A good camera can make for an indispensable travel companion, allowing you to capture your adventures to share with friends and loved ones, but it can be hard to pick the right camera for your needs when there are so many options to choose from. Picking the right travel camera depends on several factors, including its portability, autofocus performance, battery life, and type of camera.
It's important to remember that the lens you use with an interchangeable lens camera can significantly affect your ability to adjust exposure settings. Your lens affects aperture, focal length, depth of field, autofocus, stabilization performance, and maximum zoom capability, so camera performance can differ significantly depending on your chosen lens and settings. For these reasons, we test our cameras with their standard kit lenses to help with consistency. As a general rule, however, it's better to invest in a less expensive camera body and higher-quality lenses than to invest in an expensive camera body and cheap lenses.
We've tested over 55 cameras and below you'll find our recommendations for the best mirrorless cameras for travel photography depending on their performance, available features, and price. You can also check out our recommendations for the best mirrorless cameras for travel, the best point-and-shoot cameras, and the best cameras.
The best camera for travel we've tested in the compact category is the Sony RX100 VII. It's an incredibly portable point-and-shoot camera with a versatile 200mm equivalent zoom lens. With it, you can shoot close-ups or zoom in on far-away subjects, all in a pocketable size. It also has a pop-up viewfinder if you want more precision over framing and a pop-up flash. Its screen can also tilt up to help you shoot from lower angles.
Image quality is excellent overall, with fantastic dynamic range, though sharpness declines a bit at higher ISO levels due to its small sensor. It has an outstanding autofocus system that quickly and reliably keeps moving subjects in focus and a remarkable 20 fps continuous shooting speed, so you can take burst photos of quick action without missing a moment. However, its buffer fills up quickly and takes a long time to empty, which may interrupt your shooting.
Unfortunately, it also has poor battery life, though this can vary with real-world conditions and usage habits. It also tends to overheat when using it continuously, especially when recording 4k video. For that reason, its recording time limit in 4k caps out at five minutes, though you can disable this feature if you want to. Overall, this camera's compact size, optical zoom, and full feature set make it one of the best travel cameras we've tested.
If you'd prefer a rangefinder-style compact camera, consider the Fujifilm X100V. It doesn't have a zoom lens like the Sony RX100 VII, and it's a tad bigger, but this compact model sports a hybrid electronic/optical rangefinder that lets you get an unfiltered look at your subject. It has a larger APS-C sensor, so its noise handling capability is significantly better than the Sony's, making it more well-suited to taking photos in low light or at night. It's partially weather-sealed out of the box, but you need to buy an adapter ring and lens filter at an additional cost to get full weather-sealing. Still, that's better than the Sony, which doesn't have any form of weather-sealing. Note, though, that we don't currently test for this. Unfortunately, its battery life is also somewhat short, and its built-in lens is fixed to a 35mm equivalent focal length, which may disappoint travel photographers who prefer to zoom in on far-away subjects.
Go with the Sony if you want a portable compact camera with a built-in zoom lens, but the Fujifilm is a great alternative for travel if you want a camera with an optical rangefinder and a larger sensor.
If you're looking for an interchangeable-lens mirrorless camera, the Sony α6400 is one of the best travel cameras we've tested. This APS-C camera is relatively light and portable, with a small body and comfortable handgrip suitable for most hand sizes. It also has a screen that can flip out to shoot from unconventional angles or turn fully upright to take selfies, and it's weather-sealed, though we don't currently test for this.
Image quality is impressive, with photos that stay sharp and relatively noise-free at higher ISO levels. It also has excellent dynamic range to bring out details in shadows and highlights. Its autofocus system is excellent for photography and even better when shooting video, as it reliably keeps moving subjects in focus in both 4k and FHD. Video quality is also great overall in either resolution, and it's impressively free of visual noise in low light.
That said, this camera doesn't have in-body image stabilization, so you have to rely on your lens' optical stabilization and the camera's digital stabilization feature when shooting without a tripod. While it does a good job of reducing camera shake when taking photos, it's only decent at smoothing out camera shake in FHD video and performs poorly when recording 4k video. Still, this is one of the best cameras for travel photography that we've tested.
If you'd prefer a camera with a full-frame sensor for better low-light performance, consider the Sony α7 III. It isn't weather-sealed like the Sony α6400, and it's a bit less portable, but it's still relatively lightweight for a full-frame camera, and its larger sensor delivers higher-quality images and better RAW noise handling capability, making it more suited to nighttime or low-light photography. JPEG image quality is fantastic, with remarkable dynamic range to bring out more details in shadows and highlights. Its autofocus system does a remarkable job of tracking moving subjects, whether taking photos or shooting video. It also feels incredibly well-built and comfortable to use. However, its menu system can be tricky to navigate, and while it has in-body image stabilization, it doesn't do the best job of smoothing out camera shake when shooting 4k video.
Get the α6400 if you want something more portable for traveling, but if you prioritize image quality and low-light performance, the α7 III is an excellent alternative.
Of the DSLR cameras we've tested, the best camera for travel is the Nikon D5600. This crop-sensor model is relatively portable and lightweight for a DSLR, and it has a fully articulated touchscreen to help you shoot from different angles. Its menu system is well laid out and easy to navigate, with a guide mode to walk novice users through certain settings. It's simply constructed but comfortable to use.
The camera delivers great JPEG image quality and has excellent dynamic range to bring out a wider array of detail in high-contrast scenes. Photos also stay sharp and relatively noise-free at higher ISO levels, though its RAW noise handling capability is just okay. It has a decent autofocus system, and while it lacks in-body image stabilization, it does a fantastic job stabilizing photos when shooting without a tripod and with its kit lens attached.
However, if you're looking to take high-resolution videos while traveling, this isn't the best option since it can't shoot video in 4k resolution. Its video quality in 1080p is also disappointing, and its autofocus system struggles to keep moving subjects in focus in videos. It also doesn't support USB charging, but it has an exceptional battery life that should last through long days on the go. All in all, this is a great option for travel if you're looking for a DSLR camera.
Sep 15, 2021: Reviewed picks for accuracy and clarity; no change to recommendations.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best travel cameras for most people to buy, according to their needs. We factor in the price, feedback from our visitors, and availability (no cameras that are difficult to find or almost out of stock in the US).
If you'd like to choose for yourself, here's the list of all of our camera reviews, ranked by their suitability for travel photography. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There is no single perfect camera. Personal taste, preference, and shooting habits will matter more in your selection.