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How to Choose the Best Travel Camera (2019)

Technology has come a long way in the last 10 years, making it easier than ever for you to capture high-quality photos on the road.

In this article, we'll dive into how to choose the best travel camera in 2019 based on your experience, budget, and needs.

We'll also share some of our favorites, all of which are available on Amazon.com.

If you purchase anything after clicking one of our links, we'll receive a small commission, which will be used to help support the website.  

Choosing the Best Travel Camera

The first step, before you start looking at specific cameras, is to reflect on your level of experience and current needs. 

  • Are you a point-and-shoot kind of traveler or do you want to invest time in improving your skills?
  • Do you need photos for fun, work (such as if you're running a blog as a business), or both?
  • How willing are you to carry (protect, and insure) cameras, lenses, and additional tools such as a tripod, waterproof casing, or drone?
  • Have you used more advanced cameras in the past?

Be honest with yourself because this could make a big difference in how much you spend.

What to Look For in a Travel Camera

Which camera you choose relies heavily on your wants and needs, but here’s a short list of the most critical specifications for travelers:

  • Size: You'll probably be carrying a mid-sized backpack whether you're going on a short, medium, or long-term backpacking trip. This means that your space is limited, and you can't bring everything you own with you. Small cameras can conveniently fit into a pants pocket, while larger cameras might need a separate bag. Decide what size camera you are willing to carry.
  • Weight: Along with size, the weight of a camera is another issue to consider. Small point and shoot cameras can be very light, while DSLRs and extra lenses can weigh you down significantly.  
  • Battery Life: How many shots can you get from one battery charge? This is how a camera battery’s life is measured. Most travel photographers have more than one battery as, a lot of times, a day of shooting can result in more shots than any one battery can handle. A camera battery will usually last around 200-300 photos depending on your LCD screen settings and other factors, but we’d highly recommend investing in a back-up battery, too.
  • Specifications: Range, megapixels, WiFi, low-light capabilities, and so on; these are the most crucial specifications. If you're a novice, a camera with all the bells and whistles may be too much. Perhaps a point-and-shoot or an excellent smartphone camera is all you need.
  • Purpose: What is your goal for using the camera? Will you be taking photos of sights, landmarks, and people for your memory or do you want to take professional quality photos?
  • Safety and Value: Foreigners are often the target of theft. Could you afford a replacement if your camera ended up getting damaged or stolen? If it's just too valuable, you might want to get a camera that is easily replaced. Often, it is best to shop for a second-hand camera as previous years' models can still get the job done at a fraction of the price.
  • Cost: Cameras can range from cheap to extremely expensive. Small point and shoot cameras can be as little as $100, but if you start looking into a camera with more advanced features, a more powerful zoom, or a better lens, prices can increase into the thousands of dollars. 

The Big Debate: DSLR vs. Point and Shoot vs. Smartphone

In the long-time quest to find the best travel camera comes the big debate of carrying a bulky DSLR or a small size Point and Shoot.

Due to advances in smartphone technology, this debate can be extended a step further to include your iPhone or Android phone. 

All three camera types have their benefits and drawbacks, so it's best to carefully examine each so you can decide on a travel camera that works best for you.

DSLR

  • Expensive: often 3x or more costly than a Point and Shoot.
  • Large Size: Big and bulky and the lens is heavy.
  • Quality: DSLR's win hands down when it comes to photo quality. If you want to take professional images, you'll need a DSLR. There's no way to beat the quality of a real lens.
  • Zoom: With a full-sized DSLR camera you'll likely have much better options for zooming in on a subject.
  • Video: While point and shoot cameras take decent video, new DSLR's can shoot top of the line quality HD video and might even include an external microphone jack for sound.

Point and Shoot

  • Cheap Price: Mid-ranged point and shoot cameras can be purchased for $100 – $200, and add a little more money, and you'll have a top of the line point and shoot.
  • Size: The small size of a point and shoot camera makes it convenient to carry anywhere, and shoot photos without drawing too much attention to yourself.
  • Quality: For many purposes, it will take adequate quality photos. However, pictures lack depth, color range, and the ability to focus in on specific subjects.

Smartphone

  • Save Money: If you have a recent model, the camera on your smartphone may be good enough that you don't need to invest in a separate camera. Even if you're overdue to upgrade your smartphone, Apple and cell carriers offer no-interest loans so you can pay for the latest tech in monthly installments. Apple's Upgrade program requires 24 monthly payments and gives you the option to upgrade every 12 months to a new phone. 
  • Save Space: Minimalists will find it appealing to rely solely on their phone as it saves carrying the extra weight of even a Point and Shoot camera (charger, and spare battery). Plus, chances are you'll already be taking it with you everywhere you go. 
  • Quality: While there's no denying improvements in phone camera tech, they still lack the versatility, depth of field, and excellence in low light conditions of nicer Point and Shoots, and most certainly DSLRs. 
  • Theft: Smartphones are more likely to make you a target for theft if you're out waving it around taking photos in the streets (especially in Latin America). 

Related: 9 Tips to Avoid Theft While Backpacking

Travel Camera Buying Guide (2019)

Best DSLR Camera 

Canon EOS Rebel T7i

Canon is a well-known leader in photography and manufactures everything from low-level point and shoot cameras to professional-level DSLR's.

The Canon EOS Rebel T7i is a mid-range DSLR camera with plenty of features, but still moderately priced.

The combination of specifications for the price ($799 with a standard 18-55mm lens) and weight (1.2 pounds) is why we consider the T7i the perfect DSLR camera for travelers.

Though the Rebel series is known as a beginner series, the T7i is anything but a camera just for beginners.

Some top travel bloggers have been known to shoot with a Rebel.

  • Resolution: 24.2 Megapixels
  • Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Wifi-Capable: Yes
  • Zoom: 3x optical
  • Battery Life: 600 shots

Buy it on Amazon

Best Point and Shoot Camera

Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II

The Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II is the best mirrorless camera for travel right now.

Despite its relatively high price ($649), we can say that without a doubt, it leaves most travelers satisfied with their purchase.

If we were to name the best travel camera for backpackers, the G7 X Mark II would be it.

  • Resolution: 20.1 Megapixels
  • Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Wifi-Capable: Yes
  • Viewfinder: No
  • Zoom: 4.2x Optical Zoom
  • Battery Life: 265 shots

Buy it on Amazon

Best Waterproof Camera

GoPro Hero 7 

GoPro is without a doubt the most trusted video camera brand for adventurous travelers.

GoPro Hero 7 is the latest in the company’s line of action cameras.

The specs for the Hero 7 speak for themselves, however, you will notice that earlier models bring similar attributes.

Decide how dedicated you are to your travel photography and which GoPro is right for you.

If you are not a professional, an earlier model can save you hundreds of dollars, especially if you shop secondhand, and still give you quality action footage.

The GoPro Hero 7 is available in three models: Silver, White, and Black.

Each is similar, with different attributes here and there. 

The Black edition is the most advanced; the White edition is the most budget-friendly.

For beginners serious about picking up travel videography, the White edition is reasonably priced (under $200) and will be more firepower than you need while getting started.

Purchase this camera with the idea that your skills will grow into the camera.

For professionals, the Black’s 4K/60fps recording capabilities will astonish you. The higher quality footage will also require more storage, so make sure you have a strategy in place.

Buy it on Amazon

Best Smartphone Camera

iPhone XS Max

The iPhone XS Max is without question the best smartphone camera for travel.

It is crazy to think we have reached the point where even professional photographers are choosing to use their iPhone as their preferred shooting method.

However, that spells out how good this iPhone’s camera hardware and corresponding software is.

The advantage of using your phone as your primary travel camera is one less device to hassle with while you are on the move.

The iPhone XS Max brings a whole new tier of smartphone photography.

The truth of the matter is, the XS Max allows for true professional-grade smartphone photography.

Apple has a long line of leading smartphone camera technology that has led the industry for years.

If you can’t afford the iPhone XS Max, perhaps an older iPhone (either refurbished or not) would be within your budget.

  • Resolution: Dual 12-megapixel wide-angle and telephoto cameras
  • Portrait Mode Capabilities: Yes
  • Zoom: Optical 2x, Digital 10x
  • Video: 4K video recording at 24, 30, or 60 fps
  • TrueDepth: 7-megapixel camera

Buy it on Amazon

Photo Editing Software

Beyond buying a good camera, you can also improve your photography by editing photos after they've been taken.

For photo editing, we recommend Adobe Lightroom which is easy-to-use and preferred by amateurs and professionals alike. 

Formerly a software program used on a laptop or desktop only, Adobe now offers a mobile Lightroom app for editing on the go, as well as uploading and syncing photos to a cloud storage account.

If Lightroom seems too complicated, but you want something more than Instagram's built-in editing options, check out the Snapseed mobile app, which was so awesome Google acquired it (iOS / Android).

Cloud Services

Whether you pay for your cloud storage service or get access to free space, online storage is vital for travelers who don’t want to be bothered with lugging around external hard drives or keeping track of small USB sticks.

The cloud is perfect for storing your phone or camera as you’ve probably accumulated hundreds or thousands of travel photographs and videos that take up gobs of space on either your camera’s SD card or your laptop’s hard drive.

Ensure you will not lose those precious memories by using the cloud rather than physical storage hardware.

Below are some of the best photo-specific cloud storage options:

Conclusion

Assess your level of photography skills.

If you’re a beginner, you can save a lot of money on cameras until you get to a level where you’re ready for the advanced shooting.

Remember, just because a camera is expensive doesn’t mean it's the best camera for you.

Hopefully, this buying guide has started moving you in the right direction as you think about what camera to buy.

Good luck finding the camera that fits you best!

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P.S. – All of the companies mentioned here are ones we've used ourselves. If you found this article helpful and plan to buy one of the cameras mentioned, please consider buying it after clicking one of the links in this article. We'll earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, which will be used to pay our writers.

Last Updated on April 1, 2019 by Dave Lee

manav

Friday 16th of October 2015

Is canon 1200d dual kit a good option too while traveling ?

Liz

Saturday 2nd of January 2016

Depends where you're headed, I love mine but it is a little bulky if you're walking a long way or moving location a lot. Fantastic value though.

Antonio

Friday 28th of August 2015

Nice article.

Personally I think a mirrorless camera is the way to go for travel. I've been shooting with a Sony NEX-6 for the last 2 years and I am very pleased with its performance. It's great.