Having the best travel camera at your fingertips for a trip will help you not only create memorable photos, but provide high quality photos that you’ll be proud to show off to your friends and family. And while some people may rely on a smartphone camera for basic photography, travel is the one type of activity where you’ll want a dedicated digital camera.
To help you find the best travel cameras to take your trips to the next level, we purchased and tested the top 25 options before narrowing down our final list to the top 5. We took these cameras with us everywhere we went: ski trips, beach vacations and hiking day trips. We specifically looked for solid durability, high image quality and user friendliness in otherwise fast or awkward situations like street photography where everything is moving at a blazing pace. With these features in mind, it was easy to pick the Olympus TG-5 as the best travel camera on the market today. It features a super rugged and waterproof design while still offering 4K video capture and travel-specific features like GPS and WiFi connectivity. Read on to learn more about the TG-5 and the other 4 best travel cameras.
- 1 Top 5 Best Travel Cameras Compared
- 2 3 Things to Avoid When Buying a Travel Camera
- 3 Most Important Travel Camera Features
- 4 Which Travel Camera Is Right For You
Top 5 Best Travel Cameras Compared
#1 Olympus TG-5 – Top Pick/Best Outdoor Travel CameraWHY WE LIKE IT: The Olympus TG-5 is the toughest travel camera on our list. It’s fully waterproof, sports an extra-rugged design and includes built-in GPS for navigation if you ever get lost in the wilderness.
There’s no doubt about it. If you’re looking for a rugged and waterproof camera for all your wild adventures, the Olympus TG-5 is the travel camera for you. The camera can be fully immersed in water up to 50 feet in depth, dropped from 7 feet without any damage and withstand 220 pounds of crushing pressure. It’s built to last, making it the perfect fit for travel photographers who love the thrill of adventure travel.
Being this tough comes with some drawbacks, however. For starters, the camera doesn’t feature an articulated display, which can make for some awkward bending and stretching to get the best shot. The menu can also be confusing at times. Regardless of some of the design flaws, the Olympus TG-5 can shoot video in 4K, an impressive feat for such a compact camera, capturing all the best moments of your travels in stunning clarity.
#2 Panasonic Lumix FZ80 – Honorable Mention/Best Zoom Travel CameraWHY WE LIKE IT: The Panasonic Lumix FZ80’s call to fame is its huge 60x zoom range, the biggest range on our list of travel cameras. It can also shoot 4K video and images, making this the ideal choice for capturing high-quality images for travel blogging.
4K images and 4K video are what make the Panasonic Lumix FZ80 stand out from the rest of the crowd, along with its impressive 60x zoom range. And while you’ll only be able to capture video at 24 frames per second, you’ll still end up with breathtaking footage. The Lumix falls a little short when fully zoomed in since it doesn’t feature very good image stabilization, but with some practice, you can still get crisp pictures at 60x.
Using this travel camera is made easy with a touch screen LCD display. The display is unfortunately fixed to the rear of the camera, but this was fairly easy to overlook after a few photoshoots In the end, this is the closest you’ll get to a digital SLR (or DSLR) experience with an advanced compact travel camera, which is perfect for travel bloggers who want to capture the best images and video they can of their travels.
#3 Canon PowerShot ELPH 180 – Best Compact Travel CameraWHY WE LIKE IT: The Canon PowerShot ELPH 180 is only .87 inches thick but packed full of great features like a 20 MP resolution and high-quality CCD image sensor, all at a super low price. If you’re on a budget, you won’t want to miss this camera.
The Canon PowerShot ELPH 180 is the perfect point-and-shoot camera to stick in your pocket for quick shots or videos while you’re traveling. And since it’s not super expensive, you won’t have to worry too much if it gets stolen or lost. The ELPH 180 has a ton of features packed into its compact frame, like a 20-megapixel CCD sensor and added image stabilization features that you don’t see in many cameras in this price range.
This camera for traveling takes decent pictures, although they’re nothing compared to high-end models, even with its 20 MP sensor. This is to be expected, of course, but the camera suffers the most in dim light situations. It features an 8x zoom and a really large 5-inch display, which makes operating the camera and reviewing your shots easier than most compact cameras for travel we tested. The lack of full HD video recording made us hesitate, but with all the other features you get with this little Canon at such a low price, we couldn’t pass it up.
#4 Nikon Coolpix B500 – Best Budget Travel CameraWHY WE LIKE IT: The Nikon Coolpix B500 excels at providing a simple user experience while still giving you excellent pictures and videos. And with a price point under $500, this travel camera is perfect for beginners or those who need a backup travel camera.
One of the best things about the Nikon Coolpix B500 bridge camera is the wide range of shooting modes available to you. If you’re just starting out with photography, this is super helpful when you find yourself in different situations while traveling. Simple switch the camera to the appropriate mode for your environment and let the machine do its work. Unfortunately, this means there is no manual exposure control, which can be frustrating as you start to skill up.
With full HD video recording and a powerful 16-megapixel sensor, you’ll pretty much be able to capture anything you’d like in really good quality. We were even impressed that we could get still images when zoomed in the full 40x. One downside we really noticed while shooting was the lack of physical viewfinder on the Coolpix. It only has an electronic viewfinder. That made for some unnecessary frustration as we tried to hone in on our subjects. However, the tiltable LCD display was helpful when we wanted to take pictures at awkward angles.
#5 Akaso V50 Pro – Best Waterproof Travel CameraWHY WE LIKE IT: The Akaso V50 Pro is a Go-Pro Hero alternative in the action camera game, but it definitely holds its own against the Go-Pro behemoth. With 4K video recording, tons of included accessories and a super portable design, this product is one of the best compact digital cameras around.
Action cameras have been making waves in the travel camera space for a while now. It started with Go-Pro, but more and more brands are making a name for themselves, included Akaso. This company’s flagship camera, the V50 Pro definitely gives the Go-Pro a run for its money, all at a much more affordable price. With 4K video resolution and 20 MP image sensor, you can capture amazing videos and pictures without much effort at all.
The Akaso V50 Pro is great for outdoors enthusiasts and it can even be used underwater, but only with the waterproof case attached. If you’re looking for something compact, this is about as portable as things are going to get. The camera measures in at 2.5 inches wide and 1.6 inches tall. Unfortunately, this small design can lead to some awkward handling issues on the touch screen, but nothing too serious.
3 Things to Avoid When Buying a Travel Camera
- Wrong Camera for Conditions: Certain types of cameras are not useful for certain types of vacations. If you’re vacationing around water for example, using an expensive non-waterproof camera is just asking for trouble. Try to match your camera’s features with the type of trip you’re taking.
- Too Much Equipment: If you own multiple pieces of photography equipment, it’ll be tempting to carry a lot of it with you on vacation. Pack in accordance with your trip and bring only what you need.
- Small Zoom Lens: When traveling, you rarely know what type of photos you’ll be shooting, let alone the shooting conditions. Avoid small zoom camera lenses as they may greatly hinder your ability to shoot some photos, such as in locations where you cannot move close to the object. Get a larger zoom lens, which provides more versatility.
What to Look for When Buying a Travel Camera
- Versatility: When picking a camera for vacation, look for one that can fulfill multiple roles because of some handy components. A high resolution camera that has a large zoom lens, while being small enough to carry in a pocket is a great candidate for a travel camera, as it will work in multiple photographic situations. Waterproof capabilities will provide additional versatility.
- Battery Life: If you’re spending an entire day away from your hotel or campsite while sightseeing or hiking, you’re going to want to be sure your travel camera has enough battery life to survive the day. Alternatively, you can buy a second or backup battery.
- Image Quality: Ultimately, you shoot photos of your vacation so that you can remember the trip years in the future. This means that you’re going to want a travel camera that has great image quality above all else. Sure, a smartphone camera could work. But if you want to print any of those photos in several years, you’ll appreciate the great image quality that a true travel digital camera has.
Most Important Travel Camera Features
- Image Sensor: As discussed in our list of the Best Digital Cameras for 2015, image sensor size plays a key role in image quality. If you’re shooting photos in tough lighting during your trip, such as at a museum, having a large image sensor will give you great low light image quality.
- Resolution: Resolution also plays a role in image quality. If you’re photographing architectural details while traveling, a high megapixel count can help preserve those details.
- Optical Zoom Lens: The optical zoom lens measurement indicates the ability of the camera to magnify the scene without sacrificing image quality. Having a big zoom lens is important for animal photography or for shooting far-off landmarks. And despite contrary opinions, you can get big zoom on a fixed lens on plenty of cameras, so you won’t have to drop big bucks on a high-end telephoto option.
- Movie Recording: A versatile travel camera must be able to shoot high quality movies.
- Articulated Display: Part of what makes travel photography great is having your family in the photos, so you can remember the great times. A display screen that can twist and tilt away from the camera screen can help you shoot selfies.
- Waterproof Capabilities: If your vacation will be around water, a travel camera that is waterproof or for which you can purchase a waterproof case is a must.
- Wireless Capabilities: Having Wi-Fi built into your camera can help you share photos immediately after you shoot them, but keep in mind that it will drain the battery fast.
- Built-in GPS: Tagging your photos with the location as they’re shot is handy for remembering what you photographed on your trip.
- Battery Life: A full day of photography requires strong battery life for your camera.
Which Travel Camera Is Right For You
While it can be tempting to try to just use your current camera for travel photography, you may be disappointed with the results. A true travel camera will provide plenty of versatility in its feature set, allowing the camera to adapt to the type of photographic situation in which you find yourself on a trip. In this list featuring the best travel camera, we chose image quality over specific features, so you won’t find the best waterproof camera on this list. Because a vacation can involve multiple, wide-ranging activities, the need for versatility in your camera is a must, and these models fit that description well.