Last updated on July 7, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, travelling and making photos for 20 years. Read more Gear Review

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.

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

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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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Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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

    • Hi Iain, I have personally never used the AW1, it’s a camera of 5 years ago when this website still did not exist actually 🙂
      In saying that, it all depends on the price. Based on what I read, it has a tiny sensor and you will suffer from the limited DoF however it’s a small camera that will be always with you, which is great. Keep in mind it is not weatherproof.
      If you are looking for a simple camera to take a few memories then go for it. Reading here and there I fear you will have a similar quality to what you can get with a 2018 model mobile (Samsung S9, Iphone X and the likes) however you get a zoom that in the smartphones you don’t have.
      I hope I was able to help
      Cheers

      Reply
  1. Thank you for sharing the information. I found the details very helpful. This is a very interesting and helpful post for anyone.

    Reply
  2. Hello mel365,
    Looking for a good digital video camera to record high school basketball for a team without breaking the bank. Any recommendations?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • I would probably go for the Sony A6500. 4k video camera at 120fps which will give you that smooth slow motion, very effective. Moreover, it’s also a great camera to shoot!

      Reply
  3. I’m gh5 owner and Like it very very much! but was also infected with Sony Alpha 7R III. But there are some stoppers which are not so nice.
    especially lens selection – which is prob. worse from any of top manufactures . More over – even body si small and weight is comparable to other mirrorless top cameras – lenses are still HUGE and heavy!:( quite ooposite best travel camera.
    if looking at results – those quality images are stunning. As you said – in most cases wont see any difference till print.
    is it worth switching from gh5 to 7r III????

    Reply
    • Hey Zbig,
      I sent you an email with more of my thinking.
      I have personally a Sony a7rII and I used for a bit the Sony a9. The sony a7riii is something in the middle (that’s a quick description, isn’t it LOL).
      It really depends on the type of photography you do and if you print on large formats.
      The biggest difference is performance in low light, but that’s something the MFT have always under performing, due to the small size of the sensor.
      I am just back from a trip in Sri Lanka where I did a fair bit of street photography too. Having 42M photo is allowing me to crop quite substantially the image to have the best composition, something it’s hard to do when you need to catch the moment.
      In this respect I like the Sony a7.
      The GH5 and a7 bodies are pretty similar in weight and size however you have a great point. Lenses are big for the a7, as for any full sensor camera. If you need to carry around 2-3 lenses, well, the back is gonna feel it.
      What I love of the GH5 is the video part, so amazing!!
      Personally I would not go from GH5 to a7rIII however nowadays I do not print almost anymore. It really depends on what you do with your photos.

      I hope I was able to help out
      Cheers

      Reply
  4. I like photography so much. As a result i have few camera but they are not good as like as your blog site camera .Here already good camera with his uses.I like it very much.Anyway thanks for sharing

    Reply

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