The Best Compact Cameras for Travel 2017 (for Non-Professional Photographers)

One of my favorite things to do after a great trip is look back at all the photos. It’s almost like being back on vacation again!

If you’re a memory hoarder like me, then you know how important it is to have great pictures from your various adventures. But lugging a high-end camera around can be cumbersome and inconvenient — not to mention expensive. Plus, I’m no professional photographer. I need a camera that can help my pictures look great, but is also easy to use for a novice like me.

Luckily, with so many upgrades in technology, you don’t need to spend a ton, or have a professional-grade camera (or experience!) to have the best vacation pictures.

So without further ado, here’s my roundup of the best compact travel cameras for non-professional photographers in 2017, based on my research and opinions.

What Makes a Good Compact Travel Camera?

While any camera can capture pictures of your adventures, a good travel camera has a few key features that make it stand out above the rest. Knowing what to look for in a compact travel camera will make your search much easier, so before we review the cameras themselves, let’s dive into the features.

TL:DR: Skip down to “The Best Compact Travel Cameras” section to find my picks! 

Small & Lightweight

Since we’re talking about compact cameras only, it’s a given that these devices will be lightweight and, well, compact. However, this is perhaps the most important feature of a travel camera. You want a device that is going to be easy to fit in your bag (or pocket!) and doesn’t weigh you down when you’re carrying it around the world. Compact cameras fit this description to a T. When you’re looking at cameras, make sure you look at the dimensions and weight as well as the technical features. The last thing you want is a camera that takes amazing photos but is a pain to bring with you on an adventure.

Durability

We’ll touch more on the best durable camera below, but any camera you use for travel should have some element of durability. Even if you’re not the adventurous type, your compact travel camera will still need to be able to withstand the normal wear and tear of travel. For example, if you find yourself shooting outdoors frequently in different environments, you may want to consider a weather-proof camera. At the very least, you’ll also want a device that can handle sitting in your bag without a bulky case of it’s own (going back to pint number one!).

Image Quality

If you’re not paying attention to your compact travel camera’s resolution, you might as well not get a camera at all! After all, the whole purpose of getting a device for travel photos is to have something that will take quality pictures, right? When choosing your travel camera, you’ll want to think about how you’re going to be using your images. If you’re posting online, you don’t need a a device with crazy high-end shooting features that give you amazing resolution. However, if you’re planning on enlarging your photos and selling them as prints, you’ll need a camera that can shoot higher res photos to maintain the quality of the image when you enlarge it.

The Best Compact Travel Cameras 2017 for Non-Pros

Let’s get to it! Now that you know what to look for, here’s my round up of the best compact travel cameras for non-professional photographers.

For Ultra-Zoom: Panasonic Lumix ZS60 ($373)

Panasonic Lumix ZS60

One of the most important features of a travel camera is the zoom — how else do you capture all of that beautiful detail from your sights?

If you value zoom above everything else, you’ll want to check out the Panasonic Lumix ZS60. With 30x optical zoom, you can capture those mountain peaks without actually climbing them. The ZS60 also features built-in optical image stabilization to help eliminate blur in far zoom photos, and boasts 4K video capabilities for those who want to go beyond just still shots of their trip. The camera is considered user-friendly for non-pros, and includes features like Post Focus, which allows you to refocus your photo after it’s shot, to help elevate the quality of your photos without a ton of effort on your part.

For Budget: Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 HS ($199)

Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 HS
For a budget-friendly and user-friendly travel compact camera, you’ll want to take a look at the Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 HS. With 12x zoom, HD video shooting, and WiFI connectivity, the 360 HS doesn’t skimp on the basic features you need to capture beautiful shots while exploring the world. In fact, the camera is known for basically being turn-on-and-shoot, meaning you can take great pictures with minimal effort/set-up on your end. And at $200, it’s not a doozy on your wallet either.

However, with smartphone camera technology rapidly evolving, you may find you’re not sacrificing image quality in just using your mobile device. It may be easier and cheaper carry one device than opt for a cheaper compact camera with limited photography features.

 For Durability: Olympus STYLUS Tough TG4 ($392)

Olympus Stylus TOUGH TG4
If you lean more toward adventure when you travel, you need a camera that can keep up. The Olympus Stylus TOUGH TG4 not only handles the rough and tumble life of an adventurer — it takes great pictures and video to boot. Here are just a few of the extremes the TG4 can handle:

  • Underwater shooting up to 50’
  • Temperatures as low as 14℉
  • Shock absorption from up to 7’ fall
  • Crushproof up to 200lb

The TG4 has a ton of features for novice photographers to help ensure you get the best pictures no matter where you’re shooting, such as image and video stabilization and 4x optical zoom. The camera also boasts a built-in WiFi, GPS, and E.compass to keep you connected and on-track during your expeditions.

For all the Bells and Whistles: Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100($998)

Sony RX100
The Sony RX100 series has owned the compact camera market for years. This is the fifth generation model of the highly popular series, and it comes with all the bells and whistles.

The camera boasts solid 4K video, super-fast shoot speed (24 frames per second at full resolution), and its large image sensor, which made the RX100 series so popular originally. With the RX100 V, your images and videos aren’t just quickly captured— they’re top-notch quality.

The con? The cost. You could break into the mirrorless category for this price tag, and as a travel photographer just looking to capture some great shots, it might not be the best use of your cash. But as the saying goes, you get what you pay for! If you’re looking to step up your photography game, the features in the RX100 V might be worth it.

Do you have a compact camera that you absolutely love for travel? Share it in the comments below!


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14 Comments

  1. Good info, but somehow disagree 🙂
    If I was to choose a light/cheap/good image quality camera, I would choose:
    Olympus OM-D E-M10 with pancake 14-42 lens. Goes under 700 eur. (new, amazon.de)
    or Fuji X T10

    Personally, I’m using Canon 6D

    1. Thanks for sharing, Alexander! No worries about disagreeing — everyone has different preferences! I’ll have to check those models out more :).

  2. Great info. I like that you targeted non-photographers, since pros are extremely fussy and usually disagree completely (but that’s because they view photography from a different perspective). Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you! I cannot even come close to claiming that I’m a professional photographer, so I figured other non-pros may like the info I’ve found!

  3. I still haven’t found the one! I already own a professional camera for blog pictures, but was also looking for something more convinient to take on trips and to events. Did a lot of research and in the end got really close to the perfect one in terms of specs and what I would want for my go-to camera, the Panasonic LUMIX GX85. But was still too heavy and big… I decided to get an iphone instead, which helps when I want to snap a decent quality picture to use on social media. I’ll keep on looking though 😉

    Cátia
    ♥ The petite Cat ♥

    1. I’ve heard great things about the LUMIX! But the iPhone is pretty great too! I hope you find the perfect camera for you :). Maybe one of these will do the trick!

  4. Thank you for these information! I am currently using the Canon G15 which I love, but I have it for a while now, so I may have to start looking at other options 🙂

    1. Of course! Thanks for reading. I used to shoot with a Canon, too! I loved it. This was years ago though — cameras have gotten so high-tech now!

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