Top recommended travel cameras (smartphone, pocketable, midsize) as of June 2022.

Tom Dempsey recommends the following portable camera gear for on-the-go photographers:

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Sony RX10 IV camera

The versatile Sony RX10 IV dust-resistant camera sports a superb 25x zoom 24-600mm equivalent f/2.4-4 lens.



zoom poorly but compensate for tiny cameras via vast computational power, with superior AUTO HDR, good close focus, and incredible ease-of-use with instant photo sharing. I recommend these:

An “unlocked” phone lets you pick a lower-priced wireless service provider and/or install a cheap foreign SIM in each country visited (as I did in Japan and UK). To save money on your USA wireless carrier, consider Consumer Cellular (external link), which accesses AT&T’s complete USA-only network most cheaply while providing top customer support. Get Consumer Cellular’s “all-in-one SIM” from Target stores or via mail, then insert into an unlocked GSM phone and activate with their help. For international roaming capability when away from Wi-fi, I now use Consumer Cellular’s T-Mobile service. With my wife on Consumer Cellular’s AT&T and me on their T-Mobile service, together we broaden our USA coverage.

Off by default, be sure to turn ON your phone’s “Wi-Fi Calling” Setting, which costs nothing extra. Wi-Fi Calls in the USA will be clearer, if cell reception is poor where Wi-Fi is strong. When you are outside of USA, Wi-Fi Calls eliminate roaming charges when calling US phone numbers. While you are roaming, calls made to non-USA numbers are charged per-minute rates by both the foreign and home mobile network operators. When abroad, only use Wi-Fi service to access internet data; turn OFF “Data Roaming” to avoid unexpectedly large bills.


Although expensive, the best & brightest pocketable 8x-zoom camera is now the

The sweet spot for a sharp, portable zoom is now found in cameras which use a 1-inch-Type sensor size (explained in my Sensors article), as in Sony RX100M7.

Other recommended pocketable cameras

  1. Panasonic Lumix DSC-ZS100 (2016, 11 oz, 25-250mm equivalent lens f/2.8-5.9). Read Tom’s ZS100 review.
  2. Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200 (2018, 12 oz, 24-360mm equivalent lens f/3.3-6.4) outguns all pocket-size 1″-sensor rivals with a versatile 15x zoom, but sibling ZS100 is sharper and brighter through 10x.
  3. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 versions IV, III, II, or I: within its limited 3x zoom is sharper and brighter than that sub-range of Panasonic’s 10x-zoom ZS100. Save money with used or earlier III, II or I versions — read Tom’s Sony RX100 III review.
  4. Best value pocketable superzoom: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS70 (2017, 11.4 oz, 24–720mm equiv 30x zoom, 20mp, Electronic ViewFinder/EVF). Or save on older ZS60. For the price of a newer ZS80, you should instead get the larger-sensor ZS100 above.

Weather resistant pocketable cameras

  • For hiking in the rain, try a waterproof smartphone. My Samsung Galaxy Note9 worked great in New Zealand rainforests (or use similar S9 Plus).
    • While a cheap CaliCase Universal Waterproof Case can take unsealed smartphones snorkeling underwater, beware that 2 out of 4 copies I received noticeably softened camera resolution due to a milky stain on the already-blurry plastic window.
  • waterproof, shockproof, dust-resistant Olympus Tough TG-6 waterproof camera (2019, 9 oz, 25-100mm, f/2.0-4.9 lens) can potentially beat contemporary smartphone image quality if you shoot and edit raw format, as I did when rafting the Grand Canyon using the earlier TG-4.

TIP: As a workaround for sluggish autofocus (AF) 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. For surer action shots, consider a newer model with hybrid AF such as pocket-size Panasonic ZS100, Sony RX100, or midsize RX10 or Panasonic FZ1000, or an interchangeable-lens camera. 


Smaller, cheaper midsize cameras with 1″-Type sensor

  • Best midsize camera for the money: Panasonic FZ1000 (2014, 29 oz with fast-focusing 16x zoom lens 25-400mm equiv, bright f/2.8-4, 20mp, 1″-Type BSI sensor) rivals the zoom quality of APS-C-sensor and DSLR systems of this weight, for a cheaper price. The FZ1000 version II (2019, 28.5 oz) is worth the upgrade price for new lower-noise sensor and sharper LCD screen & EVF.
  • Panasonic FZ2500 (December 2016, 33 oz, 20x zoom 24-480mm f/2.8–4.5, 20mp): costs 25% less, adds a fully articulated LCD with touchscreen, increases viewfinder magnification (EVF 0.74x versus 0.7x), and has better menus and improves video specs (ND filter, Cine/UHD 4K) in comparison to Sony RX10 III. But FZ2500’s lens collects a half stop less light, slightly lowering image quality; its telephoto doesn’t reach long enough for birders; and its CIPA battery life of 350 shots is shorter than RX10III’s 420 shots. (FZ2500 is FZ2000 in some markets.)

Larger APS-C sensor, midsize camera for dim light, indoor action, events

Tiny 1/2.3″-Type sensor extends zoom range for midsize cameras

Tiny, noisy 1/2.3″-Type sensors are usually best leveraged with smartphones’ superior processing power, but mostly limited to wider angles of view. When you attach a larger-diameter lens to collect more light, these 1/2.3″-Type sensors can become useful to extend zoom range in the following midsize cameras:

  • Cheapest: Panasonic Lumix FZ300 (2015, 24.4 oz, 12 mp, bright f/2.8 lens 25-600mm equivalent, 24x zoom range, weather sealed).
  • Nikon COOLPIX P950 (2020, 35 oz, 24–2000mm equivalent 83x zoom lens f/2.8–6.5, 1/2.3″ sensor, 16mp). Fully articulated LCD. 290 shots per charge. P950 adds a flash hot shoe and can record RAW files (whereas older P900 only captured JPEGs).
  • Compare with bulkier Nikon COOLPIX P1000 (2018, 50 oz, 24–3000mm equivalent 125x zoom lens f/2.8–8.0 on 1/2.3″ sensor, 16mp) for dedicated birders and wildlife specialists. The P950 and P1000 are best intended for zooming above 1000mm equivalent, whereas various rival cameras would better cover 24-1000mm. For example, superior processing of modern smartphones generally beats P950 and P1000 at wide angles (24-50mm equivalent). A 1″-sensor Sony RX10M4 shot at 600mm can be digitally cropped by 2x to outshine the P950 and P1000 up to about 1200mm equivalent.

GENERAL TIPS: Upgrade your camera every 2 or 3 years as 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. On advanced models, I always edit raw format images to recover several stops of highlight and shadow detail which would be lost with JPEG.

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). An optimally sharp zoom lens should change the angle of view by 8x to 25x 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

Related camera history: Tom Dempsey’s travel cameras adopted from 1978 until now.


features an optical viewfinder using a legacy mirror box, for good price value:

For the best wide angle lenses for DSLRs, read Tom’s wide angle lenses article,

For the best telephoto lenses for DSLRs, read Tom’s article: “BEST TELEPHOTO ZOOM LENS 300mm+” to seriously magnify wildlife, birds, and sports with optical image stabilization.

Recommended close focus, macro enlargement prime lenses for DSLR cameras 

Instead of carrying one of the above prime macro lenses for a DSLR camera, consider adding a pocketable camera or smartphone which can focus very closely at wide angle with deep depth of field, and can serve as a backup for your larger/main camera. A pocketable Panasonic ZS100 captures good close-focus shots optimally sharp at 45mm equivalent (after the Macro/Flower symbol button is pressed).

In fact, I gave up lens-swapping in 2016. Instead, I carry the Swiss-Army-Knife of cameras: the 25x zoom Sony RX10 IV, which captures excellent macro at 400-600mm, sharpest at f/5.6 (read Tom’s RX10M4 review).

Historical DSLR comparison: Nikon version Canon

Nikon D3300 (released in 2014) offers more for your money (at a lighter travel weight) than Canon EOS Rebel cameras of 2014 and earlier. Also, the earlier Nikon D3200 beats Canon Rebel DSLR cameras of 2012. The best mirrorless designs can pack more quality into a smaller box, but DSLR cameras offer more specialty lenses, with a design legacy inherited from the 35mm film era, where an optical viewfinder’s mirror box adds bulk.


Full-frame-sensor cameras excel at indoor, night, and very-large-print photography, but require bulkier lenses, often with limited zoom ranges. Full-frame sensors can resolve more detail with less noise in dim light at high ISO 3200+ when compared to APS-C and smaller sensors of a given year. The lightest-weight, best-price-value, full frame-sensor camera is Sony Alpha A7 Mirrorless camera (17 oz body, 24mp, 2013), or Sony Alpha A7 II (2014, 21 oz), or newer Sony A7R II. The A7 series requires Sony FE (full frame) E-mount lenses.

The A7R (2014, 16.4 oz) captures 36mp. In contrast, A7S (2015, 17 oz) has 12mp optimized with large photosites and more sensitive autofocus great for low-light videographers, but its stills require ISO 12,800+ to beat A7R’s 36mp image quality. Instead of having an optical viewfinder like a DSLR, the A7, A7II, A7R, and A7S have a great electronic viewfinder (EVF) with 2.4 million dots (XGA). The 3-inch tilting LCD has 1.23 million dots (except 921,000 on A7S). New Hybrid AF builds phase-detection autofocus into the sensor, capturing 5 fps with continuous autofocus. With contrast-detection autofocus only, A7S shoots 5 fps and A7R shoots 4 fps. Weatherproof bodies.

Nikon D750 DSLR camera (26.5 oz body, 24mp, 2014) is excellent. 6.5 fps continuous shooting. Tilting 3.2″ RGBW LCD screen has 1.23 million dots. Long 1230 shots CIPA battery life. Uses Full frame Nikon F Mount/FX Format lenses.

Nikon D810 DSLR camera (big 35 oz body, 36mp, 2014) camera demands highest quality full frame Nikon F Mount/FX format lenses and excites professional studio and landscape photographers with its very high resolution (3200 lph raw for D800 and better in D810) rivaling the quality of medium format film for making big fine-art prints. In dim light at dusk, dawn, or indoors, capture low-noise images at high ISOs 6400 to 12,800 — even ISO 25,600 can look good in small prints. Capture unprecedented dynamic range in raw files from bright to dark. Unfortunately it has very slow autofocus using LCD Live View (fixed by using mirrorless Sony A7). Frames per second at full res FX mode has increased to 5 fps for sports (versus 4 fps in D800, or 6 fps if DX frame size).

Nikon D610 DSLR camera (30 oz body, 24 mp, 2013) costs less than D800. Captures less noise than Sony NEX-7 by 2-3 stops of ISO when set at ≥3200. Raw resolution up to 2800 lph.

Tom recommends these accessories:

  1. Spider Holster – Spider X Backpacker Kit – “Self Locking, quick draw access to your camera on the go from any belt or backpack strap!”
  2. Good value 8.5-inch-wide multi-function printer for photographers: Canon PIXMA TR8620 Printer, with five ink colors including pigmented black, accepting paper from small media up to Legal 8.5×14-inches. (The great little TR8620 prints onto Pro Luster Paper just as vibrantly as Tom’s earlier Epson Stylus Photo 2200, for which inks are no longer sold). Adding photo blue ink in the following model achieves slightly better color accuracy, but it’s hardly perceptible and costs more for ink usage: Canon PIXMA TS8320 combines a pigment-based black ink with dye-based cyan, magenta, yellow, “photo black” and photo blue inks.
  3. Excellent 13-inch-wide printer for photographers: Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300 printer, with ten pigmented inks.
  4. Buy extra Wasabi Power brand batteries (from Blue Nook /
  5. Portable charger battery packs at Amazon. I use the Mi Premium Power Bank Pro 10000mAh, 18W Fast Charging Slim. Great for travelling away from electrical outlets! It efficiently powers a phone 40% longer than rival Anker PowerCore 10000, says PCMag. It thankfully supports pass-through charging of itself AND your device at the same time. Fits most phones; includes USB-C adapter cable.
  6. SanDisk Extreme PRO 128GB UHS-I/U3 SDXC Flash Memory Card (at Amazon) fits weeks of shooting, great for 4K video. Or cheaper: SanDisk 16GB Extreme SDHC Memory Card.
  7. A clear glass filter protects precious lenses from scratches & catastrophic drops. I speak from experience! Get a clear glass filter, NOT a UV filter, which modern multi-coated lenses have made redundant. Example: high quality B+W 72mm XS-Pro Clear MRC-Nano 007M Filter fits my Sony RX10 III (read article).
  8. Mount a circular polarizing filter (B+W brand at Amazon) only to remove reflections or haze, or to contrast clouds with polarized sky. Don’t forget to immediately take it off for all other conditions, as it can block 1-1.5 stops of light.
  9. 2x Cactus Wireless Flash Transceiver Duo triggers your flash or camera wirelessly at distances up to 328 feet.
  10. Critical editing & organizing software: Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan (Lightroom Classic CC 7.x and Photoshop CC) speeds modification (non-destructively), editing, sorting, and labeling of images. Lightroom version 6 added Photo Merge to Panorama and HDR. In 2016, Lightroom CC subscription added Boundary Warp essential for stitching panoramas quicker, and Dehaze to remove haze in skies & glass, as a leap beyond Clarity. (Adobe Photoshop software lets advanced users manipulate complex Layers such as for printing, or CMYK color space for publishing.) If your Lightroom CC subscription expires, you can still view, organize and export (but not Develop) images.
  11. Free editor for stitching panoramas from multiple overlapping images: Image Composite Editor (ICE) (from Microsoft Research Computational Photography Group) was faster and sharper than my old Photoshop CS5.
  12. Tamrac digital camera bag protects your precious device on the road.
  13. Slik “Sprint Pro II GM” Tripod has a built-in quick-change plate, good for small cameras.
  14. Datacolor Spyder4Express Color Calibration System: Calibrate your PC monitor and laptop before printing photo files so editing efforts match color standards without color shifts. The pricier Datacolor Spyder4Elite Display Calibration System accounts for ambient light and calibrates projectors. Better yet, get a factory precalibrated monitor like mine: ASUS PA328Q 32″ 16:9 4K/UHD IPS Monitor
  15. Pacific Image PowerSlide X: Batch scan 50 slides, up to 10,000 dpi, excellent dynamic range of 4.2, with critically important Magic Touch infrared dust and scratch removal (ICE).
  16. Plustek OpticFilm 8200i SE scanner (2014) reincarnates your slides & film digitally, with important infrared/ICE removal of dust & scratches.

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. 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.

Terminology and metric conversions

  • oz = ounces. Above camera weights in ounces (oz) include battery and memory card.
  • g = grams. Multiple ounces by 28.35 to get grams.
  • sec = second.
  • mm = millimeters. A centimeter (cm) equals 10 millimeters. Multiply centimeters (cm) by 0.3937 to get inches.
  • ILC = Interchangeable Lens Compact = “midsize mirrorless camera” term used above
  • DSLR = Digital Single Lens Reflex = a traditional camera where an optical viewfinder uses a mirror to see through the interchangeable lens.
  • EVF = Electronic Viewfinder.
  • LCD = Liquid Crystal Display.
    • OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) beats an LCD in dynamic range from darkest to brightest and consumes less power.
  • LPH or LPPH = resolvable lines per picture height = the best empirical measure of real resolution of a camera’s sensor for a given lens (independent of pixel pitch or megapixel count). A camera with higher LPH can make sharper large prints. Look up cameras on to find absolute vertical LPH judged by photographing a PIMA/ISO 12233 camera resolution test chart under standardized lighting conditions. Note which lens, settings, and camera body was used in each test, and compare with others within the same web site.
  • equivalent lens = To compare lenses on cameras having different sensor sizes, equiv or equivalent lens refers to what would be the lens focal length (measured in mm or millimeters) that would give the same angle of view on a “full frame35mm-size sensor (or 35mm film camera, using 135 film cartridge).
    • Compared lenses are “equivalent” only in terms of angle of view. (To determine sharpness or quality, read lens reviews which analyze at 100% pixel views.)
    • Crop factor” = how many times smaller is the diagonal measurement of a small sensor than a “full frame” 35-mm size sensor. For example, the 1.5x crop factor for Nikon DX format (APS-C size sensor) makes a lens labeled 18-200mm to be equivalent in angle of view to a 27-300mm focal length lens used on a 35mm film camera. The 2x crop factor for Micro Four Thirds sensors makes a lens labeled 14-140mm to be equivalent in angle of view to a 28-280mm lens used on a 35mm film camera.
  • Superzoom lenses
    • In 2013, “superzoom” referred to lenses of about 15x zoom range or larger. Steady quality improvements in the resolving power of sensors has made possible superzoom cameras in ever smaller sizes. As superzoom range increases, laws of physics require lenses to focus upon smaller sensors (light detectors) or else to increase lens size. For a given level (most recent year) of technological advancement, a camera with physically larger sensor (bigger light detecting area) should capture better quality for a given zoom lens range.
    • 10x zoom” = zoom lens telephoto divided by wide angle focal length. For example, a 14-140mm focal length zoom has a 10x zoom range (140 divided by 14). An 18-200mm zoom has an 11x zoom range (200 divided by 18).
  • equivalent” F-stop = refers to the F-stop (F-number) on a full-frame-sensor camera which has the same hole diameter as the F-stop of the camera lens being compared. The concept of “equivalent” F-stop lets you compare capabilities for creating shallow depth of field on cameras with different-size sensors. Smaller-sensor cameras use shorter focal lengths for the same field of view, so at a given F-stop they have a smaller physical aperture size, meaning more depth of field (with less blur in front of and behind the focused subject). Formula: F Number (or Relative Aperture) = actual focal length of lens divided by diameter of the entrance pupil.

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Sensor size comparisons for digital cameras -

In this illustration, compare digital camera sensor sizes: full frame 35mm, APS-C, Micro Four Thirds, 1-inch, 1/1.7″ and 1/2.5” Type. For new digital cameras, a bigger sensor area captures better quality, but requires larger diameter, bulkier lenses. To optimize the size of a serious travel camera, consider 1-inch Type sensor or up to APS-C sensor size. “Full-frame 35mm” sensor / film size (36 x 24 mm) is a standard for comparison, with a diagonal field-of-view crop factor = 1.0 In comparison, a pocketable camera’s 1/2.5” Type sensor crops the light gathering by 6.0x smaller diagonally (with a surface area 35 times smaller than full frame).

Regarding smartphones — with great power comes great responsibility (as says the Greek “Sword of Damocles” anecdote, and more recently, Marvel Comics’ Spider-Man). Sadly, monetized social media has often enabled extreme memes to shout-down both civility and reality itself. To my relief, Canadian psychologist Steven Pinker restores our faith in the triumph of public good in his important books:

30 thoughts on “BEST 2022 TRAVEL CAMERAS reviewed

  1. I agree with your thoughts on the Nikon DX line of cameras. I believe they and the lenses designed from them represent the best image quality to price ratio in the market. I have (too many) types of cameras but have the luxury of selecting what I bring on whatever type of location and coverage I visit. I love my tiny point-and-shoots, my advanced point-and-shoots. and all the way up to my full-frame DSLRs. I regularly shoot on one-inch sensors, micro four thirds, APS-C, and full frame even as I shoot a whole bunch on my iPhone. I love the ability to choose exactly the kit I want for any excursion. I’ll bring my OM-D camera with a wide-ranging travel zoom on a bike ride, I’ll bring my 1-inch sensor point-and-shoot for park walks with my family. I like my APS-C camera with three zoom on short hikes or the same body with a fast prime on evening walks in the city. Of course, when it’s a money shoot, it’s gonna be my full-frame with a bag full of lenses.
    Horses for courses.

  2. I am surprised to see more emphasis on the RX series of Sony’s point and shoots over the 5100 or 6xxx alpha series.

    These compact interchangeable bodys with full APS-C sensors can make use of any Sony E-Mount lenses that you may have to use with a full frame Sony.

    I am surprised to see such strong recommendations for Nikon cameras, especially the 3500. Nikon is such a mess right now and may never recover financially. The Nikon D3500 looks and feels cheap and plastic like a toy. It will be in a dumpster in a couple of years with millions of other lower end DSLRs manufactured today which aren’t mirrorless.

    • With your emphasis on professional portrait photography, I understand your preference for Sony 6xxx Alpha series (APS-C), or full-frame (35mm) mirrorless cameras — great tools for that job.

      For travel photography, I recommend compact mirrorless cameras with 8x to 25x zoom lenses; and I discourage using DSLRs, whose legacy design is becoming obsolete. But for readers who want an optical viewfinder (instead of EVF), a Nikon D3500 makes an inexpensive entry level product which captures about the same image quality as more expensive models, depending on lens choice.

      For my hiking, travel and nature photography, I look for portable high-quality cameras on a moderate budget. As I’m not tied to any one system or brand, I regularly upgrade to the optimal tool. I’m a big fan of all-in-one zoom lenses which can instantly re-frame rapidly-changing travel subjects without the extra bulk or annoyance of swapping lenses.

      After using various interchangeable-lens cameras from 1978-2004, I switched entirely to all-in-one zoom lenses after 2004. I fell in love with mirrorless cameras in 2003 using the fun Canon PowerShot G5, then upgraded to Canon PowerShot Pro1 in 2004. After 5 years of using Nikon DLSRs starting in 2007, I went entirely mirrorless in 2012, using Sony Alpha NEX-7, then A6000, then A6300, all mounted with Sony’s versatile 11x E-Mount 18-200mm lens for APS-C. Then Sony developed a superior tool. From 2016-20, my 1-inch-sensor Sony RX10 III and IV cameras have preserved publishable image quality while radically extending all-in-one zoom range to 25x. They even capture sharp macro, especially good at 600mm. The edge-to-edge sharpness of a 20-megapixel Sony RX10 IV is more than sufficient for my professional publishing in a variety of sizes.

      Regarding effective print size, one of my rock pattern images from 2002, scanned at just 10 megapixels from 35mm film, was enlarged 64 feet wide onto the permanent glass of a Calgary skyscraper. Good gear is somewhat helpful, but the photographer’s perseverance, skills and talent are more important.

  3. Thanks for all this detailed and serious analysis. I was looking for a camera to upgrade from a smartphone. Smartphone digital manipulation is quite impressive these days but all my travel photos still look bad if I print them or look at them cropped. So good landscape compositions remain for uploading to social media and that’s it. You solved a big dillema for me. Based on your recommendations I ordered the zs100, although it may be a little less good at night/night sky shots than shorter brighter lens options, hopefully it will be a good buy.

  4. Hi Tom,

    I am currently short listed 2 cameras for the family vacation to Australia. I would prefer compact size with great picture quality. I like to zoom into 100% photo size to view the picture quality. My budget is around USD 500-700. My 1st option would be Olympus om-d e-m10 mark ii(will stick to the Kit Lens for now) and second option would be Sony RX100 mark iii. If comparing with the em10 mark ii kit lens vs RX100 mark iii. Which one is given better picture quality ? Appreciate your comment. Do let me know if there is other better option. Thanks

    • As a larger camera with interchangeable lenses, Olympus E-M10 mark ii has a larger sensor (Micro four thirds, 16 megapixel) and will likely capture cleaner, sharper images, especially in dim light (testing indicates about 1.5 stops less noise in terms of ISO, noticeable at ISO 800+) than Sony RX100 iii. But in bright light at base ISO, you won’t see a big difference using the kit lens, and RX100 is much more portable. The E-M10 will be a bit sharper and crisp when using the best lenses, as shown in the handy Comparometer at which shows results using a pricey Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm F2.0 Macro lens, but that is significantly sharper than the kit lens. If you want an interchangeable lens system, in all my comparisons, Olympus and other 4/3 sensor systems still don’t pay off compared to Sony APS-C A6000/A6300/A6500 series in terms of image quality, price value, portability, and light weight. For the most versatile pocket camera, I prefer Sony RX100 M6 or M7, or save money on the versatile 10x Panasonic ZS100 or 15x successor ZS200.

  5. Hi Tom, I’m looking to upgrade from my Panasonic TZ80 to something with a bigger sensor. I like my travel photography, mainly landscape and wildlife. I’ve been looking towards mirrorless options such as the Panasonic GX80, but not sure if I want to go for the changeable lenses, or should instead go for an interim step via a bridge with a 1″ sensor- I’m very taken by the fantastic zoom options on the compacts and bridges, whilst there’s no way my budget could stretch to equivalent lenses. Any thoughts/recommendations?

    • Based on what you said, I recommend a Panasonic FZ1000 or Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ100 in UK (named ZS100 in USA). Here’s my analysis:

      Your current Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ80 (called Lumix DMC-ZS60 in USA) weighs about 10 oz and has a 1/2.3″ sensor.

      The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 (Lumix DMC-GX85 / Lumix DMC-GX7 Mark II, read review at weighs 15 oz plus the weight of interchangeable lenses, and has a Four Thirds sensor.

      But if you are going the route of interchangeable lenses like the GX80, for that weight and expense class, you get more for your money and a much larger sensor, APS-C, if you go with a Sony A6300 or A6500, which have similar system weight, better quality images (24 MP vs measly 16 MP), better viewfinder, excellent hybrid focus system, longer battery life (400 versus 290 shots per charge).

      That being said, I discovered last year that Sony RX10 III (with 1″ sensor) easily beats Sony A6300 (APS-C) with 11x zoom lens as described in my RX10 article on PhotoSeek, due to sharper, faster lens combined with newly advanced BSI sensor design.

      To save money versus Sony RX10 III or IV (my top travel picks), I suggest one of these compromises, which all have the nice 1” BSI sensor and decent lenses considering their weight/size class:

      1. Midsize camera, older price value with 1″-Type BSI sensor: Panasonic FZ1000 (2014, 29 oz with 16x zoom lens 25-400mm equiv, 20mp).

      2. Pocketable model: Panasonic Lumix Lumix DMC-TZ100 in UK (DSC-ZS100 in USA) (2016, 11 oz, 25-250mm equivalent lens) outguns all pocketable 1″-sensor rivals with a versatile 10x zoom (read my ZS100 review).

      3. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2000 in UK (FZ2500 in USA) (2016, 33 oz, 20x zoom 24-480mm f/2.8–4.5, 20mp): costs 25% less than Sony’s RX10 III, adds a fully articulated LCD with touchscreen, increases viewfinder magnification (EVF 0.74x versus 0.7x), has better menus and improves video specs (ND filter, Cine/UHD 4K), in comparison to Sony RX10 III. Note that FZ2500’s lens collects a half stop less light, slightly lowering image quality; its telephoto doesn’t reach long enough for birders; and its CIPA battery life of 350 shots is shorter than RX10III’s 420 shots. (FZ2500 is FZ2000 in some markets.)

      Good luck with your decision.

  6. Question from Bradley F. June 20, 2017:
    Just curious why you left out the [Panasonic] FZ200 & FZ300? Specially the FZ300, it has a great constant 2.8 zoom up to 600mm equivalent, very fast auto focus and full res continuous shooting. It is also weatherproof and very lightweight and has very good 4K video and photo capabilities. I haven’t had the opportunity to shoot the 300 yet but had the FZ150 and presently own the FZ200 and love both cameras. I have a Sony A77ii that I am considering selling as I find myself shooting with the Panasonic most of the time. What are your thoughts on the FZ300? Thanks for your opinion, I really enjoy your website. Best regards, Brad

    Tom Dempsey replied:
    Good question! Panasonic FZ200 and FZ300 use a tiny 1/2.3” sensor which can struggle in dim light and can limit the size of large sharp prints. This may not be a problem if you are happy with your current print size & image quality. A skilled photographer can compensate for small-sensor camera limitations to create evocative images. Most viewers aren’t concerned how an image was captured, unless they are photographers who like the latest gear, but even the most skilled photographers will be hard pressed to distinguish which type of camera shot an image (without being told). I regularly publish images from a variety of cameras. Today’s 1″ sensor cameras beat the enlargement quality of my 35mm film cameras used through 2004 (when I switched to digital).

    Let’s compare the following interesting cameras, listed in order of image quality, best shown last (you get what you pay for):
    1. Panasonic FZ200 (2012, 20 oz, 12 mp) 1/2.3″ sensor, 25-600mm equiv f/2.8, $350
    2. Panasonic FZ300 (2015, 24 oz, 12 mp) 1/2.3″ sensor, 25-600mm equiv f/2.8, $500
    3. Panasonic FZ1000 (2014, 29 oz, 20 mp) 1″ sensor, 25-400mm equiv f/2.8-4, $700
    4. Panasonic FZ2500 (2016, 32 oz, 20 mp) 1″ sensor, 24-480mm equiv f/2.8-4.5, $1200
    5. Sony RX10 III (2016, 37 oz, 20 mp) 1″ sensor, 24-600mm equiv f/2.4-4, $1600

    The 1″ sensor (designed by Sony, identical in the last 3 cameras) has four times larger light gathering area than the 1/2.3″ sensor in the FZ200 and FZ300, with significantly more megapizels (20 mp versus 12 mp). Also, this new sensor has much more efficient backside illumination (BSI) technology than the older 1/2.3” sensor, for higher quality. (I discovered a quality improvement in the 1” sensor allowing it to rival Sony’s larger APS-C sensor without BSI.)

    When you compare the image quality at 100% pixel view, the 1″ sensor is clearly superior to 1/2.3″:
    Check out the pixel comparison tool at comparing the above cameras. Click around the tool’s image to examine especially the corners, and look at quality at common dim light ISO settings such as ISO 800+ or other settings you commonly use. This tool only shows one lens angle of view, but not telephoto, which is another story not often reported on testing websites (so I like to test my new cameras head to head). Sony RX10 III is especially good in my telephoto tests against a larger-sensor flagship camera.

    With its larger, higher-quality sensor, it turns out that an image from the FZ1000 at 400mm can be cropped to beat the framing of the same subject shot on FZ300 at 600mm. The best combination of sensor size, increased megapixels, and good glass is found in Sony RX10 III. But if you want to save weight, the FZ1000 is a great camera value, generally superior to FZ300 or FZ200, depending upon what you’re looking for.

    Brad responded:
    Tom, Thank you for the quick response. I think I’m more confused than ever lol. I always have a difficult time deciding what to buy. On paper the A77ii seemed like the perfect camera for me aside from the bulk but I have not really gotten consistent results. I’m sure much to user error and lack of knowledge. It just seems my shots are often just out of focus. I bought a 2.8 70-200 Sony zoom, a Sony 50mm prime and the camera came with the 16-50mm 2.8 lens so I don’t think it’s a matter of having good lenses. Sorry for rambling. I guess my question is what do you think of the A77ii? Is the Sony RX10 III a worthy replacement or should I go to the A99 full sensor and just stick with a smaller super zoom like the FZ300 for a smaller lighter travel camera. So confused. Thanks for taking the time to maintain a useful website and answering ridiculous emails.

    Tom responded:
    We’re actually in a golden age of cameras, with a confounding myriad of confusing choices! After 39 years of photography, I’ve found what gear works best for publishable quality while traveling light.

    The Sony SLT-A77ii is an excellent camera, faster focusing and almost as sharp in resolutioin as my Sony A6300 mirrorless camera (according to the standard test shots at A77ii should be much sharper than Panasonic FZ200 or FZ300, especially at ISO 800 and higher, especially with your excellent f/2.8 lenses.

    But for general travel photography, I’ve now given up on my Sony A6300 system, as the all-in-one Sony RX10 III easily antiquates the Sony E-mount lens system in terms of lightweight travel, as described in my article: Sony RX10 III superb 25x travel zoom outshines 11x on APS-C. The A6300 is now relegated to my indoor event photography or night shots on tripod, as the larger sensor should theoretically be better in low light if I use a top lens.

    By the way, the problems you mentioned with focus on A77ii can be due to various causes, such as shallow depth of field, handheld blur due to slow shutter speed, etc — most likely a learning opportunity (smile) [unless your camera is damaged, in which case every shot would likely be out of focus]. Cameras by default hunt across multiple possible focus points, usually looking for the closest, brightest, most contrasty area, which is often not the subject you wanted to focus on.

    For more reliable focus in landscape or macro photography, I prefer to set a single focus point in the center (not using Continuous focus, just Single). I half press the shutter release to lock focus on a defined edge of the subject, recompose, then fully press the shutter release. Or for people photography, I turn on Sony’s excellent Eye-Detection AF (or Face-Detection) and use a wider focus selection area with multiple possible focus points.

    If the A77ii isn’t working well for you, a pricey A99 wouldn’t necessarily change your results, as the full-frame-sensor A99 has even shallower depth of field, good for traditional portrait photography, but your chosen focusing point must be more precise (due to the physics of the larger sensor). You may possibly find that Panasonic FZ200 and FZ300 are much easier and more fun to use than A77ii or A99 for certain tasks, such as lightweight travel. DSLR designs are generally harder to learn and use.

    Although its camera menus are harder to learn than Panasonic’s, the Sony RX10 III is currently the best-ever tool for my travel photography, beating any other current system that I’m aware of (full-frame, APS-C, 1” sensor etc), in terms of excellent publishable quality for a given travel weight & convenience. You would need to swap a lens system at least 2 or 3 times heavier on a bulkier larger-sensor camera to beat RX10III’s superbly sharp 24-600mm equivalent f/2.4-4 lens in a 37-ounce box. Happy photo hunting!

  7. “Upgrade your cameras every 3 or 4 years”

    What kind of advice is that? Just because you have decided that it is right for you does not mean that it is the right thing for everyone. DIfferent photographers have different needs.

    It is exactly what the manufacturer’s want us to do. Make us dis-satisfied with perfectly good equipment. CHURN, Churn, churn. Profits for them, money we could have put to better use gone, a re-learning process to go through. There is probably even more expense on a new de-mosaicer, and a new computer to run the later version of the OS that it requires, and extra disk for the larger files. And for what?

    … in most cases to carry on producing exactly what we produced before. The extra “quality” often turns out to be irrelevant.

    At low-ISO, in good light, and with good technique it is hard to tell an image from a current camera from one made with a 10+ year old DSLR.
    Fair enough if you NEED more resolution or less noise or 4K video, but if you don’t …

    … “upgrading” is pointless if the camera you have, in the way that you use it, produces images as good as necessary, for whatever you want to do with them!

    • I agree that skilled photographers can work around the limitations of older cameras (or less-capable sensors) to get results that are usually indistinguishable from newer, superior cameras (especially if you don’t need large, sharp prints). I have felt this way since starting shooting film in 1978. My advice in the article is still true if you include the whole sentence: “TIP: Upgrade your camera every 2 or 3 years as I do to get better real resolution, lower noise at higher ISO speeds ( ≥ 800), and quicker autofocus.” I say this entirely for your own self interest, independent of what the manufacturers want.

      In teaching local photographers (many who have gear older than 5 years and don’t necessarily want to change), I advise them to master their current camera and workflow, which can get perfectly good results, once they ascend far enough along their learning curve. The learning curve on a new, unfamiliar workflow can sometimes be a barrier, such that many would be better off learning their current system. But with gear older than 5 years old, I notice my students fighting a steeper uphill battle with poor results on Auto, poorer-performing sensors, low effective resolution, poor dynamic range, poor image stabilization, and slow autofocus. In many cases, their learning curve towards better photography could be eased by upgrading the camera (or by using their modern smartphone made 2015-2017 with excellent HDR Auto, making photography much user-friendlier for capturing more realistic shadows and highlights by default).

  8. January 9, 2017 Comment from Quentin F:
    Thanks for your thorough and thoughtful review on travel cameras. I’m wondering why Olympus’s OM-D or PEN cameras did not make your list. They seem to be well-received by other reviewers.

    Tom replied: Good question. By the way, from 1978−97, I used and loved an Olympus OM-1N film camera; and recently I bought Olympus Tough TG-4 (price at Amazon) for snorkeling shots in Hawaii.

    Olympus’s OM-D and PEN cameras are excellent quality and can certainly capture good images. However, comparing portable travel size, weight, image quality, zoom range and price, you get a better deal with an 11x zoom travel lens on a Sony A6000, A6300, or A6500, which all have a 24-megapixel APS-C size sensor, 50% bigger in physical surface area than the 4/3 sensor in Olympus OM-D or PEN (which have only captured 16 megapixels until 2016, when 20mp were introduced in Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and PEN F; probably the same sensor as in Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8).

    Now with the Sony RX10 III (read my article) new in May 2016, my zoom range has more than doubled to 25x while maintaining equal or better image quality, a rather surprising result for a 1” type sensor (smaller than Micro Four Thirds or APS-C). This improvement is possible due to new superior BSI sensor design, plus fast lens (f2.4-4, 24-600mm equiv) with notably large light-gathering diameter (72mm) and very sharp optics.

    Quentin replied: Thanks for your prompt and personalized reply! The main problem with the “bridge” cameras is their bulkiness compared to the compacts and even the Oly 4/3. Always choices to make!

  9. 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)

    • 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]; 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 field 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).

  10. 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

    • 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.

    • 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.

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

    • 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.)

  12. 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 field), the FZ1000’s brightest F stop is not as bright as the 18-200mm lens on A6000.

  13. 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!

  14. 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?

    • 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.

  15. 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 :)

    • 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.

    • 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.

  16. 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’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 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.’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 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.”

  17. 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.

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