Choosing a camera to travel with can be one of the biggest decisions you make. It can be a big investment and not one you can easily change your mind on (well you can, it’ll just cost you). Day to day and on short trips I like to keep it simple and just use my iPhone but I when I want some higher quality cameras I use a Sony A6000 mirrorless camera with a 16-50mm lens.
Before you choose a camera ask yourself what you really want out of your camera and what kind of photos you want. Are you really serious about learning the technical part of photography? Will you take lots of video? Are you going to take lots of action photography? Do you just want something convenient or just want some cool photos?
POINT & SHOOT – for the convenient photographer
This is the most basic digital camera and you can get a pretty good one for not that much money. But honestly if you just want a point and shoot camera I wouldn’t bother and would instead invest in the newest iPhone or smartphone you like. The photos my iPhone takes are just as good if not better than a point and shoot and it’s much easier to only carry one device around.
MIRRORLESS – for the semi advanced photographer
The introductory mirrorless cameras are in between a point & shoot and a DSLR. The amateur photographer travel blogger community really loves the Olympus PEN cameras. They are great if you are interested in taking lots of video along with your photos. I personally love the Sony A6000 camera but you should read about the different styles on the market and decide what features are most important to you.
Mirrorless cameras allow you interchange your lenses but don’t have the weight of a DSLR. Many of the Sony Alpha cameras are now the preferred camera for travel photographers and are equal in quality to traditional DSLR cameras (the Sony a7 cameras are very popular with professionals). Because there is no mirror in these cameras the weight is much lighter but the viewfinder is electronic.
DSLR – for the advanced photographer
If you are planning on becoming a really serious photographer I would go with a DSLR if you’re okay with the weight and size. These cameras will allow you to have greater control on the exposure, which can help in tricky low light situations. Go to an actual store and hold them, it’s hard to tell online how the weight and design will feel in your hands without trying them out. I have smaller hands so some of the camera designs are awkward for me to comfortably hold for longer periods of time.
For the mirrorless and DSLR I would start with two lenses, a 16mm lens (more wide angle) and an 18-55m lens.
LEICA – for the cool photographer
If you are looking for cool factor (and have a big budget) Leica pretty much has the cool market cornered. I would definitely buy one if I could afford to have a second fancy camera lying around.
JUST IN CASE
On the note of cost, it’s good to check with your Travel Insurance to see if your camera equipment is covered if it is stolen or damaged while you are traveling or if you need to buy additional insurance. Also check with your credit card companies, some of them offer additional insurance on products you purchase with their cards.
GOPRO – for the adventure photographer
If you are more of an adventure and action traveler I would recommend using your iPhone with a LifeProof case and then investing in a GoPro and accessories. You can use it hands free attached to you depending on the accessory you buy. You can also buy a waterproof case to use while you’re sailing or swimming. The photo and video quality definitely holds up even though it’s such a small camera.
JUST A NOTE
I think a DSLR camera has become a bit of a travel status symbol these days. The number of tourists I see carrying them around NYC is astounding. The quality of photo depends a lot more on the photographer than the camera so don’t feel like you have to buy the more expensive camera to get better photos. You can take a much nicer photo on an iPhone than a DSLR if you know what you’re doing.