We’ve spent years working as professional travel photographers, and are proud to have put together this definitive guide to the best travel cameras in 2021 for every budget, based on actual hands-on experience.
One of the best souvenirs you can bring home from your adventures abroad 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.
These days almost everybody has a decent camera in their pocket, thanks to the wonders of modern smartphones. And while these are fine for the average person, if you really want great image quality, you’re going to have to invest in something better.
People say, “It’s not the camera that takes good photos, it’s the photographer”, and this is completely true. Yet there’s a reason professionals use expensive gear – they are better for the job.
Never fear though, that doesn’t mean you need to go out and spend $10k on a set-up! Definitely not.
In fact this article is going to save you time and money by diving straight into the best travel camera for every budget.
So why listen to us?
Based on our personal experience, we’ve been able to narrow down the absolute top choice in every category.
Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or professional, or even if you know nothing at all, we’ll help you make the right choice so you don’t waste your money getting something that just isn’t up to the job.
Let’s dive into our comprehensive guide for the best camera for travel photography.
READ MORE: Check out our comprehensive guide on how to take better travel photos.
Table of Contents
- What is the Best Travel Camera in 2021?
- GoPro HERO9 Black – The Best Action Camera
- Canon Powershot SX740HS – The Best Affordable Camera
- Sony RX100 vii – The Best Compact Camera for Travel
- Canon G7X Mark iii – Best Camera for Vlogging
- Sony A6600 – Best Mirrorless Camera for Travel
- Sony A7iii – Best Professional Camera for Travel Photography
- DJI Mavic Air 2 – The Best Drone for Travel
- GoPro Max – Best 360 Travel Camera
- How to Choose the Best Camera for Travel
What is the Best Travel Camera in 2021?
Without further ado, let’s get into the article!
GoPro HERO9 Black – The Best Action Camera
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 connect to your phone so can take great photos from any angle.
They 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 compact camera is still a brilliant tool to have in your suitcase.
They are especially awesome if you’re looking for the best cameras for adventure travel.
The undisputed king of action sports cameras is GoPro, and we’ve been proudly using them for over 7 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.
Check out our GoPro HERO9 Black review to see if it’s right for you.
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.
We’ve had just about every GoPro camera since the original HERO was released, and we’re super excited to share that the newest one on the market is by far the best ever.
Their latest camera is the GoPro HERO9 Black, following hot off the heels of the successful HERO8 (click the link to read our review of it), and it’s risen the bar once again.
When the HERO7 came out they introduced a number of revolutionary features, such as HyperSmooth (in-built image stabilisation), TimeWarp (awesome hyper-lapse videos) and SuperPhoto (HDR photos on steroids).
Well for the HERO9, they’ve taken these features to the next level.
The stabilization is even better with HyperSmooth 3.0 (in-built horizon levelling), TimeWarp 3.0 allows to switch between hyper-lapse, real-time and slow-mo recording in the same video with a tap of the screen, and the SuperPhoto has improved HDR abilities.
There’s now a face-fronting screen, perfect for making sure you’re in the frame for selfies and vlogging.
SuperPhoto for photographers, in particular, means you can point and shoot, and barely have to edit before uploading to social media.
That’s not all though. GoPro have finally updated the camera sensor to shoot 20 megapixels. Something that we’ve all been begging for from the king of action cams for years.
This article talks more about how to take better GoPro photos, written by a pro.
For the purists out there, the GoPro HERO9 now shoots in RAW format for all photo modes, including 0.5-second time-lapse mode.
There is still voice activation and the entire unit is waterproof, meaning there is no need for its bulky casing anymore.
Also the night photography mode on it is really awesome. Who would have thought you could capture light trails and the Milky Way on such a tiny camera?
For the video gurus out there the HERO9 claims to be a gimbal killer. What does that mean? It means HyperSmooth 3.0 is on another level.
The HERO7 stabilisation was amazing for vlogging and action sports, as was the HERO8, and after testing the new HERO9, the stabilisation is even better again. Don’t know how they do it, but they do! And it works at 4K at 60fps.
Want slow motion? How does 1080P at 240FPS sound? Buttery smooth, that’s for sure.
Whereas in previous models they had White, Silver and Black models, for the HERO9 there is now only a Black model.
Canon Powershot SX740HS – The Best Affordable 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 best travel camera market is now if you’re not fussy about the 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 big zoom range 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 won’t be overly worried if you lose it (just make sure you backup your photos).
The Canon Powershot SX720HS was a hugely successful compact camera, and Canon backed it up with the amazing SX730HS to become the best budget travel camera.
But like all good camera companies, Canon has stepped it up a notch again by bringing out the newest model in the range, the SX740HS.
This great little travel camera does it all, and for the price, it is the best travel zoom camera out there.
40x optical zoom, manual settings, shoots in 4K video, good color grading, and it is one of the better compact cameras out there.
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 traveler who just wants something to take decent photos with on their trip.
It also has a large articulated screen, so you can angle your shots perfectly, whether you’re shooting from the ground or above the head.
A few more updates over the SX730HS is an improved small sensor, meaning better low light capabilities, and faster burst shooting.
Sony RX100 vii – The Best Compact Camera for Travel
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 control, a decent size sensor, zoom, high-quality video, flip 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.
READ MORE: Check out our comprehensive guide to the best landscape photography tips!
This is the category that most people will be in. So if you’re asking yourself what is the best compact digital camera for traveling, read on…
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 in a premium compact size.
Sony have completely revolutionized the market with the RX100 range, and with each update it just gets better and better.
Without a doubt there’s no bettter option for the best compact camera for travel out there than the Sony RX100 vii right now.
The Mark 7 has a very long zoom range (8.6x optical, up from 3.6x optical, which is like having a 24-200mm lens), an amazing 20mp one-inch sensor to capture huge dynamic range, high quality 4K video and an articulating flip screen.
It’s an expensive camera, yes, but if you want the absolute best quality on the market in a small, compact unit that fits in your pocket, this is the best travel camera out right now.
BONUS TIP – If you want to create travel vlogs and have a decent camera for photography too, this is the model for you!
Canon G7X Mark iii – 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 travelers 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…
The Canon G7X Mark ii has always been considered the ultimate travel camera for vlogging, but it fell short in a few different categories.
That’s all changed now with the newest upgrade, the G7X Mark iii.
Shooting fantastic 4k video, this travel camera now has an in-built microphone jack for improved audio, a flip-up touchscreen for keeping your face in frame, and has a faster start-up time than previously.
The image quality is also much better now, and with manual control functions it really is a premium compact travel camera.
Sony A6600 – Best Mirrorless Camera for Travel
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.
The Sony A6600 is an absolute powerhouse and puts up a good fight for being the ultimate travel camera.
For entry-level mirrorless cameras, Sony broke the mould by introducing the A6000 a few years ago. Since then every model has been lightyears ahead of the competition.
The latest A6600 is their newest offering, and for a compact camera, it is seriously next level.
It boasts one of the fastest autofocus capabilities of any camera on the market, an improved APS-C sensor capable of high-level video and great image quality, a touch-enabled articulating LCD screen and excellent electronic viewfinder.
The range of lenses available for this Sony mirrorless camera is huge, and manages to cover all bases for whether you want to shoot 4K video or take images that you can sell to magazines.
Bonus: Recommended Lenses For Sony A6600
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.
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), although this will give you a 85mm perspective on the APS-C sensor.
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.
Sony A7iii – Best Professional Camera for Travel Photography
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 above, 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 travel cameras. 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.
Sony was the first major camera producer to create a full frame mirrorless camera, and while Canon has finally caught up, Sony has years of research and development on their side.
The Sony A7 series is almost flawless. Fantastic image quality, 4K video capabilities (on the A7R, A7S and the A7iii), articulating LCD screens, wifi, light, compact and a whole range of native lenses available for it makes them the absolute best cameras for traveling.
And with the Metabones adaptors you can even use your old Canon, Nikon, Sigma, Samyang or other type of lenses on it.
As of 2021, Sony’s top cameras are the A7iii, the A7Riv and the A9ii. Now while the A7Riv and A9ii are absolute beasts of cameras, the truth is you most likely don’t need all the features they have.
We currently own the A7iii and the A7Riii, and for travel photography, they are the best on the market.
The image quality is superb and the dynamic range is insane. The low light capabilities are also amazing. Even at ISO 12800, there’s barely any noise that shows up on the shot compared to a compact camera.
We personally recommend the A7iii as the best travel camera out there, as it’s just damn near perfect.
4K video, a lightning-fast autofocus system, joystick control, touch screen, fast processor, upgraded full frame sensor and amazing battery life.
If you’re the kind of person that loves to blow up their images for print, or does a lot of cropping when you edit your shots, then that’s when you’ll want to step up to the A7Riii, as it has a 42mp sensor.
Buy this and it will be your go to camera for travel photography.
Bonus: Recommended Lenses for Sony A7iii
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.
Trust us, if you’re buying the best camera for travel photography on the market, you’ll want to also have the best lenses to go with it.
The great thing with the Sony Alpha series is that their lenses are all interchangeable, meaning if you start out with a Sony A6600 and eventually upgrade to a Sony A7iii, you can take your old lenses and put them on the new camera (but it will have a crop factor).
Best All-Round Lens
The new FE 24-105mm f4 lens from Sony is pretty much the best all round travel zoom lens for photography.
It’s damn sharp, and with a constant aperture of f4, it means you can get excellent bokeh and decent low-light performance at any focal length.
This lens practically lives on our A7iii, as it’s so versatile, great for video and the image quality is fantastic.
Best Wide Angle Lens
The Sony 16-35mm f2.8 GM lens is one of the best wide angle lenses on the market, and when you throw it on your travel camera, you’re almost guaranteed to get fantastic shots.
Pretty much every review on photography sites raves about it, and having owned it for over a year now, we completely agree.
It’s not cheap, but to have such a fast and wide native lens for the Sony setup is pretty epic! If you want a cheaper alternative, check out the 16-35mm f4, which is also very good.
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 GM series).
Best Zoom Lens
Owning a telephoto lens isn’t just about taking photos of wildlife or zooming in on things that are far away from you. It adds a whole new creative element known as lens compression to your arsenal.
This is the optical illusion that happens when the further you zoom into something, the bigger the background appears.
DJI Mavic Air 2 – The 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 first drone (a DJI Phantom 4) 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.
The DJI Mavic series is what you should be looking for when considering a travel drone.
With foldable legs and compact size, they tick all the boxes for portability.
There are a few different models to consider, and it really depends on your needs.
If you’re a professional, we recommend the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, thanks to its 1-inch Hasselblad Sensor and 360-degree collision avoidance.
But just announced is the Mavic Air 2, and with features like 48-megapixel photo mode, panorama capabilities and 4k video, it’s the best option for anybody trying to take travel photos from the air on their next trip.
Its small size and great value makes it perfect for travel, but one thing to consider is the fixed focal length, meaning you can’t zoom in to take photos.
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 Mavics).
GoPro Max – Best 360 Travel Camera
With virtual reality becoming more and more popular, it might be no surprise that one of the best travel cameras for 2021 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.
360 cameras became popular when the Chinese company Insta360 started to bring out their affordable options, but the image quality was always pretty poor.
Then GoPro stepped onto the scene with the Fusion, and it changed the industry forever.
With all the standard great features GoPro is known for, such as being waterproof, having awesome connectivity and packing it all into compact cameras, the Fusion took things to the next level.
It did require a bit of work to use though, and the stitching wasn’t great. Plus with two SD card slots required to save media, it was just that bit too cumbersome for most photographers.
Cue the Max!
The GoPro Max took the best parts of all their cameras and threw it together into one unit with this one.
The Max, with its dual lenses on either side of the body, now uses just one SD card, making storage and management so much easier, and it has a touch LCD screen that can be used on the go.
For people looking for travel cameras that can do it all, it doesn’t just shoot in 360-degree mode.
There is their ultra-wide single perspective, and for having a small sensor, the low light shots are surprisingly good.
If you’re a travel vlogger you’ll be amazed at the quality of this! The inbuilt microphones do a great job at picking up audio while cutting out background noise, and the battery life is great.
It shoots at 5.6k video quality and 30 frames per second. You can change the pitch, yaw, field of view and angles to get the view you desire.
Even more unique, it can create 360 time-lapses and hyper lapses with a simple click. No need to pull it up in a program like Adobe Premiere Pro to make your videos any more!
Best of all it connects seamlessly to your smartphone using the GoPro app, so you can do all your editing, sticking and keyframing on the go.
When it comes to a travel camera that tries to do it all, this one is hard to beat.
That concludes our list of the best cameras for traveling. Let us know if you have any other recommendations, or if you use any of these cameras while traveling the world!
How to Choose 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 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.
Keep on scrolling to find detailed information about each of these, and why they really are the best cameras for travel.
What Features to Look for in a Travel Camera
There’s a number of different features that you need to look for when searching for the best travel camera to buy, based on your needs.
Size and Weight
The first thing to look out for is how big and heavy a camera is.
When you’re on the road traveling, weight and space is a huge issue to overcome. You don’t want to be lugging around a heavy backpack full of gear if you don’t have to.
If you’re not a pro or a big enthusiast, we recommend checking out a compact camera or mirrorless camera, as they are smaller and more portable, while also providing decent image quality.
One thing that camera companies and salespeople like to preach about is megapixels. But what exactly does that mean?
A pixel is a tiny dot of color that you see on your computer or phone display. A megapixel is 1 million (actually 1,048,576 to be technically correct) of those dots. So ‘24 megapixels’ so about 24 million dots of color
You may hear that more megapixels equal better quality photos, but this isn’t entirely true.
The sensor has more to do with image quality than the resolution does, but it does play a small part.
In short don’t get caught up about more buying a camera with more megapixels, unless you’re planning on printing your images on billboards.
Instead just use this guide to the best travel cameras to find out exactly what is the best choice you can afford.
One thing to consider when looking at the best travel camera is whether or not you can change the lens.
The reason this is important is that it gives you more choices down the road if you decide you want to get into different styles of photography.
A compact travel camera is most likely a fixed lens, meaning that whatever zoom range it comes with you can’t change.
A camera that you can change the lens on will let you upgrade to wide-angle lenses, a zoom lens, better maximum aperture options for low light performance, etc.
In general, if you can afford a mirrorless camera or DSLR, it’s worth buying.
A camera that allows you to change the manual settings gives you complete control over things like aperture, ISO and shutter speed.
This opens up a whole new world of creativity, and in our opinion, you shouldn’t consider a camera that doesn’t have this feature.
Luckily every recommendation on this list allows you to control those settings, even the GoPro HERO camera below!
It’s 2021 – make sure you get a camera that can shoot 4K video!
This provides much higher resolution when shooting video, and even if you don’t have a 4K monitor at home, you can always take that clip and watch it in high definition 1080p, or even crop into your footage.
Just beware that 4K video chews up your battery life, so make sure you have some spare ones!
Unless you plan on always being in perfect weather when you travel, it’s a good idea to get a camera that is either waterproof, or has good weather sealing.
Unfortunately you often have to compromise on a waterproof camera or a quality travel camera (unless you buy a GoPro), so we don’t recommend buying a camera that is fully waterproof.
Instead just make sure it has decent sealing, or look at buying an underwater housing if you want to get into underwater photography.
How far you can zoom in on a subject is very important when trying to decide the best travel camera.
If you buy a fixed lens camera, make sure it has a long zoom range, like a Canon Powershot or the Sony RX100vii.
Or if you buy a mirrorless camera or DSLR, you don’t have to worry about this as you can always upgrade later.
No matter how steady you think you are, you will almost always have a small amount of camera shake when taking handheld photos.
If you’re shooting at fast shutter speeds, this isn’t a problem. But if you’re photographing in low light, you can end up with motion blur.
Look out for cameras that have inbuilt image stabilization to counter this.
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.
There is an electronic viewfinder, meaning you are seeing a digital copy of what you’re 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!
In case you’re not sure what we mean, this article goes into a bit more information, but in short, we recommend getting a mirrorless camera.
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