DPReview Recommends: Best Compact Cameras for Travel
There's a big world out there, just waiting for you to explore it. In our opinion, a camera is one of the best traveling companions you can have. They don't smell, they don't have any annoying food preferences, and you can stuff them in a bag without attracting the attention of the police.
Depending on where you're going, you might have specific priorities. Maybe you're heading to the mountains? In that case you'll want something light and tough. Or perhaps you're exploring a city? For that you'll probably want a quiet, discreet camera with a fast aperture lens. Or perhaps you're doing a round the world tour - in which case a super zoom camera which can go from landscape-covering wide-angle to long telephoto in a second might be the best choice. Here are our top five recommendations.
Prices given are representative of street pricing, and our recommendations are arranged from most to least expensive.
Recommendations are subject to change and are current as of November 2014
$1300 / £1000 | 16MP | Hybrid electronic / optical viewfinder | 35mm equiv F2 lens
Fuji’s X100 series has been immensely popular since it was first released, and has only gained fans on its passage through the X100S and now on to the X100T. Small, neat, stylish and highly effective machines, the X100 models produce images as good as the bodies look.
At the heart of these cameras is the Holy Trinity that comprises a high-class 23mm f/2 Fujinon lens (that delivers an angle of view similar to that of a 35mm lens on a full frame sensor), the well-respected APS-C –sized 16-million-pixel Fuji X-Trans sensor and a viewfinder that combines both optical and digital views – sometimes simultaneously.
The X100T brings the standard features we’d expect, but improves the viewfinder experience with a 2.3-million-dot resolution digital display and more complex information overlays when it is used in optical mode. The camera’s famous split-image manual focusing method can now be used with the optical view as well as in digital display mode, and even the 3-inch rear screen has undergone a refresh to now feature a much improved 1.04-million-dot resolution.
Other significant changes include a new electronic shutter mode that allows completely silent shooting and a top shutter speed of 1/32,000sec, extended exposure compensation of +/-3EV, the addition of the Kodachrome-alike Classic Chrome to the film simulation modes, and an improved AF system that offers face detection.
Ricoh GR The 16MP APS-C format Ricoh GR was one of the quiet stars of 2013, offering excellent image quality, good overall performance and a great lens for a reasonable price. Although its fixed 28mm F2.8 lens is a touch wide for some subjects and F2.8 isn't the fastest aperture in the world, the GR's convincing high ISO image quality makes the camera very useful for street and interior photography in poor light.
Sony Cyber-shot RX10
$1000 / £700 | 20MP | 24-200mm F2.8 lens | 3" 1.29 million-dot LCD | 1080/60p video
Sony's Cyber-shot RX10 marries the 20MP 1"-type BSI-CMOS sensor from the RX100 II with a 24-200mm Zeiss Vario-Sonnar zoom lens that has a constant maximum aperture of F2.8. Although relatively expensive (despite a recent drop in price) it's a cut above conventional smaller-sensor 'super zoom' cameras, and represents an impressively versatile, albeit not strictly speaking 'compact' package for both still and video capture.
The RX10 is the first Sony camera to feature a 'Direct Drive SSM' focus motor, which uses piezoelectric materials to position the focus element, rather than linear motors. This translates to snappy, accurate focus and in terms of image quality the RX10's 1-inch sensor delivers excellent images even at high ISO settings, which rival entry-level mirrorless and DSLR cameras.
Nikon Coolpix P530: The Nikon Coolpix P530 is an update to the very capable P520, offering a 16.1MP BSI CMOS sensor. It's a bridge-style camera with a 42x optical zoom range (24-1000mm equivalent), and provides automatic as well as manual and automatic exposure modes. The camera has a 3-inch LCD and electronic viewfinder. It provides Wi-Fi connectivity by way of Nikon's optional WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000
$860 / £750 | 20MP | 2.4m-dot viewfinder | 3in, 921k-dot tilting LCD| 4K/30p video
The ‘bridge’ type camera, that combines the style and functionality of a DSLR with an all-encompassing zoom lens that never has to (or can) come off, is a very popular choice for the traveling photographer. Panasonic has had a successful history with these cameras, but its FZ1000 steps somewhat beyond what has gone before. With a 1-inch 20-million-pixel sensor this camera is capable of much better image quality than the usual compact camera sensor can offer, and the 25-400mm equiv lens, astonishing enough by its focal range, has a very fast maximum aperture of f/2.8-4. Those two elements in themselves make the FZ1000 a very attractive proposition, but add to that the camera’s 4K resolution and five-axis image stabilisation and the camera really begins to stand out.
This is not a cheap option and the price may well put it out of range for many, but there is no denying the specification. The XGA OLED electronic viewfinder features a 2.36-million-dot resolution that creates an extremely clear view of what you are about to shoot.
The camera borrows its ‘Depth from Defocus’ high speed focus system from the company’s top end GH4 G series camera, as well as in-camera raw processing and its size – this is certainly not a small camera.
It is a shame the FZ1000 lacks the almost trademark touch screen that other Lumix cameras enjoy, but with first class image quality, decent handling and quite amazing flexibility it is still an excellent stills and video companion for any traveller.
Canon PowerShot SX60 HS: The PowerShot SX60 HS is a 16MP superzoom compact built around a gigantic 65X optical zoom lens, equivalent to 21-1365mm. It offers 6.4 fps continuous shooting, 1080/60p video, and a max ISO of 3200 (at full resolution). It has a fully articulating 3" LCD as well as an electronic viewfinder and full manual control - plus raw capture mode - is available if you want it. The SX60 HS can't match larger-sensor cameras for image quality but its versatility and heavyweight feature set make it a great first camera for a beginner.
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III
$800 / £640 | 21MP | 1.04m-dot viewfinder | 3in, 1.2m-dot tilting LCD| 1080/60p video
The Sony RX100 lll is one of the best compact cameras on the market, following on from excellent performances from the previous two models. Equipped with a 21-million-pixel 1-inch sensor (that’s a good deal larger than those in most compact cameras) this newest version brings the additional attraction of a 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 Zeiss zoom – a super-fast lens that’s ideal for low light work and for creating shallow depth of field. It is the combination of the fast high-quality lens and that larger sensor that really helps this camera to stand out from the crowd, and to produce images that simply don’t look as though they were shot with a compact.
The other surprising addition to this tiny body is a built-in pop-up electronic viewfinder. The new SVGA OLED 1.44-million-dot viewfinder is useful for getting a clear view of what you are shooting and menu systems in bright conditions, when the camera’s built-in neutral density filters will also come in handy for allowing those wide apertures to be used in full sunshine – and when recording video.
Other significant features include a 3-inch tilting LCD screen with 1.23 million dots, full HD 1080/60p video recording, clean HDMI output and a customisable lens ring for changing apertures, focal length, exposure compensation and focus.
Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II: Canon's PowerShot G1 X Mark II is a useful camera for traveling, thanks to its wide-ranging 24-120mm F2-3.9 zoom lens and near-APS-C format CMOS sensor. The G1 X Mark II's 12.8MP sensor is a little long in the tooth, but image quality in good light is excellent. Just don't expect miracles at high ISO sensitivity settings.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS40/TZ60
$395 / £300 | 18MP | 24-720mm equiv lens | 200k-dot viewfinder| 1080/60p video
The latest in a long line of best-in-class travel zoom compacts, the Lumix DMC-TZ60 once again combines a long ranging zoom with a small form factor and a collection of surprising controls. Perhaps a little more plastic than previous models in the TZ range, the TZ60 is none the less well built and it fits nicely in the hand. A definite selling point is its viewfinder – a rarity in a compact these days – and perhaps too that the viewfinder is an EVF that is able to follow the zoom and display shooting information all at the same time. With such a long lens, that offers 24-720mm of optical zoom, holding the camera to the eye will provide an extra element of stability that arm’s length shooting cannot – even with the lens-based optical image stabilisation system.
Fitted with an 18.1-million-pixel sensor that can turn out raw files as well as JPEGs, the camera will appeal as much to the enthusiast as the beginner, as it offers a customisable lens-based control-ring to operate the zoom, apertures, shutter speeds, white balance and even to scroll through the multitude of special effects and shooting modes. Video shooters will appreciate the 60p 1920x1080 capability and perhaps the slow-motion mode that shoots at up to 100fps and which can yield stills from the footage in-camera.
Wi-Fi with NFC and GPS conclude an excellent feature set.
Canon PowerShot SX700 HS: The latest iteration of Canon's travel zoom product line, the 16MP SX700 HS is built around a 25-750mm equivalent zoom lens, and includes PASM modes for manual shooting as well as a range of beginner (and point-and-shoot) friendly automatic and 'scene' exposure modes. For video clips, 1080/60p video is also available.