Best Travel Cameras
I know how difficult choosing the right camera is for most people. For the past 20 years I’ve been photographing people, places and most anything that sparks my interest. I purchase camera equipment on a yearly basis, and research and test out many before buying them. After receiving several emails from visitors of this site asking me which camera I use and/or recommend for travel, I knew it was time to list my Best Travel Cameras. I’ve also included links to the exact cameras on Amazon. By getting your camera from these links to Amazon, it helps me continue adding to this site. Thank you!
For my most recent trips and specifically my cruise on Oasis of the Seas, I used three different cameras:
1. Canon PowerShot G15 – This is Canon’s top of the line compact Point & Shoot (P&S). I’m not going to go into detail about all the features of the G15, instead I’m going to explain why I believe its a great camera for travel.
- 12.1 megapixel sensor. When it comes to compact cameras more megapixel’s is not necessarily better. Compact cameras have a smaller sensor and anything over 12.5 mp’s can actually increase “noise” in higher ISO settings. A good example is the Canon G10 with 14 megapixels, a perfect camera, but under low light using a higher ISO there tends to be “noise”. A picture with “noise” has visible grain, this is due to so many megapixels crammed into a small sensor. The Canon Powershot G15 doesn’t have this problem.
- “C” setting. When I’m on vacation I don’t like to play around too much with camera features, so I pre-program the camera with specific settings tailored to indoor and outdoor shooting. With the two “C” settings, I turn on my camera and with a quick turn of the dial to one of the “C” settings, my camera is set exactly the way I want it. Spending less time fiddling with a camera allows me more time to focus on taking pictures!
- Exposure Compensation Dial. This is a feature that most compact cameras do not have, in fact some digital SLR’s don’t have it either. On the camera its the knob on the left with +2 +1 0 -1 -2 on it. I use this to better control the brightness of the picture I’m about to take without changing the aperture or shutter speed. For outdoors try setting it at -1/3 or -2/3rds and the colors of your picture will have a nice vivid tone. On Oasis, this feature allowed me to control the color of the sea on the background of many of the pictures on this site.
- Durability and Battery Life. The Canon G15 is solid, and able to take a little beating. Don’t get me wrong, I still kept it in its case which I had clipped on my belt, safe from bumps. But as far as construction goes on compact cameras, this is the best one. People may feel its a little too bulky and in some ways it is. It doesn’t fit in your shirt pocket but not large enough to have it on a shoulder strap like an SLR. I carry it in its case on my belt without the shoulder strap that comes with the camera (too short to be practical). The battery life is the best I have seen. I only recharged it once on the ship and that’s because I wanted to make sure it didn’t die on me during a day excursion. But I’ve gone over a week using the camera on a daily basis before the battery died. For traveling this is ideal.
- Image Stabilizer. This feature allows you to use a slower shutter speed and still manage to capture a sharp picture. works well for indoors or zoom shoots.
Overall I use the Canon Powershot whenever I don’t want to carry my digital SLR but want most of the features of a DSLR. This is a solid camera but may be a little to big for those who are looking for a compact camera that fits in a purse or shirt pocket. The good news is that Canon makes a much more thinner, lighter camera with many of the same features. See the next camera down. This Canon PowerShot G15 is currently available at Amazon with free shipping for $449. Expect to pay $470-$500 for this camera at your local camera shops, so like usual Amazon has the lowest price .
2. Canon PowerShot S95 – This Canon digital compact camera has most of the same features I mentioned above on the Canon Powershot G12, but its slimmer and costs about $100 less. My wife purchased the S90 (older version) one for our trip on Oasis of the Seas and I think I used it more than she did!
- Also a 10 megapixel sensor. Just like the G11 above, this one comes with a 10 mp sensor. For an explanation to why this is important, read the comment above for the G11.
- “C” setting. Like the G11, the S90 also has a “C” setting, but only one, not two like its big brother. Considering most other cameras don’t have it, one is better than nothing!
- Image Stabilizer. Again, like the G12, this model also has Image Stabilizer, a big plus when shooting indoors or using the zoom!
- Battery life. Same great battery life as the G12.
- Second setting ring. The Canon S90 has a great second ring which is around the lens. It allows you to program it to control aperture, exposure compensation or other settings.
- Compact. Much more compact than the G12, this one can fit in your purse or shirt pocket.
Overall I love the Canon S95, its lighter than the G12, costs less and has most of the same features. I believe this is a great choice for most people. Since my wife has now upgraded to this newer model, I now purchased one for myself and love it. I use it for all family parties and short weekend trips. You can get it at Amazon for about $369. Much less than most camera shops.
3. Canon EOS Rebel T3i with 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 Zoom Lens. Currently this is my 2nd best choice when it comes to a digital SLR (see the Nikon D7000 bottom for the current #1 pick), the kit includes a nice 18-135mm lens. There are many models made by Nikon and Canon but for traveling the EOS Rebel T3i fits like a glove. The features are too many to mention, but I’ll include a short list of those that I believe are perfect for travel photography.
- 18 megapixel. Ideal for large prints and great detail.
- Better ergonomics. The design of this camera with its position of buttons and dials feels better as you hold it. Easier to access features allows me to better handle the camera which in turn means better pictures. Less fiddling with settings and more time focusing on creativity and taking the right shot!
- ISO 100-6400. Very useful for low light and fast action photography. Grain is minimal even in higher ISO’s.
- Movie function. Takes HD 1,920 x 1080 movies, a nice feature especially since you will be using your Nikkor lens.
- Large Lens compatibility system. Canon lenses are known to be some of the best in the world. Easily able to add additional lenses to this camera system.
- Light yet solid build. The Canon EOS line is a middle of the road camera, not built like the heavier and more sturdier pro bodies, but these are built to last. For entry level up to mid-advanced users who want to enjoy their travels and pack light, while being able to take pro like pictures, the Canon EOS Rebel T3i is a great choice. Sturdy and light, it won’t ware your shoulder down yet give you most if not all of the same features the pro cameras have.
The Canon EOS Rebel T3i with the 18-135mm lens kit will cost you about $999. For travel photography wide angle lenses are great, so 18-135mm is perfect. This is one of the most popular Canon cameras sold in the last couple of years. Its should give you years of service and fortunately right now it is selling at a great price.
4. Nikon D7000 Digital SLR Camera with 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 DX VR Nikkor Zoom Lens. This is the newest and latest camera from Nikon. Its was introduced in September of 2010 and very difficult to find. There is only one word that describes this camera and its “Awesome”!. Currently this is my best choice when it comes to a digital SLR, the kit includes a nice 18-105mm lens. There are many models made by Nikon and Canon but for traveling the Nikon D7000 beats them all. As usual, the features are too many to list, I’ll include a short list of those that I believe are perfect for travel photography.
- 16.2 megapixel. This is Nikon’s highest megapixel camera, only its top pro camera costing $5000 has more megapixel’s. Ideal for large prints and great detail.
- Better ergonomics. The design of this camera with its position of buttons and dials feels better as you hold it. Easier to access features allows you to better handle the camera which in turn means better pictures. Less fiddling with settings and more time focusing on creativity and taking the right shot! Plus a more enjoyable time taking pictures!
- ISO 100-6400. Very useful for low light and fast action photography. Grain is minimal even in higher ISO’s over 1600! This means you can take excellent photos without needing a flash. Excellent for places where flash is not allowed. No small compact point and shoot camera can do this, only the Nikon D7000 can.
- Movie function. Records full HD 1,280 movies plus full manual and full autofocus while taking video! No other camera does this currently. Not Canon, Pentax or any other digital camera. A big plus.
- Largest Lens compatibility system. Like the Nikon D90 above, Nikon lenses are known to be some of the best in the world and the F mount is a reason many pro users choose to use the Nikon system. I own more lenses than I do camera bodies. But with every new Nikon camera I purchase I’m still able to use my Nikon lenses. This is a great advantage. I know that I don’t constantly need to purchase new lenses when I buy a new camera body. For example I own a Nikon 80-200mm 2.8 AF-D lens that I purchased over 10 years ago, it works perfectly with all of my current Nikon new digital cameras. The D7000 will be fully compatible with all AF, AF-I, AF-D and AF-S lenses.
- Rugged and solid build. The Nikon D7000 is constructed with a top and rear cover of durable magnesium alloy. This makes is perfect for traveling, especially on cruise ships! Sturdy and light, it won’t ware your shoulder down yet give you most if not all of the same features the pro cameras have.
- Twin SD Cards. With two slots for SD memory cards, this camera allows you to either use one as the main card and instantly record a backup on the second or have it flow from one to another without needing to change cards if you run out. Or you can record pictures in one and video in the second card. Basically, like the camera itself, it gives you so many more options.
The Nikon D7000 Digital SLR Camera with the 18-105mm lens kit will cost you about $1499. This camera is currently in high demand and may be difficult to find. So far, the only reliable place to purchase a new kit that has not been used or opened is Amazon.
The features I mentioned above for all four cameras are those that I felt were important for travel photography. Obviously there are many more features that are important, like auto focus, built in flashes, movie modes, etc., which are standard in these models. For a complete list of the features, see the links I provided above. This page may change in the future as I update the type of camera’s I recommend for travel photography.
I found this Nikon Buying Guide very useful, it includes the full line of Nikon camera’s and prices.
*By getting your camera from these links to Amazon, it helps me continue adding to this site. Thank you!