It’s often the case that we take the majority of our pictures when we travel. It makes sense, therefore, to invest in a decent camera to make the most of your holiday snaps.
In 2018, there’s more choice than ever before, so no matter your skill level, budget, or type of camera you’re after, you should find something on this list.
The cameras here are actually quite diverse, so picking a winner is tricky. If you’re looking for the ultimate pocket camera, then the Sony RX100 V is hard to beat, but the Panasonic G9 is a great choice for those who want a mix of portability, advanced controls and the ability to swap lenses.
How to buy the best travel camera for you
Many people choose to go for something light, small and discreet – which makes sense in the age of hand luggage only. We’ve got a few cameras on our list here that will fit neatly in your pocket. But others choose to go with something versatile and capable of showing off your travels at their very best.
There’s probably not one “ultimate” travel camera, but if you’re looking for something that you can stick in your pocket and feel assured of excellent quality, then the Sony RX100 V will elevate your shots way above those you can take with your phone.
With its one-inch sensor and f/1.8-f/2.8 (wide aperture) lens, it’s great for shooting in low light, and the teeny tiny body even manages to squeeze in a retractable viewfinder. All of this comes at a very high price though – quite literally – you’re looking at the best part of a grand for this pocket powerhouse, which may well be more than you spent on the holiday in the first place.
If your budget is tighter (and let’s face it, most people’s will be), then the Panasonic TZ100 is also a great choice. For around £500, you get a one-inch sensor, a 10x optical zoom, and full manual control. The lens may not be quite so primed for low light as the RX100V, but if you’re in sunny climes, that’s probably not that much of a deal breaker.
For those who “holiday” means “adventure travel”, then the GoPro Hero 6 is the obvious choice. Now available for under £400, use the Hero6 to capture all your skiing, watersports, abseiling, kite surfing or whatever else you like. Its primary function may be video, but it’s capable of taking stills too. It’s teeny tiny body is great for chucking in a bag, while it’s waterproof and rugged credentials mean you don’t have to worry about it too much. Battery life is a little on the limited side, so be sure to pack a power bank in your hand luggage too.
The Fuji X100F is a bit of niche product, but it makes the list for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s drop-dead gorgeous, but more importantly, that APS-C sized sensor and 35mm (equivalent) lens combination makes it the ideal shooter for a city break, where you want to look cool and grab the odd street shot or two.
For those more bothered by zoom – perhaps you’re on safari – the Sony RX10 IV is a fantastic choice. It doesn’t come cheap (nearly £1800), but you get a one-inch sensor, coupled with a 25x optical zoom in a body packed with dials and buttons. It could conceivably be the only camera you ever need, saving you the hassle (and weight) of multiple lenses all in one device. Take a look at the older RX100 III if your wallet is feeling punished.
Finally, we’ve got the interchangeable. If you’re after ultimate quality to capture the trip of a lifetime, nothing will do that better than an interchangeable lens camera.
The Panasonic G9 is quite probably the best Micro Four Thirds camera to date, offering fantastic image quality in a range of conditions. Because of the (relatively) small size of the sensor – when compared to DSLRs – the overall system is also travel-friendly. You can pack the G9 and a bunch of different lenses in a light bag without doing your back in.
Alternatively, the Nikon D500 is a superb all-rounder DSLR. You’ve got the option to choose from a huge selection of lenses, but stick the 16-8-mm f/2.8-4.0 lens on for a cracking travel lens and enjoy the benefits of the APS-C sized sensor.
So, which will you choose? – read on to find a little more detail about each in our selection.
The 7 best travel cameras you can buy today
1. PANASONIC TZ100
The premium compact sector of the market remains one of the most interesting. Here we have something not offered by any of the others in the shape of a 10x optical zoom – that makes it particularly appealing for the versatility it gives while travelling.
The one-inch sensor produces bright and vibrant images, while the maximum aperture of the lens starts at f/2.8 – but quickly drops to f/5.9, making it less useful in low light than its Sony RX100 V rival. Still, there’s a small (but usable) viewfinder, a touch-sensitive screen and 4K video recording available – all in all a very versatile little travel compact.
2. SONY RX100 V
Sony’s most premium compact really is the ultimate compact camera, and you won’t find anything better than it on the market. Sadly, you probably also won’t find anything this expensive – still, if it’s something you’ll have on you all the time, perhaps it could be considered good value for money.
For your cash, you get an excellent sensor, coupled with a great lens, which offers the old favourite of 24-70mm equivalent, as well as maximum apertures of f/1.8-f/2.8 for low light shooting. The RX100V can shoot super quickly too, and it even records 4K video. There’s not much to dislike here, but be prepared to pay for it.
3. SONY RX10 IV
To use the term bridge camera with the RX10 IV would be doing it a disservice, as this term has generally been met with snooty derision from “serious” photographers. While it may well be one in the strictest sense of the word, the RX10 IV arguably redefines the genre, producing the ultimate all-rounder which is ideally targeted at travelers who want the image quality of an interchangeable lens camera and a bunch of optics but don’t want to carry them around.
Here you’ve got a 25x optical zoom lens, which also manages reasonably wide apertures of f/2.4-4 (particularly impressive at the 600mm end), along with a high-quality EVF, fantastic AF system and a very well performing sensor. Take this on your safari holiday and you won’t be disappointed – just be prepared to shell out the big bucks.
4. FUJIFILM X100F
Perfect for city breaks, the X100F is easily the most attractive camera on our list. Oozing with retro style, the X100F is about more than just looks though. It houses a fantastic APS-C sized sensor, which is perfectly matched to a 23mm f/2.0 lens which gives you a 35mm equivalent. While some may not appreciate only having one focal length, it forces you to think about your composition and is a lot more versatile than you might think.
It’s a shame there’s no touchscreen here to make grabbing those quick street shots a little easier, and the price is pretty high for what is ultimately a niche model, but it produces travel photos which are just so easy to fall in love with.
5. GOPRO HERO 6
GoPro holds on to its crown of king of the action cameras with its latest Hero 6 incarnation. Waterproof down to 10 meters without any need for a casing, you can trust the Hero 6 to accompany you on pretty much all of your adventure holidays. Whack on the extra housing to take it even deeper, while the massive range of compatible mounts and accessories continues to grow.
Other impressive specs include an improved touchscreen, video recording at 4K up to 60fps (no image stabilization at this level though), and the ability to condense your day’s recording into a single movie using the quick stories app – perfect for encapsulating all your holiday memories.
6. NIKON D500
While for some, travel photography equates to pocket-friendly cameras, for others, it’s about finding something which offers the best all-around capability and gives you options to be flexible. The Nikon D500 is quite probably the best APS-C DSLR on the market right now, offering 10fps shooting, a great viewfinder, a tilting screen and a high-performing sensor.
If you want to keep things light, then the 16-80mm f/2.8-4 “kit” lens which often comes bundled with the D500 is a great option for travelers, giving you the option to swap out for extra length (or perhaps extra width) should you need it.
7. PANASONIC G9
Easily one of the best compact system cameras on the market, the Panasonic G9 is a great all rounder for a wide range of travel subjects. If you’re shooting wildlife, the 20fps (at full resolution) burst speed is sure to appeal, while the fine detail and excellent colors produced by the sensor make it good to capture landscapes, portraits and everything in between.
While the G9 may be relatively bulky for a compact system camera, since the Micro Four Thirds system is small, you can fit a slew of lenses in your hand luggage while barely noticing they’re there – something you won’t get with a full-frame alternative.