Theis the best camera for travel because it’s pocketable, durable, and able to withstand the elements. Not only that, it can take a pretty good picture, allowing you to enjoy your vacation memories with plenty of color and clarity.
Our team is often jet-setting to different media functions around the world, from small press trips put on by individual camera companies to huge events like CES. So we know a thing or two about what works (and what doesn’t) to document a trip, especially when you’re trying to travel light. If you’ve got a little more room in your bag, there are plenty of other fantastic travel cameras beyond the TG-6. These are a few of our favorites.
At a glance:
Why should you buy this: RAW photos, great macro ability, rugged and weatherproof
Who’s it for: Enthusiast photographers who need a camera that can survive the elements.
Why we picked the Olympus Tough TG-6:
Rugged point-and-shoot cameras are similar to action cams, except they put still photos first, video second. Perfect for beach trips and snorkeling, they are meant to be shot by hand, rather than mounted to something. Such cameras are also waterproof, dust-proof, and freeze-proof without requiring a separate housing, as is sometimes the case with action cameras.
The Stylus Tough TG-6 continues Olympus’ dominance in the rugged camera game, and offers several advanced options not normally found on this type of camera, like the ability to shoot uncompressed RAW photos. It also has a stellar macro mode and even an incredibly easy-to-use light-painting mode, perfect for some nighttime creative fun on your next camping trip. It’s one of the more expensive options out there, but it packs a lot of power for the price and should last for years to come.
We should note while this is the latest offering from the Olympus TG series, little has changed over the Tough TG-5. That camera has been officially discontinued, but if you can still find one, it might be worth picking it up at a discount.
Read more about the Olympus Stylus Tough TG-6
Why should you buy this: If you’re tired of lifeless images on a screen and want a physical picture in your hand
Who is it for: Those who like something cool and quirky when it comes to their cameras
Why we picked the Leica Sofort:
From the “upside down” Polaroid OneStep 2 to the soap-bar-like Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay, Instant cameras come in all shapes and sizes. But none are as stylish at the Leica Sofort. Consistent with the Leica brand, the design of the Sofort is sophisticated and understated. It’s the kind of instant camera that passersby will admire in your hand, rather than laugh at.
Sure, on the inside the Sofort is just a standard Instax Mini camera. Its f/12.7 aperture will deliver reasonably sharp images and the 60-millimeter lens is versatile enough to create a range of styles, but it’s certainly not its image quality that makes the camera ideal. Let’s remember when you’re on vacation, you’re there to have a good time. Especially if you’re traveling with children, instant photography is always a crowd-pleasure. It is a fun, interactive, and instant way of documenting all the good times you have while you’re away.
What makes the Sofort different is that you’ll still look like a “real” photographer while using it; and looking the part is half the battle.
Read our Leica Sofort hands-on impressions
Why should you buy this: It has a 125x zoom
Who’s it for: Birders, or sports fans stuck in the nosebleed seats
Why we picked the Nikon Coolpix P1000:
The P1000 is overkill in the best of ways. Its crazy 125x zoom offers an equivalent focal length range of 24-3,000mm, a bonkers super-telephoto that was simply unheard of before it. Even though it’s technically a point-and-shoot, the massive optics required for that lens pushes the camera to over 3 pounds. Yeah, that’s not exactly portable and pocketable like other options on this page, but you won’t find anywhere near that much zoom power anywhere else.
Don’t expect superior image quality from the P1000’s relatively small sensor (more or a less a requisite for fitting such a long lens), but Nikon has done an admirable job with the image stabilization, so you can at least handle that lens without requiring a tripod — provided you have enough light, and a little patience. At nearly a grand, this isn’t an impulse buy, but if you need one camera that can shoot everything from wide vistas to close-ups of birds, this is likely your best bet.
Read our Nikon Coolpix P1000 review
Why should you buy this: Great stills and video, good zoom, impressive speed.
Who’s it for: Enthusiasts after a compact camera that won’t sacrifice performance.
Why we picked the Sony RX100 VI:
Sony somehow fit a 24-200mm f/2.8-4 lens into this pocket powerhouse. While it’s not cheap, you can’t beat the versatility of that lens in such a portable form factor when it comes to travel. The RX100 VI isn’t the latest advanced compact cameras featuring a 20-megapixel 1-inch-type sensors from Sony, but the newer Mark VII doesn’t offer any real advantages for travel photography.
The RX100 VI is also fast, capable of focusing in as little as 0.03 seconds and shooting bursts at speeds up to 24 images per second. It can also handle your video needs admirably, thanks to support for 4K resolution and a host of advanced options that will sate the appetite of even professional videographers.
If you can get by with a shorter lens, the older R100 V has a 3x zoom, but with a brighter f/1.8 aperture for shooting in low light. It also comes at a cheaper price.
Read our Sony RX100 VI review
Why should you buy this: You’re getting a small, lightweight camera that has incredible image quality
Who’s it for: Those who want to create more than just a good holiday snapshot
Why we picked the Fujifilm X-T30:
The X-T30 is a high-performing compact mirrorless camera. Whether you’re going for a short weekend getaway or a long vacation, this camera won’t add too much weight to your travel bag. It comes with a backside-illuminated, 26-megapixel X-Trans sensor. With that you get stunning images that are rich in color in and detail. Depending on your viewing preference, the X-T30 gives you the option of looking through a central viewfinder or an adjustable LCD screen.
We absolutely loved the X-T30 when we tested it as it brings the best features of Fujifilm’s flagship X-T3 into a smaller, cheaper package. It can shoot continuously at up to 20 frames per second with the electronic shutter, so you’ll never miss a beat of the action. The face and eye-detection autofocus is great for portraiture, and it also offers 4K video if you want to record a cinematic memory of your vacation.
What sets this camera apart from those above it is that you have the option of interchangeable lenses. And when it comes to great glass, we’re pushed to find a better manufacturer than Fujifilm. So if your time away is mixed up of hiking, street markets, and lazy days on the beach, you’ll have plenty of lens options to suit the style of photography you want to create.
Read our Fujifilm X-T30 review
Why should you buy this: It’s a pocket-sized smartphone camera with fantastic image quality
Who’s it for: Anybody who doesn’t want the extra weight of a separate camera but still wants quality images.
Why we picked the iPhone 11 Pro:
The iPhone 11 Pro only just made it onto this list, as it was a close contest with the Google Pixel 4. The iPhone doesn’t outclass the Pixel’s image quality, but it’s the more versatile camera thanks to its three-lens system which allows users to switch between three different focal lengths. The new ultra-wide lens is perfect for those beautiful travel landscape shots. The Pixel was also dinged for its mediocre battery life, something that matters when traveling.
Apple made many little tweaks to its imaging algorithm, and the result is more natural-looking photographs. This should come as good news for those who want to avoid the fancy-dancy, and rather have a more accurate record of their adventures. Apple’s Night Mode is also a fantastic tool, one that rivals Night Sight on the Pixel range. We found that photographs shot in low-light situations still had plenty of detail and were void of any overpowering grain.
Video is another strong suit of the 11 Pro, with incredible image stabilization and vibrant colors up to 4K/60p.
So if you want to keep it all in one, the iPhone 11 Pro is the perfect choice of travel camera.
Read our iPhone 11 Pro review
What should you look for in a travel camera?
The most important thing is to make sure you’re getting a camera you will actually use. You could spend $2,000 or more on a top-of-the-line machine for your next vacation, but if you never take it out of your hotel room because it’s too big and heavy (or you’re worried about it getting stolen), it’s basically worthless.
If you already shoot with a DSLR or mirrorless camera, you have a good idea of what you’re willing to use. If, however, you currently shoot with just a phone, you should consider in what ways your phone is most lacking before making a choice. Do you need better low-light image quality, the ability to shoot in all-weather conditions, or more versatile lenses?