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The Best Camera for Travel Photography in 2021

the best camera for travel photography

I love photography and I love to travel, so I often get the question, “What is the best camera for travel photography?”

When I bought my first camera in 1994, I really wasn’t thinking too hard about the decision. Growing up in Australia, I always longed to travel the world. When I was 20 years old, I got my chance – I bought my first camera and my first overseas airline ticket on the same day.

At the time, I wanted a camera that was compact, light, affordable, and weather resistant. I didn’t know much about photography, but I ended up walking out of the duty-free camera store with a Pentax Zoom 90WR. This compact point and shoot traveled with me all over Europe for the next two years and made a ton of memories. It was also my doorway into photography.

Since buying that first Pentax, I have traveled with dozens of cameras – film, instant, and digital. Although technology has changed, what I look for today is the same as what I looked for 25 years ago.

What should you look for in a travel camera?

Here is my list of ideal travel camera characteristics:

  • Compact and lightweight
  • An excellent fixed lens (or a good range of lenses available)
  • A good range of features
  • Good battery life
  • Weather resistant
  • A competitive price

Note that I used the word “ideal,” as there are very few cameras that offer everything on the list. In fact, one of my favorite travel camera and lens combinations is the Fujifilm X-T3 and the Fujifilm 50-140mm lens, and it’s not exactly a pocketable option.

But for this list of best cameras for travel photography, I focused on compact and lightweight models, starting with my number one pick:

1. Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III

G1X Mark III travel camera

The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III is the third iteration of a popular point and shoot series from Canon. It’s sleek, it’s stylish, and it almost looks like a mini DSLR.

Many compact cameras have a tiny sensor – one inch or smaller – but not this one. The PowerShot boasts an impressive APS-C sensor, which is one of the biggest sensors offered in a camera so compact. It also features a handy zoom range of 24-72mm and an optical stabilizer for shooting in low light.

The PowerShot is easy to use and produces images with high clarity and outstanding colors. The only downside is the price tag; at around $1000 USD, it may be on the high end for some enthusiast photographers.

Pros

  • Large APS-C sensor
  • Compact size
  • Articulating screen

Cons

  • Premium price

2. Sony RX100 VII

Sony RX100 VII
The Sony RX100 VII is a small camera with an impressive zoom range.

Sony keeps improving the RX100 line, and the VII is their best model yet. It may have a smaller sensor than the Canon PowerShot featured above, but the RX100 VII is still a powerful performer. It boasts impressive autofocus, a flip-screen for vlogging and selfies, a mic socket, and a huge zoom range equivalent to 24-200mm in full-frame terms.

The RX100 VII also borrows tech from Sony’s flagship models, which is why it can shoot up to 20 frames per second with no viewfinder blackout.

If you’re a watersports fan, there’s an added bonus: the RX100 has underwater housing available for surfing, diving, and snorkeling photos. At around $1300 USD, the RX100 VII is on the pricier side, but for serious travel photographers, it’s an excellent choice.

Pros

  • Impressive autofocus
  • Handy zoom range
  • Up to 20 frames-per-second shooting
  • Mic jack

Cons

  • Expensive for a compact camera
  • Smaller 1-inch sensor
  • Battery life could be better

3. Fujifilm X-T30

The Fujifilm X-T30
The X-T30 has many features of the flagship X-T3, yet it’s lighter and more affordable.

In 2016, I bought a Fujifilm X-T10 as a backup camera for trips to Indonesia and the Faroe Islands. It was so good I couldn’t tell the difference between images shot on the X-T10 and my X-T1.

The X-T30 is the latest Fujifilm model to take the best features from the flagship camera but in a smaller, lighter body. The X-T30 features the same 26-megapixel APS-C sensor as the X-T3 and can shoot up to a whopping 30 frames per second. And like other Fujifilm cameras, the X-T30 has face- and eye-detection autofocus, which is a big help for travel portraits and street shots. It also includes Fujifilm’s renowned film simulations for JPEG files.

You’ll get around 30 lenses to choose from (the hard part is deciding which is the best for you!). My personal go-to lens for travel photography is the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens. While there is no stabilization in the X-T30 body, there is optical image stabilization in the 18-55mm lens, and it delivers the quality you’d expect from much more expensive glass but at a fraction of the cost.

Unfortunately for photographers who like to shoot in tough conditions, the X-T30 isn’t weather resistant – it seems there are some trade-offs for a lighter, less-expensive body.

Pros

  • Excellent lens lineup from the affordable XC lenses to enthusiast and professional XF lenses
  • Stunning image quality with a range of JPEG film simulations
  • Many of the features of the flagship X-T3 model

Cons

  • No weather sealing
  • The price point isn’t especially competitive

4. Nikon D5600

The Nikon D5600

This next brand needs no introduction; Nikon SLRs were favored by many famous travel photographers in the 1980s and beyond. The D5600 is the latest camera in Nikon’s midrange APS-C series, and it’s a perfect choice for beginners and enthusiast photographers alike.

The D5600 boasts Nikon’s excellent ergonomics, and the camera feels reassuringly comfortable in your hand, although it’s not as compact as other models on this list. Image quality is superb and low-light shooting is very impressive. Plus, you get a fully articulating screen (for selfies, vlogging, and tough compositions), along with excellent battery life.

Pros

  • Excellent image quality
  • Good ergonomics and handling
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • No 4K video
  • Not as compact as other cameras on this list

5. Ricoh GR III

The Ricoh GR III travel camera
Stylish minimalism: the Ricoh GR III.

Ricoh has been producing super-compact GR cameras since the film heydays of the late 1990s. Those classic point-and-shoot GR models were known for their sharp wide-angle lenses and minimalist controls, and the digital line of GR cameras is no different.

The Ricoh GR III is a perfect mix of portability, optical quality, and impressive features. You get a fixed 28mm full-frame equivalent f/2.8 lens capable of producing good images, and four-stop shake reduction that ensures sharp files even in challenging light.

The GR III is often compared to another camera in this list, the Fujifilm X100V. Consider the Ricoh if you prefer a smaller camera with a wider angle of view.

Pros

  • Truly pocketable
  • Four-stop shake reduction
  • Fantastic wide-angle lens

Cons

  • The straight-out-of-camera JPEGs are not as good as Fujifilm’s
  • Battery life could be better

6. Sony a6600

The Sony a6600 for travel photography
The Sony a6600 has an impressive spec sheet that includes Real-Time Eye AF.

It’s easy to see why Sony has grabbed a big share of the mirrorless camera market in recent years: the company produces an impressive range of cameras that appeal to professionals and enthusiasts alike.

The Sony a6600 may not have a full-frame sensor like some of its stablemates, but its compact body and impressive specs make it a strong candidate for the best camera for travel photography. The a6600 features a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, along with Real-Time Eye AF for photography and video, plus five-axis optical image stabilization. The 180-degree flip screen also makes the a6600 handy for vlogging and selfies. I do think that the layout and controls could be improved, but it’s one of the only drawbacks to an otherwise excellent camera.

Quick note: if you like the look of the a6600 but you’re on a tighter budget, also consider the a6400. It may not be as up to date as the a6600, but it offers excellent value for money.

Pros

  • Small and light
  • Great lens lineup
  • Real-Time Eye AF

Cons

  • Handling and ergonomics could be improved

7. Olympus Tough TG-6

Best camera for travel photography: the Olympus Tough TG-6
Shockproof, dustproof, crushproof, and fogproof: the Olympus Tough TG-6 can handle pretty much anything.

Going on an extreme adventure? The Olympus Tough TG-6 could be the best travel camera for you. This compact point and shoot can withstand a lot of punishment, thanks to its shockproof, dustproof, and crushproof body.

The TG-6 can also work in temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 degrees Celsius), and it’s fogproof, even during sudden changes in temperature. As I found out on a recent trip to Indonesia – where I was frequently moving from an air-conditioned hotel room to the outside heat and humidity – a foggy camera can be a real inconvenience.

For snorkeling and diving fans, the Tough TG-6 loves being underwater as much as you do. It’s waterproof up to 49 ft (15 m), and it boasts several underwater modes, including a microscope mode that can focus on objects 0.39 in (1 cm) away.

Pros

  • Super tough
  • Compact
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Only 12 megapixels
  • More suited to adventurers than enthusiast photographers

8. Fujifilm X100V

I’m a huge fan of the Fujifilm X100 series cameras (I’ve owned three of the five models released over the last decade). Even photographers loyal to other brands buy an X100-series camera as their “take everywhere” body.

The X100V is small and light, yet it features an incredible 35mm f/2 fixed lens. Other useful features include its leaf shutter and built-in neutral density filter. And of course, Fujifilm’s range of stunning JPEG film simulations are ready to use as soon as you turn on the X100V.

The Fujifilm X100V
The best compact camera ever? The Fujifilm X100V.

While the entire X100 series is great, note that the latest model, the X100V, does have an important improvement over its predecessors: it’s weather resistant. This makes it an excellent choice for photographers who shoot in sand, rain, snow, and more.

Pros

  • Excellent lens
  • Built-in ND filter
  • Fujifilm JPEGs
  • Weather resistant

Cons

  • Fixed lens
  • No in-body image stabilization
  • More expensive than its predecessors

9. Panasonic Lumix LX100 II

Panasonic Lumix LX100 II

For travel photographers, there’s a lot to like about the Panasonic Lumix LX100 II. The camera has a stylish design, with an aperture ring on the lens and a shutter speed dial on top of the camera for full manual control.

The Lumix LX100 II sports a fast lens with a handy 24-75mm zoom range. It also features optical image stabilization and can shoot 4K video up to 30 fps.

Although it has a smaller 17-megapixel Four Thirds sensor, the Lumix makes up for this in other ways. It can focus as close as 1.2 in (3 cm), it offers a focus stacking feature, and it even includes the ability to change focus in an image afterward.

Pros

  • Excellent image quality
  • Fast lens
  • Small and compact

Cons

  • Fixed rear screen
  • Only 17 megapixels

10. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

Olympus has a reputation for making some of the most innovative compact cameras in photographic history. Their mirrorless cameras are no exception, and it’s easy to see why Olympus models have been popular with the travel influencer crowd. I’ve spoken to many people who’ve downsized to Olympus from full-frame systems, and they couldn’t be happier.

The OM-D E-M5 Mark III is one of Olympus’s latest weather-sealed Four Thirds cameras. It’s lightweight, yet it boasts impressive autofocus and excellent image quality. Other features include a fully articulating 3-inch screen, in-body image stabilization, and built-in focus stacking.

Olympus also boasts a wide range of lenses. A perfect choice for a lightweight setup is the 14-42mm EZ lens, though if you want more range, take a look at the 14-150mm.

Best camera for travel photography: the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is a favorite among travel influencers.

Pros

  • Compact and light
  • Excellent image quality
  • Good range of lenses
  • Weather sealed

Cons

  • Smaller Four Thirds sensor
  • Battery life could be better

What is the best camera for travel photography?

Choosing the perfect travel photography camera is a difficult task, and one that depends on many factors. I recommend looking at the list of ideal features offered earlier in this article. Determine what you value most, then evaluate the different cameras I’ve discussed based on those criteria.

So what is the best camera for travel photography? Only you can answer that question! Research different models. And if you need to, go to a camera shop, where you can talk to the staff and hold each camera in your hands. Also try talking to people who own your top picks and ask for their honest opinions. Then, when you’re ready, buy a camera – and hit the road!

Now over to you:

What camera do you currently use for travel photography? Which of the cameras on this list is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Matt Murray
Matt Murray

Matt Murray is a travel, portrait and stock photographer from Brisbane, Australia. Matt publishes Fujifilm X-series body reviews, lens reviews and photo galleries on his website Matt Loves Fuji. Matt also hosts an analogue photography podcast Matt Loves Cameras featuring reviews of classic film and instant cameras.

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