We probably take more pictures while on holidays or special trips than at any other time, so it makes sense that we want the best possible device ready to capture all of your precious travel snaps.
In 2020, the camera market remains as fiercely competitive as ever. There’s a huge range of different options to suit different budgets, needs and experience levels. In this list, you should find something which matches all three.
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Most of our other buying guides tend to have an outright winner. It’s a little bit harder to do that when it comes to travel cameras, since there any many types of cameras that suit different types of people for this kind of subject. We’ve tried to be quite diverse to help you find something which suits your particular needs.
Although you might have spent most of your budget on the trip itself, it’s always worth keeping some back to help fund a camera purchase. After all, your photographs will still be there long after you’ve returned home - having something very capable is a fantastic investment for future reminiscing.
For some, the camera they crave will be pocket-sized. If that’s the case - and you have no budgetary restrictions - the obvious choice is the Sony RX100 VII. On the other hand, if you desire portability but also want plenty of flexibility, a full-frame mirrorless camera such as the Nikon Z6 is also a fantastic idea. More recently, Nikon has announced it’s APS-C mirrorless model, the Nikon Z50 - which is arguably even more suited to travel photography thanks to its smaller form factor and lenses which are designed specifically for it.
Bridge cameras - as the name suggests - sit somewhere between pocket-friendly compact cameras and larger sensors interchangeable lens cameras. They generally have a smaller sensor, but are equipped with large zooms to make for a “do-all” camera that saves you carting a bag full of lenses around with you.
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How to buy the best travel camera for you
Many people will set their sights on something small, light and discreet when thinking about a new travel camera. In an era of “hand luggage only” travel, it makes a lot of sense. Even if you have a more generous luggage allowance, you probably don’t want to be lugging around a massive bag around the sights. For that reason, there are a few great cameras which fit neatly into your pocket, while still elevating your shots above your other pocket device - your phone.
On the other hand, picking something more versatile will usually pay dividends when it comes to image quality and flexibility. If you’ve forked out a small fortune to get yourself to an exotic destination, you might want to get the best images possible.
For those in the former camp, there’s really nothing better for high image quality in a pocket-friendly device than the Sony RX100 Mark VII. It has a one-inch sensor, which is coupled with a 24-200mm (equivalent) zoom lens, so it’s still pretty flexible. It doesn’t come cheap though, so if your budget doesn’t quite stretch, have a think about older RX100 models which span the past few years at different price points. A good all-rounder is also the Panasonic TZ200, which marries up a one-inch sensor with a long zoom without breaking the bank quite as badly.
Many people equate the word “holiday” with “adventure travel”. For those types, the latest GoPro Hero 8 is the obvious choice for creating videos - and even stills - in all manner of different and unusual situations. Take it with you up mountains, under the sea, on your bike and on a surfboard. It’s even suitable for a day at the beach, where ordinary cameras might succumb to sand and water.
The final type of travel photographer is those for who the resulting photographs are a major part of the reason they venture into new territories in the first place. If that’s you, you’ll want the best possible image quality without too much compromise. The Nikon Z50 is the obvious current candidate from the ever-growing mirrorless market, but we’re also big fans of the Fujifilm X-T30. Meanwhile, the Panasonic G90 has the advantages of a smaller overall system, but with a slightly smaller sensor - think about how much low light work you’re going to be doing if that’s a concern.
Bridge cameras are still being released even in an age where we’re seeing fewer compact cameras. A recent introduction to the market is the Nikon P950, which totes a whopping 83x zoom lens in a body which is roughly the same size as a DSLR and a kit lens. Cameras like the Panasonic FZ2000 are also great choices if you want the flexibility of different zoom lengths, but you don’t want to carry too much gear.
So, all things considered, which one will you choose? Read on to find more information about each of our selections.
The 18 best travel cameras you can buy today
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.
If budget is no problem, there should be nothing stopping you from investing in the RX100 VII. It offers pretty much everything you could ever hope for in a pocket-friendly camera. The large one-inch sensor produces excellent results, while the highly flexible zoom lens gets you nice and close to the action, while also being wide enough for excellent landscapes and interior shots. A pop-up viewfinder is great for traditionalists when it comes to composing, or if the sun is a little bit too bright to see the screen properly. Video specifications are also good, with a new microphone socket no doubt appealing to the travel vlogging community - of which there are many. If you’re a mainly a stills shooter, there’s little to be gained from picking up the VII compared with the ever so slightly older VI, while others down the line are also still fantastic buys if you don’t need such a long zoom.
Much like the X-T20 before it, the X-T30 borrows the best bits from the X-T3 and delivers them inside a smaller, lighter and more affordable body. It's a winning combination which made the T20 Fujifilm's most popular model.
Quite franky, we think the Fujifilm X-T30 could be the perfect camera for most people. It's got a tough body (although, not weather proof), lightening fast auto focus performance, and, most importantly, great image quality straight out of the camera.
If you need even more reasons to buy one, the T30 is also capable of recording beautiful 4K video, and it can do all this for a very reasonable price.
A great all-round premium compact camera, the G5X Mark II might not be quite jeans-pocket friendly, but it should certainly fit well within your bag or jacket pocket. It’s got a good range of features, with a well-performing one-inch sensor at its heart, which is coupled with a fairly flexible 24-120mm zoom lens. In terms of video, it offers uncrossed 4K recording, but unlike its sibling, the G7X Mark III, it doesn’t offer a microphone socket or live streaming to YouTube – so if you’re a dedicated travel vlogger you might want to look that way instead. If you like composing through a viewfinder, the G5X Mark II features a small but perfectly usable pop-up number that is great for using in bright light.
Nikon has been making a splash with its duo of Z mirrorless cameras, the Z6 and the Z7. The Z6 is the cheaper of the two, but either would make fantastic travel companions as they share the same body, weight and size.
You get a full-frame sensor in an extremely portable bit of kit which is well-suited to a wide range of shooting conditions. That lovely large full-frame sensor means image quality is all but guaranteed, with the 24-70mm f/4 making for a great walk around lens. You should just about have enough room in your bag for another lens or two - the 14-30mm f/4 lens is great shout for wide angle landscapes, architecture and other travel scenes.
Other notable features including a tilting touch-sensitive screen, a fantastic electronic viewfinder and Snapbridge connectivity for quickly sharing your shots with those back home.
If your budget can’t stretch to a Nikon Z6 – or you just want something even smaller - there’s a lot to like about the new Z50. It uses an APS-C sensor, rather than full-frame, which means that Nikon has been able to distil the great handling of the Z series into an even smaller body. Image quality will likely still be fantastic - especially in good holiday light - while there’s even been lenses which are specifically designed for it to keep the size down. For now, there’s not a huge range of native Z lenses to choose from, but the system is steadily growing as time goes on. The Z50 also benefits from a screen which faces all the way forwards, great for grabbing those vacation selfies.
Ticking a heck of a lot of boxes, the G90 is pitched as a mid-range camera ideal for travel enthusiasts. With a huge range of native lenses for the Micro Four Thirds mount, the G90 perhaps offers the most flexibility in this list, especially given its superb video credentials. What it also does well is with build quality and handling - put simply, this is a really nice camera to use, with a decent grip and well thought-out controls. The Four Thirds sensor may be significantly smaller than full-frame, but that means that the overall system, aka lenses, is nice and compact too - which is ideal for travel. Less adept at low light situations than its larger-sensor brethren, if you’re travelling to somewhere with bright climes, that won’t matter too much and your back will certainly thank you.
Using the same ultra-high-resolution sensor as the 90D DSLR, the Canon EOS M6 Mark II is a great option for travel thanks to its small size and weight. Despite that, it packs some incredible features like 14fps shooting and uncrossed 4K video recording. It doesn’t have an inbuilt viewfinder, but you can purchase one separately if you feel the need to buy one - if you’re used to composing shots on your phone, you’re likely to be a little less bothered. The 15-45mm kit lens supplied with the camera is a decent walk around and travel lens, but if you crave something a little sharper, go for the 32mm f/1.4 lens.
We were big fans of the original LX100. Representing an excellent choice for travel photography, it’s small and light enough to fit discreetly in a bag, but features a Four Thirds sensor - much larger than most sensors found in compact cameras.
It had manual control and great handling, and made a lot of sense for city breaks where zooming isn’t too much of a priority.
After four years of waiting, Panasonic updated the LX100 to bring out the Mark II version. It represents more of an incremental upgrade when compared to its predecessor, so while it still represents an excellent choice if budget is tight you might want to keep an eye out for one of the originals available at a bargain price.
With the new version you get touch-sensitivity, additional 4K Photo options, and, quite usefully for travellers, the ability to charge via USB.
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.
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.
Nikon has released a number of very high-zoom bridge cameras in recent years, but the P950 perhaps represents the best compromise. It offers a whopping 82x zoom, which if zooming is your priority is bound to impress you.
It’s got a shorter lens than the mega-monster that is P1000, but being significantly smaller and lighter makes it a better bet for travel photography. You can currently pick up the P900 for a much cheaper price. It has the same lens and sensor as its successor, but is missing raw format shooting and 4K video recording - so if you need either or both of these, it’s worth expanding your budget if at all possible.
Because the P950 has a small sensor, don’t expect it to perform fantastically well in low light. However, if you’re looking for an all-round holiday performer, it’s a good bet. If you’re happy with a shorter focal length, look at the RX10 IV, which has a 25x optical zoom and a larger one-inch sensor for better performance when light is dimmer.
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.
In February 2020, a replacement for the Fujifilm X100F was announced, in the shape of the X100F. A number of improvements have been made, including to the lens, sensor and body design. It’s likely to replace the X100F as our top recommendation for this type of camera, but we need to test it first.
If your holidays involve more than just idling about on the beach, the chances are you might want to capture all the thrills of your adventures. The perfect companion for watersports, mountain-biking, skiing, canoeing, kayaking and all manner of other exhausting activities, the GoPro’s main draw is video. It offers 4K video and a whole host of different video modes to help you get lots of different kinds of shot. The Hero 8 Black can shoot stills, which makes it useful for getting the odd grab shot, but if you’re primarily interested in photography - rather than videography - you’d probably be better off looking towards a rugged compact.
Here we have a camera that will fit neatly into your pocket but gives you a whopping 40x optical zoom to play with.
There will always be a compromise to be had, and in this case the trade off for a super long zoom is a smaller sensor. That’s not too much of a deal breaker if you’re generally shooting in good light, but the SX740 is therefore not best suited to darker conditions.
However, there are some other plus points, including full manual control, a screen which flips all the way forwards, and 4K video recording. It’s also available at a good price, making it well suited to those on a budget.
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.
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.
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.