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 top digital camera.
To help you find the best digital camera for travel and take your trips to the next level, we researched 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.
Top 5 Best Travel Cameras Compared
#1 Olympus TG-5 Camera
Award: Top Pick/Best Outdoor Travel Camera
WHY 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 a built-in GPS for navigation if you ever get lost in the wilderness.
Read Full Review: Olympus TG-5 Review
- Fully waterproof up to 50 feet of depth
- 4K video recording
- Excellent macro modes
- No articulated display
- Menu isn’t very user friendly
- Zoom is noisy during video
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.
Related: If you like this device, we bet you will also want to check the best compact cameras.
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. This is truly one of the best video cameras for travel. Another great option of the same maker is the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Micro Four Thirds System Camera, which has an advanced autofocus system and continuous shooting capabilities.
#2 Panasonic Lumix FZ80 Camera
Award: Honorable Mention/Best Zoom Travel Camera
WHY 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.
Read Full Review: Panasonic Lumix FZ80 Review
- Massive 60x zoom
- Touch LCD display
- Auto-focus is fast and accurate
- Fixed LCD display
- Only 24fps video capture
- Video not stable when zoomed in
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. Another option is pairing the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, a reliable DSLR with a Canon EF 35mm f/2 lens for crisp, stable photos you can snap in any sort of lighting. You can also check out the best waterproof cameras.
#3 Canon PowerShot ELPH 180 Camera
Award: Best Budget
WHY 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.
- Large, 5-inch display
- Great 20 MP image resolution
- Super easy to learn and use
- 720p video resolution
- Not many manual control settings
- Image quality suffers is dim light
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 researched. 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. If you want some underwater action, the best underwater camera is for you.
#4 Nikon Coolpix B500 Camera
Award: Best Value
WHY 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.
- LCD display is tiltable
- 40x zoom range
- Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity
- Uses AA batteries
- No manual exposure control
- No viewfinder
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 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. If you are looking for the best mirrorless camera, we have you covered there too.
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 a physical viewfinder on the Coolpix. It only has an electronic viewfinder. That made for some unnecessary frustration as we researched to hone in on our subjects. However, the tiltable LCD display was helpful when we wanted to take pictures at awkward angles. Then again, taking pictures at odd angles is what the best drones are for. It has all of the features we want in the best point-shoot camera. Another great option for travel is the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 VII, which is one of the best cameras of small, compact size but with an impressive autofocus system.
#5 Akaso V50 Pro Camera
Award: Best Waterproof
WHY 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.
Read Full Review: Akaso V50 Pro Review
- Super compact design
- 20 MP with 4K video
- Includes useful accessories
- Only waterproof with the case on
- Small touchscreen controls can be difficult to navigate
- Only supports up to 64 GB microSD cards
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, including Akaso. This company’s flagship camera, the V50 Pro gives the Go-Pro a run for its money, all at a much more affordable price. With 4K video resolution and a 20 MP image sensor, you can capture amazing videos and pictures without much effort at all.
The Akaso V50 Pro is great for outdoor 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 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. YouTube travelers will want the best cheap vlogging camera for YouTube.
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. Check out the finest FujiFilm cameras or the leading Panasonic digital cameras that will work best for travel.
- 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 following your trip and bring only what you need. That said, you can get the top-rated binocular cameras to avoid packing extra accessories.
- 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. In that case, you’ll be interested in the Zeiss Zoom you’ll find on the Sony RX100.
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. We recommend the Ricoh GR III cam. 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, as you’ll find on the Fujifilm XP 140, will provide additional versatility. In other words, the best vlogging camera is not necessarily the best travel camera.
- 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, 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.