A new wave of compact digital cameras has steadily hit the market over the past few years, with each new release approaching pro-level DSLRs in terms of quality and optical resolution. Pocket-sized and powerful, these compact cameras are changing the way consumer and consumer photographers capture moments on the go. Before you head out on your next adventure, consider ditching your DSLR and choosing one of the more reasonable options below.
What you should look for
Unlike “DSLR” or “Mirrorless”, the term “travel camera” is a bit vague. So for the sake of this article (and our advice to you) let’s say we’re looking for a lightweight camera (DSLR: out), preferably with a fixed lens, but potentially interchangeable if things don’t get too big. It should also be attractive. We want to be able to clip this thing at a coffee table and not look like a full beard.
Otherwise it should be pretty user friendly, sure the Leica M11 is a fantastic travel camera, but we don’t have the time or money to get into manual focus range systems. Let’s stick to fast autofocus cameras with the ability for some quick artistic controls (without the extremely cheap point and shoot) like aperture. Good phone connection is a big plus.
All in all, you should be able to see a cool fleeting moment, capture said moment, and have it on your phone in a fairly short amount of time, and you shouldn’t look like a hollow while doing it.
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 VII
Sony’s RX100 line of compact camcorders has long been a fan favorite, and the VII is the latest and greatest — it’s really just a great travel camera. It has a solid (if a bit petite) 20.1MP 1-inch sensor behind a quality zoom lens and a very cool pop-up viewfinder. Plus, with 4K HDR video capabilities, excellent advanced tracking and autofocus features, a rotating viewfinder and an external microphone port (a first for a Sony RX100), the VII is truly the perfect camera for amateur bloggers ( and even serious).
- Sensor: 20.1 MP 1-inch Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor
- Lens: Zeiss Vario-Sonnar f/2.8-4.5, 24-200mm (35mm equivalent) lens
- Year issued: August 2019
The normal GRIII is a great little camera and the GRIIIx is an even great camerait’s small camera. The GRIII line is basically defined by having a large 24.2MP APS-C sensor, a fast non-zoom lens, and pretty much nothing else. It’s a purist camera that does one thing very well: take pictures. Technical preference though, we like the GRIIIx better because of its narrower 40mm focal length, which is right in the middle of what people would consider normal, instead of the original 28mm lens (wide ) of GRIII. In general, the 40mm focal length will feel more special/different when compared to your phone camera.
- Sensor: 24.2 MP APS-C CMOS sensor
- Lens: 40mm f/2.8 lens (35mm equivalent)
- Release year: 2021
The Fujifilm X100V is exactly that. bad. good. There’s a fast, 35mm f/2 lens that projects over Fuji’s ubiquitous sensor (see below) and a fantastic 26.1MP APS-C. It has classic looks and intuitive external controls for key settings, but what really sets this camera apart is the viewfinder. It’s this super gimmick/weird hybrid setup where you have the option of looking at a very high quality electronic viewfinder or a real optical viewfinder with all kinds of cool information superimposed. If you think that sounds like a gimmick…you’re mostly right, but it’s a very fun experience to shoot in optical viewfinder mode (even if you’ll spend most of your time in EVF mode).
- Sensor: 26.1 APS-C X-Trans
- Lens: 35mm f/2 (35mm equivalent)
- Year issued: 2017
The Leica Q2 is the company’s full-frame fixed-lens digital camera and looks essentially identical to the company’s original Q, which was a huge hit with photographers who valued portability, fast speed, minimalism and, most importantly, the ability to to afford the extraordinary price of Q. label. Like its predecessor, the Q2 proves once again that a Leica can have autofocus, an electronic viewfinder and a fixed lens – and still be a true Leica. The new model is more durable (and splash-proof) and has better connectivity, but most importantly is a significantly improved sensor, with almost double the resolution (47.3 vs 24.2).
The Leica Q2 is likely to be a grail item for most people. If money is no object (or you just want to brag), however, this is a travel camera to buy if you want to be the envy of all your friends. For bonus points, track down the ultra-cool “Reporter” edition.
- Sensor: 47.3MP full-frame CMOS sensor
- Lens: Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH. lens
- Year issued: 2019
Fujifilm X-T30 II
It’s best to think of Fuji’s X-T30 II as a sensible upgrade from a fixed-lens system. It’s not necessarily more expensive, but you’ll have a few extra lenses. The Interchangeable Lens Mirrorless Camera is a pretty perfect travel camera for those who want to take a deep dive into photography and have the ultimate flexibility that you can only get from having multiple lenses. It’s small and light, plus it’s not too expensive, but the performance levels you get with this thing are off the charts. It has a large APS-C image sensor, fast processor, incredible autofocus (on par with Sony’s APS-C offerings) and shoots 4k video at 30 frames per second.
You’ll get a high-end design, and Fujifilm’s X-mount lenses – especially non-zoom lenses – are high-end and not too expensive. If you have this body, a 23mm f/2 and a 50mm f/2 in your bag, you’re golden.
- Sensor: 26.1 MP APS-C X-Trans BSI CMOS 4 sensor
- Lens: multiple X-mount lenses are available
- Year issued: 2020
It’s best to think of Sony’s full-frame A7C as an A7III in a new housing with smarter autofocus. That is, it is an absolute unit. Its main selling point is packing a large, 24.2MP full-frame sensor into a small body with an interchangeable lens mount. Autofocus is quick and somehow manages to fit a 5-axis sensor stabilization in there too. The performance per cubic inch of this camera is extremely impressive, and the fact that you have access to Sony’s massive (and very good) line of full-frame E-mount lenses is just gravy.
- Sensor: Exmor R BSI 24.2MP full-frame sensor
- Lens: Sony E-Mount
- Release year: 2020