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The best travel camera in 2021: capture amazing images wherever you go

The best travel camera in 2021: see the world and capture amazing images
(Image credit: PeopleImages)

 If you’re eagerly awaiting the chance to travel again, chances are good you’re thinking about the best travel cameras. There are absolutely loads of travel-friendly cameras out there, from lightweight DSLRs to sophisticated mirrorless shooters and impressive, do-it-all compacts. If you want a camera that’ll go everywhere with you and won’t weigh you down, these are the models you want to be looking at. 

Best travel cameras: 5 things to look for

1) Image quality: Don't get us wrong, we love a good camera phone. However, they're just not going to do your once-in-a-lifetime trip justice like a mirrorless camera, DSLR or premium compact camera could.

2) Zoom range: Don't limit yourself with a purely wide angle lens. Pick kit that will enable you to shoot a variety of situations, such as a long-zoom compact or a mirrorless camera and a couple of lenses.

3) Size and weight: If you don't want to drag a bag around, you might want a pocket-sized compact camera. However, if you're going to be using a shoulder bag or backpack anyway, a bigger DSLR or mirrorless camera will tend give you better results.

4) Simplicity: Not everyone wants to worry about messing around with camera settings when they're on holiday. All of the cameras on this list have simple full auto modes that anyone can use.

5) Price: The cameras in our list have a range of prices, but if this is your main criterion, check out our guides to the best cheap cameras or the best camera deals.

While you might think you can get by using your smartphone, the fact of the matter is that the best travel cameras can do loads of things that smartphones simply can’t. Their larger sensors make them much more adept at capturing images in low light, and they can also field optical zoom lenses – whether that’s because they are an interchangeable-lens cameras with loads of zooms available, or a compact with a zoom welded to its front. The best travel camera will not weigh you down on your explorations – it’ll be the asset you never knew you needed.

We’ve picked out our favourites of the travel cameras available right now. We’ve divided the guide up into sections to make it easier to navigate. If you think you’re going to want the kind of camera that allows you to change lenses, we’ve picked out the best mirrorless and DSLR cameras for travel right now. However, if you have a suspicion you’d prefer a more self-contained package, we’ve also included our picks for the best compact cameras for travel.

There’s plenty of crossover here with other categories of camera. Many travel cameras are also among the best cameras for beginners as they’re designed to be easy to use. In a similar vein, the best cameras for kids also tend to be good travel cameras as they tend to be hardy – just make sure you’re not getting something too simplistic! Also, if you want something that can take a few knocks, the best action cameras are amazing for travel.

Whichever travel camera you pick, you'll need something safe and secure to transport it in – take a look at our guide to the best camera bags and cases for some ideas in this department. 

The best travel camera in 2021

DSLR and mirrorless

They might be a little heavier and larger than compact cameras, but DSLRs and mirrorless cameras not only give you better image quality, you'll also have the additional flexibility of interchangeable lenses. This means you can have the ability to capture ultra-wide-angle photos of famous landmarks and also zoom in on the beautiful details in the distance. You'll also find that they perform better in low light or challenging lighting situations.

• See also: The best lenses for travel

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1. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

It's built like a mini-DSLR, with compact lenses to match

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 16.1MP | Screen: 3in tilting touchscreen, 1.04million dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Max burst speed: 8.6fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Very compact body
Extensive external controls
Tiny 14-42mm 'pancake' zoom
Only 16.1 million pixels

Olympus cameras use the Micro Four Thirds format, which uses a sensor a little smaller than the APS-C format. The key advantage of this format is that both the cameras and the lenses are smaller – and the OM-D E-M10 III is a little gem and one of the best mirrorless cameras out there. Despite its small size, it packs in a twin-dial control layout that enthusiast will admire, 5-axis in-body stabilization, 4K video and a wide selection of Olympus’s rather good. Art Filters – perfect for adding a little atmosphere and an Instagram-ready look to your photos. Make sure you get this camera with the 14-42mm EZ ‘pancake’ lens, though, not the cheaper but larger ‘regular’ 14-42mm kit lens. The EZ lens offers a 3x zoom range in a super-slim barrel and is the perfect complement to the E-M10 III. With its combination of size, versatility, features and image quality, this is the best travel camera right now.

Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M10 III review
Also read: The best Olympus cameras

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2. Panasonic Lumix GX80 / GX85

Even smaller than the OM-D E-M10 III and terrific value for money

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 16.0MP | Lens: Micro Four Thirds | Screen type: 3in tilting touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting speed: 8fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Very compact with the 12-32mm lens
Good lens choice
Great value for money
Only 16MP

The Panasonic GX80 has a small and light camera body styled like a traditional rectangular 'rangefinder' camera. Make sure you get it with Panasonic's retractable 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 G VARIO ASPH. kit lens. This is equivalent to 24-64mm in 35mm terms, offering a slightly smaller zoom range than a regular kit lens but in a much smaller package. You can even squeeze the GX80 into a large pocket, a downsizing that's partly enabled by the Micro Four Thirds sensor. Most controls are accessed via buttons and menus, rather than dedicated dials, although physical controls include a tilting screen with touch-sensitivity, and a pop-up flash alongside a hotshoe. If you can find room in your bag for an ultra-wide-angle lens and a telephoto lens too, you'll be ready for anything.

Best travel cameras

(Image credit: Canon)

3. Canon EOS M50 Mark II

Canon’s EOS M series gets a winning take-everywhere mirrorless camera for travel

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.1MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3in tilting touchscreen, 1,040,000K dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Continuous shooting: 5fps | Movies: 4K UHD | User level: Beginner | Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.1MP | Lens: Canon EF-M | Screen type: 3-inch fully articulating LCD touchscreen, 1.04 million dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Suite of video features
Good-size sensor
Severely compromised 4K
Only one control dial

Canon’s EOS M range once felt like a bit of a forgotten child, but it’s come a long way and now these lightweight, affordable mirrorless cameras are a great choice for travellers. The Canon EOS M50 Mark II is a highly capable stills and video shooter thanks to its high-resolution APS-C sensor. It’ll handle most shooting situations with ease, and its sleek body looks good too. 

There are also loads of great video features on the camera, including a clean HDMI out, an option to shoot vertical video (for Instagram stories and the like), and the ability to live-stream to YouTube. The only real catch is that the 4K on the camera is rubbish, with compromised autofocus and that 1.6x crop factor that has plagued so many Canon releases. If you don’t need to shoot 4K on your travels – and you probably don’t – this is an excellent buy. 

Read more: Canon EOS M50 Mark II review

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4. Nikon D3500

Nikon's entry-level DSLR is small and light and takes excellent pictures

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | Screen type: 3-in fixed, 921,000 dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner

24MP sensor gives great quality
Bright and clear optical viewfinder
Rear screen is fixed not tilting
Live view autofocus not the fastest

The D3500 is Nikon's latest entry-level DSLR. Compared to the Canon EOS Rebel SLR/250D, it lacks a few features, notably a vari-angle rear screen and 4K video, but it's a lot cheaper, and for many users these differences won't matter. If you choose the D3500, make sure you get it with Nikon's excellent retracting 18-55mm AF-P VR lens (some dealers may offer cheaper, less desirable alternatives), and if you're going travelling you might want to consider Nikon's inexpensive and lightweight 10-20mm AF-P lens too – it's brilliant for narrow streets, expansive interiors and tall landmarks.  The Nikon D3500 is limited to full HD video rather than 4K, and its live view autofocus is a little less sophisticated than the Canon EOS Rebel SL3/250D's, but if you're mostly interested in stills and you use the viewfinder more than the rear screen, the D3500 is real bargain.

Read more: Nikon D3500 review

Best travel camera: Fujifilm X-T200

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

5. Fujifilm X-T200

Fujifilm’s novice-friendly X-T200 is fantastic for travel and vlogging

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Screen: 3.5-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 2,760K dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 2,360K dots, 100% coverage | Max burst speed: 8fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner/intermediate

Satisfying handling and control
Big vari-angle touchscreen
Clean, classic styling
Expensive at first

We loved the Fujifilm X-T100 because it brought sophisticated handling, all the manual control you'd expect and a satisfyingly large viewfinder. And now the X-T200 is here, and it ups the stakes with a big, vari-angle touchscreen, vastly better 4K video features and improved autofocus. Fujifilm is aiming this camera at first time users, but it’s powerful enough to give mid-range DSLRs and mirrorless cameras plenty to think about. As you'll have gathered, we like the X-T200 a lot. Right now, though, it's brand new and still on sale at its lofty launch price, so it's actually not a whole lot cheaper than the more advanced Fujifilm X-T30 model, which has been out for a little while. Once the prices settle, though, we think the Fujifilm X-T200 will be a real winner.

Read more:
Fujifilm X-T100 review
Fujifilm X-T200 hands on review

Compact cameras

Compact cameras can be a great option, but they do have their downsides. While they're smaller and lighter than interchangeable lens cameras such as DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, this also means that they generally come with smaller sensors as well. This means that the image quality unfortunately won't be quite as good. A compact camera also has a fixed lens, which means that you can't change your focal length from what comes in the box. 

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6. Panasonic Lumix TZ200/ZS200

It's the classic long-zoom compact travel camera

Type: Superzoom compact | Sensor: 1in | Megapixels: 20.1MP | Lens: 24-360mm f/3.3-6.4 (equiv.) | LCD: 3in fixed touchscreen, 1.24 million dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Big zoom for a pocket camera
High-quality 1-inch sensor
Built-in electronic viewfinder
Sharpness falls at full zoom

If you’re going travelling, the last thing you want is to be weighed down with kit – but at the same time you’ll want a camera that can capture any kind of subject and get as close as possible to the quality of a ‘proper’ camera. That’s what the best long-zoom compact travel cameras get right, and the TZ200/SZ200 is right at the top of the tree. The TZ200/SZ200 has a 1-inch 20-megapixel sensor like those in many of the best compact cameras but adds in a long-range 15x zoom lens. This covers a 24mm wide-angle view right up to a long-range 360mm equivalent telephoto setting. The TZ200/SZ200 produces excellent JPEGs images straight from the camera and has the option of raw shooting and and 4K video. A macro mode lets you focus on subjects just 3cm away, and Panasonic’s 4K photo mode can generate 8K images from burst sequences shot at 30 frames per second. With the 4K Photo mode you can even choose your focus point AFTER you’ve taken the picture. This is the best travel camera for those who want quality and versatility, but without the fuss of interchangeable lenses.

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7. Panasonic Lumix LX100 II

A shorter-zoom compact for quality-conscious travel photographers

Type: Compact | Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 17MP | Lens: 24-75mm, f/1.7-2.8 (equiv.) | LCD: 3in fixed, 1,24 million dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 11fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast/expert

Multi-aspect ratio sensor
Fast f/1.7-2.8 lens
4K video, 4K Photo modes
Only 17 megapixels

The trouble with big sensors is that you need big lenses to go with them, so there goes any kind of pocketability – except that Panasonic has really hit the sweet spot with the LX100 II. It combines a Micro Four Thirds sensor not much smaller than the ASP-C sensors in most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, with a compact body and miniaturised lens assembly that powers down in to a camera body slim enough to carry around anywhere. The LX100 II has a 16-megapixel ‘multi-aspect’ sensor, which means that you can use its native 4:3 aspect ratio, the 3:2 ratio used by most DSLRs and mirrorless models or a 16:9 ‘wide’ format without cropping the image and losing pixels. With a bigger sensor than the TZ200/ZS200, an external shutter speed dial, lens aperture ring and aspect ratio switch, the LX100 II one of the best travel cameras for enthusiasts and experts – you sacrifice zoom range, but gain image quality and features.

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8. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX99

If you want big zoom in the smallest possible package, the HX99 is for you

Type: Superzoom compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 18.2MP | Lens: 24-720mm equivalent f/3.5-6.4 | Screen type: 3in flip-up touchscreen, 921,600 dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 0.2in | Continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Good image quality from small sensor
Huge zoom
Incredibly small and light
Small buttons and controls
EVF very small and fiddly
Average low light image quality

Most of us want to travel as light as possible, and the featherweight 242g Cyber-shot HX99 lets you do just that. It's also amazingly compact at 102.0mm x 58.1mm x 35.5mm, yet somehow Sony has managed to squeeze in a 24-720mm-equivalent zoom lens. Of course this feat is only possible thanks to the use of a small 1/2.3-inch sensor, but Sony’s 18.2MP back-illuminated Exmor R sensor performs well for its size. It just beats rival cameras like Panasonic's TZ95/ZS80 for fine detail capture, and low light performance is also respectable given the titchy sensor. Extras like 4K video and Sony’s very effective Eye AF focus mode help sweeten the deal, as does a built-in EVF. This is very small, however, and you’ll have to pop it up from inside the camera before use, but at least the camera automatically turns itself on in the process, saving you some time.

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9. Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II

You won't find a smaller zoom compact with a 1-inch sensor

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1in | Megapixels: 20.1MP | Lens: 28-84mm equivalent f/2-4.9 | Screen type: 3in flip-up touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: N/A | Continuous shooting speed: 8.2fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Great image quality
Incredibly small and sleek
Well priced for its sensor size
Pared-down controls can confuse
No 4K video or EVF
Slippery design

Canon makes several compact cameras with a 1-inch-size sensor, the G9 X Mark II being the smallest. At 98.0 x 57.9 x 31.3mm and 206g, it’s so compact you really need to hold one to appreciate how small this camera is. This does mean that the rear panel is dominated by the 3-inch screen, so physical buttons are few and they don’t include a typical 4-way navigation dial. The pared-down dimensions also mean you don’t get an electronic viewfinder, but then many EVFs on ultra-compact cameras are very small and uncomfortable to use, so you may not be missing out too much. Another space-saving compromise is the 3x zoom lens. Its f/2 maximum aperture is respectable, but by the 84mm-equivalent max zoom, this has shrunk to a meagre f/4.9. But if you don't mind the limited zoom range, the G9 X is the best travel camera when you want to spend less but still get the image quality of a 1-inch sensor.

(Image credit: Olympus)

10. Olympus Tough TG-6

A super-tough camera for adventure-addicted travellers

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 12MP | Lens: 25-100mm (equiv.) f/2.0-4.9 | LCD: 3in, 460k dots | Waterproof: 15m/50ft | Shockproof: 2.1m/7ft | Freezeproof: -10ºC/14°F | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Raw shooting and 4K video
Excellent tough credentials
Pocket-sized dimensions
Mediocre 12MP resolution

So we round off our list with something very different. For some travellers, the only thing that matters is a camera that can stand water, ice, dust, rain and even impacts. The Olympus TG-6 might not have the zoom range or the large sensors of other cameras in our list, but if your travel photography is based around adventure rather than sightseeing, the TG-6 is probably a better fit. With its waterproof, crush-proof, shockproof and freeze-proof design, the TG-6 will withstand a lot more abuse than the average compact, but it's not only its tough credentials that impress. Raw shooting and 4K video recording are two rarities on waterproof compacts, while the 12MP sensor had its pixel count deliberately lowered over earlier model to make it produce better-quality images with lower noise. It was a brave move by Olympus, but a refreshing one too. New Microscope and Underwater modes improve the spec over the older TG-5, which you may still find in stock in some stores.

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