Finding the best travel camera that fits your needs and desires is not that easy. We tell you in our camera buying guide what you should pay attention to when buying and giving you the best tips for your perfect camera.
The next vacation is coming and you are looking for the perfect travel camera? Admittedly, the selection is huge. System camera, SLR, compact snaps or is the smartphone camera enough? We’ll tell you which camera you can take your next trip with a clear conscience.
Smartphone, System Camera or SLR
Before you decide on a camera system, you should consider the demands you have on your photos. Do you only want to share the pictures on Instagram, Facebook & Co. and send them to friends via WhatsApp? Or do you want to print the pictures later to decorate your apartment?
The smartphone as a travel camera
If you mainly take pictures for social media, the smartphone is usually sufficient. An old photo saying is: The best camera is the one you always have with you. And what do you always have in your pocket or handbag? Exactly, the smartphone.
Modern smartphones are being equipped with increasingly sophisticated cameras. This applies in particular to the expensive top models from Apple, Samsung, Huawei and. Multiple lenses (from wide-angle to telephoto) for various purposes have long been standard and the small mini-computers master poor light conditions very well.
With a small smartphone tripod, you can even create great long-term exposures – for example, from a waterfall (you need the Apple ProCam app for this). Even portraits of people or animals, where the background is blurred, are possible thanks to modern software that simulates the so-called Bokeh (Japanese for unsharp).
The image quality of the top smartphones is completely sufficient for everyday use – even when traveling. Even photo prints up to A4 succeed in surprisingly good image quality. Modern smartphones are always recommended as an “always with you” cam when traveling, especially since many devices also record 4K videos and create panoramas and time-lapses at the push of a button.
A problem with the smartphone is the display, which acts as a viewfinder. In bright sunshine light, it can be difficult to see anything. A camera has a clear advantage here.
If you also value interchangeable lenses to be prepared for all possible scenarios, there is no way around a DSLM or DSLR. You can change the lens on both types of cameras. Wildlife photographers, for example, use a strong telephoto lens to optically “zoom in” on animals very closely. Landscape photographers, in turn, swear by ultra-wide-angle lenses with a particularly wide viewing angle.
Filters such as polarizing filters (to remove reflections), gray filters (for breathtaking long-term exposures) and gray gradient filters (with strong contrasts between the sky and the foreground) are done with the correct cameras and interchangeable lenses.
DSLM or DSLR
For a long time, the digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR for Digital Single Lens Reflex) was the measure of all things for professionals and ambitious amateur photographers. In the meantime, the mirrorless system camera (DSLM for Digital Single Lens Mirrorless) has overtaken the DSLR.
The difference between DSLR and the more compact DSLM is not nearly as big as many think. Put simply, the DSLR’s folding mirror was left out of the DSLM and the optical viewfinder was replaced by an electronic viewfinder. This brings certain advantages, such as a higher burst speed and lower weight and volume. Beginners also appreciate the ability to see a lot of information such as the histogram (which indicates over- or under-exposure) on the electronic display.
The significantly longer battery life and an almost infinite selection of (also used) lenses speak for the DSLR. Besides, the DSLR’s optical viewfinder is still superior to the DSLM’s electronic viewfinder in many situations. For example, when there is hardly any ambient light or it is important to display the image in the viewfinder without the slightest delay.
There is no difference in terms of image quality – after all, the same camera sensor is in-built in both device types.
The right sensor size
If you decide on a DSLM or a DSLR, the question is above all: Do you use a camera with a full-frame sensor or a cam with a smaller sensor (APS-C, Micro Four Thirds or 1 inch)? As a rule of thumb, the larger the image sensor – the heart of the camera – the better the overall image quality.
The light that falls through the lens hits the image sensor. At the end of this, your photo is created. The larger the sensor, the more information is available.
By the way, you don’t have to worry about the number of megapixels. The pure number of pixels says nothing about the image quality. Besides, all modern digital cameras have such a large number of pixels that you will not see any difference in your photos.
You can get a DSLR or DSLM with an APS-C sensor or an even smaller sensor and a cheap entry-level lens from around US$400. The development of small sensors, in particular, has progressed extremely quickly in recent years. The image quality of modern cameras is absolutely convincing and completely sufficient for almost all purposes.
Full-format cameras deliver images that can be developed in almost any size – for example for photo exhibitions – without any problems. For this, full-frame cameras are not only very expensive – for the housing alone you have to expect costs between US$800 and US$6000 and the lenses are expensive – but also big and heavy. This applies equally to DSLMs and DSLRs.
If your focus is on size and weight, you should grab a camera with an APS-C sensor (or smaller) and a compact travel lens.
However, you have to have very good reasons to travel with a camera with a full-frame sensor if you want huge prints made or want to use a particularly good lens. In the field of full-frame cameras, there is a large selection of very high quality (and expensive) lenses. Unfortunately, photographers with a smaller camera system cannot enjoy such excellent lenses.
The right lens
No DSLM or DSLR can do without a lens. Most manufacturers offer a so-called kit lens for the camera housing for a relatively small surcharge. With the camera bundle, you usually get a suitable standard lens with which you can work quite well.
When traveling, there is an all-round lens that covers a wide range of focal lengths. In the field of full-frame cameras, there are some lenses with a focal length of 24-105 millimeters. With these lenses, easy wide-angle shots, as well as easy telephoto shots, are possible. Photographers with APS-C cameras are on the lookout for a lens that covers a focal length range of 15 to 70/80 millimeters. You should always keep in mind when choosing a lens: With increasing focal length range, the image quality diminishes. Fixed focal lengths, therefore, have a much better image performance than zoom lenses. Because of the greater flexibility, zoom lenses are still the first choice when traveling.
When choosing a lens you should always keep the following in mind: With increasing focal length range, the image quality diminishes. Fixed focal lengths – here you only have a fixed focal length available, so you cannot zoom – therefore have a much better image performance than zoom lenses. Because of the greater flexibility, zoom lenses are still the first choice when traveling.
The triumphal march of the smartphone almost declared the end of the once so popular compact cameras. However, the compact camera is not entirely extinct. In terms of image quality, smartphones have overtaken cheap compact cameras. The situation is somewhat different for high-priced compact cameras (from around US$400) that have a larger sensor than a smartphone. The compact camera is ideal for all those who simply want to start taking photos and attach great importance to outdoing the already good cameras of the top smartphones in terms of image quality and possible uses, thanks to the zoom lens.
The so-called bridge camera is relatively unknown and represents a balancing act between DSLM / DSLR and compact camera. Bridge cameras have a relatively large housing and a very strong zoom range. Also, the fixed lenses on the top models are very bright. This benefits photographer who often take photos in difficult lighting conditions. Thanks to the strong zoom, the bridge camera is an alternative for everyone who does not want to buy a DSLR or DSLM. However, the SLR camera and system camera are far ahead in terms of image quality.
Which camera suits me?
Smartphone: Top devices have installed several lenses and deliver good image quality even in dim light. They are the ideal all-rounder for everyday travel. Only suitable for outdoor use with a stable protective cover.
DSLM: The ideal travel camera if size and weight, setting options, image quality, and interchangeable lenses are important to you.
DSLR: As with the DSLM, you have numerous setting options, top picture quality and a large selection of lenses. It is slightly larger and heavier than a DSLM but has other advantages. The battery lasts longer, the optical viewfinder works without any delay and the image sensor is protected from dust by the mirror when changing the lens.
Compact camera: small, light and inconspicuous. Expensive models are also superior to the best smartphone cameras.
Bridge camera: it covers a very large zoom range. An inexpensive and compact alternative to the DSLM / DSLR with a strong telephoto lens – but with significant cuts in image quality.