Best Travel Camera mirrorless and DSLR for photographers

I have two big passions: travel and photography. This website combines both. Guess what? I spend most of my life travelling.

When I don’t travel, and I am at home in Melbourne, I can’t stop myself anyway photographing this beautiful city.

How many times I got asked what is the best travel camera. As you may suspect there is no easy answer.

And now that we are through 2020 I can’t wait for some of the newly announced models to come in the market.

In this post, you will learn which camera will work better for you, based on your type of travel and your budget too.

Moreover, you can also read, in a very simple way (no technical words or acronyms), what are the most important features to check.

You can read also

So, I am said, “Come on, what is the best camera for travel this year?”.

I usually answer with another question “What kind of trip are you planning?”.

This gives me at least an idea of the travel, and the weather condition, the person will experience. No much point buying a DSLR if you are planning to spend most of your time scuba diving.

Or do you want to go trekking with a big DSLR and 2 lenses?

View from Le Maido peak, Reunion Island, France
View from Le Maido peak, Reunion Island, France

Sometimes, when the budget is limited, it may be worth checking the second-hand market where you can find a 1 or 2 years old camera, working perfectly, at a great price.

Also, refurbished cameras can be a real bargain, especially when coming from the manufacturer itself.

This is a second-hand buy guide I have been updating with lots of tips and suggestions. Included is also a list of things you should check before buying any gear.

If you are after travel photography tips, compositions, tutorials and much more then why not reading and downloading for FREE (no need to pass your email, no worries) this ultimate guide for travel photography. Over 70 pages that may change your way to make (not just take) photos when travelling.

FREE (no email required) Reference Guide to Travel Photography

Best camera for travel: the quick answer

This guide goes through the important features you need to keep in mind when you are looking for a camera to take on your next trip.

It’s always hard to say what is best, it really depends on your type of photography and the kind of trips you usually do.

If however you have just a spare minute and you want an answer based on my experience and my type of photography then this quick list may help

  • Panasonic TZ220/ZS200 : best compact camera for travelling, if you are looking into an overall small camera with a great zoom too. 
  • Sony Alpha 7 III: best small camera for a light professional trip. This is not a cheap camera but it gets you covered for the next 5-10 years, or more. It’s a long term investment for a tiny body (with full sensor). If you are however after a great deal I suggest the Panasonic GX9, MFT sensor but still amazing performance
  • Nikon D3500: best DSLR camera. Very convenient DSLR with plenty of features at a bargain price. It’s a 2018 camera so bargains are available on the net.
  • Panasonic GX85: best mirrorless camera under $500. Tiny, inexpensive, great quality. Unfortunately, it does not have body stabilisation but at this price, it’s a difficult ask
  • Panasonic GH5: best camera for 4k and hd video. It is the best in the market, used by many independent moviemakers too. You can read my review here.

There is also another camera I would like to mention here, the Panasonic G9. I used this camera for almost a month for both photography and video.

I have been really impressed with this camera. And it’s a 2017 model (2018 in a few countries), therefore cheaper to buy online

Why?

Because it just works great for light travelling, making photos and taking videos.

View of Hobart from the Mount Wellington
View of Hobart from the Mount Wellington

The body itself is surprisingly quite big for an MFT camera, even probably bigger than my Sony A7R, but lenses are so tiny once compared with any full sensor camera. 

Of course, for any kind of photography, you cannot compare an MFT camera with a full sensor camera (you can read more on sensor size later in this post).

Especially if you shoot events, weddings etc. But for travelling, posting on digital or social media, the G9 works perfectly!

You may have seen also the G90 model, but that model costs an arm and a leg I think.

And there is another great bonus: the video side, which is just outstanding, especially if compared with my Sony A7R or any other Nikon and Canon.

I may just mention that it shoots at 120 frames per second which give that amazing smooth slow-motion that is nowadays a must in any YouTube or Facebook video

What to search in your best travel camera

I am sorry to say there is not a single best travel camera. There are actually many of them, it all depends on what you want to focus your attention on.

Are you buying the camera for a serious travel photography career or just for a few shots to post on Facebook or Instagram?

Or maybe you just want to print a photo book when you are back at home.

I change cameras on a frequent basis. Plus I get some units to review as well, which is great because it allows me to see the pros/cons of some models.

I also have different kinds of trips that may require different kinds of equipment (cycling or trekking with a big DSLR may not be a great idea after all)

Local friends of Fiji
Local friends of Fiji

Size and weight

I heard so many times that “the smaller, the better” when travelling.

Do I agree with that?

Not necessarily.

Let me explain

First of all, I like to think there are 5 categories of cameras in relation to size and weight

  • super light and small: most of these cameras are on your mobile. I do use my mobile quite a bit when travelling. There are some great advantages of which the best I can think of is that it’s always with me. You may remember that saying “the best camera is the one with you”
  • very light and squared: these are the action cameras. They are obviously great to document any kind of sport you are involved with. If you love to make a scuba diving video or take few photos the action camera is a must-have gear. The lens is usually very wide, almost fisheye. I have a GoPro5 and I am happy with it.
  • light and easy to carry with you: the compact cameras nowadays are great value both for money and quality. New models are coming out with a reasonable sensor size (more on it later) which means you will be more likely to have a better photo even in low light condition
  • middleweight and relatively easy to carry with you: these are the mirrorless cameras. It is an exciting category of cameras where you can reach a great photography quality without having to travel with a much bigger DSLR.
  • heavy and bulky: we are here in the Amateur DSLR world. I think that this category is suffering quite a bit at the moment due to the great success of the mirrorless world
  • very heavy and bulky: these are the DSLR with the full-frame sensor, also called Professional DSLR.

This above is actually a simplification. 

The Sony Alpha a7R IV is, for example, a mirrorless with a full-frame sensor.

It is also one of the best professional camera around, comparable to a pro DSLR.

I really wonder if in the next few 2-3 years we will have a merge of the last 3 categories.

Nikon and Canon have introduced last year full-frame mirror-less cameras. I believe they are both suffering big time the Sony competition.

But let’s explain a bit more about the sensor

Looking for an interesting corner at the Hoi An market
Looking for an interesting corner at the Hoi An market

Image sensor and resolution

To make it simple, you can see the sensor as the eye retina of your camera.

It is a grid of millions of light-sensitive cells. When you make a photo, and your shutter is activated, you have light going through the lens to these cells. 

A signal is created and digitalised and you have the photo.

I tried to simplify the process as much as I could.

The more light the sensor receives the better chance you will have to take a greater photo.

If the sensor in your camera is twice as big than you will be more likely to have a better quality image

I like to give the example of myself in the bedroom and during the day I can see perfectly everything around me. 

The more I close the shutters the fewer details I can see. When the shutters are 100% closed I may see just the shapes around me and that’s it.

With a good light, you may experience the same quality of photography even with the smaller sensor.

Things become tricky when the light is not perfect, and when travelling things can become quite challenging, especially in certain areas of the world where the weather can be quite dark, rainy, foggy etc

The local boat maker
The local boat maker

As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the sensor, the more likely you will be to have greater quality in your photos.

Of course, it’s not only about the size of the sensor in a camera; there is much more than that. For example, I am always impressed by the Fujifilm sensor, amazing quality (and you pay for it)

If you like to dig deeper into this subject I suggest a read to this sensor performance analysis by Roger Clark, a great resource of information

The typical point and shoot have a sensor size of 1/1.7″ (7.60 x 5.70mm2 = 43.32sq.mm) or 1/2.3″ (6.17m x 4.55m = 28.07sq.mm).

In the mobile world, for example, the iPhone X camera has a sensor size of 1/3″ and the one in the Samsung S10, although bigger, it is still 1/2.6″.

The full-frame sensor is 24mm x 36mm or 864mm2 which is 20-30 times bigger than the one in a compact camera.

This is a handy list of measures of the common sensors in the market (these are approax size):

  • Full frame sensor: 864mm2
  •  APS-C: 345mm2
  •  Micro 4/3 (MFT): 221mm2
  •  Mobile: 58mm2

There are two drawbacks in the big sensor however

  1. the cost: they are indeed an expensive part of the camera which determines the final cost
  2. the size and weight: I just said the bigger the better and now it is a drawback! Well, somehow yes. Try to put a full sensor in your mobile and suddenly your phone will become a brick, like in the 80s. If you are after a light camera you may need to compromise on the sensor size, nothing you can do about it

As an indication, the smaller sensor produces more digital noise at the same level of ISO than the bigger sensor.

To simplify, in the dark environment your photo will have more “noise” (it was called “grain” in the film era) if your sensor is smaller

For example, take a photo in a restaurant with your mobile and you will experience lots of grain and the quality is probably not the best.

Make the same photo with a full-frame camera and you will straight away see the difference, so much cleaner.

The second concept here is the resolution.

We have nowadays cameras with 12MP, 24MP, 36MP, 42MP or even 61MP with the new Sony a7R IV.

View from Trepalle, Italy
View from Trepalle, Italy

My priority is always on the sensor size than the resolution.

The fantastic thing about a 61MP is that you can crop your photos in post-production (sometimes it is not possible to get closer).

In saying that you need bigger memory cards (nowadays quite cheap) and a better computer to manage 61M files (I had to upgrade mine, sigh, expensive).

Stabilization

Nowadays, more and more cameras have adopted a 5-axis stabilization. Only a few have also lens stabilization.

Does it make much difference if a camera brand has it, or not?

It does, especially when you start shooting without a tripod at sunset/sunrise or at night, mostly street photography.

I love night photo walk, the light is always a challenge and that is the fun of it, besides things happening that you can’t have during the day.

I usually take the tripod if I plan some sunset photography however it happened in the past I was out with my camera and I did not have a tripod, and I had a spectacular sunset in front of me.

Having a very stable camera helps to shoot even with a half a second shutter speed, without compromising the sharpness of your image. This would have been impossible only 2-3 years ago.

If you do video then stabilization plays even a bigger role. 

I believe this is the field where the manufacturers will innovate the most in the next few years.

We have almost reached a peak in lenses and sensor technology. Less so in stabilization and firmware.

If you can, go for both body (5-axis) and lens stabilization, even if you have to invest a bit more. You will not regret it.

Gibson Steps on the Great Ocean Road
Gibson Steps on the Great Ocean Road

Optical Zoom Lens

If you cannot get closer to your subject use the zoom, as simple as that.

A great zoom range is a must if you go for a trip like a safari, less essential if you visit a city on a weekend trip.

Having a camera with interchangeable lenses has this exact benefit, you take with you only the lenses you need for the trip you have planned.

I have a 200mm zoom lens, however, I almost never use it for my travel photography (I bought it for some cycling photography I nowadays rarely do)

I have a 12-24mm wide lens and I take it with me only if I think to visit interiors (cathedrals, etc)

I have a 24-105mm which covers 95% of my need during my trips

I have also a prime lens (fixed focal length), a 35mm, which has fantastic quality and costs much less.

Obviously, there is no zoom capability. I use it in the markets or for street photography

Keep in mind that usually, lenses do not perform fantastically at the extreme range values. For example, my lens at 24mm or 105mm has some distortion

If the lens is built-in with the camera I would love to have the 25-150 range. Anything more is a benefit.

If I use interchangeable lenses then I usually go for two lenses, a prime 50mm and a zoom lens to cover part of the 20-120mm focal length (24-70, 24-105 are also great).

When possible, it is better to buy the lenses on a separate deal and not together with the camera package.

The main reason it is that usually, the lenses that come in a package do not perform as great. They are very good deals but the quality is the compromise.

Beauchamp Falls
Beauchamp Falls

My biggest tip, for a mirrorless or DSLR, is to spend as much on the camera as for your main lens (in the range 20-120mm).

Having an amazing camera but an average lens will defeat the purpose.

Have a look at my Guide to the best lenses for travel photography for much more information and tips on what works best for any camera brand.

Why lenses with the same focal length have different cost?

There are many reasons.

The number of elements and their quality drive the difference in price. This is the short answer.

If you like to better understand, I suggest starting from this Wikipedia page that gives a very detailed description of how lenses are made.

Wireless capability and GPS

If I want to instantly share the photos in my social environments the WiFi is a must, otherwise a plus. 

At the moment I would not use GPS to mark the location in my photos for the only reason that it drains my battery.

Speaking of battery, I do not see it as a feature that could drive my selection. I always travel with at least a spare battery, if not two, anyway.

It may be a valid point if you travel somewhere where you can’t charge your batteries for a few days though.

The battery is an important feature for other kinds of photography I think, commercial outdoor is an example. Sports photography is another one.

Lady selling flowers at the Hoi An Market
Lady selling flowers at the Hoi An Market

Weatherproof cameras

Is it important to have the camera waterproof and/or dustproof?

It all depends on the trip you are planning.

It is obviously a must for any action camera, however, I see it as more of a bonus on most of the other cameras.

If I am planning a trip to Thailand, mostly at the beach, and I want just to have some good photos without worrying about the water than a waterproof compact camera can be the answer

I am updating this post on a regular basis and in the last projects I could see how beneficial was to have a splash-proof camera/lens.

I was taking photos on a rainy day in Australia and I did not have to worry about the drops of water.

Definitely, something I would love to have in any new camera or lens.

Video quality

Although I have done a few videos for this website and for some trips, I still have my focus on steel photography.

I like to have the video capability on my camera and there are two great differences I can see on most of the new cameras coming out:

  • 4K video capability
  • number of frames/sec 

You may argue that there are not that many 4K TV around and this is probably true. However, they will become more and more popular.

Besides that, I like to have the capability to crop a 4K video into an HD video.

It’s actually quite useful during the interviews as you may go from half-body to close up using the same video track.

The 4K is not something useful just for video.

Have a look at this DPReview 4K: What you need to Know page to see how it is impacting the photography world too.

What about the number of frames.

Well, with 24/30 fps you can make the usual videos, however, with 120fps you can create that fantastic smooth videos for the B-roll. I love it

Hong Kong Island from Tsim Sha Tsui
Hong Kong Island from Tsim Sha Tsui

My experience with travel cameras

I always have with me my mobile phone and, as I said, I use it a fair bit in my travelling.

If I am cycling during my trip (it often happens) I have a compact camera in my pocket.

There are 3 main reasons. I can take it out very easily for a point and shoot, better quality than a mobile, sturdy and some of them are also weather sealed.

If I keep moving every 2-3 days during my trip (but no cycling or similar activities) I take a small mirrorless with me with a zoom lens and a small quick prime lens.

I had a Panasonic GX9 in one of my last trips and it worked great! It’s an old 2018 model but I was really impressed.

If I am based in mostly 1 or 2 location I take my Sony A7R. The lenses are heavy however the camera does really outperform anything else on the market (just my opinion).

I take two, maybe 3, lenses with me:

  • wide-angle: if I am planning to visit some interiors. Example: a trip to Rome, with cathedrals, churches, buildings
  • quick prime 35mm or 50mm (aperture f/2 or less): if I am planning to visit markets where light may be an issue
  • long-range zoom (within 20-120mm): it will cover 95% of my needs

Till now we talked about important features to know when selecting your best travel camera.

Let’s see what is a great choice in the present market.

In this post, I mention also 1-2 years old cameras that to my eyes are still very good and even a better deal now that the new model is out.

Sometimes is better to save some money on the camera (especially when there is not much of a difference with the latest model) and invest more on lenses….or another trip.

Best compact camera for travel

If you are reading this section it probably means that you are happy with your mobile phone shooting, however, you would like to take more control of your camera and setting and you wonder if a compact will do the job.

Many of my friends still tell me that they can take great shots with the mobile and they do not see the need to spend more on cameras.

My answer is usually YES, they are right. If you want to take photos of your travel moments, probably the mobile is just what you need and it’s always with you

At the Wan Chai local market
At the Wan Chai local market

However, the mobile does not offer a great deal of creativity, or almost no creativity at all if you use the standard camera app in automatic mode.

You cannot control the depth of field, as a start, and you will miss out that blurry background (few mobiles offer that through double lenses and software).

Even the shutter speed is not that easy to control (good luck with it).

As a result, you will be limited in your photo creativity. 

To me, unless I am planning to travel in the same place multiple times, it is worth to have a nice camera that allows taking better photos of a site that most probably I will not visit again, just my 2 cents here.

Before you keep reading, if you are after a small camera I have just posted an article that focuses uniquely on the compact cameras for travelling.

Read full review of compact cameras for travelling

It includes more tips and facts about this segment with the top point and shoot cameras.

Now, what are the three best compact cameras for travel?

The elevated restaurants
The elevated restaurants

Panasonic Lumix DC-LX100 II

This is a very small camera, probably one of the best choices if you prefer to go lighter when you are travelling.

I had it with me for 3 weeks and I absolutely loved the fact I could “forget” it in my jacket. 

I was impressed by the great details preserved in my photos as well as the Dof and bokeh.

Pros of the Panasonic Lumix LX100 II

  • perfect focal length range for travelling at 24-75mm
  • wide aperture at f/1.7 (almost 1 stop lower than the competition, Sony and Canon). This will allow you to have a great bokeh and a smaller Depth of Field, if needed
  • 4k photography and post focusing. The ability to easily extrapolate a frame from a 4K video is a great bonus.
  • cheaper than competition
  • touch screen

Cons of the Panasonic Lumix LX100 II

  • no weather sealing
  • battery life not great (~340 photos)
  • a 75mm zoom may not fit everyone likes

More on the Panasonic Lumix LX100 II

  • size: 115 x 66 x 64 mm
  • weight: 392 g
  • Sensor size: MFT (13.2 x 13 mm) at 22MP
  • Optical zoom lens: 28-75mm
  • Wireless: WiFi
  • Weatherproof: No
  • Video quality: 4K

Best deal on Amazon    Price in Australia

It’s not a cheap compact camera however it is the only one with an MFT sensor, much bigger than any other model. It’s, in my opinion, the best in the market.

Panasonic Lumix TZ220 (called ZS200 in USA and TZ210 in Europe)

Two years ago I was lucky to have the Panasonic TZ110 for a review that lasted 2 weeks and I had a blast. Than the TZ220 came out in 2018.

What a great camera, once again, well done Panasonic.

I was impressed by the overall performances.

I personally prefer to use my legs instead of the lens zoom, however, in a few occasions this is not possible.

The Lumix TZ-220 comes with a massive 24-360mm lens, that is a remarkable 15x zoom which is great even when travelling in a small safari trip or for some close-up of buildings in the city

Panasonic TZ220
Panasonic TZ220

Pros of the Panasonic TZ220

  • 1 inch sensor at 20MP. To be a compact camera this is a great sensor size
  • good optics made by Leica
  • fantastic software features as Post Focus and 4K Photo Mode (see more in the TZ110 review)
  • WiFi for an easy download of your photos on the mobile
  • 4K video at 30fps or Full HD at 60fps
  • touch screen monitor

Cons of the Panasonic TZ220

  • no weather sealing
  • fixed back screen

More on the Panasonic TZ220

  • size: 111 x 66 x 45 mm
  • weight: 340 g
  • Sensor size: 1″ (13.2 x 8.8 mm) at 20MP
  • Optical zoom lens (equiv.): 24–360 mm
  • Wireless: WiFi
  • Weatherproof: No
  • Video quality: 4K very good

I personally tested this camera and I was really pleasantly surprised by the great quality of the produced photos. True, the price is above that $500 mark that many people have in mind to spend however the jump in quality is quite steep.

It’s a great small camera that you can keep in your pocket, with a wide zoom as well. The TZ220 is called ZS200 in USA.

Best deal on Amazon     Price in Australia

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV

This is one of the earliest and greatest successes in the Sony camera world. We are now at the 6th incarnation of this beautiful camera with Zeiss lens, however, I find the IV a better value for travel photography.

The VI has a greater burst shooting, up to 24fps from 16fps (IV), quicker autofocus, a higher zoom capability (24-200 instead of 24-70) and 120fps when making video in HD.

If you are on a budget, the difference in price (almost AU$700) may be, however, a concern.

The Sony DSC-RX100 IV, the fourth generation of a fantastic travel camera
The Sony DSC-RX100 IV, the fourth generation of a fantastic travel camera

Pros of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV

  • 1 inch sensor at 20MP. Again another big sensor in the compact camera world
  • Fantastic optics made by Zeiss
  • Awesome sharp photos
  • WiFi for an easy download of your photos on the mobile
  • 4K video at 30fps or Full HD at 60fps

Cons of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV

  • limited focal length at 24-70mm
  • no weather sealing
  • no touch screen

Best deal on Amazon  Price in Australia

More on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV

  • size: 102 x 58 x 41 mm
  • weight: 298 g
  • Sensor size: 1″ (13.2 x 8.8 mm) at 20MP
  • Optical zoom lens (equiv.): 24–70 mm
  • Wireless: WiFi
  • Weatherproof: No
  • Video quality: 4K

If you are after the RX100 VI because of the better features have a look here for the price

Verdict for the best compact camera for travelling

Having a compact camera in your pocket is always a big plus.

Mobile phones have their own limits and having a nice compact always with you does allow to spread your horizon of photography possibilities.

Which one would I buy?

This post is about the best travel camera and if I want to document my trip with a street style approach than the RX100 IV is the camera of my choice, on a reasonable budget too.

Otherwise, the Sony RX100 VI will do the work great and will give me the extra zoom that it may be needed in a few occasions.

If I am looking for an overall camera I would go for the Panasonic Lumix TZ220. At the moment it is a real winner with a 15x zoom, Leica lenses and great price too. It is my favourite.

If you have that extra budget than the Panasonic Lumix DC-LX100 II would be my choice

Best travel camera mirrorless

Can we consider the mirrorless as small cameras?

I believe so.

There are a few in the market that have a weight, including a prime lens, just above the compact camera.

I do have a huge interest in this camera category.

Why?

  • they are light
  • they are small, especially with a prime lens
  • some of them have such a cool retro and vintage design

These are the main reasons for a portability perspective.

It has to be said that having a small camera does not mean that you need to compromise on the photo quality.

There are today plenty of mirrorless travel cameras in the market, with MFT, APS-C, Full-frame and even bigger sensors.

It would be hard for 95% of the people, if not more, to understand the difference in quality between a full sensor and APS-C sensor print, up to A4.

If you think that most of your photos will stay in digital then there is no difference at all.

Sony Alpha 7 III

Can I say that the Sony Alpha 7 is the camera that most of the people, including myself, dreamed and dream of?

I started my photography life with Canon. I eventually switched to Nikon. Two years ago I sold all I had and moved to Sony (A7R II and III and soon IV).

When travelling, the weight and dimension of a camera is an important factor to evaluate, especially when you keep travelling almost on a daily basis with a rucksack or, even worst, with your bike.

The less you have the better.

This is a mirrorless camera that you can use for any kind of photography, besides travelling. It opens up a few horizons, especially if you start taking photography as a profession.

Starting with the right step is always a plus.

A long time ago I reviewed for a month the a7R II and I was blown away. I eventually bought it.

I tested the a7 III in 2018 and I was blown away.

Sony Alpha 7 iii
Sony Alpha 7 iii

Pros of the Sony Alpha 7 III

  • full-frame sensor at 24MP. Probably one of the best in the market even compared to other high-end professional DSLR
  • Fantastic optics made by Zeiss
  • Impressive dynamic range, which translates into great photography even in that dark, foggy, rainy days. No need of HDR, you will be able to take out that details even in the over/underexposed areas. Sony claims 15 stops of dynamic range on this camera
  • silent shooting, great in the markets and the street (it will not ring an alarm and questions)
  • impressive action camera (10fps) and buffer size
  • ultra quick eye focusing (fantastic for street and portraits)
  • razor-sharp 4K video and 120fps in full HD

Cons of the Sony Alpha 7 III

  • probably the heaviest mirrorless in the market, mostly due to the big sensor in the camera
  • expensive (although great value for what you get)
  • 4k video only at 30fps

Best deal on Amazon  Price in Australia

More on the Sony Alpha 7 III

  • size: 127 x 96 x 74 mm
  • weight: 650 g 
  • Sensor size: full frame (35.9 x 24 mm) at 24MP
  • Wireless: WiFi
  • Weatherproof: Yes
  • Video quality: 4K

True, this camera is not cheap. It is, however, great value for money. You can use this camera for travelling, for wedding photography and any photography business you can think of.

This is a real professional camera, you just need to allocate the budget 😀

If you still question yourself if you are doing a good investment I suggest you reading my full review on the 7R II. That will give you a great idea of Sony quality.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX9

The GX-8 was one of the first cameras I reviewed, that was in late 2015, a great camera which I still love so much.

There are some great deals on the net.

The overall feeling was great. I had it again for a safari in March 2016 with the 100-400mm lens and I was impressed even more.

When Panasonic announced the GX9 I fell in love straight away. You can read my full review here.

What I like of the new Panasonic cameras is that they include a fair bit of firmware on it to make photography easier, like the handy Post Focus and the 4K photo mode that allows selecting a frame from a 4K video, perfect for some action photography.

Panasonic Lumix GX9
Panasonic Lumix GX9

Pros of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX9

  • Great overall quality of photography and 4K video
  • Shake reduction both in lens and camera
  • tilting electronic viewfinder and rear screen (touchscreen)
  • 4K video
  • external mic for video (real plus if you make videos)

Cons of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX9

  • not the best grip
  • no flash
  • no eye-catching design
  • not the latest model but such a great value, even better now that you can find it on special deals

Best deal on Amazon

More on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX9

  • size: 124 x 72 x 47 mm
  • weight: 407 g (the GX8 was 487g, a big improvement here)
  • Sensor size: Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm) at 20MP
  • Wireless: WiFi
  • Weatherproof: Yes
  • Video quality: 4K

I had a great time with this camera and I can only suggest it.

It is an impressive tool also if you like to do also some street photography, so small and unpretentious.

Fujifilm X-T3

What do I love the most of this camera? the 60s-70s design, just great. Fujifilm has set a great stylish standard with all the cameras made in the last few years. It’s a bit of a trademark.

Fujifilm X-T3 front and back view - Is it the most beautiful travel camera in the market?
Fujifilm X-T3 front and back view – Is it the most beautiful travel camera in the market?

I had the X-T2 for a few weeks of travel review.

I gave it to a few of the people that attended my workshop and I had great feedback.

Two words to summarise: beautiful and easy. The X-T3 takes the game to a new much better level, especially with video!

Pros of the Fujifilm X-T3

  • great overall quality of photography
  • unique design, dust and waterproof
  • twin card slots (great for memory expansion or backup)
  • video in-camera colour grading, to save time in post-production (a great option if you shoot with the X-T3 only)

Cons of the Fujifilm X-T3

  • no body stabilization (you need a gimbal to make videos)
  • no flash (but you can use high levels of ISO)
  • slightly bigger than previous models

More on the Fujifilm X-T3

  • size: 133 x 93 x 59 mm
  • weight: 539 g
  • Sensor size: APS-C (23.6 x 15.6 mm) at 26MP
  • Wireless: WiFi
  • Weatherproof: Yes
  • Video quality: 4K up to 60p

Ultimately you will love or hate the Fujifilm design and that will drive your choice. 

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Verdict for the best travel camera mirrorless

The mirrorless is the present and future of travel photography with interchangeable lenses.

They have two of the most important characteristics that, as a traveller, I always look at: light and small.

The Sony Alpha 7 III is probably the choice for anybody with some spare cash that has the idea to take photography as a career.

Sony is a great brand and, in my opinion, it is also the most promising camera maker among all the manufacturers.

If you are more into design then Fujifilm has to be.

If you are more of a practical person than the Panasonic GX9 is a great choice, less expensive and with great available features.

I know, it’s always hard to decide.

How is going with the Nikon and Canon mirrorless?

I personally tried them and I think they are still running behind Sony (in the same price bracket).

Best DSLR camera for travel

The quality of some DSLR is just outstanding. A few years back, I had a Nikon D610 and I had a blast with it.

There is, unfortunately, one big drawback.

They are heavy and bulky, especially if you decide to buy a full sensor camera.

The mirrorless cameras are smaller and you will tend to take them with you more often than you would with a DSLR.

Yes, it’s true, when similarly equipped, the DSLR is less expensive than the mirrorless and, in this respect, the DSLRs are a better budget option.

I would personally not suggest a full-frame sensor DSLR as a travel camera, too heavy and bulky.

This is why here below I speak only about APS-C cameras where Canon and Nikon are the biggest players.

Following one of biggest rivers on earth, the Yenisei.
Following one of the biggest rivers on earth, the Yenisei.

Canon EOS 250D/Rebel SL3

The Canon EOS 250D is a camera dedicated to the enthusiast photographer and I may add to the mobile amateur.

It has a reasonable size and weight to be considered for any trip or just some city photography. 

Certainly, it has not the same size as the mirrorless and this may actually a plus for someone, especially if you have big hands. 

You can use the touch screen to autofocus as well, a nice feature that is quite common on mirrorless and now DSLR too.

Pros of the Canon EOS 250D/Rebel SL3

  • one the smallest DSLR in the market
  • quick autofocus with the Canon dual pixel technology
  • fully articulated screen
  • very long battery life at approx 1070 photos (this is more than twice as much as a typical mirrorless)
  • low budget price

Cons of the Canon EOS 250D/Rebel SL3

  • no body stabilisation (you need to rely on stabilised lenses)
  • no weather sealing (a bit disappointing for a camera aimed to travellers)
  • continuous shooting up to 5fps. Honestly, I think it is more than enough for travel photography unless you aim to take some images of action or sport activities
  • size and weight

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More on the Canon EOS 250D/Rebel SL3

  • size: 122 x 93 x 70 mm
  • weight: 449 g (very low to be a DSLR, similar to mirrorless)
  • Sensor size: APS-C (23.6 x 15.6 mm) at 24MP
  • Wireless: WiFi
  • Weatherproof: No
Beautiful landscape of the Altai region
Beautiful landscape of the Altai region

Nikon D3500

I see the D3500 as a great candidate when you want to step up from the mobile world and start taking more control of your camera allowing more creativity options.

It is not the best performing DSLR however it really comes at a bargain price, well below $1,000 and actually closer to the $50 sweet entry point

Being so cheap, unfortunately, you need to compromise on a fixed LCD and the fact that 4K video is still not implemented on this model.

 

Pros of the Nikon D3500

  • one of the cheapest camera with APS-C sensor which produces good photo quality
  • long battery life at approx 1550 photos (very well above any mirrorless)
  • low-cost DSLR

Cons of the Nikon D3500

  • missing body stabilisation (you need to rely on stabilised lenses)
  • no weatherproof
  • continuous shooting up to 5fps
  • video still HD, no 4K

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More on the Nikon D3500

  • size: 124 x 97 x 70 mm
  • weight: 365 g (one the lightest DSLR in the market)
  • Sensor size: APS-C (23.6 x 15.6 mm) at 24MP
  • Wireless: WiFi, NFC
  • Weatherproof: No
  • Video quality: HD

Canon EOS 250D or Nikon D3500? Which one would I choose? Probably the Nikon because of the smaller size/weight.

Best travel camera under $500

If you decide to go under $500 you probably need to compromise on quality.

This usually comes with a smaller sensor and/or bulky build and overall not that great quality of photography you will experience with other cameras we just covered above.

At the end of the day there is a budget for everything and if $500 is dedicated to photography than let’s see what the possible choices are:

Panasonic GX85

This camera is one of the tiniest in the market but still one that can produce amazing photos, almost on par with any other MFT mirrorless.

At the moment is advertised at just under US$500 and in my opinion, it is a great bargain in this price range. It’s not the latest model but the quality is absolutely there

I had it for a review of 2 weeks and I just loved it.

Why?

Because it is super small, ultra-light and I could take it with me everywhere without a camera bag. I had it in my pocket and I just forgot about it, until I needed it.

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As I wrote in the review, you may want to spare some $ for another powerful lens which would complete your travel camera needs.

Final verdict for the best travel camera

I guess everybody has the own view, the own requirements, the own budget, the own feeling.

Here below my personal suggestions

If you are a beginner and/or with a limited budget, with a bit of exposure to mobile photography I would probably suggest going for the Panasonic GX85. It’s a great small light camera with a nice design at an incredible low conservative price.

If you want to step up from your mobile experience but without having to deal with lenses I would go for the Panasonic Lumix TZ220

The powerful zoom will open up a broad range of photography possibilities besides having a great image quality and some cool in-camera firmware features like Post Focus and 4K Photo

If you have already experience with an entry-level DSLR but you feel you want to upgrade, going smaller and lighter with a touch of nostalgia than the Fujifilm X-T3 is probably the answer to your search.

If you are more of a practical person than the Panasonic DMC-GX9 will do for you (also cheaper)

If you want to have the best with the idea to move into a photography career and you have a good available budget I would not hesitate to buy straight away the Sony Alpha 7 III

If you think that this post has helped and you want to know much more about travel photography then you should read and download the FREE Ultimate Guide to Travel Photography (no emails required), a 70 pages PDF file.

Download the FREE Travel Photography guide

I do not like “pushing marketing” and that is why I do not ask email, name, phones, grandpa names etc in exchange.

However, if you want to be updated on new similar tutorials, free guides and spreadsheets and much more then you can always subscribe to the mailing list.

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Enjoy your travel photography!!


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51 thoughts on “Best travel camera 2020 guide[from compact to professional]”

    • Thanks Natalya,
      indeed the lens is the limit of the mobile camera and an external lens would help immensely. I am on the process to test a set and from there write a full article about lenses for mobile cameras. I will keep you updated when ready
      Cheers

      Reply
  1. Hi Stef,
    Thanks for your thoughts on my query on bridge cameras and alerting me to the FZ80 (read your review). Loved the zoom range of this camera. My interest in the FZ300 (has a smaller zoom range than that of the FZ80) is the fact that it is weather resistant. On my recent trip to Scandinavia the weather was quite wet and it was challenging using my Lumix TZ70 (a great camera with decent zoom range). I enjoy taking pictures of landscapes and wildlife thus the attraction of the FZ80’s zoom range, but it’s not weather resistant. Any advice on how one copes with wet weather photography or alternative cameras?
    Cheers
    Richard

    Reply
  2. Hi Stef,
    Loved your review. What are your thoughts on the super zoom bridge cameras like the Panasonic FZ300, Nikon P900 and Canon SX60HS?

    Thanks
    Richard

    Reply
    • Hi Richard, thanks for your feedback, really appreciated.
      I had the FZ80 for a review few months ago and I was certainly impressed by the zoom factor. The FZ80 has even more zoom than the FZ300
      I guess it depends on what kind of photography you like to do. It would be awesome to have the same zoom and a great photo quality as a Sony A9 or a Nikon D850 (just to mention the last 2 expensive cameras that arrived to the market). I mean, you can but an exorbitant price, only for pros I guess.
      All of the super zoom you mentioned are great when you have good light. They struggle a bit in low light. But if you use the super zoom a lot (bird photography, zoo, safari etc) than all of the mentioned cameras are great. Probably my favorite is the FZ300 but it’s down to a personal feeling.
      If you do not use the zoom a lot than I would probably go on other cameras.
      If you have Lightroom you may check the focal length you shoot the most, at least you have an idea of the kind of zoom you may want to look for.
      I hope I was able to help.
      Cheers

      Reply
  3. Hi Stef,
    this is a great post, not only for the cameras you mention but also for the information at the beginning. It really helped make up my mind….maybe ?

    I was finally able to spare around $900 for the camera. I will use it in my gap year travelling mostly in SEA. What would you suggest? The more I read the more I believe I should go smaller however DSLR tends to be a bit cheaper for what you get (APS-C etc). What’s your thinking?

    Again great work mate
    Andrew

    Reply
    • Good day Andrew,
      and thanks for your comment.

      You absolutely make a good point here. DSLR tends to be a bit cheaper based on the sensor size you get (APS-C).

      However let me tell you that it is not just the sensor size the most important thing when travelling. Of course, having a full frame sensor on a mobile phone size would be the ideal solution however this is, at least now, not possible.

      The best camera is always the one with you. When I travel myself with a DSLR I tend to leave it more at the hotel, especially when going out at night. And in doing that I miss lots of photography opportunity.

      Going back to your question. These are my suggestions:
      Fujifilm X70, the best fixed prime lens camera. At $700 you get an amazing 28mm f/2.8 wide angle lens that you can use at 50mm too (read my full review for more info). This is a very small camera that you will have always with you. There is only a drawback, it’s missing a bit of zoom capability, but again the size and weight are the reward…..and you are left with $200 spare for plenty of drinks in SEA 😉
      Panasonic GX850 with 12-32mm lens and the amazing Panasonic 20mm f/1.7. This is really all you need and you will have $100 spare for drinks. I just reviewed this camera and if you are ok with not having an EVF then it’s a great buy.
      – the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm. The camera is really awesome, probably the best MFT in the market at the moment. It’s beautiful too. And it’s a great starting point in case you decide to take photography to the next level. The 12-50 lens is not that amazing I must say but a good starting point. You will go over budget with this one, but, again, think about a possible future.

      All of the above cameras are relatively small and you will not get that noticed when making photos which is a big plus when travelling, especially in the streets and markets.

      I hope I was able to help
      Cheers

      Reply
  4. Great work! I was astonished by the amount of info.
    I do not like to carry much gear around…well, if possible nothing at all.
    I usually use my mobile however I would like to upgrade to a better camera. I want it very small and possibly a good design.
    Do you have any suggestion, beside the Leica which goes over my budget. I am used to no zooms with mobile.

    Thanks!!
    Charlie

    Reply
    • Hi Charlie and thanks for your feedback, really appreciated 🙂

      I fully understand where you come from. I usually run workshops, when in Melbourne, and this is a common question and/or comment I receive.

      I had few people that bought a DSLR few years back but they use a mobile because they do not like to carry it around.

      One of the best small camera with a fix lens I have ever used is the Fujifilm X70. It’s small at 3.9 x 7 x 7 inches and around 700gr. It does not fit in the jeans pocket however you would forget it in a jacket pocket. I got it for few weeks and I had a tremendous time. You can read more on my review here.

      The lens is amazing, very quick at f/2.8. It has an equivalent focal length of 28mm however you can set it to 50mm (the camera will crop the photo and magnify it via internal fw).

      Considering the quality of the camera, the price is a steal I believe.

      I also forgot to mention that it is a beautiful camera, fantastic design.

      I hope I was able to help

      Happy photographing 🙂

      Reply
  5. Hey Stef, how are you? Great work with this guide!!
    I am buying my first DSLR and I was opting towards the Nikon D5600. What do you think about it?
    Till now I have used a compact for most of my trips and also for some family photos
    I have checked it on few sites and they offer it in two kits version:
    >> AF-P VR 18-55 e 55-200
    >> AF-S 18-55 II e VR 55-200
    Not sure what is the real difference. Do I need more the VR on the 18-55 or the 55-200?
    Is it better to take a single lens to cover all, like the AF-S VR 18-140?

    Thanks!!
    Val

    Reply
    • First of all, great choice, beautiful camera. Nikon DSLR level is just getting better and better.

      I am sure your choice was based on many aspects. I love the D5600 in many ways. It is bit bulky maybe but it’s difficult to have everything, isn’t it 🙂 It is most definitely a great value camera.

      Now about the lenses….

      As you may know, I am not a fan of the zoom lenses. That comes from my experience. I have almost never used them in my trips. I used to have it with me but eventually I have decided to leave my 70-200mm at home unless I was really planning something like a safari, although 200mm would not be too enough either LOL

      This is to say that 200mm may be over what you need, for both travelling and friends.

      I start from the bottom of your list. The 18-140mm is an all-round lens that will cover really all you need and let me add more than you need. The equivalent focal length is around 27-210mm. As any wide range focal length you may get a bit disappointed because the quality suffers a bit. Photos may be a bit soft, not that sharp.

      The same can be said for the 55-200mm

      In the 2 options you asked about there is a difference in the VR position.

      Vr stays for vibration reduction, or image stabilisation, it’s more effective to have it at 55-200mm focal length than 18-55mm focal length. The higher the focal length the more visible will be any small camera movement, and you will end up with images not sharp.

      In saying all of this my personal suggestion is to go with just one of these lenses:
      > only the VR 18-55, later you can buy a second one if really needed. This will help you also start using your legs as your zoom, sometime we forget about:)
      > none of the above and only the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR. There is at the moment a certified refurbished that has a great price!! This lens will stay with you for a long long time, even if you decide to upgrade. If the cost is a no-go, than probably next option
      > another alternative, more on the budget side, is the brand new Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Art. This is an amazing lens and also in this case you will keep it for a long long time. Probably my favourite choice between the three

      I feel I have added too much information and you may be even more confused LOL buying new cameras is never easy 🙂

      Cheers

      Reply
  6. Hello Stef,
    the choice is big, isn’t it. This article helped me quite a bit to clear up my mind.

    I like the new Panasonic GX800. Very cost effective, simple and small. It looks the perfect match for travelling. I usually post my photos on the social and I print a book at the end of the year with my best and memorable shots.

    What do you think? Will the GX800 do the job?

    Cheers buddy

    Reply
    • Good day Mark,
      I though I have suddenly missed out on a Panasonic camera. GX800…mhmhmh…and than as usual I found out that GX800 is just another name for the GX850 (or viceversa LOL). Why Panasonic keeps changing camera name based on the country is just a mystery to me

      I have actually received this camera for a review 3 days ago. It’s probably the smallest interchangeable lenses camera I have ever seen and tested. So small, and let me say, so cute!!

      I have been out last night and I was literally impressed by some of the photos I was able to capture. At the moment however it’s too early to say.

      I will update this comment in the next couple of weeks with more info.

      Have a look back 😉

      Cheers
      Stef

      Reply
  7. Hi Stef, great post, really loved your effort here.
    I was thinking about buying the A7 Sony but still undecided on the model. The A7II is almost half the price of a A7RII and I was wondering if, for travel photography, the A7RII is really worth the steep price. I do not shoot any commercial. I actually have a travel blog and trying to take it to an higher level.
    Keep posting 🙂
    Rog

    Reply
    • Thanks Rog for your appreciation on the post. About the difference between the two cameras

      You may have read that the biggest difference is the resolution, with 42MP (A7RII) versus 24MP (A7II). In true honesty, if that would have been the only difference then I had an easy answer….go for the A7II, you are going to save bug bucks that you can use for a gorgeous lens, as important as the camera btw.

      There is a fundamental difference between the two, the sensor technology. The one of the A7RII is back side illuminated which gives an amazing dynamic range and incredible performance in low light environments. You can read more on the review I did here. This is the new market standard I believe. This is the future.

      What does it mean in practical terms?

      It means that you have lots of space in post production to work on highlights and shadows with almost no noise coming out. You can take out all of the details that you have seen with your eyes, if not even more LOL It’s almost an HDR photo.

      I made street photos in the night at ISO 12,800 and even 25,600 with the A7RII and I was absolutely surprised by the quality, something you do not have with the A7II. I reckon there is a difference of probably 2 stops between the two cameras, if not more.

      Another big difference, if you shoot video, is the resolution, 4K for the A7RII and 1080 for the A7II. I don’t do much video myself however 4K is, in my opinion, the perfect resolution (till 6k LOL) because it allows me to make 2 HD tracks from one 4k track. For example, when you interview someone half body and you can use the same video for a close-up on the face.

      Sony also claims a quicker AF. I must be honest here, I could not feel it. If there is then it is probably not a decision factor to me.

      If you come from a DSLR keep in mind that the battery life is not as great however that’s not really a big deal breaker in my eyes, I just take a second or third battery (btw, Sony provide already 2 batteries in the box)

      The decision is very subjective here. It’s really a personal opinion.

      Both cameras are amazing however you will not save a lot in weight because the lenses can be heavy. They are tiny to be full frame sensor. Just keep it in mind for your travel photography. This is not a problem to me but it may be to someone else and in this case the MFT cameras work better.

      Now, what would I choose?

      If your money is very limited I would go for the A7II and a good lens like the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM. My personal tip is to avoid going for the A7RII and buy a cheap lens. It’s like buying a Ferrari car with a Ford engine. You will suffer in performance and ultimately be disappointed.

      If your budget is not that limited than A7R II. This is a camera that will be a reference standard for many years to come.

      If you are interested on the best lenses for travel photography to be used on A7 have a look here. This is a great source for any camera actually.

      Good luck with your shopping 🙂

      Reply
  8. Hi Stef, I own a Canon G7X and I was contemplating to buy the new RX100V. What do you think. Is it worth the price? Just wondering if I could actually see any big difference.
    Thanks
    Jourdan

    Reply
    • Good day Jourdan and thanks for your comment.
      To be honest with you the new RX100V is something amazing I must say.

      I still can’t believe they were able to put all in that tiny body, although when I had a go I could feel it warming up after a while of wild photography and video. That’s the price to pay with such a small body I guess (similar to what happens with mobiles).

      One of the thing that impressed the most is the excellent brightness at high ISO and low noise. This is something that you rarely see with 1″ sensor compact cameras.

      Also the autofocus is super quick (315 focus points), to be a compact. You will feel the change compare to the G7X.

      Based on my notes I feel that the G7X is better stabilized on video. In saying that my notes are now almost 1 year old. Let’s say you will not probably going to gain that much in that respect.

      The RX100V works with 4K videos, something you do not have with the G7X

      The battery life is not as good probably. And I feel this is because of the back monitor quality and brightness. It’s fantastic however it eats up a lot of battery. That has an easy fix, you buy a spare one 🙂

      As a last thing, you may consider buying the RX100IV if you are not after a massive continuous boost. The greatest difference between the two versions of the Sony cameras is in fact the max boost which is 24fps, for the new version, and 16fps for the release IV. Keep in mind that the G7X has only 8fps.

      Unless you are not after the 24fps, to my eyes, I believe that the RX100IV is really a good deal. There is a difference of around $150 with the version V, up to you now.

      I hope I was able to help…..cheers

      Reply

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