April 13, 2024

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The 12 Best Travel Cameras of 2024

19 min read

Cameras let us snap scenes that inspire, places that take our breath away, and simple moments that make up the fabric of a destination through a single shot. Hefty camera bodies with giant lenses might seem like the obvious choice for top-notch photos, but for travel, they can be a bulky hindrance taking up too much packing space. Instead, consider your specific needs as a jumping off point when you’re ready to shop for a new camera. Are you a hardcore adventurer? Are most of your travels long-haul trips? Are you a beginner or advanced photographer? These are all questions you should ask yourself to help narrow it down.

Whether you purchase a budget-friendly camera or something pricier, it’ll be an investment — not only financially, but also in trusting your pick to properly capture once-in-a-lifetime experiences that don’t come with do-overs. To help with your travel camera search, we also spoke to professional photographers Jonathan Pozniak and Viktoria North, as well as Nikon senior product manager Mark Cruz, to get some expert advice on how to choose the best camera for you.

A full frame mirrorless camera with incredibly high resolution, the Sony Alpha 7CR is our top pick for a travel camera. The compact size makes it very portable, and the interchangeable lenses give you a lot of versatility for shooting everything from landscape or wildlife to portraits and city scenes. As a photographer, I love the intuitive design of the Sony Alpha series cameras and this one is no exception; auto-focus tracking is impressive, in-body image stabilization does not disappoint, and the battery life has improved significantly from earlier models. Track your subject with the smart eye detection, for humans and wildlife, including a special bird option. I also appreciate how customizable the settings and buttons are, making your photography shoots more efficient. In addition to having the capability of capturing high-quality photographs in both RAW and JPG files, this camera takes video in 4K too. Built-in WiFi and bluetooth capabilities make it easy to share photos or connect to a remote as well. For a professional quality camera that won’t take up too much space or weigh you down when traveling, this is our top choice.

The Details: Full frame CMOS (35.7mm x 23.8mm) sensor | 61 megapixels | 1/8000 to 30 seconds shutter speed | 4K video | 1.1 pounds

Best Action Camera

GoPro HERO12 Black

Amazon GoPro HERO12 Black

Amazon


The rough and tumble GoPro Hero12 Black has long been one of the top action cameras, with its pocket-sized and durable design. With improved image stabilization and battery life, as well as the ability to handle hotter temperatures, this newest version is no exception. With so many accessories that can be purchased separately, this camera can be equipped for any adventure, big or small, cold or hot, wet or dry. I especially love the bite mount for capturing POV, hands-free shots, with my dog. This camera is so compact and portable, it’s perfect for travel. Anything you find yourself doing, from mountain biking or skiing, to snorkeling, or taking a sunrise timelapse, will be captured so vibrantly. Customize the frame rate and settings when capturing video, with the option for 5.3K video quality. You have the option to shoot in RAW or JPEG, though you can only use the wide angle when shooting RAW. Other cool features include the ability to use voice commands to take a photo or start video, and modes like HDR, sup slow motion movie, and star trails.

The Details: Size-unspecified CMOS sensor | 27 megapixels | 1/8 to 30 seconds in photo mode, 1/480 to 1/30 seconds in video mode shutter speeds | 5.3K + 4K video | 5.4 ounces

Best Budget DSLR

Canon EOS Rebel T7

Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR Camera

Amazon


With the Canon EOS Rebel T7, you can save your dollars without skimping on image quality, and there’s not much more you can ask for in the DSLR world. Although there is a newer version of this camera (EOS Rebel T8i), the T7 is still the most budget-friendly device with features perfect for someone ready to branch out and learn the ins and outs of DSLRs. That being said, it’s more suited for a beginner photographer who wants to amp up their game past smartphone photography. It’s a fantastic camera to practice manual mode and learn how to adjust ISO, aperture, and shutter speed settings. Eventually, it’s likely that you’ll be ready to graduate to a more complex camera — but we all have to start somewhere, right?

Canon is well known for having a straightforward, easy-to-use system, which is a huge bonus for beginners. The LCD screen is helpful for navigating the menu and setting up images, though it does lack the luxury of touchscreen capabilities. Built-in WiFi allows for quick sharing between devices, so your amazing shots can be posted to social media platforms in a jiffy.

The Details: Cropped CMOS sensor | 24 megapixels | 1/4000 to 30 seconds bulb shutter ​​| Full HD video | 15.06 ounces (body only)

Best Budget Mirrorless

Canon EOS R50

Canon EOS R50

B&H Photo


The brand new Canon EOS R50 snags the spot for best budget mirrorless and doesn’t only promise great photo quality, but its video capabilities are fantastic as well. With 4K uncropped video and stellar subject detection and tracking at a friendly price point, this mirrorless model is a great everyday camera that’s ideal for everything from social media video captures to portrait and landscape shooting. Interchangeable lenses give you flexibility, and the compact design won’t weigh you down. Excellent auto-focus that can be tailored to detect humans, animals, and even vehicles is a major highlight, as is the 12fps (frames per second) burst mode. The touchscreen and creative assist mode make this a beginner-friendly camera as well as one that won’t break the bank.

The Details: Cropped CMOS (APS-C) sensor | 24.2 megapixels | 1/4000th sec – 30 seconds, in 1/3-step increments shutter speed ​​| 4K video | 11.52 ounces

Best Retro Look

Fujifilm X100VI Camera

B&H Photo Fujifilm X100VI Camera

B&H Photo


We love how compact and sleek the limited edition FUJIFILM X100VI is, with the nod to nostalgia symbolized by the engraved original brand  logo. This is our top pick for best retro-inspired camera, but if you can’t get your hands on one of these limited edition models, the FUJIFILM X-T5 is our next best bet. That being said, this model has fantastic low-light capabilities, in-body stabilization, 6.2K video capture, and improved in-body stabilization to minimize shaky shots. It has a tilting LCD touchscreen display, which I find makes it easier to snag those artistic selfies in the midst of epic landscapes or to get a solid group photo. The lens is a fixed 35mm lens. With the camera’s WiFi, it also uses an intuitive camera-to-cloud (c-2-c) system which automatically uploads content to the cloud-based platform. For a small camera with a “throwback” look that has amazing capabilities, this one is perfect for travelers as an everyday use tool.

The Details: APS-C X-trans CMOS 5 HR sensor | 40.2 megapixels | 1/4000 to 15 Minutes in manual mode shutter speed (mechanical), 1/180000 to 15 minutes in manual mode shutter speed (electronic) ​​| 4K + 6K video | 1.1 pounds

Best Mirrorless for Beginners

Nikon Z50

Nikon Z50

Best Buy


We love how the Nikon Z50 is small enough to fit in your pocket, but don’t be fooled by its size: it produces big-time quality images. “For those new to photography and video, this camera provides an exciting entry point. It’s small enough to carry with you, but offers higher-quality images than your phone. This model is great to learn with as it incorporates many easy-to-use features, plus offers an automatic mode that senses different shooting scenarios and automatically adjusts the camera’s settings (e.g., ISO range, exposure compensation) to deliver stunning results,” Nikon’s Cruz says.

The flip-down LCD screen is ideal for travel photographers and creators that want to take selfies, vlog, or include themselves for scale. The Z50 is also designed to save settings for both photo and video separately, so you don’t have to worry about changing everything when you switch modes. With low-light capabilities, an easy-to-navigate menu, a sleek design, and 11 frames per second at full resolution, a beginner travel photographer will be hard pressed to find a better mirrorless camera.

The Details: Cropped APS-C CMOS sensor | 20.9 megapixels | 1/4000 to 30 seconds, bulb, time shutter ​​| 4K video ​​| 14 ounces

Best DSLR for Beginners

Pentax Pentax KF DSLR

Pentax KF DSLR

Amazon


For those interested in getting their feet wet with photography, the Pentax KF DSLR Camera is our top choice for its durable, weather-resistant body, vari-angle screen, and compact size despite DSLR cameras’ reputation for being hefty in general. It offers a solid grip, and longer battery life, as most DSLR’s do. Start learning the camera in automatic and make use of the manual controls as you learn photography. The large viewfinder is fantastic, and this particular model mixes modern mirrorless technology with the classic DSLR viewfinder by offering a live view in addition to the optical viewfinder. You’ll be able to mix and match your preferred focal lengths with this model as well, since it’s equipped for interchangeable lenses. For the price point, this newbie from Pentax is a solid entry level DSLR for travel that won’t take up a ton of space in your bag.

The Details: Cropped APS-C CMOS sensor | 24.2 megapixels | 1/6000 to 30 seconds shutter in auto mode, 1/6000 to 30 seconds shutter in manual mode ​​| 1080p HD video ​​| 2.73 pounds

Best Mirrorless for Outdoor Photography

OM System Om System Mark II

OM System OM-1

B&H Photo


The newest OM SYSTEM camera, the OM-1 Mark II Mirrorless model is a lightweight and compact, high-performing camera with durable construction and IP53 weatherproofing. This means it can withstand the elements when shooting landscapes or wildlife outdoors, including some rain, wind, and snowflakes. In fact, the camera is freezeproof, dust and splash-resistant, and can handle temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit. The built-in stabilization is another key factor for outdoor and wildlife photographers, helping you to get the sharp image and assisting with longer exposures to minimize shake. The rubber control dials give you a little more grippy control when shooting, which is a nice additional feature that can go a long way. For a workhorse mirrorless travel camera that can hack it outdoors, this is a fantastic choice.

The Details: Cropped 17.4 x 13 mm (four-thirds) BSI MOS sensor | 20.4 megapixels | 1/8000 to 60 seconds shutter (mechanical), 1/32000 to 60 seconds shutter (electronic) ​​| 4K video ​​| 1.1 pounds

Best Splurge

Leica Q3 Digital Camera

Leica Q3 Digital Camera

Leica


This pick is an upgrade to the Leica Q2 version of the company’s classic rangefinder camera, and we love how easy to use and versatile the Leica Q3 is across a wide array of shooting conditions. This fresh model allows for in-camera charging, which is a worthy upgrade from the previous one. The same full-frame capabilities are now paired with a powerhouse 60MP high-resolution sensor, hybrid AF (autofocus) system, and 8K video recording ability. The processing is speedy for both shooting stills and video, and boasts continuous shooting up to 15 frames per second. The fixed 28mm f/1.7 prime lens is impressive even in low light conditions, and a full battery charge will score you approximately 350 shots. The Leica Q3 is a great choice for intermediate to advanced photographers seeking high-end equipment for everyday purposes and professional jobs.

The Details: Full-frame BSI CMOS Sensor | 60 megapixels | 1/2000 to 1/2 second shutter speed, 1/2000 to 4 seconds in auto mode ​​| 8K video at 30 frames per second, 4K video ​​| 8.8 ounces

Best Underwater

OM SYSTEM Tough TG-7 Black Underwater Camera

OM SYSTEM Tough TG-7 Black Underwater Camera

Amazon


The upgraded Olympus Tough TG-7 is exactly what it claims to be: tough, rugged, and capable of taking superb underwater photos and videos. The solid handgrip does a great job giving you that extra security as you swim around and shoot the underwater world. New features added from the TG-6 include vertical video support, interval shooting, exposure smoothing, and USB-C connectivity for uploading content.

With a unique internal zoom mechanism, the 25-100-millimeter lens doesn’t stick out from the camera body, keeping it watertight while you capture macro details of marine life from a safe distance. RAW shooting and 4K video make this not just any old underwater camera, but one with impressive capabilities. The super slow-motion mode is another favorite. It’s rated as waterproof to 50 feet, making it the perfect companion for your snorkeling or free diving adventures. It’s not just waterproof either; the shockproof design makes this camera perfect for ventures outside of the water as well. Bring it hiking, mountain biking, or just for a day at the beach without having to worry.

The camera is also easy to use, which is exactly what you want when you’re shooting underwater. “I had fun with the Olympus TG-6 on assignment in Bora Bora. I’m a terrible swimmer so all I could do was click away and hope for the best. Thankfully it worked!” Jonathan Pozniak shares.

The Details: Cropped BSI CMOS sensor | 12 megapixels | 1/2000 to 1/2 second shutter, 1/2000 to 4 seconds shutter in auto mode ​​| 4K video ​​| 8.8 ounces

Best Phone Lens

Moment Tele Lens

Moment Tele Lens

B&H Photo


Our top pick for a stand-alone extra lens to attach to your smartphone is the Moment T-series Tele 58mm lens, which allows you to zoom up to six times closer to your subject. As a standard, it also sits twice as close to the main camera lens of your phone. This allows for sharper shots versus using the zoom on your smartphone, which diminishes the resolution. Fantastic for landscape, wildlife, and portrait photography, this lens definitely elevates your smartphone photo game by offering more flexibility without sacrificing quality. Video will also benefit thanks to a beautiful bokeh effect and an overall cinematic vibe. This lens is easy to use, as it features a straightforward mounting process and quickly twists off. This lens is compatible with most phones, but it’s wise to consult the description before purchasing.

“For most people, a smartphone is all you need, but that may vary for each trip. If I’m out hiking for the day, my iPhone 12 Pro in my pocket is all I need, and the fact that it shoots RAW and video is a huge plus.” Pozniak explains.

The Details: 58 millimeter | 300 line pairs per millimeter (axis), 200 line pairs per millimeter (edge) | 39.5 millimeter lens | 2.6 ounces

Best Pocket-Sized

Ricoh Ricoh Street Edition

Ricoh GR III Street Edition

B & H Photo


We love the pocket-sized, travel-friendly Ricoh GR III Street Edition Digital camera for everyday use and portability. It’s easy to use with straightforward settings, menu, and customization. I really appreciate a camera that starts up quickly so you don’t miss the shot, and this one fits the bill. It has the capability to capture both JPEG and RAW files and you can get creative with the built-in filters like monochrome, HDR tone, and negative film. A fixed 28mm equivalent lens makes it versatile enough for portraits as well as landscape and street photography. This camera lacks a built-in flash but it does come with a hot shoe so you can attach a compatible external flash to it, if you’re taking night shots. Image stabilzation and an impressive auto-focus help produce sharper images, and a decent battery life makes it possible to explore a new city all day without having to worry that you’ll run out of juice. Bluetooth and WiFi make it easy to share photos as well. 

The Details: Cropped APS-C CMOS sensor | 24.2 megapixels | 1/4000 to 30 seconds shutter, 0.17 to 20 minutes shutter in time mode ​​| 1080p video ​​| 9.07 ounces

Tips for Buying a Travel Camera

Understand the specs

“When you’re thinking about buying a camera, it’s important to understand what features and specifications complement your shooting style as well as the content you are looking to capture, whether it be still images, video content, or both,” says Nikon’s Mark Cruz. These are some of the specs you should consider before making a purchase.

Sensor size: Your camera’s sensor is the rectangle that reads the image from your lens and dictates how much light and detail you’re able to capture. The main sensor sizes to decide upon are cropped or full-frame, with full-frame cameras having larger sensors and the ability to produce higher image quality. Cropped frame sensors will get you a tighter frame, with magnification cropping the actual lens focal length by anywhere between 1.5x and 2x. This means that a 70-millimeter lens would be magnified to a 105-millimeter focal length with a crop factor of 1.5x. Common crop sensor sizes are APS-C and micro four thirds (1.6x and 1.5x).

There are advantages to purchasing a full-frame (35 millimeter) camera, though it will come with a heftier price tag. You’ll experience sharper images with more crisp details, as well as less noise. Additionally, a full-frame sensor has excellent low-light capabilities, making it the ideal aspect for astrophotography. For landscape photography, the wider field of view is a major advantage of the full-frame sensor as well. If you’re interested in professional photography, selling prints, or turning your shots into custom photo gifts, the full-frame sensor will be a good fit since it produces the highest possible quality images.

Megapixels: This is a measurement of the number of pixels the camera sensor has, with “mega” meaning “millions.” Usually anything over 12 megapixels will get the job done. However, if you’re planning on printing large-scale versions of your images for personal or professional use, the higher the megapixel count, the better. Most cropped sensor cameras have somewhere around 20-24 megapixels while full-frame cameras tend to have between 40 and 50 megapixels.

Shutter speed: This dictates the amount of time that your camera’s sensor will be exposed to the light coming in. Faster shutter speeds such as fractions of a second are usually used for quickly moving subjects in order to freeze the motion in the photograph, while slower shutter speeds are typically used to capture things like the flow of a waterfall or the stars in the night sky by having it open and exposed for a longer period of time. When buying a camera, it’s a good idea to purchase one with a wider range of shutter speeds to give you the most versatility. Typically, the range is between 1/4000 to 30 seconds. “Bulb” is available on some models and offers more than 30 seconds of exposure to light, usually for photographing the night sky.

Video shooting: The highest quality video on most cameras is 4K, which will give you superb quality. However, many still have full HD video at 1080p or 720p. If video is high on your priority list, 4K is certainly the way to go.

Weight: For travel cameras, this is one of the most important factors to consider. Most travelers want a camera that is lightweight for packing purposes and easy to carry around for the day. Think about if you are willing to lug a bigger DSLR or even a mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses in order to have the option for high-quality images that can be printed at a larger scale. If that’s more than you need, then a compact, point-and-shoot, or your own smartphone with extra lenses might be the best fit for you.

Buy for your skill level and purpose

While browsing for a travel camera, first assessing your skill level and main purpose for shooting will help narrow down your search considerably. If you’re a professional photographer doing brand work with a hotel in a far-flung destination that will be used in marketing campaigns or billboards, your purchase will most likely look a lot different than if your goal is to get images for your travel-focused Instagram page or to simply share with friends and family via digital picture frames. As a beginner, you should purchase a camera aimed at that level of photography with some room to grow, so you can learn effectively without being overwhelmed.

Choose a camera that fits your life and travel style

Do you spend a lot of time outdoors or doing water-based activities, or are you mostly interested in food photography when you travel? All of these aspects will help you determine the right fit for you. As photographer Jonathan Pozniak shares, it’s also about comfort. “All cameras are good nowadays, and all have fantastic features. So here’s my rule of thumb: go to a camera store, and hold each one in your hand. Listen to the sound it makes, feel what the clicking of the shutter is like,” he says. “How do your fingers glide across the buttons? It should feel like an extension of your arm. Be intuitive with it!”

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How should I pack a camera for traveling?

    The art of packing a camera involves cushioning and protection against the elements (rain, dust, dirt, etc.). A backpack designed for camera use with a rain cover is always a good idea, particularly if you’re someone who will be exploring the outdoors. Camera cubes are great accessories that provide an affordable way to turn a bag you already have into a camera bag.

    “When I’m not bringing a lot of gear/cameras, I love the camera cubes by Mountainsmith for the airport and plane. I usually keep the cube in my room with extra lenses and if I am doing a lot of walking, just pick one lens to use for the day (usually a 50 millimeter),” says North.

    “While today’s mirrorless cameras are rugged, it is best to pack them in a camera bag to ensure as much safety as possible and avoid any potential damage. You should also make sure to put the body cap on the camera to protect the sensor from getting dirty, scratched, or damaged while traveling,” she adds.

  • What are some must-have travel photography accessories?

    “Circular Polarizer and a UV filter, a comfortable strap like the Peak Design SL-BK-3 Slide, a backpack clip like Peak Design Capture Camera Clip V3, and if you’re heading somewhere with rain or snow in the forecast, Peak Design’s shell,” says North.

    You’ll also definitely want something to backup all the incredible footage you’ll be getting. “A portable hard drive for backups is essential! My heart crumbles when I hear stories of cameras and laptops getting stolen on the road. I’ve certainly experienced that myself. I make multiple backups each day and put each portable drive or thumb drive in a different bag just in case one gets lost or stolen,” Pozniak shares.

    Our experts also recommend making sure your batteries are fully charged before stepping out each day and bringing along a couple extras just in case.

  • What matters more for quality photos, the camera or the lenses?

    Our experts had a lot to say when it came to the camera versus lens debate. “The camera and lenses are equally important, but it depends on what a person wants to capture,” says Nikon senior product manager Mark Cruz. “The lens is what creates a gorgeous blurred background or lets you get close to the action from far away, but the camera provides the autofocus performance and speed to get there. The most important factor for the quality of photos is how you, as the photographer, make the most of your equipment. Combining photography knowledge with a powerful, capable camera and sharp, versatile lenses will allow you to get the best content.”

    Meanwhile, professional photographer Jonathan Pozniak argues that they’re equally important, and emphasizes keeping your lenses clean: “Both! But what’s even more important is how you use it, how it feels in your hand, and I’ve gotta say it, how clean your lens is!”

    Fellow photographer Viktoria North was adamant that lenses are her highest priority, and she has very good reasons for putting them at the top of her must list. “With even the most basic of digital cameras now having impressive MP counts and full size sensors becoming more common, good quality glass is most important for me,” she says. “This is because I can achieve a specific feel to my images dependent on the lens. For example, a fixed 50 millimeter is going to allow me to capture my urban travels as my own eyes see things. If I also go fast on it, say F1.8, that means the background is going to be nice and blurred and keep the focus on my subjects. But if I’m traveling in some beautiful vast landscapes, I’d grab a zoom lens. This will allow me to compress the different levels of the landscape and or subject and create a lot of depth. You don’t always have to go with a big lens like a 70-200mm. I hike and backpack with a 24-105mm F4 most often and when it’s at 105mm, I can achieve some really great compression with it.”

  • What is the difference between mirrorless and DSLR cameras?

    The main difference between mirrorless and DSLR cameras is the tool or technology used to capture the image. A DSLR uses a mirror to reflect light onto the image sensor, but this makes a DSLR heavier and clunkier to carry around. They also usually only have an optical viewfinder which portrays more closely what the eye sees versus an electronic viewfinder on the screen. A mirrorless camera lets light directly hit the sensor, and typically has a live, electronic viewfinder so you can see the real time settings. Mirrorless cameras are more lightweight, therefore making them more portable and travel-friendly. They’re also quieter and faster due to the mechanism they use to capture light. DSLR cameras typically have a longer battery life and a wider array of lenses available, though with recent gains in technology for the mirrorless camera world, that’s changing.

  • Can I still get quality photos with a point-and-shoot camera?

    Yes! They usually don’t have the highest megapixels and have a crop sensor, but you can still capture great photos. You may be limited to producing large scale prints, but, depending on the capabilities, you’ll be able to have prints made that are good quality in a fair amount of sizes. For online and social media, a point-and-shoot camera is perfect.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure


A travel photographer herself, Lauren Breedlove used her personal experience with finding the right cameras and shooting in various conditions around the world. She also scoured the internet, researching and selecting the best cameras for travel, and interviewed professional photographers Viktoria North and Jonathan Pozniak, as well as Nikon senior product manager Mark Cruz, to gather expert insights. Using all of these factors, she curated this list of the best travel cameras.

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