I’m a professional travel photographer, and I also run an online travel photography course, and one of the most popular questions I’m asked by readers and students is what the best travel camera is.
With that in mind, I wanted to put together a definitive (and regularly updated) guide to what the best travel camera is, which will cover everything you need to know to help you choose the best camera for travel, based on your needs and budget.
I’m going to cover my top picks for the best smartphone camera for travel, best compact camera for travel, best mirrorless camera for travel, and best DSLR camera for travel photography.
These travel camera picks will suit a wide range of budgets, needs, and expertise levels. Our picks are ordered in approximate order of budget, from lower budget models through to higher end models.
I’m also going to go through in detail what you need to look for when buying a camera for travelling, and why each is important, so you can make the best choice for you.
Remember, the best camera for travelling is going to be very dependent on your needs and situation, but after reading this post you should be able to pick the right camera for you. I also have a guide to the best cameras for hiking and backpacking which contains some different options specific to those requirements.
This guide will also work if you are looking to buy a camera for someone else, and I recommend taking a look at our photography gift guide for more ideas of what to buy a photographer too.
Now, let’s get started by looking at what you need to think about when picking a camera for travel.
What To Consider When Picking A Travel Camera
Budget – How much do you have to spend on a travel camera?
This is an important one. Cameras vary wildly in price, from a couple of hundred dollars up to thousands of dollars. So you definitely need to think about how much you want to spend.
Also, this is a travel camera. Whilst you want to get the best shots, travel can expose you to risks, from loss to theft. Obviously, these are things that can be mitigated against with insurance, but it’s something to bear in mind when making an investment – the more pricey the camera, the higher the insurance premium.
Finally, don’t forget that the camera is only a part of the puzzle. You will also need things like memory cards, spare batteries, lenses – as well as possibly a tripod and filters. Your needs will vary, but don’t forget to include them in your overall budget – I’ve written a post on travel photography accessories to give you some pointers, as well as a guide to picking the best lens for travel photography.
Weight – How much are you willing to carry around?
This is a really important question. If you’re the kind of person who likes to travel light, then you’re not going to want a bulky DSLR. Having the best travel camera that sits in your hotel room while you’re out having fun isn’t going to be much use.
Even a mirrorless system might be too much for you if you want something that will truly fit in your pocket or purse, and your best bet is probably a smartphone or compact camera.
On the other hand, if image quality and low-light performance are more important to you than weight, and you’re happy carrying spare lenses, filters, and other accessories, then you’ll likely be looking at a mirrorless or DSLR system.
Remember, as a general rule of thumb, the bigger the camera, the more room it has for a larger sensor. A larger sensor means the camera can capture more light, which means you’ll get sharper, cleaner images even when shooting in darker situations.
Use – What are you going to be taking pictures of?
The type of photography you’re going to be doing makes a big different to the type of travel camera you will be buying. If your main goal is to take nice travel photos for your albums, social media, and to post to friends and family online, then any of the camera types will likely do the job.
However, if you’re going to be doing a lot of action photography, or need the camera to be fully waterproof, then something like a GoPro is going to be the best option.
If you like astrophotography, you’re going to need a camera with a big sensor to let in plenty of light and you might want to invest in a DSLR. Conversely, if you just want a general purpose camera with plenty of flexibility for a variety of travel scenes, from food to landscapes to people, then something like a mirrorless system will most likely be best, offering the best performance for the weight.
Extra features to look for in a Travel Camera
A lot of cameras these days come with extra features that you may or may not care about. I’m talking about touchscreen interfaces, built-in GPS, WiFi, weather resistance, pivoting screens, and so on.
The main features you should be looking at in terms of actual image quality are the sensor size, aperture range, level of manual control, and, for camera’s without an interchangeable lens, the optical zoom. Beyond that, which features you are interested in depend on your needs.
For example, you may also want to take videos with your camera. Some cameras are much better at video than others – notably Panasonic’s range of Lumix camera’s are known for their video performance.
Personally, I love having a camera with GPS and WiFi capabilities so I can easily remember where my shots were taken, plus I can remote control my camera from my smartphone. On the other hand, a touchable, pivoting screen isn’t a deal breaker.
What works for me might not work for you though, so think about which features are important to you when making a purchasing decision. The best camera for travel photography definitely varies from person to person, but hopefully the information in this post will help you make the right decision.
Photography Terminology To Know When Buying a Camera for Travel
Like any subject, photography brings with it a raft of terminology – some of it is important to know about, other things are manufacturer buzzwords that don’t really make any difference to your photography. Here are the important terms to look for when buying a camera for travel, and what they mean.
Aperture. The aperture is the hole in the lens that lets light in, and is one side of the exposure triangle. Aperture is measured in numbers, with an “f” preceding the number, for example, f/1.8, f/2.2. The smaller the number after the “f”, the bigger the hole, and the more light that gets in. Look for smaller numbers, which will let you get better pictures even when there is less light available, and also allow you to better control depth of field.
Optical zoom. This represents the difference between the smallest and largest magnification that the camera’s lens can achieve. So a camera with a 10x optical zoom can make objects seem 10x bigger in the image compared to when the camera is zoomed out.
Digital zoom. A totally pointless feature that some manufacturers add to their cameras. It’s basically a software zoom – the same effect you get if you zoom in on your PC or smartphone when you have an image. Avoid using it.
Focal length. Focal length is the proper photography term for optical zoom, and is a standard across lenses and manufactures. Optical zoom is an easy to understand number that you will find in point and shoot cameras. Focal length, measured in mm, is the number you will find on cameras with interchangeable lenses. The bigger the focal length, the more magnification the lens offers.
EVF. An electronic viewfinder. This means that the camera has a viewfinder, but rather than being a glass based version that shows the scene in front of you as your eye sees it, instead there’s a small electronic screen which shows what the camera sensor is seeing – the same as the display on the back of the camera. You generally only find these on high end mirrorless cameras.
Megapixels. Megapixels just refers to the number of pixels the camera’s sensor has. Mega means million. So 12 megapixels is 12 million pixels, and would be an image 4000 pixels wide and 3000 pixels high. 4000 * 3000 = 12 million.
Thankfully, manufacturers are nearly over the megapixel war, which is a good thing, because as long as you have over about 12 megapixels, you’re good to go. In some cases, such as smartphones, less megapixels is actually better, as you’ll probably get better low-light performance as each pixel on the sensor might be bigger. But yes, unless you’re planning on printing out your images on billboard sized canvases, you can essentially ignore the megapixel marketing.
OIS / EIS. These are image stabilisation technologies, either Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) or Electronic Image Stabilisation (EIS). OIS is found in a number of camera and lens systems, and a small number of smartphones, and is a mechanical system that compensates for small movements of the camera system, such as your hand. EIS is generally only found in smartphones, and is a software solution for motion compensation. OIS generally achieves better results.
Sensor size. The size of the sensor inside a camera is one of the most important specifications to be aware of. The bigger the sensor, the more light it can capture, and so the better it will perform in conditions where there is less light.
Sensor sizes range from tiny, such as those found in smartphones, and generally increase in size as the size of the camera increases. Here’s a diagram to show different sensor sizes, and you can read more about different formats here.
Do be aware that manufactures can be a bit sneaky when it comes to describing sensor sizes, particularly in compact cameras. They might for example, talk about having a “1-inch” sensor.
This refers to the type of sensor, rather than it’s physical size. So whilst a 1/2.3 inch sensor is smaller than a 1-inch sensor, neither sensor is actually close to 1/2.3 inch or 1 inch. See more on how physical sensor sizes map to actual sensor sizes here.
RAW. RAW is a file format that more advanced cameras use, allowing you to save the unmodified image data that the camera has captured, rather than the edited JPG version.
This gives you much greater control over the final look of your images, with the downside that file sizes are much bigger, and you have to edit them on your computer in an image editing program before you can use them anywhere.
Many cameras give you the option to shoot in RAW, JPEG/JPG, or to shoot in both. We recommend shooting in both even if you plan only to use the JPG version for now – in the future as your photography skills develop, you’ll be pleased to have the option to go back and edit the original RAW files.
You can find out more about RAW in my guide to RAW in photography. If you are interested in learning more about photography and understanding in detail all the terms above and how they affect your shots, check out my travel photography course, which has all the answers you need across 8 weeks of awesome lessons.
The Best Travel Camera in 2019
I’ve divided this list into the different types of camera for travel, with some information on what to look for in each category. I will keep this post updated with the latest travel camera options as they are released.
Then, each section has a series of the best travel camera recommendations ordered approximately by price, from lowest to highest. Note that prices change and sales occur, which is why we link you to the relevant pages on Amazon for up to date pricing information.
This should give you everything you need to know to help you make a decision on which would be the best travel camera for you to buy, based on your budget, usage scenario and luggage space.
Best Smartphones for Photography
Why pick a Smartphone for Travel Photography?
If you care about portability, ease of use, and not having to carry another device around with you, then my advice is to get a smartphone with a decent camera, and just use that. A smartphone can certainly make for a good travel camera, and the latest smartphones take excellent photos in a wide variety of situations.
They also have more features than your average small travel camera – you can share the images directly from the smartphone to your favourite social media platforms, plus have them automatically back up to the cloud as you go using something like the Google Photos app.
In addition, since a smartphone is a device that nearly all of us will be travelling with anyway, choosing one which takes good photos is a cost-effective way of buying a camera.
The main disadvantages are the lack of lens options, reduced manual controls, and generally poor performance in low-light due to the small sensor. But if you want something you’re always going to have on you, a smartphone is hard to beat.
Finally, I’d also add that’s its worth picking a smartphone with a good camera even if you plan on buying a standalone camera. It will serve as a good backup, and you are likely to always have it on you.
What to Look For When Buying a Smartphone for Travel Photography
Manufacturers are fairly inventive when it comes to squeezing tech into tiny smartphone bodies, but obviously there’s a limit to what can be achieved in such a small form factor.
Features to look out for include a wide aperture, which will let more light in, and let you capture shots in low light conditions. Some smartphone manufacturers talk about having bigger pixel sizes. This relates to the physical size of the pixels on the sensor, a number measured in µm, or micrometers. Larger pixel sizes are good as they are more light sensitive and help low light performance.
Speaking of pixels, be wary of high megapixel numbers. In my opinion, anything above 16MP is a warning sign that the manufacturer is trying to win you over with high numbers – you really want less megapixels, as each pixel can then be bigger to capture more light.
Other features to look out for are some form of stabilisation, either optical or electronic, which will let you get photos in lower light and compensate for your hand movement. Better smartphones will have more manual controls to give you more options for your photos. There are different types of focusing system, but I’ve never found a lot of variation between them. Waterproofing can be a benefit, meaning you can get photos in the rain or at the beach.
Also if you plan to travel internationally with your phone a lot, try to choose an unlocked phone so you can put a foreign SIM card in, and that works on multiple frequencies so you still get 3G and LTE/4G. and can still easily use it to call, text, and get online when travelling internationally. Here’s an excellent resource for finding out which phones work on which networks in which countries.
The Best Smartphone for Travel Photography
Here are five suggestions for current phones which I think are some of the best smartphones for travel photography and should definitely at least get you started in your search. Prices are for the unlocked version of the phones, you might be able to get a better deal through a carrier on a contract.
1. Honor 7X
With a dual lens setup and a seriously affordable price, the Honor 7X is an excellent choice for those looking for a budget smartphone with a decent camera. It features an f/2.2 aperture, an 16MP primary lens and HDR support. It’s missing image stabilisation, but at this price, it’s a steal. Check latest price here.
2. HTC U11
If you’re looking for a step up from the above phone but still want to stay on a reasonable budget, check out the HTC U11. This is also a single camera smartphone with a 12MP sensor, image stablisation, a large f/1.7 aperture as well as an excellent HDR mode. It also ranks very highly in the DxOMark tests for camera phones.
See price on Amazon here.
With exactly the same camera hardware and processing capabilities as arguably the best camera phone of late 2018 (the Google Pixel 3, see below), this Android smartphone from Google comes in at almost half the price.
The processor is slightly slower and the screen resolution isn’t as high, but to be honest, we really don’t think anyone will notice the difference in real world performance. You will notice the price though, which is a bargain considering the incredible images this phone can produce in all situations. This would be our pick for the best smartphone for travel photography. Check latest price here.
A phone made by Google, the Pixel 3 is widely regarded as having one of the best smartphone cameras on the market today. With a 12.2MP sensor toting huge 1.4µm sized pixels and an f/1.8 lens, this is a great pick.
There’s also OIS and the knowledge that being from Google, it’s going to be running the most up to date version of Android for a while. Check latest price here.
Samsung’s flagship Galaxy phones are known for their superior photography capabilities, and the Galaxy S10 is no exception. Unusually for a smartphone camera it offers a variable aperture, offering an f/2.4 – f/1.5 range, which is perfect for low light situations.
Pair that with large 1.4µm pixels on a 12MP sensor and OIS – all packaged in a water resistant smartphone, it’s no wonder that it is usually found at the top of the pile when people review cameras for smartphones. Check latest price here.
6. iPhone X
If you’re an Apple fan, you probably won’t even be considering the other phones in this list, and will be making a bee-line for the iPhone X, despite it being one of the priciest options in the list. It might be expensive, but at least Apple makes phones with great cameras.
The iPhone X offers a 12MP sensor with 1.22um sized pixels, OIS and an f/1.8 aperture, as well as a variety of advanced shooting modes. A second lens gives the option for telephoto shooting. A great choice if you’re an Apple person. Check latest price here.
Best Compact Camera for Travel Photography
Why pick a Compact Travel Camera for Travel Photography?
A compact travel camera offers a number of advantages. First, they offer larger sensors than most smartphones, so image quality and performance is usually improved. They are pocketable, so easy to take with you. They also tend to be designed to be more user friendly (hence the nickname point-and-shoot cameras) and are generally much less expensive than mirrorless and DSLR camera systems. Many models offer manual controls, and having a separate device means you can keep on taking photos even if your smartphone battery is on the way out.
One of the biggest advantages though, and the reason to pick a compact travel camera over a smartphone, is the optical zoom. All the compact travel cameras we feature have an optical zoom (except the GoPros), letting you get shots of distant objects that you wouldn’t be able to get with a smartphone.
The main disadvantages are the smaller sensor sizes compared to a mirrorless or DSLR and the lack of interchangeable lenses.
What to look for when buying a Compact Travel Camera for Travel Photography
There are a variety of features that compact travel cameras offer for travel photography. Key features to look for are the optical zoom, and specifically, how much optical zoom the camera offers. Other features include the size of the sensor – the bigger the sensor, the better the performance – the maximum aperture, and whether or not there is some form of image stabilisation technology built in.
Any camera with a long optical zoom needs excellent image stabilisation, as the more you zoom in, the more exacerbated tiny movements become.
Other features to consider depending on your needs include GPS, WiFi and touchscreen capabilities. Some more advanced compact travel cameras also include manual modes, which can really help you get the most out of them, and some even shoot in RAW. Let’s take a look at our pick of the best compact travel cameras.
The Best Compact Camera for Travel Photography
Here are a number of my top suggestions for recent compact travel cameras which I think are some of the best options for travel photography:
1. Panasonic Lumix ZS70 / (TZ90 in UK)
With a 30x optical zoom lens, a 20.3MP 1/2.3 inch sensor, OIS, full manual controls and RAW support, this camera puts out some great shots at an excellent price for what you get. It even has an electronic viewfinder.
A newer model was released in 2019 – the ZS80. This adds bluetooth but not much else, and we’re not sure that is a sufficient upgrade to justify the price difference, but it’s up to you.
2. Sony RX100
Sony has an extensive range of RX100 cameras, with six models released to date. This, the original version, was one of the first compact travel cameras to feature the large 1-inch type sensor, as well as full manual controls and RAW shooting.
It also has a fast f/1.8 aperture and a 3x optical zoom. It’s a little long in the tooth now, but you can pick one up for a great price, hence the inclusion in this list. You can also get newer models with newer features at increasing price points.
We use and love the RX100 version V, which offers a number of upgrades over this model and is available at a reasonable price. You can see the bottom of this section for the latest and greatest version as well.
At 1/2.3in, the sensor is similar to other cameras at this price point. Also, as with other cameras with a long zoom, it comes with the tradeoff that the maximum aperture only goes to f3.3, and at maximum zoom, is all the way down at f/6.9.
Still, it’s one of the best zoom cameras in our list of point and shoot travel cameras, especially at this price point, and the price is excellent for what you get.
If you need a camera that will survive nearly everything you throw at it, including drops and submergence in water, then this Olympus is a great option. It’s particularly focused on those looking for underwater photography, and unlike the GoPro mentioned below, it features a 4x optical zoom lens.
It also has RAW shooting, 4K video support, a fast f/2 lens and built in GPS, as well as a variety of dust, shock and waterproof features. Of all the cameras in our list, this is probably the one with the most survivability!
Successor to our originally recommend G9 X, the Mark II features a faster processor, allowing for faster shooting rates than it’s predecessor. Compared to previous cameras in the list the G9X Mark II has a larger, 1-inch sensor type, helping you get better pictures in lower light.
It has more manual controls, allows for RAW shooting, and an aperture that starts at f/2. The optical zoom isn’t too impressive at 3x, but you definitely get improved image quality from that larger sensor.
With an excellent 28x optical zoom packed into a small body, the camera offers an 18.2 megapixel 1/2.3in sensor, flipping touch screen, 4K video support, electronic viewfinder, manual modes, RAW support, bluetooth and 10fps shooting support.
It’s an excellent choice for a compact zoom camera, and reasonable priced for what it offers.
7. Panasonic Lumix ZS100 (TZ100 in UK)
Panasonic’s 1-inch sensor camera model is no slouch, with an f/2.8 aperture lens and an impressive 10x optical zoom. It also has full manual controls, a touchscreen interface, EVF, OIS and RAW shooting.
It’s a little more pricey, but that optical zoom is a definite bonus in the 1-inch sensor category. There is also a newer model, the ZS200, which costs a bit more and also has a 15x optical lens, although it has a narrower aperture as a result.
There’s a big jump in price to Sony’s latest RX100 model, the RX100 VII. Released in August 2019, this is one of the best compact travel cameras money can buy. Like the previous model in the lineup, the VI, this camera is a leap over previous cameras in the RX100 lineup as it has a far more impressive optical zoom, equivalent to 8x, with a 24mm – 200mm lens.
This compares very favourably to the previous optical zoom of models in the range (versions I – V), at 3x.
It’s also the first in the series to feature a variable aperture which is slightly slower – however we feel this is a reasonable trade-off due to the zoom capability. It also has image stabilisation, a tilting screen and an electronic viewfinder.
We would argue that this is the best small camera for travel photography, if you have the budget for it, although the improvements over the VI are not too significant, so if you can find that for a lower price, that might be the one to go for. We personally have the version V model which we got for a great price during a sale event.
9. GoPro Hero 7
Worth a mention in this category is the GoPro Hero range. Whilst GoPro’s don’t offer optical zooms, they do excel at action photography and video. If you need something that’s going to survive water and action, then the GoPro line is the best option out there.
Just be aware that this has quite a wide angle lens, which whilst great for getting everything in the shot, won’t let you capture far away action very easily.
Best Mirrorless Camera for Travel Photography
Why pick a Mirrorless Travel Camera for Travel Photography?
A mirrorless travel camera is a relatively new development in the travel camera space. They are similar to DSLR cameras, however they do not have an internal mirror to reflect light from the lens to the optical viewfinder.
This means that they can be smaller, lighter and more portable – making them a top contender for the best camera for travel.
Mirrorless cameras also have all the other benefits of a DSLR – larger sensors, manual controls, excellent image quality and interchangeable lenses.
In terms of disadvantages, they are of course larger and heavier than smartphones or compact travel cameras and are more expensive, especially when you factor in one or two good lenses.
Compared to DSLRs, they generally have poorer battery life, and less lens choice – although this latter is improving as mirrorless systems mature.
What to look for when buying a Mirrorless Travel Camera for Travel Photography
Mirrorless cameras come with different sensor sizes, from the micro 4/3 format up to full frame. All of these are larger than those you will find in compact travel cameras or smartphones, and again, the larger the sensor, the more light the camera can capture in any given situation.
Another key factor to consider is the lens selection. Different manufacturers offer different lens systems, so it’s worth investigating to be sure there are sufficient lens choices for the kind of photography you want to be doing. Also be aware that whilst most mirrorless cameras ship with a kit lens, you can also buy them without a kit lens and then buy a more suitable lens for your needs.
Other considerations include the screen type, if the camera has an EVF, WiFi, water resistance, focus system and so on.
Also be aware that all of the camera manufacturer’s below have a range of mirrorless options – I’ve done my best to highlight those that offer the best combination of price and features for travel photography.
Best Mirrorless Camera for Travel Photography
Based on a few years of experience shooting with a variety of different mirrorless camera systems, and feedback from fellow travel photographers, we’re put together our list of the best mirrorless cameras for travel:
1. Canon M100
With a large APS-C size sensor as found in their DSLRs, the Canon M100 is one of the best budget travel camera options to consider. It took Canon a while to get into the mirrorless camera game, but this is a good starter camera for sure.
With full manual controls, built in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth, as well as a tilting touchscreen, it has a lot to offer. The relatively large sensor offers good performance, and I’ve personally always found the Canon menu system to be the most intuitive to use.
If you want more features, including a viewfinder, faster continuous shooting and 4K video support, you might also consider the more expensive Canon M50.
2. Sony a6000
We’ve been recommending the Sony a6000 as the best budget mirrorless travel camera for a long time, and I believe it still fits that bill. With an APS-C sized sensor (the same as you find in most DSLR’s), fast autofocus, a tilting screen, EVF and a wide range of lenses, plus WiFi, this is an excellent bit of kit for the price.
It is also usually available as a bundle with two great lenses, which will set you up for a long time to come. Sony have released newer models, but as of writing we think this is still one of the best budget mirrorless cameras for travel.
Released in 2018, the Fujifilm X-A5 is Fujifilm’s entry level mirrorless camera model. That said, it has many features of a pro level camera, and produces excellent images at a good price point.
Considering the price point includes a well reviewed lens with optical image stabilisation, this should be a strong contender if you’re looking for an entry-level feature rich mirrorless camera. Check latest price here.
Olympus’s mirrorless cameras use a micro four thirds (MFT) sensor, which is a bit smaller than the APS-C size sensor found in the Sony or Fuji cameras. This doesn’t make a huge difference in my experience to image quality.
The Olympus has an excellent in camera stabilisation system (Sony and Fuji only offer lens based stabilisation to date), an EVF, a (fixed) touchscreen and WiFi connectivity. There’s also a wide range of micro 4/3 lenses available.
The GX9 is the 2018 version of our previous favourite Panasonic Mirrorless Camera, the 2015 GX8. Like Olympus, Panasonic’s mirrorless cameras use the micro 4/3 sensor. Whilst this camera is a bit pricey, there are a number of advantages.
To start with, Panasonic cameras are known for excellent video performance, and if this was a round-up of the best travel video camera, it would have many more Panasonic cameras in!
The GX9 also has the advantages of a fully tilting touchscreen, 4K video, excellent sensor based optical stabilisation, a wide lens choice (most micro 4/3 lenses will work). Unfortunately, unlike the GX8, this doesn’t have a weather sealed body.
The X-T30 features an APS-C sized 26.1MP sensor, excellent build quality and a reputation for taking superb, sharp photos.
You also get an EVF, a tilting touch screen and WiFi.
We’re now moving up to the full frame options, which I wanted to include a full frame option in this list, despite them being a little larger and often more expensive than cameras with smaller sensors.
A full frame camera has a sensor that is approximately equivalent to a frame of 35mm film, and they generally offer the best image quality and low-light performance.
They are also the most expensive. Sony made waves when they introduced their mirrorless full-frame system, and they now have a variety of products at a range of prices.
The a7 II in my mind represents the best value of the full frame mirrorless options, with in-body image stabilisation, a tilting LCD, WiFi and relatively fast autofocus. It’s all about that sensor though – if you want to go full frame with your mirrorless camera, look no further.
Whilst a newer model has since been released, the A7 III, the price jump is quite substantial, making version 2 quite a bargain.
8. Canon EOS RP
Canon’s full frame mirrorless range launched in 2018 with the Canon EOS R, and the RP is the more budget friendly offering, which has an excellent feature set in a very compact offering.
For your money you get a full frame sensor in a lightweight, weather-resistant body. There’s a flipping touchscreen, WiFi and bluetooth connectivity, and a 26.2 megapixel sensor.
The best news though is that if you are are an existing Canon user, there’s a lens adaptor. This will let you use all your existing EF and EF-S Canon lenses with the camera, meaning you don’t have to re-invest in all new lenses.
There are a few omissions – there’s no in-body image stabilization, and burst rates max out at 5fps However we think this is an excellent option, especially if you already have some Canon lenses.
Best DSLR Cameras for Travel Photography
Why pick a DSLR Travel Camera for Travel Photography?
If travel photography is something you intend to pursue at a professional level, then in my opinion a DSLR is still the way to go. The lens selection for DSLR cameras is still unbeaten, the optical viewfinder means that battery life is superior, and image quality is generally fantastic.
In addition, if you have already been using a DSLR travel camera and have a selection of lenses, then upgrading to a new body from the same manufacturer makes sense as you don’t have to invest in new lenses. The learning curve will also be reduced as most menu options and terminology remains the same between models from the same manufacturer.
The main disadvantages of a DSLR are the weight and cost – the weight in particular, especially when you add in some high quality lenses, is a real issue for many users.
If this is your first travel camera purchase, then I suggest that a mirrorless camera is a better choice for most travel photography use. They offer all the control you need in a smaller, lighter package, with an ideal balance of portability and image quality.
What to look for when buying a DSLR Travel Camera for Travel Photography
DSLRs tend to be the largest type of camera, so one thing that is important to look for is that the camera is comfortable in your hand. My suggestion is to visit a store and try the camera in hand, with a variety of lenses attached, to see how they perform before making a purchase. Canon and Nikon still rule the cameras in this category.
Features are fairly similar across most DSLR’s in terms of capability. They’ll either offer an APS-C sized sensor, or, more expensively, a full frame sensor.
Other features to look for include the ISO range, lens selection, weather resistance, GPS, WiFi, touch screen, autofocus system and number of control dials. More dials can be a good thing – letting you quickly set the camera up for different needs without having to dive into menu options.
If you do purchase a DSLR camera, do also take a look at our guide to using a DSLR camera to help you get the most out of it.
Best DSLR Camera for Travel Photography
We personally travel with both mirrorless camera’s and DSLR’s – for our work as travel photographers we still love our full frame DSLR – the image quality and lens selection still make these a great choice for us. Based on our experiences, here are the top five DSLR travel cameras available at the moment:
1. Nikon D3500
For the money you get a 24.2 APS-C sized sensor, solid performance and an excellent selection of lenses. To be honest, there’s not much between this and the more expensive Canon below other than this doesn’t offer 4K video support. It really depends what works for you and your budget.
2. Canon Rebel SL3 (EOS 250D in Europe)
The Canon Rebel line is an excellent series of good value entry-level DSLR cameras (my first DSLR was a Rebel), and the SL3 is no exception.
It’s one of the smaller SLR cameras Canon has made, and offers great performance for an excellent price. Specs include a touchscreen, 24.2MP sensor, WiFi, 1070 shot battery capacity, 4K video support, and compatibility with all of Canon’s lenses (and a great many third party lenses.).
The SL3 was released in April 2019, and it’s predecessor (and our previous pick), the Rebel SL2, is likely to be available at a good price as a result. It’s a very similar camera, featuring the same sensor, but has around half the battery life and doesn’t support 4K video.
3. Nikon D7500
Moving up into the “prosumer” category of DSLR camera’s, and Nikon’s version is the D7500. This is Nikon’s high end APS-C camera, with a 20.9MP sensor, fast autofocus, a weather sealed body, and Wi-Fi. It also has a tilting 3.2″ touchscreen.
If you’re looking to upgrade from an existing consumer focused Nikon to something a bit more professional from the Nikon range, this is a good choice.
And now for Canon’s high end APS-C camera, a logical upgrade from the Rebel line. The EOS 80D features a 24.2MP sensor, a very sensitive autofocus system, weather-sealing, WiFi, a movable touchscreen and WiFi. A great upgrade for any Canon user.
Finally, my favourite DSLR for travel photography – the EOS 6D Mark II. This is a full frame camera, offering excellent low-light performance from a 26.2MP sensor, weather sealing, as well as built-in GPS and WiFi.
Compared to its predecessor, and our previous favourite travel camera the Canon EOS 6D, the Mark II adds a touchscreen which swivels. It’s solidly built, and well priced, having seen some great discounts since it launched at $1800. For a full-frame travel DSLR, we think this is a great bit of kit.
Just be aware that it’s only compatible with “EF” mount lenses – any “EF-S” mount lenses from other Canon bodies won’t work. If it’s a bit pricey, do consider the original 6D, which is still a fantastic travel camera and is very competitively priced nowadays.
What is the Best Budget Travel Camera?
As a bonus section – this is one of the most popular questions I’m asked when people ask me to help them choose the best travel camera, so I thought a section to help those of you with a fixed budget would help.
My suggestion for the best budget travel camera is one of the following cameras:
1. Nikon D3500
It also comes with the advantage that you get access to all the Nikon and Nikon compatible lenses, which is a huge choice. If you’re keen on an SLR, this is a great option at a fantastic price point.
It’s also cheaper since the launch of the Mark 3, meaning you can pick it up with a lens and be right on budget!
3. Sony RX100
With full manual controls and the ability to shoot in RAW, plus a 1-inch sensor and excellent image quality, this is far more than “just” a point and shoot.
As mentioned in the compact camera section above, there are various iterations of this model available, and you can pick up one of the earlier versions for a great price.
Further travel photography reading and resources
And that summarises my guide to the best travel camera for travel photography! Hopefully you found it useful. I’ll be keeping it up to date as new camera models come out and prices change.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for more resources to help you make the most out of your travel photography, check out the following resources I’ve put together:
- My guide to picking the best lens for travel photography, which will be useful if you have a camera with interchangeable lenses.
- My always expanding series of Photography Location Guides, to help you get the best shot in locations around the world.
- Photos need editing to get the best out of them. See our guide to the best photo editing software for our suggestions. If you’re looking for something to edit your photos on, see our guide to the best laptops for photo editing
- An overview of my Travel Photography Gear, in case you wondered what a professional photographer has in his bag
- Our guide to what to buy a photographer, which has gift ideas at every price point and experience level
- A Beginners’ Guide to Improving your Travel Photos
- My series of Photography Tips, which I am always expanding and updating with posts like this one. See our guides to northern lights photography, lens compression, back button focus, fireworks photography, taking photos of stars, cold weather photography, long exposure photography, RAW in photography, use of ND filters, depth of field and photography composition, which should get you going
- And, if you’re serious about improving your photography, I run an incredibly comprehensive online travel photography course, which will teach you everything you need to know about photography and allows you the chance to get personal feedback from me and ask me as many questions about photography as you wish. Check that out here.
And we’re done! Thanks for reading – if you’ve got any comments, feedback or suggestions, just let me know in the comments below.