Travel

The Best Cameras to Take Traveling

And how to pick the one that's right for you
The Best Cameras for Traveling 2017
Photo: Syahruramadhan/Getty Images

Trust us when we say that once you've slept off the jet lag and finally unpacked your suitcase, you're going to wish you had more than Snapchat screenshots to remember your vacation by. But diving into the world of cameras beyond the one in your iPhone can involve a rabbit hole of Google searches, confusing terms and the decision of whether it's worth buying a camera that will set you back a month's worth of rent.

So if you need help choosing one for your next adventure, here's your guide to five of the most popular camera styles out there best suited for your next trip around the world.

 Action Cameras

Synonymous with selfie sticks and full-time YouTubers, these rugged, ultra-compact cameras have a lot to like. For more adventurous (and er, clumsy) travelers, they're built to survive a prolonged swim in the ocean, as well as a drop or two during a hike up Machu Picchu. Their pocketability is also hard to beat. 

 

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With a camera this small, there are a few downsides though, including a short battery life and lack of adjustable settings. But let's be real: If all you're looking for is something that will make it through a drunken Barcelona bar crawl (even if you don't), you're not going to be concerned about things like aperture and shutter speed. Just don't forget to pack the selfie stick. 

Who It's For: Adventure types who just want to record themselves cliff diving in Thailand; the clumsier among us who at most will upload photos to Facebook. (For some users, this camera is more a supplement than their sole picture-taking device.)

 Point and Shoot

Cell phones may have slowly edged out the need for compact point-and-shoots (the small bricks we all had circa 2007), but they're still an excellent choice for casual photographers who want to do more than just tag Instagram friends. Though many models come with specific shooting modes (such as portrait and night-specific settings), most users will probably just stick to automatic and let the camera do all the thinking. Point-and-shoots also tend to be the least expensive option for those looking for a dedicated camera.

While their image quality can definitely be a step up from GoPros, the picture quality from point-and-shoots is still limited by the camera's small physical size. But if the most you're doing is sending photos to Grandma and printing four-by-sixes for family photo albums, this is exactly what you need to get the job done.

Who It's For: Casual photographers who want photo album-quality pics without having to think; budget-conscious travelers.

 DSLR

As you get more into growing your Flickr account, you might consider graduating to a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera. The opposite of pocket friendly, these bulky cameras carry a lot of advantages: They're able to capture more detailed images, have a robust number of adjustments and have an endless array of lenses you can swap out depending on what you're shooting, whether it's landscapes of Yosemite or street portraits of Hong Kong

 

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Not all of them cost four figures—Canon's entry-level option rings in at under $500 and includes a decent all-purpose lens perfect for people getting their feet wet. Though there is an automatic mode that, like point-and-shoots, does all the thinking for you, getting used to everything a DSLR has to offer can take a lot of late nights with the owner's manual before you get comfortable.  

Who It's For: Enthusiasts who want Nat Geo-worthy shots and don't mind the extra bulk or learning curve. This is the go-to type of camera (and Father's Day gift) of serious dads the world over.

 Mirrorless Cameras

Consider this the compromise between a point-and-shoot and a DSLR. The mechanical mirror that's used in a bulky DSLR is gone, hence the mirrorless part. Expect near-equal image quality along with the same abundance of adjustments (including changeable lenses) in a still-backpack-friendly size.

 

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Being a relatively recent piece of technology, mirrorless cameras literally come at a cost. Aside from the price tag, being the new kid on the block also means there are a limited number of lenses and accessories to choose from.

Who It's For: Travelers who have the cash to burn and know exactly what they want; pros tired of lugging a five-pound behemoth everywhere they go.

 Cell Phones

In the end, the best camera is the one you always have with you. For backpackers who don't want to be tied down by extra memory cards and chargers, cell phones surprisingly make for the best travel camera of all. An excellent number of editing apps means you can shoot, edit and upload photos long before you realize you forgot to pack a memory card for your point-and-shoot.

 

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Of course, camera phones have their obvious limitations (they've always been mediocre in low light, and you'll have to pay extra for apps that let you control specific camera settings), but for something you're guaranteed to have with you at all times, it can't be beat.

Who It's For: The minimalist traveler who refuses to check a bag. In the hands of an expert, camera phones are more than capable of churning out magazine-worthy photos.

  • GoPro HERO Session HD

    Action Camera

    A cleverly small yet durable design and an attractive price mean the Session is a good supplement to your everyday camera.

    Amazon, $180

  • GoPro Hero5 Black

    Action Camera

    The ability to record videos at 4K resolution and a comforting sturdiness make the Hero5 an always-popular choice when it comes to action cameras.

    bhphotovideo.com, $300

  • Canon PowerShot SX720

    Point and Shoot

    This model's extra-long 40x optical zoom, built-in Wi-Fi and svelte size are ideal for family vacations.

    canon.com, $300

  • Olympus Tough TG-5

    Point and Shoot

    For the clumsier among us, Olympus's point-and-shoots are built to withstand whatever you throw at them (or whatever you throw them at).

    bhphotovideo.com, $379

  • Canon Rebel T6 with 18-55mm Lens

    DSLR

    For those looking to dip their toes into the world of DSLR cameras, Canon's Rebel line is an affordable option.

    canon.com, $450

  • Nikon D500 Camera with 16-80mm Lens

    DSLR

    With image quality that will impress both the hobbyists and the pros, this mid-level option is a jack-of-all-trades.

    bhphotovideo.com, $2,497

  • Panasonic Lumix Mirrorless Camera with 12-32mm Lens

    Mirrorless

    It's pricier than your normal point-and-shoot, but beautiful photos and a pocket-friendly size make this model hard to beat.

    bhphotovideo.com, $598

  • iPhone X

    Cell Phone

    Because there's nothing that portrait mode can't turn into gold.

    bestbuy.com, price varies

  • Google Pixel 32GB

    Cell Phone

    For Android users, the Pixel is a Google camera phone that's more than capable of replacing your point-and-shoot.

    amazon.com, $319

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