A new wave of compact digital cameras has been hitting the market steadily over the past few years, with each new release getting closer to pro-level DSLR’s in terms of optics quality and resolution. Pocket-sized and powerful, these compact cameras are changing the way that consumer and prosumer photographers capture moments while on the road. Before you head out on your next adventure, consider leaving the DSLR behind and opting for one of the more sensible options below.
The Smartphone Upgrade: Ricoh GR III
Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C CMOS Sensor
Lens: 28mm f/2.8 Lens (35mm Equivalent)
Date released: March 2019
The previous GR II was the first of Ricoh’s GR cameras to come with built-in Wi-Fi and NFC, so you could quickly upload photos to your smartphone, and the GR III is able to do the same thing. But it’s got way more in its locker. The GR III is a slightly smaller camera than GR II, and packs more megapixels (24.2 vs 16.2) and has two stops better ISO. It’s also Ricoh’s first GR with a touchscreen. The downside to the new GR III is that there still is no viewfinder; plus it’s fairly expensive.
This is a great entry-level travel camera for photo enthusiasts who want a nice upgrade from their smartphone camera.
The Vlogger: Sony RX100 VII
Sensor: 20.1MP 1-inch Exmor RS BSI CMOS Sensor
Lens: Zeiss Vario-Sonnar f/2.8-4.5 Lens, 24-200mm (35mm equivalent)
Date released: August 2019
Sony’s RX100 line of compact shooters have long been a fan favorite and the VII is the latest and greatest model — it’s really just a great all-around compact shooter. With 4K HDR shooting capabilities, terrific advanced tracking and autofocus features, a flip-around viewfinder and an external mic port (a first for a Sony RX100), the VII is really the perfect camera for amateur (and even serious) vloggers.
Sony’s RX100 compact cameras are probably the best all-around travel cameras for most people. The new VII is the best option for vloggers, thanks to its built-in mic port; but the V and VI are almost equally good in terms of performance and 4K video shooting, and they’re most affordable.
Big Zoom: Panasonic Lumix ZS200
Sensor: 20.1MP 1-inch High-Sensitivity MOS Sensor
Lens: Leica DC Vario-Elmar 15x Zoom Lens, 24-360mm (35mm equivalent)
Date released: March 2018
The standout feature of the Panasonic’s Lumix TZ200 (known abroad as the Lumix SZ200) is its zoom. Like many of the cameras on this list, it has a very good 1-inch 20-megapixel sensor, but it combines that with a 15x zoom lens — you can’t really find a better zoom lens in this good of a compact camera (without breaking the bank). Of course, the Lumix TZ200 is a good all-purpose travel camera, too; it can shoot 4K video and, in macro mode, it can capture 8K stills in bursts of 30 frames per second.
It’s an ideal travel camera for casual photographers looking for something pocket-friendly camera that also has excellent zoom.
DSLR Alternative: Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C
Lens: 15 to 45mm (35mm equivalent)
Date released: November 2017
Canon’s PowerShot G1 X III is essentially as close to a DSLR as you’re going to get in a compact shooter. It’s one of the only compact cameras that packs a large 24-megapixel APS-C sensor — in fact, it has the same same as in the company’s EOS 80D DSLR and its EOS M mirrorless cameras — as well as Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus technology, to help you shoot in-focus photos and videos. Additionally, it packs a bunch of manual controls, a 3x zoom lens and an articulated touchscreen display. And then it’s all packaged in compact and weather-proof body.
The G1 X III is a high-quality compact camera designed for most advanced shooters looking for DSLR-like controls and image quality.
The Grail: Leica Q2
Sensor: 47.3MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
Lens: Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH. Lens
Date released: March 2019
The Leica Q2 is the company’s newest fixed-lens compact digital camera and it looks basically identical to the company’s original Q, which was a smash hit amongst photographers who valued portability, fast speeds, minimalism and, most importantly, could afford the Q’s immense price tag. Like its predecessor, the Q2 once again proves that a Leica can have autofocus, an electronic viewfinder and a fixed lens – and still be a real Leica. The new model is more durable (and now splash-resistant) and has better connectivity, but more importantly a significantly upgraded sensor, with almost double the resolution (47.3 vs 24.2), which helps the Q’s signature “rangefinder digital crop” feature work even better.
The Leica Q2 will likely be a grail item for most people. If money is no object (or you just want to splurge), however, this is a travel camera to buy if you want to be the envy of all your friends.
The Interchangable Upgrade: Fujifilm X-T30
Sensor: 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans BSI CMOS 4 Sensor
Lens: multiple lens kits available
Date released: March 2019
Even though it’s not technically a point-and-shoot digital camera, you can think of Fuji’s X-T30 as the sensible upgrade. The interchangeable-lens mirrorless camera is a pretty perfect travel camera for a lot of photographers, professionals or just an enthusiast. It’s small and lightweight, plus it’s not terribly expensive, but the performance levels you get with this thing are off the charts. It has a huge image sensor, fast processor, incredible autofocus (on par with Sony’s APS-C offerings) and shoots 4k video at 30 frames per second.
Professional photographers looking for an excellent travel camera and who don’t want to lug around their heavy gear. It’s also for casual shooters who want to shoot more with manual controls.