In this post, you’ll learn how to choose the best camera for travel – for activities like cruises, hiking, wildlife trekking, and snorkeling. You’ll learn about the 6 type of cameras for travel photography and 7 factors to consider when choosing. I also include photography tips, gear suggestions, and much more.
Buyers Guide: Best Camera for Travel
You’re heading on vacation to South America!
All of that color, culture, and cuisine you can’t wait to see and experience, not to mention there are all of those amazing shots you want to take doing exciting things and making everyone back home insanely jealous.
So, what type of camera should you take? The big DSLR, the action-packed handle anything GoPro or the old faithful point and shoot that never lets you down.
All have their pros and cons as the best camera for travel, depending on the type of travel you are doing.
The following video talks about some of the mistakes travel photographers make and how to avoid them.
In this guide, we’ll be discussing the best camera for all kinds of travel, to take hiking, on a cruise, for photographing wildlife, or travel blogging.
After all, it’s expensive to get there and it’s not like you can go back next week and re-shoot that pic, so you want a camera that’s easy to use.
One that will give you amazing photos that will last a lifetime and blow away friends and family when they see all the beauty you experienced, strange animals you came across, weird foods you ate, and friends you made along the way.
This guide is pretty big so we’ve broken it up into these five main sections:
- Choosing the Best camera for a Cruise, Hiking, Wildlife, or Travel Blogging
- Buyers Guide: Factors to Consider when Choosing the Best Camera for Travel
- 6 types of cameras for travel -DSLR, Point n Shoot, Underwater, GoPro, Smartphone,
- 60 Travel Photography Tips
- Best gear for Travel Photography
The Best Camera for: Cruise, Hiking, Wildlife, or Travel Blogging
The best camera for a cruise: point and shoot
Recommended camera for a cruise: Olympus waterproof – This is a good all-rounder that will shoot everything from sunsets at sea through to wildlife on your hike inland.
The waterproof feature will allow you to get shots of sea lions, sea turtles, and schools of fish while snorkeling. This one camera combines the features of a point and shoot with the GoPro.
The best camera for hiking: GoPro
Recommended camera for hiking: GoPro Hero10 Black – Something small, lightweight, and easy to use is ideal for hiking because you’ll be lugging it around all day.
Adaptable, lightweight, and versatile to take clear pictures and video. Something like a GoPro which will even mount on your chest is ideal as it leaves your hands free in case you are going over unstable terrain or are already carrying a day pack and want to lighten the load.
Here are some tips for hiking with a GoPro.
Of course, if it isn’t a long hike or image quality is paramount, then you might consider a DSLR with a decent zoom. See the next point for more.
The best camera for wildlife: DSLR
Wildlife gives some of the best shots you will ever take. A curious monkey captured or a flock of dazzling flamingos in flight, when you get that breathtaking shot it is very satisfying.
Because wildlife tends to move around a lot, and quickly, you want something with good speed, high resolution, and if you can afford it – an additional telephoto zoom lens to grab that once-in-a-lifetime shot.
A DSLR is your best bet. It is adaptable enough to handle any wildlife scenario from hot and dry, to cool mountain jungle tours, or cloud forests.
It also has all the bells and whistles (great features) and takes pictures clear enough to sell. Your vacation shots could end paying you for your holiday if done correctly.
Best camera for travel blogging
As most of your photos will be used online, you can get away with a point and shoot because online content doesn’t need crazy high resolution.
Or, with video growing in popularity daily, something like a GoPro that will take video of you swimming with a whale shark one day, and fine dining the next would be perfect.
Both of these will give you flexibility, clarity and are easy to use, you can take them on all your blogging adventures.
Of course, a DSLR will take better images than a point and shoot. But it takes more skill. And the image quality just isn’t required for most travel bloggers.
We publish photos from all our cameras: DSLR, point and shoot, GoPro and phones. Unless you’re planning on selling your images, it just doesn’t matter that much.
Choosing the Best Travel Camera: 8 Factors
Choosing the right camera for your trip is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. Getting those amazing shots because you bought the right gear is the best feeling in the world.
The last thing anyone wants is to go home with out-of-focus, blurry or fuzzy images that are useless.
Or worse, the subject is so far away you don’t know what it is. That’s a waste of time, money and can be heartbreaking.
So that you get that clear shot of a rare pink land iguana that’s only found one place on earth, or that fun adventure video of you swimming with marine iguanas in the Galapagos, we’ve put together a list of things to consider before you buy so you get the best camera for travel that will get the job done.
Here is an overview of the main features to consider. This list covers the basics for all styles of cameras.
- Weight and Size
- Durability (Dustproof, shockproof, water-resistant / waterproof, heat)
- Ease of Use: Features and Function
- Lens: Zoom or wide-angle lens
- Frames per Second (FPS) Will it shoot high speed?
- Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC
- Battery Life: Availability of extra batteries
1. Weight and Size
Large, heavy cameras are awesome for the job they are designed to do but just think about your neck if you are the one carrying it for hours on end.
The good news is that there are nifty neck-straps to take the strain, evenly distribute the weight and save your neck. Altura Photo has a great quick release one.
As a tourist, you can be a target for pickpockets and other opportunistic thieves. Having a lightweight, compact camera can come in handy in some settings.
Compact cameras will limit the camera’s function, so it really is a balance between weight and features.
Traveling in Ecuador will present a huge variety of settings – and risks to your gear.
From the Amazon’s high humidity and rain, the cool (even freezing) temperatures of the Andes, and the sometimes dusty and extremely hot coastal region – you’ll need a durable piece of gear.
- Shock: Dropping your camera is a worst-case scenario. Some cameras (like GoPro) are naturally shockproof (and waterproof). Others can be protected by a good neck strap or protective housing. Will your camera be shockproof, able to stand up to being bumped around on safari, or a small drop if it falls off a seat?
- Dust: A few years ago, we lived in the Yunguilla Valley (southern Ecuador) and during July and August, it got very dusty and windy. Other parts of the country have other seasons. But you can expect dust. Will your camera be dust resistant so all of that dust flying around while traveling on dirt roads doesn’t affect your gear?
- Water: We found the rain in Ecuador to be different. It would often come out of nowhere – and be absolutely torrential. I can’t count the times we got completely soaked on days that it was sunny when we left the house. Will your camera be water-resistant to handle that unexpected shower or a misty cloud forest?
These are all questions you need to consider before taking off on your grand adventure so think about the temperature ranges, elevations, and climates you will be traveling in.
3. Ease of Use: Features
If you’re not a pro (which let’s face it, most of us aren’t) but still want great travel pics, then choose a camera suitable for your experience level. All of those dials, buttons, screens and lenses can be daunting if you’ve never seen them before and have no clue what they do.
Yes, a camera on ‘full auto’ will focus, adjust ISO, shutter speed, etc. for you, but, you lose the choice of what you are focusing on.
The camera will focus on an object (usually closest to you) and maybe only a portion of the photo will be in focus. For example, it focused on some leaves closest to you not the whole landscape.
There are some features you will definitely want for unforgettable photos while traveling, hiking the Amazon, or exploring Quito’s old town.
Here are some features to consider:
- Image stabilization (anti-shake) is huge. Your body will naturally move as you breathe, ever so slightly even if you think you’re being completely still, so this is a must for good photos.
- Connectivity (See point #6)
- Preset modes: Flicking to pre-set settings means you get the shot out in the field. If you are photographing a procession, festival or parade with amazing costumes, they keep moving so if you are fumbling around trying to set up your camera, you’ll miss the shot. Set it up before you go.
- ISO ratings
- Burst mode
- Touchscreen: Everything is easier, your camera is at your fingertips and so much faster to use once you get the hang of it. Being able to focus on your subject by touching it on the touch screen is a game-changer in travel photography.
- Shoot in raw and jpg
- Time Lapse – night shots full of stars and a vibrant Milky Way, amazing deeply colored sunsets… with time lapse you can bring a whole new level to your photography.
- Lens availability/compatibility (See point #4)
Zoom, wide-angle or up-close and personal? Here are some suggestions for each type of trip.
- For wildlife, you’ll want a good zoom lens with a stabilizer so when you zoom in, you still get a clear picture.
- For panoramas and landscapes, a wide-angle lens to capture those sweeping sunsets and entire landscapes from clifftops.
- For up close and personal like packed marketplaces, a small lens like 50mm will give clear shots and reduce the size of your camera so it easier to handle.
- For a cruise, then an allrounder capable of taking relatively close-up shots with a good zoom, yet is wide enough for sunsets.
Sound complicated? Most DSLR or mirrorless cameras will come with a bit of an all-purpose lens. This is good to get you started and you can buy a more specialized lens if you need it.
Of course, not all cameras have interchangeable lenses. Action cameras (like GoPro) have no zoom and no lens add-ons.
Point and shoot cameras are also fixed-lens cameras – meaning that you can’t add/remove another lens.
But if you do have a DSLR or mirrorless camera, you do have the flexibility to add/change lenses. Instead of having to pick between lovely landscapes and awesome animal shots, there is a solution: multiple lenses!
Your wide-angle lens is good for hiking for a volcano and another lens for close shots. This lens distance is measured in millimeters.
Short-length lenses (less than 50mm) are best for landscapes, and long-length lenses (135mm and up) are best for close-ups. I love my Tamron 16-300mm lens– it combines the best of both – a wide-angle and a decent zoom length.
Here’s a travel photographer shooting in the Otavalo market, Ecuador. In the first few minutes of the video, he talks about which lens he used to shoot portraits at the market.
5. Frames per Second (fps) Will it shoot high speed?
FPS is an important factor to consider when choosing the best camera for travel photography.
Architecture and landscape shots don’t require a high fps. But if you’re shooting animals (birds, sea lions, sea turtles, etc), people, or from a moving vehicle, you’ll love this feature.
Because a flamingo in flight, hovering hummingbird, or brilliantly colored street performer in Quito will need to be shot as an action shot.
Look for a high continuous/burst feature that is capable of capturing the moment. It means your camera will shoot multiple images when you press/hold the shutter, increasing the odds of getting the shot you want.
6. Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC
These are some great features for control and file transfer.
- Wireless File Transfer: You can transfer images and video via WiFi with NFC from your camera to your phone. Bluetooth is also a great way to transfer images and provides some limited camera controls. And Bluetooth consumes less energy than a WiFi connection.
- Control: Integrated WiFi control from your phone allows you to adjust your camera’s settings, including zoom, white balance, focus point, ISO, exposure compensation, and of course, firing the shutter.
7. Battery Life
Don’t forget to check battery life on specific models. We have many Canon cameras (7 at last count – camcorder, DLSRs, and point-and-shoots). And generally speaking, they have good battery life.
But a couple of years ago we bought a pair of decent point-and-shoots as backup cameras. That model had a software glitch that gave a low-battery warning (and would shut down in seconds) whenever shooting video. If I had checked the reviews more carefully we would have bought a different camera.
It’s worth checking the availability of additional batteries before ordering your new camera. Many cameras have a great selection of aftermarket battery brands for a fraction of the price. I’ve found that some of these come with an even higher capacity than direct from Canon or GoPro.
If you are taking your current camera, then think about investing in a couple of new batteries before you head off on your trip. Always charge your batteries each night (if needed) and start each day with a freshly charged full battery and a spare.
And don’t forget about power banks when you travel. They are great for charging batteries on the go – we usually travel with a couple. I’m a fan of Anker power banks. The PowerCore 20100mAh is a beast and weighs just 12.5oz. I like to plug the charger in, toss it in my pack and it’s charged when I need it.
For most of us, this goes without saying. We don’t have unlimited budgets – so we need to balance cost with features.
While you might regret ordering too many accessories and mounts, you will be happy you spent a little extra on the camera itself. For us, we like to travel with a couple of cameras each.
Our mix is a DSLR, GoPro, and point-and-shoot. Not every camera is good in every setting. And only a GoPro will do underwater and in torrential rain.
6 Types of Cameras for Travel Photography
While there are lots of camera types, the battle really is between DSLR and GoPro. A DSLR will give you the most function, best quality, and most versatility (changeable lenses, etc).
And a GoPro will be your most durable camera – great in a dust storm and underwater. We travel with both.
Here are two top brands of DSLR cameras to choose from with accessories that won’t break the bank. Just remember, if it’s your first then order it in advance to give you time to play and get comfortable with it before you travel.
Recommended DSLR for Travel (Canon)
It’s portable and not too heavy, it’s capable of shooting high speed for those action shots and has all the bells and whistles you need for your trip.
It can be pre-set, but if you don’t choose to – all the important buttons are at your fingertips for easy adjustment while shooting.
Recommended DLSR for Travel (Nikon)
Nikon D3500 (24.7MP): Nikon lists this model as a DLSR “as easy to use as a point-and-shoot”. The image sensor is 15x larger than a standard smartphone sensor – capturing much sharper, clearer images.
Shoots 1080P HD videos and connects with snapbridge app on your phone or tablet.
It’s even Bluetooth compatible with your phone for transfers out in the field. A great starter kit with everything you need.
With DSLR cameras, your images are only as good as your lens. Consider buying a basic body and an upgraded lens.
I have the Tamron 16-300mm, an all-in-one lens for my Canon Rebel. At 16mm, it takes great wide-angle shots and the 300mm zoom is great for shooting subjects at a distance.
Underwater and Action Camera (GoPro)
GoPro cameras are very light, small, and functional. They have a hands-free operation and shoot video at 4K resolution at 60 fps. That means that at the super high 4K resolution, you can still slow action shots down to make a slo-mo video.
We currently own 5 GoPro cameras. Here are some tips for shooting animals with a GoPro.
Everything in one, this sports action camera with Wi-Fi, is waterproof, has a decent battery life, is a camera and camcorder, has great photo quality and is capable of high-speed shots.
This little camera is a powerhouse capable of doing anything, going anywhere and capturing everything. Swimming in hot springs or hiking to mountaintop views with 170 degree wide angle it will record or photograph anything.
Perfect for travel bloggers, adventure seekers and adrenaline junkies as you can buy accessories to strap it to bikes, helmets, your chest or anything else you think of. It’s compact and lightweight, easy to slip into your luggage for travel.
While a GoPro is my favorite camera for underwater shooting, it isn’t the only option. There are a few models that combine a point and shoot with waterproofing.
And don’t forget that you can also use your GoPro as a webcam – perfect for staying in touch with family and friends while you travel.
Olympus TG-5 (12MP)
Drop-proof from 7 feet, freezeproof and dustproof means this camera is your new best travel buddy capable of going anywhere with you. It even has a two-layer lens built-in so you don’t have to worry about fogging when you take it in the water.
Capable of handling temperature and humidity changes, it also means you are safe if it gets sea sprayed on a boat, or you end up hiking through a cloud forest with high humidity, mist, and fog. More than a camera it can also log temperature, pressure, location, and compass heading. It can also record video – logging all of your adventures.
Point and Shoot
While it’s great to load up on features (interchangeable lenses, waterproofing, etc), for many travelers, a quality point-and-shoot will do everything they need.
Recommended Point and Shoot for Travel
Canon PowerShot SX740: Shoots 20.3-megapixel images with a DIGIC 4+ image processor for exceptional low-light images. Comes with 40x optical zoom – perfect for getting that close-up of that animal in the Galapagos.
Has built-in WiFi and NFC connectivity and Canon’s famous Intelligent Image Stabilization for crisp photos, even when settings are less than ideal.
Smartphones for Travel Photography
Smartphones have solid mirrorless cameras in them and take pictures so good they can even be sold on photography stock sites.
So for holiday snaps, if you want to travel light or don’t want to spend a fortune on cameras, then it’s okay – you don’t have to. Just add a few accessories (lenses and tripod) to help you to do just about anything and produce images good enough for online content.
Because you probably already have a smartphone, and everyone has different and favorite brands, we’ve included some accessories compatible with nearly every brand. They’re travel-friendly (lightweight) and will enhance your photography just using your phone.
Samsung S20: While there are lots of options, when it comes to phone photography, usually the latest model is the best.
Our family has had the S8, S9, and S10. They really take outstanding photos. It’s waterproof-rated for up to 5 feet of water, for up to 30 minutes.
The rear camera has an F1.5 lens – perfect for low-light settings. It also shoots 960 fps for super slow-mo. This is definitely a solid backup option.
Apexel – Phone Photography Kit
With 4 lenses including telephoto for long-distance, fisheye for fun, wide-angle to capture all of your surroundings, and a macro for close-up bits n pieces and bugs, this little lightweight kit has everything you need.
It even has a tripod to remove camera shake or for stability on those windy days, and the adjustable clip lens attachment means it fits all phones.
The telephoto lens can also be used as a monocular and the whole kit is extremely affordable, lightweight and easily taken traveling.
UBeesize Phone Tripod
Non-slip feet add stability while the ball head allows you to make even the tiniest adjustment smoothly.
Not just for cell phones, it is also compatible with webcams, digital cameras, and smaller action cameras like GoPros.
Foldable, extendable and compact, this selfie stick comes with a detachable Bluetooth shutter remote so with this simple accessory you can achieve professional-looking shots from every angle.
Superzoom Travel Cameras
A superzoom camera has a integrated (not interchangeable) telephoto zoom lens. Because it is integrated, you can avoid having to carry a bag of additional lenses – saving weight, space, and cost.
There are some other factors to consider when considering a superzoom camera for your next trip:
- They are larger than a point and shoot – you’ll likely need a dedicated camera bag. They are also heavier and harder to conceal.
- Stabilizing a camera with a superzoom can take some getting used to. See below for my favorite mount.
- You can get some motion blur as you track a moving animal.
To stabilize this huge zoom, you’ll want a solid mount. If you are shooting from a vehicle, or a stationary location, the Pedco Ultraclamp will do the trick.
I used this mount when I shot a timelapse video from a bus on Cuenca’s on cobblestone streets – with zero wobble. This clamp is solid.
Recommended Superzoom Camera: 60X Optical Zoom
Panasonic Lumix FZ80: This small camera zooms to an impressive 60X optical zoom. And it shoots video in 4K resolution.
For photos, this shoots at 18.1MP. To make sure that you get “the shot” you can shoot in 4K Photo Mode. Record photos at 30 frames per second to save the exact moment. Comes with image stabilization. Weight comes in at 1.35 lbs.
Here’s how to find the best 4K video camera.
Photography Tips: 60 Tips on How to Get Great Shots
The greatest thing about travel is that you see so much stuff you’ve never seen before – and do stuff you’ve never done before.
Like kissing a llama. Or parasailing. Or standing on top of a volcano overlooking a monster crater.
Here are some quick tips to get pics like a pro.
You don’t have to be a professional photographer and lug around a huge bag full of lenses, tripods, and all the fancy gear.
50 Travel Photography Tips
51. Golden Hour
At the beginning and end of each day, there is a couple of hours where the light is softer and everything is more photogenic.
Golden hour is the time just before and after sunrise and sunset. The light is at its most optimal and even levels. So, get up for the sunrise, and sit out on the deck to watch the sunset, your holiday shots will show the difference.
Here are 5 tips for golden hour photography.
52. Blue Hour
Night photography can be hard and a little tricky. Towns, buildings, architecture or any romantic place lit up at night make breathtaking and often the most sought-after shots.
To make it easier, take the photo in between sundown and when it gets fully dark. In that window, the sky goes an amazing deep blue and makes everything pop.
Just rest your camera on something to keep it still, click, and chances are your picture will be as good as the pros.
53. Odd Numbers and Off Center
It is called ‘rule of thirds’ and one of the tricks that photographers use all the time.
It sounds strange but there is something in the human brain that finds things more appealing if they are displayed in odd numbers and off-center.
Just remember no matter what you take a photo of, unless it’s something incredibly sweet like two boobies dancing, an odd number is the way to go.
If you move, even slightly by just breathing, it can put a little fuzz in your photo.
Slow down, steady your camera on anything – a stump, a fence, your café table, a car roof, anything solid – then take the shot. You’ll be rewarded with fantastic photos.
55. Watch your background
Ever see those National Geographic photos that blow you away and you think ‘oh wow’. You can do them too by watching your background. Probably the number one rookie mistake is excitement.
We know, you can’t help it, you see something, zero in on it and take the shot only to realize when you get home there is something in the background ruining the shot like a water bottle or piece of garbage.
Here’s what to do: say there is a pack of alpacas eating hay you want a photo of. Look around and see what’s behind them before you take the photo. An alpaca with hay hanging out of its mouth with a mountain in the background is a great shot. A lot more appealing than if you took the shot from the other side and got fences, wires, an old shed, and a poo pile, right?
56-60. 5 Beginner Photography Mistakes
Best Gear for Travel Photography
Most photography gear is designed for travel. Lightweight, compact, and easy to use, with a few basics you can take your photography to the next level.
Small, inexpensive basics like a lens hood to keep out the harsh midday sun, a UV filter for clarity, and a tripod for stability make the difference to your shots. Here are some accessories that won’t break the bank but are well worth investing in before you go.
Tripods remove camera shake, all movement and provide a crystal-clear image.
Unless of course you’ve left a dirty big thumbprint on your lens then that’s tough luck, they won’t remove that – sorry.
Sandisk Memory Card
One thing you never leave home without, especially when traveling is a spare memory card. Especially if you are shooting wildlife, action shots, or anything that won’t sit still like your kids on the beach.
Shooting in high-speed continuous will chew through your memory card quickly (but provide you with amazing shots) so it’s worth that small amount of money to make sure you don’t miss anything.
Or, if you want to take video then that uses a lot of space as well. Memory cards come in a variety of capacities capable of holding tens of thousands of images.
Don’t forget to keep your cards dry and formatted. This will save you time and stress on your trip. Here’s how to properly format an SD card.
50mm Lens (choose your branch)
Because they are brilliant for all of those close up, get in the midst of it type situations when a big lens is not needed, is overkill, and makes you stand out like a huge tourist – making you a target.
South America is full of colorful markets, and shops waiting to be explored where a little 50mm is your best friend.
50-in-1 Action Camera Accessory Kit
Everything you could possibly need or want to attach to just about anything, this one pack of accessories has everything you need to take traveling with you.
We often travel much more basic – we put our batteries and SD cards in a small ziploc bag. And bring a large ziploc bag and use it as a sleeve for our cameras, should we get an awful downpour.
A quick wipe before you start shooting is all that is required. Stash a cleaning cloth in your pocket, your camera bag, your backpack, and anywhere else you can think of. It can be pretty disappointing to discover a fingerprint or dust on your once-in-a-lifetime shot.
UV Protection Filter
A UV filter will protect your lens from scratches and other impacts. And that’s about it. Check current price on Amazon.
The harsh midday sun is not the best time to take photos. But, if you are out on a tour, a boat cruise or any other adventure sometimes you just don’t have an option.
A lens hood helps this. It blocks that harsh sun from getting into your lens and stops glare, bright spots, and chances of overexposing your image. Not just for daytime, it helps with any other strong light source like headlights and overhead street lights at night.
Now South America in all of its colorful culture, amazing animals, and delicious delights awaits you.
With all of the information above you can mix n match to put together the best camera combination for you and have confidence that you will return with amazing pictures.
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
Bryan Haines is co-founder and blogger on ClickLikeThis. We cover action cameras and outdoor photography with a focus on GoPro cameras.
He is a travel blogger at Storyteller.Travel and co-founder of Storyteller Media, a company he started with his wife, Dena.