Reviews

LAST UPDATED:  March 19, 2021

Best Cameras for Travel (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021

Capture your best travel moments with a camera made for it.

Entering our 7th season of /DRIVE on NBC Sports, and with millions of YouTube and Facebook followers, The Drive is a leading authority of all things automotive.

The Drive on NBC The Drive on YouTube The Drive on Facebook

The Review Team

The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.

PUBLISHED ON March 19, 2021

Most travelers enjoy photographing their adventures, and often a cell phone camera doesn't capture the moment as well as a dedicated travel camera. If you want professional-looking images, a high-tech camera is a better alternative. However, you need to find one that fits your budget and isn't too heavy or bulky. The good news is that there are plenty of high-quality, small, and lightweight cameras packed with the latest technology, including options such as WiFi and high-speed lenses. There are also cameras designed for specific activities, such as riding a motorcycle or capturing underwater shots. If you're not sure what camera will suit your needs the best, we're here to help. Our buying guide features some of the best travel cameras currently available.

Best Overall
Canon PowerShot Digital Camera
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

This camera has both an all-manual option and automatic settings. It shoots in megapixels and RAW. Several accessories are available.

Pros
Pros
  • Lightweight and easy to carry
  • Zoom lens
  • Focuses quickly and accurately
  • Wi-Fi capable
Cons
Cons
  • Dust may seep into the lens
  • Audio quality isn’t the best on videos
Best Overall
Canon PowerShot Digital Camera
Best Value
GoPro HERO9 Black
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

This camera is designed for action-oriented users. It's good for vlogging and features 5K Ultra HD video, 20-megapixel photos, and 1080p live streaming.

Pros
Pros
  • Clear photos
  • Lightweight
  • Anti-glare screen
  • Waterproof
  • Good stabilization
Cons
Cons
  • Battery life isn’t the best
  • Lags when processing photos
Best Value
GoPro HERO9 Black
Honorable Mention
Canon Full Frame Mirrorless Camera
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

This mirrorless 30.3-megapixel camera has built-in Wi-Fi and a flip-out LCD screen. It's compatible with EF/EF-S lenses.

Pros
Pros
  • Crisp and clear images
  • Small and lightweight
  • No need to micro-adjust the lenses
Cons
Cons
  • Has a lag while processing images
  • Switching from photo to video is a hassle
Honorable Mention
Canon Full Frame Mirrorless Camera
Best Camera for Travel
Amazon

Why Trust Us


All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

Learn more

Benefits of a Camera for Travel

  • Shoot hundreds to thousands of photos. The great thing about travel cameras is that you can shoot numerous pictures and video clips and then pare them down to the ones you like best.
  • Take professional-looking photos. Advancements in technology have enabled camera companies to make devices for the average person that produce high-quality images. As long as you know how to use the settings correctly, you can take pictures that look like they were shot by a professional.
  • Easily share images with friends and family. The best travel cameras are designed so that you can share photos and videos on social media and in other ways. And often, you can do it instantaneously.

Types of Cameras for Travel

DSLR 

DSLR stands for digital single-lens reflex. This type of camera permits interchangeable lenses on a single camera body. You see what you're shooting in the optical viewfinder through a reflection of light from a mirror. These cameras have different sized sensors with a much higher number of megapixels than a smartphone camera.

Mirrorless

Instead of using a reflex mirror, in mirrorless cameras, the light goes directly through the lens to the digital sensor, and the image appears on the LCD screen. These cameras tend to be a little smaller and more lightweight, making them a good option for traveling. You can also adjust settings such as exposure and contrast before taking a photo.

Compact

Compact cameras are much smaller and lighter weight than DSLR and mirrorless cameras. However, they usually have smaller sensors as well. As a result, their images will be of lower quality. They also have fixed lenses, which limits the focal length. Some examples of compact travel cameras include GoPro cameras or point-and-shoot cameras.

Top Brands

Canon 

Most people are familiar with the Canon brand, which opened its New York office in 1955. It started mass producing its VT model the following year and is one of the world's top camera companies. Aside from high-quality cameras, Canon also makes binoculars, camcorders, scanners, and more. 

Panasonic

While Panasonic is recognized for its audio equipment, it also makes cameras. The Japanese company started using the name in 1955, but it was previously known as Matsushita Electric Industrial. We recommend the Panasonic LUMIX DC-ZS70K.

Sony

Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation, the predecessor of Sony, got its start in 1946. In addition to cameras, the company produces various electronic products, including video game consoles and smartphones

Nikon

It should be no surprise that Nikon is another successful camera company from Japan (which got its start in 1917). It also makes lenses, binoculars, lasers, and other items. We recommend checking out the Nikon COOLPIX P1000 16.7 Digital Camera.

Camera for Travel Pricing

  • $400-$800: Compact cameras are much less expensive than their DSLR or mirrorless counterparts. Many professional photographers use these cameras as a backup when they don't want to carry bulkier equipment. They may not perform as well, but they are a good alternative for significantly less money.
  • $1,000 and up: Professional-level DSLR and mirrorless cameras are a little pricey, but they are packed with features. These cameras are designed to take high-quality images that are vivid, crisp, and clear. They make great travel cameras but are not designed for entry-level users.

Key Features

Size and Weight

When you're traveling, the fewer items you have to haul around, the better. Good quality travel cameras don't have to be very big—you can thank technological advances for that. Choose a camera that's relatively small and lightweight, so it doesn't become a burden when you're exploring a new city or hiking up a mountain on your bucket list.

Manual Settings

Sure, you can choose a point-and-shoot camera to record your journey, but if you really want to set up a high-quality shot, you need one that provides manual control. That way, you can change the settings based on the light, subject, etc. It's okay to experiment with the settings because you will learn how to use them effectively over time—and the results will be worth it.

Megapixels

The number of megapixels is important when choosing a travel camera. More megapixels aren't necessarily better because sometimes the pixels are tiny. Instead, make sure the megapixels are part of a large sensor. That way, you will get more detail, which helps you decide to crop images at a later date.

Zoom Range

One function that many cell phone cameras lack is a proper zoom function. When you choose a travel camera, the zoom helps you "zoom" in closer to a subject, such as a honeybee on a flower petal. Many cameras include built-in zoom lenses. Just keep in mind that a bigger zoom often equals a bulkier device.

Other Considerations

  • Aperture. If you plan on taking photos in low-light conditions, make sure you have a camera with the proper lens aperture, which is delineated by the letter "f" and a number. A lower aperture means the camera will do better in low-light scenarios. However, this can also drive up the cost.
  • HD/4K Video. These days, cameras perform double duty: they take photographs as well as record video. Some, however, do this better than others. Most high-quality cameras record in HD 1080p, while others are more advanced with 4K recording. This drives up the cost and is more geared toward professional use.
  • Weather-Resistant. If you plan on taking photographs in a damp environment, it's a good idea to choose a device that can tolerate a little bit of moisture. It's also a good idea to consider dust if your travel plans include a beach, desert, or other types of environments.

Best Cameras for Travel Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall

We like the mid-range Canon PowerShot Digital Camera because it has excellent picture quality, is easy to use, and provides plenty of manual controls. There's an all-manual option, or you can use the automatic settings for focus, aperture, film speed, shutter speed, etc. It has a zoom lens and shoots in both 20 megapixels or RAW so that you can print the images in your darkroom. It's also a great choice because it's lightweight and easy to carry around while traveling. It focuses quickly and accurately, and the image stabilization is very helpful. Also, the Wi-Fi and mobile app work well. Other features include advanced video capabilities and a 3-inch LCD display. 


One downside with this compact camera is that dust easily gets inside the lens despite it possessing a built-in automatic lens cap. Also, the audio quality isn't the best should you choose to shoot videos.

Best Overall
Canon PowerShot Digital Camera

We like the mid-range Canon PowerShot Digital Camera because it has excellent picture quality, is easy to use, and provides plenty of manual controls. There's an all-manual option, or you can use the automatic settings for focus, aperture, film speed, shutter speed, etc. It has a zoom lens and shoots in both 20 megapixels or RAW so that you can print the images in your darkroom. It's also a great choice because it's lightweight and easy to carry around while traveling. It focuses quickly and accurately, and the image stabilization is very helpful. Also, the Wi-Fi and mobile app work well. Other features include advanced video capabilities and a 3-inch LCD display. 


One downside with this compact camera is that dust easily gets inside the lens despite it possessing a built-in automatic lens cap. Also, the audio quality isn't the best should you choose to shoot videos.

Best Value

The GoPro HERO9 Black is a good option if you need an action camera, but you can also use it for less-strenuous photography. First, it's very simple to set up. Users also report that it's great for vlogging due to the front screen display, and it automatically changes the screen from "front" to "selfie." The photos are very clear, and the camera itself very lightweight, making it convenient for traveling. Some of its best features include its contrast, anti-glare, and stabilization. This waterproof camera features 5K Ultra HD video, 20-megapixel photos, and 1080p live streaming. So, if you plan on capturing your activities on your next trip, this travel camera is the way to go. 


However, there have been some complaints that the battery life isn't the best, and it can take a while for photos to process. Also, this camera doesn't perform as well in low-light conditions.

Best Value
GoPro HERO9 Black

The GoPro HERO9 Black is a good option if you need an action camera, but you can also use it for less-strenuous photography. First, it's very simple to set up. Users also report that it's great for vlogging due to the front screen display, and it automatically changes the screen from "front" to "selfie." The photos are very clear, and the camera itself very lightweight, making it convenient for traveling. Some of its best features include its contrast, anti-glare, and stabilization. This waterproof camera features 5K Ultra HD video, 20-megapixel photos, and 1080p live streaming. So, if you plan on capturing your activities on your next trip, this travel camera is the way to go. 


However, there have been some complaints that the battery life isn't the best, and it can take a while for photos to process. Also, this camera doesn't perform as well in low-light conditions.

Premium Pick

Don't let the price of this travel camera prevent you from checking it out—the size, weight, ergonomics, and maneuverability of this camera make it an excellent option for traveling. The images have incredible depth, crispness, and clarity, which is essential for professional photographers. Also, it's smaller and lighter than a DSLR, making it more portable. And because it's a mirrorless camera, you don't have to micro-adjust the lenses, which can be time-consuming and tedious. It features built-in Wi-Fi and a flip-out LCD, which is helpful for selfies. Other features include 30.3 megapixels, a short back focus distance, and compatibility of EF/EF-S lenses. Users have also had positive experiences with Canon's customer support, which is helpful should you run into issues. 


One downside is there is a little lag before you can see the images you shot. Also, using the dial to switch between photo and video can be cumbersome.

Premium Pick
Canon Full Frame Mirrorless Camera

Don't let the price of this travel camera prevent you from checking it out—the size, weight, ergonomics, and maneuverability of this camera make it an excellent option for traveling. The images have incredible depth, crispness, and clarity, which is essential for professional photographers. Also, it's smaller and lighter than a DSLR, making it more portable. And because it's a mirrorless camera, you don't have to micro-adjust the lenses, which can be time-consuming and tedious. It features built-in Wi-Fi and a flip-out LCD, which is helpful for selfies. Other features include 30.3 megapixels, a short back focus distance, and compatibility of EF/EF-S lenses. Users have also had positive experiences with Canon's customer support, which is helpful should you run into issues. 


One downside is there is a little lag before you can see the images you shot. Also, using the dial to switch between photo and video can be cumbersome.

Best for Beginners

This is an affordable device that's easy to operate and great for beginners. The autofocus is excellent, and it takes nice close-up photographs. It has two lenses and is small, lightweight, and balanced, making it easy to carry around. The automatic settings work well, but there are several manual functions if you're looking to develop your skills. Users love using this camera for Instagram and other social media websites due to its ease of use. While it can be helpful to have a background in photography before purchasing this camera, it's great for entry-level users. Other features of this 24.1-megapixel camera include built-in Wi-Fi and NFC technology, an optical viewfinder, and EOS Utility Webcam Beta Software. 


Unfortunately, it struggles to adjust to high contrast lighting, and it can be slow to adjust in general. Also, the two included lenses are not the best quality.

Best for Beginners
Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR Camera

This is an affordable device that's easy to operate and great for beginners. The autofocus is excellent, and it takes nice close-up photographs. It has two lenses and is small, lightweight, and balanced, making it easy to carry around. The automatic settings work well, but there are several manual functions if you're looking to develop your skills. Users love using this camera for Instagram and other social media websites due to its ease of use. While it can be helpful to have a background in photography before purchasing this camera, it's great for entry-level users. Other features of this 24.1-megapixel camera include built-in Wi-Fi and NFC technology, an optical viewfinder, and EOS Utility Webcam Beta Software. 


Unfortunately, it struggles to adjust to high contrast lighting, and it can be slow to adjust in general. Also, the two included lenses are not the best quality.

Best Focus

The Sony a7 III ILCE7M3/B Full-Frame Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera is another expensive option, but it's one of the best in its price range. The 24.2-megapixel camera has excellent autofocus, so you spend less time color-correcting images. It's also nice to hold, particularly if you have small-to-medium-sized hands. It has a good battery life, and the video capabilities are excellent for amateur and semi-pro videographers. The display is nice and bright, and it features uncompressed RAW photo capability. It comes with a rechargeable battery, AC adapter, shoulder strap, body cap, accessory shoe cap, eyepiece cup, and micro USB cable. 


The biggest downside is that it doesn't include a battery charger. Also, there are so many options to customize the settings that it can be a little overwhelming, particularly for beginners. Another problem is that the lenses are a bit expensive.

Best Focus
Sony a7 III ILCE7M3/B Full-Frame Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera

The Sony a7 III ILCE7M3/B Full-Frame Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera is another expensive option, but it's one of the best in its price range. The 24.2-megapixel camera has excellent autofocus, so you spend less time color-correcting images. It's also nice to hold, particularly if you have small-to-medium-sized hands. It has a good battery life, and the video capabilities are excellent for amateur and semi-pro videographers. The display is nice and bright, and it features uncompressed RAW photo capability. It comes with a rechargeable battery, AC adapter, shoulder strap, body cap, accessory shoe cap, eyepiece cup, and micro USB cable. 


The biggest downside is that it doesn't include a battery charger. Also, there are so many options to customize the settings that it can be a little overwhelming, particularly for beginners. Another problem is that the lenses are a bit expensive.

Honorable Mention

The Sony RX100 VII Premium Compact Camera is worth the price because it's a 20-megapixel pocket camera with 4k recording, audio input, and an excellent focus range. The quality and color of the images are excellent, and it's great whether you choose to operate it manually or automatically. You can record 30-45 minutes of video continuously, and it holds its charge for a long time. Since it's so small and lightweight, you can easily carry it in a handbag or your pocket. Overall, it's a good option if you're a casual photographer interested in taking travel images or a more experienced photographer who knows how to use F-stops and ISOs. 


However, this camera has an extensive menu on the device you have to navigate, and with no written manual, it can be overwhelming. Also, since it's so small, it can get slippery.

Honorable Mention
Sony RX100 VII Premium Compact Camera

The Sony RX100 VII Premium Compact Camera is worth the price because it's a 20-megapixel pocket camera with 4k recording, audio input, and an excellent focus range. The quality and color of the images are excellent, and it's great whether you choose to operate it manually or automatically. You can record 30-45 minutes of video continuously, and it holds its charge for a long time. Since it's so small and lightweight, you can easily carry it in a handbag or your pocket. Overall, it's a good option if you're a casual photographer interested in taking travel images or a more experienced photographer who knows how to use F-stops and ISOs. 


However, this camera has an extensive menu on the device you have to navigate, and with no written manual, it can be overwhelming. Also, since it's so small, it can get slippery.

Honorable Mention

The Panasonic LUMIX DC-ZS70K, 20.3 Megapixel, 4K Digital Camera is an affordable yet desirable option. What sets it apart is that it is a pocket-size super zoom camera with the ability to shoot RAW footage. The zoom works great and is much better than many other point-and-shoot cameras on the market. While this device has a small sensor, it's efficient for the size of its pixels. Other features include 4k video, Wi-Fi, time-lapse video, full manual control, a viewfinder, and remote shutter control. The build quality is very good, and it is ergonomic and minimalistic, making it an excellent choice for traveling. 


One downside is that your fingers may get in the way of the flash due to its position. There's also a limited F-stop range, although that isn't uncommon in a pocket camera.

Honorable Mention
Panasonic LUMIX DC-ZS70K, 20.3 Megapixel, 4K Digital Camera

The Panasonic LUMIX DC-ZS70K, 20.3 Megapixel, 4K Digital Camera is an affordable yet desirable option. What sets it apart is that it is a pocket-size super zoom camera with the ability to shoot RAW footage. The zoom works great and is much better than many other point-and-shoot cameras on the market. While this device has a small sensor, it's efficient for the size of its pixels. Other features include 4k video, Wi-Fi, time-lapse video, full manual control, a viewfinder, and remote shutter control. The build quality is very good, and it is ergonomic and minimalistic, making it an excellent choice for traveling. 


One downside is that your fingers may get in the way of the flash due to its position. There's also a limited F-stop range, although that isn't uncommon in a pocket camera.

Honorable Mention

The Sony Alpha A6600 Mirrorless Camera is on the smaller side, but it packs many powerful features, including Eye AF for video recording and in-body image stabilization. It has excellent low-light performance and JPEG and RAW image quality. You can easily capture birds in flight in sharp focus or take high-quality portraits with this camera, and it's great for travel photos and vlogging. Users love the long battery life, the flip-up touchscreen, and the ISO sensitivity. Another feature is Fast Hybrid AF for high-resolution 4K movie recording. It also shoots up to 11 fps4 with minimal display lag and features five-axis image stabilization. 


However, it has a complicated menu system, and you have to connect it to a USB to charge it.

Honorable Mention
Sony Alpha A6600 Mirrorless Camera

The Sony Alpha A6600 Mirrorless Camera is on the smaller side, but it packs many powerful features, including Eye AF for video recording and in-body image stabilization. It has excellent low-light performance and JPEG and RAW image quality. You can easily capture birds in flight in sharp focus or take high-quality portraits with this camera, and it's great for travel photos and vlogging. Users love the long battery life, the flip-up touchscreen, and the ISO sensitivity. Another feature is Fast Hybrid AF for high-resolution 4K movie recording. It also shoots up to 11 fps4 with minimal display lag and features five-axis image stabilization. 


However, it has a complicated menu system, and you have to connect it to a USB to charge it.

Honorable Mention

This is an excellent alternative if you don't want to carry around a DSLR camera and extra lenses. You can either manually control settings such as shutter speed, aperture, and ISO or use it in the automatic point-and-shoot mode. Features include Wi-Fi, dual-sensing image stabilization, a quick autofocus feature, and an auto shooting mode. One convenient feature is you can transfer photos from the camera to your phone using the Canon Camera Connect app. Overall, it's small enough to fit in a shirt pocket and has an intuitive touchscreen that's relatively easy to read in daylight. It takes good photos and video, and since it has a bigger-than-average sensor, it takes great pictures in low-light conditions. 


One issue is that it can be hard to hold on to if you have large hands. Also, setting it up to transfer images to your phone can be a hassle.

Honorable Mention
Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II Compact Digital Camera

This is an excellent alternative if you don't want to carry around a DSLR camera and extra lenses. You can either manually control settings such as shutter speed, aperture, and ISO or use it in the automatic point-and-shoot mode. Features include Wi-Fi, dual-sensing image stabilization, a quick autofocus feature, and an auto shooting mode. One convenient feature is you can transfer photos from the camera to your phone using the Canon Camera Connect app. Overall, it's small enough to fit in a shirt pocket and has an intuitive touchscreen that's relatively easy to read in daylight. It takes good photos and video, and since it has a bigger-than-average sensor, it takes great pictures in low-light conditions. 


One issue is that it can be hard to hold on to if you have large hands. Also, setting it up to transfer images to your phone can be a hassle.

Honorable Mention

The Sony RX100 III 20.1 MP Premium Compact Digital Camera has some great features for travel photography. It includes an articulating LCD for 20.1MP4 selfies and high or low-angle pictures. And more importantly, it produces sharp, vivid images. It's easy to carry around when you don't need a full-size pro-level DSLR. Benefits include full manual control, a solid build, an excellent viewfinder, a great lens, and a nice clear screen. The lens is also wide enough for landscape shots, which is handy for traveling. Other features include Wi-Fi, a f1.8-2.8 24-70mm Zeiss lens, and an ultra-fast BIONZ X processor for speed and accuracy in stills and video.


However, this camera is a bit more expensive than many rival compact cameras. And while it's considered compact, some options are even smaller and more lightweight.

Honorable Mention
Sony RX100 III 20.1 MP Premium Compact Digital Camera

The Sony RX100 III 20.1 MP Premium Compact Digital Camera has some great features for travel photography. It includes an articulating LCD for 20.1MP4 selfies and high or low-angle pictures. And more importantly, it produces sharp, vivid images. It's easy to carry around when you don't need a full-size pro-level DSLR. Benefits include full manual control, a solid build, an excellent viewfinder, a great lens, and a nice clear screen. The lens is also wide enough for landscape shots, which is handy for traveling. Other features include Wi-Fi, a f1.8-2.8 24-70mm Zeiss lens, and an ultra-fast BIONZ X processor for speed and accuracy in stills and video.


However, this camera is a bit more expensive than many rival compact cameras. And while it's considered compact, some options are even smaller and more lightweight.

Tips

  • Practice using your new camera before taking a trip. Even better, enroll in a photography class to learn some tips about taking top-notch photos.
  • Consider investing in a lightweight tripod. This puts your camera in a fixed position, which allows you to adjust the settings and take your time with the photograph. Plus, you can use slower shutter speeds to photograph the night sky, waterfalls, etc.
  • Don't rush. For the best photos, you may need to wait until the clouds clear or the light hits the subject at just the right angle.

FAQs

Q: Which camera is best for travel videos?

Several cameras do an excellent job of shooting video during travel adventures, and we include many of those options in this list.

Q: What cameras do travel bloggers use?

Travel bloggers use all types of cameras for their websites and social media platforms. Do your research, determine which camera has the top features you need, and check the reviews to see what others say about its performance.

Q: What camera should I buy for traveling?

Travel cameras are available in various styles in a wide price range, and there are several excellent options in this article depending on your skills and needs. 

Final Thoughts

Our pick for the best camera for travel is the Canon PowerShot Digital Camera. It's not too pricey, and you can shoot in manual or automatic modes, which makes it a versatile selection. For a more budget-friendly option, consider the GoPro HERO9 Black.