Whether you are an avid traveler looking to up your photography game or you area a beginner just looking for an upgrade from your smartphone camera, these cameras and lenses are a great investment for you! In this article I discuss what I believe makes a great travel camera, my no nonsense advice for what to invest in, my personal travel camera kit, and 3 camera kit recommendations that come in under the $1,000 mark.
If you have additional questions or an idea you’d like for me to explore in a future blog post, let me know in the comments below!
What makes a great travel camera?
Every person is going to have different ideas about what makes a great travel camera, so it’s helpful to know up front what I value so that you will understand where I’m coming from. Here are the top 4 characteristics I look for in a great travel camera:
Size & Portability. When I am traveling, I enjoy exploring the locations I visit on foot. I love to walk and hike and climb, and I don’t need heavy gear weighing me down. The lighter the gear I carry and the less I have to pack, the better.
Ease of Use. I want to be free to focus on the experience I have when I travel. I want to think about lighting and composition. I don't want to be distracted by a camera that is difficult or cumbersome to use.
Image quality. The best camera is always the one that you have with you. With that being said, if I’m investing the time and money to travel, I want to return home with higher quality photos than I could get on my cell phone. I want a camera that will easily allow me to capture images that are sharp, clear, and colorful, and I want the files to be large enough that I can print and display them in my home.
Flexibility. This has more to do with my lens choices than the camera itself, but I want to make sure that I have the flexibility to photograph a landscape or photograph a detail up close.
my no non-sense opinion
In my 12 years working as a professional photographer, I’ve experienced a wide variety of successes and failures, and I’ve learned a lot about what to invest in and what not to.
In my opinion, investing in quality lenses and quality training/educational materials will give you a better return on your investment than purchasing the latest, greatest camera body on the market.
You’ll notice that most of the photography gear I recommend here comes in under the $1,000 mark. You don’t have to spend a fortune in order to create quality images while you travel. You can purchase older models of used cameras and lenses and still produce work that you’re proud of.
However, if you’re wary of purchasing used gear and you are looking to invest in a higher quality camera for your next vacation or adventure, I have several suggestions for you below.
my favorite camera gear to travel with
I am absolutely, 100% head over heels in love with my Sony A7III. In fact, I love it so much that it has become the only camera I travel with. I captured all of the travel photos in this post in June of 2018 with a Sony A7III, a Sony 24-70 f/4 lens, and a tripod.
The camera itself is lightweight, easy to use, and the auto-focus is TOP NOTCH. This camera stays in my hand all day when I photograph weddings, and it is my go-to when I’m on the road. I can’t say enough good things about it. It is hands down my favorite camera to use.
If I have a little bit of extra space in my bag, I sometimes pack my Sony 50mm f1.8 or my Sony 85mm f1.8 lenses. While the zoom lens is great for landscapes, group shots, and general walking around, these prime (non-zoom) lenses are great for creating portraits of people and close up shots of details.
This is the priciest of the cameras that I suggest here (the camera body alone comes in just under $2,000) but it is the one I have the most experience with, and I recommend it without reservation.
Use the links below each picture to see Amazon’s current price on the gear mentioned here.
quality travel cameras under $1,000
As I mentioned before, I absolutely adore my Sony A7III, but I also recognize that not everyone needs a camera of this caliber in order to take great travel and vacation photos. If you’re looking for quality gear at a lower price point, check out these options. I’ve listed them in the order I would recommend them, top to bottom.
Nikon D5600 and 35mm f1.8 lens
If there is one question that people ask me more than any other, it’s this one: “Should I buy a Canon or a Nikon camera?” My unpopular opinion? It doesn’t matter. With a little bit of training, you can easily create high quality images with any camera I put in your hands. If you’re going to spend time researching something online, research how to take better photographs, not how to choose between Canon and Nikon cameras.
With that being said, I learned how to shoot 12 years ago with a Nikon camera body, and I am still partial to the Nikon system. They produce high quality consumer level digital cameras that will allow you to capture sharp, crisp, colorful images without much fuss. To get the best bang for your buck, I suggest purchasing the D5600 camera body and a 35mm f1.8 lens. While the 35mm is a fixed focal length (it does not zoom in and out), it is much higher quality than the cheap zoom lenses that tend to come in a standard camera kit and you’ll find yourself better able to create great photographs with it as you grow as a photographer.
Canon 70D and 24mm f2.8 lens
The first camera I ever owner was a Nikon, but I’ve shot with Canon equipment for most of my career. In that time I have personally shot with almost every camera in the Canon lineup, and the Canon 70D is a great camera for someone wanting to step up their travel photography game.
Before I purchased my Sony, the Canon 24mm f2.8 lens was my go-to travel lens. People refer to it as a “pancake” lens because it’s extremely compact and light weight, and you can capture a wide variety of images with it.
sony rx100 v
If you expected me to skip over anything in the point and shoot family, consider your expectations subverted. I. LOVE. THIS. CAMERA. And I think it’s worth considering if you want your travel photo experience to be easy.
The Sony RX100 V is a tiny camera that packs a serious punch! I’m not kidding when I say it’s tiny. It’s smaller than some smart phones, but the image quality is simply out of this world. It is a fool proof point and shoot camera that fits in your pocket and produces sharp, vibrant, high-quality images. The auto-focus is fast and accurate, and at 20.1 MP your files will be large enough to print and hang on your wall.
Sony has released a newer version of this camera - the RX100 VI - but the average user will not notice a substantial difference in image quality or usability from one camera to the next. If you have the extra cash and want to spend a few hundred more to have a newer version, feel free. But I personally think it’s unnecessary.
Do you have questions?
If you have a photography question that you’d like for me to discuss in an upcoming post, leave your comment below! I’d love to address any questions that you have.
As an Amazon Associate I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases. When you make a purchase through the links on my website, it helps support my work and my family without costing you additional money. It’s a win-win!