Andy Westlake rounds up our pick of the best cameras for travelling

If you’re travelling somewhere specifically to take photos, it’s natural to take your existing camera set-up. But if you’re on a family holiday or business trip, you may not want to lug around a heavy bag of kit, or hold up your travel companions by continually switching between lenses.

Instead, it may make more sense to carry something smaller and lighter, and use a single general-purpose zoom most of the time. There’s also a lot to be said for having a high-quality compact camera that’ll fit in a pocket or small shoulder bag.

So what features might be most desirable for a travel camera? Small size and light weight are a given, and we’ve assumed that most users will prefer using a zoom lens, quite probably with an extended range. This could be complemented by a couple of small primes, for shooting in low light or going out in the evening. It might also make sense to add an ultra-wideangle zoom for architecture, landscapes or interiors.

In general, the cameras we’ve chosen in this guide also include fully manual control, a built-in viewfinder and raw format recording. In order to attain a certain level of image quality, they also use sensors of the 1-inch type or larger. The exception is the Olympus Tough TG-6, which is the best bet for a waterproof camera.

Read on for our choice of the best travel cameras that are available right now, including both high-end pocket cameras and lightweight mirrorless models teamed up with versatile zoom lenses.

Here are our choices for the best travel cameras:

  • Olympus Tough TG-6
  • Fujifilm X100V
  • Panasonic LX100 II
  • Panasonic Lumix TZ200
  • Sony RX100 VII
  • Sony RX10 IV
  • Nikon D5600 + 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6 lens
  • Canon EOS M50 Mark II + 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 lens
  • Fujifilm X-S10 + 16-80mm f/4 lens
  • Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III + 14-150mm lens
  • Nikon Z 5 + 24-200mm f/4-6.3 lens

Olympus Tough TG-6 – £369

Olympus Tough TG-6

Olympus Tough TG-6 in red

At a glance

  • 25-100mm f/2-4.9 lens
  • 12MP 1/2.3in sensor
  • ISO 100-12,800
  • 20fps continuous shooting
  • 3in, 1.04m-dot screen

The TG-6 is different from the other cameras included in this round-up, as it employs a relatively small sensor, which means it won’t give anywhere near the same image quality. It also does without a viewfinder, relying solely on a fixed rear screen instead. But it makes our list simply because it’s the best rugged camera you can buy right now.

Key to its attraction is its sheer robustness. The TG-6 is waterproof to 15m, shockproof to a drop from 2.4m, freezeproof to -10°C, and crushproof. So you can use it without any worries on the beach or in the sea. It also boasts impressive close-up capability and an extensive range of underwater modes, plus an extensive range of lighting and lens accessories. For outdoor adventurers, it also includes a suite of environmental sensors that allow you to keep track of your travels, including GPS with a compass, a thermometer and an accelerometer.

Jellyfish, taken with the Olympus Tough TG-6

Jellyfish, taken with the Olympus Tough TG-6, photo Joshua Waller

Take a look at other waterproof and underwater camera options here: Top 12 Best Waterproof and Underwater Cameras 

Fujifilm X100V  – £1300

fujifilm x100v best travel cameras

At a glance:

  • 35mm equivalent f/2 lens
  • 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor
  • ISO 80-51,200 (extended)
  • 11fps continuous shooting
  • Hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder
  • 3.2in, 1.62m-dot tilting touchscreen

Among all the cameras covered in this article, the Fujifilm X100V is unique, as it’s the only one with a fixed, single-focal-length lens. Usually for travel we presume photographers will prefer a zoom, ideally with an extended range to cover a broad array of subjects. But the X100V is different.

With its APS-C sensor, fixed 35mm equivalent lens, and classic rangefinder-like styling, it embraces a different way of shooting. It’s all about working with a fixed angle of view, and ‘zooming with your feet’ to find your pictures. It’s not for everyone, but for some photographers, it’ll be perfect.

While the X100V looks very much like the previous four models in the X100 series, it brings some significant improvements. Its redesigned lens is sharper, especially at close focus distances, and it gains a tilting rear screen that’s great for discreet, unobtrusive shooting. Thankfully these upgrades don’t come at the detriment of the camera’s other major attractions, which include analogue dials for shutter speed, ISO, aperture and exposure compensation, and Fujifilm’s unique hybrid viewfinder that gives a choice of optical or electronic viewing.

Despite its old-fashioned good looks, the X100V is packed full of up-to-date features. It’s capable of 11fps shooting, 4K video recording, and face- and eye-detection autofocus. It also benefits from Fujifilm’s superb colour rendition, with a full array of Film Simulation modes on board to provide a variety of different looks. And for those who really can’t do without a few different lenses, optional wideangle and teleconverters are available, giving 28mm and 50mm equivalent views.

steam train

Image: Michael Topham

Panasonic LX100 II – £749

At a glance:

  • 24-75mm equivalent f/1.7-2.8 lens
  • 17MP Four Thirds sensor
  • ISO 100-25,600 (extended)
  • 11fps shooting
  • 2.76m-dot EVF
  • 3in, 1.24m-dot touchscreen

If you love the idea of an X100-like camera, but can’t live without a zoom, then the Panasonic Lumix LX100 II might just be for you. It boasts a similar array of external controls for shutter speed, aperture and exposure compensation, and incorporates a corner-mounted 2.76m-dot electronic viewfinder. But it also includes a 24-75mm equivalent optically stabilised zoom lens with an unusually fast f/1.7-2.8 aperture. This is particularly impressive given that the camera employs a relatively large Four Thirds type sensor.

One unique feature of the LX100 II lies with the way that it uses its sensor. It employs a multi-aspect ratio design that, at the flick of a switch on the lens barrel, can toggle between 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9 settings, all with the same diagonal angle of view, and therefore progressively wider horizontal views. There’s also a 1:1 option for those who enjoy shooting square-format images.

While the LX100 II is very much designed for stills shooters, it also offers 4K video recording, although with a 1.25x crop. Panasonic’s various 4K Photo modes are on board too, in effect shooting 8MP JPEGs at 30fps. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are built-in for connecting to your smartphone.

The real attraction of the LX100 II, though, lies in just how pleasing it is to shoot with, thanks to its robust metal build and engaging control layout. It also delivers fine image quality. For enthusiast photographers who’d like a zoom compact camera that offers lots of manual control and creative potential, there’s nothing else quite like it.

Panasonic Lumix TZ200 – £599

At a glance:

  • 24-360mm equivalent f/3.3-6.4 lens
  • 20.1MP 1in sensor
  • ISO 80-25,600 (extended)
  • 10fps continuous shooting
  • 2.33m-dot viewfinder
  • 3in, 1.24m-dot touchscreen

Panasonic originally invented the long-lens, pocket-sized ‘travel zoom’ camera, and the TZ200 is the ultimate expression of this concept. Like its predecessor the TZ100, it adds a 20MP 1-inch sensor into the mix, to provide considerably improved image quality compared to its cheaper siblings with smaller sensors, such as the TZ95.

But it improves on the TZ100 with a longer 24-360mm equivalent zoom (compared to 25-250mm) and a larger, higher-resolution electronic viewfinder, yet without noticeably increasing in size. For those who can’t afford the TZ200, the TZ100 remains an attractive proposition for £389.

In contrast to its sibling the LX100 II, the TZ200 is very much a point-and-shoot at heart. But it still offers lots of manual control, including a full set of exposure modes and raw format recording. It’s capable of shooting at 10 frames per second, or 7fps with live view between frames. A vast array of features is available for those who’d like to experiment further, including panoramic, multi-exposure, intervalometer and even stop-motion animation modes. As usual, Panasonic has included 4K video recording, along with its unique 4K Photo mode that allows 8MP JPEGs to be captured at 30fps.

Crucially, the TZ200 gives attractive images, particularly in bright, sunny conditions. It’s also more usable than you might expect in low light, as while the lens’s aperture isn’t especially large, the optical image stabilisation is extremely effective. It’s a great choice for when you just want to carry a pocket point-and-shoot camera but not skimp on zoom range.

Sony RX100 VII – £1049

At a glance:

  • 24-200mm equivalent f/2.8-4.5 lens
  • 20MP 1in sensor
  • 20fps continuous shooting
  • 2.36m-dot pop-up EVF
  • 3in, 921k-dot tilting touchscreen

Sony’s RX100-series compact cameras are famed for the way they fit an awful lot of technology into a small, pocketable package. The latest model in the range exemplifies this, with a 24-200mm equivalent f/2.8-4.5 zoom, a 20MP 1-inch stacked CMOS sensor, a pop-up electronic viewfinder and a tilting rear screen, all in a body that’ll slip neatly into a jacket pocket.

What’s more, it’ll shoot at 20 frames per second and record 4K video. Compared to its predecessor, it gains an upgraded sensor that enables Sony’s AI-based tracking autofocus, along with a socket for an external microphone and a few interface improvements. Otherwise, the older RX100 VI offers most of the same features for a slightly more affordable £849.

With 357 phase-detection AF points covering 68% of the frame and Sony’s Real-time Eye AF and Real-time Tracking on board, the RX100 VII has the most sophisticated autofocus of any compact camera. Set it to continuous focus and tracking, and you can almost forget about having to move the AF area or change focus modes ever again. This is very welcome, as in many respects the camera’s ambitious feature set has rather outgrown its simple control layout.

One area where the RX100 VII excels lies with composing your images, thanks its large pop-up viewfinder and tilting rear screen. The lens is a strong performer too, especially when stopped down. Crucially, the camera delivers attractive images which are a noticeable improvement over older Sony models in terms of colour rendition.

Sony RX10 IV – £1499

At a glance:

  • 24-600mm equivalent f/2.4-4 lens
  • 20MP 1in sensor
  • ISO 100-12,800
  • 24fps continuous shooting
  • 2.35m-dot viewfinder
  • 3in, 1.44m-dot tilting touchcreen

For photographers who’d like an all-in-one camera with a long zoom lens, but who are prepared to carry something the size of a DSLR, there’s nothing else quite like the Sony RX10 IV. Its 24-600mm equivalent optically stabilised lens offers immense versatility and reach, yet still boasts a usefully fast f/2.4-4 aperture. Meanwhile its 20MP 1in stacked CMOS sensor provides a combination of fine image quality and breathtaking speed. The camera also incorporates Sony’s sophisticated autofocus systems, including eye AF for both humans and animals.

The RX10 IV handles well too, with a large, comfortable handgrip. Three rings arranged around the lens barrel control zoom, focus and aperture, and there’s a dedicated exposure compensation dial perfectly placed for operation by your thumb. Focus area selection is handled using either the touchscreen or the rear d-pad. The viewfinder is decently large and gives an accurate preview, while the screen tilts for low-angle shooting.

To fully understand the RX10 IV’s attraction, though, we need to consider how it compares to mirrorless or DSLR alternatives. Quite simply, none can match its zoom range without changing lenses. What’s more, few other cameras get close to its ability to shoot at 24 frames per second with continuous autofocus and a vast 110-frame raw buffer.

The silent electronic shutter provides speeds as fast as 1/32,000sec while minimising any risk of subject distortion. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi provide smartphone connectivity, and as the icing on the cake, it’ll record 4K video. It’s without doubt the best bridge camera that’s ever been made.

Nikon D5600 + 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6 lens –  £749

At a glance:

  • 24.2MP APS-C sensor
  • ISO 100-25,600
  • 5fps continuous shooting
  • Optical pentamirror viewfinder
  • 3.2in, 1.4m-dot fully articulated touchscreen

Some photographers still prefer a traditional DSLR with an optical viewfinder, and Nikon’s D5600 provides a solid specification in a portable package. What’s more, it can be bought in a kit with a versatile 18-140mm kit zoom, offering a 27-210mm equivalent range, for just £749. As the icing on the cake, Nikon’s SnapBridge connectivity can transfer all your pictures automatically to your smartphone, making sharing your adventures a breeze.

In terms of key features, the Nikon D5600 boasts a reasonably solid specification. Its 24.2MP sensor goes up to ISO 25,600 and supports continuous shooting at 5fps. Autofocus employs a 39-point phase-detection system covering the central region of the frame, while metering is handled by a 2,016-pixel RGB sensor.

One area where the D5600 shows its age, though, is with regards to video recording, which is Full HD only, rather than 4K. Recent mirrorless models undoubtedly offer more, but on the other hand, they can’t match the D5600’s impressive 820-shot battery life.

In general the D5600 delivers attractive images, with warm, saturated colours and plenty of detail. It handles nicely too, with the responsive touchscreen making up for a relatively simple set of external controls. Those who’d like to add extra lenses are well served by Nikon’s sizeable F-mount range, including the affordable AF-P DX-Nikkor 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR wideangle zoom and the AF-S DX-Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 G. The latter would nicely complement the zoom for low-light shooting.

Canon EOS M50 Mark II + 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 lens – £699

At a glance:

  • 24.1MP APS-C sensor
  • ISO 100-25,600
  • 10fps continuous shooting
  • 2.36m-dot OLED viewfinder
  • 3in, 1.04m-dot fully articulated touchscreen

Canon’s EF-M mount APS-C mirrorless models don’t always get a lot of love, not helped by the fact that the firm has never shown much commitment to the system. This is unfortunate, because there’s actually plenty to like, especially with the small, lightweight EOS M50 Mark II. It’s a relatively simple camera that’s capable of delivering great results with the minimum of fuss, for both novices and experienced users alike.

Resembling a scaled-down version of the firm’s EOS 250D DSLR, the EOS M50 Mark II boasts a centrally positioned electronic viewfinder that’s complemented by a fully articulated touchscreen. The entirety of the camera’s operation can be controlled by touch, which helps make up for a relative lack of physical controls. But Canon DSLR users will still find most of the features on board that they’d expect.

It’s not just the camera that’s attractive for travel, but also the lenses. The 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 kit zoom provides a 24-72mm equivalent range, with a retractable design that takes up little space in a bag. Canon offers a further range of small EF-M lenses, including the 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM wideangle zoom, the 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM telezoom, and the ultra-compact 22mm f/2 pancake prime. Even if you carry all of these, the total weight adds up to less than a full-frame camera and 24-105mm f/4 zoom. Canon EF-mount DSLR lenses can also be used, via the Canon EF-EOS M mount adapter.

Fujifilm X-S10 + 16-80mm f/4 lens – £1399

At a glance:

  • 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor
  • ISO 80-51,200 (extended)
  • 20fps continuous shooting
  • 2.36m-dot viewfinder
  • 3in, 1.04m-dot fully articulated touchscreen

For enthusiast photographers who’d like a small, lightweight camera that handles well and offers excellent image quality, the Fujifilm X-S10 is extremely appealing. Styled to look and work very much like a shrunken DSLR, it offers most of the features of the firm’s flagship X-T4 in a considerably smaller body.

It comes in kits with various lenses, with prices starting from just below £1,000 for the XC 15-45mm power zoom. We’ve picked the most versatile kit zoom option, the XF 16-80mm F4, which provides a 24-120mm equivalent range.

Based around Fujifilm’s unique 26MP X-Trans CMOS sensor, the X-S10 delivers the firm’s signature attractive JPEG colour rendition. It even has a dedicated dial to select between the various Film Simulation modes, which provide an interesting range of different looks. Other highlights include 5-axis in-body stabilisation that works with every lens, and a fully articulated screen for shooting at unusual angles. When it comes to video, 4K recording is available at up to 30 frames per second.

With its prominent handgrip, twin control dials and joystick for positioning the focus area, the X-S10 provides the kind of handling that should satisfy experienced photographers. Fujifilm also makes the best available range of lenses for the APS-C format, including a nice set of compact primes.

What’s more, the major third-party lens makers have also recently started to support the firm’s X mount, with some interesting optics now available from Samyang, Sigma, and Tamron. This makes the X-S10 a great choice for existing DSLR users looking for a smaller camera.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III + 14-150mm lens – £1299

At a glance:

  • 20.4MP Four Thirds sensor
  • ISO 64-25,600 (extended)
  • 10fps continuous shooting
  • 2.36m-dot viewfinder
  • 3in,1.04m-dot fully articulated touchscreen

Olympus cameras have traditionally offered high performance in a compact form factor, and the E-M5 series delivers on this principle particularly well. Like its predecessors, the Mark III is unique in being extremely small and lightweight, while still having a fully weather-sealed body and a good set of external controls. What’s more, you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money to get a matching sealed lens.

Buy it in a kit with the 14-150mm f/4-5.6 II, and you get an extremely useful 28-300mm equivalent lens that’s also dust- and splashproof. If you’re prepared to spend a bit extra, there’s even a 12-200mm superzoom that offers a massive 24-400mm equivalent range. Despite its small size, the E-M5 III doesn’t skimp on features.

Its 20MP sensor includes on-chip phase detection that provides 121 focus points spread across the entire image area. You get 10 frames per second shooting, a decently large viewfinder, and a fully articulated screen. As usual from Olympus, the camera also produces very attractive JPEG images, with well-judged exposure and white balance that complement the firm’s signature punchy colour reproduction.

Micro Four Thirds models inevitably give more visible image noise at high ISOs, but this can often be offset by the superb 5-axis in-body image stabilisation, as it allows you to shoot handheld at remarkably slow shutter speeds. There’s also a good range of affordable f/1.8 prime lenses available for low-light shooting that’ll take up next to no space in your bag.

Nikon Z 5 + 24-200mm f/4-6.3 lens – £2029

At a glance:

  • 24.3MP full-frame sensor
  • ISO 160-51,200
  • 4.5fps continuous shooting
  • 3.69m-dot viewfinder
  • 3.2in, 1.04m-dot tilting touchscreen

If you really can’t do without full frame, the latest mirrorless models are ideal for travel, as they’re smaller and lighter than their DSLR counterparts. It’s also possible to get all-in-one superzoom lenses for them that deliver very creditable results. We’ve chosen the Nikon Z 5, as it’s available in a kit with the firm’s Z Nikkor 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR for a decent discount over buying the two separately.

The lens has a slightly shorter zoom range than its Canon and Sony counterparts, but provides a welcome weight reduction in return, of about 200g. While the Z 5 counts as Nikon’s ‘entry-level’ full-frame mirrorless body, it doesn’t give up a huge amount compared to the more expensive Z 6.

Its 24MP sensor resolves just as much detail in good light, and while it falls behind in terms of noise performance at the highest sensitivities, it’s still perfectly usable at ISO 12,800. However, its maximum shooting speed of 4.5fps looks rather pedestrian by today’s standards, meaning it’s not the best choice for fast action or wildlife. It’s also only able to record 4K video with a significant 1.7x crop.

In other respects, though, the Z 5 maintains most of what makes Nikon’s mirrorless cameras so attractive. The body may be small, but it has plenty of external controls, along with a lovely large viewfinder and a tilting touchscreen. Dual SD card slots offer the option of backing up your images for peace of mind, while in-body IS means you can often do without a tripod. A range of fine fast primes is also available for low-light shooting.

Take a look at our latest buying guides for more great options.

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