It’s finally time to head out of town and take a well-deserved vacation far, far away from home. And while you could use your smartphone camera to document every incredible meal you eat, every amazing building you see and every remarkable scenic view you encounter, why not step it up and use one of the best travel cameras?
Yes, we know what you’re thinking: My smartphone is almost as good as my old DSLR. Why would I pay money for a separate camera? It’s a valid question, but there are benefits to carrying a separate camera around.
For starters, you won’t drain your battery in a matter of a few hours. And because we’re modern humans, we all know there’s nothing worse than being away from home without access to our phones.
Second, photography is a great hobby. While you certainly can go down a rabbit hole with smartphone camera apps, there’s no better substitute for learning the fundamentals of photography than to have a proper camera in your hands. And you probably won’t have a better chunk of dedicated time to spend snapping photos than when you’re out exploring during your time off.
Finally, smartphone cameras might come close to dedicated cameras, but they still aren’t better. This is not to knock how far mobile image sensors and computational photography has come, but all of our best travel cameras have bigger sensors, superior manual controls for shutter speed, aperture and ISO, and in some cases proper optical zoom and interchangeable lenses.
With that in mind, here are the best travel cameras you can buy in 2021.
1. Canon G5 X Mark II
BEST TRAVEL CAMERA OVERALL
The rise of premium point-and-shoot cameras, which often pack a relatively gigantic 1-inch sensor, have singlehandedly kept compact cameras relevant over the past decade as cameraphones drastically improved. But while cameraphone sensors have improved, they still can’t match the quality of a pocket shooter like the Canon G5 X Mark II. While its compact size is the most noticeable features that makes it stand out as one of the best travel cameras, that’s only scratching the surface.
Hiding inside the body of this tiny wonder is the aforementioned 1-inch image sensor and a fast f/1.8-2.8 lens. This means that the G5 X can produce DSLR-quality photos in the right settings, record 4K video and snap clean and sharp photos in low-light scenarios. And sure, a newer iPhone or Samsung Galaxy can hang in this regard, but what those cameraphones don’t have is a lens with true optical zoom.
Canon G5 X Mark II
2. Sony A6400
Those looking for the best travel camera with some versatility may want to take a look at the Sony A6400, which is an APS-C mirrorless camera that works with Sony’s E mount lens system. Featuring Sony’s own 24.2 Exmor sensor, the A6400 has some of the best image quality you can get from a non-full frame camera. And while it is bulkier than a fixed-lens mirrorless, the ability to go from a 50mm-equivalent lens to a zoom lens to a macro or a superzoom lens will be a must for enthusiast-level photographers.
3. Fujifilm X100V
BEST STREET SHOOTER
If street photography is your thing when you’re traveling, you’re going to want a camera with a quick shutter and a fast lens so that you get the perfect shot at a moment’s notice. The Fujifilm X100V is a fixed-lens compact mirrorless camera with an APS-C sensor, which means that you not only get the benefits of a DSLR-grade sensor, but the fixed lens means that you get that fast and razor-sharp lens in the smallest package possible. On top of that the X100V also gives you total manual control over your settings, with easily accessible dials to control ISO, exposure and shutter speed. Beginners may not love the lack of zoom and could be overwhelmed by the controls, but for the experienced street photographer, this is the best travel camera for exploring a new locale.
4. Olympus Tough TG-6
BEST FOR THE BEACH
Maybe buying one of the best travel cams is less about image quality and more about durability for you. And whether you want a camera that can survice a drop, or one that you can take into the ocean, the Olympus Tough TG-6 is a great pick thanks to its IP68 rating which makes it dust and waterproof. It also happens to be freezeproof, shockproof and crushproof while delivering photos worthy of sharing with friends and family when you get back home.
Olympus Tough TG-6
5. Ricoh GR III
Much like the Fujifilm X100, the Ricoh GR III is a fixed-lens compact expressly built for street shooting. This camera has a cult following thanks to its 24-megapixel APS-C sensor and 28mm, f/2.0 lens. But the real appeal of this camera is the snap focus system, which lets you lock the focus in at a specific distance between 2 and 8 feet, so that once you get the hang of it, you can feel confident firing off quick shots that aren’t blurry.
Read More: Best Instant Cameras
Ricoh GR III
6. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300
BEST SUPERZOOM CAMERA
For those who plan on communing with nature while on vacation or who want to capture some fast-paced action from afar, having a camera with a superzoom lens can be a huge boon. While many cameras have the ability to zoom, a superzoom lens can offer up to 65x optical zoom while producing a sharp and clean image. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 is a battle-tested superzoom that has 25x optical zoom, a fast f/2.8 lens and a weather-sealed body which makes this great for capturing a whale watching expedition or an impromptu basketball game.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300
7. Canon EOS Rebel T7
BEST DSLR FOR TRAVELING
Now that mirrorless cameras offer all the quality of a DSLR in a smaller package, there aren’t a ton of reasons to buy DSLRs anymore. But one of those reasons is bang for the buck and when it comes to getting the best image quality at the lowest possible price, a DSLR is definitely a great choice. A half-step up from an absolute entry-level model, the Canon T7 not only offers a 24-megapixel sensor and a 3-inch touchscreen, but it’s also one of the most compact DSLRs around and is compatible with Canon’s full array of EF-S lenses (which you can find secondhand on the cheap). This is a great travel camera for anyone looking to pick up a new hobby on vacation without having to completely break the bank.