One of the things that first attracts people to photography is the opportunity to take photos while traveling. Being able to take stunning photos in amazing places and share them with your friends and family is very rewarding. Whether you are hoping to sell your pictures at a gallery or art fair, or just share them with fans and friends on Facebook or Instagram, travel photography can be a whole lot of fun.
When it comes to choosing a camera for travel photography there are some important factors to consider. Because camera options are as varied as the types of photographers out there, it helps to know what you are looking for when you go to make your purchase or rental. Keeping this in mind, being better informed of your options will help you make the right choice. Check out our article on the best mirrorless camera for travel to get an even better idea of what gear is right for you!
The 12 Best Cameras for Travel
What to Consider with Travel Photography
The type of travel you plan to do – One of the most important considerations when selecting a camera is the type of travel you intend to do. Someone who is primarily traveling to urban areas might be willing to haul around more weight, while a person who is taking their gear on a backpacking trip might prioritize a smaller setup. If you plan on taking photos of both architectural details and sweeping landscapes, you will probably want a camera with interchangeable lenses. If street photography in foreign places is your jam, you may appreciate having something that is small and inconspicuous. If you are headed to places that are sandy, wet, and unpredictable, weather sealing and ruggedness is of the utmost importance.
Whether you plan to take video – While most modern cameras have video capabilities, their quality and features vary depending on the model and type of camera. If taking video is important to you, a camera with a flip screen and the ability to shoot video at resolutions of at least 1080p is the best bet.
How much you want to spend (and how much are you willing to lose) – Let’s face it, travel can be rough on your equipment. Between camera bags being lost on planes (pro tip: always bring your camera gear as carry on baggage), harsh environments, and stuff being stolen, cost is definitely something to take into consideration.
WiFi capabilities – If you want to be able to post photos while on the go, look for a camera that connects wirelessly to your phone. Many modern DSLRs and mirrorless cameras can communicate directly to your phone for instant uploads. Being able to control your camera with your phone is also useful if you want to take selfies while on the road!
Best Cameras for Travel Photography
Regardless of where your travels take you, there are some cameras that always come out on top. These full frame cameras (which have sensors the same size as the frame of 35mm film) offer the best of all worlds—superior image quality, fast and accurate autofocus systems, a large number of megapixels, and excellent low light performance.
($153 for 7 day rental / $3,200 MSRP, body only)
When it comes to image quality, versatility, and weight, Sony’s a7RII may be the best travel camera around. You may be surprised to see a non-DSLR at the top of this list but there is a good reason for it. This full frame mirrorless camera incorporates the best things about a DSLR (lots of megapixels, changeable lenses, fast autofocus, excellent low light performance) into a small and portable package.
This is the best travel camera for backpackers or anyone who is willing to spend good money on something small, light, and powerful. The a7RII has all of the modern touches that a travel photographer could want, including WiFi, a tilting screen, and the ability to record 4K video. While this camera is not weatherproof, it is sturdy, dust resistant, and well built.
($129 for 7 day rental / $2,600 MSRP, body only)
Canon’s 5D Mark III is one of the most popular higher-level DSLRs on the market and one of the better cameras for travel. This 22.3 MP full frame DSLR has fast autofocus, excellent low light capabilities, and the ability to shoot 1080p video at 30 FPS. There is a reason that the 5D Mark III has made our lists for best Canon DSLRs, best DSLRs for video (see our 15 Best Cameras for YouTube Videos), and best DSLRs for beginners. It is just that good. The 5D Mark III’s dual card slots allow for a lot of photos to be captured without changing cards, making it perfect for photographers on the go. This may be one of the heavier cameras on our list but photographers who want nothing but the best and don’t mind carrying around a heavy load will think all that weight is worth it. The 5D Mark III competes directly with Nikon’s fantastic D810 and costs slightly less.
3. Nikon D810
($148 for 7 day rental / $2,800 MSRP, body only)
The D810 from Nikon is a phenomenal choice for photographers who are looking for an alternative to the Canon 5D Mark III. This camera competes directly with its Canon counterpart—and sometimes wins. The D810 has more megapixels than the 5D Mark III (36.3 vs. 22.3), offers Wi-Fi connectivity, and has slightly better video capabilities (1080p video at 60 FPS). The downside is that the D810 is slightly more expensive than the Canon and has a lower burst rate, meaning that it can take fewer shots per second. This camera is ideal for travel photographers who want a lot of megapixels and don’t mind carrying around a heavy DSLR. Deciding between the Canon 5D Mark III and the Nikon D810 may come down to brand loyalty and personal preference.
4. Canon 6D
($78 for 7 day rental / $1,500 MSRP, body only)
Don’t be fooled by the fact that the 6D is Canon’s least expensive full frame DSLR. This powerful camera comes in at a great price making it a perfect option for budget-minded travel photographers (or those concerned about their gear getting stolen).
While the 6D doesn’t have the robust autofocus system, rugged build, or exceptional low light performance of cameras like the Nikon D810 or Canon 5D Mark III, it is still an excellent “prosumer” level camera for travel photographers. If you want a full frame DSLR but the idea of buying a $3,000 body makes your stomach turn, the 6D is an excellent option for you.
|Camera||Sony a7RII||Canon 5D Mark III||Nikon D810||Canon 6D|
|Type||Full frame mirrorless||Full frame DSLR||Full frame DSLR||Full frame DSLR|
|Resolution||42 MP||22.3 MP||36.3 MP||20.2 MP|
|Video Resolution||4K at 24 and 25 FPS||1080p at 30 fps||1080p at 60 fps||1080p at 30 fps|
|Max burst rate||5 FPS||6 FPS||5 FPS||4.5 FPS|
|Display Screen||3″ tilting LCD||3.2″ LCD||3.2″ LCD||3″ LCD|
|Weight||1.4 lbs (body only)||1.9 lbs (body only)||1.9 lbs (body only)||1.7 lbs (body only)|
|MSRP||$3,200 (body only)||$2,600 (body only)||$2,800 (body only)||$1,500 (body only)|
Best Compact Cameras for Travel Photography
While professional-level DSLRs can take stunning travel photos in almost any situation, they do have one significant drawback—they are heavy. Fortunately for travel-minded photographers, smaller cameras have come a long way. Mirrorless cameras are smaller and lighter than their DSLR competitors and still powerful enough to take amazing photos.
1. Sony a7SII
($171 for 7 day rental / $3,000 MSRP, body only)
Sony’s a7SII is one of the best small cameras for travelers. This camera is similar to, and in some ways better than, the a7RII. Designed for photographers and videographers who want a lightweight full frame mirrorless camera that excels in low light situations, the a7SII is a fantastic option for both still photography and video. Travelers who plan on taking photos and videos (the a7SII can record at 4K resolution) at night or in low light situations will prefer this camera to the more expensive a7RII due to its excellent low light performance. Those who couldn’t care less about low light photography and primarily want a camera that is capable of shooting at a very high resolution for large portrait or landscape prints may want to consider the a7RII instead.
($83 for 7 day rental / $1,500 MSRP, body only)
Travel photographers looking for a high quality compact camera for both photos and video should take a look at the Panasonic GH4. This mirrorless Micro Four Thirds (MTF) mount camera shoots 16 MP stills and 4K video at up to 30 FPS. Beloved by both photographers and videographers, this chameleon of a camera is able to do it all—and to do it all very well. It is one of the best-priced interchangeable lens cameras on our list and one of the few that is also able to take 4K video. It may not have the full frame sensor or low light capabilities of the a7SII but it is also half the price and still performs quite well at night.
3. Fuji X-Pro 2
($104 for 7 day rental / $1,700 MSRP, body only)
Fuji’s line of mirrorless cameras have become extremely popular in recent years due to their small size and the tack-sharp images they create. The X-Pro 2 is a 24.3 MP mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses, WiFi connectivity for instant sharing, and the ability to shoot stills at rates of up to 8 FPS. The X-Pro 2 also features an astounding 273 AF points (learn more about why this is important in All About Autofocus: Focus Area vs Focus Mode for Beginners). This camera weighs in at just shy of a pound, making it one of the lightest interchangeable lens cameras on our list. Street photographers will appreciate the small, incognito package that this powerful machine provides. Photographers who love the idea of the X-Pro 2 but don’t need interchangeable lenses (or who invite the challenge of shooting at a fixed focal length) should check out the Fuji X100T. And don’t just take our word for it. Check out a fuller review of the Fuji system here.
($73 for 7 day rental / $900 MSRP, body only)
Travel photographers who want a high quality interchangeable lens mirrorless camera should look no further than the E-M5 Mark II. This MFT mount camera shoots 16.1 MP stills and 1080p video at rates up to 60 FPS, making it ideal for travelers who want a small camera for taking both photos and video. Weighing in at just 14.4 ounces, this is one of the lightest interchangeable lens cameras on our list. This “splash-proof” camera is rugged enough for wet, harsh environments. Adventurers whose travels take them near the spray of waterfalls or into the backcountry will love the E-M5 Mark II’s weather resistance and portability. Find out more in Sample Images: Benefits of Shooting Olympus and Four Thirds/Micro Four Thirds.
|Camera||Sony a7SII||Panasonic Lumix GH4||Fuji X-Pro 2||Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II|
|Type||Full frame mirrorless||MFT mirrorless||Crop sensor mirrorless||MFT mirrorless|
|Resolution||12.2 MP||16.05 MP||24.3 MP||16.1 MP|
|Video Resolution||4K at 30 FPS||4K at 24 and 30 FPS||1080p at 60 FPS||1080p at 60 FPS|
|Max burst rate||5 FPS||12 FPS||8 FPS||10 FPS|
|Display Screen||3″ tilting LCD||3″ flip screen||3″ LCD||3″ swivel touchscreen|
|Weight||1.4 lbs (body only)||1.2 lbs (body only)||15.7 oz (body only)||14.4 oz (body only)|
|MSRP||$3,000 (body only)||$1,500 (body only)||$1,700 (body only)||$899 (body only)|
Best Affordable Cameras for Travel Photography
Let’s face it: travel can be expensive. If planning your big trip hasn’t left enough room in the budget for a pricey camera, you are in luck—there are still a lot of great options for you. The cameras in the list below stand out for giving you a lot of bang for the buck. They may not have all of the bells and whistles of their more expensive counterparts but when it comes to balancing affordability and features, they can’t be beat.
($56 for 7 day rental / $699 MSRP, complete camera)
If you think the proliferation of smartphone cameras has killed the point and shoot market, think again. Point and shoots are more powerful and practical than ever. Canon’s Powershot G7X Mark II is a point and shoot with serious photo capabilities. This camera takes 20.1 MP photos and 1080p video at 60 FPS—and it fits in the palm of your hand. The G7X has image stabilization for smooth videos and a built-in ND filter for landscape photography. This camera is loved by photographers, videographers, and vloggers who want a capable camera that is small enough to fit in a pocket or purse but doesn’t sacrifice photo quality.
($54 for 7 day rental / $594 MSRP, complete camera)
The RX100 may be one of the tiniest cameras on our list but don’t be fooled—it may very well be the best small camera for travel. This camera takes still photos at 20.9 MP and 1080p video at 60 FPS and weighs in at just over half a pound. The RX100 offers many of the features that people look for in higher-end cameras, such as the ability to shoot RAW files. It also DSLR-like shooting modes, including automatic, aperture priority, shutter priority, and full manual. This camera is similar in size and features to the G7X Mark II but has a faster burst rate of 10 FPS (which is quick for any camera). Find out more about this little gem in Why the Sony RX100 III Point & Shoot is a Vacation Must-Have. This is the perfect camera for travelers looking for a tiny camera with big capabilities.
3. Nikon D3300
($39 for 7 day rental / $546 MSRP, with kit lens)
Travelers who want to get the versatility of a DSLR without breaking the bank will be well served by the Nikon D3300. This 24.2 MP crop sensor DSLR may be entry-level but it’s still a really good option at an affordable price. This camera shoots 1080p video at 60 FPS and weighs just 15 ounces (lighter than the other DSLRs on this list). It has WiFi connectivity but the downside is you need an adapter. Travel photographers who like the idea of an entry-level DSLR may also want to check out Canon’s versatile and affordable T6i or the even more diminutive Canon Rebel SL1.
($52 7 day rental, $500 MSRP, complete camera)
No list of affordable cameras for travel would be complete without a mention of the GoPro HERO4. Yes, GoPros are designed to be action cams but they can do so much more than record skydivers and surfers! This camera is waterproof (with appropriate housing), rugged, powerful, tiny, and discrete.
If you want an easy-to-use camera that can go literally anywhere, the HERO4 Black is for you. Sure, it may not offer the focusing options, control, or low light performance of other cameras on our list but it can still take amazing 12 MP photos and stunning 4K video in any kind of climate.
|Camera||Canon Powershot G7X Mark II||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II||Nikon D3300||GoPro Hero4 Black|
|Type||Point and shoot||Point and shoot||Crop sensor DSLR||Action cam|
|Resolution||20.1 MP||20.2 MP||24.2 MP||12 MP|
|Video Resolution||1080p at 60 FPS||1080p at 60 FPS||1080p at 60 FPS||4K at 30 FPS|
|Max burst rate||8 fps||10 fps||5 fps||30 fps|
|WiFi||Yes||Yes||Yes, with Adapter||Yes|
|Display Screen||3″ tilting||3″ tilting||3″ LCD||Can be rented separately|
|Weight||1.4 lbs (body only)||1.2 lbs (body only)||15.7 oz (body only)||14.4 oz (body only)|
|MSRP||$699 (complete camera)||$648 (complete camera)||$546 (lens included)||$499 (complete camera)|
Whether you’re an experienced travel photographer looking to upgrade your kit or someone who just wants to take better photos than you can get with your phone, there is a camera out there for you. Remember that if you are trying to decide which camera to purchase (or if you want something special just for one trip) there is always the option of renting.
Renting gives you the chance to take an expensive camera or lens that you’d never be able to afford otherwise on that once-in-a-lifetime vacation. If you don’t want to blow all of your travel budget on new photography gear, renting from BorrowLenses is a great way to go. Additionally, shipping directly to your destination allows you the peace of mind that your gear won’t be lost or damaged during transit (not to mention the freed-up space in your carry on). Travel photography can be a lot of fun and it only gets better with the perfect gear!
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