In 2021 there are a plethora of compact cameras at all price points and suitable for all skill levels, but how can you decide which is best for you?
Well I have compiled a list of what I consider to be the best compact cameras for travel, each with their own strengths and weaknesses to help you decide which compact camera to take along with you on your travels.
Later we will look at what to consider when choosing your compact camera but first here are my picks for best compact camera for travel in 2021…
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- TOP 11 Compact Cameras for Travel 2021
- Choosing the Best Compact Camera for Travel
TOP 11 Compact Cameras for Travel 2021
Sony Cyber-Shot DSCWX220
Review: Sony has been leading the way in the compact camera world and the Sony Cyber-Shot WX220 shows why. With its tiny form and 10x optical zoom, this is a great camera for beginners or those looking for a step up from smart phone photography.
It features in built, Instagram style filters and Wi-Fi so sharing your photos is almost as simple as on your phone, and also features full HD video recording.
The WX220 has an 18.2 megapixel sensor and its 10x optical zoom gives it a focal range of 25 to 250mm.
- Very portable.
- 10x Optical zoom.
- Built in Wi-Fi.
- May be too small for large hands.
- Not many manual controls.
Canon PowerShot ELPH 360
Review: Another very affordable point and shoot system for travel photography, the Canon Power shot ELPH 360 is pocket-sized and still manages to feature 10x optical zoom.
It is three years old now and has been succeeded by newer models but that simply drives the price down on a still good point and shoot system.
This is another camera that lacks manual controls so if you want to be able to get creative with aperture and shutter speed settings look elsewhere. It can shoot full HD video (1080p) and has a decent 20.2 megapixel sensor.
- 12x optical zoom.
- Easy to use.
- Poor battery life.
- Lack of manual controls.
Sony Cyber-Shot RX100 III
Review: Moving up in price point ever so slightly, we have the Sony Cyber Shot RX100 III. This model is a few years old now so won’t set you back too much but for your troubles you get some great added features.
It has a 20.1 megapixel sensor and a zoom range of 24 to 70mm. This gives greater image detail than the previous cameras on this list but of course lags behind in terms of optical zoom length.
If you have a few extra dollars to spend you may want to consider the newer model coming up next on the list but the RX100 III is a bargain for what you get. It even shoots 4k video!
- Large sensor size.
- 4k video.
- Short optical zoom.
Sony RX100 VII
Review: Considerably more expensive than its 4 generation older model listed above, the 2019 released RX1000 VII is definitely a step up. It has 24-200mm optical zoom and much-improved auto-focus.
This would make a great travel compact for video and is perhaps the best small digital camera for travel in 2021.
The 4k video mode is there as you would expect but with the newer model you get a flip up screen, a microphone input as well as movie eye auto focus which makes the RX100 VII a travel vlogging capable camera.
- 4k Video.
- Good optical zoom.
- Expensive for a point and shoot system.
Canon G1X Mark III
Review: With a few more manual control options, the Canon G1X Mark III is a gateway into full manual photography. It packs an APS-C sized sensor with 24.2 megapixels into a compact body but the optical zoom is where it gets unimpressive at only 24 – 72mm.
Its large sensor size means it will yield image quality as good as some entry level DSLR cameras and with the G1X Mark III you get more manual controls than other point and shoot cameras.
This is especially good for enthusiasts who want to start learning the ins and outs of photography without having to fork out the kind of money a DSLR or Mirrorless system demands.
- 24.2 megapixel APS-c sensor.
- More manual controls.
- No 4k video.
- Optical zoom is lacking.
Panasonic Lumix ZS80
Review: The main selling point here is the massive zoom range of 24 to 720mm. This makes the Lumix Z80/TZ95 very versatile but the optical zoom does mean the camera gives up some image quality.
It has a 20.3 megapixel sensor and shoots 4k video. It even has a RAW shooting mode which gives you a lot more detail in your images when it comes to post processing in Lightroom or Photoshop.
Being a point and shoot system it is of course very compact and it has a flip up screen for selfies or vlogging.
- Huge optical zoom.
- 4k video.
- RAW shooting mode.
- Good battery life.
- Lower image quality than some of the other cameras listed here.
Review: A more nuanced compact camera for travel, the Leica Q2 has a full frame sensor with 47.3 megapixels so you are going to get amazing image quality and good low light performance.
The fixed 28mm f1.7 lens could be limiting or it could motivate you to get creative, depending on the type of photographer you are.
While Leica is synonymous with great image quality and build they are also makers of very expensive cameras and the Q2 is a great example.
- Full Frame Sensor.
- 47.3 megapixels!
- 4K video.
- Lens stabilization.
- Outrageously expensive.
- No optical zoom.
Canon PowerShot G5x Mark II
Review: Canons latest in the G5 series attempts to compete with Sony’s RX100 IV, coming in at around the same price point and with similar features. The G5x Mark II features a 20 megapixel sensor with a 24-120mm f1.2-1.8 lens.
This will do nicely on your travels in lowlight situations and will fit in your pocket. You have the option to shoot video in 4k at 30fps or slow things down to 120fps in 1080p mode.
It even has a built-in 3 stop Neutral Density Filter which acts as sunglasses for the lens in bright sunlight allowing you to get your exposure right.
- 4k uncropped video.
- 5x optical zoom.
- Poor battery life.
- Auto focus lacking compared to Sony RX100 IV.
Canon PowerShot SX740
Review: The Canon Power shot SX740 has an enormous 24 – 960mm zoom range making it versatile and fun for taking on your travels.
The downside is the aperture range, at f3.3 – 6.9 this camera won’t help you out when the sun starts to dim.
You do get image stabilization and 4k video shooting so if you aren’t too fussed about low light photography then this could be the best small camera for travel.
- 40x optical zoom.
- 4k Video.
- Image stabilization.
- Poor low light capabilities.
Canon EOS M10
Review: Not a point and shoot but still compact, the Canon EOS M10 has an APS-C sized sensor with 18 megapixels. That’s the same sized sensor as most of Canon’s beginner-level DSLR cameras but you still get a compact camera that fits in a jacket pocket.
The difference here is you can have multiple lenses rather than a fixed lens with optical zoom as is the case with point and shoot systems.
The EOS M10 is aimed at beginners so they have made it very easy to use and it will even give you full HD video.
- APS-C sensor.
- Interchangeable lenses.
- Moderately priced.
- Bigger than a point and shoot.
Sony Alpha A6000
Review: The Sony A6000 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens system, bigger than a point and shoot but still nice and compact. As it is a few years old now the release of subsequent models has driven the price down nicely.
The A6000 is a huge step up from the point and shoot systems listed above and comes with many more manual controls.
If you can handle the slight increase in size and weight then this is the camera for you, easily the best small digital camera for travel without breaking the bank.
The 24 megapixel APS-C lens gives you outstanding image quality and low light performance that leans towards the professional level. The battery life upgrade from point and shoot systems also make this camera the best compact camera for backpacking.
- Interchangeable lenses.
- 24 Megapixel sensor.
- Fast Auto focus.
- Bigger than point and shoots.
- A few years old now.
Choosing the Best Compact Camera for Travel
The major factor in travel photography is actually being able to transport your gear. Obviously this means the smaller the better. These days, compact cameras have evolved into very capable machines to the point that you can fit them in your pocket and still yield great images.
If you are looking to up your photography from a smartphone but aren’t looking to carry around a mass of equipment then a compact camera is perfect for your traveling photography/video needs.
Video or Photography?
While there are some compact cameras that make good all-rounders, most will skew more either towards photo or video specs, so it’s important to know which you want.
If you need the best quality photos and won’t use the video function then you should focus on a camera that has a large sensor and decent optical zoom and if video is your game then make sure you have a 4k option and don’t forget to check out the best cameras for travel videos.
There are some pretty cool things happening in the compact camera, optical zoom world with some massive optical zoom lenses being introduced!
This is also where a compact camera beats out a smartphone every time. Your optical zoom range will come at a cost though, with the longer zoom ranged cameras, such as the Panasonic TZ200, setting you back substantially more than a more basic camera.
Put simply; a bigger sensor means better quality images.
A larger sensor will take in more light and therefore produce more detailed images, especially in low light situations, where as a smaller sensor will be lighter and cheaper so it comes down to preference.
All of the compact cameras I have listed are capable of great travel images but when you view the images large, like printed out and hung up on your wall that’s where you would start to notice a difference between a larger and smaller sized sensor.
All the compact cameras I have listed here are useable by beginners; the camera will do the work for you! But if you want to be more involved in the photographic process then look for a camera that you can grow in to.
Having the option to control things like the aperture and shutter speed is a definite must if you want to have creative control over your photography. You can save a bit of money here if you just want point the camera and click away.
Image stabilization has become almost mandatory in today’s cameras, at all levels. It will help fight camera shake and give you crisper images which will come in very handy when using the camera handheld.
This will be most important if you are zoomed in as the camera shake is more pronounced the more zoomed in you are. If you are going to have a compact camera with long optical zoom range then I would say image stabilization is a must!
Being so small, compact cameras have relatively poor battery life.
At the good end a compact camera will shoot about 300 photos before the battery runs dry so if you are going somewhere where you won’t have access to power outlets for charging then you will want to get a couple of spare batteries.
What Will Your Final Output Be?
As always, this is the most important question. All you have to do to figure out what camera to buy for your travels is to think about what you will do with the final images/video.
If you want to capture videos then maybe go with a compact that offers full HD video recording, and if you just want to up your Instagram game then any of the cameras listed here will provide a step up from your phone.
Just make the decision based on what you want to end up with!
Why Not Use a Smartphone?
These days it is entirely possible to just rely on your smartphone for photography and there are many reasons you should.
With each year comes another line-up of phones with updated cameras and the chances are you already have a phone in your hand right now that is capable of HD video recording and taking decent quality images so who is to say the best pocket camera for travel isn’t your phone?
In terms of portability phones cannot be beaten so there is really nothing stopping you from just using a phone camera for your travels.
Compact cameras are of course a step up in terms of image quality simply from having a larger sensor and will provide you with larger, more detailed image files that will come in handy if you want to edit your travel photos to get that extra pop.
They will also provide better quality when printed out to go up the wall!
Should I Choose a Compact, Mirrorless or DSLR Camera for Travel?
It all comes down to what you want to achieve and how much gear you can be bothered carrying. DSLR and larger mirrorless systems are much larger and heavier and, together with extra lenses, quickly become very expensive but they yield much better results.
That said, a compact camera can still produce great images and not leave your wallet empty. The best mirrorless cameras for travel can still be fairly compact and allow you to up your game considerably.
Can I Vlog With a Compact Camera?
Compact cameras make great some of the best travel vlogging cameras as they are very portable and unobtrusive.
Just make sure you get one with audio recording and a flip-up screen so you can make sure you are in the frame.
So I hope you have a good idea about how to choose the best compact camera. The main takeaway here is to think about what you want the final output to be then you can go out and take great travel photos!
With so many options out there for compact cameras I am sure I have missed some, so let me know in the comments what you think is the best compact camera for travel in 2021.
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