Choosing the perfect travel camera

One of the most common questions we get asked is: “what camera should I take travelling with me?”

It’s a hard question with many answers depending on what type of traveller and photographer you are. Read on to see our suggestions for your perfect travel camera!

Choosing a travel camera

We’re not professional photographers by any means, but we have been travelling for a while and have had a number of different cameras, and we have finally found cameras that we love to shoot and travel with.

However, we know that our setup won’t appeal to everyone so we’ve asked some keen photographer friends and family to give us their opinion on the cameras that they travel with. Hopefully these reviews will help you to choose your next travel camera!

choosing a travel camera

Here we review five different cameras that either we or our friends and family own (so we have had experience shooting with them).

The big Bertha: Canon EOS 650D

Category: DSLR

I (Petra) have travelled with the Canon EOS 650D DSLR for two years. I absolutely love it! The image quality is outstanding and I have really enjoyed developing my photography skills with such a great camera. The updated model of my camera is the Canon EOS 700D (Rebel T5i in the US).

After using the kit lenses (18-55 mm and 75-250 mm) lenses for most of that time, I’ve recently invested in a higher-grade 15-85mm lens (thanks to Alex in Wanderland and A Globe Well Travelled for their recommendations which helped me choose this lens!). I also love the touch screen and the intuitive menus that Canon cameras have – after having a hard-to-use Panasonic camera for a while it was a breakthrough.

The only downside of this camera is its size and weight – it’s definitely not light and by the end of a long day walking around I can feel it dragging on me! To help with the weight issue I bought a Joby UltraFit Sling Strap (women’s specific) which promotes even weight distribution and has a special ‘S’ curve in the strap to contour to a women’s body. This strap is really comfortable and has made such a difference.

I highly recommend this camera to anyone who wants to develop their photography skills and doesn’t mind the bulk and weight of a DSLR (I got used to it in a surprisingly short amount of time).

choosing a travel camera

The mini-me: Sony NEX-6

Category: mirrorless interchangeable lens camera

When we were in Myanmar a few years back, we met a guy who travels with a Sony NEX series mirrorless camera. Shaun was intrigued – he was keen to get a good quality camera with interchangeable lenses but wasn’t so fussed about getting a big camera like my DSLR.

So when we saw a Sony NEX-6 on sale in B&H Photo & Video in New York City (the most outrageous electronics store we have been to outside of Asia), we jumped on it. It’s a great camera – we love the fact that it still has interchangeable lenses and fantastic image quality (pretty much comparable to the 650D) but is much smaller in size than a normal DSLR. Note that the Sony Alpha a6000 is the updated model of this series.

It’s perfect for those places where it’s a bit unsafe to be wandering around with a big camera around your neck, or when we’re doing more extreme things such as zip lining in Whistler (yup, we flew across valleys with this camera!).

pick the perfect travel camera

The small but mighty: Canon G16 Powershot

Category: compact point and shoot

Our friend Claire uses a compact Canon PowerShot G16. Here is what she has to say about it:

As a long-time user and advocate of full-sized DSLRs, I was at first sceptical that something a lot smaller and compact could come anywhere close to matching quality. However, I absolutely love my Canon G16 Powershot.

It’s light and small, which makes it the perfect travel companion. As well as this, I’ve noticed that it’s exceptionally good in low light, which is something I’ve always found difficult to deal with.

All in all, I’d recommend this camera for anyone who wants a compact point and shoot which produces photos to rival any full-sized DSLR.

The low light champion: Canon PowerShot S110

Category: compact point and shoot

Both of Petra’s parents have this camera (the current model is the Canon PowerShot S120) and swear by it. They don’t want a big heavy camera to carry around while travelling and have found that this pocket rocket is fantastic. They work in the art scene and many photographer friends have raved about how great this camera is!

This camera is actually used by many professional photographers as their test camera as it has full manual settings and can shoot in RAW image format. It’s brilliant in low light due to its bright f/1.8 aperture and so it’s great for night time scenes, inside art galleries and museums, or when you don’t want to use flash (which is most of the time!).

We also love the underwater shots taken by Alex in Wanderland with this camera while diving (with a waterproof housing, of course!).

We recommend the S110 and the Canon PowerShot G16 above for travellers who want great image quality and manual settings, but don’t want the size or perceived hassle of a camera with interchangeable lenses.

picking a travel camera

The action hero: GoPro Hero 3+ Silver

Category: HD video camera

We have a bit of a love-hate relationship with our GoPro. It has been brilliant for action videos like when we were diving in Mexico or bungy jumping in Whistler, and it’s a lot more durable than our other cameras.

On the other hand, not having a screen on the camera resulted in serious frustration and annoyance when we were diving with a red filter in New Zealand and couldn’t see that all our footage was ruined by the filter until we downloaded it onto our computer after our trip.

We wouldn’t recommend the GoPro as a primary travel camera because (aside from the lack of a screen on our model), the settings you can change are very minimal and the fisheye effect can make things look a bit out of whack. The GoPro is great as a secondary camera that is good for fun action videos and photos, especially if you’re considering diving or extreme sports on your trip. We would definitely recommend the GoPro Hero 4 which has a LCD screen on the back!

So there you have it. These are all cameras we either own ourselves or have experience shooting with – and we trust the opinions of our family and friends! We’ve given you a good range of cameras with different sizes and capabilities so hopefully one of these suits your taste.

Overall, we recommend that you think about what quality of photos you want to take and what size camera you want to travel with. The choice should be pretty easy after that! If in doubt, there are heaps of Youtube videos and expert reviews of every camera under the sun online.

One last request – please, please don’t be one of those travellers who only takes photos with your smartphone or iPad! It’s worth spending a bit of money to have a decent camera to record those once-in-a-lifetime memories with.

What camera do you use for recording your travel memories? Would you recommend it?

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18 comments

  1. I just recently downsized from a Canon 5D II to a Fujifilm X-T1, I was tired of lugging around such a weighty camera and lenses. The 5D II is an awesome camera and I’m keeping hold of it but the X-T1 has won me over for its compact size, great quality lenses and excellent picture quality. It is so much fun to use and it weighs so much less than the big DSLR. I travel as light as I possibly can and this is a gem of a travel camera!

    • Petra
      Author

      We haven’t used that particular camera but we certainly love our own mirrorless Sony. It’s a great balance between the DSLR and a smaller camera! 🙂

  2. So glad my lens recommendations came in handy for at least one person! I looove my Canon 600D. You’re totally right about getting used to the weight of it fairly quickly, after a while you just forget that it’s there!

    • Petra
      Author

      Yes, thank you! I love my new lens, need to get out more and use it! Just that extra few mm of wide angle makes such a difference.

  3. Great post! I really have to change from taking pics with my phone ASAP!! I’d love to know, are cameras cheaper to buy in Asia does anyone know?

    • Petra
      Author

      Great idea Rachel! Where do you come from? Cameras are much cheaper in places like Singapore and Hong Kong, compared to New Zealand (and probably Australia). I’m pretty sure they’re still cheapest in the U.S. though. If you buy a camera in Asia, be prepared to haggle and get other things thrown in (memory cards, lens filters, camera bag etc). Hope that helps!

  4. Great Article, I’ve been wanting to update my point and shoot for a while, but I don’t really know anything about photography, or cameras. I know a DLSR is too big (I go hiking lots and don’t want to cart it around) and probably too advanced. I’d also love a camera I could take diving, as I’ve had some amazing dive moments and wish I could’ve snapped a shot. I’m definitely going to look into the cannon cameras. Thanks! 🙂

  5. Will

    Great post and gets to the point quickly. On my second trip to Italy, I had the Canon g11 and now we’re going again and now I have the Canon T3i with a heavy Sigma lens. I am so torn. I’ve always wanted to bring a DSLR to Europe, but the hassle of carrying it with me doesn’t appeal to me, but I also feel I will regret it if I don’t. I gave my daughter the G11 and now I have the G16. Should I take the T31 and also the the G16 as a back up or just the G16, with a compact Canon zoom I also own?

    • Petra
      Author

      Ah, hard question Will! I’m a DSLR fan so I would take that, but many of my friends have cameras equivalent to the G16 and swear by that. Sorry I can’t help more!

  6. Will

    I was generally disappointed with my church pictures the last time with my G11 and I took some pictures inside some churches here in NYC (where I liv e) with my G16 and, while better than the G11, I’m not in love. I think I’ll take the T3i. I think I’ll regret it if I don’t. Thanks for you reply!!!

  7. Great Stuff!
    That’s awesome! I’ll keep it in mind for my NEXT grandbaby. I got a pretty great one for review a while back that my daughter still uses with the babes in her house. This one is a tad smaller and I love that you can use an app for controlling and such. Very cool.

  8. Pingback: Drone photography in New Zealand - a new perspective - The Global Couple

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