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Top recommended travel cameras (pocket, midsize, DSLR, full frame) as of February 2016:

Research by Tom Dempsey recommends the following portable cameras and gear best for on-the-go photographers. Yearly advances now put the sweet spot for serious travel cameras in the range from 1”-Type to APS-C size sensors (read article). Personally, I carry a high-resolution midsize APS-C camera with 11x zoom lens, plus a backup pocket-size 1″-size-sensor camera good for macro (close focus).
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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 version III Digital Camera

Best pocket camera: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III

A. World’s best pocket-size camera:

Sony DSC-RX100 (IV, III, II, or I) packs a surprisingly bright lens and big 1-inch sensor (read my article) into a pocketable zoom camera. Add a Sony AG-R2 attachment grip. Compare in Tom’s Sony Cyber-shot RX100 review article — save money with used or earlier III, II or I versions. Or consider rival pocketable cameras:

B. World’s best midsize travel camera:
buy at Amazon: Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm Lens

Best midsize travel camera: Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Camera, with 16-50mm lens

Sony A6000 with 16-50mm Lens (2014, 12 oz + 4 oz 24-75mm equiv zoom, 24mp APS-C) has truly Fast Hybrid Autofocus! Upgrade to 11x zoom Sony 18-200mm OSS E-mount SEL18200 silver lens (18.5 oz, 27-300mm equiv). A Sony 10-18mm f4 OSS E-mount lens is sharper, good for architecture and landscapes. Extend telephoto reach with 10x Sony 24-240mm OSS E-mount lens (27.5 oz, 36-360mm equiv). Sony A6000 tops Nikon for travel with 11x lens (read article) and beats my earlier Sony NEX-7. Other good midsize cameras include:

A smaller, noisier 1/2.3″-Type sensor allows extended zoom range in the following midsize cameras:

C. Best-value DSLR-style travel camera

Nikon D5500 (2015, 15 oz body, 24mp APS-C sensor/DX format), or earlier Nikon D3300 DSLR camera (2014, 16 oz), is bulkier than mirrorless but offers more lens choices:

D. Best full-frame-sensor travel camera:

Sony Alpha A7 Mirrorless camera (2013, 17 oz body) or Sony Alpha A7 II full frame camera (2014, 21 oz) requires Sony FE (full frame) E-mount lenses. The full frame sensor resolves more detail with less noise in dim light at high ISO 3200+ (when compared to APS-C and smaller sensors).

Tom recommends the following accessories:

What makes an ideal travel camera?

The “best” travel camera is the one you want to carry everywhere. The best Light Travel cameras (as chosen above) should minimize bulk and weight while maximizing sensor dimensions (read article), zoom range, lens diameter, battery life ( ≥ 350 shots), and ISO “sensitivity” (for lower noise in dim light). Upgrade your camera every 3 years to boost image quality. An optimally sharp zoom lens should change the angle of view by 4x to 11x to rapidly frame divergent subjects, without the extra bulk or annoyance of swapping lenses. Lenses should autofocus fast (with hybrid AF minimizing shutter lag ≤ 0.3 sec), optically stabilize images, and focus closely (for macro). Travel cameras should pop up a built-in flash and also flip out (articulate/hinge/swivel) a high-resolution display screen to jump-start your creative macro, movie, and candid shooting at arm’s length. OLED displays usually outshine LCD. Sunny-day reflections often obscure display-screen visibility − but to save bulk, most pocket cameras sadly lack a viewfinder. A camera with a brilliant electronic viewfinder (preferably an EVF with ≥ 1 million dots) gives better feedback on the final digital image than a non-digital optical viewfinder.

TIPS for travel in adverse conditions

  1. Weather & dust protection: Prudent bagging can avoid the extra expense of a weather-sealed body & lens – keep a camera handy, safely in a front pouch on your chest or hip (where it can be retrieved more quickly than from a pack on your back). Adverse fluctuations of temperature & humidity, or dusty conditions, or sea spray all require cameras to be double-protected in a zip-lock plastic bag inside the padded pouch. Use a soft, absorbent silk cloth to wipe away moisture or dust from lens & body before bagging.
  2. Cold batteries: Using camera batteries below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (or 4 Celsius) loses their charge quicker, causing camera shut down or lock. Revive and extend battery life in cold or below-freezing weather by warming an extra battery or two in an interior pocket near your skin and swapping with the camera’s battery after every 5-10 minutes of cold exposure.
  3. Off the grid: For trips away from electrical power sockets, recharge your hungry GPS, phone or tablet devices with:
  4. Satellite communication: Stay in touch everywhere in the world via Iridium satellite with DeLorme inReach Explorer (7 oz; buy at Amazon): send and receive 160-character text messages with GPS coordinates (accurate to five meters) to cell numbers or email addresses worldwide and post updates to social media. This new, affordable technology connects campers, hikers, hunters, backpackers, alpinists, and backcountry skiers who often venture outside of cell phone networks. The portable 7-ounce device includes a color-coded map with waypoints, elevation readings, current speed, average moving speed, and compass. Also, you can trigger an SOS, receive delivery confirmation, and communicate with DeLorme’s 24/7 search-and-rescue monitoring center.

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In more detail, compare the best NEW travel cameras

A. Best pocket-size cameras for everyone

TIP: As a workaround for sluggish autofocus in cheaper compact cameras: prefocus (lock) on a contrasty edge of the subject by half pressing and holding the shutter button, then the subsequent full press will be instant, ≤ 0.15 second. But half-press autofocus lock doesn’t work in continuous focus or action modes. Don’t let an inferior camera frustrate your capture of action, people, pets, or sports. Instead, consider a newer model with hybrid AF such as pocket-size Sony RX100, or midsize Panasonic FZ1000, or interchangeable-lens camera as follows for surer action shots

B. Best midsize cameras

The best midsize cameras for travel have interchangeable-lenses and an Electronic ViewFinder ( EVF / mirrorless ) as follows:

1. TOP TRAVEL CAMERA OF 2014-15: a bigger sensor (APS-C size) gathers more light through a larger lens:

2. Best splash-proof, dust-proof, hardy midsize camera for travel (with Micro Four Thirds sensor):

3. Best portable 810mm telephoto for wildlife, birds, sports (33 oz with 1″-Type sensor):

If you don’t require interchangeable lenses on your midsize camera, consider the best superzoom models:

superzoom midsize camera can save money while capturing wide-angle landscapes and also magnifying distant wildlife. Serious travel photographers should get a bigger sensor, at least 1-inch Type (13.2 x 8.8 mm), as follows:

  • Panasonic FZ1000 camera (2014, 29 oz with lens) f/2.8-4 lens 25-400mm equiv, 16x zoom. 1-inch-Type, 20mp sensor. Fast autofocus. Fully articulated LCD. Notes:
    • For the same weight (but twice the price) as FZ1000, you can upgrade to Sony A6000 with 18-200mm lens and APS-C sensor (having 3x bigger light-gathering area, but maybe not as sharp at long end of telephoto).
    • The Panasonic FZ1000’s brightest “equivalent F-stop” (f/7.7 to f/11 equiv from 25-400mm equiv) is not as bright as Sony’s E-mount 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 lens (f/5.25 to f/9.45 equiv from 27-300mm equiv). [Definition: “equivalent F-stop” is the F-number on a full-frame-sensor camera which has the same hole diameter as the brightest F-stop of the camera lens being compared, and lets you compare control over shallowest depth of focus/field.]
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 camera (2013, 29 oz) is more compact, with 8x zoom lens, f/2.8 maximum aperture (which is f/7.6 equivalent in terms of 35mm-size-sensor-systems throughout its 24-200mm equivalent).

Cameras with smaller sensors:

  • Olympus Stylus 1s (2015, 14 oz with 28-300mm equiv f/2.8 lens) is the world’s smallest camera having an 11x zoom on a 1/1.7″ type sensor. Its great electronic viewfinder is same as Olympus OM-D E-M5. Good 410-shot CIPA battery life.
  • The following cameras have a tiny 1/2.3-inch Type sensor which should beat cell phone quality, requires bright outdoor light, and is suitable for sharing images online or making small prints:
    • Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 (2015, 24.4 oz, 12 mp, bright f/2.8 lens throughout 25-600mm equivalent, 24x zoom range, with OIS/Optical Image Stabilization, HD Video with sound, and raw file support) introduces weather sealing to keep out dust and moisture. Save money on earlier, non-sealed FZ200 or FZ70.
    • Nikon Coolpix P900 (2015, 32 oz, 16mp, 24–2000mm equivalent 83X zoom lens)
    • Olympus SP-100 camera (2014, 21 oz, 16mp, 50x zoom, 24-1200 equivalent, 1 cm close focus, nice 920k dot EVF): innovative On-Camera Dot Sight helps track distant birds or moving subjects.

The best mirrorless designs can pack more quality into a smaller box, but DSLR cameras (below) offer more specialty lenses, with a design legacy inherited from the 35mm film era, where an optical viewfinder’s mirror box adds bulk. 

C. Bulkier DSLR cameras have more lens options, fast autofocus+tracking, and optical viewfinder (via mirror):

As with most DSLR-style cameras, the following great travel system focuses fast using optical viewfinder but autofocuses very slowly in Live View on LCD:

DSLR cameras are best for interchanging more lens choices and for shooting action (sports, birds) reliably with little shutter lag when using their optical viewfinder. “DSLR” means Digital Single Lens Reflex, where a mirror lets the viewfinder see through the lens. During a shot, the mirror briefly flips up to expose a digital sensor. However, almost all DSLR cameras of 2014 and earlier have excruciatingly slow autofocus (2-4 seconds) in Live View on the LCD − except for Canon 70D (2013, 27 oz, with Dual Pixel CMOS AF built into its 20mp sensor), and for Sony’s super fast Translucent Mirror Technology (a fixed mirror). Sony’s Translucent Mirror Technology speeds past the excruciatingly slow Live View autofocus of most rival DSLR designs:

TIP: Upgrade your camera every 2 or 3 years (like I do) to get better real resolution, lower noise at higher ISO speeds ( ≥ 800), and quicker autofocus. Since 2009, most cameras take sharper hand-held shots using optical image stabilization (branded as Nikon VR, Canon IS, Panasonic OIS, Sigma OS, Tamron VC, Sony OSS). Today’s cameras capture much better highlight and shadow detail, by using better sensors plus automatic HDR (high dynamic range imaging) and other optimizations for JPEG files. Plus, editing raw format files extracts the most detail.

D. Full-frame-sensor cameras excel at indoor, night, or dim-light action shots at ISO ≥3200.

Recommended close focus/macro lenses for DSLR cameras

For close focus (macro enlargement of insects and plants), copy work, and extra-sharp general photography:

Instead of carrying one of the above prime macro lenses for a DSLR camera, consider carrying a pocket camera (at top, 8-10 ounces) which can focus very closely at wide angle with deep depth of focus, and can serve as a backup for your larger/main camera.

See related articles: “BEST TELEPHOTO ZOOM LENS 300mm+” and “BEST WIDE ANGLE LENS for DSLR.”

More accessories

Where to buy cameras and gear with reliable customer service

Gear history: Click here to see Tom Dempsey’s travel cameras adopted from 1978 to now.

Terminology and metric conversions

Compare digital camera sensor sizes overlaid together: full frame 35mm, APS-C, Micro Four Thirds, 1-inch, and more.

Above: compare digital camera sensor sizes overlaid together: full frame 35mm, APS-C, Micro Four Thirds, 1-inch, 1/1.7″, 1/2.5” Type.

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34 thoughts on “BEST TRAVEL CAMERAS 2015 review

  1. joms says:

    What is the best 4K travel camera ($2000 and below)? I was originally considering the Samsung NX1 but due to rumors that Samsung is closing, I am turning my attention to the the Panasonic GX8. I sure hope Olympus/Canon/Nikon starts selling small 4K cameras. (Note: Sony a7sii and a7rii are jusst too expensive)

    • Tom Dempsey says:

      Choosing your “best” 4K-video travel camera hinges upon your lens choices, desired camera size, price, and many other factors:
      – I admire the Samsung NX1’s superb image quality, fantastic for both 4K video and also 28mp stills with great dynamic range, one of the best-ever APS-C-size-sensor mirrorless cameras! But for me, Samsung NX1 is rather heavy for a travel camera, with body alone weighing 19.4 oz (including battery). NX1’s lens choices are limited but include some real winners, such as the sharp but heavy 21-oz weather-sealed 16-50mm f/2-2.8mm lens. Samsung has widely marketed their successful NX1 camera business and I would be surprised to see it cease in the USA [see http://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2015/09/23/rumor-busted-samsung-is-not-exiting-the-camera-business-at-least-not-the-on]; but as of Nov 26, 2015 Samsung has closed their camera business in UK and Germany.

      Considering a 4k-video camera with smaller 4/3-inch-size sensor can lighten the weight of your lenses+camera and gives more lens choices than an NX1:
      — Panasonic GX8 (2015, 17.1 oz body, 20mp, but no built-in flash) is a great choice for 4k video, as is the earlier GH4 (2014, 20 oz body, 16mp).
      — Handy for framing rapidly-varying travel subjects, the Panasonic Lumix G Vario HD 14-140mm f/4.0-5.8 ASPH/MEGA OIS lens (16 oz, 28-280mm equivalent) rivals the optical quality of competing 10x to 11x zooms, even compared to APS-C.

      But if 4k-video capabilities are more important for you than still-image quality, you may not need much more than a 1-inch-type sensor (unless you like filming in dim light or need the shallower depth of focus possible with larger sensors). If saving both money and weight on a 4k video camera is important, consider a small 1-inch-type sensor:
      — Panasonic FZ1000 (2014, 29 oz includes a versatile 25-400mm 16x travel lens, 20 mp).
      — The best-ever pocket-sized camera now shoots great 4k video: Sony RX100 version IV (2015, 10.5 oz, 20mp with fast 24-70mm lens, with good pop-up EVF/viewfinder).

      Essential for video, the following cameras fully articulate their LCD screen: Panasonic GX8, GH4, and FZ1000. The others only tilt their LCD (Samsung NX1, Sony RX100 IV).

      All of the above 4k-video cameras support the UHD 4k standard with 16:9 proportion for 4k televisions (3840×2160 pixels, displayed progressively at 2160p) (Ultra High Definition or UHD can also be called “QuadHD” for having 4 times more screen pixels than “Full HD” 1080p resolution). But only NX1 and GH4 support the DCI 4k standard for commercial cinema projection (4096×2160 pixels, 17:9 proportion).

  2. Jim Meehan says:

    Hi, Just got back from Africa where I used a Panasonic zs40 as a pocket camera standing in on close shots for my DSLR with a 600mm lens. ZS40 had little use for 8 mos before trip and took pretty nice pix before hand. Once over there the pocket camera took horribly focused pictures and was a disaster. Panasonic warranty still in effect when I got back so I sent it to them and they claim camera gummed up with dust and they declared it abuse and not under warranty. My first reaction was Never again Panasonic! But as I look around it seems that some of the pocket cameras are coming out as sealed and splash proof. So I guess that I need to find something that is made to be as resistant as possible. I still like a super tele which makes sealing harder. Can you give me some thoughts on this issue. What pocket cameras would you recommend with these factors in mind? Thanks, Jim

    • Tom Dempsey says:

      Dear Jim, I’m sorry to hear that the ZS40 gummed up with dust in Africa — that can happen in dusty areas for most cameras that protrude a lens when turned on and off (and thereby pump air in and out). Have you considered one of the sealed compact camera models designed for underwater/rugged/shock usage, such as designed by Olympus? One of the best current models is:
      Olympus Tough TG-4 (2015, 8.7 oz, 25-100mm equiv 4x zoom).
      Sealing the camera and making it tough involves compromises, such as smaller sensor and/or less zoom for a given size camera. (Another idea is to buy an underwater housing for a given camera, but that is bulkier and much less practical than buying a dedicated underwater camera.)

      For weather and dust protection, I always keep cameras covered in a front pouch for easy access. During adverse fluctuations of temperature and humidity or near the sea or in dusty conditions, I double-protect the camera in a zip-lock plastic bag inside the padded pouch (thus avoiding the extra expense of a weather-sealed body and lens).

      Related story: After 11 months of owning the great Sony RX100 version I, I noticed some dust spots in portions of shots having uniform blue sky — and a test shot of uniform blue sky confirmed the problem of dust on the sensor. I sent the camera back to Sony under the 1-year warrantee, and they cleaned the sensor for me for free! Compact camera customers have no allowed way to access the sensor, so it was really nice that Sony cleaned it under warrantee. Note that the Sony RX100 is much pricier than the Panasonic ZS40 or ZS50. Based upon this story (and your reminder from dusty Africa), I will periodically check for dust more often on all cameras, especially compact cameras like my current Sony RX100 version III (which is unsealed). I will be more vigilant in dusty areas to protect the camera, such as double-bagged when not in immediate use.

      Jim replied: “You put your finger on the one drawback, only a 4x is a problem… do you know any other sealed cameras that are a higher zoom?”
      Tom replies: Requiring weather sealing along with a big zoom telephoto range tends to increase camera size, or else requires reducing the sensor size at the cost of noisier images and poorer performance in dim light (as in the Olympus TG-4).

      Below is a list of weather-sealed, “compact” cameras (non-interchangeable-lens) with a large zoom, the first three having 1” sensor size, and last three having a tiny 1/2.3″ sensor (which gathers light in a surface area 4 times smaller):
      1. Sony RX10 II (2015), 20 MP, 1″ BSI-CMOS Sensor, 24–200 mm f/2.8 Lens, 29 oz/813 g
      2. Sony RX10 (2014 version), 20 MP, 1″ BSI-CMOS Sensor, 24–200 mm f/2.8 Lens, 29 oz/813 g
      3. Canon G3X (2015), 20 MP, 1″ BSI-CMOS Sensor, 24–600 mm f/2.8-5.6 Lens, 733 g
      4. Panasonic FZ300 (2015), 12 MP, 1/2.3” sensor, 25 – 600mm f2.8 lens, 24.4 oz/691 g — best bang-for-the-buck in this list.
      5. Fujifilm S1 (2011), 16 MP, 1/2.3″ CMOS Sensor, 24–1200 mm f/2.8-5.6 Lens, 680 g
      6. Olympus TG-4, 16 MP, 1/2.3″ BSI-CMOS Sensor, 25–100 mm Lens, 247 g — the only pocket-sized camera of these six.

  3. hklau says:

    Hi Tom, In your opinion which will produce a better travelling landscape photograph. Sony RX100 III or Alpha 6000?

    • Tom Dempsey says:

      With its sensor being 3 times larger in light-gathering surface area, the 24mp Sony Alpha A6000 will generally capture landscape image quality superior to the 20mp Sony RX100 III, when shot at subject focusing distances of at least 2 feet (60 cm) to infinity. But at close focusing distances, such as 4 inches for flower macro photos, RX100 generally captures superior images (unless you mount a specialized macro lens on A6000 to focus closer than its typical lenses). The smaller size of RX100 makes it easier to carry for travel convenience, such as in a shirt pocket — to help ensure you always carry a camera and never miss a shot. Because the two cameras have different strengths, I travel with both! If one breaks accidentally, the other serves as backup.

  4. Siddhartha Deb says:

    What is the best 30x zoom travel camera among the following.
    1. Canon Sx 700 IS
    2. Nikon S 9700
    3. Sony HS 60V.

    • Tom Dempsey says:

      Among those three cameras, Sony HS 60V has superior 20mp sensor resolution and battery life; otherwise it’s similar to Nikon S9700 and Canon SX700 IS.
      Also consider the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50 (2015, 8.6 oz, 24–720 mm equiv 30x zoom), which adds an important electronic viewfinder (EVF), very useful on bright sunny days where the LCD screen is difficult to see. (Or earlier Panasonic ZS40 saves money.)

  5. Tom Dempsey says:

    Ellen is considering upgrading from her Panasonic Lumix LX7 and Sony NEX 3N cameras, and today asks me: For travel, how does Panasonic FZ1000 camera stack up against Sony A6000? Tom Dempsey answers:

    Sony A6000 still has my vote for best all-around travel camera.

    The A6000 has a sensor 3 times bigger in light-gathering area than the 1-inch sensor found in Panasonic FZ1000, and 8 times bigger than found in Panasonic LX7. For better low-light performance, a physically bigger sensor is generally superior. In low light, you can also use Sony’s “Handheld Twilight Mode” (in Sony NEX, A6000, and RX100) to automatically combine multiple shots into one sharper shot (JPEG output only, not RAW). By the way, tiny cameras such as in Apple iPhone 5S smartphone similarly combine several photos automatically to increase image quality & sharpness in low light, at slow shutter speeds (1/15th second or faster), and for high dynamic range (HDR). iPhone’s HDR option (set AUTO or ON) nicely brings out shadow detail while preserving highlights, but should be turned off if you want a high-contrast image. The iPhone 5S tiny sensor can be comparatively noisy/blotchy in low light, being 21 times smaller in area than APS-C sensor.

    The Sony A6000 has as good or better performance in low light than any other camera with APS-C size sensor. A6000 easily beats the low light ability of smaller-sensor cameras such as the 1/1.7-inch-type sensor in Lumix LX7. (You would need a full-frame sensor camera to perform better in low light than A6000; but full-frame sensors will generally increase size of both lens and camera, such as in a Sony A7, whose sensor area is twice as big as A6000.)

    For the same travel weight as a Panasonic FZ1000, you could get a generally superior 30-ounce Sony A6000 including a 18-200mm lens (27-300mm equivalent in terms of 35mm full frame). The Panasonic FZ1000 cannot interchange lenses, but Sony A6000 can. However, FZ1000 (with 16x zoom lens) is half the price of Sony A6000 (with 11x lens):

    Panasonic FZ1000 is a good choice of travel camera, with:
    – equal or better image quality, superior telephoto reach, and larger body than (but same weight as) Sony RX10, its closest competitor
    – 1-inch-type sensor giving excellent image quality, 20mp
    – very fast autofocus and overall performance
    – high resolution XGA electronic viewfinder, OLED 1024 x 768
    – fully articulated LCD
    – excellent video
    – 29 ounces or 831g weight, with battery.
    – bright F2.8-4 lens covers 25-400mm equiv. range:
    … FZ1000 has twice the telephoto of competing Sony DSC-RX10 (which is smaller but still weighs 29 oz due to brighter f/2.8 lens throughout its 24-200mm equiv 8x zoom)
    … FZ1000 may be sharper at 400mm telephoto than cropping Sony’s 18-200mm lens (27-300mm equivalent) on Sony A6000, especially sharper around the edges of images, except at high ISO, where the larger sensor is expected to look better.
    … By the way, when judged by actual hole size or “equivalent F stop” (which controls shallowest depth of focus), the FZ1000’s brightest F stop is not as bright as the 18-200mm lens on A6000.

  6. Tord S Eriksson says:

    Just a comment about the D3200: I used to own the D3200, which under ideal conditions was amazing, but it really needed clear, sunny, days to shine, or the noise ate up all the details (just as it is with the 1″ cameras)! I bought a D600 instead… An amazingly much better camera, not least in low light!

  7. Robert Couldry says:

    Fantastic website, thank you. I have a Canon 60D but am finding it plus a couple of lenses pretty heavy to handle on my travels (mostly involving trekking). The NEX-6/7 gets a great rap from you and I am really interested in it but am wondering how it goes in lousy weather. I note that the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is weather-sealed but your reviews seem to favor the NEX significantly over the Olympus. Is that the case and how do you protect the NEX from rain/dust etc?

    • Tom Dempsey says:

      I agree that Canon 60D is a bit on the heavy side for trekking, which motivates use of a lightweight NEX-6/7 (upgraded to A6000 in 2014) with great APS-C sensor. I keep my camera safely in a front pouch on a chest harness for easy access: my NEX-7 camera and 18-200mm lens fit nicely in a Lowepro Toploader Zoom 50 AW Bag. In waterfall spray or rain, I take the camera out of the pouch quickly, take a shot, wipe all parts of the lens & body with a silk cloth, and quickly protect the camera under cover again. (A partner with an umbrella is better if possible.) After a few shots, I stop risking the camera and wait for drier conditions, or use a smaller Sony RX100 (buy at Amazon) which is easier to keep dry under a big hat brim and quickly tucked into a pocket. In rain, frequent water drops on lens and flat light usually motivate me to wait for better weather. If you can afford it, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is a great quality camera, especially if you find weather sealing desirable. (I loved the reliable, unsealed Olympus OM-1N as my main camera from 1978–1997!) But few Olympus lenses come weather sealed, and its Micro Four Thirds sensor captures a stop less dynamic range than APS-C, limiting crucial highlight and shadow recovery from RAW files. Bodies are easier to protect from rain than lenses. Risk of unsealed lenses fogging inside is the biggest issue, solved by pumping it in and out in a dry environment as soon as possible. Over 30 years of shooting mostly in temperate climates, I’ve never needed a sealed camera — except where snorkeling/rafting/kayaking sports required an underwater compact camera (also good against dust or rain). Weather-sealing may only pay off if you spend a lot of time in extremely cold, wet, or dusty conditions. The possible longer life of expensive sealed cameras doesn’t attract me due to great upgrades coming every three years for cheaper unsealed cameras.

  8. Amber Maywald says:

    Hi Tom, really appreciate reading all of your knowledgeable advice! I too am looking for the perfect travel camera to use on an extended trip in different climates including cold dry antarctica and Himalayas, dusty Australian desert, wet humid tropics as well as temperate European conditions. I plan to be trekking and backpacking so need something small and lightweight that maximizes it’s battery life. Something versatile enough for both low light indoor gatherings and bright light high contrast landscape scenarios. Also want the camera to be able to take nighttime sky & landscape pictures! I like to take a range of photo types including panoramic, wildlife, micro, portraits, action, and time exposure. Enough pixels to be able to print up to 24″ images, but without excessive mp’s which create ghastly huge files. I like common sense dials and settings so I don’t have to waste time navigating through long winded menus. I also want to be able to record high quality video on the same device. So basically a sturdy/compact/lightweight camera & lens combo that takes amazing photos with stunning color under all conditions and can do everything while operating straightforwardly! Does such a device exist?? Thanks :)

    • Tom Dempsey says:

      Your extended trip sounds fun, covering every possible climate. Your long list of desired features cannot be met by any one camera, but points towards a short list of cameras with APS-C sized sensor, the best currently being: Sony NEX-6 or NEX-7 with Sony (SEL18200) 18-200mm lens (read my complete article). As with Nikon DSLR cameras, Sony NEX menus are poorly designed, but are only a minor hindrance, once the camera is set. Canon and Panasonic have more intuitive, direct menus, but cannot match Sony NEX-7’s 24-mp image quality combined with great features in a 33-oz system with 11x zoom lens. Although cheap memory cards make big files no problem, processing a lot of 24mp RAW files may require upgrading to a powerful new computer. If that’s an issue, get a 16mp NEX-6, which autofocuses faster.

      Night photography usually works best around ISO 200 to 800 on a tripod. If you are really into low-light or night photography, you might consider a bulky full-frame sensor camera, which is especially great for indoor high-ISO work in dim light without flash. But my NEX-7 successfully shot an indoor theater production handheld without flash at ISO 6400, making a client happy!

      If you want to beat a NEX-7 with faster autofocus speed and weather-sealed body, consider a top DSLR: Sony Alpha SLT-A77 Digital Camera. But this adds an extra 11 ounces in the body plus significantly extra weight if lenses are added beyond the 18-200mm. You can increase autofocus speed on NEX-7 to match an A77 by adding a 7-ounce A-Mount lens adaptor for use with a broad catalog of Sony lenses. But an extra lens such as 70-300mm for wildlife adds 28 ounces. I’m happy with just one lens, the 19-oz Sony 18-200mm (which by the way is a bit fuzzy for shooting macro). For excellent macro and a backup camera, I add the amazing pocket-sized 8.5-oz Sony DSC-RX100.

  9. Anna says:

    Hi Tom, What’s your view on the latest Fujifilm X-E1?

    • Tom Dempsey says:

      Fujifilm X-E1 is a good still camera but a poor choice for movies. But for me, a Sony NEX-7 or NEX-6 would be a better travel camera. Compared to Fujifilm X-E1, a Sony NEX-7 has
      – larger tilting 3″ LCD with twice the dot resolution (versus 2.8″ fixed)
      – bigger viewfinder magnification
      – sharper resolution sensor confirmed on test shots (24mp vs 16mp)
      – longer battery life (430 vs 350 shots on CIPA test)
      – much better movie capabilities
      – superior magnification of RAW Playback image to 100% with single button to check critical focus, versus X-E1 being incapable of zooming enough at playback (partial workaround: shoot RAW + JPEG and check JPEG focus at 6x, still insufficient)
      – a superior ergonomic grip
      – smaller body, less bulky
      – NEX-7 is 2 oz heavier, whereas NEX-6 is same weight as X-E1.

      Fujifilm X-E1 seems about on par with image quality of a Sony NEX-6, but NEX-6 may autofocus faster. I like the retro appearance and handy external controls on Fujifilm X-E1, although the exposure compensation dial is too easy to bump and rotate by accident (fixed by applying tape).

      Fujifilm’s attractive 18-55mm F2.8-4 lens (11 oz) significantly beats the optical quality of Sony’s E-mount 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS lens (7-oz). But I prefer carrying a sharp Sony 18-200mm lens for travel. Unfortunately, Fujifilm X-mount offers no 18-200mm lens, thus requiring frequent lens-swapping, which is inconvenient for capturing action and rapidly-changing travel subjects. A limited number of native lenses exist for the X-E1, such as: 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 OIS, XF 14mm F2.8 R , 18mm F2, 35mm F1.4, and 60mm F2.4 macro. X-E1 adaptors support Leica M, Nikon F, Pentax K lenses, but adapting onto X-mount restricts you to manual focus (NO autofocus) and manual aperture control.

  10. Tom Dempsey says:

    Reader Steve S. asked me for advice on replacing his Pentax K-5 DSLR camera/sharp fixed lenses with the highest possible resolution system in a portable size. I ranked his cameras of interest in descending order of sharpness:

    1. Sony Alpha NEX-7 with 18-200mm lens (Tom Dempsey’s personal travel camera)
    2. Olympus OM-D E-M5 (Micro Four Thirds sensor)
    3. Fujifilm FinePix X100S (fixed lens, not interchangeable, APS-C sensor)
    4. Sony DSC-RX100 (28-100mm equiv zoom, 1-inch sensor)
    5. Pentax K-5 DSLR (2010 version, APS-C sensor)
    6. Fujifilm X100 (fixed lens, not interchangeable, APS-C sensor)

    How about Sigma compact cameras with innovative Foveon sensor? Sigma DP2 Merrill has too many fundamental flaws for me to consider for a travel camera. Compared to the above cameras, the slight advantage in sharpness of a DP2 (with excellent-quality fixed-focal-length lens, 45mm equivalent) is far outweighed by negatives: exceptionally poor battery life, poor low light performance and noise above ISO 400, no zoom, no stabilization, no EVF, no flash, and slow buffer writes disable image review too long. Among cameras in the size of a Sigma DP2, better value is found with a Sony RX100, NEX-6, or NEX-7.

    What do I think of Panasonic and Olympus? A Panasonic G3 or G5 would be a better choice than GH3 for excellent portability, money value, and sharp results. The Panasonic GH3 body is unfortunately 7 ounces heavier (and much bulkier) than the Panasonic G3. I would have little use for the GH3’s weather sealing and enhanced movie features compared to the G3 or G5. I don’t find weather sealing very important as my cameras are protected in a chest-mounted bag as I hike the dusty or drizzly trail. The Olympus OM-D is very sharp and attractive but the 4/3 sensor limits ISO sensitivity and dynamic range, and I don’t really need weather sealing. Camera sealing and longevity are a minor issue because I upgrade to the next leap in technology after 3 years and sell the old camera while it still retains value.

    In all cameras from large to compact, I favor zoom cameras over ones with a fixed lens for travel. Why? Zooming a typical telephoto 2x or more beyond an excellent fixed lens beats any sharpness advantage when digitally cropping the fixed lens is required to frame the desired subject. Zooms frame subjects more flexibly than fixed lenses without the extra bulk and annoyance of swapping lenses.

    Regarding lenses, Steve said “I think I am most surprised by your comment about the general sharpness of the Sony 18-200 zoom over that of the Zeiss 24!”: [Tom’s answer revised in 2014:] In SLRGear.com’s Blur Index Tests done on a 16mp NEX-5 in 2011, the 50mm and 24mm Sony prime lenses don’t have a striking advantage over using the SEL-18200 lens; but later tests at dxomark.com in 2013 indicate clear advantages of using these prime lenses on a 24mp NEX-7. Improving sensor resolution from 16mp (as in NEX-5 or NEX-6) to 24mp (NEX-7 or A6000) apparently makes prime lenses more valuable! Note that a Sony Zeiss 24mm lens has 2.3 stops brighter aperture and is 1.4 inches shorter, but the 18-200mm lens is more versatile and has Optical SteadyShot (OSS) for sharpening hand-held shots at slow 1/10 sec shutter speeds. SLRGear.com’s 2011 Blur Index test details on 16mp NEX-5 are as follows: Surprisingly, Sony’s 18-200mm OSS lens is sharper at most apertures (except softer in the corners at f/4) than a prime Sony 24mm f/1.8 E-mount Carl Zeiss Sonnar (8 oz, SEL24F18Z) lens when used on a 16mp NEX-5. When compared to Sony’s 18-200mm lens set at 18mm and 35mm, Sony’s 24mm Zeiss lens is blurrier from f/8 through f/22 (and the 24mm’s softness at f/1.8 to f/2 resembles its f/12) on the 16mp camera. While its brighter optics from f/1.8-2.8 let you shoot in lower light and defocus the background, its fixed angle of view is too wide for optimal portraits. Note that real world lens use often makes lab testing moot.

    Steve also said, “First may I say that your PhotoSeek.com site is awesome!! I’m very much a ‘sharpness’ and detail fanatic…. Coming from large format view camera Kodak sheet film 25 years ago, I think I know sharpness and image quality when I see it…. I had also been slightly interested in the new Pentax K-5 IIs, which is basically my same K-5 body with no AA filter and improved AF. It would be 100% compatible with my Pentax lenses, weather-sealed, ergonomically excellent, in-body image stabilized for all lenses, and with zero learning curve as well. However, I am rather untrusting of my eyeballs to discern the absolute optimum focus, using the camera’s AF Adjustment, which is why I am now more interested in mirrorless systems that negate the need for in-camera AF fine-tuning/adjustment.”

  11. Kathleen Pierce says:

    I’m looking for a lighter weight camera for travel than my Nikon D700 or D300s with 2.8 lenses. My priorities are less weight, auto focusing, and low-light shooting. I have been looking at the Panasonic G5 or GH3 but am concerned about auto focusing and focus tracking limitations. What system would you suggest for our upcoming trip to Burma?

    • Tom Dempsey says:

      A Panasonic DMC-G5 camera (14 oz body, 2012) would be great for foreign travel — a wonderful camera in a portable body, great with the sharp and fast-focusing Panasonic Lumix G Vario HD 14-140mm f/4.0-5.8 ASPH./MEGA O.I.S. lens (16 oz, 28-280mm equiv). The GH3 is heavier and larger, so saving money on an older, smaller GH2 may be better for travel. The new Sony NEX-6 introduces hybrid autofocus, with continuous tracking faster than previous mirrorless cameras, potentially beating Panasonic G5, GH3, GH2, and Sony NEX-7. Most mirrorless compact cameras have had slow tracking during continuous autofocus mode due to use of contrast detection (instead of phase detection autofocus found on DSLR/mirror cameras). But in their favor, mirrorless cameras such as Panasonic G Series easily beat the autofocus capabilities in video/movies and Live View stills compared to most DSLRs (except for Sony Alpha SLT models with translucent mirrors which are fastest all around). Coming soon, look for more compact cameras with hybrid autofocus where sensor pixels are devoted to phase detection autofocus in addition to contrast detection. By the way, except for birds and fast action, I rarely use problematic tracking features and instead rely on my own timing.

      4/3 type sensor cameras like Panasonic G5 or GH3 have about a 1-2 stop worse noise difference in terms of ISO compared to APS-C size sensors at ISO 1600 and higher. I prefer larger APS-C sensor for less noise at high ISO. I recently photographed an indoor theater production at ISO 6400 on the amazing 24-megapixel Sony Alpha NEX-7 camera with versatile Sony E-mount 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 OSS lens, which worked great for the Drama School customer. Sony Alpha NEX-6 camera (12 oz body + 4 oz Retractable lens, 2012) should focus even faster with its new hybrid autofocus.

  12. Erin says:

    Hi. I found your website very informative and I was really impressed by the Sony Nex7 or Olympus OM-D EM5. However, I was abit taken aback by the price tag in the $900 range to include the lense kit. Recently, The Pentax Q10 was launched and with almost half the price of the earlier two aforementioned. I know there is a difference in specs. But, what’s your take on the machine?

    • Tom Dempsey says:

      The pocket-sized Pentax Q10 (2012) will be a fun novelty to own as the world’s smallest interchangeable-lens camera, but charges a price premium for the privilege. You get much more for your money and a 4 times bigger sensor area with an 8.5-oz Sony DSC-RX100. (Cheaper cameras such as Panasonic GF3, GF5, and pricier GF5X also easily beat the Q10 with their 4/3 inch sensor.) In comparison, Pentax Q10 has a tiny 1/2.3″ sensor (which limits print size, requires bright light), autofocuses slowly, and doesn’t capture action well. Pentax Q10 with 5-15mm Lens (27.5-83mm equivalent) is priced slightly less than Sony RX100 but performs much more poorly.
      Pentax Q10 camera features: Weight is 10.4 ounces (7 oz body with battery plus 3.4 oz 5-15mm lens, Pentax Q mount). It has raw file support, tiny but effective buttons, sensor-shift image stabilization, CIPA battery life of 270 shots. Body size is 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.2 inches (98 x 58 x 31 mm). At high ISO the Q10 surprisingly gets lower noise than a Canon PowerShot G12 (which has larger sensor, 1/1.7” type), but Canon S95 and S100 are still a better value. Despite its little sensor, a Q10 can make great 16×20-inch prints from ISO 125-400 and ISO 1600 makes a good 8×10 when shot at aperture f/2.8 (but diffraction makes images much fuzzier through smaller openings, such as f/5.6). An innovative flash pops high to the side to avoid red-eye or can fire in place. Without a practical viewfinder, you’re left with a good 3″ LCD with 460,000 dots. (Its optional rangefinder-style optical viewfinder adds $250 and impractically blocks the flash from popping up.) Lack of dedicated movie button hinders starting a video recording.

  13. Chris says:

    Hi.. Great article. I am also off traveling to Australia and around Asia for over 12 months. I am a professional photographer and I want a camera up for the job of being able to produce nice images in a small, manual package. I’m very drawn to and almost certain I want to take the Fuji X100. What’s your thoughts on this camera for travel photography whilst backpacking?

    • Tom Dempsey says:

      Hi Chris: instead of a Fujifilm FinePix X100, you’ll get better quality for the money with one of these:
      1) Sony Alpha NEX-6 with 16-50mm Retractable Zoom lens (2012, 12 oz body + 4 oz lens 24-75mm equiv, 16mp APS-C sensor) (which saves $350 and 2 oz of body weight compared to my 24mp NEX-7).
      2) Or, get a slightly larger retro-looking camera with interchangeable lenses: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds Camera (2012, 15 oz weather sealed body, great viewfinder) with splash-proof M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ lens (24-100mm equiv, 7.5 oz, splendid video, macro down to 36×27 mm).
      3) Or, for lighter weight backpacking or general travel, get the best shirt-pocket-sized camera of 2012: Sony DSC-RX100 (8.5 oz, 28-100mm equiv lens, f/1.8-4.9, 20mp 1″ sensor, unusually quick autofocus 0.15 sec, sharp LCD, but no viewfinder). It easily beats my old 2004 Canon PowerShot Pro1 in both sensor size and miniaturization.

      – Think twice before getting a Fujifilm X100 (12mp APS-C sensor) and maybe consider the next version Fujifilm FinePix X100S (16mp) which adds fast phase-detection autofocus, fixes numerous problems, and improves EVF, menus, and manual focus. The earlier Fujifilm FinePix X100 not only charges a price premium for retro look-and-feel but also performs slowly compared to competitors (above). X100 problems: It has slow RAW write times and inability to manually focus or change the ISO or AF point while it’s writing to card. X100 autofocuses slower than competitors and manually focuses (by wire) unresponsively. Important Auto ISO and flash exposure compensation options are deeply buried in poorly organized menus. Continuous drive mode switches to a different file-naming convention, creating confusion. Advantages include an excellent viewfinder (hybrid between optical and EVF), good image quality, good at high ISO, in a portable body+lens combination of 16 oz (445 grams). Although the fixed-focal-length lens (35mm lens equiv) is sharp, bright (f/2 widest aperture), and compact, its lack of zoom and no image stabilization restricts creative freedom. As a professional photographer you can work around the limitations of any camera, but Sony RX100 and NEX-6 give better performance and quality for the money in this size range.

      Note also the world’s smallest full-frame sensor camera: Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX1 compact digital (17 oz with fixed 35mm f/2 lens, 24mp, 3″ LCD, costly add-on optical viewfinder/rangefinder).

      • Chris says:

        Thank you for your great reply. I’ve had a good in depth look at the cameras you’ve recommended. Seems I have a lot to consider. My main gripe with the Sony [NEX 6] is that it still isn’t pocketable, but neither is it one to wear over your shoulder or around the neck. Silly gripe but I’ve tested them all here in the uk and also they are rather pricey. I can get the x100 for around £600. Sony [RX100] looks amazing. I really need to get my hands on one. Also.. I forgot to mention that the [lack of] viewfinder is a deal breaker. But the oly is way out of my price range. Olympus PEN may be more in my reach.

  14. Nathaniel Steeves says:

    Hi there, I’ll be travelling to China at the end of this month and had previously been to South Korea, Japan, Australia and parts of the US using a Kodak M1033 point and shoot camera. I’m looking for something with a bit better image quality. Will be making some small prints for a photo album and posting pictures to Facebook. I’ve been looking mostly at the Canon Powershot 40SX, Canon Rebel T3 and the Nikon D3100. Any help would be great! I’m not looking at becoming a pro photographer or anything, I just want good quality pictures to share with others.


    • Tom Dempsey says:

      – Of those cameras that you listed, you may most enjoy Canon PowerShot SX40 HS (21 ounces, 12 mp, 2.7″ screen, 24-840mm equivalent, 35x zoom range). But I recommend a superior camera within the same superzoom style and price range: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 (19 oz with lens, 24x superzoom lens, 25-600mm equiv, 3″ screen) for wildlife & landscapes. This style of camera is more flexible and easier to use (but slower to autofocus on active subjects like children or wildlife) than a traditional DSLR style cameras from Canon or Nikon. Or upgrade to newer Panasonic FZ200 (2012).
      – Note that pocket-sized cameras can capture sufficient quality for small prints and web posting. You don’t necessarily need a camera as bulky as the above, especially if you are accustomed to your current 5 ounce Kodak M1033 (3x zoom, 10mp, 3″ LCD, 2008). You can jump in features above your current camera and still keep it pocket sized as follows: Canon PowerShot SX260 HS (2012, 8 oz, with GPS, 25-500mm equiv superzoom lens, 3-inch screen) (or Canon PowerShot SX240 saves money without GPS or touchscreen). Have a great trip!

  15. Dominic says:

    Firstly thanks very much for the post. I’m heading off round China, SE Asia and Australia over their summers and I was looking to get a camera in the £300 – £450 range. It’ll be hot and humid. How much of a problem is that going to be? I am I better off getting something like the Canon G12 which I’ve been told is more resistant, or I can still get a compact system camera which will give me more flexibility in the future and take extra precautions?

    • Tom Dempsey says:

      – In your target price range 300-450 British pounds (US$500-700), you can beat Canon G12 image quality by getting a newer Sony DSC-RX100, the world’s best pocket-sized camera (8.5 oz, 28-100mm equivalent lens, f/1.8-4.9, sharp 20mp “1-inch-size” sensor, autofocus as fast as 0.13 sec, sharper and brighter LCD, but no viewfinder). The extra sharp resolution of the RX100’s larger sensor can easily make up for the camera’s smaller zoom range by cropping images as needed.
      – Or in this price range, for a compact travel camera with a good interchangeable lens system with a larger sensor, try a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5X Micro 4/3 camera (9.4 oz body) with unusually compact Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH OIS lens (3.4 oz). If you want a viewfinder, upgrade to a Panasonic G5, G3, or GH2. An even more expensive upgrade ($1600) would be the excellent weather-sealed Olympus OM-D EM-5 with sealed M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ lens, new in 2012, one of the best-ever portable travel cameras.
      – Tropical humidity and salt spray hanging in the air near oceans can occasionally cause erratic behavior in cameras and electronic devices (but more frequently in cheaper, low-end models). Most problems are avoided in well-built non-sealed cameras (such as Sony DSC-RX100 or Canon G Series or Panasonic G Series) by keeping your camera in a pouch or bag at all times when not taking a shot. Immediately wipe off any water drops that accidentally might get on the camera or lens. Whenever you transition between sudden indoor/outdoor extremes of temperature and/or humidity (or anywhere along sea coasts or in a boat), you should double-bag the camera and allow it time to temperature balance: inside a resealable zip lock bag put inside a camera pouch. The best camera bag mounts in front of you on a chest harness or hip so you can grab the camera within seconds. (Storing a camera in a backpack will miss more shots.)

      Dominic replied: Fantastic thanks very much, the Panasonic Lumix was on my short list but without any knowledge of how good it would be for travel. I’ve had several friends who’ve been around that part of the world with the Sony NEX series, I think specifically the 5N, have they been lucky or is it a solid camera? How does it rank up to the Panasonic? Also any suggestions on what king of bag to purchase, is it worth getting any specific kind of camera bag?

      Tom replied: The excellent Sony NEX-5N has a 16mp sensor which is similar quality to Panasonic GF5X, and both beat the image quality of the bulkier Nikon D3100. (NEX-5N is less sharp than Olympus OM-D, which is exceeded by Nikon D3200 sharpness, and NEX-7 is sharpest of all.) After buying a particular camera, bring it to your local camera store to find a bag that fits camera plus extra batteries. These days finding a desirable chest-harness for a bag is difficult. But most bags come with a usable shoulder strap. A bag with built-in rain cover is helpful (or a plastic shopping bag can easily suffice by tying on with its handles, using a twist-tie to keep bag from flying away). Look for a bag with convenient quick access to the camera under a variety of travel conditions.

  16. Tina says:

    Hi, I am going travelling later this year for about 8 months and am looking for a dslr camera (or a camera capable of dslr-like photos), which is compact and lightweight. A lightweight zoom lens would be great too. I would greatly appreciate your recommendations. Many thanks

    • Tom Dempsey says:

      – For an 8 month trip capturing DSLR quality photos, your best bet is one of the interchangeable-lens compact (ILC) mirrorless cameras listed in this article, such as Panasonic LUMIX G3 or GF5X, with flexible travel lens 14-140mm OIS. Click each link in the article for detailed specifications. Buying at those links also supports my work. :)

      Tina responded: Thanks for the information. I will check it out. Out of interest what do you think about the Sony Nex 5 or 7 or the Olymus Pen range? The fact that they are so compact really appeals to me.

      Tom responded:
      -The Sony Alpha NEX-7 (13 oz) with Sony E-Mount 18-200 lens (18.5 oz) is now my main travel camera! Compared to all mirrorless & APS-C DSLR cameras as of August 2012, NEX-7 has sharpest real image resolution (24mp) and focuses fast. NEX-7 easily beats a NEX-5.
      – If you are concerned about weather-proofing, consider the great new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera (15 oz, 16 megapixels) with weather-sealed M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50 mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ lens (7.5 oz), which has image quality almost as good as Sony NEX-7 yet lenses which are more compact (due to physically smaller sensor). Get a longer travel telephoto 14-150mm, which currently isn’t available in weatherproof version. This new 2012 Olympus OM-D is superior to Olympus PEN-3 or earlier PEN.
      – Getting a Panasonic G Series camera might save money: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 camera (2011, 15 oz body) has lower price, fully-articulated touch screen, good EVF, built-in flash, slightly older sensor. For travel, get an excellent Panasonic Lumix G Vario HD 14-140mm f/4.0-5.8 ASPH./MEGA O.I.S. lens (16 oz, 6.35 x 8.38 cm). The weight is similar to NEX-7 system but lens is more compact. For the lightest, smallest system with a sensor superior to the Panasonic G3, get similar features in a smaller body, with improved 2012 sensor: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5X Micro 4/3 Camera (9.4 oz body). These Panasonics are better than Olympus PEN series in overall features and sharpness.

  17. Jhon says:

    Hi – Heading away traveling for the summer looking for a camera/video to capture all the different animals, buildings and landscapes on my travels. Want to take up photography on a more permanent basis when I come back amateur level. Thinking of a DSLR camera any advice appreciated thanks.

    • Tom Dempsey says:

      Nikon D3200 or D3100 is the best value for an excellent DSLR, as described above. A one-lens solution is very convenient: Nikon 18-200mm VR II (or new Nikon 18-300mm is bigger and heavier but covers more range). Or swapping the two excellent Nikon “kit lenses” covers that zoom range with the same quality and saves money. If you want to spend for the best, get a Sony NEX-7 with Sony E-Mount 18-200 f3.5-6.3 OSS lens (my new travel camera as of July 2012). For a cheaper option that also captures excellent quality rivaling a Nikon D3100, go for a Panasonic G series mirrorless camera (GF5X, G5, or G3) with 14-140mm travel lens and electronic viewfinder.

  18. janelle hicks says:

    I am a novice birder and backyard animals (rabbits, chipmonks, birds, etc)lover looking to purchase a camera with telephoto cabability to capture the animals. Also landscapes from vacations. In my web search came across YOUR website.Can you make a recommendation for under $500 FIRST camera for wildlife photos. No safari scheduled yet….May be interested in taking your online classes. thanks

    • Tom Dempsey says:

      Backyard birds and small wildlife at a distance require a good telephoto lens. Within a $500 budget:

      Option A. For a more portable camera that is easier to carry while traveling yet can capture birds at a distance, a good “first camera” may be: Panasonic FZ150

      Option B. Or, for better quality images and quicker autofocus, try a heavier DSLR style camera with interchangeable lenses. Sony can be a good value DSLR camera because image stabilization is built into the camera body, so lenses can be cheaper than Nikon or Canon. Find a good value used Sony Alpha 550 camera with “kit lens” (2009), or a Sony SLT Alpha A33 with 18-55mm kit lens (2010, with great new translucent mirror technology). Add this sharp telephoto lens for wildlife: Sony 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 Compact Super Telephoto Zoom Lens for Sony Alpha.

      See also my page discussing telephoto lenses.

      Let me know if you want to do a class by phone or email. Best regards, Tom

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