12 Portable Cameras for Travel Photography

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When it comes to choosing a main go-to camera, most pros and serious enthusiasts still gravitate to full-frame, pro-caliber DSLRs. But when you’re traveling, hiking, or simply enjoying your vacation, the prospect of toting a top-tier DSLR outfit can be daunting. Fortunately, technology has come to the rescue and there is now a wide variety of more compact, lightweight, travel-friendly cameras that deliver outstanding image quality and shooting performance in far more convenient form factors. They’re also less intimidating when you’re taking photos of the local people you may encounter.

Travel-friendly camera types:

  1. Mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras that provide the essential DSLR shooting experience, thanks to hi-res electronic viewfinders (EVFs) and full feature sets, including ultra-fast, precise hybrid AF systems that provide continuous AF and focus tracking.
     
  2. Handy all-in-one zoom cameras that deliver a fetching combination of a sleek form factor, wide-to-telephoto focal lengths, and fast apertures optimized for capturing shallow-depth-of-field effects and shooting in low light.
     
  3. Unique cameras that offer many of the capabilities listed above, but add their own distinctive style, and features that push the design envelope. While the 12 cool cameras featured below don’t constitute an exhaustive list, they’ll definitely give you a head start in choosing those models that best suit your shooting style when you’re on the move.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II: This upgraded upper-tier Micro-Four-Thirds-system camera retains that classic “downsized DSLR” look, but its real-world performance has been enhanced, thanks to an upgraded 16.1MP Live MOS image sensor, coupled to a TruePic VII processor that provides increased responsiveness, enhanced image quality, improved 81-zone AF performance, and better imaging at high ISOs. It also has a larger, wider-view, higher magnification, 2,260k-dot EVF; a 3.0-inch 1,037k-dot vari-angle touchscreen OLED monitor; and an innovative five-axis sensor-shift image stabilization system claimed to deliver a five-stop advantage in capturing shake-free images when shooting stills or 1920 x 1080 full HD video handheld. It can also shoot full-res bursts with AF at up to 10 fps, has built-in Wi-Fi for sharing and remote camera control, sensitivity to ISO 25600, plus a full range of built-in Art filters.

Nikon 1 J5: This stylish, compact fifth-generation Nikon 1 mirrorless camera employs an upgraded 20.8MP CX format CMOS sensor plus an enhanced EXPEED 5A image processor that improves speed and responsiveness, provides better high-ISO performance with settings to ISO 12800, Movie Electronic Vibration Reduction for smooth shake-free video capture, full HD 1080p video recording at 60 fps (120 fps slo-mo at 720p), and a full-res 20 fps burst rate for 40 frames with full-time AF. It also sports a new 3.0-inch 1,037-dot tilting touchscreen LCD, has built-in Wi-Fi with NFC, and an upgraded hybrid AF system with 105 phase-detection and 171 contrast-detection AF points designed to enhance AF speed and accuracy in any light. Other features: High ISO Noise Reduction that combines four separate images, Active D-Lighting, Creative Modes plus Glamour Retouch mode.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4: This brilliant top-of-the-line Micro Four Thirds camera provides the DSLR shooting experience and form factor, along with 4K 4096 x 2160 video capture at 24 fps, UHD 4K capture at 30/24 fps, and full HD up to 60 fps. It features a 16.05MP Digital Live MOS Sensor coupled to a cutting-edge 4-CPU Venus Engine image processor, enabling the GH4 to achieve a full-res burst rate up to an impressive 40 fps. It also features a 2,359k-dot touchscreen monitor, and a high-speed 49-point AF system. Other features: Pinpoint AF, Auto HDR, built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, 3 Slow Motion video modes, a revised button layout to enhance the user interface, and a tough, lightweight, weather-sealed magnesium-alloy body.

Samsung NX1: Samsung’s sleek, top-of-the-line NX-mount model offers a combination of understated DSLR styling plus an impressive high-performance feature set. It provides a hi-res 28.2MP APS-C-format CMOS sensor coupled to an advanced DRIMe V image processor, a 3.0-inch 1,036k-dot AMOLED tilting touchscreen, and an ultra-high-res 2,360k-dot XGA OLED EVF. Biggest news: It can capture 4K video at 24 fps, UHD Video at 24 fps, and has a maximum full-res burst rate of 15 fps complete with AF! The NX1 also features a new Advanced Hybrid AF system that uses 205 phase-detection points and 209 contrast-detection points, dual-channel Wi-Fi and NFC to connect with smartphones and other devices, and ISO settings from 100-25600.

Fujifilm X-T1: This rugged, DSLR-style mirrorless camera is the flagship of Fuji’s impressive X-series. It features Fujifilm’s proprietary 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor, claimed to deliver superior image quality and lower noise, and it’s coupled to an advanced EXR Processor II that delivers a continuous burst rate up to 8 fps and full HD 1080p video capture at 60 fps. The X-T1 also provides a 2,360k-dot 0.77x OLED EVF and a tilting 3.0-inch 1,040k-dot LCD monitor, Intelligent Hybrid AF that combines contrast- and phase-detection sensors in a 49-point matrix for enhanced AF performance, and has a Focus Peaking display for precise focus assessment and enhanced manual focus capability. Other features: built-in Wi-Fi, a sensitivity range from ISO 100-51200, and weather-resistant body construction.

Sony Alpha a6000: The a6000 takes the performance parameters of the travel-sized mirrorless breed up a few notches with 179 on-sensor phase-detect AF points, 25 contrast-detection points, full-time AF when shooting video, a 3.0-inch 921k-dot tilting LCD and Tru-Finder 1,440k-dot OLED EVF. Other features: an APS-C-format 24.3MP Exmor HD CMOS Sensor, a high-tech BIONZ X image processor that enhances speed and provides ISO settings up to 25600, a maximum full-res shooting rate of up to 11 fps in continuous high mode, and full HD 1080p video at 60 fps or cinematic 24 fps.

Olympus Stylus 1s: This gorgeous, retro-styled camera resembles an ultra-compact DSLR, and sports a fast 10.7X, 28-300mm equivalent zoom lens with a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture for achieving shallow depth of field and beautiful bokeh. It employs a 12MP 1/1.7-inch BSI CMOS sensor and can capture images in raw, as well as JPEG formats; has a 3.0-inch, 1.04m-dot tilting touchscreen LCD that enables focus point selection and shutter firing by touch; an excellent EVF that presents a bright, clear, high-resolution 1,440k-dot image at high magnification; and an eye sensor that automatically transfers the viewing image. An advanced Olympus TruePic VI enables the camera to deliver crisp images at up to ISO 12800, along with fast, responsive AF; short shutter-lag times; a 7 fps full-res burst rate for up to 25 exposures; and full HD 1080p video capture at 30 fps. A clever hybrid control ring around the lens varies the function settings with the mode in use. Other features: built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, a hybrid control ring for settings adjustment, and an efficient image stabilization system to reduce the appearance of camera shake. In short, the Olympus Stylus 1s is a delightful camera with an elegant form factor that’s a lot of fun to shoot with, and it’s definitely capable of delivering outstanding performance in its class.

Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II: One of the more recent iterations in Canon’s iconic G-series of travel-friendly, self-contained, high-performance cameras aimed at pros and serious shooters. A ruggedly handsome camera, it features a big 1.5-inch 12.8MP CMOS sensor coupled to a cutting-edge DIGIC 6 image processor that delivers enhanced speed and imaging performance and a full-res continuous burst rate of 5.2 fps. Its fast Canon 5x f/2-3.9 optical zoom lens provides an equivalent focal-length range of 24-120mm and employs a 9-blade diaphragm for smooth transitions and beautiful bokeh, plus an Optical Image Stabilizer to ensure sharp handheld shots. Other key features: a 3.0-inch 1,040k-dot tilting touchscreen LCD; dual lens control rings; built-in Wi-Fi connectivity plus NFC; raw image capture in both 3:2 and 4:3 aspect ratios; full HD 1080p video at 30 fps; in-camera HDR; a 31-point AF system with peaking display in MF mode; and an extensive range of built-in effects modes including Art Bold, Art Vivid, Art Standard, and Art Embossed.

Nikon COOLPIX P7800: Sporting a cool, rounded-edge, minimalist form factor, the sleekly ergonomic P7800 incorporates a 12.2MP 1/1.7-inch BSI CMOS sensor coupled to an advanced EXPEED C2 image processor that enhances operating speed and overall imaging performance, especially at high ISO settings, and enables a full-res burst rate of 8 fps and full HD 1080p video capture at 30 fps. Its 7.1x zoom, 28-300mm equivalent Nikkor lens has a fast maximum aperture of f/2-4, a 7-blade diaphragm, and incorporates a built-in 0.9 (3-stop) ND filter for greater control over movement rendition and selective focus. Other key features: a 3.0-inch 921k-dot Vari-Angle LCD monitor that can swivel up to 180 degrees laterally and tilt up to 270 degrees backward and forward for high- and low-angle shooting; a 921k-dot electronic viewfinder; lens-shift VR image stabilization for crisp handheld imaging; full manual control options; plus raw file support. The P7800 is also compatible with Nikon’s WU-1a Wireless Adapter and GP-1A GPS Unit.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX-100 IV: What makes this sleek minimalist camera unique is that it packs a unique high-performance feature set, including a large 1-inch 20.1MP Exmor BSI CMOS sensor coupled to an advanced BIONZ X image processor, into an amazingly slim, compact form factor. What sets it apart is its signature 2,349k-dot Tru-Finder OLED EVF that pops up from the body to give it eye-level viewing capability. It’s backed up with a full-size 3.0-inch 1,229k-dot multi-angle Xtra Fine LCD that can show slow-motion video captured at an astonishing 960 fps. The RX-100 IV incorporates a fast Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 24-70mm-equivalent f/1.8-2.8 lens, provides a continuous full-res burst rate of 16 fps and ISO settings to 12800, and can capture UHD 4K video clips, as well as full HD 1080p movies. Other features: built-in 0.9 ND filter; Super-Speed Anti-Distortion Electronic Shutter with speeds to 1/32,000-second; and built in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, enabling instant sharing and Smart Remote Control.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1046766-REG/leica_18181_t_digital_camera_silver.html

Leica T: This classically styled minimalist mirrorless camera from Leica is beautifully made and gorgeously finished (in traditional black or striking silver) as you would expect, and it lacks the usual array of buttons and dials, being controlled entirely via the big 3.7-inch 1.3m-dot TFT touchscreen LCD. It incorporates a 16.3MP APS-C CMOS sensor, an advanced contrast-detection AF system, and it can capture full HD 1080p video at 30 fps and shoot continuous full-res images at up to 5 fps. Its robust body is built on a solid unibody design, precision machined from a single piece of aluminum! It also has a powerful built-in flash, 16GB of internal memory, Wi-Fi connectivity for easy sharing and remote operation, and it comes with a copy of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Among the chief attractions of this camera are the legendary Leica lenses designed for it, ranging from the Super Vario Elmar-T 18-23mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH. to the APO-Vario Elmar-T 55-135mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH. Standard prime lens is the Summicron-T 24mm f/2 ASPH.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1158515-REG/panasonic_dmc_cm1_lumix_16gb_unlckd_camera_phone_blk_slv.html

Panasonic Lumix DNC-CM1P: This remarkably adept pocket-sized slim-line device combines a high-performance digital camera with a 1-inch 20.1MP CMOS sensor, and a state-of-the-art smartphone. The phone, which uses the Android 4.4 KitKat operating system, is carrier unlocked and will work with most GSM carriers, but a service plan and SIM card must be purchased separately. The camera features a Venus Engine image processor; a high-quality Leica DC Elmarit 28mm equivalent f/2.8 lens; provides raw image capture; UHD 4K video recording at up to 15 fps; and full HD 1080p video at 30 fps. Other features: A handy control ring on the lens lets you access manual controls, setting modes, and focus; a large well-placed shutter button; 23-point AF system; focus peaking and MF assist; GSM/4G LTE wireless connectivity; Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 for fast charging; a large 4.7-inch TFT LCD touchscreen; and a selfie-friendly, front-facing 1.1MP camera.

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One essential feature for a travel camera is a filter ring on the front of the lens so a polarizer can be added for outdoor shots. Only some of the suggested cameras have this feature.

Amen!

Good point Victor. Thanks for commenting.

Excellent point.  This is continually overlooked in reviews

You left off the list a very fine camera. I take my Sony Rx100 III, but for my real scene shots, nothing beats my new Nikon P900. It's fixed zoom lens goes all the way out to a 2,000mm zoom (35mm Equiv.) , and is very easy to carry. It has built in Wi-Fi , making it easy to transfer to my IPad or IPhone, making really spectacular shots that I can edit and immediately show to my travelers, or send home to family.

Thanks for the comment Steve, have you seen my colleague Todd Vorenkamp's review of the P900

What about the Panasonic LX-100?

I agree probably the best and most versatile and reasonably compact camera on the market with a very fast Leica lens (24-75mm)

best of both worlds with a very bright viewfinder or 3" viewfinder and retro manual controls.

The Lumix LX100 is an all-around great camera.  Thanks for the commeny Kivis.

What about the Canon SX 50 HS for travel.  I have a SX 40 HS and considering the SX 50.  I like the fact you don't need a mixture of lenses.  That keeps the equipment to a miminum even traveling in a car much less by air.

My family took a Canon SX 50 HS to use for a cruise to Alaska. It was light, easy to carryand very versitile. I thought it is was ideal for the trip, Tom.That zoom was handy and althought I'm also a dslr user. The SX50 was ideal for travel/ 

Tom,

I bought for and took the SX50 on a double safari in Africa, a year ago, and it was a great choice.  It is light, easy to operate and auto does a great job (I didn't bother changing settings while in Africa - things generally moved too fast)!  I took some stupendious shots of animals in distanct trees and everywhere else!  The only thing I wish it had is wireless wifi connectivity - that would have made it easy to transfer the pictures - but the new SX60 has that (for a significant amount more).  Very low light can be an issue, but seldom am I taking pictures in complete darkness (except in Africa).  I understand the SX60 has somewhat remedied this issue.

It IS a great little camera. You can buy a wi-fi enabled SD card for this camera from Transcend. I use one with my SX50. 

The Ricoh GR should be on this list. It's one of the best if not the best street/travel camera I've ever used. 

I love the GR cameras, we included the GR II in our guide to Recommended Street Cameras. Thanks Carson.

Carson wrote:

The Ricoh GR should be on this list. It's one of the best if not the best street/travel camera I've ever used. 

I agree with Carson: the Ricoh GR is a perfect companion for travel photography and, in my experience, it's replacing heavier and bulkier cameras. It's perfect for landscapes, people (I used it a lot when I travel to Asia and I shoot in markets - you will be invisible) and interiors, thanks to its high ISO quality. I think I can leave almost all my cameras at home, but not my Ricoh GR. You can see some samples here, if you want.

Bernardo

Heads Up,

B&H,  your  link  to  my  email  for  this  12  camera  special  did  not  work.   I  had  to  google  to  find  this.  A  very  interesting  group.

Hope  you  resend  this  link  as  many  will  be  interested.  TG [Tony]

Same situation here. Glad I did the extra work to find it though. Interesting article, but the link in the email needs to be fixed.

The link worked on my iMac but not on my iPhone.

Due to the versality of Mobile phones and the sophistication of the Camera feature today a Camera to take photo only becomes redundant and make yourself a bait for mobsters.

And your high end mobile phone doesn't? People on holiday using their phone to take pictures look so obviously like tourists that I think that makes them a bigger target because tourists tend to have cash on hand. Also, while phone camera technology has advanced greatly it's hard to imagine a serious photographer traveling with nothing more than a phone to shoot with. Common sense and situational awareness go far in preventing situations with 'mobsters'. Of course if you travel to locations where 'mobsters' abound you should probably hire a bodyguard.

With the advent of phones w/cameras, a lot of people like this guy now think that they are "photographers", and I could go on and on about what's wrong with him and others who think that they can produce meaningful images of any type using a phone. I would like to see what he does with a real camera! He wouldn't know what to do! The only reason to have a phone is to be able to talk on it - not take photos with it.   

Anonymous wrote:

Due to the versality of Mobile phones and the sophistication of the Camera feature today a Camera to take photo only becomes redundant and make yourself a bait for mobsters.

With the advantage it´s just *one* gadget mobsters take (in case)! If you want pro photos, better taking a really pro cam. For tourists, I do agree with Bastien, better having a good smartphone.

A smartphone runs $700; the Coolpix runs $300. A "mobster" would rather have the smartphone.

Leica T and no Leica Q? The Q is a much better camera.

I agree. Leica Q should definitely be on the list. It's much better than the T.

And how much more is the Leica Q??

Below is a link to the Leica Q on our website for you to regard, there you will see the current price listed as well as other details on ordering and features of the camera. 

http://bhpho.to/1OrMi0M

What about this camera, what about that camera?  It's virtually impossible to list all the good cameras to take with you.  As an idea you might want to list a large amount of cameras with just their strong points and no editorialising.  Such as "good for wildlife" "good for landscapes" "for indoors".  Or do separate articles on cameras for each type of photography you might likely be doing like "good cameras for visiting cities" or "good for scenery".  Probably not great ideas but they might give you an idea that could work.

I mostly agree with this. This all starts sounding like the old Chevy vs. Ford vs. Mopar high school debates. The best camera for travel is the camera that you are familiar with and that does what you need. I've traveled with downsize dslrs (Oly OMD-E1) and full size (Oly E5) and sometimes both. When I had both I found myself using the full size dslr because that was the camera that I knew best at the time, the smaller one was new and not as familiar. Of course if you are in the market for a new camera feature comparisons are useful. My recommendation is stay with the brand you are used to unless a different brand has features hat you especially need or want. Again, familiarity.

Absolutely agree, John.  Agility, facility and speed gets the shot.

Good points. Thanks for the feedback.

The four differing versions of RX100...***  offer a very complex varieties of fiddly settings which can produce terrific results if you are very patient !  The TESSAR lens is excellent and consistently sharp.  The camera body is small and well built, but it is more suitable for ladies fingers.  The latest 4th version is great improvement, but leaves many confusing settings and alternatives.   

The RX100 series of cameras are wonderfully successful and, amonsgt other features, their lens and size make them great for travel. They too got a mention in Eight Recommended Street Cameras.  

The GH4 is Panasonic's top of the line. Also worth considering is the new G7 which is substantially less expensive but is surprisingly capable. At least you owe it to yourself to find a G7 review if you are considering one of the mirrorless "DSLR style" cameras shown above.

I think these travel cameras should be more affordable not the high end cameras. Other than the Sony a6000 a lot are big buck buddies

Thanks Joseph, the Lumix DMC-G7 is well worth the consideration.

I would like to see a grouping of good compact or pocket cameras that have good viewfinders. I always feel if I am holding the camera out at arms length I am defeting having a good camera. 

Should have included Oly EPL-5 series.  

The best camera in the world is the one you have with you. That's why I love the Lumix GM for travel. With a 20mm 'pancake' it is a p&s sized pocketable, light and strong with magnesium alloy frame. I prefer the remarkable 12-32 micro zoom as a versatile travel solution. I have put many miles on the previous GM1. The new GM5 adds a high-res e-viewfinder. A couple of words of caution: the camera body can take a beating but the super-light 12-32 is more delicate - care must be taken. Secondly, you might be enticed into dragging along one of the 4/3 super-zooms. Works great...and completely defeats the portability purpose.

Thanks pd...good advice and the GM5 is a wonderful and very compact mirrorless but your point is important, the portability of a mirrorless camera is dependent on your lens choices.

This is a sad article, meanders all over the place and is so painfully evident paid content. The same article that has some small little cameras that can be packed away can't have huge cameras (albeit mirrorless) who can't be packed easily away. It seems to be more of a catch-all than a real honest-to-goodness POV on what to take when travelling.

+1. It reads like copy provided by the manufacturers.

MSA and Allen p: Thank you for the feedback. Your points are well-taken, but I can assure you that our articles are not copy provided by manufacturers. We are always striving to be better and provide info that we feel will serve all of our customers. Perhaps this article on "Cameras for Vacation" will be more to your liking. It throws the net wide but I hope also offers some insight into the many and varied choices available.

I have  found the Panasonic DMC-ZS20  to be an excellent pocket-sized  camera. Excellent images, equivalent 24-240mm  zoom, and built in GPS.   I  now leave my  Nikon DSLR at home when I travel.  I  bring along another DCM-ZS20 as a back-up, just in case.   Current model  is  ZS-50 with even more features including WiFi. $400. 

I agree that the ZS series make nice travel cameras.I traveled this summer with a ZS-40 and enjoyed it. A very useful viewfinder, big zoom range, and reliable results. It's small enough to tuck into a leg pocket of cargo shorts comfortably. I got some terrific macro shots of flowers, bees and butterflies, and nice landscape shots. Easy camera to use but very capable. I've heard good things about the ZS-50.

Panasonic is rocking the comment section!! Thanks for the input Bob and Joe.

Hello everyone, well i will write about my point of view and my case why i choose DSLR instead of mirrorless or similar. Remember that is my case and my situation when i travel, im not saying if one is better then other just put my pov for your guys before buy something, see some alternatives.

1) Most mirrorless are too expensives, of course there are some about 500 dollars but in my opinion doesn't worth the price.
2) Battery life, for me this is a problem (again, of course ther are good mirrorless with good battery life but check the price, for me too expensive)

So, regarding this what i did? Considering the money vs benefits I bought an Iphone 6 with 128gb and Canon EOS 70D with 18-135mm + 50mm Lens and im very satisfied with that combination because i can take good photos near, far, landscape, fast, slow with good or low light conditions. EOS 70D is a great camera too take photos and for movies with live view the camera are very good and the battery life is exceptionally great.

Ok i dont have 4K but for me this is not important. So that is my point of view, i hope i could help you guys

Regards,

Leonardo Bissoli.

Thanks Leonardo, that is the kind of comment I like!  We all have set-ups that work for us and you have found a combination that serves you well, thanks for sharing. Also, you bring up the important point of battery life...nothing worse than running out of battery power as golden hour arrives and you approach the last, best tour attraction of the day.  

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