger sensor than a compact sensor (theoretically a better image quality). The problem is to do with its big size (larger than a compact), the presence of a viewfinder per screen and not optical (not easy for close shots), the impossibility to change lenses. It will very often be an amateur camera for people looking for a better quality than on a compact.
I don’t think I would recommend choosing a bridge from anyone at this time. You might as well start on a top-of-the-range compact, or even on a good quality mirrorless camera.
Since about 2008, the first mirrorless cameras have appeared, also known as COI (compact with interchangeable lens) or Micro 4/3 (although today mirrorless cameras offer APS-C and full-format/24×36 sensors).
The advantages: relatively lightweight, more manageable and easier to use (compared to a DSLR), interchangeable lenses to fit all types of photography styles, lower lens costs compared to a DSLR (except in high-end quality lens), quality that tends to match some DSLRs (if the sensor size is the same).
The disadvantages: much less advanced settings than on a DSLR, poorer reactivity and lower batteries compared to a DSLR. Many of you will be wondering about buying a DSLR or mirrorless cameras? The choice will not be easy
There are mirrorless cameras at almost any price, very basic cameras at low prices, to high-performance mid-range cameras, but also those with high-performance Full Frame sensors at high prices. Here is a selection of 3 mirrorless cameras that I consider to be very good in their range, ideal for travel in my opinion!
I would particularly recommend this type of camera for people who want to learn photography, but don’t want to bother with heavy equipment that is more difficult to use (dslr). If you want to learn more about mirrorless cameras, here’s my ultimate guide!
DSLR cameras are very trendy today! It is one of the first choice of travel cameras for many people. It has the advantage of providing quality pictures “without too much effort”. We all agree that buying a DSLR is not enough to make you a great photographer either.
Of course, owning a digital DSLR camera will eventually mean buying lenses. There are native (Canon-Nikon) or third-party brand lenses (Sigma/Tamron/Samyang/Rokinon).
I would recommend it to anyone who wants to take beautiful pictures and who is not bothered to change lenses, size and weight. Clearly many (too many) people buy a DSLR without even reading the manual once and spend years shooting in automatic mode. If you don’t want to be bothered with adjustments and other things, opt for a compact camera.
There are several types of DSLRs, the two main brands being Canon and Nikon (although there are other brands such as Sony, Pentax, Panasonic or Leica).
In the beginner, amateur and expert ranges, you will mainly stick to APS-C cameras (smaller sensor).
I would recommend entry-level products for people who do not have a large budget to spend on the camera, who are looking for lightness and who want to learn photography (beginner). I myself started with a Canon 500 D (which is no longer available on the market).
Below is a summary table of the main DSLR’s of the moment and their characteristics.
If you want to please yourself, if you have the budget, and if you want an even better camera, choose an expert camera (Canon 80D or D7500 at Nikon). These are cameras here that cost more than 1000-1200€ with a classic kit lens.
Finally, if you clearly have the means (more than 2000/2500€), that weight is not a problem for you, that you want to evolve towards a very good quality DSLR camera (as I did when I switched from a Canon 500D to a Canon 6D), you can opt for an Expert camera, or even a semi-pro (Canon 5D Mark IV or Nikon D750). These cameras are generally called “full frame”.
It’s a little bit of a separate category, but it could still be interesting. I’ll see it in addition to one of the cameras mentioned above.
The Fujifilm Intaw Mini 9 is one of the polaroid’s that is currently very popular, for a very affordable price (less than 100€).
This can be a great gift idea if you know people who are going on vacation. A few years ago, I also chose the Pogo XL GL-10 portable printer (which is no longer on sale). The Polaroid Snap Touch has since appeared. Very practical when travelling to give pictures to children for example!
So much for the various possibilities to help you choose which travel cameras you should buy to go on a trip. I hope that this overview has made things clearer?
To end this photography article, I have given you some suggestions on the best travel cameras (sometimes with an associated lens for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras) according to your budget. I will update this buying guide every year so that I can always offer you the latest release.
I have deliberately excluded Smartphones and focus mainly on digital cameras such as compact, bridge, mirrorless and DSLR cameras. Knowing which equipment to choose and the ones to equip with, can give you a real headache. I hope that this chapter will guide you to some models that will allow you to capture beautiful images while travelling.
If you have a limited budget to put towards your camera or if you want to limit yourself to souvenir photography rather than technical photography, these cameras are made for you. Below 250€, you will most certainly have to choose between a compact digital camera or a bridge. The question “Bridge or DSLR” will not arise here with such a budget. We are relying here on inexpensive beginner cameras!
- Compact : At Canon, the Ixus 190 BK and at Sony, the excellent DSC-HX60B. Compact, lightweight, easily stored in the camera bag, these are perfect for an amateur photographer looking for easy use and rapid framing. Other compact cameras exist of course at Nikon, and others…
- Bridge : At Canon, the SX540 HS, at Panasonic, the Lumix DMC-FZ82 -> two very well rated bridges cameras (but more bulky) and with a longer optical zoom than a compact camera.
We are moving out of the “low budget” category to enter a medium price range. Here is also the arrival of the first DSLRs for this budget. You also have the possibility of evolving onto a good compact or bridge cameras of course, but of better quality. Mirrorless cameras are also entering this budget range to the delight of those who are looking to shoot beautiful images but do not want to carry around a DSLR camera. It will be necessary to make a choice according to your desires and the idea of carrying multiple lenses in the future.
- Compact : Sony DSC-RX100M2: a camera of excellent quality, very large sensor, lightweight and high resolution. Clearly the best compact expert for traveling (or almost)
- Bridge : Fujifilm Finepix HS50EXR -> This camera is very famous for its image quality and powerful optical zoom!
- Hybride : Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III (high performance: 16 million pixels and superb autofocus)
- Reflex : Nikon D3500 or Canon 4000D -> Two DSLR cameras to learn photography. Not too heavy and versatile.
After about 1000€, you really start to get “quality” equipment. There are still very good compact and bridge cameras. For DSLRs, all lenses sold as standard will have a better quality overall. The differences will be felt in low light conditions, especially (night photography). Here are some suggestions:
- Compact : Sony Cyber-SHOT DSC-RX100 V M5 : an expert compact camera of outstanding quality and compactness
- Bridge : Sony DSC-RX10 : 20 million pixels in a formidable bridge!
- Hybride : Sony A7II + 28-70mm : very good quality hybrid camera combined with a perfect versatile zoom to start with!
- Reflex : Nikon D7500 or the Canon 800D + EF-S 18-55mm F/4-5.6 IS STM -> Two quality DSLR cameras (aps-c sensor)
Above a certain amount, no matter which camera you choose, it will surely be of very good quality! Here are some camera suggestions for people with a larger budget and who want to enjoy themselves in photography
- Bridge : Sony DSC-RX10 IV : a very famous super bridge with a special mention for its video mode!
- Hybride : Sony ILCE-7SB Alpha 7S : a hybrid camera with a large format sensor (full frame), all in a small case with an excellent finish! To be mounted with a superb
- Reflex : Canon 7D Mark II + 24-105mm f/4 EF L IS II : an excellent APS-C body with a versatile lens that is perfect for travel!
Finally, I end this article with some tips for buying your camera before the trip:
- Buy your camera in advance: Don’t end up rushing two days before on the internet.
- Read the instructions: it seems obvious but believe me, a large majority of people with DSLRs have not read more than 3 pages
- Test your camera before you buy it: if you are in store, you can test the equipment to see if you are comfortable with it or not. It’s hard to get an idea of the weight of a 6D + 24-70 mm f/2.8 (part of my current equipment) when you’ve never had it in your hands!
- Learn how to handle your camera before you go on a trip.: there is nothing more annoying than not knowing what this or that button is for, not knowing how to put yourself in “bulb” mode on your DSLR for long exposures or other technical details.
- Finally, last advice, if you are going for a reflex lens, I strongly advise you by experience to also choose next door a small solid compact to travel. The latter will always be useful in cases where walking around with a large reflex is not ideal!
That’s it for this article, it was a little long, I’ll give you that.
If you have any doubts and need advice on which travel camera to choose, feel free to leave me a comment, I will be happy to help you. Feel free to come and read the article on which lenses to choose when going on a trip? In any case, also keep in mind to save your photos while you are travelling.
See you soon