Traveling isn’t just about the destination. Carry On is our series devoted to how we get away in the digital age, from the choices we make to the experiences we share.
UPDATE: Aug. 8, 2023, 5:00 a.m. EDT This guide has been updated to reflect Mashable’s latest hands-on testing.
We live in an age of over-sharing, but the best travel cameras do so much more than help you post your adventures on Instagram, Youtube, or TikTok. Travel cameras can also help you freeze moments in time so that you never forget your favorite travel experiences. Travel photography can be a great way to capture pictures of your loved ones at their happiest, and you may look back on these photos decades in the future.
Of course, the best travel camera should also be used to show off your adventures on social media — we never said over-sharing was bad.
The best cameras for travel make it easy to take pictures without overstuffing your suitcase. While there are plenty of accessories for travel photography, modern travel cameras are lightweight, compact, and user-friendly.
As anyone who’s had to sit on their suitcase to close it would know, you need to save every square inch you can when packing. You should always make sure you have the essentials, but nobody wants to have to throw things away at the airport gate because their bag is overweight.
Unless you’re a professional YouTuber or National Geographic photographer, chances are you don’t want to lug around a heavy-duty model, or a mirrorless camera that requires five different lens for each subject. Similarly, if you’re not part of a camera crew traveling for work, a fragile camera that requires careful packing and gentle handling probably isn’t worth the trouble.
Fortunately for you, Mashable is on the case, and we’ve been busy researching, testing, and reviewing travel cameras. When picking the best travel camera for every type of photographer — whether you’re a beginner, photography expert, action-adventurer, or content creator — we looked for easy-to-use and easy-to-pack cameras that won’t get in your way.
Should you bring a travel camera at all?If you clicked on this article, you’re likely planning to. But take a minute to consider your phone camera — if you have a new smartphone, it probably comes equipped with a camera that has formidable photography abilities of its own. In fact, the newest flagship smartphones have some downright futuristic photography capabilities. We’re not even impressed by the iPhone’s ability to shoot in 4K anymore. Give us advanced lowlight photography from Pixel phones, the Samsung Galaxy’s famous ultra-zoom lens, or the Xiaomi smartphone with Leica cameras.
So, if you already have the latest iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, or Xiaomi model, is there any reason to carry an extra camera instead of just snapping pics with that?
Well, it depends. For skilled photographers, even the best smartphone cameras can’t compare to a mirrorless camera from Sony or Leica. For everyone else, there are still lots of reasons to upgrade to the best travel cameras.
Are you going somewhere beachy and want to take cool underwater photos without worrying about water damage? Is this a ski trip or something active that requires image stabilization and 4K HDR video? Or would you just rather keep your phone safe in your bag at all times, so that you don’t accidentally drop it while taking pictures? For all of the above, the best camera for travel will outperform your smartphone camera.
Whatever the reason (even if it’s just better quality pics for the ‘gram), if you want to pack the best camera for travel, you should evaluate your options based on the following:
Technical Considerations:Size/Weight: There’s no point to investing in a professional model that doesn’t fit in your travel bag. Make sure that your choice isn’t so hefty that you don’t end up leave your camera and lens at home.
Image Quality: Anyone can snap a blurry picture of the Eiffel Tower, but you want a crystal-clear and totally unique photo to remember your trip. A camera’s sensor size will be the biggest factor on overall image quality (more on this below).
Zoom Range: Despite massive advances in smartphone camera technology, this is still one area in which most smartphones fall short. For close-up photography, you’ll need cameras equipped with zoom lenses.
Shooting Modes: Versatility is one of the other perks of toting around a camera — from drones that will give you aerial shots to vlogging cameras for video quality, different devices offer different advantages over your standard phone cam.
Price: Above all, don’t purchase anything beyond your means. For this guide, we’ve avoided $5,000 Lecia cameras, as these can be risky to travel with unless you’re a professional photographer.
What’s the difference between DSLR and mirrorless cameras?When searching for the best travel cameras of 2023, we wanted to include the most common types of travel cameras: mirrorless cameras, DSLR cameras, action cameras, and drones. (We also decided to include a smartphone for good measure.) But what type of camera is best for your needs? Action cameras, drones, and smartphones are pretty self-explanatory, so what’s the difference between DSLR and mirrorless cameras? And what camera is best for travel photography?
For a long time, DSLR cameras were the gold standard for high-quality digital cameras. They provide professional-level photo quality and more advanced features for experienced photographers. DSLR stands for digital single-lens reflex camera. In this type of camera, light passing through the lens bounces off a mirror into a traditional viewfinder. Even the best DSLR camera for travel will be larger in size compared to point-and-shoot and mirrorless cameras, and this can be an issue when traveling.
Don’t forget a trip you paid $$$ to go on. Credit: George Pak / Pexels
Mirrorless cameras don’t have a mirror, and thus lack a traditional viewfinder (although they typically have a digital viewfinder). For this reason, mirrorless cameras are lighter and more compact than DSLR cameras, which also make them more travel-friendly. Because of the digital viewfinder, mirrorless cameras often have a shorter battery life compared to a DSLR.
You can take equally great images with both a mirrorless and DSLR camera. Because mirrorless cameras are newer (and more trendy), many of the best new cameras fall into this category. However, DSLR cameras are often much more affordable.
The specs to look for in the best travel cameras:To pick the best camera for travel, you’ll need a basic understanding of some photography terms and camera specifications. You could spend a lifetime mastering the art or photography, but before buying a camera, take the time to familiarize yourself with the following terms.
Megapixels: The unit itself (MP) denotes one million (“mega-“) pixels, which essentially describes the detail of your photos. You can have too many megapixels, depending on your purpose — Instagram, for example, automatically downsizes overlarge images to 1.2MP.
Image File Format: This refers to the image formats supported by the camera. Typically, this includes .jpeg and raw image files. A camera with easy-to-access image files is an underrated feature. This can be important if you’re traveling for a long time and want to be able to access your pictures externally from your camera ASAP. Make sure you can open and, if necessary, edit photos on your laptop or even phone (an adapter or external card reader will usually be needed as well).
Sensor: A camera’s sensor has a huge impact on overall image quality, which is why sensor size is the main specification professional photographers look at. Bigger sensors have more pixels, which means better low-light and dynamic performance as well as reduced noise. However, smaller sensors have a better zoom range and are both lighter and cheaper. DSLR and mirrorless cameras usually have full-frame (~36mm wide) or APS-C (22.3-23.6mm wide) sensors, while compact cameras have 1-inch (13.2mm wide) sensors. The iPhone 11 has a 1/2.55” sensor, for comparison, and that will give you 12MP images. For a more detailed guide to sensor sizes, check out this graphic.
Common types of cameras and their sensors. Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus / estherpoon
Lens: Pro photographers will rattle off details about the makers and materials of camera lenses, but what you really need to know is mostly just aperture and focal length. So while names like the “Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8 E ED VR” look intimidating, they really just boil down to naming conventions that list brand, lens type/size, focal length, maximum aperture, and miscellaneous details (“VR” here stands for vibration reduction) in that order.
Focal length denotes zoom, and aperture is how much light the lens lets in, which affects exposure and depth of field. Zoom is fairly straightforward — some lens have ranges, while others have a fixed focal length, so you’ll have to move to get your subject in frame. Aperture, on the other hand, is measured in fractions. A smaller aperture, say of f/11, gives you less background blur (like, the opposite of portrait mode), aka more depth of field, and a darker image. Larger apertures — f/2.8 is pretty standard — will give you a very focused effect with lots of light.
Continuous Shooting Speed (Video Mode): Measured in fps — that is, frames per second — this number is what you look at if you need your camera to be capable of quick shots for action scenes. The higher the frame-rate, the smoother and clearer the action.
Max Video Resolution: This one is mostly for those people who want to edit a highlight reel of their travels, or vlog their trip. Otherwise, typical 1080p will do just fine for most purposes — you don’t need to splurge on 4k unless you want to crop footage while retaining the quality (and you really don’t need 8k unless you’re a filmmaker).
While this sounds overwhelming (and it definitely can be, to be honest), if you aren’t fussed about specs, our list below gives a quick breakdown of what each camera is good for, taking into consideration all its features. On the other hand, if you have a very specific lens type in mind or just want to fully understand your purchase before committing, take a look at the listed specs and how they compare.
With all this in mind, we’ve gathered the best cameras for travel below. Our top recommendations were hands-on tested by the Mashable team, and we’ve included some additional options so that you can find the best travel camera for your particular needs.
This guide is geared more toward photography beginners than pros, so we’ve favored cameras that are more affordable and beginner friendly. And to make sure they travel well, we’ve prioritized cameras that are durable, lightweight, and compact.
The Fujifilm X100V was originally released in 2020, but in 2023, it’s still one of the most popular mirrorless cameras in the world. In fact, the Fujifilm X100V has a cult-following among photography nerds, and it’s famous for shooting professional-quality photographs that will make it look like you’re shooting on a $5,000 mirrorless camera.
The X100V has proven so popular that it’s frequently out of stock at retailers such as Amazon, Best Buy, and B&H Photo & Video, and shoppers should be wary of price gouging. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on one (as we were), then you’ll quickly see why it’s so enduringly popular among photographers. In addition, it’s got some great features that make it the best travel camera for most people.
Fujifilm sent the X100V to Mashable for testing, and it exceeded our very high expectations. If you’re a photographer, then you’ll geek out over the 35mm equivalent lens and vintage-style body (when using the X100V, it was frequently mistaken for a film camera). If you’re less experienced in the world of photography, you’ll still be able to capture photos with incredible color and details. We were able to create gorgeous landscape and portrait photos using only the camera’s auto settings. However, because this camera is so popular, there are tons of user guides and how-to video tutorials on Youtube, and you can easily find JPEG recipes to help you capture I-can’t-believe-these-are-unedited photos.
What makes the Fujifilm X100V one of the best mirrorless cameras for travel in particular? Because of it’s compact size and fixed-lens, it’s extremely easy to pack and transport, and you won’t find a more compact travel camera at this equivalent quality or price anywhere.
Are there any notable downsides? Only a few. If you’re shooting 4K video, there’s no built-in image stabilization. Pro-level photographers may also find the auto settings, fixed-lens, and lack of zoom limiting. In short, the same features that make it an excellent camera for the average photographer make it somewhat limiting for professionals. Still, if you want a compact travel camera that can create stunning photographs, then try and track down the Fujifilm X100V.
Waterproof, dust-proof, shock-proof, crush-proof, freeze-proof, and fog-proof, this point-and-shoot camera might just outlive you. Pass it down to your children or something, because the Olympus Tough TG-6 will last through many an adventure. Not only is this digital camera as hardy as they come, but it’s also got a variable macro system, so you can take closeup shots in high definition. User reviews rave about its ability to capture the smallest details on a flower petal.
One possible drawback is battery life — in theory it’s supposed to be able to take 340 shots before needing to be recharged, but GPS and wifi capabilities cut into that number, and some users have found that it’s necessary to take a power bank on trips (thankfully, it’s easy to recharge via USB cable). Maximum recording time on a video is also just 20 seconds, so this is a camera designed mostly for quick pics. However, with a high continuous shooting speed, it’s better for sports and action shots than many DSLR and mirrorless cameras.
If you’re looking for the best travel cameras under $500, we only have two options for you on this list. While the GoPro Hero 11 Black is our top pick for an action camera (and for recording video), we believe this is the best point-and-shoot camera for travel.
There’s nothing to elevate travel footage like a drone. Whether you’re going to a big city or a natural oasis, there’s always a stunning aerial view to be filmed. If you’ve seen those cinematic tracking shots of a single car speeding down a desert road, or a panoramic 4K video of a cityscape at night, then you know what we mean. Drones have completely changed travel photography, and the best droves for travel let you explore your destination with a bird’s eye view — and show off your amazing footage to your friends later.
If you’re looking for the best drone for travel photography, then it’s an easy choice. The DJI Mavic Mini 3 is the latest beginner-friendly drone from DJI. The powerhouse brand manufactures drones for both consumer and commercial use, and they really know what they’re doing. While all their consumer models are equipped with excellent cameras, the Mini 3 stands out for its portability.
It’s specifically designed to weigh under 250g, which is the threshold for requiring FAA registration (a pain at the best of times). This means that depending on where you’re travelling, you probably won’t need a license to fly your drone. Most countries follow this 250g limit, including the U.S., Canada, and the UK, but be sure to check your destination’s regulations for drones. Some destinations, like U.S. national parks, for example, don’t allow drone flights without prior authorization.
Despite its lightweight build, the Mini 3’s specs are still very impressive. This travel photography drone will take stunning 4K HDR video and high-quality still pictures with built-in photo optimization for vivid colors and clear angles. The DJI Mavic Mini 3 has a 1/1.3-inch sensor and can transmit footage over a distance of 10km.
Plus, the DJI app gives you access to all the features that makes it the dominant drone manufacturer in the market. FlySafe will prevent you from accidentally taking off in or flying into restricted areas, which could get you into trouble — definitely helpful when you’re exploring a new place.
For all its selling points, the Mini 3 has a few shortfalls — unlike other DJI models, it lacks obstacle avoidance, so you want to be careful while flying, especially in inclement weather since it’s so light. Apart from that, its possible disadvantages are the same as that of any other drone — battery won’t last all day (at 38 minutes, it already boasts fairly impressive battery life for a drone), and it’s mostly suitable for aerial videography.
Still, nothing captures the breadth of a moment quite like a drone shot, so in our opinion, it’s one of the best travel cameras for sale today.
GoPro has been so successful at making action cameras that the term “GoPro” has become synonymous with the entire product category, and after testing out the new GoPro Hero 11 Black, it’s easy to see why. If you’re the type of traveler who likes to pack your surfboard or mountain bike, then the Hero 11 is the best travel camera you’ll find for action and sports videography.
As you’d expect from a GoPro, the Hero 11 is a waterproof action camera that’s ultra-light, ultra-compact, and ultra-durable. Despite it’s micro size, this small-but-mighty travel camera can record unbelievable 5.3K video. Yes, that’s right — better than 4K video capabilities make the Hero 11 the most advanced action camera for the price. When shooting in 4K mode, you can also capture 120 frames per second, which means your footage will look absolutely incredible whether it’s being viewed on Youtube or a 65-inch TV.
We packed the GoPro on a recent river rafting adventure and had no problems with its waterproofing and durability. Right out of the box it was able to record video underwater, moving seamlessly from dry land to aquatic adventures. The GoPro Hero 11 features improved video stabilization compared to previous models, and the company’s HyperSmooth 5.0 image stabilization is almost unbelievably impressive. Even while riding over river rapids, the video footage was rich in detail and smooth.
One of the best features of the GoPro Hero 11 is the GoPro app, which lets you automatically and wirelessly upload your photo and video footage to your device or the cloud. Before you’ve even dried off, your GoPro can start uploading your footage. That makes this one of the best travel cameras for content creators and vloggers.
After weeks of testing, we have no downsides to report other than those inherent to the product category. The audio recording is only so-so, and you’ll want to use a separate microphone if you want high-quality audio to go along with your 5.3K video. Overall, the GoPro Hero 11 Black is a perfect action camera, and the kind of 10/10 product you’ll want to pack on all your adventures.
The best travel cameras let you easily capture, upload, and edit stunning photos and videos, and the newest action camera from GoPro is ready for any type of adventure.
Looking for the best travel camera under $1,000? Then you’ll want to closely consider the Lumix G85.
Yes, there are a lot of Panasonic Lumix cameras to choose from, and it can be difficult to pick the right model for your needs. Professionals will likely prefer the mirrorless and full-frame S-Series, but there are some excellent consumer-friendly models in the Panasonic Lumix G-Series line, including the excellent and compact Lumix G85 4K Camera. This camera comes with a 12-60mm F3.5-5.6 lens which allows you to capture stunning landscapes, intimate portraits, and up-close macro photography.
This 16MP camera is one of the older models featured in this guide, but for travel photography in particular, it has some enticing features. Most importantly, the Panasonic Lumix G85 4K camera is one of the most rugged travel cameras available today. The camera features a splash- and dust-proof magnesium alloy body for shooting in the field, and it also has an ergonomic grip that makes it easy to operate with one hand. When shooting video, this camera also has in-body 5-axis dual image stabilization to reduce handshake.
Priced at under $1,000, it’s still one of the best travel cameras for photographers, beginners, and content creators. The G Series was specifically designed with content creators and vloggers in mind, and a 3.55 headphone and microphone jack will be very much appreciated when shooting video for Instagram, TikTok, or Youtube.
Mashable is still in the process of testing the latest Panasonix Lumix cameras, so look for a more in-depth hands-on review in the months ahead. For now, the Panasonic G85 is an affordable pick for travelers who are serious about photography and content creation.
The Canon EOS 6D was already an incredible camera, one that amateurs could use on their way to becoming experts. Its Mark II upgrade adds an articulating screen, which seems so simple but can be a game-changer. It means that if you want a shot from higher up, you can tilt the screen down to see what you’re shooting instead of raising your arm, pressing the shutter blind, and hoping for the best. It’s also great for selfies, which if you’re travelling by yourself or with just one other person is such a lifesaver — no need to have one person stand in the frame while the other sets the self-timer and sprints. (The screen itself is also a touchscreen, which is helpful for focusing purposes.)
Another significant upgrade is its autofocus: Where the original 6D had just 11 focus points and cross-type (perpendicular sensors allowing for two-dimensional sensing) only for the center point, the Mark II boasts 45 points, all with cross-type. That basically means that the autofocus of the 6D Mark II will lock on to anything super-fast and with incredible accuracy.
As befits a full-frame Canon DSLR, the sensor is *chef’s kiss*. It’s take-it-to-your-sister’s-wedding level image quality, on professional levels even, so she can save money on a wedding photographer. But she might still want one, because the 6D Mark II will pick up on her smallest pores. It’s pricey, but you get what you pay for.
If anything, taking an expensive camera on vacation might be a little anxiety-inducing, but when else are you going to use it? Travel memories are some of the best memories to capture, and the 6D Mark II has a fast enough reaction speed to do just that. Plus, built-in GPS, WiFi, and Bluetooth will mark all your photos with location tags, which is handy, and battery life lasts 1,200 shots (if you’re taking more than that per day on vacation, you need help). For all its other high-level specs, the 6D Mark II has got quite a sturdy build, so as long as you’re careful (and guard your belongings!), it will pay off in crystal-clear pictures of your trip.
We’ve linked to a Canon EOS 6D Mark II that comes with a compatible lens, the Canon EF 24-105mm USM Lens. However, if you already have a lens, you can buy the body of this camera for $1,399.99 at both Amazon and B&H Photo and Video. (As of this writing, Amazon also has a great deal on a renewed version of this camera and lens for under $2,000.)
Read the full Mashable review of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.
For content creators and photographers who don’t want to travel with anything but their smartphone, then we have very good news. The current roster of flagship smartphones from Apple, Google, and Samsung all feature powerful cameras and video capabilities. However, if you want the best possible smartphone camera for travel photography, then you’ll want the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.
At the original price of $1,199, the Galaxy S22 Ultra was a bit overpriced, but now that it’s available for under $900, it’s much more compelling. For the same reason, we’re recommending this 2022-release over the newer Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, even though the latter packs a 200 megapixel primary camera.
In the Mashable review of the S22 Ultra, we found that the primary 108MP camera could capture beautiful daytime photography. This flagship smartphone can also capture impressive night photographs, although the software overcompensates slightly, giving nighttime photographs an overlit quality. However, the famous zoom is the most impressive feature of the Galaxy S22 Ultra for travel photography specifically. This smartphone boasts a digital zoom up to 100x, making it ideal for sightseeing and travel.
If you’re an Apple diehard, then you’ll never be fully satisfied with the Samsung UI, but if you want the best smartphone camera, this is it. This powerful Samsung smartphone can also capture 8K video and slow-motion videos, so if you want to capture your travel adventures for TikTok or YouTube, you’ll have a full suite of photography and videography tools available to you.
Although some vloggers usr DSLRs or clunkier models for that extra definition, that can be hard for trips. Besides the obvious reason for wanting to pack light, there are also technical considerations: tripods to stand your camera up, an included mic so you don’t need additional audio equipment, flexibility in lighting, and more. The ZV-E10 delivers all this — its mount allows for handheld filming or setting up on a tripod, Active Mode provides image stabilization while Face Priority AE keeps the focus on your face, and autofocus is incredibly fast and accurate.
The ZV-E10 is tailored for creatives to be able to film as they’d like. There’s a Soft Skin Effect option in several degrees of strength, slo-mo and sped-up filming modes, background blurring options, and other artistic effects like color selection. Plus, with a USB cord, you can even livestream directly from the camera, which will get you to finally start using TikTok Live or the like.
With more than 60 additional lenses to choose from, there’s no issue if the included 16-50mm zoom lens doesn’t work out for you either (or maybe while traveling you want a more flexible lens). A vlogging camera is great for travel because of how easy to use it is, and how you can more easily capture shots of yourself and your travel buddies. Plus, video can be a better medium through which to recall fond memories. That’s all up to the individual, though. For vlogging purposes, TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram Reels, this is the perfect handheld video camera for travel.
For this review, we chose to focus on finding the best camera for travel photography beginners. Professional photographers will have much different needs compared to your average traveler. In selecting products, we relied on a combination of careful research and hands-on testing, always with beginner-to-moderately experienced photographers in mind.
Mashable journalists tested about half of the cameras featured in this guide. Previously, Mashable reviewer Joseph Volpe tested out the cameras of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. We believe it’s the best smartphone camera for travel thanks to its low-light photography, epic zoom, 108MP primary camera, and under-$1,000 price tag.
We tested the GoPro Hero 11 Black specifically for this review, using it over a period of weeks. Because this is an action camera, we tested its abilities to capture photos and videos both on dry land and underwater. We also tested the wireless and connectivity features, which were equally impressive. Mashable also tested the Fujifilm X100V for this review. We primarily focused on reviewing the photography features, testing out both the camera’s automatic settings and custom abilities. We analyzed the photographs to see how well the camera captured landscape, portrait, and close-up photographs. Mashable has also been testing the Panasonix Lumix line of cameras.
We did not test the DJI Mavic Mini 3 for this article, but we decided to replace the older DJI Mavic Mini 2. The Mavic Mini 3 is very similar to the previous model with improvements to the imaging system and battery life, letting you fly further. We still believe DJI makes the best drone for travel photography, and the Mini 3 is one of the company’s newest and most portable drones.
Finally, we included cameras from Canon, Sony, and Olympus, all of which were featured in an older version of this shopping guide. Canon and Sony are two of our go-to brands for photography, and they both have reputations for producing stellar travel cameras for photographers of all skill levels. Finally, we included a waterproof camera from Olympus as our budget pick because we didn’t want to neglect point-and-shoot cameras entirely.
Kristie Chan is a Shopping Fellow.