Looking to step up your travel photography game? The first step is possessing the right tools to take travel photos with. Before reading any further, it is really important to know that camera gear is simply a tool, and not what defines your photo-taking skills. You can invest in the most expensive, high-end gear and take terrible photos, just as easily as you can use a camera phone to produce stunning photos.
There really is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to camera gear. There are many factors to consider before investing in gear, including what kind of photos/ videos you want to take, your budget, portability and functionality. The most important thing is to use the camera gear that best suits YOU and your needs. Below, I’ve outlined the different travel camera options available on the market alongside the pros and cons of each Hopefully, this can help to determine which camera set up is going to be best for you to up your travel photography game!
Before reading further, you might want to start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Cost – How much money do you have to spend on a travel camera?
- Portability – How much are you willing to carry around- size & weight wise?
- Use – What are you going to be using the camera to take photos of?
- Quality – What sort of quality of images do you want out of your camera?
- Features– What additional features do you want in a camera (eg. wifi connectivity, waterproof body)?
THE BEST CAMERAS FOR TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY IN 2019
If you don’t have the budget to go out a buy a proper camera, don’t underestimate the power of what you already have in your hand- the camera on your phone. It is possible to take stunning photos with your phone, you just need to learn how to get the best out of it.
Portability: Very portable
One of the biggest advantages of using the camera on your phone is you literally have it with you all the time, meaning you’ll always be ready to capture the moment. At the end of the day, there is no point of having a camera if you aren’t willing to carry it around with you. If this is the case, you are best to stick with the camera on your phone.
Use: Daytime snaps
Phone cameras are great for everyday happy snaps, particularly when lighting is favorable. However, because of their tiny sensor size and lenses, they do have many limitations, particularly when it comes to capturing things like action shots, portraits with depth-of-field or night time images. Many phone cameras claim to come with features such as portrait, zoom or night mode, however, these are often done digitally through software, which does sacrifice the quality of the shots.
Quality: Average for photos & videos
Whilst there is no denying that phone cameras are getting better, with more features, better lens and higher megapixel counts than ever before, you can’t simply expect to get the same quality of photos that you would out of a proper camera. One of the biggest limitations of phone cameras is the fact that most of them don’t have the capacity to take high-quality photos in low-lighting conditions. If you are using a phone as your primary camera, I would advise sticking to shooting in daylight hours when there is plenty of light.
Recommended Models: Iphone X, Samsung Galaxy S10, Google Pixel 3
- Best camera of all the iPhone models
- 12MP sensor and f/1.8 lens
- Second lens for telephoto shooting
- Advanced shooting modes
- Optical Image Stabilization
GOOGLE PIXEL 3
- Regarded as one of best smartphone cameras on the market
- 2MP sensor and f/1.8 lens
- Wide-angle front-facing camera for selfies
- Super-res zoom using AI to retain quality
- Night-sight mode for low-light photos without flash
SAMSUNG GALAXY S10
- 12MP and 16MP sensor, variable lens aperture- f/1.5-2.4
- 3 cameras on back- normal, telephoto, ultrawide
- Good in low-light
- Optical Image Stabilization
If you want a camera that is able to capture all your adventures and AND won’t break the budget, a GoPro might just be the perfect camera for you. Compared to other cameras on the market, GoPros are relatively affordable, especially given all the features they include. There are other action cams out there, but in my opinion, GoPro is the only brand worth investing in.
Portability: Very portable
The GoPro is one of the most portable cameras out there, which is remarkable given the quality of videos and photos it can capture. The best thing is it is portable, waterproof and shockproof, meaning you can virtually bring it anywhere and not have to worry about it getting damaged.
Quality: Excellent for video, good for photos
The quality of the videos and photos on GoPro is pretty mind-blowing for such a small camera. The video that the GoPro produces is particularly fantastic, especially in the latest model. Whilst a GoPro can capture super sharp, high-res RAW photos, they do struggle in low-light and can’t capture the same quality as what you can with a mirrorless camera or DSLR.
Use: Action & adventure
GoPro’s are fitted with super-wide angle lenses, which means they are fantastic for capturing action, point-of-view and sweeping landscapes shots. However, as they have a fixed lens without any zoom, they do not work well for capturing faraway subjects, close-ups or portraits, so they are pretty limited in usage.
Recommended Model: GoPro Hero 7 Black
GOPRO HERO 7 BLACK
By far the best action camera on the market, the GoPro Hero 7 really steps it up from its predecessors. The fact you can shoot full-stabilized 4k videos and 12-megapixel RAW photos on such a tiny camera is incredible. The biggest improvement is the hyper smooth mode- an in-built stabilization that makes your footage looks buttery smooth, eliminating any camera shake that you’d normally have to correct in post-production. Another feature I love about the GoPro Hero 7 is the timewarp feature, which allows you to create hyper lapses in camera.
- FEATURES: Built-in wifi, voice control, waterproof to 10m, timewarp feature
- STABILIZATION: Hypersmooth- inbuilt camera stabilization
- VIDEO: 4k 60fps video recording and up to 240fps slo-mo
- PHOTO: 12MP in HDR and Raw
- AF SYSTEM: 121-Point Contrast-Detect AF System
- MAX FPS: 30 fps shooting
- WEIGHT: 116g
Mirrorless cameras are a great option for those wanting to step up their travel photography but don’t have an excessive amount of money on a big, heavy camera or multiple lenses. There is such a wide range of mirrorless cameras on the market to suit all different budgets, depending on what kind of features you are after.
Portability: Fairly portable
One of the biggest advantages of a mirrorless camera is they are a lot smaller and more light-weight than DSLRs. The reason for this is they don’t have a big mirror box taking up space inside the camera. The lenses designed for mirrorless cameras are also significantly more compact and lightweight than DSLR lenses, making the entire set-up much more portable, which is particularly great for traveling.
Quality: Excellent for video + photo
When it comes to cameras, size is not always an indicator of quality. Despite their compact nature mirrorless cameras can still have ability to take as high-quality images and videos as DSLR’s. Again, there is a wide range of mirrorless cameras on the market, so each camera varies in picture quality. There are two main factors that affect picture quality in both mirrorless and DSLR cameras. The first is sensor size. Most cameras generally have either crop sensors or full-frame sensors. The bigger the sensor, the better quality the images, particularly when it comes to low-light performance. However, getting a full-frame sensor comes at a cost, both price-wise and added weight wise.
Another benefit of mirrorless cameras is their versatility. Being able to interchange the lens on these cameras give them a lot of flexibility for shooting a variety of subjects and in a variety of conditions. When investing in a mirrorless camera, it is worth thinking about what you are going to be shooting as this will determine what sort of lens set up you’ll need. If you just want a camera for general day-to-day use, a kit lens will most likely suffice. However, you might want to invest in a prime lens for shooting portraits, a wide-angle lens for shooting landscapes or a telephoto lens for shooting faraway subjects. It all depends on how you want to use the camera. Deciding which lens or lenses to invest in is as important as deciding on a camera.
Recommended Models: Canon M100, Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III, Sony Alpha a7 II
Budget: CANON M100
Canon has taken their time to master the mirrorless camera but have finally seemed to get the formula right with the M100. It is one of the best entry-level travel cameras on the market, and for the price point, the quality of images it produces is really impressive. It’s light-weight, easy to use, and is packed with useful features such as wifi, a tilting touchscreen and lots of creative modes to play with. The biggest setback would be its video mode, with Canon still not including 4k video recording in most of its models.
- SENSOR: 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
- FEATURES: Built-in Wifi, NFC and Bluetooth
- SCREEN: Tilting Touchscreen
- VIDEO: 1080k 60fps video recording
- ISO RANGE: 100 to 25,600
- WEIGHT: 302g
- MAX FPS: 6.1FPS
Midrange: OLYMPUS OM-D E-M10 MK III
If you love the look and feel of an old-school film camera, the OM-D E-M10 Mark III might just be the camera for you. Olympus was one of the first brands to master the mirrorless camera game, and they do so in a very aesthetically-pleasing manner. The OM-D has been through many facelifts, and the latest model, the E-M10 Mark III, packs in all best the features including 4k video, an impressive in-body stabilization system, tilting touchscreen.
- SENSOR: 16.1MP Four Thirds Sensor
- FEATURES: Built-in Wifi, tilting touchscreen LCD
- STABILIZATION: In-Body 5-Axis Image Stabilization
- VIDEO: 4k 30fps video recording
- AF SYSTEM: 121-Point Contrast-Detect AF System
- MAX FPS: 8.6 fps shooting
- ISO RANGE: 100-25,600
- WEIGHT: 410g
High-end: SONY ALPHA A7 III
The Sony Alpha A7 III is truly the king of mirrorless cameras. It packs a full-frame sensor, fantastic in-built stabilization and super quick focusing system inside a sturdy magnesium alloy body. Basically, it provides all the features and image quality of a DSLR in a more compact and light-weight body, which really does make it an ideal travel camera for professional photographers (or real enthusiasts with money to spend).
- SENSOR: 24.2 MP Full-frame sensor
- FEATURES: Built-in Wifi, NFC, Moisture/ Dust Resistant Body, Tilting Touchscreen
- STABILIZATION: 5-axis in-body image stabilization equivalent to 4.5 stops
- VIDEO: 4k 30fps video recording
- AF SYSTEM: 693-Point Hybrid AF System
- MAX FPS: 10 fps shooting
- ISO RANGE: 100-204,800
- WEIGHT: 650g
Cost: Midrange to Expensive
If you are wanting to take your travel photography to a professional level, in my opinion, a DSLR is the way to go. DSLR’s still offer the best selection of lenses and when it comes to the higher-end models, the image quality is unparalleled. However, they also comes as a real financial investment. You can still buy cheap, entry-level DSLR’s with kit lens, however, you are not going to get professional photo-quality from this type of set up. In this case, you may as well go for a more portable mirrorless camera. The investment in a DSLR is not just in the camera body, but also in the lenses. In fact, when you start buying professional-level lenses, these often become the most expensive part of your kit.
Portability: Not very portable
DSLR’s are the heaviest and bulkiest of all the cameras on the market, so if you are thinking of investing in one, you really need to be willing to bear the weight. There is no point of buying a DSLR if you find it too inconvenient to take around with you. Keep in mind that the more lenses you get, the heavier your kit becomes, particularly if you start buying zoom lenses. My biggest piece of advice is to get a camera bag that fits all your gear, is comfortable and that you are happy to carry around with you. If you scroll down, I’ve outlined the two camera bags that I personally use when traveling.
Quality: Excellent for photos and videos
As I mentioned, I personally think that DSLR’s produced the highest quality of photos and videos of all the consumer cameras on the market. However, the photo quality is GREATLY determined by the quality of glass you put on the camera body. This is why it is so important to invest in good lens. There is no point using a high-end DSLR with a cheap, poor-quality lens- in fact, you are better to use a cheaper camera body with a higher-quality lens.
Just like mirrorless cameras, DSLR’s really can do it all. As mentioned above, the flexibility of being able to change lens means the possibilities of what you can shoot are endless.
Recommended Model: Canon 6D MkII with 24-70mm f2.8 II lens
CANON 6D MKII
The Canon 6D MKII is the camera I use almost ALL of the time and what most the photos I post on Instagram are taken on, and I can’t express just how much I love it. There are obviously other models and brands of DSLR’s out there that are equally impressive, the 6D is just the one that I have personal experience with. The camera offers incredible picture and video quality, great low-light performance, a super-fast focusing system, and all this is encased in a durable body with a tiltable touchscreen and Wifi connectivity. I personally choose this model over the 5DMIV as it is a slighter lighter and smaller body, has a tilting touchscreen as opposed to a fixed screen, and was a significantly lesser investment (without sacrificing much when it comes to quality or functionality).
- SENSOR: 26.2 MP Full-frame sensor
- FEATURES: Built-in Wifi, NFC, Dust/ Water Resistant Body, 3” Vari-Angle Touchscreen
- VIDEO: 1080k 60fps video recording with electronic IS
- AF SYSTEM: 45-Point All-Cross Type AF System
- MAX FPS: 6.5 fps shooting
- ISO RANGE: 100-40,000
- WEIGHT: 765 g
CANON 24-70mm f2.8 II LENS
After years of using a variety of different lenses, I have now simplified my kit down to just the one lens- the 24-70mm f/2.8 II. In my opinion, it is the best all-rounder lens on the market. It is made of extremely high-quality glass so produces very sharp images. The f/2.8 aperture means it also offers great depth-of-field and low-light capabilities. It certainly isn’t a cheap lens by any means, but it is a very worthwhile investment and makes the perfect lens for traveling.
THE BEST TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY ACCESSORIES
Below I’ve listed some of my favorite photography accessories that I take traveling with me:
Main Tripod: Manfrotto 190CXPRO4 Carbon Fibre Tripod
I use this tripod when I am either doing long exposures or travelling solo and want to take photos of myself. The tripod itself is super sturdy and extends to 146cm, however because it is constructed with carbon fiber it is still fairly lightweight. If I am doing long exposures, I always use a shutter release cable to avoid any shake when pressing the shutter button.
Portable Tripod: Joby Gorillapod
When I don’t want to lug around my regular tripod, I use a small tripod with bendable legs, namely a Joby Gorillapod. This is a much more portable option, and gives the flexibility of either propping your camera up on surfaces, or wrapping the tripod legs around something like a pole or tree branch.
Camera Backpack: ONA Camps Bay Backpack
This backpack comes with me on every trip I go on. It doesn’t look like a camera backpack from the exterior, but on the interior it’s fitted with dedicated padded compartments to fit all my camera gear and a laptop slot.
Camera Bag: ONA Bowery Bag
This is my day-to-day camera bag as it perfectly fits my DSLR and a few other bits and pieces inside it’s padded compartments. I love that the soft, vintage-looking leather exterior disguises it from actually looking like a camera bag.
Laptop: Surface Book 2
This is the laptop I use on a daily basis. It’s a super high-spec machine, which means I can effectively run all the high-powered programs I need including Adobe Photoshop and Premier. It’s got a detachable keyboard which turns the 13” screen into a touchscreen tablet, and paired with a pressure-sensitive stylus, it is great for photo editing. The best part about the laptop is that it is compact and lightweight enough to take traveling.
Photo Editing Software: Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop