This blog may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.
This is a beginners guide to choosing the best camera for travel. It includes info on the specs you want and the ones you don’t. It also includes a list of the best budget cameras on the market for traveling!
Guide to Choosing the Best Camera for Travel
Lots of travelers, including myself, love to capture amazing photos on their travels. These photos are a great memory of your trip to look back on in many years to come. However, many people aren’t sure what camera to buy for their travels or how much to spend.
So in this post, I want to outline some of the specs you should look out for and the ones you shouldn’t. I’ll also talk about a few options for different cameras and compare them as well as my very own personal choice – and it’s a camera I don’t actually own (but would love to).
This is my guide to choosing the best camera for travel.
If it costs more it must take better photos
During my time as a travel photographer, I have met lots of people who waste money on thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment only to not even know or have any intentions of using it properly. To most, it’s the idea that a good camera must equal good photos right?
Well, not exactly. Even the more basic entry level cameras these days come with specs well beyond most people’s knowledge or intended use.
For this reason, it’s important not to spend money on features you simply won’t use now or in the near future. So, here are some details of specs you should look out for and ones you shouldn’t for begginers.
Okay, so this can get confusing for people but sensor size is super important. You may have heard the term “full frame” or “cropped sensor” both these terms determine if the sensor is a full 35mm sensor or cropped sensor.
A full 35 mm sensor is equal to the old film frame area on film cameras. In short, the sensor size is around 35mm x 24mm.
A cropped sensor is smaller. The most popular crop is 1.5 (1.5 times smaller). This makes this sensor 23.5mm x 15.6mm.
Why this matters
If you buy a 20mm lens and put it on a camera with a 1.5 x cropped sensor, that lens will have the same field of view as a 30mm lens on a full frame. If you really want to shoot with a wide angle lens you will need to buy a lens in accordance with your sensor type.
In my opinion, it isn’t super important to have either if you’re just starting out. It’s just important to buy a lens that suits your sensor. These days lens manufacturers have made lenses that are super wide to allow for a cropped sensor. You can actually get 10mm lenses!
My overall suggestion is to get a cropped sensor. This is simply because they are much cheaper! A full frame camera will not only be more expensive because of the sensor size but because it’s usually assumed professionals use full frame cameras so the features are usually more advanced which also makes them cost much more!
Also, a full frame lens is much more expensive than a cropped sensor lens. There is also more availability of second hand cropped sensor lenses.
The biggest selling point on cameras these days is pixels, so let’s explain why it’s not as important as you think.
Pixels are the number of tiny squares or dots created when the light hits your camera’s sensor. There are a million pixels to 1 megapixel. These days, cameras come with lots of them and it’s hard to find a camera with less than 12 megapixels.
If you do not plan on selling your photos as large prints then this number is not super important. A 12-megapixel camera will do just fine for everything you need. This is because 12 million pixels are enough to print an image in really good quality to around 15×9 inches or 38×23 cm.
If you’re only posting photos online people will see your images much much smaller than that. So it’s best not to waste money on megapixels.
If you do want to do prints then aim for something around the 20 – 24-megapixel range. This will give you plenty of pixels to print large images.
ISO, in short, is the sensitivity level of your sensor. The higher the number, the more sensitive it is to light which means less light is required to take a photo, However, a higher ISO also creates more grain or noise in your photo.
A low ISO means more light is required but the tighter the grain which means less noise.
If your camera starts at ISO 100 or under and goes up to ISO 6400 then that’s a good entry level range. This will allow you to shoot in daylight hours and night time. I always try shooting with an ISO below 800 unless shooting at night. In broad daylight, use 100 to 200.
RAW vs JPEG
As a photographer, I always shoot in RAW and buying a camera that shoots in RAW is a very good investment. But what is it and why use it over JPEG?
If you shoot in RAW your camera simply takes the information from the light that hits your sensor and converts it into a photo without modifying any of the information. This means the file size will be large but include much more information about the photo.
If you shoot in JPEG then your camera takes that information from the light that hits your sensor and converts it into a photo while reducing unwanted information. This means the file size will be small.
So what’s the difference?
The difference is that when you take a JPEG your camera processes the image to its best ability based on its internal computers programming. This may change the photo by changing things like saturation, highlights, shadows etc. In simple terms, it edits the photo, deletes the information it doesn’t need and you get your image.
A JPEG image is essentially an edited photo the only difference is your camera has done it for you. Many people get angry when others edit photos not realising that any JPEG photo taken on a digital device (whether it be a phone or camera) has been edited.
When you shoot in RAW you get every bit of information on the photo without any of it being changed. This way you can process (edit) the photo later to your own liking.
With this said you can still edit a JPEG, however, you won’t be able to stretch the information as much while still retaining quality. With a RAW image, you have much more information to stretch. What I mean by a stretch is change the colour, brightness, white balance etc.
A downside to shooting in RAW is the size of the files. RAW images at 20 megapixels tend to hover around the 25mb rage whereas a JPEG will be around 2mb. This means you will need more storage if you want to keep your photos.
If you don’t plan on editing your photos then shoot in JPEG. If you do plan on editing them then consider shooting in RAW as I do. Just be aware that you can’t upload a RAW image to social media without converting it to a JPEG first. This is easy to do in Lightroom.
Other features to look for
• Timer – Almost all cameras have this
• Interval timer shooting or time lapse.
• Video in at least 1080p at 60 frames a second
Choosing your camera
Once you know the features you want it is now time to look for a camera, however, now you need to choose the type you want! The two main choices are a classic DSLR or a mirrorless camera.
A DSLR camera uses a mirror to project the field of view to the eyepiece. When you take a photo the mirror flicks up and the light hits the sensor. For a long time, these were the best cameras on the market.
In a mirrorless camera, the field of view is projected electronically to the viewfinder or eyepiece on a small LCD screen. As it doesn’t need the mirror these cameras are smaller and lighter. In fact, any camera without a mirror is considered a mirrorless camera including your phone.
What I recommended
In short, if you’re going to travel with your camera then I recommended a mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses as opposed to a DSLR. The advancements of mirrorless cameras in the last few years have been huge and as their popularity has grown so have your options. They are much smaller and lighter and therefore are the better cameras for travel. Mirrorless is also a better choice if you’re looking for a camera for hiking or backpacking.
I actually own a DSLR but will likely swap to mirrorless when I upgrade. However, in case you want a DSLR, I will include a few great options in my below camera recommendations!
The best cameras for travel
Sony Alpha A6000 (our top pick)
This camera our top pick for the best camera for travel with! It’s a 24-megapixel camera with an ISO range of 100 – 25,600 and cropped sensor. It can shoot at 11 frames per second so you won’t miss any shot and has a 3-inch tilting LCD screen. This camera starts at around $750 AUD that comes paired with a 16 – 50mm zoom kit lens.
Canon EOS M3
The Canon EOS M3 is our second choice for the budget mirrorless range. It’s a 24-megapixel cropped sensor camera. Its ISO range is 100-12,800 (that can be extended to 25,600). Its a great camera at a really good price. The cons though are no 60 fps film and a slow burst photo rate.
Panasonic Lumix GX800 aka GX850
The Lumix GX80 is a 16-megapixel camera with an ISO range of 100 – 25,600 and a cropped sensor. It also has a tilting touch screen which is a great feature This camera starts at around $900 AUD with a kit lens.
Sony Alpha A7 II
If you have a little more money in your budget then you can’t go past the Sony Alpha A7 II. The Alph is a full frame 24.2-megapixel camera. It comes with an ISO range of 100-25,500 and full HD video at 50 frames per second.
The Nikon Z6 is the best mirrorless camera on the market right now and one of the best on this best camera for travel blog. It’s a full-frame 24.5-megapixel camera that can shoot at a whopping 12 frames per second. It can also shoot 4k at 30 frames per second.
This is not an entry level camera but would be great if you are serious about improving your photography and don’t want to be stuck wanting an upgrade once you improve.
The Nikon D3400 is one of the best entry level DSLR’s. In fact, I owned the previous model (D3300) for two years and loved shooting with it! It’s a 24.2-megapixel cropped sensor camera. It has an ISO range of 100-25,600 and can shoot full HD at 60 frames per second. if your budget allows considering the new D3500, however, I personally don’t think its worth the extra money!
Canon EOS 800D
The Canon EOS 800D is another great budget option. The camera is a 24.2-megapixel cropped sensor camera. It comes with an ISO range of 100 – 25,600 and can shoot at full HD at 60fps. It also has the classic Canon fold out screen which is a feature Nikon really lack on!
The Nikon D5600 is the direct competitor of the Canon 800D. It is a 24.2-megapixel camera with a cropped sensor. It comes with an ISO range of 100-25,600 and shoots in full HD at 60fps. This camera comes with the best autofocus you will find in an entry-level DSLR. It is also slightly cheaper than the Canon 800D
Choosing the best camera for travel can be hard. However, with the guidelines and recommendations above you’re off to a great start to choosing the perfect camera for you.
I hope you found this guide helpful! If you have any other questions please leave them in the comments below and we will get back to you!