Time flies when you’re having fun, and traveling the globe. The best way to make those moments spent in new places last is to capture them with a good digital camera. But what exactly is a good digital camera for travel? Should you opt for something that fits in your pocket, or a DSLR with max resolution? The thing is, cameras aren’t a one-size-fits-all deal. There are some cameras that are great for sightseeing trips and others that are best for snorkeling trips. The best travel camera for you depends a bit on the type of photos you want to snap. If you have a trip on the horizon, here’s what you need to consider to find the best travel camera for you.
Before you start browsing for that new shooter, consider what you need in a camera. If your travels include sports games or concert venues, you’ll want a big zoom to get the action up close. If you’re the adventurous type, you should prioritise finding a camera that can withstand hiking or being dropped in the snow on the slopes. If your idea of traveling is finding a good beach, make sure you find a camera that’s waterproof. By prioritising what matters most to you and the way you travel, you can better pinpoint a camera that’ll capture all the shots you’re thinking of.
Chances are, you don’t have a ton of room in your suitcase. Look for a camera that’s versatile, so you don’t have to bring (or buy) more than one. If you just prioritised resolution, DSLRs and mirrorless cameras offer a lot of versatility with big resolution. If zoom is what you are after, look for a super zoom bridge camera that has a good macro or close up mode as well as a big zoom.
Portability is big.
The smaller your camera is, the more likely you are to bring it along and pull it out of your bag. If you plan to travel by plane, you’ll need to make sure your camera fits in a carry-on. Trust us, if you’ve ever seen the way checked luggage is sorted, you’ll want to make sure your camera is carried with you. You could fit a DSLR into a carryon bag, but you won’t have as much room for other essentials. Mirrorless cameras are great for travel, because they still offer the versatility of interchangeable lenses in a smaller package. If you don’t need the resolution, a compact or zoom camera will get the shots and take up less real estate. Fujifilm and Olympus both have an excellent mirrorless lineup, with varying features and price points.
Don’t skimp on the sensor.
If there’s one thing that indicates image quality, it’s sensor size. Make sure you’re checking the specifications to see how big the sensor is on the camera you are considering. DSLRs use either APS-C or full frame sensors, both of which are big with plenty of resolution. Mirrorless cameras are different though. Some use the same big sensors that are in DSLRs, and others use the same sensors that are in point-and-shoot cameras. Larger sensors are more expensive, but they make a big difference, offering more resolution and better low light performance. Don’t buy a mirrorless just assuming it has a larger sensor. Double check the tech specs first.
Big zoom means big shots.
Never underestimate the power of a good zoom. A good zoom will bring that exotic bird in much closer, or let you capture the details on the castle that’s way off in the hills. Here’s where it gets tricky though. It’s easy to get a bigger zoom on a smaller sensor. You’ll need to prioritize what’s more important to you, zoom or resolution. Bridge cameras tend to have a smaller 1/2.3” sensor with a huge 50x zoom, or there are some advanced compacts with a larger 1” sensor and about half the zoom. Of course, you can add zoom to a DSLR or mirrorless camera, but it’s much more expensive to do so. The Nikon P900 has a great 83x zoom; or the Panasonic FZ1000 or Sony RX10 offers a bigger sensor and still has a solid zoom.
Little f-number = Big Deal.
If your travels take you to scenarios where there isn’t much lighting, like inside of a museum or deep underwater, you’ll want a camera with a bright lens. Just how bright the lens is will be indicated by the f-number, and the smaller the number is, the better the lens is. An f/1.8 is excellent, while an f/3.6 is average. Of course, if most of your shots are on a sunny beach, getting a bright lens is not as much of a priority.
Will the camera you are considering endure through all of your travels? While sightseeing is no problem for pretty much any camera, there are a few things that can commonly cause issues when traveling. Sand can get stuck in the lens and cause it to stop working—so cameras that are dust proof are a good idea for traveling to the beach or desert areas like the Grand Canyon. It’s not too tough to find a decent compact camera that’s waterproof—and even some mirrorless and DSLRs—so consider a water-sealed camera for those beach vacations or even rainy climates. The Olympus Tough TG-4 is an excellent compact camera for withstanding dust, drops and water, or the Nikon 1 AW 1 is a waterproof mirrorless option.
Don’t skimp on your camera bag.
Once you’ve decided on what camera to buy, make sure it’s protected with a good camera bag. To make the “travel” part of travel photography easier, make sure that bag is also comfortable. For larger camera systems like mirrorless and DSLRs, look for a good backpack with thick straps and a waist strap for the most comfort. For smaller cameras, find a bag that will protect your camera if you slip it inside of a larger bag. Be sure to also check the bag’s dimensions and make sure it will work as a carry-on for air travel.
Travel is one of the best reasons to shop for a new camera, but you should know what you are looking for. The best travel cameras will be versatile and portable. A big sensor means big resolution, while a big zoom is great for snapping images that you couldn’t otherwise take. Look for a bright lens (with a little f-number) and be sure to consider durability too. Before you go, make sure you have a camera bag that will protect your new camera and also make it comfortable to bring along with you.
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