No matter where I am traveling, I rarely go anywhere without some kind of camera. Photography and travel naturally go hand-in-hand, and documenting all of my trips is my favorite way to cherish and remember them.
I often get asked about the photography equipment I use on the road. These questions usually come after I’ve posted a beautiful photo on Facebook or Instagram for my friends to enjoy. After adventuring with over 12 different cameras through the years, here are my tips to help you choose the best camera for your travels.
Debunking Some Myths
I’ll just come out and say it – you do not need a ‘fancy camera’ to take beautiful travel photos. Even though I own several different cameras (including a full-frame mirrorless), I often use my iPhone to take photographs. Why? Because it’s easy to use and light to carry around. In fact, I have taken some of my proudest travel photos on an iPhone.
Next time you find yourself marveling at a photo and asking yourself what camera it was taken on, just remember that photographers take amazing photos, not cameras alone.
Choosing A Camera
Define Your Goals
What do you want to use your photos for? To remember your trips? For posting on social media? To sell? All of the above? Before you start looking for a camera, define your goals. If you know what you want to accomplish with your photography, it will help you decide what kind of equipment to get.
Determine Your Price Range
Photography is expensive. On top of purchasing a camera, you often need to supplement it with SD cards, tripods, lenses, filters, remotes, and other neat gadgets. These things don’t come cheaply. With that said, I recommend setting your budget upfront so that you can make the necessary equipment choices from the beginning.
Try Them Out
Ask any camera enthusiast why they chose the camera they did, and many will reply with some version of “I like the way it felt in my hands.” The only way you can know whether a camera is a good fit is if you try it out. Your best bet is to rent a few camera bodies for a few days using a site like Lens Rentals. It will cost a bit of money to do this, but it’s worth it to choose the right one.
Everyone is so enamored with DSLRs. They are big, beautiful, and the mark of a ‘pro’ photographer – I get it! However, there’s a new kind of camera on the market, and it’s a great fit for travelers like you. It’s called a mirrorless camera, and it’s basically a more compact version of a DSLR. With similar sensors/image quality, the only difference here is the build. If you’re considering a DSLR-level device, I recommend also looking into mirrorless options – Sony, Fuji, and Olympus all make fantastic cameras.
Below I’ve compiled my recommendations for travel cameras that are suited for different goals. I encourage you to do your research outside of our site as well to determine which camera is the best fit for you.
For Sharing With Friends: iPhone 7
iPhones have fantastic compact cameras that fiercely rival your average point and shoot. If your objective is to take great photos you can share online easily, look no farther than your phone. And, if you’re looking for a way to edit your photos on your phone, Snapseed is my go-to editing app.
For Amateur Photographers: Sony a6000
I’m a big fan of Sony mirrorless cameras. I’ve shot with Nikon and Canon DSLRs, but when I got my first Sony (the now-defunct NEX-6), I fell in love. Now that I’ve transitioned to Sony mirrorless, I’ll never go back to a DSLR.
With several priority and manual modes, the Sony a6000 is the perfect starter ‘serious’ camera for people who want to learn the mechanics and technicalities of photography. It’s lightweight and perfect for your average traveler!
For Advanced Photo Enthusiasts: Sony a7(+)
If you already know the basics of manual photography and are hoping to scale your photography to a more professional level, the Sony a7 series are for you. I own the basic version of this full-frame camera, the Sony a7, but there are many step-up bodies from here that have more bells and whistles.
For Adventure Photographers: GoPro Hero
So you’re the kind of person who surfs, bikes, skydives, and more, eh? Then the GoPro series cameras are for you. With these, you have the option of recording either video or stills. GoPro cameras are the “gold standard” for adventure travelers.
For 360 Photography: Ricoh Theta
A new an interesting way to take photos and video is with a 360 camera. The Ricoh Theta is a great starter camera for 360 imaging. It’s compact, the image quality is fantastic, and it’s fun to play around with.
For Post-Processing: Adobe Lightroom CC
If your objective is to take stunning photos, you should learn how to edit them. For several years I’ve been editing my photos in Adobe Lightroom, and I highly recommend it if you’re trying to uplevel your images.
The Bottom Line
Don’t choose a camera because you think it will help your photos magically look better. Instead, choose based on your travel type, your budget, and what you ultimately want to achieve with your photography. Defining your goals early-on will ultimately help you choose the best camera for your own travel style.