Best travel or superzoom compact camera 2015

Our view of the top holiday cameras to buy

Buying guide best travel or superzoom camera

With so much competition from smartphones, compact cameras need to offer something extra, such as a quality lens with a wide maximum aperture and proper optical zoom, rather than inferior digital zoom. Longer lenses are clearly useful when you are travelling, but they come in handy for other photographic genres too, such as sports and wildlife.

The other neat thing about travel/superzoom cameras is that they are relatively compact and slim, which saves space in your bags, and makes them less of a burden to carry around in a hot country. Some of these cameras also offer advanced features for more experienced photographers, such as manual control over exposure and the ability to shoot in raw.

So, if you want a decent compact camera with a long lens that won't weigh you down on your travels, read on...

Buying guide best travel or superzoom camera

Panasonic Lumix TZ60/ZS40

  • Sensor size: CMOS, 1/2.3-inch
  • Pixel count: 18.1Mp
  • Screen type: 3-inch LCD, 920,000 dots
  • Maximum continuous shooting rate: 10fps
  • Maximum video resolution: 1080p

The Panasonic Lumix TZ60, or the Panasonic Lumix ZS40 as it's known in the US, is a well-equipped travel compact camera featuring a long, 30x optical zoom lens, electronic viewfinder, a control ring to expedite settings adjustments, and raw shooting.

Image stabilisation and autofocus performance have also been improved. At the heart of the camera is 1/2.3-inch 18-million-pixel sensor, and although this offers the same pixel count as its predecessor, a new design improves overall image quality, particularly at higher ISOs.

Travel cameras need to be versatile, so the Panasonic TZ60/ZS40 features a Leica DC VARIO-ELMAR lens with a range of 4.3-129mm (equivalent to 24-720mm in 35mm terms). However, the maximum aperture range is not the widest, at f/3.3-8. The EVF has a second less to reduce chromatic aberration and improve image quality, making it easier to compose images in bright sunlight than via the rear screen. To help keep your shots sharp on the move, there is also a five-axis Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) system to compensate for five directions of movement or rotation.

So this is a practical camera for travel, and image quality is impressive. Despite autofocus tweaks, there is still a bit of a lag between focussing and the shutter firing, however, and there is no touchscreen. Image smoothing also means that some pictures can appear a bit soft when viewed at 100%.

Read: Panasonic Lumix TZ60/ZS40 review

Buying guide best travel or superzoom camera

Canon PowerShot SX700 HS

  • Sensor size: CMOS, 1/2.3-inch
  • Pixel count: 16Mp
  • Screen type: 3-inch LCD, 922,000 dots
  • Maximum continuous shooting rate: 8.5fps
  • Maximum video resolution: 1080p

For less experienced photographers who aren't so worried about manual controls and wide apertures, the Canon PowerShot SX700 HS is a good choice. Program mode enables you to adjust white balance and metering, but you can't adjust shutter speed or aperture.

What you do get is a well-made, easy to use compact camera, featuring an 18x optical zoom lens in a slim body, and a 16 million pixel, back-illuminated CMOS sensor. While the Digic 4+ processor is getting a bit long in the tooth, it's a proven workhorse.

The maximum lens aperture is not particularly wide, at f/3.8 at the widest point, but 18x zoom is useful for travel, and you can use the digital zoom (Canon calls it Zoom Plus) to extend the reach to 72x. Other neat touches include the Hybrid Auto setting, which records a two-second video before every shot is taken, which it uses to create a video recap of the day.

A Creative Shot mode also applies a range of digital filters to your image. The camera has built-in Wi-Fi and NFC technology, too. So long as you are clear about this camera's limitations, it won't disappoint. It is a shame there isn't a touchscreen, however, and macro focussing can also struggle to keep up.

Read: Canon PowerShot SX700 HS review

Buying guide best travel or superzoom camera

Sony Cybershot HX60V

  • Sensor size: CMOS, 1/2.3-inch
  • Pixel count: 20.4Mp
  • Screen type: 3-inch LCD, 921,600 dots
  • Maximum continuous shooting rate: 10fps
  • Maximum video resolution: 1080p

Ignore nay-sayers who question why you still need a compact camera for travel, the Sony HX60V's high-quality zoom will produce images that will soon show up the limitations of their smartphones.

To squeeze a 30x optical zoom into such a small body is a real feat, and there is full manual shooting for more experienced photographers (though frustratingly, you can't shoot raw). The sensor is a 20.4 million-pixel 1/2.3 inch Exmor R CMOS device, backlit for good low-light performance. You also get the advanced Bionz X processor, as featured in the flagship Sony Alpha 7R, and image stabilisation, which will come in useful when shooting from a tourist bus, boat or camel.

The Sony HX60V is a well-connected camera, too. Wi-Fi and NFC come as standard, and you can expand the camera's features by downloading apps from Sony's PlayMemories store. There are two variants of the HX60 available. GPS is available on the HX60V version, but otherwise that and the main Sony HX60 are identical.

There are a few downsides with this camera; image smoothing throughout the ISO range means that images aren't as sharp as they could be when viewed at 100%, though we also noticed this on the Panasonic TZ60. The lack of a touchscreen and raw shooting is annoying, too

Read: Sony HX60V review