On the Road: The Best Camera for Travel Photography

The best camera for travel photography is always going to be the one you happen to have with you. I’ve taken some travel images I really treasure on a 3.2-megapixel point and shoot camera. But I’ve also taken ones I love on a professional DSLR. Not to mention all of the great images on my iPhone from trips around the world. Having any camera is better than no camera—but if you are planning a trip and looking to buy something new, here are a few things to think about.

Here are a professional photographer’s top tips on selecting a camera for traveling

image of the seine in Paris

One of my favorite travel photos from Paris, taken on an OLD point and shoot

Tip #1: Think about convenience.

Make sure your travel camera is convenient. If it’s not convenient, you’re not going to want to carry it with you. And if you don’t have it with you, you’re not going to get the great shots you are imagining. Try to be realistic about this. Are you going to be walking a lot? How heavy of a bag can you carry before you get tired?

Don’t let your gear make your trip unenjoyable. It may be worth missing a few perfectly framed images to save your back.

Tip #2: Consider size and weight.

If you are intending to shoot for a magazine or to bring back poster-sized images, you may want to bring a DSLR and some lenses. For the best travel photos, wider is typically better, so consider leaving telephotos at home. You will rarely use it, especially if you are mostly taking landscapes.

One zoom lens may be able to cover all of your bases and be easier to carry than several prime lenses. If your images are just for personal enjoyment and smaller prints, consider leaving your DSLR at home and bringing a mirror-less camera or a point-and-shoot type camera. The size and weight decrease may justify a little less quality.

Bag overloaded with photography gearMaybe a little too much gear… stick to just the essential photo gear when traveling

Tip #3: Know what print size you need/want.

Will you be printing the images? Look into how big of an image you can realistically print with the type of camera you are bringing. The megapixel information should be a pretty good indication of print size, but also consider ISO performance.

Tip #4: Look for good ISO capabilities.

Speaking of ISO, finding a camera that performs well in low light is an important feature in a travel camera. Not only will you get images with less graininess to them, but you can consider leaving a flash at home because the extra light sensitivity will allow you to get shots in dark places.

Tip #5: Be inconspicuous.

In addition to smaller cameras being more convenient and easier to carry, they tend to be more inconspicuous. This is helpful for several reasons. First, it allows you to quietly capture moments without getting noticed or making your subjects self-conscious. You may already be sticking out as a foreigner — don’t add to that with a giant hunk of metal and glass.

Second, you will be less likely to be targeted by thieves. If your camera doesn’t look big and expensive (or isn’t big and expensive) thieves should know that your gear is not worth their time. Sometimes having bulky gear also triggers extra scrutiny from customs officials.

Some travel-camera model recommendations:

I can recommend a few cameras (although there are many contenders) to consider taking on your next trip:

Fuji X100s

The upsides to this camera are the extremely high-quality photos — high resolution, high ISO capabilities, great color and sharpness. The downside is having a fixed focal length lens at 35mm. Some people like having that restraint and feel it makes them more creative. Not having so many choices allows you to focus on moments instead of focal lengths. The choice is yours….

Canon Rebel SL-1

If you are going to bring a DSLR, this is a pretty good choice. The quality is high and it’s packed into a small-ish lightweight body. Pair it with a 18-55 lens and you have a decent range for photos and some very good video capabilities.

Canon Powershot GX-1

This is a great middle ground between a DSLR and a point-and-shoot. Plus it shoots in RAW and has video capability.

Sony Alpha A7

If you really need a full frame camera and interchangeable lenses, this is as light and compact as you will get! Great image quality, but you will pay for it.

Olympus TG-3

If your travels take you underwater or into harsh conditions, this little camera might be the one for you. Definitely not the strongest in picture quality, but it has many fun features: drop-proof, sand-proof, water-proof, freeze-proof and video shots up to 240 frames per second.

You most important piece of photo equipment you can bring on any trip is your brain! By building skills and confidence in photography, you’ll ensure you return from your trip with plenty of high-quality images. The Craftsy class Landscape Photography: Shooting From Dusk to Dawn is a great place to start!

What’s your favorite camera for travel?

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