Top ten compact cameras for travellers

mattia

Regular
Dec 20, 2013
My walls are covered with photographs of places I've visited. And looking at them takes me back in ways memory alone cannot.

Plus, photography lets me 'see' differently. I'm not a documentarian, however, so I only take it out when I think it's going to be a worthwhile shot.
 
Aug 13, 2011
Sunny Frimley
Bill Palmer
Really interesting responses.

I actually think the exact models of camera in this - or any - list, matter far less than the type and capability "niches" under discussion. In a year's time the list will be different. I have a copy of "The Travelling Photographers Handbook" by Julian Calder and John Garrett from 1985 and it makes similar points which can be distilled down into:

Travel as light as the journey and destination permits
Take reliable kit
Know your kit
Take care of your kit
Take a main camera and a smaller backup.

Again, this sort of thinking wasn't new even then. I also have photography books from the 1930s which have chapters on what to consider when hiking, bike-touring or journeying afar on a steam ship. I bet Roger Fenton had a list...

For my part I have two of the three suggested cameras, and close to a third (X-T1, GR and X-Pro instead of X-E2 in my case) Given that the bulk of my photography is done when travelling on business or leisure these ARE my "Travel Cameras". I don't carry them all at the same time though and my choice is based on the nature and purpose of my journey. The GR is there for backup and for any trip where taking photos is not the primary or major intent. Otherwise I will ALWAYS go on a trip with an interchangeable lens camera and at least two lenses. The type and number of lenses will vary based upon intent and expected photo-opportunities. I will also journey (as opposed to travel) with more kit than I actually intend to walk about with - the rest stays in the safety deposit box in my hotel.

As an aside I am two-thirds of the way through writing a city-break travel guide for "people like us" for whom photography is an important part of a trip. Each chapter covers a single destination and sets out to give guidance not only on what to see but also what not to bother with (for example the Manikin Pis in Brussels) and what focal lengths are worth carrying. When it's complete it'll be available on Kindle.
 

Crsnydertx

Top Veteran
Jan 21, 2011
Houston, TX
Chuck
I recently traveled to Banff National Park and agonized over what to take along. I wound up taking the X-E2 and a variety of lenses; only two - the kit zoom and the 14mm - saw the light of day. That combination traveled well in a very small over-the-shoulder bag while hiking. I also got some serviceable photos from the Ricoh GRD IV I carried on my belt when just wandering around.
 

Crsnydertx

Top Veteran
Jan 21, 2011
Houston, TX
Chuck
Last week, I attended a seminar put on by National Geographic Traveler magazine. The primary lecturer was Dan Westergren, the magazine's Director of Photography. Evidently, it was he (or a staff assistant) who developed the list; he discussed it in a brief segment of the seminar. He had recently switched from DSLRs (brand not mentioned) to the Fuji X-T1 and was very happy with its performance. In contrast, his co-presenter was Catherine Karnow, a frequent contributor to NGT, who carries a Canon 5DII and 5DII with 24-70 and 16-35 zooms when on assignment. Looking at the physicality of the two, one might think the choice of cameras would be the opposite!
 

Boid

All-Pro
Dec 15, 2011
Bangalore, India
Rajiv
I'm traveling to Japan in a few days. My first time there. I'm taking along only my Ricoh GR. Also thinking of picking up a camera while I'm there. I certainly don't need another camera, what I do need is an excuse to visit the lovely camera stores there.

I was so sure that I'd get the new Sigma Quattro, but afterreading all the conflicting reports I've changed my mind and might pick up a DP3M and a host of batteries instead (I need something a bit longer).

And then I'm tempted by a single "do it all" camera like the RX10 and wonder if I should get something like that. Not sure I'll like the image quality though.

Sigh, I really don't need another camera.
 

Ray Sachs

Legend
Sep 21, 2010
Not too far from Philly
you should be able to figure it out...
I haven't been traveling lately, but the more I think about it, the more I think the camera should just stay at home. Enjoy the trip. There's already a bazillion beautiful photos of wherever you are going. They're a lot like wedding photos. You view them once when your trip is done (or the wedding is over) and they are promptly forgotten about for all eternity.
I'm not with you on this Luke, in any respect. First of all, I just ENJOY the hell out of photographing stuff, so when I'm traveling and seeing places with new eyes, that's some of the MOST enjoyable shooting I ever do. So, number 1, it makes the trip more enjoyable to make photographs while on the trip. That alone makes it worthwhile to me. But second, my travel photographs are NOT forgotten about for all eternity. I mean, they will be at some point, but so will I. But for at least as long as my wife and I are alive, and probably as long as my kids are alive, they're enjoyed immensely. Not everyday, mind you, but from time to time. I have books I made from most of my bigger trips (and usually one per year even that catch whatever smaller trips I might have taken). And someone occasionally asks about a place or we just pull one of them out to relive a place. And we get a LOT of pleasure out of looking back at them. My mother in law was in Italy with us for one of our four weeks in the summer of 2013 - I gave her a copy of the book from that trip and she loves it. I doubt she looks at it much anymore, but she gushed about it for the first couple of months and I know it meant a lot to her.

So there's no way I'm not bringing the camera with me when I travel. Hell, photography is one of the main reasons I travel anymore - without that, I'd enjoy it a lot less. When I was in my 20's I mainly traveled for adventure when I was able to travel at all (basically one huge trip that lasted six months when I was 22). Now I'm too old for REAL adventure, but I love immersing myself in a place and a culture and NOT involving photography in that process would reduce my enjoyment of that whole process by a LOT...

-Ray
 

bartjeej

Hall of Famer
Nov 12, 2010
bart
[sensible stuff]
[nice anecdote]
[something about current situation]

Now I'm too old for REAL adventure,

[some more about current situation]

-Ray
Had to distill your message down to the one point I disagree with Ray - you're NOT too old for real adventure! I don't know if you've any physical issues holding you and your wife back, but if not, I'd say go for it. 60 is the new 40, and all that. I met plenty of... eh... travellers with more life experience than I (how's that for sugarcoating it? :wink: ) in Africa and they were doing great, even on some of the rougher stuf. Lots of them were driving either a camper van (for a bit more comfort) or their own offroad vehicle with expedition kit (for more adventure). Perhaps for Americans it's not as easy to make it to Africa in your own vehicle, but it seems to me there's plenty of adventure to be had in the Arctic and Latin America.
 
Nov 11, 2011
Milwaukee, WI USA
Luke
Ray, I understand your points. But I'm speaking to the broader populace who are seeking out articles like this. If you need to ask for a recommendation for a camera because you are preparing for a trip, it likely means that photography is not a part of your life. If that's the case, buy a disposable film camera and get your 36 tourist shots, but don't bother with a fancy new camera when your shots are all going to be the same cliche shots everyone has.

For most of the folks here who enjoy photography as part of their daily life, of course bring your camera along (or 4 different systems if you think that's what you NEED).
 

bartjeej

Hall of Famer
Nov 12, 2010
bart
buy a disposable film camera and get your 36 tourist shots, but don't bother with a fancy new camera when your shots are all going to be the same cliche shots everyone has.
I tend to agree with you there, in the sense that the 10 millionth shot of the eiffel tower is unlikely to excite anyone, unless it's a special shot (I think both Duane and Briar(was it?) posted some really great ones here).

Also, I've come to believe that carrying a film camera on your travels and not seeing the results until you've made it back home could be quite an exciting prospect. I met someone doing that in Morocco and found it a thoroughly appealing idea, although you'd have to be in a place that still sells film unless you either shoot very little or carry a suitcase of film.

As a third thought, I think having a polaroid camera - or perhaps a reallllly small wifi-enabled printer for instant photos - could be an awesome way of giving back to the people you're shooting while travelling. I know many people in Africa would've loved a small print of certain shots I took of them. It's something I really plan to do on my next big trip.
 

serhan

All-Pro
May 7, 2011
NYC
It depends on where you go, what you shoot also. But travel photography means from wide angle to zoom/macro like making a movie (Bob Krist)... LX3 was enough for me in Stockholm old town and RX100 in Istanbul streets but Oly 75-300 wasn't long enough in British Columbia mountains... Also high synch flash is important with some of the P&S's.

Here is one from m43 forum, go to the half of the page (Where's Jay?) to see the photos from National Geographic Expedition: Iceland / Greenland / NW Passage w/ EM1 & different lenses:
http://www.firstlightworkshop.com/
 

Ray Sachs

Legend
Sep 21, 2010
Not too far from Philly
you should be able to figure it out...
Had to distill your message down to the one point I disagree with Ray - you're NOT too old for real adventure! I don't know if you've any physical issues holding you and your wife back, but if not, I'd say go for it. 60 is the new 40, and all that. I met plenty of... eh... travellers with more life experience than I (how's that for sugarcoating it? :wink: ) in Africa and they were doing great, even on some of the rougher stuf. Lots of them were driving either a camper van (for a bit more comfort) or their own offroad vehicle with expedition kit (for more adventure). Perhaps for Americans it's not as easy to make it to Africa in your own vehicle, but it seems to me there's plenty of adventure to be had in the Arctic and Latin America.
OK, I'm not, but my definition of the types of "real adventure" I enjoy has changed. When I was 22, I spent 6 months backpacking around Europe and the Middle East. Well, some of the middle east - basically Israel, Egypt, and Turkey. I didn't know from day to day where I was gonna be heading, how I was getting there, where I was gonna sleep when I did get there, etc. Some places I stayed a night or two, some I'd stay a couple of weeks (slept on the beach on Naxos and almost never left). That was adventure. I had a blast, but I was 22. I remember being glad I was doing that then because I didn't think I'd be up for that type of travel when I was 40. And I was right - I wasn't, although I did some reasonably intensive bicycle touring at 40, but never more than about a week at a time. Now that I'm closer to 60, I really don't like the "travel" part of travel much at all. You won't find me on a "tour" group type of trip, I seem to even be done with bicycle touring. What I do enjoy is lining up a reasonably comfortable place (no luxury mind you, just a place with a bed and functioning plumbing and kitchen) in a really interesting place and just staying there for a while. And learning the feel of THAT place, the back alleys, the nearby hikes, just kind of live there for a month or two. I'm still definitely being a tourist - I'm not going to work every day - but I like immersing myself in a place like that. So far, I've done a month in New York City and a month on the Amalfi Coast and they were two of the greatest "travel" months of my life. Enjoyed both immensely. I'd love to do a couple of months in Paris, maybe Hong Kong, Jerusalem (beautiful city - I was actually there for several weeks once years ago), maybe London. And another month in Positano wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen to me either!

That's probably more adventure than a lot of tourists are up for, but it's not really "adventure" by my standards. But it's what I enjoy at this point. I don't like moving constantly as I once did, but just getting the immersive feel of a new place is a way I totally enjoy spending time. "Traveling" in a sense, but really the travel is just at the beginning and end of the trip, to get there and get home again...

-Ray
 

bartjeej

Hall of Famer
Nov 12, 2010
bart
Sounds pretty good, I must say! I haven't quite figured out the ideal duration of a stay in one place for me; too much moving around and you don't get to really understand the places you're visiting, too long in one place and you don't get to see the rest of the world :p I think a bit slower than what I did in Africa would be nice. I definitely get the appeal of staying in one place for a month and really getting to know it, but then I'm still a bit too restless for that... perhaps when I'm older I'll do that too :wink:
 

dougpayne

Veteran
Oct 17, 2012
Sebastopol, CA
C.D. Payne
I just returned from a 10,000-mile road trip in a 16-foot motorhome. I took several cameras, but the one I used 99% of the time was my Fuji XQ1. It fits unobtrusively in my pocket and is easy to carry everywhere.
 

Luckypenguin

Hall of Famer
Dec 24, 2010
Brisbane, Australia
Nic
A lot of travelling is seeing. Photography is seeing. Very easy bedfellows indeed. All of the prints around my apartment both big (40") and small (15-20") were taken away from home so there is little point in me owning a compact camera for travel and leaving all the good stuff at home.

Last year all of the following rode in a backpack through Central and South America for almost six months:

Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


Central and South America proved to be a bit hit-and-miss photographically but I should still end up with some good prints and electronic albums out of it once I finish sorting and processing everything in about 2018 or so. The only things that I really felt that I didn't get much use out from the above kit were the two Panasonic 14mm and 20mm pancake lenses; ironically two the of the lightest items. The 14mm isn't especially good, the 20mm hardly got used, and given the choice I'd use the two 20mm and 30mm Samsung pancakes instead most times. Faced with putting together something like this again I'd change the following:

- No m4/3 pancakes as noted (both now sold anyway), which would also lose the screw-in 46mm hood that never came out of the bag (saves about 200g)
- Trade the old netbook for something like a Microsoft Surface (big weight saving, faster and more functional)
- The GH1 would make way for an E-M1 which along with the E-M5 would mean two cameras sharing the same batteries (still take both chargers just in case)
- The Panasonic 14-140mm Mk1 (already sold) would be replaced by a Mk2 (slightly faster aperture, smaller and 200g lighter)
- NX200 becomes the NX300 (because that's what I did!)
- As much as I'd regret doing so, maybe leave the G1X at home (~500g inc extra batteries and charger) to reduce the number of cameras to "only" three. I could achieve the same be deciding between Micro 4/3 and Samsung NX but that is easier said than done.
- Probably wouldn't bother with the camera body caps since there is always a lens attached to any of the interchangeable lens cameras.

Incidentally the photographic portion in the image above (i.e. ignoring computer) was barely heavier than the single Canon 50D and four lenses that I carried on the last decent overseas trip prior to this one, despite the ridiculous levels of redundancy and better capabilities in the mirrorless/compact kit.
 

bartjeej

Hall of Famer
Nov 12, 2010
bart
That's pretty cool about the weight reduction, Nic, although it's still a lot more than I brought on my trip (or expect to bring on any trip).
I never knew an evil eye keyring had a photographic purpose!

My own kit consisted of a Fuji X100, Samsung EX1, Sony HX9v travelzoom and Ricoh PX waterproof compact, along with their respective chargers, some filters and a spare battery for the Fuji, and a universal USB charger that can couple to the mains network or my solar panel. Oh, and one lens cleaning cloth.

Doug, that sounds great! Where did you go? Where're the pics?!
 

mattia

Regular
Dec 20, 2013
Maximized travel kit:


Top row: A7r with 35/2.8, E-M1 body, 43 50-200 SWD.

Bottom row: Oly 12-40, stacked in pouches: Panasonic 7-14, FE 55/1.8, MMF3 adapter and 1.4x teleconverter. And the shiny red thing is an aluminum Acquapazza scuba housing with an RX100 in it. Plus chargers and batteries in the gaps (4 batteries per camera).

It's snug, compact, no shifting and has sufficient padding between items. That's an F-Stop medium ICU. Weight is about 5 kg and a bit.
 

Ray Sachs

Legend
Sep 21, 2010
Not too far from Philly
you should be able to figure it out...
Sounds pretty good, I must say! I haven't quite figured out the ideal duration of a stay in one place for me; too much moving around and you don't get to really understand the places you're visiting, too long in one place and you don't get to see the rest of the world :p I think a bit slower than what I did in Africa would be nice. I definitely get the appeal of staying in one place for a month and really getting to know it, but then I'm still a bit too restless for that... perhaps when I'm older I'll do that too :wink:
I'd also mention that this type of travel makes decisions about what kit to bring a lot easier. Bring whatever fits in your luggage. Then you're operating out of an apartment you can decide what to take with you on a day to day basis and leave the rest back at the place.

-Ray
 

pdh

Legend
Jan 2, 2011
I'm completely with Luke on this.

I'm away from home at the moment. I brought 5 cameras, which took up a LOT of space in the boot of the car. I've used them all but the one I've used the most is one that was here already in the house I'm staying at.
As far as travel cameras goes, the fewer you take the better I reckon. If I'd brought only an XA I'd have been perfectly happy and got just as nice snaps.

All this bollocks about "I'm going to X Y and Z which 4 cameras and 7 lenses should I restrict myself to?" isn't worth the effort. I bet many people end up shooting everything they brought out of a sense justifying all the fuss they went to in packing and carrying it all, and it ends up being a trial rather than a pleasure.
 

mattia

Regular
Dec 20, 2013
For me it depends on the destination. I really enjoy shooting wildlife, and underwater photography is a new challenge, so if I go places both are possible I take the tools required

On a city trip I'm as likely to take a single camera with a normal zoom or prime.
 

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