The Best Travel Cameras For Every Budget
Photos are the one thing every traveler collects. Unlike shot glasses or key chains, they make for highly personal souvenirs, capturing a moment in time that really meant something to us—whether it’s a glimpse of gorgeous scenery, an insight into local culture, something that made us laugh, or just a good time with friends.
A good camera can go a long way to making those visual souvenirs look their absolute best, but people are often intimidated by the cost and learning curve involved with high-end camera gear. Not to worry! There are quality travel cameras available for every kind of budget and level of experience, from the minimalist backpacker who just wants to snap a few quick pics to the professional travel photographer whose equipment needs its own suitcase.
Find your camera soulmate with our list of the best travel cameras for every budget and make your memories abroad truly frame-worthy!
Note: Prices fluctuate, which means the cameras recommended below may be going for a few bucks more or less depending on when you take a look at them. Use the budget categories as guidelines when looking for your new camera, and don’t be afraid to shop around!
BEST CAMERA UNDER $200
When shopping in the $200 range, the old saying “you get what you pay for” definitely applies. That being said, there are a couple of quality point-and-shoot models that offer a surprisingly robust range of features without breaking the bank.
Travelers hunting for a camera at this price point are most likely looking for something that’s compact, simple to use, and boasts slightly better image quality than their smartphone. The Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 HS ticks all of these boxes neatly (and comes in 3 different colors to boot!). Its 12x optical zoom* lens with optical image stabilizer is a rare find in a camera this slim, and makes snapping both wide-angle and portrait shots a breeze. With a resolution of 20.2 megapixels, the ELPH 360 manages to capture better-looking photos than any other camera in this category.
Throw in the ability to shoot video in crisp 1080p and a dedicated Wi-Fi button for sharing your photos on the fly and you’ve got yourself some serious bang for your buck. Bonus: this handy little camera fits neatly in a purse or coat pocket—a dream for girls who love to travel light!
BEST CAMERA UNDER $500
Cameras in this price range are perfect for anyone looking to dip their toes in the waters of travel photography without dropping a ton of cash, and Canon’s smallest and most affordable mirrorless model, the EOS M100, is ideal for newbie enthusiasts.
The EOS M100 is light and sleek-looking with a large, selfie-friendly flip touchscreen that will appeal to smartphone photographers. Weighing less than 10 ounces, the body of the camera can easily fit in the palm of your hand and won’t slow you down when carrying it around. On-body controls are kept to a minimum and most of the functions are accessed through the touchscreen—this simple interface plus the camera’s excellent full auto mode make the EOS M100 easy to use right out of the box.
Like pricier DSLR models, mirrorless cameras typically feature an interchangeable lens system. The EOS M100 comes equipped with a multipurpose 15-45mm lens that does a solid job handling day-to-day shots. Photographers looking to up their game a bit can look into some of the other EOS M lenses Canon offers: a compact telezoom lens, ultra-wide zoom lens, wide aperture prime lens (the one you want for blurred backgrounds and tricky light situations), and a macro lens for close-up shots.
With plenty of thoughtful touches—like a pop-up flash, Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth support, and Dual Pixel autofocus—the EOS M100 is fast, intuitive, unintimidating, and flat-out fun to use!
*“Optical” zoom means the camera uses a lens to physically zoom in while “digital” zoom means the camera’s software simply crops the photo instead—as you might’ve guessed, optical zoom offers much better image quality.
BEST CAMERA UNDER $1,000
Casual snapshooters are probably not going to spend this kind of money on a camera, but amateur travel photographers looking to upgrade to better equipment will find a ton of excellent options at this price point. With a budget of $1,000, you’re no longer limited to entry-level compact and mirrorless cameras—it’s totally possible to snag a high quality DSLR* at this price. Our pick? The Nikon D5600—lightweight, versatile, and loaded with features.
DSLRs can be notoriously bulky, which makes them a pain to pack and haul around. The D5600, by contrast, is almost as easy to tote around as its mirrorless cousins, which is a big deal if you’re the kind of traveler who covers a lot of ground when you’re abroad.
Despite its smaller size, the D5600 boasts a crisp 3.2” touchscreen and a deep, comfortable grip. Its button and dial interface is simple enough for beginners to figure out while still offering experienced photographers enough control when shooting. One of the best sensors on the market guarantees that the D5600’s out-of-camera JPEGS look incredible, and its impressive autofocus system makes snapping beautiful pictures as simple as tapping the touchscreen and clicking the shutter. Plus, the wide variety of excellent, affordable Nikon prime lenses means you can take your travel pics from wow to WHOA just like that.
The icing on the cake is Nikon’s SnapBridge tech—a system that uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to keep the D5600 connected to your smart device and transfer any photos you take from one to the other seamlessly and continuously. With so much going for it, it’s no wonder this fantastic, travel-friendly DSLR tops so many photographers’ wish lists.
*The acronym DSLR stands for “digital single lens reflex.” This refers to the mirror inside the body of the camera that reflects light coming through the lens up through a prism and out the viewfinder (where we see the image). The mirror quickly flips up when you click the shutter, allowing light to hit the sensor and capture the picture. The advantage of DSLRs is that when you look through the viewfinder, what you see is what you get—the image you capture will look exactly like the image you’re seeing in real time.
BEST CAMERA $2,000+
Hey, big spender! At this price point, there’s really no such thing as a “bad camera”—it all comes down to personal preference. Cameras in the $2,000+ range are going to be phenomenal no matter what brand or style you choose.
We like the flexibility and sleek look of the Sony a7R III, which can flip from high-res stills to luscious 4K video in an instant, and the heavy-duty Nikon D850 with its best-in-class image quality. Also worth a look are the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and the quirky, retro beauty that is is the Leica CL.
The most important thing to remember is: when it comes down to it, the “best” camera isn’t the one with the most attractive specs, or the biggest price tag, or the most rave reviews online. The best camera is, honestly, the one that you’ll actually use. Do you love the look and feel of the camera? Is it easy and comfortable for you to carry it around? Do you feel confident with the controls? Do the pictures turn out the way you like? If so, then that’s the one for you.