Editor’s note: March 2023
If you can’t justify buying a new travel camera like the ones below, then it’s well worth considering second-hand options. Many of the models in our list below, like the OM System OM-5 and Fujifilm X-T30 II, have predecessors that are still very capable and come with price tags that give you the breathing space to buy them with a high-quality prime lens.
For example, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III can be found on reputable sites like MPB for almost half the price of the OM-5. The Fujifilm X-T20, meanwhile is one of the best-value travel cameras around at its current second-hand prices of around $430 / £430. Both the Micro Four Thirds system and Fujifilm’s X-mount have some excellent, affordable prime lenses that can also be found on the used market.
Buying new does still come with advantages, like the latest autofocus systems, stronger burst-shooting powers and the latest software and firmware. But if you aren’t able to buy new, our list below does also serve as a good guide to the best second-hand travel cameras, if you check out their predecessors.
Mark Wilson, Cameras editor
If you’re looking to capture memorable photos on your next big trip, then one of the best travel cameras should be at the top of your packing list.
More powerful and versatile than any smartphone, the travel cameras below combine portable dimensions with sensors (and, in some cases, lenses) that can shoot sharp stills in pretty much any conditions. Many can also record excellent video of your trips, with connectivity options that make it easy to share with friends and family.
This is all reflected in our current top pick, the OM System OM-5. If you want the versatility of interchangeable lenses and smartphone-beating image quality in a weatherproof package, it’s the best travel camera around right now. The OM-5’s range of computational tricks, coupled with its in-body image stabilization and the small size of the Micro Four Thirds system, make it ideal for tripod-free adventures.
In our list, you’ll find travel cameras for all budgets and experience levels. We’ve included pocketable compacts like the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI, plus rugged options for more adventurous travelers like some of the best action cameras. We’ve also included some of the best mirrorless cameras, for those who’d like the ability to swap glass on the go. If that’s you, we’d also suggest considering the Fujifilm X-T30 II. With good looks and great handling, it’s easily one of the top mirrorless cameras for travel alongside the OM System OM-5.
If you’re not sure what to look for in a travel camera, you’ll find useful tips to keep in mind at the end of this article. The links beneath each entry also take you directly to the best deals available right now. Happy shopping.
The best travel camera for 2023
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The OM-5 is only a relatively minor update of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III, but its combination of talents make it an ideal travel camera in our book – particularly if you want the flexibility of interchangeable lenses. It shoehorns a lot of features into a compact, weatherproof body that’s compatible with a wealth of equally small lenses. Most of its skills, including excellent in-body image stabilization and computational photography modes, are also designed with travelers and adventurers in mind.
Our testing found that, for its size, the OM-5 delivers excellent video and stills quality, which is bolstered by a stabilization system (good for 6.5-stops of compensation) that gives you a high hit-rate of keepers. We also enjoyed the high-quality feel of the camera’s dials and those in-camera software tricks, like Live ND and in-camera focus stacking, which are ideal for macro shots or blurring skies, surf and water for an ethereal effect. Less good are the fairly average EVF resolution, 4K/30p limit for video and relative limitations of its smaller sensor, but these are all acceptable trade-offs considering this camera’s size and price.
With smartphones now raising the bar for point-and-shoot photography, compact cameras have to offer something special to justify their place in your travel bag. The ZS200 / TZ200 does that with its large 1-inch sensor and versatile 15x optical zoom. It might be towards the upper end of the ‘budget’ compact camera market, but Panasonic’s travel zoom continues to offer great value.
Its large 1in sensor produces better natural image quality than most smartphones, despite the latter’s advances in multi-frame processing. Our tests found colors to be nice and punchy, with the dynamic range allowing you to recover lost shadow detail with post-processing if needed. Even at 24mm, vignetting and distortion is nicely controlled. There’s also a handy built-in electronic viewfinder, which makes it easier to compose images in bright light. It’s still quite pricey, but this is still the best travel zoom compact camera available right now.
Sony revolutionized premium compact cameras with the original RX100 as it was the first pocket-sized camera to feature a large 1-inch sensor. They were always great for travel, but thanks to a relatively limited zoom lens, were perhaps sometimes overlooked in favor of super-zoom rivals. Things changed when we got to the RX100 VI, which paired a much longer lens than ever before – and now we’ve seen some real refinement with the latest RX100 VII model.
The sacrifice for making the lens longer is losing the super wide aperture of previous generations, but if you’re mainly going to be shooting in sunny climes, this probably won’t be a big deal. There’s also a heck of a lot of power under the hood of the RX100 VII. It houses features that you might not ever use, such as a ridiculous 90fps burst mode, as well as those that are more commonplace, such as 4K video.
Image quality is superb, with our tests finding excellent detail even at ISO settings at the middle of its sensitivity range, while video quality is the best you’ll find on a compact. The big downside of this model is its high asking price, but if you want the best of the best for your travels, it could be worth the premium. If your budget doesn’t quite stretch to the asking price of the RX100 VII, take a look at older models throughout the range for better prices.
The X-T30 II may only be a minor upgrade on its predecessor, but that’s fine by us. The original X-T30 was a modern classic this fine update is similarly ideal for travel and everyday shooting, if you like to swap lenses for different looks and shooting situations. At its heart is Fujifilm’s trusty 26.1MP APS-C sensor, while the real benefit over rivals like the Nikon Zfc (below) is its range of excellent X-mount prime lenses. If you like to shoot street photography in particular, then pairing the X-T30 II with something like the XF35mm f/2 is a dreamy combination.
On the downside, while many XF lenses are weather-resistant, the X-T30 II itself isn’t, and there’s no in-body image stabilization (IBIS) either. This isn’t a major issue if you mainly shoot in daylight, but if you do need IBIS then it’s worth checking out the larger Fujifilm X-S10. Otherwise, the X-T30 II is a fine travel companion and one of the best cameras for beginners. It has a cracking sensor that produced excellent results in our tests, and has good autofocus plus relatively speedy shooting – all of which makes it an all-rounder that’s well worth considering for your city breaks.
Like its EOS R7 sibling, Canon’s EOS R10 is a compact mirrorless camera with modern smarts and a familiar sensor. Despite its entry-level price tag, it benefits from an impressive list of features for fledgling travel photographers: with a Digic X processor inside, the R10 gets top autofocus tech and 15fps burst shooting speeds. In our tests, the R10 proved impressively quick and sticky when focusing, making it ideal for whipping out when action unfolds in front of you.
Our time with the camera also revealed the R10’s lightweight design to be comfortably familiar, with its fully articulating touchscreen offering genuine versatility when shooting on the move. One unfortunate omission is in-body image stabilization, which adds to the EOS R10’s limitations in low-light conditions. That said, it’s certainly capable of decent stills and video in good light. And while it doesn’t reinvent the genre, the R10 brings a new level of performance chops to the APS-C arena. Together with its accessible pricing, it’s a top candidate for takeaway camera duties – especially for existing Canon hobbyists.
Thanks to a new 1/1.9in sensor with an 8:9 aspect ratio, we think the GoPro Hero 11 Black is the top action camera for travelers. Its max resolution of 5.3K/60p is the same as the Hero 10 Black, but the option to reframe footage for different social channels without sacrificing quality is a big deal if you like to share your adventures. So is the ability to capture dramatic TimeWarps at 5.3K, raw bursts at 30fps, and 24.7MP stills from 5.3K video.
Physically identical to the Hero 10 Black, the Hero 11 Black ships with the larger Enduro battery as standard, giving more time between recharges on the road. Its updated interface lets you tweak the user experience, with ‘Easy’ and ‘Pro’ modes to suit your skill level. It proved a polished tool in testing, wrapped up in familiarly robust housing. Improved Horizon Lock and HyperSmooth 5.0 smarts also do a remarkable job of stabilizing handheld video. Stills quality can’t compete with a proper camera, but the Hero 11 Black is still an impressively rugged, pocket-friendly choice for adventurous travelers.
Travel photography is all about capturing memories and Nikon’s Z fc fully embraces the concept of nostalgia: it’s a stunning homage to the 30-year-old Nikon FM2 – complete with retro styling, dimensions and dials. Despite the throwback design, it’s a very modern camera inside, sharing many of its specs with the capable Nikon Z50. While some photographers might wish for a full-frame sensor, the Z fc’s APS-C number does a stellar job of capturing stills and 4K video, aided by reliable tracking autofocus. Our tests found that its 20.9MP sensor had an excellent handle on noise, especially under ISO 800, while dynamic range was impressive.
Its vari-angle touchscreen is also a brilliant addition, making it easy to frame travel selfies – or folding away completely for a leather-back look that lets you pretend it’s the Eighties. The Nikon Z fc isn’t as sturdy as the camera that inspired it (there’s no weatherproofing, for example), but it’s still a beautifully unique camera for casual use. And with dedicated dials for ISO, shutter speed and exposure, plus a customizable lens ring, it’s also an easy one to control on the go.
A premium compact camera with a fixed 23mm f/2 lens and a design that’s been inspired by 1950s analogue cameras? Sounds like the very definition of niche. And yet, Fujifilm’s X100V is one of the best travel cameras you can buy – as long as you’re okay with that single focal length and no zoom.
For a start, it takes the X100F’s small form factor and adds a supremely useful tilting touchscreen. The advantages are support for touchscreen gestures and easier shooting at low or high angles.
Inside, a new 26.1MP sensor and X-Processor 4 combine to produce improved autofocus, image quality and high ISO performance. Our tests found that noise was well-controlled up to ISO 6400, while photos had bags of detail with realistic colors. Add in the option to shoot 4K/30p footage on the fly, as well as a higher resolution hybrid EVF, and you’ve got a properly capable pocket performer – provided you’re happy to pay a premium.
The Pen E-P7 draws on the spirit and specs of previous Olympus models to create a fresh, travel-friendly mirrorless camera. Its tried-and-tested TruePic VIII engine won’t make headlines, but the combination of attractive retro styling, a streamlined build and effective five-axis image stabilization make it a compelling choice for beginners and journey-makers.
Vloggers won’t be blown away by its video specs, while the lack of a viewfinder will be a deal-breaker for some. It’s also a shame that the touchscreen only tilts, instead of fully articulating for framing flexibility. But the trade-off is a sleek, stylish body which hits the scales at just 430g (with the kit zoom lens).
Our tests found its stills to be bright and punchy, and the fact that it can almost fit in your pocket makes the E-P7 more appealing than many full-frame rivals for street shooting – even if its price means some older Olympus models offer better outright value.
Sometimes a mirrorless camera really hits the sweet spot of size, price and features for most people – and that’s the case with the Fujifilm X-S10. It’s not an entry-level camera or as small as a premium compact, but you get an awful lot for your money. And if you combine the X-S10 with the right lenses, it’s an excellent, versatile travel for most types of trip.
While the X-S10 doesn’t official have weather-proofing, its magnesium alloy build quality is excellent and will certainly handle life in a backpack. Thanks to its large grip, the handling is also excellent, whether you’re carrying it around one-handed or attaching a longer zoom lens.
Most importantly, the X-S10’s APS-C sensor produces the best image quality available in this size of camera – and it’s great for 4K video too. The autofocus is edged out by Sony’s Real-time tracking AF, but our tests show that it remains very solid in most situations. And the secret weapon is the in-body image stabilization (IBIS), which is a real bonus for handheld shooting – particularly when you pair it with a small, unstabilized prime lens. The Nikon Z50 might be a little hardier, but overall the X-S10 is the mirrorless camera we’d like to have in our travel bags.
Olympus arguably started the rugged compact camera trend with its Tough series, and the TG-6 doesn’t break the mould. Innovation might have slowed, but the Tough TG-6 is still one of the best travel cameras you can buy – and there’s no questioning its freeze-proof, shockproof and waterproof credentials.
Its industrial design felt reassuringly rugged in our tests, with (slightly fiddly) catch mechanisms that protect the ports. Large buttons make it convenient to operate beneath the waves, while the improved 3-inch LCD display also offers decent visibility in most conditions.
We found image quality to be reasonable for a camera with a 1/2.3-inch sensor, with nice, rich colors – although there was a tendency to overexpose and blow out highlights. An equivalent zoom range of 25-100mm is fair, plus the inclusion of 4K video and raw shooting enhance flexibility. It isn’t a major upgrade from the TG-5, but the Olympus TG-6 is nevertheless a stellar option for all-action travelers.
In terms of offering something for everybody, the RX10 IV ticks a lot of boxes. It’s like having a bag full of lenses, but with the benefit of never having to change them. There’s a very long zoom (going all the way from 24-600mm), while the maximum aperture is pretty wide throughout the lens.
The RX10 IV’s sensor might not be as a large as the ones you’ll find on a mirrorless camera or DSLR, but Sony’s 20.1MP one-inch chip proved itself to be very capable in our tests. Noise was well-controlled, and you’d have no problem making an A3 print from one of its files (particularly if you shoot at under ISO 800).
You also get 24fps shooting, cracking 4K video quality and handling to rival a DSLR. The major downside? The high price – if your budget is tighter, don’t forget about this camera’s predecessor, the RX10 III.
How to choose the best travel camera for you
Need a bit more guidance on how to decide the right type of travel camera? Have a think about the following options:
Travel Zoom Compact
Examples: Panasonic Lumix ZS200 / TZ200, Sony RX100 VII
These small pocket-friendly cameras give you great scope for shooting lots of different kinds of subject, with a zoom lens that gets you close to the action, as well as giving you the opportunity to shoot nice and wide. The trade off for having all of this in a neat compact size is generally a smaller sensor which is less useful for shooting in low light.
Example: Fujifilm X100V
If you want to stay pocket friendly, but you’re happy to lose the ultra long zoom, think about a premium compact. These generally pack a one-inch sensor (or in the case of the larger X100V, an APS-C chip) for better image quality, but will normally have a shorter zoom. Some may give you both – but you’ll pay a very high price for it.
Example: Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV
A bulkier option than a standard compact camera, but with better scope for zooming, a bridge camera is also ideal for those who like more intuitive and comfortable handling. They’ll usually have a solid grip, decent electronic viewfinder and a flexible screen. You get many of the benefits of having a bag full of lenses, but without the extra luggage.
Mirrorless / Compact System Camera
Examples: OM System OM-5, Fujifilm X-T30 II, Canon EOS R10
This is the option if you want the best possible image quality and you’re prepared for a little bit of hassle. With lots of different lenses to choose from, you can pack different optics depending on the type of trip you’re on, or pack a good all-round lens and not worry too much about swapping optics. You’ll have the best possible handling, too as well as plenty of advanced options.
Many of the current compact system cameras on the market have been specifically designed with travel in mind – and are as small as possible. We’ve included some of the best options here.
If you’re still unsure about which kind of camera you need, check our step-by-step guide on What camera should I buy? Alternatively, if you’re going to be by the pool or on the beach, you might want something a bit more rugged – in which case, take a look at our best waterproof camera and best action camera guides.
What is the best mirrorless travel camera?
Mirrorless cameras are great for travel. While they’re larger than premium compact cameras, the best mirrorless travel cameras still feature relatively small shells which are easy to manage on the move. They also offer larger sensors than smartphones or compacts, which means they perform better after dark. And although interchangeable lenses are less portable than an all-in-one zoom barrel, they unlock greater creative flexibility.
We think the Fujifilm X-S10 is the best mirrorless travel camera you can buy right now, hitting the sweet spot of size, price and performance. Equipped with a 26.1MP APS-C sensor, it’s can capture superb stills and video with the help of in-body image stabilization. It’s also a lovely camera to handle, with a large grip on a small body.
Looking for something more accessible? The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is a fantastic option for those who are new to travel photography. While you don’t get advanced specs such as 4K/60p footage, you do get a 3.0-inch tilting touchscreen, in-body image stabilization and a handy 2.36m-dot OLED viewfinder. Its compact body is easy for beginners to handle, while the Micro Four Thirds lens mount means there’s a wide catalogue of compatible glass.
Content creator? Take a look at Canon’s EOS M50 Mark II. Despite heavily cropped 4K video, it benefits from a range of software shooting tricks that make it great for traveling influencers – including the option to shoot vertical videos and the ability to wirelessly live stream to YouTube (if you have more than 1,000 followers).
That said, there might be a better mirrorless travel camera for your specific requirements. The Sony A6100, for example, is pocket-friendly and packs rapid autofocus tracking for shooting on the move. Be sure to check out every mirrorless model in the list above before deciding which to buy.
How we test travel cameras
Buying a camera these days is a big investment, and travel cameras are no different – so every camera in this guide has been tested extensively by us. For travel cameras in particular, real-world tests are the most revealing way to understand a camera’s performance and character, so we focus heavily on those, along with standardized tests for factors like ISO performance.
To start with, we look at the camera’s design, handling and controls to get a sense of how suitable it is for life on the road, and any particular features that might be particularly useful for globe-trotters. When we take it out on a shoot, we’ll use it both handheld and on a tripod to get a sense of where its strengths lie, and test its startup speed.
When it comes to performance, we use a formatted SD card and shoot in both raw and JPEG (if available). For burst shooting tests, we dial in our regular test settings (1/250 sec, ISO 200, continuous AF) and shoot a series of frames in front of a stopwatch to see if it lives up to its claimed speeds. We’ll also look at how quickly the buffers clears and repeat the test for both raw and JPEG files.
In various lighting conditions, we also test the camera’s different autofocus modes (including Face and Eye AF) in single point, area and continuous modes. We also shoot a range of photos of different styles (portrait, landscape, low light, macro/close-up) in raw and JPEG to get a sense of metering and its sensor’s ability to handle noise and resolve fine detail.
If the camera’s raw files are supported by Adobe Camera Raw, we’ll also process some test images to see how we can push areas like shadow recovery. And we’ll also test its ISO performance across the whole range to get a sense of the levels we’d be happy to push the camera to.
Battery life is tested in a real-world fashion, as we use the camera over the course of the day with the screen set to the default settings. Once the battery has reached zero, we’ll then count the number of shots to see how it compares to the camera’s CIPA rating. Finally, we test the camera’s video skills by shooting some test footage at different frame-rates and resolutions, along with its companion app.
We then take everything we’ve learned about the camera and factor in its price to get a sense of the value-for-money it offers, before reaching our final verdict.