Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Travel Cameras in 2021

Best travel camera

Your travel camera can be the best tool you have to celebrate the memories of your trip.

If you love to take part in outdoor activities such as hiking and camping, you will want a camera that can survive the elements without adding a lot of weight and bulk to your camping setup or your hiking backpack.

Start Simple

If you have visions of becoming a wildlife photographer, start simple. If you just want great photos of your campsite, the trees in their fall foliage, or your trek through Nepal, start and consider staying small.

Make sure that your camera, whether the one on your phone or your little point and shoot, have been pushed to their limit before you upgrade. The photos you take with a point and shoot under the forest canopy may be all you need to remember your trip to Costa Rica.

Small but Mighty

The more you invest in a larger camera, the more you risk as you travel. Dropping your point and shoot in the icy water of New Zealand’s Fox Glacier will be sad, but dropping your DSLR will be heartbreaking.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a DSLR. The light management alone will make your glacier photos world class. However, the inclusion of a mirror in the viewing apparatus of the DSLR means that you need to protect the camera from bumps and bruises from the start of your journey.

Make sure you center your camera case inside other soft items, such as your sleeping bag, to protect your fragile electronics from too much jostling.

Upgrade When You Must

travelling camera

Once you have stretched your first travel camera to its fullest capabilities, upgrade. Now that you know what you love to photograph, you can buy with an eye toward features. For those who love to capture wildlife on screen, a telephoto lens is a requirement. If you prefer to take panoramic shots of the painted desert, you will want an ultra-wide lens.

The more features you have on your camera, the

  • bigger
  • heavier
  • more prone to damage

it will be. Deciding whether that will be worth it is entirely up to you.

Consider Water Exposure

Invariably, your gear is going to get wet. To make sure that your camera survives, carefully study the weather sealing features as well as the number of access points. The more openings into the camera, the greater the risk of moisture and dust getting in there.

Make sure you also get a camera that will fit in your pocket if you are headed into a wet country. Putting your camera into an inside pocket and zipping up your rain jacket is a good way to cushion the camera and keep it dry. A camera around your neck is more subject to drips.

Light Considerations

cameras for travel

Every creature has its favorite time of day. If you really want a photo of a coyote on the start of their nighttime hunt, a camera with low light capabilities and fast focus will help you get the best image, as will the patience to watch for the coyote.

When looking for a small camera with options to go bigger, make sure you also consider getting one with a flip screen. This will enable you to check out different angles as you take the time to frame your shot.

Finally, keep an eye on video capabilities. There are a lot of cameras that offer video, but getting one with the highest quality video option means you only have to buy, carry and secure one camera for your trip.

Security Concerns

The bigger the camera, the more attention you will draw. Having to stop and open your case, swap out lenses or change up where you’re carrying your camera because it’s tugging on your neck will also draw attention to your gear.

If you’re traveling with a group of friends and family, it’s not a problem. However, you will likely still be spending time in airports, on trains and buses, and in hotels or hostels.

Unless you are a photographer on assignment, strive to carry a camera you can easily stash on your person.

If you have a passport purse that hangs around your neck easily, add a small clip or carabiner that you can use to hang your camera and wear the unit as a crossbody bag.

You can hold the camera close to your torso, prevent jostling, and reduce the risk of theft. The more straps hanging down just from your shoulder, the greater the chance you may lose something to a cut-and-run thief.

Additional Gear

camera tripod

Having a stable place to attach your camera is critical to getting great shots. If you want a time-lapse video of the Milky Way or are working to capture the moment when the sun crests over Machu Picchu, get a tripod that you can set up in dim light.

If you’re traveling with camping gear, look for a tripod that will fit inside your tent frame or that can serve as part of the structure of your backpack frame. As these units fold up quite small, you may find that having the extra structure actually makes it easier to pack your other gear!

Start simple and stay simple until you’ve gotten what you can out of a basic point and shoot.

Move up to a pocket-sized mirrorless camera that you can easily secure while you improve the quality of your shots.

Finally, when you are ready to truly up your photography game, look for a full-frame digital with both telephoto and wide-angle lens options.

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