While there are no reliable statistics on how many digital SLR cameras are stolen on vacations annually, it’s fair to say that the number is high — very high. Digital SLRs, especially in developing countries, attract about as much attention as a gold Rolex or a red Ferrari. But there is a better option for producing near-DSLR quality photos in a smaller, sleeker package that won’t peg you as the well-endowed photographer.
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.
– Additional Contribution by AJ Powell
The Smartphone Upgrade: Ricoh GR III
Photographers love these little cameras. 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.
Who Should Buy: This is a great entry-level travel camera for photo enthusiasts who want a nice upgrade from their smartphone camera.
Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C CMOS Sensor
Lens: 28mm f/2.8 Lens (35mm Equivalent)
Date released: March 2019
The Vlogger: Sony RX100 VII
Sony’s RX100 line of compact shooters has 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 capabilites, 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 amatuer (and even serious) vloggers.
Who Should Buy: 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.
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
Big Zoom: Panasonic Lumix ZS200
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.
Who Should Buy: It’s an ideal travel camera for casual photographers looking for something pocket-friendly camera that also has excellent zoom.
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
Best Budget: Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II
If you’re in the market for a really great compact camera that’s relatively affordable, check out the PowerShot G9 X Mark II. Price is one thing – it’s the only camera on this list under $500 — but it’s also one of the smallest compact cameras with a fairly large, 1-inch 20-megapixel sensor, that you’re likely to find. The camera itself is solid with a bunch of modern features. It has Digic 7 processor and a touchscreen viewfinder, plus it has a built-in 3-stop ND filter which more advanced photographers will love. The major downside is it can’t shoot 4K video.
Who Should Buy: Casual photographers who want a nice camera upgrade over their smartphone. They also should not want to shoot a ton of video.
Sensor: 20.1MP 1-inch High-Sensitivity CMOS Sensor
Lens: 3x Optical Zoom f/2-4.9 Lens, 28-84mm (35mm equivalent)
Date released: February 2017
The Grail: Leica Q2
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.
Who Should Buy: 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.
Sensor: 47.3MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
Lens: Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH. Lens
Date released: March 2019
The Interchangable Upgrade: Fujifilm X-T30
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, professional 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 senor, fast processor, incredible autofocus (on par with Sony’s APS-C offerings) and shoots 4k video at 30 frames per second.
Who Should Buy: Professional photographers looking for an excellent travel camera and don’t want to lug around their heavy gear. It’s also for casual shooters who want to shoot more with manual controls.
Sensor: 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans BSI CMOS 4 Sensor
Date released: March 2019