Photography

How to Choose the Perfect Travel Camera


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Travelling is an adventure that allows you to experience new places, cultures, and moments. Whether you are exploring the bustling streets of Tokyo or capturing the serene landscapes of the Swiss Alps, having the right travel camera is essential to preserve your memories. With so many options available in the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the perfect travel camera that suits your needs.

In this guide, we will walk you through the factors to consider when selecting a travel camera, the different types of cameras available, the key features to look for, and provide recommendations for the best travel cameras for different types of travellers.


Factors to consider when selecting a travel camera

When choosing a travel camera, there are several factors to consider. First and foremost, portability is crucial. You want a camera that is lightweight and compact, making it easy to carry around during your travels. As well as this, consider the durability of the camera. Travelling can often include unpredictable weather conditions and rough handling, so you may need a camera that can withstand these challenges.

Another important factor is the camera’s versatility. Consider the types of photography you enjoy and the subjects you are likely to capture during your travels. If you are an avid landscape photographer, you may want a camera that excels in capturing wide-angle shots. On the other hand, if you enjoy wildlife photography, a camera with a powerful zoom lens might be more suitable.

Lastly, think about your skill level as a photographer. Are you a beginner looking for a user-friendly camera or an experienced photographer who wants more advanced features? Understanding your level of expertise will help you narrow down your options and choose a camera that matches your skills.


Types of travel cameras: DSLR, mirrorless, compact, and smartphone

There are several types of cameras available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The most popular options for travel photographers are DSLR, mirrorless, compact, and smartphone cameras.

DSLR Cameras: DSLR cameras are known for their exceptional image quality and versatility. They offer a wide range of lens options and manual controls, allowing photographers to have full creative control over their shots. However, DSLRs can be bulky and heavy, making them less ideal for travellers who prioritize portability. DSLR cameras were in the past mainly used by professional photographers but now thanks to better prices and model options there are lots of options for amateurs and beginners too.

Mirrorless Cameras: Mirrorless cameras are a newer breed of cameras that combine the image quality of DSLRs with the compactness of compact cameras. They are lightweight and offer interchangeable lenses, making them a popular choice among travel photographers. Mirrorless cameras also often have advanced autofocus systems and electronic viewfinders, providing a mirrorless shooting experience that rivals DSLRs.

Compact Cameras: Compact cameras, also known as point-and-shoot cameras, are small, lightweight, and easy to use. They are perfect for travellers who want a camera that can fit in their pocket and capture high-quality photos without the need for manual controls or interchangeable lenses. However, compact cameras generally have smaller sensors, which can limit their performance in low-light situations.

Smartphone Cameras: In recent years, smartphone cameras have become increasingly capable, to the point where they can rival dedicated cameras in terms of image quality. Smartphones are incredibly convenient as they are always with us, making them a popular choice for casual travellers who want to capture quick snapshots. However, smartphone cameras are still limited in terms of zoom capabilities and low-light performance compared to dedicated cameras.

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Canon 6D Mark 2 Body Shot
Image by team / @mikecleggphoto

Features to look for in a travel camera

When comparing different travel camera models, there are several key features to consider. These features will greatly impact the quality and versatility of your travel photography.

Megapixels: Megapixels determine the resolution of your photos. While a higher number of megapixels can potentially result in more detailed images, it is important to note that megapixels alone do not guarantee superior image quality. Factors such as sensor size and lens quality also play a significant role.

Sensor size: The sensor size determines how much light the camera can capture. Larger sensors generally perform better in low light conditions and can produce images with more dynamic range. However, larger sensors often come with a higher price tag and can contribute to a bulkier camera body.

ISO range: ISO refers to the camera’s sensitivity to light. A wider ISO range allows you to capture photos in various lighting conditions, ranging from bright daylight to dimly lit indoor environments. Look for a camera with a wide ISO range to ensure flexibility in your travel photography.

Autofocus system: A responsive and accurate autofocus system is crucial for capturing sharp images, especially when photographing fast-moving subjects or in low-light conditions. Look for a camera with advanced autofocus capabilities to ensure your photos are consistently in focus.

Video capabilities: If you are interested in capturing videos during your travels, consider the camera’s video capabilities. Look for features such as 4K video recording, image stabilization, and microphone input to enhance your videography experience.

Battery life: Travelling often involves long days and limited access to charging facilities. Therefore, a camera with good battery life is essential to ensure you never miss a precious moment. Look for a camera with a long battery life or consider purchasing additional batteries for extended shooting sessions.

Size and weight: A very important consideration when picking your travel camera is the size and weight of it, plus what you are going to be doing with it. Having a big bulky DSLR camera can sometimes quite simply be a pain in some situations (such as when you’re having a beach holiday), so in those situations a compact camera or simply your phone might be a better option.

Swivel Screen of Canon 6D Mark II
Swivel Screen of Canon 6D Mark II

Lens options for travel photography

The choice of lens is just as important as the camera body when it comes to travel photography. Different lenses offer unique perspectives and allow you to capture a wide range of subjects and scenes.

Wide-angle lenses: Wide-angle lenses have a shorter focal length, typically ranging from 10mm to 35mm. These types of lenses are great for architecture, interiors, as well as for landscape photographs. They allow you to fit more into the frame and create a sense of depth and scale in your photos.

Standard zoom lenses: Standard zoom lenses, such as 18-55mm or 24-70mm, are versatile lenses that cover a range of focal lengths. They are ideal for everyday photography, including portraits, street photography, and general travel shots. Standard zoom lenses offer a good balance between wide-angle and telephoto capabilities.

Telephoto lenses: Telephoto lenses have a longer focal length, typically starting from 70mm and going up to 300mm or more. They allow you to zoom in on distant subjects, making them perfect for wildlife photography or capturing details from a distance. However, telephoto lenses are generally larger and heavier than wide-angle or standard zoom lenses.

Prime lenses: These types of lenses have a fixed focal length which means that you can’t zoom in or out. While this may seem limiting at first, using a prime lens you can take stunning portrait photos with fantastic isolation between the subject and the background (bokeh). They are also known for their exceptional image quality and wide aperture capabilities. They often have larger maximum apertures, allowing for better low-light performance and beautiful background blur, also known as bokeh.

When choosing lenses for your travel camera, consider the subjects you are most likely to photograph and the level of versatility you desire. If you are unsure, a standard zoom lens is a good starting point as it offers a range of focal lengths in a single lens. The main lens I use is actually the Canon 24-105mm lens and it’s served me well across a large number of destinations and scenarios.

Camera lenses outside by a lake
Photo © Lanski | Dreamstime.com

Additional features to look for in a travel camera

In addition to the key features mentioned above, there are several additional features that can enhance your travel photography experience.

Image stabilization: Image stabilization compensates for camera shake, allowing you to capture sharper images, especially in low-light situations or when using telephoto lenses. Look for a camera with built-in image stabilization or consider lenses with optical stabilization.

Wireless connectivity: Wireless connectivity allows you to transfer photos directly from your camera to your smartphone or tablet, making it easy to share your travel photos on social media or back them up to the cloud. Look for cameras with built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth capabilities.

Weather sealing: Weather sealing protects your camera from dust, moisture, and extreme temperatures. If you are planning to travel to locations with challenging weather conditions, consider a camera with weather sealing to ensure your gear remains protected.

Tilting or articulating screen: A tilting or articulating screen allows you to compose shots from various angles, including low or high perspectives. This can be particularly useful when shooting in crowded areas or capturing unique perspectives.

In-camera filters and creative modes: Some cameras offer built-in filters and creative modes that allow you to add artistic effects to your photos without the need for post-processing software. If you enjoy experimenting with different styles and effects, look for a camera with these features.


Budget considerations when buying a travel camera

Setting a budget is an important step when purchasing a travel camera. The price range for cameras can vary greatly depending on the brand, model, and included features. It is important to find a balance between your desired features and your budget.

While it is tempting to opt for the latest and most advanced camera on the market, keep in mind that technology advances rapidly, and newer models are released frequently. Consider your current needs and the longevity of the camera. It may be more cost-effective to invest in a slightly older model that still meets your requirements rather than splurging on the latest release.

As well as this, remember to account for the cost of accessories such as lenses, memory cards, spare batteries, and camera bags when setting your budget. These additional items are essential for a complete travel photography kit and should not be overlooked.

Camera equipment
Photo © Yevhenii Tryfonov | Dreamstime.com

Researching and comparing different travel camera models

Once you have identified your requirements and set your budget, it’s time to research and compare different travel camera models. The internet is of course a valuable resource for gathering information and reading reviews from both experts and fellow photographers.

It’s worth visiting the manufacturer’s website to learn more about the specifications and features of the cameras you are interested in. Pay attention to customer reviews and ratings to get a sense of the camera’s performance in real-world scenarios. Photography forums, social media groups and magazines are also great places to seek advice and recommendations from experienced photographers.

When comparing cameras, consider creating a list of pros and cons for each model based on your specific needs. Narrow down your options to a few top contenders and visit a local camera store if possible to try them out in person.


Accessories to enhance your travel photography experience

To enhance your travel photography experience, consider investing in the following accessories:

Lenses: Depending on your shooting style and preferences, you may want to expand your lens collection beyond the kit lens that comes with your camera. Wide-angle, telephoto, and prime lenses offer different perspectives and creative possibilities.

Tripod: A good quality travel tripod is essential for capturing sharp images in low-light situations or when using slow shutter speeds. Look for a lightweight and compact tripod that can be easily carried during your travels.

Filters: Filters can enhance the quality of your photos by reducing reflections, increasing contrast, or adding a warming effect. Consider investing in a polarizing filter, neutral density filter, and graduated neutral density filter.

Memory cards: Having sufficient storage space is crucial when shooting during your travels. Invest in high-capacity memory cards with fast write speeds to ensure you can capture all your memorable moments.

Spare batteries: Carrying spare batteries is essential to avoid running out of power during extended shooting sessions. Always have a few fully charged batteries on hand to ensure you never miss a shot.

Camera bag: A well-designed camera bag will protect your gear from impacts, dust, and moisture while providing easy access to your equipment. Look for a bag that is comfortable to carry and offers sufficient space for your camera body, lenses, and accessories.

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Tips for maintaining and protecting your travel camera

To ensure your travel camera stays in optimal condition throughout your travels, follow these tips for maintenance and protection:

Clean your camera regularly: Dust, dirt, and fingerprints can accumulate on your camera body and lens, affecting image quality. Use a microfiber cloth and a blower brush to remove any debris. For more stubborn stains, use a lens cleaning solution and a lens cleaning cloth.

Protect your camera from extreme temperatures: Avoid exposing your camera to extreme temperatures, such as leaving it in a hot car or exposing it to freezing conditions. Extreme temperatures can damage the internal components of your camera and affect its performance.

Use a camera strap: A camera strap provides an extra layer of security, preventing accidental drops or falls. Invest in a comfortable and sturdy camera strap that allows you to carry your camera securely during your travels.

Keep your camera dry: Moisture can damage your camera’s internal components, so it is essential to keep it dry during your travels. Consider using a rain cover or waterproof camera bag when shooting in rainy or humid environments.

Back up your photos: Losing your travel photos can be devastating. Make it a habit to regularly back up your photos to a separate storage device. Read our tips for backing up your photographs, these are especially helpful for when travelling.


Tips for taking great travel photos with your camera

Here are some tips to get started with your camera:

Think about your composition: Good framing of your subject can make all the difference between a good and bad picture. Spend time trying to find a good angle and zoom in or out to see how the final picture may look. Don’t forget with high-resolution images you can also crop a little in the editing stage.

Use a long exposure for night photography: To take the best night photos then use the long exposure technique as well as a tripod. This will also help you to capture light trails from vehicles going past, cool reflections in water as well as a much higher quality image.

Take photographs around sunrise and sunset: Many photographers, especially landscape photographers will focus on taking images either at sunrise or at sunset. Around this time you may get some of the most incredible light and this can make many scenes both in nature or in cities look incredible.

Angkor Wat in Cambodia at Sunrise
Image by team / @mikecleggphoto

Summary

Choosing the right travel camera is definitely not an easy task, but by considering what type of camera would work best for you, your budget, as well as any lens and accessories you might need is the best way to make sure that you find the perfect camera for your needs. Use our tips and suggestions above to get started.

Author

Written by

Mike Clegg

Mike is a traveller, photographer, WordPress developer and the creator of TravelAndDestinations.com. He started this website so as to share his experiences and tips with travellers. He is from the UK and has travelled to many places around the world. He loves to shares his pictures and stories through Instagram and this website... [Read full bio]

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