Best Travel Cameras

Flatlay shot of one of the best travel cameras and other luxury travel goods

A topic I keep noticing crop up in both travel and photography forums is the question of what are the best travel cameras. We all seem to want to know what are the best cameras to travel with, to ensure we get the best photos on our next trip without sacrificing convenience.

That’s an important point to note – any half-decent camera can be a good travel camera, but only a handful are actually convenient to carry and use whilst traveling.

I’ve read plenty of other ‘best travel cameras of the year’ type posts elsewhere, and all of them fail to recognise the fact that the majority of people don’t want to haul heavy dSLRs on holiday, regardless of the arguably-superior picture quality.

I’ve put together this roundup of what I consider to be the best cameras to travel with based on some strict criteria. It’s relevant for both professionals who want something small to snap away with whilst on holiday, but also for the most novice photographer who just needs a camera for their next trip.

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N.B. this isn’t a post about cameras for pro travel photography. It’s not for pros whose intent is producing travel photography work, but rather, it’s for anyone who goes on holiday and needs a good camera.

How I Found the Best Travel Cameras

What is the best travel camera of the year?

I’ve traveled a lot both for my photography work and with my family (wife + 2 kids). I recently came back from a 2 month trip mixing the both, which was a somewhat stressful but overall a very enjoyable fun experience!

The cameras I had whilst traveling were an iPhone 7, a Nikon D750 and a Fujifilm X100F. I used the iPhone for snaps to text to friends, the Nikon for my pro work and a couple of landscape shots and the Fuji for everything else.

I’m confident I now know for sure what makes a good travel camera. So, here are the criteria I used to write this post of what I consider to be the absolute best travel cameras in 2017:

My 5 Criteria for the Best Travel Cameras

1. Price

For a camera to be able to produce good images, it needs to be of a certain price (see the best cameras under $500 as a guide). However, to feel comfortable traveling with a camera, it can’t be too expensive either. I concentrated on cameras under $1,500 for this post, with a range of prices to suit all wallets.

2. Size/Weight

Great image quality usually comes at a compromise to size/weight. Even smaller cameras with excellent image quality usually require larger/heavier lenses. The best cameras to travel with are usually ones that can be slipped into a pocket (compact cameras), or wore on a shoulder – definitely not the ones that require a bag. As soon as a camera needs to be removed from a bag, that’s one more missed shot.

Another benefit of a small camera is discreetness, both for candid shots of your kids or in quiet venues that may require it.

3. Image Quality

There are cameras under $200 that are lightweight and small, but they may also only have average image quality. The best travel cameras need to have great image quality for those once in a lifetime sights you see on holiday, or to capture your child’s face at Disneyland for the first time!

4. Auto Focus

It’s really important for a travel camera to have fast, accurate auto-focus. This allows you to get your shot and move on, leaving you to enjoy your holiday rather than worrying about whether your last photo was in focus.

5. Flexibility

Waterproof cameras that function 50m underwater; zoom cameras that can see to the moon; shock-proof cameras that can survive an elephant stampede… and any other specific usage so-called travel cameras always sacrifice one of the above criteria, usually image quality. These are not good travel cameras.

I’m only interested in the best travel cameras that are flexible enough to be used effectively in multiple situations that you may find yourself on holiday.

The 6 Criteria I ignored

1. Durability – I only recommend established brands I’ve used, and all modern cameras from reputable brands are well-built these days.

2. Year of Manufacture – just because a camera is over 5 years old doesn’t mean it’s no longer a great camera.

3. Gimmicky Features – yes, artistic filters and in-camera panoramas are fun, but they’re not deal-breakers when searching for a good travel camera. I only mention unique features of each camera when I think they’re truly useful.

4. Battery Life – it’d be great to have a camera that lasts half your holiday, but charging devices every night is now part of our routine. As long as a camera can last a full day of shooting, it’s fine by me.

5. Weather Proofing – having a weather proof camera for travel can be a plus, but I don’t consider it essential. If it rains when you’re on holiday, just stop taking photos – it’s as simple as that! Only pros with paid gigs and crazy people shoot when it’s still raining!

6. Video – unless you need it for pro usage, just use your smart phone to shoot video, ok?! No one has time to mess around with video shot with compact cameras anyway…

The 6 Best Travel Cameras of 2017

So now you know the criteria I’ve used to compile this list, and who this list is for (reminder: not for travel photographers, but just for anyone who travels and wants a good camera!), let’s investigate what are the best travel cameras of the year (in no particular order).

Feel free to leave a comment at the end of the post to let me know if you agree or disagree with my selection. I’m also keen to hear which camera you travel with, and why you chose it.

Also, if you’re an avid traveler, you may find these travel tips for photographers useful too.

#1 | Fujifilm X100F

Best Travel Cameras - Fuji X100F

Fujifilm X100F Specifications

Type: Mirrorless APS-C sensor camera
Megapixels: 24.3
Size: 6.9 x 7 x 3.9 inches (17.5 x 17.7 x 9.9 cms)
Weight: 2 lbs (907 g)
Price: Approx. $1,300 (Click here to find the latest price)

Fujifilm X100F Review as a Camera for Travel

I’ve started at the higher end of the price spectrum simply because the Fujifilm X100F is the camera which I’m still holding right now. I’ve just returned from an overseas trip where I used this camera every day, and can now whole-heartedly recommend it as one of the best travel cameras available.

You can read another pro photographer’s review of the Fuji X100F, but regardless of if you’re a pro or not, this is a great camera to take on holiday with you.

Running through my above criteria, the price is the only area that may put some people off – at around $1,300 (click here to find today’s price), it’s clearly an investment. In my mind though, this is actually great value for a camera that can produce such incredible image quality in such a compact body.

The size:weight of the Fujifilm X100F is what I consider to be perfect for a travel camera. Sure, it’d be great to be able to slide this camera into a pocket, but then it’d be too small to use comfortably. It’s just the right size/weight to be pleasurable to use, whilst still remaining discreet when carried on a camera strap behind your body.

I actually used a Gordy wrist strap just to ensure against accidental drops, and found that was enough – you might prefer a shoulder strap though, so check out some of the best camera straps to see what would be right for you.

Fuji X100F JPG image sample
Example JPEG from the Fuji X100F with in-camera custom settings applied. Note the vivid colours and range of highlight-shadow detail.

Moving on to image quality, and this is where the Fujifilm X100F really excels. The whole range of Fujifilm X series mirrorless cameras are very popular at the moment for their stellar image quality in smaller bodies, and I recommend another Fuji in this list of great travel cameras. However, I think the X100F is the best of the bunch.

Fujifilm lenses are top-notch, no doubt about it. Having said this, I believe the fixed lens on the Fujifilm X100F is actually sharper than any of the other inter-changeable options out there. I also love being restricted to only one focal length, especially when traveling.

When taking a camera on holiday, it’s tempting to bring lots of lenses with you. “What if I need to photograph a whale from a boat… I’ll need a zoom lens! And what if I need to shoot a mountain range… I’ll need my best wide-angle lens!”…etc.

Don’t do it! Taking photos on holiday is meant to be fun, and with the weight and worry of multiple lenses, it definitely won’t be… especially if children are involved!

The Fujifilm X100F features a fixed focal length 35mm equivalent lens with an f/2 aperture. This is flexible enough to shoot anything from portraits to landscapes, and the f/2 means you’ll be able to blur the background and/or shoot in low light without a flash.

FUJI X100F sample image
RAW images from the Fuji X100F have impressive dynamic range for an APS-C sensor camera.

Other notable features that contribute to great image quality and flexibility are an inbuilt ND filter (allowing you to create a blurry background behind your subject even in bright sunlight); fast and precise auto-focus (meaning no more blurry/missed shots); decent high ISO (shoot at night with no flash); and something magical called the X-Trans sensor which means that a camera such as the Fujifilm X100F with a smaller ‘APS-C’ sized sensor can keep up with the big (full-frame sensor) boys!

Other users of the Fujifilm X100F love the film-simulation modes which apply Instagram like effects to your images which accurately imitate film. I’m not fussed about this personally, but I do love the ability to shoot confidently in JPEG, knowing that white balance will be spot-on.

For those who don’t know, most modern cameras can shoot in RAW format which allows for greater editing flexibility. If you shoot in RAW, it usually means you’ll be spending more time behind a computer.

Thankfully, the Fujifilm X100F produces beautiful JPEG files, meaning there’s little need to use RAW. Just in case though, I always shoot JPEG + RAW, which is one of the options available on this camera.

Another feature of the Fujifilm X100F that’s not a deal-maker by any means but is incredibly useful for shooting fidgety children is the face-detection, which is spookily accurate! I leave the camera on single-point focus and allow it to recognise faces in the frame, so I can capture any moment quickly and easily.

Fuji X100F good camera to travel with
JPEG sample from the Fuji X100F with in-camera custom settings applied. Face-detection makes capturing moments much easier.

‘Design’ or ‘aesthetics’ isn’t one of my criteria for finding the best travel cameras as it’s entirely subjective. However, I should add that the Fujifilm X100F is the best looking camera I’ve ever seen. For me, it’s even more beautiful than a Leica.

I used to own a Fujifilm X100S in silver/black, but my Fujifilm X100F is completely black and I absolutely love it. It attracts no unwanted eyes since it’s easy to miss, but to the trained-eye, it always attracts compliments :-)

Ah, one more thing I love about this camera – you can charge it via your laptop’s USB port, meaning one less battery charger to pack.

If you’re ready to invest in a camera for travel that can even be used professionally if need be, I highly recommend the Fujifilm X100F.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST PRICE ON THE FUJIFILM X100F

#2 | Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II

Olympus EM10 MkII BEST travel camera

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II Specifications

Type: Mirrorless micro-four-third sensor camera
Megapixels: 16
Size: 1.77 x 4.88 x 3.35 inches (4.4 x 12.3 x 8.5 cms)
Weight: 1.03 lbs (467 g)
Price: Approx. $800 (Click here to find the latest price)

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II Review as a Camera for Travel

The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II is a smaller, lighter, newer and more affordable version of a camera I named the best travel camera of 2015. It was the camera I used for travel before I bought the Fuji mentioned above.

One thing to mention right off the bat is that the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II is an inter-changeable lens camera. The price of around $800 (click here to find today’s actual price) is actually great value, but it’s for the body only, so you’ll also need to invest in a lens.

There’s a camera + lens bundle option available here which is perfect for most people, but if you want to really make the most of the Olympus’ stellar image quality, I’d recommend you invest an M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 lens – it’s a 35mm equivalent lens suitable for everything from portraits to landscapes, can be shot in low light, and produces great blurred backgrounds for subject separation.

lympus O-MD E-M10 Mark II sample image
Using the Olympus O-MD E-M10 Mark II in combination with M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 allows you to blur foreground and background elements easily. Black and white in-camera JPEG conversion applied.

I’d recommend you steer clear of bulky zoom lenses, since this defeats the object of having a small camera  for travel. The size and weight of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II is perfect even for larger hands, and can be carried effortlessly around the neck (I used this beautiful Roberu leather neck strap).

So with price and size/weight accounted for in my aforementioned list of criteria of the best travel cameras, let’s move on to that all important image quality.

The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II uses a 16 mega pixel micro four thirds sensor which produces amazing image quality for such a small sensor. When shot in JPEG format, images are sharp, vibrant and contrasty, although this will depend on your in-camera settings and lens choice of course. There’s also the option of RAW for those who enjoy more flexibility in editing photos after shooting.

lympus O-MD E-M10 Mark II sample image
Olympus O-MD E-M10 Mark II JPEG sample with in-camera custom settings applied. Note the contrast, colours and retention of shadow detail.

Another stand out feature of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II is the auto-focus. In practice, I’ve found the auto-focus to be even faster than my pro-grade dSLR which costs twice the price. It’s also the fastest auto-focus of any of the travel cameras on this list.

You can actually focus and shoot just by touching the screen on the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II, which swivels to allow for more creative and convenient framing of your shot.

I know I said I wouldn’t dwell on individual camera features outside of my main ‘best travel cameras’ criteria, but let me just say that the combination of lightning fast auto-focus and swiveling touch-to-shoot LCD screen was the number one reason in me buying an Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II – it really is that good, and makes photography a lot of fun.

The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II has plenty of manual control features that I won’t go into here, but even if you leave the camera on an Auto setting and just prod the screen to take photos, it’s entirely worth the cost. I wish every camera had this functionality!

Olympus O-MD E-M10 Mark II sample image
Medium-high ISO on the Olympus O-MD E-M10 Mark II is impressive for an MFT camera. This was shot at ISO1600 and retains accurate colours and little noise.

Another unique feature of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II is the 5-Axis image stabilisation. This works great for video recording, giving you smooth, Steadycam-like footage. For still images, it allows you to hand hold the camera at much slower shutter speeds than normal, meaning sharper low light photos.

16.1 mega pixels is more than enough to print out your images as wall art, but it’s worth remembering that all micro-four-third sensor cameras such as this Olympus will record photos in the 4:3 ratio, probably different to what you’re used to. You can ‘force’ the camera to shoot at a more standard 3:2 ratio by cropping the image (which is what I did for all the sample photos here).

Overall, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II is a great-looking, lightweight, compact and robust camera that offers some unique features and excellent performance. It’s available in discreet all-black or a retro silver-black option that’s equally sexy. I highly recommend it as a travel camera to document your next travels.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST PRICE ON THE OLYMPUS OM-D E-M10 MARK II

#3 | Ricoh GR II

Ricoh GR II BEST TRAVEL camera

Ricoh GR II Specifications

Type: APS-C sensor compact camera
Megapixels: 16
Size: 2.5 x 1.4 x 4.6 in (6.3 x 3.5 x 11.6 cm)
Weight: 0.6 lbs (272 g)
Price: Approx. $590 (Click here to find the latest price)

Ricoh GR II Review as a Camera for Travel

This discreet compact camera from Ricoh (Pentax) has been recommended to me by numerous pro photographers (mostly street photographers and wedding photographers) ever since its release. Last month I finally got my hands on one, and have fallen in love with it as a travel camera.

The Ricoh GR II is something of a cult camera. It foregoes all the bells and whistles of other compact cameras in its class, and remains out of the lime light due in part to its somewhat bland appearance. However, to the trained eye, this little camera is a true gem and can trade punches with cameras twice its price.

On the subject of price, at around $590 (click here to find the latest price), the Ricoh GR II is incredible value for money. At this price point, you’re getting a lot of camera for a price that’s also not intimidating for most travelers – you shouldn’t be nervous taking out your camera whilst on holiday, after all.

Not a lot has changed since the first iteration of this camera, and for good reason – the core functionality was already excellent. It still uses the same competent 16 megapixel APS-C sensor and a 28mm equivalent f/2.8 lens which is impressively sharp from edge to edge.

Ricoh GRII sample images_002
Despite the lens being wide-angle, the Ricoh GR II produces images that are sharp from edge to edge with little distortion. Image copyright: Salvatore Matarazzo

For those who’ve never shot at 28mm, it’s a fun experience. 28mm is considered wide-angle, in that you can squeeze a lot into the shot, but you’re still able to take portraits without distorting your subject’s face.

As a travel camera, the 28mm lens of the Ricoh GR II means you’ll be able to get a lot of the story into each photo by getting really close to your subject. It’ll also mean you can fit more of that mountain range into your pics too!

The f/2.8 means that even in low light, you won’t have to resort to the camera’s pop-up flash, meaning you can shoot more discreetly and will have more natural looking results. High ISO capabilities and improved noise reduction also helps to achieve this.

One thing that may be harder to achieve though is a blurred background, unless your subject is close to the camera. This is typical of all wide angle lenses and something to be aware of if you crave bokeh in your images.

The Ricoh GR II is remarkably fast to focus, which is an essential attribute for a camera meant for travel. It finds and locks on to the subject in milliseconds and never gets in the way of capturing the moment.

We haven’t spoken about size/weight yet, but this is one area that really puts the Ricoh GR II ahead of all the others in this list of the best travel cameras. Weighing in at a measly 0.6 lbs (272 g) and around the same dimensions a smart phone, this is one compact camera that is truly pocketable.

Ricoh GRII sample images_001
Street photographer Salvatore Matarazzo gets in close with the Ricoh GR II, using it in conjunction with an off-camera flash triggered remotely to create engaging and dramatic images.

Having a camera around your neck whilst on holiday labels you as a tourist, and can invite thieves. Having a camera in your pocket is definitely the way to go.

Aside from great-looking images and solid auto-focus performance, its the simplicity and minimalism of the Ricoh GR II that has given it so many loyal fans. I love its minimal design and stealthy looks, with only the buttons and switches that are essential for photographers. There’s simply no fluff.

According to DPReview,

…the Ricoh GR II offers one of the best hands-on control systems of any compact camera.

During my own testing, I appreciated the simplicity of the menus which save you from digging deep to find what you’re after. Most other cameras in this class suffer from confusing menus – something that can be annoying whilst you’re traveling and trying to just get the shot and get on with your holiday!

Wifi and NFC is pretty standard in travel cameras these days, but on the Ricoh GR II it’s very well implemented. Being able to wirelessly transmit a photo to my phone to send to family whilst on holiday is a fun feature and something I look for on all cameras for travel. It’s also a useful way to get a group shot with you in it – just fire up the camera’s Wifi, and then compose and shoot the picture using your smart phone.

Overall, the Ricoh GR II offers fantastic image quality in a remarkably small, lightweight body. The fixed lens, logical menu system and discreet styling make this one of the best travel cameras I’ve tested.

If you’re the type of person who loves shooting with your smart phone as it’s always with you, consider investing in the Ricoh GR II. It’ll still fit in your pocket and your images will look way better for it.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST PRICE ON THE RICOH GRII

#4 | Canon G9 X Mark II

Canon G9 X Mark II BEST TRAVEL CAMERA

Canon G9 X Mark II Specifications

Type: CMOS sensor compact camera
Megapixels: 20.2
Size: 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.2 in (9.8 x 5 x 3 cm)
Weight: 0.45 lbs (206 g)
Price: Approx. $450 (Click here to find the latest price)

Canon G9 X Mark II Review as a Camera for Travel

As another affordable camera for travel, the Canon G9 X Mark II is a great little compact camera to consider for your next trip.

For under 500 bucks (click here to find the exact price), you’re getting impressive image performance from a camera that’s small and light enough to have in your pocket all day long.

At only 0.45 lbs (206 g), the Canon G9 X Mark II is the lightest camera on this list. However, it also has the smallest sensor (CMOS) out of all the other camera I consider to be the best travel cameras of the year – so why have I included it here? Small sensor = crap image quality, right?!

Well, not quite. The sensor is actually quite similar to that found in your high-end smart phone, but with a better lens and image processor to ensure the Canon G9 X Mark II can do things your phone can’t.

Similar to the Ricoh mentioned above, the Canon G9 X Mark II doesn’t have a viewfinder, meaning you’ll have to rely on the touch LCD screen. Fortunately, it’s bright and sharp and 3″ in size to ensure you won’t be squinting.

Canon G9 X Mark II Sample Images_004
A combination of fast auto-focus and impressive low light performance enables the Canon G9 X Mark II to capture images like this without using flash.

Some people love touchscreens but some prefer physical buttons. Whilst the Canon G9 X Mark II features a few buttons for the most needed functions, you’ll have to use the touch screen to access everything else, even moving the focus point. Less buttons does mean less chance of buttons sticking though, which can happen after frequent travels with a camera.

The Canon G9 X Mark II features a 28-84mm equivalent lens with an f/2 – 4.9 aperture. Since this zoom lens adds no bulk to the body of the camera and remains lightweight, I have no hesitation in recommending this Canon as a good camera for travel.

28-84mm means wide-angle focal length to medium tele-photo. In practice, I was able to shoot any landscape image with ease, then quickly get a close-up shot of passing wildlife. Shooting at 84mm when your subject is relatively close will also put the background nicely out of focus too (‘bokeh’).

f/2 means that the Canon G9 X Mark II does well in low light and can blur the background and/or foreground nicely, depending on how close you are to the subject.

Canon G9 X Mark II Sample Images_001
When shot at f/2, the Canon G9 X Mark II is able to produce pleasing bokeh (blurred foreground and background elements) similar to a camera with a much bigger sensor.

As for image quality, the DIGIC 7 image processor used by the Canon G9 X Mark II ensures that JPEGs are very impressive for a camera this small. RAW images are decent too, offering some flexibility during post-processing.

Personally, post processing is the last thing I want to do after a holiday with the family, but it’s nice to know there’s RAW functionality there if needed.

The Canon G9 X Mark II also offers Auto ISO, a nice addition to a compact camera at this price point. The ISO range is 125-12800, but I’d only feel comfortable using a maximum of ISO1600 to ensure the clearest photo possible.

In practice this means that with Auto ISO applied, you can comfortably let the camera decide when to raise and lower ISO from morning to dusk. After that you’ll need to rely on the camera’s flash.

Speaking of the flash, it’s a little on the slow side to recharge. Also, on battery life, the Canon G9 X Mark II can only manage around 240 shots per charge. I find I rarely shoot more than 200 photos per day whilst traveling, but if you’ve got a heavy shutter finger, you might want to pick up a couple of these spare batteries.

Canon G9 X Mark II Sample Images_002
When shooting long exposures with the Canon G9 X mark II, especially in cold climates, battery life will be even shorter.

Compact cameras at this price point usually struggle with auto-focus, especially those with zoom lenses. Thankfully, the Canon G9 X Mark II is surprisingly fast to acquire focus on both static and moving subjects.

As I mentioned at the start of the review, auto-focus speed was a primary concern for me when compiling this list of the best travel cameras. Many cameras have excellent image quality, but have slow auto-focus, so I left them out of this review.

The Canon G series has been a long-time favourite of amateur photographers, and the Canon G9 X Mark II is a solid travel camera at an affordable price.

In image quality stakes, it definitely can’t keep up with the others on this list, but it’s still more than adequate for the average family holiday. The zoom lens also offers great flexibility for those who are too lazy to move their feet…!

CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST PRICE ON THE CANON G9 X MARK II

#5 | Sony Alpha a6500

Sony_a6500_best_travel_camera_003

Sony Alpha a6500 Specifications

Type: Mirrorless APS-C sensor camera
Megapixels: 24.2
Size: 4.72 x 2.64 x 2 in (12 x 6.7 x 5.2 cm)
Weight: 1 lb (453 g)
Price: Approx. $1,400 (Click here to find the latest price)

Sony Alpha a6500 Review as a Camera for Travel

Jumping up the pricing slightly again is this remarkable compact APS-C sensor camera from Sony.

I almost chose not to include the Sony Alpha a6500 in this roundup of the best travel cameras due to its price + lens pushing it outside of my sub $1,500 criteria… but it’s just too good to ignore!

I’d never shot with a Sony mirrorless camera until quite recently when a friend let me play with her a6500 for a week. After a few days, I knew I had to include it on this list as an excellent travel camera option.

The Sony Alpha a6500 is an inter-changeable lens camera, so the price you pay (check the latest price here) is for the body only. There’s a whole host of great Sony lens options, but in fitting with my criteria of a good travel camera being small and light, I can’t recommend most of them since they add to much bulk to the body.

At only 453 g and as small as a smart phone, the balance and portability of the Sony Alpha a6500 suffers too much to be considered a good travel camera as soon as you try and fit 90% of lenses to it. However, within that 10% are a few gems :-)

Sony_a6500_best_travel_camera_001
The tilting touch screen on the Sony a6500 is a welcome addition, although the menu system isn’t as intuitive as it could be.

My choice of lens to go with the Sony Alpha a6500 for taking on holiday would always be the Sony 20mm f/2.8 – a ‘pancake’ lens with proportions that makes the camera an absolute joy to use. It’s a 30mm equivalent field of view, meaning its wide enough for most things you’ll encounter whilst traveling, but can still be used for portraits.

Whatever lens you choose for the Sony Alpha a6500, the image quality is great, especially when you consider the camera’s sensor is ‘only’ APS-C size.

Colours are vibrant and details are sharp in JPEG format, and the RAW files provide adequate dynamic range to push/pull your images, squeezing every last drop of editable data from them.

Things really start to impress when shooting at higher ISOs, with photos being relatively clean even up to ISO 25,000.

In practice, this means you can take photos at night just by using the ambient light around you. On holiday, this is great since it means you won’t draw unwanted attention to yourself whilst shooting without a flash.

Sony_a6500_best_travel_camera_002
Only a camera like the Sony a6500 with solid high ISO performance and low-light auto-focus capabilities can capture  high-speed sports action like this.

The auto-focus on the Sony Alpha a6500 is class-leading, with 425 phase-detect focus points spanning almost the entire area of the viewfinder, able to effectively track fast subjects at up to 11 frames-per-second.

Having such fast auto-focus and frame rate on a camera makes it great for travel to capture images of locals whilst whizzing past on a bus, or simply to get a shot in focus of your child jumping into the pool.

The tilting touchscreen of the Sony Alpha a6500 is something of a mixed bag – it allows you to touch it for some functions but not for others, which can prove a little confusing at times.

However, it’s impressive that the screen and everything else is weatherproof, meaning that if you’re caught off guard in a sudden downpour on your travels, at least your camera will be alright.

Another neat feature is the 5-axis in-body image stabilization which allows you to shoot the Sony Alpha a6500 handheld even in low light, basically allowing you to use a much slower shutter speed and still achieve a sharp shot.

Sony_a6500_best_travel_camera_003
Auto-focus points cover 80% of the frame area of the Sony a6500. Coupled with lightning fast frame rate and rapid AF-C tracking, capturing moving subjects is made simple.

My idea of the best cameras for travel are ones that are simple and effective. Whilst I wouldn’t call the Sony Alpha a6500 particularly simple to use (Sony menus are notoriously dense), it is an effective camera for travel and it does provide the flexibility of multiple lens options for those who want it.

I’m a fan of only buying one lens for a camera, particularly if I intend to use it as a travel camera. However, I know that you may prefer the flexibility of multiple lenses, or perhaps even a zoom over my recommended Sony 20mm f/2.8 (see a range of good Sony E Mount lenses here).

With the right lens for you attached to it, the Sony Alpha a6500 is one of the best cameras for travel available in 2017, and definitely deserves its place on this list.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST PRICE ON THE SONY ALPHA A6500

#6 | Fujifilm X-T20

Fuji XT-20 best travel camera

Fujifilm X-T20 Specifications

Type: Mirrorless APS-C sensor camera
Megapixels: 24.3
Size: 5.6 x 8 x 5.6 in (14.2 x 20.3 x 14.2 cm)
Weight: 2.2 lbs (997 g)
Price: Approx. $900 (Click here to find the latest price)

Fujifilm X-T20 Review as a Camera for Travel

Yes that’s right, another Fujifilm camera has sneaked its way onto this list of the best travel cameras!

At around $900 (check the latest price here), the Fuji X-T20 is an awesome little camera which I recommend the most to friends who are looking for a camera to travel with, but that can also become their main ‘hobby’ camera. I even know a few pros who use it.

To date, 2 friends have purchased this camera for travel off my recommendation alone… and they’re both delighted with it. I spent a week in the south of France with one of these friends and got to play with it again for the purpose of this review. I also took some photos of the camera itself for a separate Fuji X-T20 review.

To clarify, the price of this camera is for the body alone. I always recommend that a small body camera (especially a camera meant for travel) should be complemented with as small, lightweight lens as possible.

Fuji has numerous amazing lenses (check out the best Fuji lenses for X mount cameras), but I’d always pick the Fujinon 23mm f/2 WR as an all-round excellent lens for travel.

Fuji-XT20_sample_photos_001
Fuji X-T20 JPEG sample with in-camera custom settings applied. Note the retention of highlight/shadow detail in subject and background.

Once you’ve chosen a lens for the Fuji X-T20, you’ll find it hard to put it down. Fujifilm are known for making great-looking cameras that are also small, lightweight and feel great in the hand. Paired with a small lens, the Fuji X-T20 is a near-perfect travel camera.

Stealing almost all the best features of its bigger, more expensive brother (see the Fuji X-T2 review), the Fuji X-T20 is great value for money for those photographers who want the most from an APS-C sensor in a small body.

Fuji uses similar X-Trans sensors on all its X series cameras, delivering incredible image quality for the APS-C sensor size. Fuji doesn’t even bother with full frame sensors, such is its confidence in the smaller sensor format!

JPEG photos straight out of the Fuji X-T20 can be made as vibrant and sharp as you wish using the custom settings, and skin tones and auto white balance are always very accurate. The auto-white balance on Fuji cameras is actually better than most pro-grade dSLRs I’ve used.

Fuji-XT20_sample_photos_004
Fuji X-T20 JPEG sample with in-camera custom settings applied. Note the wide dynamic range, straight out of camera.

RAW images produced by the X-Trans sensor contain a surprising amount of image data, meaning that you can experiment to your heart’s content with your photos using Lightroom or other photo editing software. Plenty of pros can confidently deliver images shot with these sensors to clients.

Auto-focus on the Fuji X-T20 is also very impressive, with 325 focus points and 8 frames-per-second ready to capture all the action. The camera also offers multiple AF-C modes to accurately track a moving subject.

My favourite feature on the Fuji X-T20 is the ability to use the tilting LCD touch screen to both focus and shoot an image.

The 1.04 million dot count on the LCD screen is actually the same as on the screens of Fuji’s flagship models, meaning you’re getting a lot for your money here.

Being able to shoot at waist height just by prodding the LCD screen is great fun, and in some travel situations, very useful too. If your choice of camera for travel revolves heavily around discreet shooting, this (or the aforementioned Olympus) is definitely the camera for you.

Fuji-XT20_sample_photos_003
Fuji X-T20 JPEG sample with in-camera custom settings applied.

Having numerous physical dials and buttons on the Fuji X-T20 makes it simple to use. Fuji’s menu system isn’t the most user-intuitive, so being able to control the majority of the camera’s features using good old-fashioned knobs and buttons is a welcome feature!

In reality, almost all of the Fujifilm X series cameras could be considered great for travel. However, it’s the Fuji X-T20 which really hits the nail on the head for me, providing the perfect balance in all the criteria I mentioned above to make it one of the best travel cameras of the year.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST PRICE ON THE FUJIFILM X-T20

#7 | Some Random dSLR Camera…

dSLR as a travel camera?

You may be wondering at this point why I haven’t included a single dSLR in my list of the best travel cameras.

I own several dSLRs and love them. I’ve even written a guide on mirrorless cameras vs dSLRs, so I know full-well the advantages and short comings of using a dSLR.

I also believe that no one should buy a dSLR solely as a travel camera. dSLRs use mirrors, and this mechanism makes the majority of them too large and unwieldy to be used efficiently as travel cameras.

As for the Nikon D3400, Canon Rebel SL1 and any other smaller entry level dSLR which can be paired with a small, light lens and considered an acceptable size for travel, well they just can’t compete with the other mirrorless cameras on this list.

Sure, they can produce great looking images, but when you start comparing their  specs, it’s easy to see why cameras without mirrors are really leading the technology race.

In summary, if you want to pursue photography as a hobby and like the dSLR format, sure, get an entry-level dSLR and take it with you on holiday… but if you want a travel camera, do me a favour and just pick one of the ones in the list above – you’ll be much happier!

The Best Travel Cameras | Final Words

not a travel camera
Don’t ever let me catch you on holiday with one of these hung around your neck…!

I hope you enjoyed my roundup of what I believe to be the best cameras for travel in 2017. When you’ve just spent hundreds of dollars on a holiday, I know it’s tempting to skimp a little on camera purchases. After all, you’ve got your iPhone, right?!

However, I’m a strong believer in getting the best quality image every time you take a photo, as well as having a camera that’s enjoyable and convenient to use.

For photos of your loved ones on holiday right down to photos of the mountain you just skied down, capture those memories in all their glory by investing in a great camera for travel.

I have access to some of the best dSLR camera equipment available, but I’d never dream of using those big, bulky cameras for travel. The perfect travel camera in my mind is one that you can imagine having around your neck for a whole day without a second thought.

Safe travels and happy snapping!

Travel Cameras & Lenses recommended in this review:

Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post contain affiliate links which help support Shotkit.

28 Comments

  • Great article my friend. All you articles have so many important details. Yes, carrying my Canon 6D around with her 24-105mm lens can be a pain in the butt…. I am seriously thinking of a new one and this article gave me a lot of ideas.

  • Nice read, but I ofte wonder when you’re not a snapping casual travel photos, but yet not a pro. Like most(?) who reads photography related sites, I travel to take photos for my own joy and often want/need a varity of focal lengths when traveling. It’s very useful and interesting to see how like minded solve packing for their road trip, city trip or hiking trip.

    I have often traveled with my X100/s/t/f and it is one of my favorite cameras. Yet, I want that DSLR for Anthelope Canyon or Horse Shoe Bend. Or maybe some of the wildlife. I often end up only taking the X100F out if we’re out for dinner or somewhere where a larger DSLR may be a little “out of place”. Also, the lack of weather sealing especially during Winter (I don’t tend to be so much outside in the rain..). In the end I always end up bringing multiple cameras…

    I really wish I could be satisfied with just a smaller and a larger camera. ;-)

    • haha yeah it’s often a question of compromise, Ian. I too wish I could have my D750 performance in a small, lightweight, pocketable body, but unfortunately that’s not possible yet.

  • Thanks for the great write up on travel cameras. I just came back from a 5 week family road trip out to the Canadian Rockies (BC and Alberta) from Ontario with my wife and 2 boys. I am not a professional photographer – just an enthusiast shooter. I have both a D750 and a D3300 but my D3300 is my travel camera. It’s small and light and paired with the 18-55 and 55-200 lenses that can retract to smaller size, it worked perfectly. Paired with a Peak Design capture clip, I took my D3300 everywhere and it never got in the way. I did bring all my other gear but I had a travel trailer to store it in. I used my D750/Nikon 14-24mm for landscapes and star shots.

    • Nice insight, Chris. I used to do something similar with a Nikon D40 and 35mm lens (50mm equivalent). The small dSLRs paired with lightweight lenses are fine for travel, but I just feel they lose out to all the technological advancements present in mirrorless cameras of the same price nowadays.

  • You might also look at the original Sony A7….light weight…full frame…weather resistant…cheap…add the fe 28/2 and the fe 85/1.8…one super package.

    • Ah yep nice recommendation, George. I haven’t had any hands on experience with the camera personally but know someone who raves about it. Will investigate!

  • Nice read. Have to disagree on the X100F lens being sharper than the interchangeable options available- I owned one and sent it back as shooting wide open with it, I just didn’t like what I was seeing. At F2 I found the images soft and not as good as my X-Pro 2 and 23mm F1.4, or the F2.

    I worried though that I’d been too hasty as I loved the rest of the camera, and got one on loan for a recent trip to see U2 in Dublin. It was perfect for everything that weekend, small, I was able to take it into the concert without anyone stopping me for having a ‘pro’ camera, but I still felt the images at F2 weren’t as good.

    I will look again at the next version in the hope that Fuji updated the lens as I feel it’s just not as good as the rest of the camera.

    • Ah interesting. It’s definitely a tough comparison as it’s not really an apples to apples thing, but I did feel the image was sharper when you stop down on the X100F. The 23mm f/1.4 or 2 are both excellent lenses – I’d have a hard time deciding between the two if I owned an X-Pro 2.

  • Oh no! Always hesitating between the X100F and the X-T20 for different reasons and now they are both featured in the same article!! Which one would you choose?

    • I chose the X100F for the reasons I mentioned above ;-) They’re both great cameras, but their uses are slightly different. If you aim for simplicity, follow my suit. If you crave versatility, get the X-T20.

  • Mark, too much to choose from, I took a Sony HX90V walking in France recently and some city/urban time.
    The results were excellent, the camera fitted in my shirt top pocket, good zoom. I use the pictures for collage and multi media/illustration/installation

  • Thank you for the insightful and useful post as always! If investing in a second camera – do you think the Fujifilm x100 earlier versions would be worth getting to get a used one at a lower price point for the x100s or x100t? I have the Fujifilm xt-1 and I am about to trade it in for the xt-2 I would love to have another small portable camera. Would you recommend the Fuji x100 (is it worth getting the newest even with the high price point?) or do you think one of the other cameras would be a better to developing my personal kit?

    Additionally I have a gopro hero 5 session, an old panasonic point and shoot, and a Nikon D90.

    • Hey Nicole, I wouldn’t recommend the X100 series cameras except the T or the F. Ideally the F, since the advancements are considerable. I’ve used the original and it’s very slow. I owned the S and it was much better, but still slow. The T is good enough, but the F is definitely the best. I’d get a used T, or save up for the F!

  • Surely need a bit of zoom in a travel camera. I’ve enjoy the Fujifilm X30 (or is there a newer model of this?) for travels – zoom, adjustable screen, optical viewfinder, mode selection via top dial, built-in flash, great ISO range, myriad of other features, fits a jacket pocket, unobtrusive for street photography.

  • I need to agree with George Mahlum about Sony A7. Actually, I am using it myself, and I can’t recommend it enough. Together with 28mm Sony lens, you can get some serious shots. Plus the size and the weight is perfect for me.

    Truth to be told, I like Fuji X100F a lot. Did not use it actually, but I used X100S, and I know that F is serious upgrade. But still for the price, I would go for a Sony variant.

    But than again, that small lens on Fuji is a winner, if you can live with only one lens (which in my opinion is awesome for travel ~35mm f3).

  • Great article! The main thing about it is that you first describe how to find best travel camera. I think Fujifilm cameras is best for traveling and have a high-resolution smart camera which makes travel more happier. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Weatherproofing isn’t about shooting in the rain, it’s about shooting when there’s surf splashing around, or in dusty deserts, or on beaches with swirling sand and so forth. Or even underwater (I’m no Jacques Cousteau but I always take a waterproof compact on holiday). And what about when it’s snowing? It can be absolutely beautiful.

    Pity to miss so many photo opportunities because you’re worried about damaging your equipment.

    Plus there are certain activities where rainwater gets in EVERYWHERE, no matter how well packed you think you are. I once had a camera wrecked by rain on a motorcycling holiday while it was packed in my luggage. And my Mum recently wrecked her compact while hillwalking in the rain – the camera was in a supposedly-waterproof pocket.

  • Great article! I am obsessed with the Fujifilm X100F and will hopefully purchase that soon for my travels. I too use a D750 for the heavy lifting. It’s a low light beast.

  • Great article, but I ofte wonder what really is travel photography. Personally I often travel to take pictures and since taking pictures is the main reason for visiting a certain place I often need more flexible solutions.

    I have the X100F and GR II. Great cameras for street photography and casual “snapshots”, but too limiting for wildlife, landscapes and architecture. I usually thorn between taking my X-T2 or D750 with various lenses. At least I am right now… On a vacation trip I will be more than happy with only bring the X100F or GR II, though.

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