Choosing a travel camera can be tricky. To video and photograph our never ending honeymoon, we’ve used compact digital cameras, bridge cameras, GoPros and a mirrorless camera. Find out what we liked/didn’t like and what travel camera we’d recommend for travelling light, video, adventure sports and city escapes.
Choosing a compact travel camera
When we first set out on our 12 month honeymoon in 2012, we had an Olympus ųTough ‘point-and-shoot’ digital camera. It was waterproof, durable and shockproof (but not quite Jacqui-proof). The pocket-sized, 12 mega-pixel camera took ‘pop-colour’ images that brightened our travel photos. And, we were able to capture fun video of our adventures.
But, as our 12 month honeymoon turned into our never ending honeymoon, we needed to upgrade our travel camera to take better quality photos and video.
Advantages of a compact travel camera
Compact digital cameras make a great travel camera for city escapes and trips where you might need to pack light. But they’re also good for quickly capturing family moments or nights out with your friends – especially when you show them that you can take photos from inside a jug of beer (if it’s waterproof!).
Like our old Olympus ųTough, many compact digital cameras can be waterproof, shockproof, have an optical zoom lens and LCD screen. And some will have Wifi and GPS functionality for connecting and sharing on the go. So they make great travel cameras for trips to the snow and adventure sports like hiking, climbing or cycling.
A smaller sized travel camera will easily fit into a bag or pocket and can be used more easily for selfies. Usually, there’s no extra equipment needed.
And, they usually take decent quality photos that you can post online, enlarge on canvas or put into photo books.
Bridge/compact travel camera recommendations
Olympus Tough, Panasonic Lumix, Nikon Coolpix, Canon Powershot and Fujifilm FinePix are all well-reviewed makes of compact digital cameras that make great travel cameras. For a decent compact digital camera, expect to pay around £200-£400 ($300-$700).
However, with smartphones becoming water-proof and more durable, and their image quality forever improving, always consider your options. Is it more cost-effective to simply upgrade your mobile phone? Or, do you want more control, manual settings and interchangeable lenses?
In 2014 I wasn’t quite ready to take the big leap into the world of DSLR cameras, but I knew I needed something more than a smartphone. So, after much research and testing a few cameras, we decided that a bridge camera would be a sensible next step.
Why the Canon Powershot range make great travel cameras
My first bridge camera was a Canon Powershot G15. I chose it over the G16 model because it was a light travel camera and it took great photos in good and low light very quickly.
I think bridge cameras and compact digital cameras with manual settings are the perfect solution for a travel camera. Especially if you want something small and light, and you’re not ready for a DSLR camera. The bridge camera gave me the chance to explore aperture and light and exposure without worrying about changing lenses or carrying too much weight.
Check out some of my favourite Canon Powershot G15 photos from our hot air balloon ride over Turkey.
And, when I dropped my Canon Powershot G15 on its lens a year later, I immediately replaced it with a Canon Powershot S120.
The Canon Powershot S120 is pocket-size tiny, has great auto-mode photos, manual settings you can play around with and a good ISO range for low-light photos. And, fantastic movie and sound. Even though I purchased it in early 2014, I still use my Canon S120 constantly for quick photos on the move, video blogs and inside/night time shots.
And, check out our video blog of Iceland (Christmas 2016) with combination of commentary and footage from our Canon Powershot S120 and footage from Dan’s GoPro Hero 3.
Capture the action with a GoPro
Shopping on a budget, Dan purchased a refurbished GoPro Hero 3 in early 2014 for about £140. It came with the GoPro camera, two buckles, four sticky mounts and a clear waterproof case. And, to stay within budget, he got extra batteries, a monopod (pole), a head strap mount and chest mount from eBay and Amazon.
Advantages of a GoPro as a travel camera
Being waterproof and durable meant the GoPro was a great replacement of our Olympus ųTough.
The wide angle lens is my favourite feature as you can get a whole group of people in a selfie and still see plenty of the background. Most of the time, our GoPro is mounted on a monopod. Which means we can usually capture photos above a crowd or a selfie very quickly and easily.
Once you get the hang of it, it’s quite easy to change between the video, photo, photo burst and time lapse settings. And, the Wifi functionality allows quick connecting to smart phones. So, you can share your photos and video quickly on the go.
Note, the picture quality was decent in good light, but left much to be desired indoors or in poor light. And, with it’s waterproof case on, the sound quality is not great for talking to the camera.
But, Dan’s GoPro Hero 3 was perfect for filming his snowboarding adventures in Austria, France, Canada and Italy. He usually uses the monopole, chest mount and sometimes a head mount to capture different angles as he throws himself down the mountain. We’ve also used the GoPro at the beach, fishing, riding around Amsterdam on bikes, and for general travel photos and video.
Why we had to upgrade from a GoPro Hero 3 to a GoPro Hero 5
After three years, the GoPro Hero 3’s video and photos were starting to get a little grainy. Or, maybe we were being overly fussy when comparing it with a friend’s new GoPro? Either way, it was time to upgrade.
Dan got a GoPro Hero 5 in April 2017 (for £399) and it’s greatly improved the way we video our adventures and video blog (vlog). And, we still use it for wide-angle photos and time lapses of our travels. He got extra batteries via Amazon and is able to still use most of the accessories he had for the GoPro Hero 3.
The newer version is still durable and waterproof as the old one, but it has no case. And what a game-changing upgrade that is, GoPro! It means that the sound quality and ability to talk directly to the camera is brilliant. So, we can take candid video in (up to) 4k quality with great sound. And, the photo quality indoors and in low-light is so much better.
We highly recommend the GoPro Hero 5. It’s a fantastic, light-weight travel camera for selfies, wide shots and video.
Upgrading to a mirrorless camera: a Fujifilm X-T10 (and my new love)
In early 2016, I finally took the plunge and upgraded to a Fujifilm X-T10 mirrorless camera. The body and two lenses cost around £700 at the time. And, I also got an extra battery, a camera bag and tripod.
After falling in love with my Canon Powershot S120, I never thought I’d leave the Canon family. But, I put in more than six months of research (I am my father’s daughter) and decided that a lightweight mirrorless camera would be better for me than a similar priced DSLR. Mirrorless cameras were still relatively new to the market at the time and the Fujifilm model was a little cheaper than the Sony when taking into account lens costs.
I’m so glad I waited and chose the right camera – I love my Fujifilm X-T10!
The Fujifilm X-T10 is intuitive, lightweight and considerably compact compared with your standard DSLR camera. And, with it’s Wifi connectivity, I can easily share decent quality photos on the go from my smartphone or tablet.
It’s great for travelling light (we usually travel with hand luggage only). And, it’s small enough to slip into my handbag or hang over my shoulder when I’m moving around the city. It takes great auto-mode photos and has easy-to-use manual settings.
The lenses are great. I have the 18mm-50mm and 50mm-230mm which give me a great range for landscapes, cityscapes and people. I’m also saving up for the 35mm ‘pancake’ lens for its small size and awesome street photography shots.
Check out some of my favourite Fujifilm X-T10 photos:
- Showing off my secret spots in central London
- A weekend exploring the stunning Cinque Terre, Italy
- 25 photos of our two week adventure in Japan
What to consider when buying your own travel camera
Weight, size and durability
Do you need something that can fit into your hand luggage/carry on bag? Do you want to be carrying around a heavy camera, lenses and a tripod?
Many compact cameras are under 200 grams and can fit into your pocket. The GoPro can fit into a pocket when it’s not mounted on a monopod. My Fujifilm mirrorless camera with a lens, battery and memory card is around 400g and is light enough to hang over my neck or shoulder for a day. But with it’s extra lens, tripod and spare batteries in a over-the-shoulder camera bag it’s a about the weight of a large handbag. Many DSLRs are bigger and heavier than that.
Do you need something that is weatherproof, waterproof, shockproof or freeze proof? Be wary that not all compact cameras, mirrorless cameras or DSLRs are weatherproof.
Sharing your photos
Do you like to immediately upload your photos and video to Facebook, Instagram or other social media? Make sure you get a camera with Wifi connectivity so you can link it with your smartphone or tablet.
Your short term and long term budget
Are you on a tight budget? Or, are you happy to pay more for a premium product? Are you happy to invest in more lenses and equipment over time? Will you need tripods, mounts and straps?
Entry level compact cameras, bridge cameras, mirrorless cameras and DSLRs can be budget friendly. But premium cameras and highly-reputable brands can be more expensive.
Luckily, compact and bridge cameras are usually a one-off expense. On the other hand, you will need to purchase a mirrorless camera and DSLR body with a lens and possibly a camera bag and cleaning equipment. And, a mirrorless camera or DSLR might require longer term investment if you want to upgrade and purchase lenses over time. For example, when comparing Fujifilm to Sony, Sony’s lenses were much more expensive and would therefore require more investment over time.
Extra batteries and memory cards
There is nothing more disappointing than running out of battery or memory halfway through a holiday.
If you’re anything like us, you will use your travel camera to photograph and video your adventures constantly over the course of a day, weekend or holiday. So, extra batteries are always a must when we purchase a new travel camera.
We also make sure we have enough memory available for our entire holiday. For me, a good quality 16GB or 32GB SD memory card is more than enough for a holiday up to two weeks. In a weekend trip, I can get away with an 8GB SD memory card. Dan, however, videos in 2.7K on his GoPro constantly. On our four day trip to Portugal he used 50GB.
Full disclosure: everyone edits their photos (including us)
Editing our photos
I started editing my photos ‘post-production’ with free editing software on my phone or on my laptop in 2015. I’ve been quite happy with the easy-to-use and functionality of PhotoScape, and so far have only needed the free version.
Most photos that are posted to Instagram or Facebook are automatically uploaded in much lower quality or a smaller in size (pixels). So, I tend to spend more time editing photos that are posted to my blog or that I plan to print out or use in a photo book.
I only do basic edits to my photos to bring out highlights, lowlights or colour. I haven’t ventured into art photography, so I don’t need to use any specialised or expensive editing software (yet).
Editing our videos
In the beginning, Dan used the GoPro Studio to edit video. The GoPro software is a good starting point, but has fairly basic functionality and only works for GoPro footage.
He now uses Lightworks and can now combine video footage from our other devices with his GoPro footage. He then adds a variety of backing music/sound to create a masterpiece video. We get backing music for free online from Free Music Archive or pay a small amount on Audio Jungle.
Features of the cameras reviewed
Canon Powershot G15: 12 megapixels, 28 – 140 mm (5×) optical lens, LCD screen, f/1.8-2.8 aperture range, ISO 80-12800.
Canon Powershot S120: 12 megapixels, 24 – 120 mm (5×) optical lens, 3-inch touchscreen, f/1.8-5.7 aperture range, 1080p at 60fps movies and Wifi connectivity.
Fujifilm X-T10: 16.3 megapixels, interchangeable lenses, view finder and tilting LCD screen, ISO 200-6400 plus 100 – 51200 expanded, Full HD movies at 24-60fps and Wifi connectivity.
GoPro Hero 5 Black: 5 megapixels, waterproof to 10m without case, f/2.8 aperture, focus free, shockproof, stereo audio recording with three microphones, voice control, touch screen and Wifi connectivity.