10 best travel cameras 2018: versatile cameras which you can take anywhere

T3’s roundup of the best travel cameras available to buy right now

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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 travel 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 TZ200 is also a great choice. For around £730, 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.

Panasonic also keeps its TZ100 in the line-up, which you can now pick up for around £500

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. It’s 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 make 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 interchangeables. 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 10 best travel cameras you can buy today

1. Panasonic TZ200

The best travel zoom compact now offers even more reach

Reasons to buy
+One-inch sensor+15x optical zoom 
Reasons to avoid
-Small EVF-Fixed screen 

For the ultimate marriage between high portability while keeping high-image quality, the TZ200 is currently the best around. Panasonic has kept the predecessor, the TZ100 in the line-up, giving you two options depending on your budget. 

For the extra cash, the TZ200 gives you greater flexibility with a 15x optical zoom lens, a higher resolution electronic viewfinder, a slightly better screen (which is touch-sensitive, but fixed in place), and an improved battery life. 

Ergonomics have also been improved by the addition of a strip along the front of the camera to help you get a better grip on it. Although relatively expensive, the TZ200 is a fantastic all-rounder without too much compromise.

2. Sony RX100 V

A pocket powerhouse with a high price to match

Specifications
Sensor size: One-inch
Resolution: 20.1MP
Lens: 2.9x optical, 24-70mm (equivalent) f/1.8-f/2.8
Viewfinder: 0.39-inch retracting viewfinder, 2,359,296-dots
Monitor: Tilting, 1,228,000-dots
Video: 4K
Reasons to buy
+One inch sensor+Super fast shooting
Reasons to avoid
-Very expensive-Screen not touch-sensitive

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. Canon G1X Mark III

Don’t have room for your DSLR in your bag? Stick one in your pocket instead

Reasons to buy
+DSLR-sized sensor+Vari-angle screen+Small body
Reasons to avoid
-Limited zoom-Short battery life

If you don’t want to take your DSLR on holiday - or you don’t have room - then the Canon G1X Mark III is a credible alternative. It offers an DSLR (APS-C) sized sensor in a camera which you can fit into your pocket. 

There’s always, always a trade off, so in this instance, you only get a 3x optical zoom, while the aperture range is a little limited, but for travelling photographers who don’t want to compromise on image quality, it’s an ideal choice. Be prepared to spend a pretty penny for this little marvel, though - and pack a spare battery if you can.

4. Panasonic GX9

A small and light DSLR alternative for your holidays

Reasons to buy
+Compact+4K Photo and Video+Fast Focusing
Reasons to avoid
-No weather sealing-Screen only tilts 

If interchangeable lenses and a large sensor are your aspiration while travelling, but you don’t want to lug around a heavy DSLR (or even one of the larger CSCs), then the GX9 is a great choice. 

There’s a 20.3 megapixel sensor, in-body image stabilisation, a touch-sensitive screen, and a tilting electronic viewfinder. With Panasonic you always get 4K Photo and Video, giving you not the opportunity to record 4K video, but also to shoot at 30fps and extract stills of those magical holiday moments.

5. Sony RX10 IV

An ideal choice if you want zoom, but need to stay light

Specifications
Sensor size: One-inch
Resolution: 20.1MP
Lens: 25x optical zoom, 24-600mm f/2.4-4
Viewfinder: 0.39-inch electronic viewfinder, 2,359,296-dots
Monitor: 3-inch, tilting, 1,440,000-dot
Video: 4K
Reasons to buy
+Super long lens+One-inch sensor
Reasons to avoid
-Very expensive-Bulky 

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 travellers 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.

6. Fujifilm X100F

Pretty, but powerful with it

Specifications
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 24.3MP
Lens: 23mm (equivalent to 35mm) f/2.0 fixed lens
Viewfinder: Hybrid optical and electronic viewfinder
Monitor: 3-inch, 1040k-dot fixed screen
Video: Full HD
Reasons to buy
+APS-C sensor+Beautiful body
Reasons to avoid
-High price-Fixed length lens

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.

7. GoPro Hero 6

The best action camera on the market

Specifications
Weight: 118g
Waterproof: 10m
4K video: 60fps
1080: 240fps
720: up to 240fps
Stills resolution: 12MP
Battery life: 1-3hrs
Reasons to buy
+Small and light+Easy to use
Reasons to avoid
-Premium price-No image stabilisation at 4K@60fps

GoPro holds on to its crown of king of the action cameras with its latest Hero 6 incarnation. Waterproof down to 10 metres 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 stabilisation at this level though), and the ability to condense your day’s recording into a single movie using the QuikStories app - perfect for encapsulating all your holiday memories.

8. Panasonic TZ100

A pocket friendly 10x zoom, with a one-inch sensor a full manual control

Specifications
Sensor size: One-inch
Resolution: 20.1MP
Lens: 10x optical 25-250mm (equivalent) f/2.8-5.9
Viewfinder: 0.2-inch 1160k-dot electronic viewfinder
Monitor: Three-inch 1040k-dot touch-sensitive screen
Video: 4K
Reasons to buy
+One inch sensor+10x optical zoom
Reasons to avoid
-Very small viewfinder-Less capable in low light than RX100 V

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.

9. Nikon D500

Probably the best all-rounder DSLR currently available to buy

Specifications
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 20.9 MP
Lens: N/A
Viewfinder: 100% optical viewfinder
Monitor: 3.2-inch, 2359k-dot touch-sensitive, tilting screen
Video: 4K
Reasons to buy
+Great all rounder+APS-C format sensor
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy and bulky-Screen not fully articulating

While for some, travel photography equates to pocket-friendly cameras, for others, it’s about finding something which offers the best all-round 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 travellers, giving you the option to swap out for extra length (or perhaps extra width) should you need it.

10. Panasonic G9

A fantastic Four Thirds option ideal for travel enthusiasts

Specifications
Sensor size: Four Thirds
Resolution: 20MP
Lens: N/A
Viewfinder: OLED electronic viewfinder, 3,680k-dots
Monitor: Articulating, touch-sensitive TFT LCD 3-inch, 1040k-dots
Video: 4K
Reasons to buy
+Small overall system+Excellent viewfinder 
Reasons to avoid
-Smaller sensor than DSLR-Large body (for a CSC)

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 colours 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.