We all hope to capture the high points of our adventures — the awe-inspiring views, the impromptu laugh fests, the indulgent feasts. While using your smartphone is certainly an option, we recommend considering an alternative — for a few reasons.
First, smartphones, while convenient, often take poor-quality photos in low light and lack serious or focus capability. Second, they sometimes just don’t have the room to capture all of the photos and videos you might want to take on your trip. With this in mind, we sought out compact cameras under $1,000 with at least 12 million pixels and storage capacity up to 20GB (enough for about 6,600 high-resolution photos or about 20 hours of video). Using these as a baseline, we found the following to be the best travel cameras for travelers in 2020:
Pixels: 24.2 million
We honestly thought Fujifilm was a bit dated, given its heyday in the ’80s and ’90s with disposable and pocket cameras that were convenient, though not super high-quality. Times have changed, however, and so has the brand; this model, in particular, is a phenomenal showcase of the company’s ability to pack a lot into a small device. A retro feel — courtesy of the leather accents — pairs with a crisp three-inch LCD screen that’s touch-sensitive. More importantly, the camera functions very well in low-light situations, reducing the amount of black noise that often appears on camera shots with lower-grade sensors. To boot, this camera weighs about 10 ounces and is fewer than five inches long and two inches thick, making it a perfect size for putting in your pocket, fanny pack, or backpack. The Fujifilm XF10 accommodates up to 256GB in storage and includes Bluetooth connectivity.
Pixels: 20.3 million
The zoom capabilities of this PowerShot is really what sold us. With 20x magnification and advanced stabilization (always a problem for those close-ups), you can capture some serious landscape magic. Plus, the camera has built-in WiFi, Bluetooth, and NFC technology, so transferring to and from devices is a cinch. You can also do remote shots, triggered by a smartphone app. Pretty cool, eh? While not as good at low-light image capture as the Fujifilm we ranked #1, this powerful camera does pretty well at kicking out the noise that always plague nighttime shots. It clocks in at just over 10 ounces and, while slightly thicker than the Fujifilm, is plenty small enough to tote around in pockets or small travel packs.
Pixels: 12 million
We fully expect to be trudging through swampy jungles or wading rivers in Southeast Asia at some point, and when we do, this will be the camera we take with us. Designed for the rugged traveler, the Olympus TG-5 is waterproof, dustproof, and shockproof — and it takes some crisp photos. Sure, its photos are not as high-res as the Canon or Fujifilm we just profiled, but it makes up for this detail with some other amazing features — like the syncing of compass, thermometer, and GPS info to every photo; underwater shooting (there are actually five settings for this); and a “Microscope” mode for those intense, up-close shots. What finally sold us: The price. You really can’t beat these features for under $400.
Pixels: 16 million
Everybody is an amateur photographer these days, but for those of you who are pros, you’ll want something more customizable than a standard point-and-shoot. Thus, we give you the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G85. Granted, this is not a compact, tote-in-your-pocket camera, but it’s also not as cumbersome as many DSLRs. We love it primarily for its video/audio functionality; it’s got a built-in gyro sensor for handshake correction, plus 4K video, two batteries to extend use time, and audio capture that delivers rich sound. It also has built-in WiFi. Unfortunately, this dynamo weighs a bit more than other top travel cameras at a little more than one pound, but you’ll want to have this on hand for video capture. All in all, it’s not unwieldy; it can easily be stowed in a backpack pouch.
Pixels: 20.1 million
This guy has the pixels, the sleek profile, and a solid zoom to land at #5 on our list. A light aluminum body makes it easy to carry, plus image stabilization coupled with the ExmorCMOS Sensor makes it easy to capture solid shots almost any time of day. Face detection and auto portrait framing help those new to photography capture expertly-composed shots, while several creative settings and easy LCD screen photo manipulation provide the more proficient photographer the tools they need to master photos on the fly. It’s a shame this camera doesn’t have WiFi, but it’s a solid option for frequent travelers nonetheless.
Is there a camera you use and love? Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we may add it to our list.