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June 6, 2019

How To Choose The Best Camera For Travel Photography

If there’s one question I see over and over again in the travel-related Facebook groups I’m a part of, it’s always: what’s the best camera for travel photography?

A lot of the time, people just shout out a model name and call it a day, which I don’t think is actually very helpful. Then you just get a huge list of cameras with no real way to discern between them. How do you know if one camera is better for your needs over another? How do you choose the best camera for travel for you?

In this post, I’m going to go into as much detail as possible about what you actually need to be looking for when it comes to choosing the best camera for travel photography, and then I’ll end with a few different camera recommendations and talk about how they fit the things to look for. The point of this post is to leave you feeling empowered to walk into a store or shop around online, knowing exactly what you’re looking for in a camera.

I hope you enjoy!

↠ Read next: The Ultimate Guide to Travel Photography for Beginners

The Best Camera for Travel Photography: What to Look For

A girl holding a camera - how to choose the best camera for travel photography

There are so many things to consider these days when it comes to choosing the best camera for travel. Do you want a point and shoot? A mirrorless? A DSLR? How many megapixels should it have? Should you pay extra for Bluetooth capabilities?

When it comes down to it, though, there are 3 main things you should really be looking at when choosing the best camera for travel photography: size & weight, features, and price.

P.S. Want to improve your travel photography! Click the image below to get my free cheat sheet!

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The Best Camera for Travel Photography: Size & Weight

An old Konica camera on a map - how to choose the best camera for travel photography

To me, the #1 most important thing to consider when choosing the best camera for travel photography is size and weight.

Why?

Because even if a camera takes professional level photos, if it’s too big and bulky it’s hard to travel with. 2 pounds might not seem like a lot, but when you have those 2 pounds digging into your neck and shoulders all day it will seem like 100 pounds. And trust me when I say that it is ridiculously easy to just leave a big, heavy camera behind in the hotel room when you don’t want to carry it around anymore.

And of course, the second you leave your camera behind is the second you miss a once-in-a-lifetime photography opportunity.

Because of this, I highly suggest mirrorless cameras, which have basically the same amount of power as DSLRs but are much smaller and lightweight, making them super easy to travel with.

The Best Camera for Travel Photography: Features

Cameras these days are absolutely packed with fancy features, and oftentimes they’re just there to drive up the price. So how do you know what features you actually need, and which ones are just extra? And when it comes to those features that you need, how do you know that they’re good? Well, let’s dive into all of that.

Sensor Size vs. Megapixels

A lot of people these days seem to get caught up with megapixels and take it as a given that the more megapixels a camera has, the better quality pictures it will take. So camera manufacturers drive up the number of megapixels on a camera so that they can charge more – but that doesn’t actually mean that that camera will take good quality pictures!

In reality, a megapixel just means one million pixels. So the number of megapixels that a camera has just indicated the number of pixels that the images your camera will take will have. While this does mean that your photos will be more detailed, it doesn’t have as much say in the quality of your pictures as many people think it does.

The sensor, on the other hand, is the thing that captures all of the information that the camera takes in. The larger your sensor, the more information it can take in, and the higher quality your images will be.

So when it comes down to it, choose a larger sensor size over more megapixels!

ISO Range

Travel photography has this pesky little habit of putting you in situations where you have absolutely no control over lighting. Places like churches and restaurants are often dimly lit, and using your flash is very rarely the best solution.

The holy grail in Valencia Cathedral, Spain
Upping the ISO in dimly lit places is often the only way to ensure that the camera can see anything.

ISO controls how sensitive your camera is to light. The higher you set the ISO number, the more sensitive your camera will be to light, and the brighter your photo will be.

Of course, there’s a trade-off for those brighter photos–the higher the ISO, the more chance there is that your photo will have noise.

So when you’re looking for the best camera for travel, I suggest looking at not only how high the ISO can go on a particular camera, but also at what point it starts showing noise. A camera that starts showing noise at a higher ISO is always a good thing!

Able to shoot in Manual Mode

Although it might seem intimidating, shooting in manual mode will give you the ultimate creative control over your images. So even if you don’t start out using manual mode, you should be able to eventually work your way up to it!

Addie Gazing Grotesque Gallery Real Alcazar Seville Spain
You’ll need manual mode to be able to shoot portraits with creamy backgrounds like this

Able to shoot in RAW

If you want to edit your photos (which you definitely should!), then you want your camera to be able to shoot in RAW. Again, it sounds totally intimidating, but I promise that it’s not!

All RAW means is that instead of processing the image in the camera (like with JPEG), absolutely all of the data is retained so that you can process (edit) the image yourself without anything being lost in translation.

The actual experience of shooting is no different than shooting JPEGs!

Autofocus

The best travel photography often happens in a split second. You don’t have time to mess around getting the focus just right! Instead, opt for a camera that has good autofocus capabilities.

Image stabilization

Most of the time you’ll be shooting handheld with your travel camera, meaning there’s nothing to keep it stable besides you. And I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty bad at keeping still. Having a camera with good image stabilization seriously makes all the difference – especially when you’re shooting in low light!

Bluetooth

Bluetooth capabilities are a really nice extra feature that can come in handy. From everything to sending photos directly to your phone to using Bluetooth remote controls, the possibilities are endless!

Weatherproofing

A hand holding a Nikon camera in the snow - how to choose the best camera for travel photography

Another nice thing to have if you really don’t want to have to deal with protecting your camera from the elements is a weatherproof camera. It’s definitely not essential, but some nice cameras now have this feature as well, so it’s certainly something to consider!

The Best Camera for Travel Photography: Price

Finally, the last thing to take into account when looking for the best camera for travel photography is the price. It’s all well and good if you find a camera that has everything you want, but if you can’t afford it then it’s obviously a no go!

Especially if it’s your first time buying a camera, I suggest going for one that is affordable. You can always upgrade later, and a more expensive camera doesn’t necessarily mean better photos!

In general, amateur cameras will fall into the range of under $500, between $500 and $1,000, and over $1000. For your first camera, you definitely don’t need to go over $1,000, and all of the cameras I recommend below are all under $1,000!

The Best Camera for Travel Photography: Recommendations Under $1,000

Here are a few different cameras that meet the specifications I talked about above. This is by no means a comprehensive list of great travel cameras, but it’s a starting point!

Panasonic Lumix GX850

The Panasonic Lumix is a really good entry level camera if you’re just looking to upgrade your photo quality from your phone or point-and-shoot and get started with travel photography. I used a Lumix for several years before upgrading and was very happy with it.

Exact tech details:

  • 16 megapixels
  • Micro 4/3 Sensor (21.60 x 17.30 mm)
  • ISO 100 – 25600
  • Weight: 11.9 oz

Price: $547

Olympus E-M10 Mark II

When I was looking to upgrade my camera a while back, this camera was a close second to the Sony that I ended up getting. It’s lightweight and compact, making it easy to carry around, and also takes pretty high-quality photos for what it costs.

Exact tech details:

  • 16.1 megapixels
  • Micro 4/3 Sensor (21.60 x 17.30 mm)
  • ISO 100 – 25600
  • Weight: 13.76 oz

Price: $499

Sony Alpha A6300

This is the camera that I’ve been shooting with for the last two years and I am absolutely in love! It has super fast autofocus, a high-quality sensor, and a huge noise-less ISO range, all things that I mentioned earlier! And of course, you can shoot in manual and RAW.

Exact tech details:

  • 24 megapixels
  • APS-C Sensor (23.57 x 15.6 mm)
  • ISO 100 – 51200
  • Weight: 14.25 oz

Price: $848

Sony a7II

If you want to get really fancy, then have a look at Sony’s a7II camera – a mirrorless camera with a full frame sensor! That’s pretty freaking crazy.

Exact tech details:

  • 24.3 megapixels
  • Full frame sensor (35.8×23.9 mm)
  • ISO ISO 100 – 25600
  • Weight: 16.72 oz

Price: $998

Alright, that’s all for now! If you have any questions about choosing the best camera for travel photography, be sure to leave them in the comments below!

P.S. Don’t forget your cheatsheet!

Get 10 awesome & easy tips on how to improve your travel photography! Click here.

Pin it for later!

Want to take better travel photos? Check out this guide to how to choose the best camera for travel photography, which tells you everything you need to know to choose the best camera for you! Click the read ↠

The comments +

  1. Sara

    June 8th, 2019 at 4:40 pm

    Great tips for people to consider when looking at cameras. I will admit that I was really excited about the ISO range when I upgraded to the Canon 5DM4, but the noise at high ISOs still bothers me. Of course, I’m still learning all the quirks of the camera, so it may be user error, too. 😉 I love shooting in RAW (so different!), but I forget how much work it makes for me when I just need to do quick photos for work events and forget to switch over to jpeg. 😉

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