Top 10 Best Compact Cameras for Travelers
An ideal travel camera is lightweight, versatile, and captures great images. Choosing 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. Below are our picks for the best travel cameras.
1. Fujifilm X-T2
Pick for Travelers: The X-T2 builds impressively on its X-T1 predecessor and the success of its sibling, the X-Pro2. To echo many other camera reviewers, the controls on this camera feel second to none.
The cameras simply work in your hand with little thought or practice. The X-T2 in particular brings a gorgeous, well-balanced 24.3-megapixel sensor. Don’t let its retro style fool you—this camera is no schmuck. It is an all-star, all-around team player that just won’t quit or let you down, no matter where your travels take you.
Pro Tip: To push this camera to its limit and get a huge increase in battery duration, purchase the Vertical Power Booster Grip. This add-on brings two more batteries into the fold and gives the camera a boost to 11 frames per second, faster focusing, and significantly increased 4K (ultra-high-definition) movie time.
Additionally, as with all Fuji X series cameras, this one comes with Fuji’s proprietary film emulations loaded into the camera. You can shoot stunning JPEGs with very little post-processing required.
Get It: fujifilmusa.com
Sensor: 24.3-megapixel, 23.6mm x 15.6mm (APS-C) X-Trans CMOS III with primary color filter
Features: Full-mechanical dial core settings, Wi-Fi, electronic viewfinder, five-axis image stabilization, cinema 4K video, weather-sealed body, dual SD card slots, Fujifilm film emulations.
2. Olympus Om-D E-M1 Mark II
Pick for Travelers: Coming to market in early December, this camera is already receiving accolades for the innovations it brings to the table. It’s just quick—the focus is fast, the shutter speed is fast, and most importantly, this camera shoots sequential pictures at a fantastic 15 frames per second with a mechanical shutter.
That is only one frame per second slower than the fastest pro DSLR, the Canon EOS-1Dx Mark II. Olympus has legendary autofocus, allowing for sharp, fast, and accurate focusing on targets of all types and speeds.
This means whether you find yourself at an air show shooting soaring planes or photographing a local parade of dancers at dusk, this camera will lock tightly to subjects. When you add this all together with a solid 20.4-megapixel sensor, you will find yourself asking, “When can I get my hands on this?”
Pro Tip: Being able to control a camera remotely is a great feature, and Olympus makes it pretty easy. Just download the free Olympus Image Share app (Olympus Image Share, or OI.Share, for both iPhone and Android) and switch on the camera’s built-in Wi-Fi. Now your phone can “see” what your camera is seeing, and you can control the camera functions-set the exposure, set the focus, change exposure modes, or switch to movies.
Touching the phone screen to set focus on the camera is pretty cool. I mount my camera on a monopod, hold it over my head, and use it to get a high vantage point using this app. Jim Richardson, contributing photographer for National Geographic magazine and National Geographic Traveler
Get It: getolympus.com
Sensor: Micro 4/3, 20.4-megapixel Live MOS
Features: 60 frames-per-second (fps) shooting with electronic shutter, 15 fps shooting with mechanical shutter, weatherproof, Wi-Fi, five-axis image stabilization, cinema 4K video.
3. Sony A7R II
Pick for Travelers: The Sony a7 series has helped drive mirrorless-camera development forward in an aggressive way. Few mirrorless cameras can now directly compete with top-end DSLRs, and the a7R II is one of them.
Packing an exceptionally sharp 42.4-megapixel back-illuminated sensor, this camera soars in almost all shooting environments. There are very few non-medium format digital cameras that come close to packing this many effective pixels into their sensors. As long as you can handle the up-front cost, this camera will not disappoint.
Pro Tip: Sony lenses, while good, are often priced higher than lesser priced lenses of equal or greater quality from manufactures such as Canon and Sigma. Try using a Metabones adapter with these lenses to make use of lenses you may already have. The only drawback comes in the form of often slower focusing than with a native Sony E-mount lens.
Get It: sony.com
Sensor: 35mm, full-frame, 42.4-megapixel Exmor R CMOS
Features: Wi-Fi, electronic viewfinder, five-axis image stabilization, 4K video, hybrid autofocus, USB charging.
4. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8
Pick for Travelers: For years, Panasonic’s G series cameras have been popular with enthusiasts, and with pros as backup cameras, and the GX8 is no exception. It still shares the plethora of lenses shared by the micro 4/3 genus of cameras.
This camera’s moveable electronic viewfinder is of particular note; it can sit at a normal 90 degrees, at 45 degrees (found to be very comfortable), or fully vertical, which is useful in low-angle shots or while shooting video, a capability at which this camera excels.
Pro Tip: This camera has been used by the imaging research arm of the National Geographic Society. We used it in conjunction with a stabilized gimbal on a remotely operated car to film lions up close while in motion. —Mike Shepard, engineer in the remote imaging department of the National Geographic Society
Get It: panasonic.com
Sensor: Micro 4/3, 20.3-megapixel Live MOS
Features: Wi-Fi, tilt electronic viewfinder, five-axis image stabilization, tilt and swivel OLED monitor, splashproof, dustproof, low-light autofocus.
5. Fujifilm X100T (Or X100S)
Pick for Travelers: The X100T and its older sibling, the X100S, have garnered something of a cult following, and for good reason. These cameras have helped reintroduce the popularity of range finder-style cameras.
They share the excellent sensor and fantastic Fujifilm emulations of cameras like the X-T1. While they do have a fixed lens, they excel at stealthy travel shooting. These small cameras are deceptively potent in the hands of a photographically adventurous traveler.
Pro Tip: This camera thrives in run-and-gun, sly photography. To make sure you get the most out of your travel shooting, bring a few extra batteries for this power-hungry camera, some gaffers tape to cover up your logos, a wrist strap, and a hot-shoe-mounted thumb rest for those of you with bigger hands. Personally, these accessories round out this camera nicely for me in a wide range of shooting environments.
Get It: fujifilmusa.com
Sensor: 16.3-megapixel X-Trans CMOS II
Features: Fixed lens, Wi-Fi, hybrid optical-electronic range finder viewfinder, hybrid autofocus, built-in optical neutral-density filter, HD video.
6. Panasonic Lumix G85 4K
Pick for Travelers: This compact camera brings a slew of features to the table, many of which are not often found in cameras this size. Namely, it comes with decent weather sealing, allowing the shooter to really push the envelope in their working environment.
It trades a slight drop in megapixel performance from the GX8 for a lower price point, better weather sealing, a more robust grip, and SLR-like design, and it doesn’t have a low-pass filter, providing a noticeable increase in sharpness. Thanks to its compact DSLR styling, this camera is great for shooting on the move in adventure scenarios—for example, taking quick photos while kayaking near whales.
Pro Tip: To get the most out of the dual image-stabilization (IS) system, be sure to use an IS II-rated Panasonic lens. This camera is also a highly capable video camera, so be sure to bring along some accessories for shooting video, such as an external microphone or a steady cam if you want to get some seriously smooth shots.
Get It: panasonic.com
Sensor: Micro 4/3, 16 megapixels
Features: DSLR-like styling; five-axis, gyro sensor-based stabilization; weatherproof, rugged body; 4K video; focus bracketing and stacking; high-speed focusing; shutter-shock reduction.
7. Olympus TG-4
Pick for Travelers: Most camera manufacturers produce at least one pocket-size, rugged, waterproof, point-and-shoot camera that does all right; however, Olympus has continued to develop its pedigree of solidly performing rugged cameras.
This iteration of the TG series has the ability to shoot RAW files, and this new capability makes it the first rugged camera to sport RAW shooting. Couple this with the fact that it can be used up to 50 feet underwater, and it can be dropped and operated in extreme cold or dusty environments, and you’ve got a serious go-anywhere-and-everywhere camera.
Pro Tip: When you have a camera this tough, you never have to ask yourself whether or not you should bring your camera on your trip. Various attachments are available, such as a 1.7x Teleconverter, an LED ring light for excellent macro shooting, and an underwater housing that boosts the depth range to 150 feet!
Get It: getolympus.com
Sensor: 1/2.3 BSI CMOS, 16 megapixels
Features: Wi-Fi, advanced GPS, supermacro modes (microscope-like), underwater mode, full HD video, interval shooting.
8. Sony A6500
Pick for Travelers: This iteration of the venerable a6000 series brings with it a bunch of new outstanding features that help elevate the platform even higher. Such features include an amazing 425-point phase detection autofocus system, superfast autofocus, and an extended shooting buffer so you can keep shooting through the action without delay.
Pro Tip: The latest and greatest in the a6000 series lineup, Sony’s a6500 packs a serious punch, with its compact size, five-axis image stabilization, internal 4K recording, and a touch screen for smooth focusing (a first). Whether you’re headed to the mountains or attending a local sports event, the Sony a6500 has you covered. —Erich Morse, systems engineer at National Geographic Partners
Get It: sony.com
Sensor: Micro 4/3, 16.3 megapixels
Features: Tilt touch screen capable of touch to focus, Wi-Fi, electronic viewfinder, five-axis image stabilization, 425-point 4D Focus autofocus, 4K video with S-Log.
9. Sony RX100 V
Pick for Traveler: The RX100 V continues a lineage of premium, pocket-size Sony cameras that continue to impress. This new iteration brings with it impressively fast phase detection autofocus, an increased speed in burst shooting, and increased quality in its 4K video mode.
This camera packs a bunch of high-end features and processing power into a very compact package. Some describe it as the ultimate walk-around camera, due to its wide variety of skills and attributes-and we have to agree. If you need a very small package but still require features typically found only in larger models, look no further than the RX100 V.
Pro Tip: Be sure to download the Sony PlayMemories app, which gives you access to several free apps, as well as those that cost a few dollars. With the Sony Smart Remote Control app, you can view what the camera is seeing and set all functions remotely from your smartphone or mobile device.
Among my favorite apps are the Sky HDR app, which allows you to virtually darken skies in high-contrast landscape scenes, much as you do with a physical filter, and the Time-lapse app, which has evolved into a great tool for automatically shooting those time-lapse sequences that everyone loves to watch. Bob Krist, contributing photographer for National Geographic Traveler
Get It: sony.com
Sensor: 20.1-megapixel, 1.0-inch-type stacked CMOS
Features: Wi-Fi, pop-up electronic viewfinder, 24 frames per second burst shooting, phase-detection autofocus, 4K video, pocket-size, superslow-motion video.
10. Nikon Coolpix P900
Pick for Traveler: One of the more affordable picks of the list also happens to come with one of the most staggering features of the bunch. This all-in-one camera with a built-in lens touts a mind-bending 83X optical zoom-that is the 35mm equivalent of 24mm to 2000mm! The camera even has digital zoom that effectively doubles this to a 4000mm equivalent. This camera happens to have a very helpful stabilization system to help the shooter use these long focal lengths without a support.
To get these sort of focal lengths normally, a shooter would need to lug around a heavy and expensive long lens. With this camera you can get detailed travel shots from distances that other cameras just can’t capture. This impressive zoom could be very useful on your first safari or to take close-in pictures of intricate architectural details of cathedrals abroad.
Pro Tip: To highlight the power of this focal range, Nikon has programmed a special Moon mode into the camera, along with numerous other preset modes. Moon mode allows the user to select a color overtone and autozooms to 2000mm with the push of a button. Always bring along some sort of support or tripod when working with these focal lengths, even with good stabilization.
Get It: nikonusa.com
Sensor: 1/2.3, 16 megapixels
Features: Wi-Fi, electronic viewfinder, articulating screen, multi-axis horizon viewfinder aide, GPS, image stabilization, USB charging, many useful preset modes.