We cut out all the guess work and tell you the best camera for travel photography as part of our Ultimate Photography Series. Updated to include the best travel cameras in 2020.
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.
Don’t miss our latest post to help you get the most out of your images:
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.
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.
Are you on Instagram? Follow us on there to see examples of our work while we travel the world as professional travel photographers.
Choosing the Best Camera for Travel Photography
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?
Here is our list for the best travel cameras:
- iPhone XS
- GoPro HERO8 Black
- Canon SX740HS
- Sony RX100vi
- Canon G7X Mark II
- Sony A6300
- Sony A7iii
- DJI Mavic 2 Pro
- GoPro Fusion
Keep on scrolling to find detailed information about each of these, and why they really are the best cameras 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 8 Plus 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.
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 XS Plus
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 XS for one main reason – it’s far and away the best smartphone camera ever developed on an Apple phone.
The new dual camera lens system on the back boasts 12mp of pure goodness, and with one wide and one tele lens, it’s guaranteed to help you get more and more creative with your shots.
The Smart HDR feature has an enormous amount of depth and contrast, and it’s almost getting to the point where most travellers would be happy with just this phone to capture their holiday moments.
The portrait mode creates some stunning bokeh in the background, bringing a level of near-professionalism to those people and pet pics you’re bound to take.
And of course it 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.
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 HERO8 Black
(Just released is the new HERO8 – As always, GoPro are taking action cameras to the next level!)
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.
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.
The latest camera is the GoPro HERO8 Black, following hot off the heels of the successful HERO7, 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 HERO8, they’ve taken these to the next level.
The stabilisation is even better with HyperSmooth 2.0, TimeWarp 2.0 allows to switch between hyper lapse and real-time recording in the same video with a tap of the screen, and the SuperPhoto has improved HDR abilities.
SuperPhoto for photographers in particular means you can point and shoot, and barely have to edit before uploading to social media.
For the purists out there, the GoPro HERO8 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 guys out there the HERO8 claims to be a gimbal killer. What does that mean? It means HyperSmooth 2.0 is on another level.
The HERO7 stabilisation was amazing for vlogging and action sports and after testing the new HERO8 in Japan, 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 HERO8 there is now only a Black model.
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 SX740HS
The Canon SX720HS was a hugely successful compact camera, and Canon backed it up with the amazing SX740HS.
But like all good camera companies, Canon have stepped it up a notch again by bringing out the newest model in the range, the SX740HS at the end of 2018
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 4K 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.
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 sensor, meaning better low light capabilities, and faster burst shooting.
Best Point and Shoot 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 RX100vi
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 as well, this is an excellent option.
We have the Sony RX100iii, 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!
So what makes the new and improved RX100vi so damn good? Well here’s some of the latest features:
Now it has even longer zoom (8.6x optical, up from 3.6x optical, that’s like having a 24-200mm lens), an amazing 20mp one-inch sensor to capture huge dynamic range, high quality 4K video and an articulating screen.
It’s an expensive camera, yes, but if you want the absolute best quality on the market in small, compact unit that fits in your pocket, this is the best travel camera out right now.
*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 Travel 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: Canon G7X Mark 2
For the longest time we used to recommend the DJI Osmo, but in terms of pure practicality and quality you can’t beat the Canon G7X Mark 2 as the best vlogging camera for travel on the market.
Shooting in excellent quality 1080p, the camera also boasts in-built image stabilisation, a 20mp sensor for stills, beautiful colour grading and awesome durability.
The screen flips up so you can look at yourself (great for keeping your face in the frame) and it’s incredibly intuitive. For travel vlogging, this is your go-to camera.
NOTE – Keep an eye out for the rumoured up-and-coming Canon G7Xiii!
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 as part of a bundle, 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), 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.
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, 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 A7iii OR Sony A7Riii
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, A7S and the new A7iii), 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.
As of 2018 Sony have now announced the three new models in their series – the A9, the A7Riii and the A7iii. And holy damn, they are a huge upgrade!
We just bought the latest and greatest Sony A7Riii, which some say is the best professional camera on the market, and all we can say is that we’re blown away!
The image quality is superb and the dynamic range is insane. The low light capabilities are also amazing. We cranked up the ISO to 12800 to see how it would handle, and there was barely any noise in the shot.
So far we haven’t tested the video quality on it, but reports say that it’s awesome. We’ll let you know in the near future once we check it out.
For the longest time we also used a Sony A7ii, which we absolutely loved. But it was sadly time for us to sell it, and as of a few weeks ago we have also added the A7iii to our arsenal!
So how do we like it? In a word – it’s incredible!
Wondering about the other new cameras Sony have announced?
The A9 is more of a wedding and sports photography camera with an insanely high burst rate, but for the best travel camera for professionals the A7iii and A7Riii are the ones to look at.
We personally recommend you go for the A7iii, as it’s just damn near perfect. 4K video, a lightning fast autofocus system (arguably the fastest on the market now), joystick control, touch screen, faster processor, upgraded sensor and an 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.
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.
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 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 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.
It has only just come out and shipments are still rolling through from the factories, but if you can get your hands on one of these you’ll be stoked.
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.
Sony have released the 16-35mm f2.8, and if the reviews are anything to go by this is an absolute beast! Pretty much every review on photography sites points to this being one of the best wide angle lenses out there. It’s not cheap, at around US$2199, but to have such a fast and wide native lens for the Sony set up is pretty epic!
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
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 released at the end of 2017, but it is 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 2 Zoom
UPDATE – On August 23rd 2018 DJI announced the newest drones in their phenomenal Mavic lineup: The Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom. This cements the series as the best drones for travel on the market.
When the DJI Mavic Pro was announced in October 2016, it shook up the entire drone industry. Here was 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! Remarkable!
In 2017 DJI then announced the Spark, which opened the door for people who were wanting to buy the best drone for travel but not necessarily into professional quality images and video.
However we need to be honest: The Spark seemed like more of a toy than a camera you would be happy take on the road with you.
In 2018 DJI announced the next update in their much-loved Mavic series, the Mavic Air! It was a great addition, but now something even better has come along…
The new Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom have hit the streets and reports are they are phenomenal.
The Mavic 2 Pro is now equipped with a 1-inch Hasselblad camera, which has finally upped the quality of stills you can get to a near-professional level.
The Mavic 2 Zoom comes with an optical zoom feature, which allows you to get closer to the action while maintaining safe distance, and add a new creative flair to your photography and videography.
Both of them have an upgraded processor, 360-degree camera obstacle avoidance and a whole bunch of other wonderful features.
They handle high winds pretty well (although not quite as good as the DJI Phantom 4), take excellent video and photos and has a good battery life of over 30 minutes.
If you don’t already have a travel drone, then this is the perfect introduction to this amazing aerial world.
So which one should you choose?
The Mavic 2 Pro has the better camera, and that alone makes it perfect for aspiring pros out there.
But for those that don’t need the larger sensor, the Zoom is arguably the option. It’s also cheaper, so you can put your savings towards other accessories like filters.
Back to what we said before – the best camera is the one you have with you. And with the DJI Mavic 2 series being as small as they are, 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 Mavics).
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: GoPro Fusion
We had been playing around with an Insta360, which is made by a company out of China.
We have to admit, it was fun, but really it felt kind of gimmicky and the quality was real low. Fine for social media, but that’s about it. We shot our ‘kayaking in Antarctica’ 360 vid on it, and you can see what we mean.
But recently we got our hands on the new GoPro Fusion, the action camera industry leader’s 360 cam, and wow what an improvement!
It’s absolutely phenomenal, and not only does it capture a 360 shot using two cameras on the front and back, but you can really push the visuals in the editing software it comes with.
You can do way more than the over-saturated ‘Little Planet’ shots that you see everywhere now. You can change the pitch, yaw, field of view and angles to get the view you desire.
The pics are captured on two SD cards (one for each camera) at 18mp. It also shoots video at 5.2K, which is insane.
We’ve found ourselves using this camera way more than we ever did with the Insta360. Bring a whole new perspective to your travels with this camera!
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?
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