DPReview Recommends: Best compact cameras for travel 2015
Whether you're traveling the world or the next town over, having the right camera at your side makes all the difference. We've picked out our best picks for the photographer who wants to keep things simple by carrying a compact camera rather than one with interchangeable lenses. If you fall into that category, we've got great news for you - there are more high quality cameras with attached lenses than ever before, brimming with features tailored to your needs.
$1099 | 16MP APS-C sensor | 35mm equiv F2 lens | Hybrid electronic / optical viewfinder | 3" LCD
Few cameras in recent history have attracted as much of a cult following as Fujifilm's X100 series. They're the photographer's darling - not just a good-looking camera, but a beautifully effective machine. The X100T is small and light, and won’t burden a weary traveler, and its low-profile lends itself to street shooting. If you don't mind zooming with your feet, its 35mm F2 equivalent lens and 16MP X-Trans APS-C sensor will serve you well.
In addition to its travel-friendly size, the X100T offers a hybrid viewfinder with optical and digital views. That's especially handy when the sun is high in the sky and the 1.04M-dot 3" LCD becomes harder to see. Having been on the market over a year (at time of publication), its 16 megapixels are starting to feel quite low in comparison to some of its peers, but it also means that the price has dropped slightly since its launch. It is worth noting though that its movie mode, which was far from class-leading at launch, is now well behind the competition in terms of quality and 4K support.
With obviously classic design cues, the X100T's controls and handling are timeless. Though it doesn't offer the cutting-edge modern features of its newer peers, it won't go out of style anytime soon.
Ricoh GR II
Not a revolutionary update to the original by any means, but the Ricoh GR II's 16MP APS-C sensor and 28mm F2.8 make the camera one of the best bargains on the market for under $600.
Panasonic Lumix FZ1000
$750 | 20MP 1"-type sensor | 4K video | 25-400mm equiv. focal range | XGA OLED viewfinder
You can zoom with your feet all day long, but some situations and shooting styles call for real zoom. The Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 doesn't top its class in terms of massive zoom reach, but its 25-400mm equivalent zoom opens up plenty of options, and an F2.8-4.0 aperture is brighter than most of its peers. With a 1"-type 20.1MP CMOS sensor, it borrows some tech from the GH4 including 4K video recording at 30 fps. Its DSLR-style build includes a fully articulated 921k-dot 3" LCD and a 2.4M-dot OLED viewfinder.
Nikon Coolpix P900
On the seventh day, the Nikon Coolpix P900 was created. And there was much zoom. An incredible 24-2000mm equivalent range, in fact. The P900 uses a considerably smaller 16MP sensor than the FZ1000, but its lens is impressive considering what it has to do, the image stabilization is amazing, and the built-in GPS won't let you forget where you've been.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV
$950 | 20MP 1"-type sensor | F1.8-2.8 24-70mm equiv. lens | Pop-up EVF | 4K video
It's hard not to recommend the Sony RX100 IV to anyone buying a compact. It's by no means a budget-friendly option, but it's among the most capable pocket-sized cameras we've ever tested. Sony's excellent 20MP 1"-type sensor is bigger than your garden-variety compact camera sensor with lots of dynamic range, and a 24-70mm equiv. F1.8-2.8 lens is much brighter than most of its competition. The camera's tiny pop-up EVF is higher resolution than that of it predecessor and comes in very handy in bright outdoor light.
The RX100 IV really shines when you set the mode dial to movie mode. 4K/UHD recording is available, and at lower resolutions (upscaled to 1080p) high frame rates of 240, 480 and 960 fps can be used. Slow motion video is an awful lot of fun.
If you want to take control over your settings, shoot high quality video and make the most of your vacation Raw files, the RX100 IV is a solid choice. Of course, if you can live without 4K and high frame rates, the RX100 III will save you a couple hundred dollars and get you much of the same excellent image quality. Neither will get you a lot of zoom if that's what you're after, but their image quality is at the top of their class.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50
Before there were fancy Sony point-and-shoots with 1" sensors, Panasonic had the market cornered on premium zoom compacts for travelers. While its 12MP 1/2.3" sensor looks a bit pedestrian in comparison, there's something to be said for a 24-720mm equiv. zoom that just about fits in your pocket. And for under $300, it's pretty much a steal for full manual controls, Raw support and Wi-Fi with NFC.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100
$700 | 13MP Four Thirds sensor | 24-75mm equiv. F1.7-2.8 lens | Electronic viewfinder | 4K video
Why stop at a 1"-type sensor? That's the question Panasonic engineers must have asked themselves, and lo and behold, the Lumix LX100 was born. It uses a cropped 13MP Four Thirds sensor coupled with a very fast 24-75mm equiv. F1.7-2.8 lens and offers great ergonomics and handling for the kind of photographer who wants quick access to exposure settings. It's not as pocket-friendly as the RX100 IV, but its solid handgrip gives it a steady feel and its responsive user experience is one of the best we've encountered in a compact.
In addition to recording 4K video, the LX100 also offers a useful 4K Photo Mode, which lets you extract a high quality 8MB still from your clip. Its time-lapse and stop motion animation modes are also a lot of fun. Its zoom is certainly on the shorter side, and for someone who plans to stay in Auto mode the camera's controls and customization will verge on overkill. But for the seasoned photographer wanting to give her shoulders a break from the big camera, the LX100 is a joy to carry and shoot with.
Canon PowerShot G5 X
If you want just a bit more zoom (100mm at the top end) and a more traditional SLR-style body you may want to consider the Canon PowerShot G5 X. It sports a 20MP 1"-type BSI CMOS sensor (likely the same as in the RX100 III) and a 24-100mm equiv. F1.8-2.8 lens, along with a fully articulating LCD, high resolution EVF, and full set of manual controls. It's not great for action shooting and it lacks 4K video, but the G5 X is still worth a look.
Olympus Tough TG-4
$350 | 16MP 1/2.3" BSI CMOS sensor | 25-100mm equiv. F2.0-4.9 lens | Everything-proof
Nothing spoils a vacation like spilling a Mai Tai on your fancy new camera. The Olympus TG-4 isn't just sealed against spills, its fully waterproof to 15m/50ft, as well as shockproof from 2.1m/7ft, crushproof to 100kg/220lbf and freezeproof to -10C/14F. Wherever your travels may take you, the TG-4 is up to the challenge.
Outside of its rugged specs, we like the TG-4's ability to shoot Raw, making it possible to get very nice image quality with a little time invested in post-processing. Its moderate 25-100mm equiv. zoom, which is fast at its wide end, will get you a little closer to the action, and optional accessories like a macro LED ring light and waterproof fisheye lens open up more possibilities. It also provides the peace of mind of knowing your camera will survive just about anything your vacation throws at it.
Olympus Tough TG-860
The Stylus TG-860 is the TG-4's more casual sibling, lacking buttoned-up features like Raw capture and Aperture priority mode, but provides identical rugged specifications with a flip-up selfie-friendly LCD. If you don't anticipate doing extensive editing to your snapshots, the TG-860 is good, clean fun for a significantly cheaper price.