Going on a vacation without a good camera is a sin, and depending on your smartphone camera for long range shots is not a good idea. To take away that worry without any hassle of carrying a bulky DSLR, a good point and shoot camera can turn out to be a blessing.
While expecting a decent optical zoom on smartphones is still far from reality, having solid zooming ability without compromising quality is a must while traveling.
This is what makes the ‘travel camera’ genre so popular. These are compact cameras barely larger than a regular point-and-shoot model, but with massive 20x or 30x zoom lenses. You get the portability of a regular camera, but with much more scope for shooting different kinds of subjects.
You’re not going to get the same kind of quality you’d get from a DSLR or a mirrorless camera because the only way to make cameras with big zooms small enough to go in a pocket is to use a smaller sensor. But the picture quality is still pretty good, and perfect for sharing with friends and family.
If you’re not sure this is the kind of camera you need, check our step by step guide: What camera should I buy?
Otherwise, keep reading, because here’s our list of the top compact travel cameras you can buy right now.
Nikon Coolpix W300
Rugged waterproof camera with 4K video recording capability
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 16MP | Lens: 24-120mm, f/2.8-4.9 | Monitor: 3.0-inch, 921,000 dots | Viewfinder: No | Continuous shooting: 7fps | Movies: 4K UHD | User level: Beginner/intermediate
4K UHD videos
Water proof, shock proof, dust proof and cold resistant
The Nikon Coolpix W300 is made for those who love capturing adventurous moments as it happens. For that purpose, there’s already the GoPro series cameras in the market, but this one much more access to features found on a conventional digital camera. It comes with a 16MP back-illuminated CMOS sensor and is capable of shooting 4K UHD videos. It is rugged and that’s the USP of the camera; it is waterproof to a depth of 30m, shock proof from a height of 2.4m, cold resistant down to -10 degree Celsius and dust-proof as well.
It also has a SnapBridge feature that allows users to easily transfer the images to any mobile device via Bluetooth Low Energy connection. Nikon is offering the camera in four amazing colours – Orange, Yellow, Black and Camouflage.
Panasonic Lumix ZS100 / TZ100
Panasonic’s premium travel camera has a larger sensor than the rest of the range
Sensor: 1-inch type, 20.1MP | Lens: 25-250mm, f/2.8-5.9 | Monitor: 3.0-inch, 1,040K dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 10fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/Intermediate
1-inch type sensor
Limited 10x zoom lens
With the rise of high-end compacts like the excellent Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V stealing the thunder from compact travel zooms, Panasonic’s response has been to keep the camera body about the same size as its earlier ZS/TZ-series cameras but to squeeze a much larger sensor into the Lumix ZS100 (known as the Lumix TZ100 outside the US). This enables the pixels to be about 2.4x bigger than they are in models like the Lumix ZS50 / TZ70 (see below) and this helps the Lumix ZS100 produce much higher quality images. The slight downside though is the zoom range lens isn’t quite so extensive, but you still get an electronic viewfinder that makes it easier to compose images in bright sunny conditions. Not only that, there’s the addition to 4K video recording and Panasonic’s 4K Photo mode to help capture 8MP images of fleeting moments. It all adds up to be a powerful, if pricey option.
Panasonic Lumix ZS50 / TZ70
Panasonic practically invented the travel camera and this is its best yet
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 12.1MP | Lens: 24-720mm, f/3.3-6.4 | Monitor: 3.0-inch, 1,040K dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 10fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner/intermediate
Manual controls and raw
Panasonic’s ZS/TZ-series cameras kicked off the whole big-zoom travel camera genre, and they still lead the field. The ZS50 (TZ70 outside the US) might not be the newest model, but with a big 30x zoom, auto and manual controls and the ability to shoot raw files – a big bonus for keen photographers who want the best quality from a small camera, there’s little to fault for the price. The ZS50 even squeezes in an electronic viewfinder. Okay, it’s not the largest EVF out there, but it can be really handy in bright light. It’s the Swiss Army Knife of travel cameras, combining convenience, quality and control. There are lots of imitators, but this is the original.
Sony Cyber-shot HX90V
The HX90V matches the ZS50’s zoom range and adds GPS to embed location data
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 18.2MP | Lens: 24-720mm, f/3.5-6.4 | Monitor: 3.0-inch, 921,600 dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 10fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner/intermediate
GPS built in
Can’t shoot raw
Tricky pull-up viewfinder
The HX90V shares the same 30x optical zoom range as the ZS50 / TZ70, but has a few neat tricks of its own. It has a pop-up electronic viewfinder – a big bonus in the glare of harsh, bright light, when regular LCD screens can be hard to see. There’s even a 180-degree tilting screen, and while you can’t shoot raw files, the HX90V does put your pictures on the map – literally – by recording the location using its built-in GPS receiver.
Read the full review: Sony HX90V
Canon PowerShot SX730 HS
Huge zoom in a svelte shell
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 20.3MP | Lens: 24-960mm, f/3.3-6.9 | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle screen, 922,000 dots | Viewfinder: No | Continuous shooting: 5.9fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner/intermediate
Excellent zoom range
Sturdy build quality
LCD not touch sensitive
The Canon PowerShot SX730 HS is something of a tale of two halves. The good news is that it exhibits a fine build and is generally pleasing to use, with good response across most aspects of operation. If you want a no-nonsense camera with a broad zoom range, and most of the decision-making left to it, the SX730 HS may just be what you’re after. The flipside of this is that the PowerShot SX730 HS lacks several of the features of its rivals, despite being one of the dearest options of its kind. 4K video, touch operation, an electronic level, even the option to move the focusing point; if you want any of these you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Read the full review: Canon PowerShot SX730 HS
Canon PowerShot SX710 HS
The SX710 HS can take your movies and stills and turn your travels into story
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 16MP | Lens: 25-600mm, f/3.2-6.9 | Monitor: 3-inch, 460K dots | Viewfinder: No | Continuous shooting: 11.5fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner/intermediate
30x optical zoom
Interesting movie options
Doesn’t shoot raw files
The Canon PowerShot SX710 HS offers a 30x zoom, just like the Panasonic ZS50 / TZ70, and costs quite a bit less – but you don’t get raw format shooting or an electronic viewfinder. What you do get is 5-axis image stabilisation and a neat set of movie options, including Full HD at 60p for slow-motion playback and a Hybrid Auto mode that captures both stills and movies – you can then create a Story Highlights movie in-camera. The SX710 HS shoots movies just like other travel cameras, but takes them a whole lot further to make them an easy and fun way to capture your travels. Worth considering if you’re on a budget and going to be shooting just as many movies as stills.
Read the full review: Canon PowerShot SX710 HS
Nikon Coolpix A900
Slim and solidly made, the A900 delivers a big zoom at modest cost
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 20.3MP | Lens: 24-840mm, f/3.4-6.9 | Monitor: 3.0-inch, 921,000 dots | Viewfinder: No | Continuous shooting: 7fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/intermediate
Slim but solid feel
Looking a lot like the Coolpix S9900 that it replaces, there’s a lot packed into the A900 from Nikon. The combination of its slim build and 35x optical zoom range are the key attractions here with this travel zoom compact. Handling is good on the whole, and the tilt-angle screen is a nice touch, though there’s no built-in viewfinder. The Coolpix takes advantage of Nikon’s SnapBridge Wi-Fi system to transfer images and while the image quality from this camera isn’t the best here, but is solid none-the-less and on the whole is good value for money.