8 Best Compact Cameras for Travel

You know the saying "pic it or it didn't happen"? We don't agree... at all. But, while traveling is about enjoying the moment, immersing yourself in cultures, dancing barefoot on the sand and making amazing new friends, it's kind of nice to capture the moment, too. If not for sharing on Instagram, at least for looking back.

Phones have gone a long way, we'll give you that. But they haven't replaced professional cameras yet. If you want to capture yourself swimming with sharks, your phone won't cut it (well, unless you buy the plastic case). And if you want to take a picture of Southeast Asia's night markets, trust me, your phone's camera won't love the lighting.

So what's the alternative to a phone? Dragging around heavy photography gear? No, thanks... I don't need the picture that much. But if you know us, we're all for solutions and we've found an in-between solution that you'll love: compact cameras.

Depending on what you need to capture, be it diving with sharks in South Africa, walking with camels in Morocco, or getting cool pics of Tokyo's lights, you'll find the perfect compact camera for your needs. And yes, they're pocket-sized so you won't do any heavy lifting.

What Are the Best Compact Cameras for Travel?

After taking care of all the groundwork for you, going through user reviews, features, and asking nomad photography aficionado friends for their feedback, here are the best travel cameras we've selected:

  • Image: /content/images/2024/01/olympus-om-d-e-m10-mark-IV-small-camera-for-travel.webp
  • Title: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV
  • Description: Best Overall Compact Camera for Travel
  • Target: 1-olympus-om-d-e-m10-mark-iv
  • Price: 799.99
  • Link: https://amzn.to/3H9t6I6
  • Image: /content/images/2024/01/sony-rx100-VII-small-camera-for-travel.webp
  • Title: Sony RX100 VII
  • Description: Best Small Camera for Travel Vlogging
  • Target: 2-sony-rx100-vii
  • Price: 1,065.00
  • Link: https://amzn.to/3HbOlsR
  • Image: /content/images/2024/01/panasonic-lumix-zs200-tz200-small-camera-for-travel.webp
  • Title: Panasonic Lumix ZS200 / TZ200
  • Description: Best Budget Small Camera for Travel
  • Target: 3-panasonic-lumix-zs200-tz200
  • Price: 650.00
  • Link: https://amzn.to/48s2PRo
  • Image: /content/images/2024/01/ricoh-gr-III-small-camera-for-travel.webp
  • Title: Ricoh GR III
  • Description: Best Small Travel Camera for Large Sensor
  • Target: 4-ricoh-gr-iii
  • Price: 1,027.70
  • Link: https://amzn.to/48KjEXx
  • Image: /content/images/2024/01/fujifilm-x100v-small-camera-for-travel-.webp
  • Title: Fujifilm X100V
  • Description: Best Small Travel Camera for Vintage Styling
  • Target: 5-fujifilm-x100v
  • Price: 1,894.95
  • Link: https://amzn.to/3NVMlJj
  • Image: /content/images/2024/01/hero12-black-small-camera-for-travel.webp
  • Title: HERO12 Black
  • Description: Best Small Action Camera for Travel
  • Target: 6-hero12-black
  • Price: 349.00
  • Link: https://amzn.to/48IB8Uj
  • Image: /content/images/2024/01/olympus-tough-tg-6-small-camera-for-travel.webp
  • Title: Olympus Tough TG-6
  • Description: Best Small Waterproof Camera for Travel
  • Target: 7-olympus-tough-tg-6
  • Price: 479.99
  • Link: https://amzn.to/3tQwvZm
  • Image: /content/images/2024/01/panasonic-lumix-fz1000-II-small-camera-for-travel.webp
  • Title: Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 II
  • Description: Best Travel Camera for Reach
  • Target: 8-panasonic-lumix-fz1000-ii
  • Price: 797.99
  • Link: https://amzn.to/3SaO1Rw

1. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV

Best Overall Compact Camera for Travel

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV, a small and compact camera for travel

The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is hands down our top choice when it comes to compact cameras, especially if you're new to photography and videography, and you're always on the go.

It's a compact mirrorless camera that comes with a Four Thirds sensor—that means you can say hello to photos that come out crisp and vibrant, perfect for capturing the dynamic vibe of Seul's street markets or the serene rice fields of Indonesia.

And if the Four Thirds sensor doesn't do the trick, the camera's fast autofocus guarantees sharp images of fleeting moments—no more frustrating blurs when you're trying to photograph those cool spontaneous moments of your friends smiling.

It's one of those entry-level cameras that has everything you need, even for the long haul. If you're a YouTuber, the flip-down screen is perfect for vlogging. And it gets better: its built-in stabilization and ability to shoot in 4K means you can document your hiking trip (yes, even along uneven terrain) shake-free. It's easy to carry around, blending its retro style with practicality.

The only down side? It lacks a microphone input. But its ease of use and USB charging capability, which eliminates the stress of finding the nearest outlet in hostels or cafes, earns it extra points. The Olympus is truly a phenomenal budget-friendly option for anyone stepping into the world of mirrorless cameras.

Key Features

  • 20.3MP 4/3” Live MOS Sensor
  • 5-Axis In-Body Image Stabilization
  • Flip-Down Touchscreen
  • 4K Video Recording
  • Compact and Lightweight
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

Pros and cons:

  • Captures fantastic photos even when the lighting isn't ideal
  • Super easy to use for selfies and vlogs
  • Decent battery life and convenient USB charging
  • Sleek style and comfortable grip
  • Budget-friendly price
  • No microphone jack
  • Plastic build lacks weatherproofing
  • Autofocus can struggle in tricky situations

2. Sony RX100 VII

Best Compact Camera for Travel Vlogging

Sony RX100 VII, a small and compact camera for travel

Content creators, listen up: if you're into vlogging or shooting content on the fly, the Sony RX100 VII might just be the camera you're looking for. It's compact, but don't let the size fool you—it comes with some seriously useful features for video creators. The standout features are undoubtedly the flip-up screen and mic input, which are a godsend for anyone trying to capture high-quality video without lugging around a lot of gear.

The autofocus is swift and stays locked on your face or any other subject, thanks to Sony's Real-time Eye AF technology. This is the same tech found in some of their top-tier cameras, so it’s pretty impressive to have it in something that fits in your pocket. In other words, this makes it useful for shooting videos where you're moving around a lot—think walking tours, hiking, dance videos or whatever gets your ball rolling.

But no, it's not without its shortcomings. The battery life and zoom could be better, and these might be dealbreakers depending on what you need. But for most day-to-day vlogging and content creation, especially if you’re often near a power source or don’t need super long zoom, it holds up well. It also has great 4K video capabilities, and you can even control it from your phone, which is a nice touch for getting shots from tricky angles or when you’re in front of the camera.

Key Features

  • 20.1MP 1” Exmor RS BSI CMOS Sensor
  • Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization
  • 3-Inch Tilting Touchscreen
  • 4K Video Recording
  • Fast Autofocus
  • High-Speed Continuous Shooting

Pros and cons:

  • Stunning image quality in low light
  • Excellent stabilization makes videos buttery smooth
  • Handy flip screen and mic input take vlogging to the next level
  • Lightning-fast autofocus
  • Shoots bursts of shots to capture fleeting moments
  • Premium price tag
  • Battery life leaves something to be desired
  • Small size makes handling tricky for some users
  • Zoom range is limited
  • Overheating can be an issue in long 4K recording

3. Panasonic Lumix ZS200 / TZ200

Best Budget Compact Camera for Travel

Panasonic Lumix ZS200 / TZ200, a small and compact camera for travel

Let's face it, having a tight budget but still aiming to capture all those unforgettable moments can be challenging. But the Panasonic Lumix ZS200 (known as the TZ200 outside of North America) might be the solution you're looking for. This camera is a real pocket powerhouse that's surprisingly affordable. It's packed with features like a 15x zoom, 4K video capability, and even a flip-up screen for all your selfie and TikTok needs.

A friend of mine spent the whole day roaming London, from Camden Town through to Notting Hill and said the camera was a joy to use. The autofocus is quick and reliable, making it fun to capture fleeting street scenes.

And if you know something about cameras, you'll know what really sets it apart—the Leica lens. This camera doesn't come with just any zoom, it has a Leica zoom. If this doesn't ring a bell, let me translate: Leica lens are known for their exceptional clarity and sharpness, transforming standard shots into stunning visuals with vivid details and rich colors. Great for zooming in on the pack of zebras you spotted on your latest safari, or capturing textures up-close when you're checking out Malaysian batiks.

But yes, the battery life could be better, and it tends to get a bit warm with extensive use. To be transparent, the grip is also a bit of a letdown. It's not perfect, but for the price, it's a great choice for anyone who wants to capture great photos and videos without breaking the bank.

Key Features

  • 20.1 Megapixel 1-Inch Sensor
  • 24-360mm Equivalent Zoom Lens
  • 3-Inch Tilting Touchscreen
  • 4K Video Recording
  • Fast and Accurate Autofocus
  • High-Speed Continuous Shooting

Pros and cons:

  • Fab image quality for a compact
  • Huge 15x zoom range has you covered
  • Intuitive controls for easy selfies and vlogging
  • Reliable autofocus locks onto subjects
  • Big features on a budget
  • Battery life could be better
  • Small size sacrifices some comfort
  • Zoom has a variable aperture
  • Prone to overheating when recording 4K video
  • Lacks built-in ND filter and headphone jack

4. Ricoh GR III

Best Compact Travel Camera for Large Sensor

Ricoh GR III, a small and compact camera for travel

If you're a sucker for high-quality images from a camera that fits in your pocket—yes, even smaller than your smartphone—the Ricoh GR III is for you. This compact camera sports a large sensor that ensures top-notch image quality, earning it a spot on the wishlist of anyone looking to elevate their photography game while on the move.

Thanks to its fixed 28mm lens, the GR III is ideal for those evocative street scenes and expansive landscapes that travelers love to explore. It's incredibly portable, literally slipping into a pocket, which makes it a fantastic choice for adventurers.

And if you're the type who occasionally walks out without an SD card, you'll appreciate that the GR III includes 2GB of internal storage, a rare feature that can save the day by holding around 40 RAW files.

But it does come with a couple of drawbacks—the price is a bit higher than some of its competitors, and the battery life could be better. But if you're prioritizing excellent image quality in a camera that won’t weigh you down, the Ricoh GR III really delivers.

Key Features

  • 4.2MP APS-C CMOS Sensor
  • Fixed 28mm Equivalent F2.8 Lens
  • GR Engine 6 Processor
  • Hybrid Autofocus
  • ISO Range 100-102400
  • 3-Inch Touchscreen LCD
  • 4K Video Recording

Pros and cons:

  • Incredible image quality, especially in dim light
  • Chic, compact design that fits anywhere
  • Effective stabilization for blur-free shots
  • User-friendly touch controls
  • Swift and precise autofocus
  • Premium price (for premium performance)
  • Battery life leaves something to be desired
  • Small size makes handling tricky for some
  • Non-zoom lens limits flexibility
  • Overheating issues in 4K recording

5. Fujifilm X100V  

Best Compact Travel Camera for Vintage Styling

Fujifilm X100V, a small and compact camera for travel

For all you style-conscious travelers who want a camera that's as good-looking as it is functional, the Fujifilm X100V might just steal your heart. It marries the charm of classic cameras with cutting-edge technology, boasting an elegant aluminum body that feels as premium as it looks.

We can agree that it's a pretty accessory, but it’s also packed with a modern 24MP sensor and can handle 4K video recording with ease.

The X100V's analog-style controls give you that tactile satisfaction of old-school photography while still delivering stunning, high-resolution images.

What's more, it features a hybrid viewfinder that lets you toggle between optical and electronic modes, in other words, it's great whether you're shooting under the bright sun or in dimly lit environments. As most of these compact cameras, it would be cool if the battery life was a bit longer.

Key Features

  • 24MP APS-C Sensor
  • Fixed 28mm Equivalent F2.8 Lens
  • Retro Design with Classic Controls
  • 3-Inch Tilting Touchscreen
  • 4K Video Recording
  • Fast and Accurate Autofocus

Pros and cons:

  • Gorgeous images and videos across lighting conditions
  • Retro style looks fab + intuitive analog controls
  • Great stabilization for smooth shots
  • Handy flip screen and mic jack for vlogging
  • Swift autofocus for spontaneous shots
  • Higher price due to premium build and sensor
  • Battery life could be better
  • Compact size can be awkward to handle
  • Non-zoom lens limits flexibility
  • Overheating risks during extended 4K filming

6. HERO12 Black

Best Compact Action Camera for Travel

HERO12 Black, a small and compact camera for travel

When it comes to capturing your heart-pounding adventures in stunning clarity, the GoPro HERO12 Black is a standout choice for action enthusiasts. This latest model from GoPro is tailored for the thrill-seeker looking to document every leap, dive, and dash. And obviously, it's waterproof.

It comes with a robust 27MP sensor and enhanced stabilization, the HERO12 ensures that whether you're mountain biking, surfing, or even parasailing, your footage remains sharp and vibrant.

Careful though, if you push its limits, you'll notice that the camera may have some overheating issues. But its range of features like wireless audio connectivity with devices like AirPods, and superior High-Dynamic Range video capabilities, make it a compelling pick.

And for creators focused on social media, the HERO12 Black is quite the tool with its new 9:16 vertical capture mode, making it easier to shoot for platforms like TikTok and YouTube Shorts. If you're aiming to push your limits and want your camera gear to keep up, the GoPro HERO12 Black is ready to go wherever your journey takes you.

Key Features

  • 27MP 8:7 Sensor
  • Wide-Angle Lens
  • HyperSmooth 6.0 Stabilization
  • HDR Video and Photo
  • Wireless Audio Support
  • Rugged and Waterproof Design

Pros and cons:

  • Fantastic image and video quality
  • Crazy good HyperSmooth stabilization
  • HDR adds insane vibrancy and detail
  • Wireless audio support for seamless vlogging
  • Burst speeds to catch epic action sequences
  • Durable enough for any adventure
  • Flagship tech commands flagship pricing
  • Battery life depends heavily on settings
  • Small form factor challenges some users
  • Typical action cam zoom constraints
  • Overheating and time limits in 4K
  • No ND filter or headphone jack

7. Olympus Tough TG-6

Best Compact Waterproof Camera for Travel

Olympus Tough TG-6, a small and compact camera for travel

You know those extreme sports that most travel insurance don't cover? Well, the Olympus Tough TG-6 is the perfect camera to capture them! It's a true survivor, perfectly suited for explorers who refuse to let extreme conditions hold them back.

It’s waterproof, dustproof, crushproof, and freezeproof—making it virtually indestructible no matter how intense your adventure gets. It doesn't care whether you're scaling rocky cliffs or snorkelling among coral reefs, the TG-6 is ready to document every moment with stunning clarity.

Even when you bump it during an underwater dive or a rugged hike, the TG-6 protects itself with a reinforced metal body. But don't worry, its sturdy construction doesn’t compromise on image quality and you can bet your photos will come out sharp and vibrant.

But it's not all sunshine and rainbows here either—it does come at a higher price tag and the screen’s cover still scratches easily, which has been a persistent issue across previous models.

Overall, if you love to push the limits and need a camera as tough as your spirit, the Olympus Tough TG-6 promises to keep up with every daring jump and dive, making it an essential part of your adventure gear.

Key Features

  • 12MP 1/2.3" BSI-CMOS Sensor
  • 25-100mm Equivalent F2.0-4.9 Lens
  • Waterproof, Shockproof, Crushproof, Freezeproof, Dustproof
  • 4K Video Recording
  • Fast Autofocus System
  • High-Speed Continuous Shooting
  • Environmental Sensors

Pros and Cons

Pros and cons:

  • Rugged enough for any adventure
  • Great image quality given its durable credentials
  • Versatile lens
  • Dependable autofocus even in rough conditions
  • Tracks environmental data
  • Premium price point
  • Battery may need a recharge after heavy use
  • Tough small build can be tricky to handle
  • Zoom range is relatively limited
  • Prone to overheating in 4K mode

8. Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 II

Best Travel Camera for Reach

Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 II, a small and compact camera for travel

Raise your hand if you've ever stumbled upon something truly amazing while traveling, whipped out your phone to capture the moment, only to find that the result didn't do it justice. We're pretty sure there are a lot of raised hands out there. But, if you would've had the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 II, we're certain wouldn't have been disappointed with the result.

Thanks to its 16x optical zoom, it gets up close and personal with far-off scenes that a standard camera just can't capture. And, because the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 II comes with a 20MP sensor, it captures those scenes without sacrificing image quality.

While it may lack features like weather sealing and built-in ND filters, its ability to bring distant subjects into sharp focus without the bulk typically associated with high-zoom cameras makes it a top pick for travel photography.

A head's up: if you're a beginner, navigating its extensive menu system might be overwhelming at first, it has a bunch of customization options—from adjusting how the shutter button responds to fine-tuning JPEG outputs with Panasonic’s Picture Style options. In general, if you want extensive reach without sacrificing compact convenience, this camera should definitely be on your wishlist.

Key Features

  • 1-inch 20.1 Megapixel Sensor
  • 16x Optical Zoom LEICA DC Lens
  • 4K Video Recording
  • 5-Axis Hybrid O.I.S.+
  • High-Speed Autofocus & Burst Shooting
  • Vari-Angle Touchscreen LCD
  • High-Resolution Live View Finder

Pros and cons:

  • Stunning detail and color in photos
  • 16x zoom brings far-off sights up close
  • Intuitive controls and customizations
  • Nice quality viewfinder and responsive touchscreen
  • Solid 4K video + external mic jack
  • Respectable battery even after heavy use
  • No weather sealing
  • Lacks a headphone jack
  • No built-in ND filter
  • Some image buffer/processing issues
  • Zoom distortions and aberrations at max range
  • Noise can be noticeable at high ISOs

Which Compact Camera Should I Buy for Traveling?

Top 3 compact and light cameras for travel

Ok, we spilled the beans on our selection of top compact travel cameras. But we get it—even if we've narrowed down the list from hundreds of online options to eight, picking one is still extremely hard!

So, if you haven’t made up your mind yet, let’s dive a little deeper into a few factors that you should definitely consider before choosing the right one for you. Don't forget, it's an investment and probably gear you'll use for the next few years. But no pressure!

Size Matters

There's a reason we wrote a post about the best compact cameras and not about the top professional cameras. As digital nomads, we want something that captures quality photos and videos but that isn't a ball and chain. When you're miles from home, the last thing you need is a hefty piece of equipment slowing you down. The perfect travel camera should be light enough that you hardly notice it’s there until you need it. This means prioritizing not just compactness but also the quality of the shots it can deliver. A compact camera that fits easily into your day pack or pocket yet still snaps stunning images is ideal. Trust us, your shoulders will thank you!

Low-Light Chops

Travel doesn’t stop when the sun goes down, so a good travel camera shouldn't either. Just think about all those times you find yourself in less-than-ideal lighting: exploring caves in Malaysia, enjoying dinners in string-lit bistros in Paris, or exploring the catacombs in Rome. What do all these scenarios have in common? The lighting sucks. But that doesn't make these moments any less beautiful to have on camera. So yes, a camera with a strong performance in low light is crucial. Look for one with a capable sensor and a quality lens that can handle low light without excessive noise or loss of detail.

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Battle Tested Build

Have you ever seen the way suitcases are thrown into airplanes? The reality of travel is that it’s not always gentle on your belongings. And you can be sure that your camera will get stuffed into an overstuffed backpack, exposed to desert dust or tropical humidity, and everything in between. So among the factors you should consider when purchasing your camera, durability is definitely one of them. A robust camera that’s weather-sealed, shockproof, and maybe even waterproof is a smart investment. Look for a camera that can survive being dropped or drenched. This way, you won't be unpleasantly surprised when you open your bag after a long bumpy bus ride and notice your camera is busted.

Connection is Key

The last thing you want is to skip on features like connectivity to save a few bucks. This is especially true for content creators. It doesn't matter if you're posting a breathtaking sunset to your Instagram, or uploading a day’s worth of adventures to your blog, having a camera that can keep up with your social media needs is essential. Look for cameras that offer easy device connectivity options like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. This feature enables you to transfer photos directly to your smartphone or tablet, so you can share your best shots without delay. Trust us, this will save you a lot of time.

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We think we've pretty much covered the most important aspects to consider when choosing the right camera for you. But don't leave just yet. We want to give you a few more insights that will definitely turn out to be useful, including tips on how to use your camera. If you're curious, keep reading!

Can Compact Travel Cameras Go Through Airport Security?

Best travel cameras against gradient background

It's true, there are some devices that airlines won't allow on flights (like some drones). And the last thing you want is to spend hundreds of dollars on something that's going to be confiscated from you. The good news is, there's no need to worry about special regulations regarding compact cameras.

We know that navigating airport security is a familiar ritual. But to make it real smooth, just remember to have your camera charged and to place it where it's easy to access in your carry-on bag. Security personnel sometimes need to check electronic devices to ensure they're operational and not concealed threats. Just be prepared to show that it works by turning it on if requested, and you'll be fine!

Are Compact Cameras Allowed on Airplanes?

Compact cameras are more than welcome on flights. There's no need to worry about being separated from your go-to travel companion when you're flying. They're treated just like your smartphone or other small electronics, so yes, they can accompany you into the cabin.

But you'll obviously have to follow standard flight protocols when using electronic devices. That is, during takeoff and landing, you'll be asked to stow your camera either in a bag under the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin. While you're free to use your camera during the flight, remember to turn it off or set it to airplane mode during the critical phases of takeoff and landing.

Since airline policies can differ, it's a good idea to review the specific rules of the airline you're flying with regarding the use of electronic devices. Checking the airline’s website or reaching out to their customer service can provide you with the most accurate information. Or you can check out some common airline rules in this very detailed article.

Ready to Collect New Awesome Memories with Your New Camera?

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We'll see you there, Freaking Nomads!

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