Photography is a huge part of travel for many backpackers, we all want to capture memories as beautiful as the moments we experience. Choosing which camera to buy however is like navigating the back streets of Bangkok; it’s scary and you’re never quite sure what to expect. Where do you even start? There are a lot of options here, do you choose a compact or mirrorless or a DSLR? Will you go for a full frame or cropped sensor? What do these things even mean?
The right camera simply depends on you and what you’re looking to get out of your trip, and once you figure that out choosing your kit will be easier. Check out our simple guide and see which travel cameras we are loving right now
- 1 Best Point and Shoot Cameras Under $500
- 2 Conclusion: Best Point and Shoot Camera
- 3 Best Smartphone Cameras
- 4 Conclusion: Best Smartphone Camera
- 5 Best Mirrorless Camera
- 6 Conclusion: Best Mirrorless Camera for Travel
- 7 Best DSLR Camera
- 8 Conclusion: Best DSLR for Travel
- 9 Best Action Camera
- 10 Conclusion: Best Action Camera
- 11 Essential Travel Photography Accessories
Best Point and Shoot Cameras Under $500
If you have very little camera experience this is the best place to start. Point and shoot cameras are usually very easy and straightforward. You simply point at something and click away. They work amazing on automatic settings where things like depth of field and shutter speed are determined for you. While they lack the full creative control of a manual camera you can actually get some pretty amazing results, and for weight conscious travelers they don’t come much smaller or lighter. If you’re on a budget, here are pretty great point and shoot cameras under $500!
This Canon is a great option featuring a 20.2-megapixel sensor and a 4.20x zoom lens giving incredible results when shooting from afar or close up. It has amazing low light capabilities giving you great results in the dark without having to use the flash. There are manual settings but the automatic options ensure you’ll get great photos even if you’re not quite sure what you’re doing. Read full specs & reviews
This little beauty packs a similar punch to the Canon, it takes an incredible photo for its tiny size. What we like about this camera is the clever little pop-up viewfinder, however, its real advantage is its video capabilities. While both cameras shoot in full HD, this one edges on quality and shoots full HD at 120fps, meaning you can take slow-mo videos which look incredible. Read specs & full reviews
The cheapest of the bunch is this Nikon camera. Weighing a mere 232g it features a 16-megapixel sensor and 30x optical zoom. It also offers a 60x digital zoom which is better than other cameras within this price range. The LCD flip screen is a nice touch too, but image quality isn’t quite on the same level as the Canon or the Sony. Read full specs & reviews
Conclusion: Best Point and Shoot Camera
If you’re lacking in both budget and experience a compact is ideal for you and won’t take up valuable backpack space. I recommend that you go for the Canon Powershot G9x you’ll get great results that will fool people into thinking you had a ‘real’ camera all along, and it’s a steal at that price.
Best Smartphone Cameras
Most of us travel with a smartphone these days and they’re essential for getting around and staying connected. If you have a decent smartphone chances are you already have a pretty decent camera at your disposal. While some factors can be played with, they generally work on a similar point and shoot basis, with settings being decided for you as you happily snap away. Here are a few of my top picks for the best smartphone cameras.
Apple took things up a notch when they released the 7 Plus, it was the first apple phone to feature dual camera lenses. It houses both a wide angle and telephoto lens that work in unison, giving you the best possible result, without you even needing to know how. Its portrait mode is the best we’ve ever seen on a phone, giving you a ‘depth of field’ feature that keeps the subject in focus and produces a blurred ‘bokeh’ effect in the background. You honestly wouldn’t know some of these photos are taken on a phone. Read full specs & reviews
Google finally launched a phone capable of competing with the big boys and the camera on its XL version is certainly no letdown. The quality of photos produced, indoors or outdoors and even in low light is impressive and the video results are next level; the image stabilization feature is the best we’ve ever seen on a phone. Although quite honestly, for the price tag, we recommend going for the iPhone as the features of the new iPhones now are just insane. However, for Android users, this is a good choice. Read full specs & reviews
Conclusion: Best Smartphone Camera
While there are some much better compact cameras out there, make sure you check out your own phone before you spend any money, you might have everything you need already. The iPhone 7 Plus makes taking great photos a breeze so if you’re looking to upgrade anyway, you know where to go.
Best Mirrorless Camera
Mirrorless cameras are our weapon of choice for traveling. They can take your photography to the next level and they don’t weigh a ton like some bulky DSLRs.
The difference between the two types of camera is that, naturally, a mirrorless one doesn’t have a mirror inside. A DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) uses a mechanism whereby a mirror covers the sensor and reflects the image through the viewfinder and into your eye. When you want to take the photo it flips up and exposes the sensor. A mirrorless camera instead shows you a digital representation of that image and removes the need for the mirror…thereby making them much smaller, lighter and cheaper, but not overly compromising on quality. These types of cameras are a step up from a point and shoot. You have the option to change lenses and once you’ve mastered the manual settings you’ll start creating some incredible photographs.
When it comes to mirrorless cameras Sony has got it sussed. A whopping 24.3 megapixels gives A-6300 users extremely high-quality results. The colors and realism you’ll get here will blow you away, especially when you consider its body is not much bigger than some compacts. You’ll need a good lens for this and while some of the Sony E-mount lenses are ok, you might want to look into other options such as the Sigma 19mm f/2.8. see full kit with basic lens
This is an incredible camera. It is the only full frame mirrorless camera you can buy, meaning it really doesn’t have any disadvantages when compared to a DSLR. It is small and compact yet you won’t believe the kind of shots you can get from this. The exceptional anti-shake feature means you won’t ever suffer a loss of quality and with the right lens this could be all you ever need for traveling. We recommend pairing it up with the Sigma 24-70mm, and incredible all-rounder that you’ll probably never need to change. You’ll need a Sony LAEA4 Adapter for this to work, but its worth it. Read full specs & reviews
For its price and capabilities, the Fuji X-T10 is another great option if you’re looking to go mirrorless. It matches the Sony A6300 in terms of its power but its build quality is much more durable and rugged than the Sony series. Again you really need to think about what lens you’ll match this with, but its big selling point over all the others is that it just looks cooler, especially this silver version, it has that old school film-era camera feel. Read full specs & reviews
Conclusion: Best Mirrorless Camera for Travel
Without a doubt, the standout camera here, in fact throughout this whole guide, is the Sony A7 mark II. Buy it with the Sigma lens and adapter and you won’t ever look back. I’ve been using mine endlessly throughout my travels and I’m extremely happy with it.
Best DSLR Camera
These days a DSLR isn’t the best choice for travelers. They’re big, bulky, expensive and while you’ll obviously get amazing results, a mirrorless camera won’t be far behind. If you do take your photography that bit more seriously though there are some great options out there.
It’s time to play with the big boys now. There are some amazing companies making amazing cameras but when it comes to trustworthy DSLRs look no further than Canon. Canons are pretty much the kings here and their E0S 7DS mark II is your best choice. With 20.2 megapixels the 7DS is one of the highest resolution full-frame DSLRs available and has some amazing video features such as a custom movie servo autofocus. The downside? The size. It’s big and bulky. Read full specs & reviews
Another huge player in the camera sphere is Nikon. This puppy is a bit pricier than the Canon but you will definitely notice the difference in quality. This is pretty much professional level. If you want to shoot lions chasing after gazelles on the Serengeti go for this. If you just want to take photo’s of your friends on a boat trip, don’t bother. Read specs & reviews
Conclusion: Best DSLR for Travel
Only get a DSLR if you’re serious about travel photography and have a specific purpose for one. There are much better options out there for backpackers and for the type of shots you’ll likely be shooting. However, if you want to up your photography game, the Canon 7D Mark II is a great choice.
Best Action Camera
On top of beautifully, scenic landscapes shot you’ll probably want crazy videos of you jumping off cliffs and boats and the like. Unless you love breaking things you’re gonna need an action camera on top of your regular one. Small, light, compact and waterproof you can take these anywhere and do pretty much anything to them.
We’re not going to make any surprise recommendations here, GoPro simply has the action camera market all wrapped up. They just keep getting better too. This latest iteration is fully waterproof meaning it doesn’t even need a case. It offers incredible video footage and the ability to shoot at 4k means you can also pull pretty decent stills from your clips. Jump off this, fly off that, swim under whatever…the GoPro will literally go anywhere and record your adventure in the process. Get one. Now. Read full specs & reviews
Look, we’re big fans of Sony and in fairness, their latest action cam is a tidy piece of kit. It’s great for filming underwater video, it can film in 4k with amazing results, especially when deep diving, but you know, it’s just not a GoPro. However, if you can look past its slightly bulky exterior, it is a great action camera and is really useful for recording full underwater videos. Read full specs & reviews
Conclusion: Best Action Camera
Do you even need to ask?
Essential Travel Photography Accessories
If you’re looking for a compact tripod, get a Joby Gorilla pod. They are a great alternative to lugging around a heavy full tripod, especially if you’re on a long trip and they are super strong and durable. Just make sure you get the right spec for your camera. This will hold up to 3kg and has various ball heads to attach to your camera. Read full specs & reviews
Manfrottos’ are the boss when it some to camera bags. Strong and well padded, you wouldn’t want to trust your camera in anything else. They have some great small bags, big enough to fit your camera and a single lens, and some fully stacked backpacks that’ll hold all your gear similar to this one. Read full specs & reviews
Lens pen is your best all round solution for keeping your camera gear clean. Lenses can pick up quite a bit of dirt on your travels and you really don’t want to be wiping them clean with your grotty t-shirt. Invest in a set of these as they’ll fit snuggly in your camera bag and save you getting any nasty spots on your photos. Read full specs & reviews
This is our favorite accessory for traveling. Stick your GoPro inside its waterproof casing and go have some fun. Great for clear underwater shots, even better for those awesome half in/half out water shots all your friends have been posting. Read full specs & reviews
So there you have it! Whether you’re off to Africa to a capture the beauty of the exotic safari, or off to surf the epic waves in Costa Rica or Indonesia, being able to document your travels is one of the best things about traveling in this day and age. Looking back and seeing all the fantastic shots that you’ve captured along the way is one of the best ways to relive your travels.
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