Best Travel Cameras 2014

Best Travel Cameras 2014

An ideal travel camera is lightweight, versatile, and captures great images. Point-and-shoots are the smallest and least expensive option, but they have some limitations in terms of image quality. Mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras have big sensors and are more compact than digital SLRs—any traveler should give serious consideration to going in this direction. Digital SLRs are the bulkiest and heaviest option but capture professional-grade photographs and offer the widest selection of lenses. Below are our picks for the best travel cameras of 2014 with a detailed description of each.

 

Best Point-and-Shoots for Travel

The only truly pocketable camera for travel is a point-and-shoot (mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras have a noticeably larger profile). Point-and-shoots have come a long way in recent years, offering larger image sensors and popular features like built-in Wi-Fi and in-camera panorama mode and HDR. They also are the most economical choice and the lowest liability should something happen on the road.
 
 
The Panasonic Lumix LX7 has been around for a while now, but it’s still a favorite among photography enthusiasts and discerning travelers. Boasting a high-quality Leica lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.4, the Panasonic LX7 has the best low-light performance of any compact camera (a lot of great travel photos are shot in low light situations). In addition, the LX7 shoots fast at up to 11 frames per second, has Full HD 1080P video capability, and in-camera HDR. Panasonic hasn’t yet released a direct successor to the LX7, but there is the pricey yet impressive LX100 below.
Megapixels: 10.1
Sensor Size: 41 sq. mm
Weight: 10.5 oz.
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Canon G16 cameraCanon PowerShot G16 ($499)
The Canon G16 is a do-it-all advanced compact that checks just about every box for travelers. The Leica lens has a maximum aperture of f/1.8 for excellent performance in low light, the camera shoots Full HD 1080p video, has an optical viewfinder, and in-camera HDR and panorama modes. It even has built-in Wi-Fi for posting and transferring photos on the fly. Given this impressive feature set, the Canon G16 still is pocketable (to achieve this, Canon went without a flip-out screen that was on previous models like the G12). What are the downsides of G16? The most notable is that the sensor (1/1.7" CMOS) still is relatively small given the hefty price tag.
Megapixels: 12.1
Sensor Size: 41 sq. mm
Weight: 12.4 oz.
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Sony RX100 III CameraSony RX100 III ($798)
Sony is on its third rendition of the Sony RX 100 for a reason. This is one the best point-and-shoots ever made and what many enthusiasts and professionals use when they can’t carry larger set-ups. The camera has a large sensor that produces high-quality 20.1-megapixel images, a fast Carl Zeiss lens, and RAW capability, all packaged in a lightweight and durable body. The newest version features an improved maximum aperture of f/2.8 at the telephoto end for better low light performance, and a unique pop-up electronic viewfinder. You do get less zoom, but if you need it, you can still grab the Sony RX100 II for $648.
Megapixels: 20.2
Sensor Size: 116 sq. mm
Weight: 9.9 oz.
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Panasonic has raised the bar with the new LX100, which plays off the strong points of the popular LX7 above while offering so much more. First and foremost is the huge Four Thirds CMOS image sensor, which is approximately double the size of the Sony RX100 III above. The lens is almost identical in zoom range (24-75mm) and aperture range (f/1.7-2.8), but the LX100 shoots 4K Ultra HD video while the RX100 III does not. Both come with built-In Wi-Fi and NFC. The only real downsides of the LX100 are that it has fewer megapixels and is heavier at 13.9 ounces. Given the difference in sensor size, it’s a close call but we would give the nod to the LX100. 
Megapixels: 12.8
Sensor Size: 225 sq. mm
Weight: 13.9 oz.
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Best Mirrorless Cameras for Travel

Mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras were built entirely for digital, fitting DSLR-like image sensors into compact bodies. This class of digital camera is arguably the best for travel in 2014, offering outstanding image quality in a lightweight set-up. Below we’ve picked three of the best options for travel from the A6000 up to the new full-frame Sony A7.
 
 
Sony has been at the forefront of the mirrorless movement, and the Alpha A6000 is among the company’s latest generation (they recently dropped the old NEX moniker). The A6000 is a terrific all-around camera that offers a DSLR-like sensor in a camera body that weighs only 12.2 ounces (with the 16-50mm kit lens the total weight is approximately 16.3 ounces). There just isn’t much not to like at this price point: with the A6000 you get a 24.3-megapixel sensor, impressive autofocus, Full HD 1080p video, and built-in Wi-Fi. The cost of the camera set-up will creep upward if you dabble beyond the kit lenses (check out the Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 for a great travel lens), but the A6000 is one of the best options on this list. 
Megapixels: 24.3
Sensor Size: 336 sq. mm
Weight: 12.2 oz.
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For much of the year, we had the Olympus OM-D E-M1 as our leading mirrorless for camera for enthusiasts and those serious about their travel photography. However, the new Fujifilm XT1 has taken over the top spot (it’s the camera we often carry in our bag). The images produced by the XT1 are sharp, the colors exemplary, and the camera has a much more classic feel than other overly electronic mirrorless cameras to date. In addition to the impressive 18-55mm kit lens, a new kit is available with the weather resistant 18-135mm lens, which is a great option for travel and the outdoors. 
Megapixels: 16.3
Sensor Size: 368 sq. mm
Weight: 15.5 oz.
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Sony Alpha 7Sony Alpha A7 ($1,698)
The Sony A7 is world's lightest full-frame interchangeable lens camera—it’s considerably lighter and thinner than its full-frame DSLR counterparts from Nikon and Canon, offering professional image quality in a truly compact body. It’s also cheaper with a price under $1,500 for the camera body. What are the weaknesses of the Sony A7? The low light performance is sub par for a camera in this price range, the autofocus could be better, and the lens options are still limited (but improving). However, the A7, along with the more expensive Sony A7R (36.4 megapixels) and Sony A7S (great for video including 4K), are impressive technological feats and excellent full-frame cameras for travelers who can afford them.
Megapixels: 24.3
Sensor Size: 855 sq. mm
Weight: 16.7 oz. (477 g)
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Best DSLRs for Travel

Digital SLRs have the largest sensors, the most precise lenses, and capture the highest overall image quality of any type of camera. They also are bulkier than mirrorless cameras or point-and-shoots and come with a higher price tag. For travel, many of the entry-level models are lightweight, offer great image quality along with features like built-in Wi-Fi and GPS.
 
 
The new D3300 is a lightweight DSLR with some nice improvements over the older Nikon D3200. First, Nikon removed the optical low pass filter for better sharpness. Second, they added Nikon’s newest EXPEED 4 image processing engine to reduce noise and improve low light performance. Finally, Nikon lightened the camera body slightly and cut the weight of the new 18-55mm VR II kit lens by 20%. This means the Nikon D3300 offers great image quality in a lightweight set-up to rival mirrorless cameras and the compact Canon SL1 below.
Megapixels: 24.2
Sensor Size: 357 sq. mm
Weight: 15.1 oz.
Lenses: See our Best Lenses for Nikon D3300
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Canon EOS Rebel SL1Canon EOS SL1 ($599 with 18-55mm lens)
The Canon SL1 is one of the smallest and lightest DSLRs ever made, weighing approximately 14.4 ounces without a lens. This model is serious competition to the increasingly popular class of mirrorless cameras but has the lens offerings of a DSLR (lenses are still a weak point of the mirrorless camera market, although they are catching up). With the Canon SL1 you won’t get a flip-out screen like the Rebel models and the autofocus isn’t quite as advanced, but many prefer the compact size for travel and other uses that require portability.
Megapixels: 18
Sensor Size: 332 sq. mm
Weight: 14.4 oz.
Lenses: See our Best Lenses for Canon SL1
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Canon 6DCanon EOS 6D ($1,899)
Yes, we’ve made a significant jump from the entry-level DSLRs above the full-frame Canon EOS 6D. But we think you should either take the lightweight and portable option or go for professional image quality with a camera like the 6D. This “budget” full-frame DSLR hits the sweet spot among consumers and enthusiasts with excellent image quality, Full HD 1080p video, and built-in Wi-Fi and GPS for sharing and transferring files. The autofocus of the 6D is disappointing, which means that it’s inferior to other full-frame cameras for video and action, but it’s a great for capturing stills. If you want to take it down a notch with a mid-range DSLR, try the Canon 70D.
Megapixels: 20.2
Sensor Size: 855 sq. mm
Weight: 26.8 oz.
Lenses: See our Best Lenses for Canon 6D
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You’re not going to be shedding pounds with D810 (except maybe by carrying it), but this camera simply is the best of the best. For all your hard-earned money you get a powerful 36.3-megapixel full-frame image sensor, an upgraded Expeed 4 image processor, no antialiasing filter for excellent sharpness, and access to Nikon’s superb collection of FX lenses. With the stills and videos that this camera produces, it can impress even the most discerning of photographers and is a favorite among top professionals. For travelers, it’s not ideal to be lugging around a nearly two-pound camera, not to mention the lenses that go with it. But if you want the best image quality that money can buy, look no further than the Nikon D810. 
Megapixels: 36.3
Sensor Size: 861 sq. mm
Weight: 31.1 oz.
Lenses: See our Best Lenses for Nikon D810
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