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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:
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.
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.
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.