We cut out all the guess work and tell you the best camera for travel as part of our Ultimate Photography Series.
One of the best souvenirs you can bring home from your travels is photographs. As the old saying goes, pictures are worth a thousand words, and nothing brings back the excitement and thrill of holiday memories quite like looking back at your photos.
If you’re the kind of person that would like to walk away from your vacation with amazing images, then you’re going to need to get the best travel camera. People say, “It’s not the camera that takes good photos, it’s the photographer”, and this is completely true. And while there’s a reason pros don’t use low quality equipment, for the majority of travellers there’s no need to spend a lot of money on the best camera to travel with.
Luckily today the best cameras for travelling don’t necessarily come at a high price, and with upgrades in technology comes portability as well. We’ve been working as professional photographers for 3 years now, and have done all the research necessary to help you find the best camera for travel. (By the way, here’s a great article by Brendan Van Son about how to make money as travel photographer).
We’ve also published another piece in our Ultimate Photography Series – all about the Best Camera Accessories on the market.
Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or professional, or even if you know nothing at all, we’ll help you make the right choice. We have personally used every single camera on this list. We’re not telling you to go out and buy something just because it sounds good. We’ve researched, studied and put these good travel cameras to the test.
So grab a coffee, kick back and learn all about the best cameras for travel.
Choosing The Best Camera For Travel
No matter what level you are, the first piece of kit you are going to need to buy is the camera. This can range from a smartphone to a cheap point-and-shoot right up to a top-of-the-line DSLR that can cost as much as a small car.
A quick visit to a camera store can leave you feeling completely overwhelmed with all the choices. So what is the best camera for travelling, and where should you start?
Click the links below to jump to a particular section.
Best Smartphone Camera
Best Action Camera
Best Cheap Camera For Travel
Best Compact Travel Camera
Best Camera For Vlogging
Best Mid Range Camera For Travel
Best Professional Camera For Travel
Best Drone For Travel
Best 360 Camera For Travel
First Pick Your Photography Goals
The first thing you will need to do is decide what your goals are with your travel photography. Do you just want to get some snaps to look back at now and then and maybe upload them to social media? Are you going to try and document as much of your trip as possible? Keen on video? Thinking about getting serious and taking your photography to the next level?
It’s totally up to you. But one thing we will say is that once you start capturing some great photos and learning about the basics of travel photography, it gets very addictive.
Remember, if you think that perhaps one day you will really get into photography it can sometimes be better to get a camera that is better so you can grow into it. Rather than buying a new camera every trip, save money in the long run by spending a bit more of your budget upfront.
On the other hand, there’s no point buying the best camera for travel photography if you’re never going to use it to its full potential. Only you will know whether it is something you are going to want to pursue later down the track.
Best Smartphone Camera
These days a good smartphone takes incredible photos! When they first came out they were great for portability, and keeping in touch, and that’s about it. But now even the pros are publishing shots from their phone and they’re quickly becoming the best small cameras for travel you can buy.
For the last few years we’ve always used dedicated cameras that give us a range of lens options and manual settings. But just recently we picked up an iPhone 7+ and have been blown away with the images we get out of it! So much so that we’ve actually started leaving our pro camera behind now and then!
Has a simple phone become the best camera for travel? Perhaps…
Another great photography saying is that the best camera is the one you have with you. There’s no point having $20k worth of gear if it’s sitting at home and you miss a great photographic opportunity. With a smartphone you are more likely to have your camera on you at all times, and they are discreet enough that you can use them in markets, in churches or just about anywhere.
Our advice is that if you are going to be focusing on getting the greatest photos and video possible, get the latest smartphone like the iPhone 7 series, the Samsung Galaxy S7 or the Huawei P9. They really are the perfect travel accessory and worth spending money on. Otherwise any of the older models work fine (we’ve seen some great footage coming from the iPhone 6 as well).
Our Recommendation: iPhone 7
Even if you are a staunch Android fan, we recommend the IOS system for a number of reasons. First of all there is a huge amount of amazing photography apps that can only be found IOS, and the operating system works really well and is stable. But this isn’t a story about what whether you should choose Android over IOS…
We recommend the iPhone 7 Plus for one main reason – it’s what we use and we trust it. The camera is phenomenal, it has great low-light capabilities, it shoots pretty wide and has an excellent zoom. It takes HDR (high dynamic range) photos, captures burst (never miss a moment again), shoots video in 4K and has exposure and focus lock.
Personally we believe that this should be your first choice for choosing the best camera for travel.
Want something cheaper? Then definitely check out the Sony Xperia Z5. 23 megapixel camera, shoots in 4k and is only about $370!
Best Action Camera For Travel
Action cameras have come a long way since we bought our first one back in 2010. They used to be reserved just for people who were into extreme sports – skiing, skydiving, motocross, scuba diving, etc. Now they have become one of the top travel cameras on the market thanks to their durability, compact size and high quality.
The good ones shoot in 4K video, are completely waterproof and even come with wifi remotes so you can take great photos from any angle. You can also shoot time lapse photography, which is great if you’re catching an epic sunrise or particularly busy urban scene.
Even if you are not interested in jumping off of cliffs or mountain biking through a jungle, having an action camera is still a brilliant accessory to have to play around with. They are especially awesome if you’re looking for the best cameras for adventure travel.
Our Recommendation: GoPro Hero5
The undisputed king of action sports cameras is GoPro, and we’ve been proudly using them for over 6 years. These epic cameras have insane image quality and shoot some remarkable video. They’re also extremely durable, waterproof and fit in your pocket.
Adding to the GoPro series is a huge range of accessories that makes getting footage limited by only your imagination. Different mounts allow you to put them just about anywhere, extension poles get unique angles (perfect for selfies), you can stick a GoPro on a tripod and there are even filters available.
The latest camera is the GoPro Hero5 and it’s risen the bar once again. Now it shoots in RAW format (awesome!), is voice activated and the entire unit is waterproof, meaning there is no need for its bulky casing anymore.
Best Cheap Travel Camera
If you want a dedicated camera that is cheap and still takes decent photos then you really are spoiled for choice.
We’ve personally owned a whole range of different brands in this range, from Canon to Fuji to Olympus to Sony, and with the way the market is now if you’re not fussy about brand you get, then you can’t really go wrong. But let us explain what you’ll need.
You’ll basically be looking for a small point and shoot, something that is foolproof and most importantly quite durable. Having a lot of zoom is a big bonus so you can crop right in on different scenes.
The ability to use manual settings will come in handy if you ever want to play around and learn a bit more about how photography works. And you want something affordable so that you want be overly worried if you lose it (just make sure you backup your photos).
Our Recommendation – Canon SX720HS
This great little camera does it all, and for the price it is the best travel zoom camera out there. 40x optical zoom, manual settings, shoots in 1080p HD video, good colour grading and comes in a very small body.
It also has wifi so you can transfer photos straight to your phone or laptop without plugging it in, or control the camera from your phone. Perfect for the general traveller who just wants something to take decent photos with on their trip.
Best Compact Travel Camera
This is the next level up. You still want the portability and benefits of having a point and shoot, but you want to take incredible photos too. You’re interested in learning about the fundamentals of photography, and perhaps want to one day print your photos or maybe put them up online. Ultimately you’re after the best pocket camera for travel.
Here are the things you’ll need: Full manual settings, a decent size sensor, zoom (although not overly important), high quality video, articulating screen (so you can shoot from different angles while still framing your shot), ability to shoot in RAW format, good ISO performance and a wide aperture.
This is the category that most people will be in. So if you’re asking yourself what is the best compact digital camera for travelling, read on…
Our Recommendation: Sony RX100V
This is, in our opinion, the best point and shoot camera for travel on the market. It does everything you’ll ever need it to do and has incredible image quality. If you ever want to get into vlogging either, this is an excellent option.
We have the Sony RX100ii, and while it’s quite a few years old now it’s still epic. All the photos taken in this article we wrote for BuzzFeed were taken on this camera. That’s right – we sold our photos that were taken on a small point and shoot camera to one of the biggest websites in the world!
The Mark 5 is arguably the best camera for travelling if you don’t want to step up into a mirrorless setup.
*HOT TIP* If you want a camera that is not only excellent for still shots, but makes for a great vlogging camera (see below), then this is the camera you’re going to want to get.
Best Camera For Vlogging
Vlogging is the newest craze, and it’s quite literally taking over as the new digital media of choice for many travellers and influencers.
If making videos is more your style instead of taking photos, then you’re going to want to look at a camera that has a range of specific features. Most importantly is the ability to shoot in 4K (even if not many people have 4K monitors today, in a few years it will be common and you’re going to want to have footage to match the current standard).
Once you’ve got this another handy feature is an articulated LCD screen that can face you while you’re talking in the lens. This allows you to frame your shot instead of cutting off half your head. Lastly you’ll want a microphone jack to catch better audio.
Get the camera, start filming and put some great videos up on YouTube! Sounds easy, right? But what is the best travel camera for vlogging…
Our Recommendation: DJI Osmo
This is the new kid on the block for travel vloggers, and for good reason. The camera is great, you can attach a range of accessories to it, you use your smartphone for an LCD screen (and can flip it around to face any angle), and most importantly it has a mechanical gimbal for capturing steady footage!
This might not seem that important at first, but have you ever tried to watch a video where the person is walking quickly? It can make you feel nauseous. The DJI Osmo works as a steady cam, meaning all your shots are going to be fluid. And if you’re looking at shooting some cinematic style footage this is brilliant.
It also allows you to shoot great hyperlapse and timelapse footage, so it really is leading the way as the best camera for vlogging. Only issue is the battery life isn’t great, so make sure you pick up a couple of extras.
Honorary Mention: Canon G7X Mark 2
We couldn’t talk about the best camera for vlogging without mentioning the legendary Canon G7X Mark 2. This has been the best video camera for travel vloggers for a long time, and is well worth checking out if you want something more portable than the DJI Osmo.
The screen flips up so you can look at yourself (great for keeping your face in the frame) and it’s incredibly intuitive.
Best Mid Range Camera
You’ve broken out of the realm of standard point and shoots, and you’re looking for a camera that has interchangeable lenses. You’re getting into the idea of shooting wide, or perhaps portrait shots. Maybe you really would like to get a longer zoom. Most of all, you really want to get serious about photography.
In your kit will be a range of lenses for a range of situations. You can look at getting filters to give beautiful effects on your shots. You might even want to start growing your photography portfolio.
A few years ago everyone would have recommended you to get an entry level DSLR. This is no longer the case. With the way mirrorless technology has gone DSLRs are losing traction and popularity. Now you can get something with the same image quality for half the size.
What Should I Choose – Mirrorless vs DSLR
A DSLR (digital single lens reflex) works by having a mirror inside the camera. When you are looking through the viewfinder the mirror is down, covering the sensor, and you are looking at a reflected scene. When you push the shutter the mirror flips up mechanically, allowing the image to be exposed onto the sensor, and then onto your SD card. All these moving parts take up room, hence why DSLRs are larger in size.
With mirrorless cameras there are no moving parts inside. The image comes through the lens and directly onto the sensor. The viewfinder is electronic, meaning you are seeing a digital copy of what your pointing the camera at, rather than a live view. So without a mirror constantly flipping, the camera can be made a lot smaller. That’s why mirrorless cameras can be half the size of a DSLR.
When mirrorless cameras first came out the quality wasn’t that great. Now they are just about on par with DSLRs, and the portability means that they are the best cameras for travel photography! Have a read of this article for more information.
Our Recommendation: Sony A6300
The Sony A6300 is an absolute powerhouse and puts up a good fight for being the ultimate travel camera. In fact we’re just going to come out right now and say it – the Sony A6300 is the best camera for travel abroad available!
We recently picked up this little powerhouse, and have quickly fallen in love it. We’re using it mainly for vlogging, but more and more we’re feeling happy snapping shots with this one rather than pulling out our Sony A7ii or changing lenses.
The Sony A6XXX series have continuously improved their autofocus capabilities, and today have the fastest AF on the market. They’re very small, have a great selection of lenses available and have phenomenal image quality.
The Sony A6300 has now been superseded by the new A6500, and this too is an excellent camera with inbuilt 5-axis image stabilisation and a touch screen. But we recommend the A6300 because it is cheaper and still fantastic.
If you want the latest camera then you can buy it here, and choose your lenses to suit your needs., or look at buying the body on its own and picking your lenses to suit your needs.
If both of these are out of your budget, but you still want to go down the Sony Alpha mirrorless system (and you definitely should), then the Sony A6000 is still a solid camera!
Bonus: Recommended Lenses For Sony A6300
You can really get away with the standard lenses that come in most kits, but there are a couple of exceptions that you could splurge out for.
All Sony E mount lenses will fit onto the Sony A6XXX series (including the spectacular full frame range, with a crop factor). So if you are ever considering an upgrade to full frame and want to buy some new lenses for your APS-C sensor, you can fork out the money early and still use your lenses later on.
The kit lens for the Sony A6300 is the 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 zoom, and for an entry-level piece of glass it does the job. Many travel photographers could get away with just this one, but if you are into more specialised travel photography then you’ll want to check out these great options.
Best Wide Angle Lens
There’s really only one option in this range, and it’s the brilliant 10-18mm F4. To this day one of the best photos we’ve seen taken of the Petronas Towers was taken with a Sony A6000 (older model) and this lens.
Best Portrait Lens
The Sony 50mm F1.8 is a great choice for a native portrait lens. It’s light, fast and cheap. The quality is decent without being amazing, but it definitely does a wonderful job for what you pay for. Otherwise step up to the FE 55mm F1.8 (read about it below).
Best Zoom Lens
Keeping with the affordable and light range that makes for great travel camera lenses, we recommend the Sony 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3. For the amateur and hobbyist photographer this will do just about everything you need, and is a solid lens to have in your kit.
Best Professional Camera For Travel
If you’re like us and want to make capturing the absolute best images of your travels a priority, then you’ll be looking at a professional range of travel cameras.
Following on from the discussion on mirrorless vs DSLR, you’ll get many professional photographers who choose to stick to cameras like the Canon 6D or 5D series, or the Nikon D750 or D810. These are legendary cameras in the industry, and with the enormous range of lenses available for each one, there’s a reason the best in the business use them.
But, we’re talking about the best camera for travel. And for this, we recommended sticking to mirrorless. Full frame DSLRs are big and heavy, whereas their equivalent in mirrorless are a fraction of the size. If you have decided you want to take the leap to a full frame sensor and want to be rocking the best mirrorless camera for travel, then you have only two choices.
Our Recommendation: Sony A7ii OR Sony A7Rii
At the moment Sony is the only camera maker that produces a full frame mirrorless system, and oh boy do they do a good job at it!
The Sony A7 series are almost flawless. Fantastic image quality, 4K video capabilities (on the A7R and A7S), articulating LCD screens, wifi, light, compact and a whole range of native lenses available for it make them the absolute best cameras for travelling. And with the Metabones adaptors you can even use your old Canon, Nikon, Sigma, Samyang or other type of lenses on it.
We have the Sony A7ii, which is the model below the A7Rii (and a lot cheaper). The difference is quite substantial (24MP vs 42MP and superior low-light performance on the A7Rii just to name a few), so it will be up to you to decide whether you want to fork out the extra cash for it.
Update – With the announcement of the Sony A9, and rumours of the new Sony A7iii around the corner prices for these cameras have now dropped by quite a few hundred dollars.
We are going to be buying the A7Rii in the next few months to upgrade our system – that’s how much we love the Sony A7 series! It really is the best camera to buy for travel photography.
Bonus: Recommended Lenses For Sony A7 Series
If you’re going for the Sony A7 series, we’ve got some bad news for you. Full frame lenses are expensive. But if you’re considering turning your photography hobby into a profession, then this is a small sacrifice to make for the quality of photos you’ll be taking.
The great thing with the Sony A7 series is that their lenses are all interchangeable, meaning if you start out with a Sony A6300 and eventually upgrade to a Sony A7, you can take your old lenses and put them on the new camera (but it will have a crop factor).
The standard kit lens with the Sony A7ii is the decent 28-70mm F3.5/5.6. For a kit lens it’s pretty good, but if you are getting serious about your shots you’re going to want to add to your collection pretty quickly.
Best All Round Lens
The FE 24-240mm lens from Sony is potentially the best all round travel zoom lens for photography. With an enormous zoom range and good price tag, you can honestly just pick up the one lens and never travel with anything else. It’s not the sharpest or best quality lens on the market, but for travel photography it’s awesome.
Best Wide Angle Lens
For landscapes and architecture you can’t beat the FE 16-35mm F4. This is our personal favourite, and we use it more than any other lens.
Rumour has it that Sony are about to announce a 16-35mm F2.8, which will no doubt be an absolute beast. But until they do stick with the F4, or buy the Canon equivalent (get this one second hand to save some dollars).
Best Prime Lens
If you are into portrait or street photography make sure you get the FE 55mm F1.8 prime lens. It’s very fast, very light and very sharp. And with such a good value, it may be the best prime lens that Sony makes (excluding the high-end Zeiss and G series).
Best Zoom Lens
For the longest time we never had a telephoto lens because they are just too big and bulky. But with some big upcoming photography projects we have we bit the bullet and bought the Sony FE 70-200 F4 zoom lens. We won’t lie – it’s awesome. The constant F4 aperture isn’t as fast as the new 70-200mm F2.8 that Sony just released, but it is less than half the price and takes some absolutely fantastic photos!
Best Drone For Travel
Aerial photography has gained in popularity over the last two years, and it’s easy to see why. Not that long ago the only way to get photos from the sky was by taking a chartered flight or helicopter. But today just about anyone can go out, buy a drone and start taking shots from very unique angles.
The appeal is obvious. Capturing epic photos and video of landscapes from a perspective that few have ever seen before. From the moment we bought our drone we fell in love with it.
Good drones up until now have always been quite prohibitive when it comes to travel due to their bulky size. The DJI Phantom series helped make it more accessible for most people, but even then it was still a commitment to travel with one.
Today the best drone for travel has finally been determined.
Our Recommendation: DJI Mavic Pro
Just released in October 2016 the DJI Mavic Pro is a foldable drone with a 4K video camera on a mechanical gimbal attached to it. When folded up it quite literally fits in the palm of your hand!
UPDATE – For the longest time the DJI Mavic Pro has been on backorder as the company couldn’t keep up with demand. People have been waiting for months for their drone to be shipped. However today DJI is able to ship out the Mavic Pro within 7 days of ordering!
It handles high winds pretty well (although not quite as good as the DJI Phantom 4), takes excellent video and photos and has a good battery life of 27 minutes. You can choose to get it with a controller, or simply use your smartphone to control it. (Note – we strongly recommend an IOS smartphone to use with the DJI App. We used to have an Android and it would occasionally freeze, putting us in a whole lot of worry when the drone is 2km away!)
Back to what we said before – the best camera is the one you have with you. And with the DJI Mavic Pro being as small as it is, you’ll be more likely to take it with you on your next trip. It really is the best drone for travel on the market!
Note – With whatever drone you buy we highly recommend buying extra batteries. You’ll be surprised how quickly you chew through these. Check out the bundle packages from DJI (called ‘Fly More’ on the Mavic).
Best 360 Camera For Travel
With virtual reality becoming more and more popular, it might be no surprise that one of the best travel cameras for 2017 is actually a 360 degree camera!
These incredible little devices come with multiple cameras on one piece, managing to capture an entire scene in one shot in both photos and high definition video.
When they first came out they were very poor quality, but now they’ve improved enough that we actually travel with one full-time now.
Our Recommendation: Insta360 Nano
A new company out of China called Insta360 has revolutionised the 360 degree camera market. They make a variety of different cameras, but the one we have is actually a phone attachment.
The Insta360 Nano plugs into the bottom of our iPhone, then using the app we can take a photo, shoot video, make a timelapse and now even do a 360 degree live Facebook video!
This thing is so much fun – Check out our ‘Kayaking in Antarctica’ video for an example of what it can do.
Note – If you have an Android phone instead of an Apple, get the Insta360 Air.
That concludes our list of the best cameras for travelling. Let us know if you have any other recommendations, or if you use any of these cameras while travelling the world!
What do you think is the best camera for travel?
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. That means that if you buy any of the items through our links we will receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps cover some of the costs of running this website. We only recommend items that we have personally used and like and stand by our suggestions. And if you use any of these links for your purchases, we will love you forever!
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